We don’t need a Modi bhakt like Tarun Vijay

An article penned by BJP Rajya Sabha MP Tarun Vijay in the aftermath of the lynching incident in Dadri has stirred a controversy attracting furious rebuttals from Prem Shankar Jha and Ajaz Ashraf. (Image: AFP)

An article penned by BJP Rajya Sabha MP Tarun Vijay in the aftermath of the murder of Muhammad Akhlaq on the suspicion of beef consumption in Dadri has stirred a controversy attracting furious rebuttals from Prem Shankar Jha and Ajaz Ashraf. (Image: AFP)

“Why have you not written anything about the Dadri killing? Why are you silent on the murder of Muhammad Akhlaq?” That’s the question which I’ve been encountering from my colleagues since the past few days. So far I had replied to it by stating, “The world has written about it. Writers who are far superior to me have expressed their disgust at what happened in Dadri. I don’t think that I have anything more to add.”

Just when you start feeling that way, one comes across an opinion piece in The Indian Express written by BJP Rajya Sabha MP Tarun Vijay in which he says, “The violent reactions of the Dadri kind must remain an aberration. They raise a question for so-called liberal Muslims: Have you done anything to show Hindus that you stand with them when they are assaulted by the Andrabis? Muslim silence on Hindu woes is often taken as support for intolerant Islamists.”

It’s hard to decipher whether the statement quoted above was written by a Twitter troll or a Rajya Sabha MP. When will we learn to not politicise communal riots and hate crimes? We cannot justify violence by citing another incident of violence. What happened in Gujarat in 2002 under the BJP government in the state was a national disgrace. Equally shameful were the 1984 anti-Sikh riots when the Congress was in command at the Centre. The BJP and Congress can score political brownie points over one another by pitching one riot against the other, but the fact of the matter is that there can be no justification for either of them.

What does Mr Vijay exactly mean when he talks about “Hindu woes”? Does he mean to say that Muslims have never stood up for their Hindu brothers? We don’t need religion to stand up against the injustices in our society. As someone who feels deeply ashamed of the everyday violence which our society unleashes, as an Indian, and as a Muslim, I have tried to write against every atrocity which I’ve come across.

Mr Vijay, I have written about the ethnic cleansing which forced the Kashmiri Pandits out of their homes in the Valley. I hold the Islamist terrorists responsible for killing the Pandits and burning their homes. I realise the need for bringing the Pandits back to the Valley and providing them a sense of justice by prosecuting all those who were responsible for forcing them into exile.

Not only Hindus, I have tried to speak up for everyone who, I feel, has been wronged and discriminated against, be it Coptic Christians in Egypt or minorities in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia. I have criticised the anti-Semitic Arab discourse and the ludicrous conspiracy theories associated with 9/11. I won’t even hesitate for a second before condemning terrorist outfits like the Al Qaeda, Islamic State (ISIS), Taliban and Boko Haram because no sane person can ever justify the killing of innocent men, women and children.

I recognise the fact that many Muslim emperors destroyed Hindu temples and forcefully converted many non-Muslims to Islam. But I also know what is being done to Muslims in Myanmar and I won’t remain quiet about it just like I didn’t about the Hashimpura massacre, Babri Masjid demolition or misogynist personal laws. Injustice is injustice no matter it’s done when, where or to whom.

Mr Vijay, kindly do not behave like a Twitter troll who absconds from the core of the debate whenever one writes about right-wing Hindu extremism and challenges one to instead write about despotic Muslim emperors, ISIS or Kashmiri Pandits. I don’t need Modi bhakts to tell me what objectivity is. I try to live by it. But then so many bhakts write to me telling me they know exactly what I am going to write after reading my byline.

But that doesn’t dishearten me. It only gives me an insight into their sickening mindset. My name doesn’t make me different. Your mindset does. Your communal attitude towards every human tragedy is the problem. Not me, nor my religion! Mr Vijay, I daresay, beef eating shouldn’t be a crime. Mr Vijay, I won’t force you to have beef but I don’t expect you to tacitly justify the killing of someone, allegedly because he consumed beef or because the community he belonged to wasn’t responding to “Hindu woes”.


(This article was originally published in DailyO.) 

Why Subramanian Swamy doesn’t deserve to be JNU vice-chancellor

No university in this country can afford to have a hatemonger as its vice-chancellor who is best known for spewing venom and stoking rumours. (Image: Wikipedia)

No university in this country can afford to have a hatemonger as its vice-chancellor who is best known for spewing venom and stoking rumours. (Image: Wikipedia)

In an article titled “The RSS game plan” published in Frontline magazine (Volume 17 – Issue 02, Jan 22 – Feb 04, 2000) a Harvard-educated economist wrote, “Today the creeping fascism of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) is coming upon us.” He mentioned that the RSS leaders were frustrated at the fact that “symbolically, the bhagwa dhwaj (saffron double triangle flag) does not yet flutter from the Red Fort; but the hated tricolour which no RSS office can hoist even on August 15, still does.”

He accused the RSS of conniving to convert India into a Hindu Rashtra and stated that the saffron organisation had also prepared a rough draft on the lines of which the new Indian Constitution would be framed. He wrote that as per this draft, “The present bicameral Parliament would be replaced by a three-tier structure. At the apex will be a Guru Sabha of sadhus and sanyasis (read the VHP activists)…. All legislation and money bills will have to originate in the Guru Sabha and be passed by it before being sent to the Lok Sabha. The Guru Sabha will also be the judicial commission to nominate the Supreme Court judges, and impeach them.”

He mentioned that “Christians are being targeted by the front organisations of the RSS in order to terrorise and ghetto-ise all minorities” and that Hindutva justice meant “minorities can best look forward to liberation through mercy killing.” Who was the author of this piece? The answer (much to the surprise of many Hindutva maniacs) is Dr Subramanian Swamy!

Hindutva heart-throb, 2G scam whistle-blower and modern India’s biggest conspiracy theorist Dr Subramanian Swamy has a political history worth reading. Not only did Dr Swamy oppose the Emergency imposed in 1975 by Indira Gandhi-led Congress party, he was also responsible for bringing down Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s Bharatiya Janata Party government in 1999. As is visible from the extracts of the article Dr Swamy wrote several years back for Frontline magazine, he did not have much admiration for the kind of politics which was being played by the Sangh Parivar. In fact it appears that Dr Swamy detested Hindutva’s hate politics.

But things have changed now. After having spent many years in a state of political oblivion, Dr Swamy returned to the fore of Indian politics by blowing the lid off the 2G spectrum scam and advocating an extreme form of Hindutva. In the lead up to the 2014 General Elections, Dr Swamy officially merged his Janata Party with the BJP and formally became part of the Sangh Parivar.

This is nothing but a clear case of political opportunism. A person who vociferously criticised Hindutva politics in the past now happens to be one of its biggest advocates. News reports have suggested that Dr Subramanian Swamy has been offered the position of vice-chancellor of Jawaharlal Nehru University by the Union HRD ministry. People supporting his candidature might claim that he is a suitable candidate for the job as he possesses a PhD from the prestigious Harvard University and also attended the Hindu College at the Delhi University and Indian Statistical Institute in Kolkata while pursuing graduation and post graduation, respectively.

As far as his administrative accomplishments are concerned, Swamy is a five-time member of Parliament and has served as the Union law minister. He surely isn’t like Gajendra Chauhan who has been accused of being under qualified for the chairmanship of Film & Television Institute of India in Pune. Dr Swamy is a well-educated individual having substantial administrative experience but he certainly isn’t the right man to lead a university like JNU.

No university in this country can afford to have a hatemonger as its vice-chancellor who is best known for spewing venom and stoking rumours. Let us not forget that Dr Subramanian Swamy was expelled from Harvard University on account of his extremist views which became public following the publication of a bizarre article. Shortly after a terrorist attack in Mumbai on July 13, 2011, Dr Swamy wrote an article in DNA newspaper titled “How to wipe out Islamic terror” (July 16, 2011). This article became the reason behind the booting out of Dr Swamy from Harvard.

Dr Swamy who had earlier lambasted the RSS for aspiring to turn India into a Hindu Rashtra wrote, “Declare India a Hindu Rashtra in which non-Hindus can vote only if they proudly acknowledge that their ancestors were Hindus. Rename India Hindustan as a nation of Hindus and those whose ancestors were Hindus.” Does such a man deserve to be the vice-chancellor of a central university? In fact does he even deserve to be in public life? The founding fathers of the Indian Constitution rejected the notion of a Hindu Rashtra and established India as a secular state. They granted every Indian citizen universal adult suffrage.

But Dr Swamy does not agree with us. His contempt for the Constitution is visible from his own writings as he wants India to be converted into a Hindu Rashtra wherein non-Hindus will lose their right to vote and be elected as public representatives if they do not acknowledge their Hindu ancestry. Other unconstitutional suggestions of Dr Swamy included enacting “a national law prohibiting conversion from Hinduism to any other religion. Re-conversion (to Hinduism) will not be banned.” He also wanted to “remove the masjid in Kashi Vishwanath temple and the 300 masjids at other temple sites.”

That’s the kind of India that Dr Swamy envisions. Dreadful, isn’t it? A person who does not acknowledge India’s secular character and vouches for the creation of a Hindu Rashtra wherein Hindus and non-Hindus will not be equal citizens should never have been considered for any high office leave alone the office of the vice-chancellor of Jawaharlal Nehru University.

The students of JNU can never be expected to respect a person like Dr Swamy who has turned himself into a butt of jokes owing to his conspiracy theories which somehow tend to hint at the Hindu origins of every great innovation or invention that the world has witnessed. Dr Swamy belongs to that rare variety of political hypocrites who sometimes simultaneously espouse Hindutva chauvinism and minority politics. On one hand he stated, “If half the Hindus voted together, rising above caste and language, a genuine Hindu party would have a two-thirds majority in Parliament and the Assemblies” but he did not miss out on an opportunity to play the minority card while accusing the Congress of opposing Purno Sangma’s presidential candidacy in 2012 simply because he was a “Christian” and “tribal.”

There can be no defence for Dr Swamy’s irrational antics. Even Union HRD minister Smriti Irani cannot come out to justify Dr Swamy’s conception of India which is fascist, racist and discriminatory. Nor can she standby even one of Dr Swamy’s ridiculous conspiracy theories pertaining to the murder of Sanjay, Indira or Rajiv Gandhi. But then she might just do it as one does not expect much from an education, minister who stands accused of having lied about her own educational qualification.

The FTII row has failed to teach Modi sarkar a lesson. If there is even an iota of truth concerning Dr Swamy’s appointment as JNU VC then the BJP government should get prepared for a vicious backlash from academics and students who will not allow the communalisation of the country’s universities at the hands of individuals like Dr Swamy.


(This article was originally published in DailyO.) 

Meat ban obviously doesn’t curry favour with Hindutva forces

India of the 21st century is sensible and mature enough to realise that the state does not need to police an individual's diet in order to ensure that the religious sensibilities of a micro-minority are not offended. (Image: Wikipedia)

India of the 21st century is sensible and mature enough to realise that the state does not need to police an individual’s diet in order to ensure that the religious sensibilities of a micro-minority are not offended. (Image: Wikipedia)

The contrarian approach of the saffron parties towards the meat ban in Maharashtra during the Jain fasting period of Paryushan reveals that the Sangh Parivar is a divided lot instead of being one united family. Before addressing the issue of disunity among the BJP, Shiv Sena and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, let us make one thing aptly clear: the ban on meat is utterly foolish.

Right-wingers are trying to justify it by suggesting that the ban has been in place since a long time; to be precise, since 1964. But merely because a retrograde practice has been carrying on since decades, does it mean that it should be tolerated? Racism, no matter how minute it might be, is a threat and so is food fascism. It cannot be tolerated even if it is for a short period of time. The ban may have gone unnoticed during the 1960s when India was a relatively nascent nation but India of the 21st century is sensible and mature enough to realise that the state does not need to police an individual’s diet in order to ensure that the religious sensibilities of a micro-minority are not offended. Both meat eaters and non-meat eaters have a right to choose what they wish to eat. Let them make the choice instead of the state telling them.

Second, for heaven’s sake do not indulge in the politics of convenience by invoking the name of Akbar. This sudden admiration of the Hindu right for Akbar is most hypocritical. The Twitter trolls who label every Muslim emperor to have ruled India as a communal bigot are now citing the ban which Akbar had put on meat eating during Paryushan to justify what the BJP has done in Mumbai. It is not incumbent upon the government of India or government of Maharashtra to employ the same techniques which were utilised by a monarch centuries ago to cultivate religious harmony. Akbar tried to create a new religion called Din-e-Illahi for the sake of creating religious integration. Will the BJP-Shiv Sena government also attempt to create a new hybrid religion to resolve religious differences? The simple answer is that they won’t.

Coming back to Maharashtra politics, not long ago, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP managed to take over the leadership of the saffron brigade in Maharashtra from the Shiv Sena by emerging as the single largest party during the Assembly elections held in 2014. While the BJP bagged 122 seats, Shiv Sena came in second with 63 seats. Raj Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) turned out to be irrelevant as it won only one seat, lesser than debutant All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul Muslimeen (AIMIM) which won two seats. The results were a matter of deep humiliation for Bal Thackeray’s political heirs – Uddhav and Raj. Following the death of the Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray, both Uddhav and Raj had tried to replace him as the new leader of the “Marathi manoos”. But both failed the popularity contest as Modi conquered Maharashtra convincingly.

In February 2017, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), the richest municipal body in the world, will go to polls. The BMC has traditionally been controlled by the Shiv Sena but considering the political overtures made by the BJP in the past, it is very much possible that the Modi-Amit Shah combine will intend to dethrone Shiv Sena from the BMC as well. Therefore, it is natural for the Shiv Sena to oppose the BJP at this stage. The same goes for the MNS. The central force in Maharashtra politics is no longer the Congress or Shiv Sena, it’s the BJP. That’s precisely why the Shiv Sena and MNS have harped on the opportunity to oppose the meat ban.

The decision of imposing the ban was taken by the BJP. The Shiv Sena and MNS, by going all out in their opposition to the meat ban, are aligning themselves away from the BJP and trying to encash the anti-BJP sentiment which has emerged owing to this senseless decision. The Shiv Sena and MNS intend to enhance their popularity in the urban areas by speaking out against the meat ban which they hope will provide them electoral dividends in the BMC polls. Another significant reason the Shiv Sena and MNS have decided to take such a political risk is primarily because of the involvement of the Jain community instead of Hindus in the current controversy.

The Jains happen to be a micro-minority with less than limited electoral impact. The approach of the Shiv Sena and MNS would have been different had the meat ban been imposed in relation to a Hindu festival. Jains, though considered by many as a subsect of Hindus, are not Hindus at the end of the day. That’s why the MNS had the courage to roast chicken outside a hall where Jains had gathered in Thane. They would have never done so had it been Hindus instead of Jains. Though the meat ban is a thing to be abhorred, what needs to be equally abhorred are such shameless ways of protest which exemplify a naked majoritarian mindset, bent on harassing minorities by indulging in the most insensitive acts. Consuming meat during Paryushan is a matter of choice but willingly roasting chicken outside a hall full of Jains is an act of mischief.

The MNS would have certainly wanted the Jains to take objection to their crude way of protest. Thankfully, the Jains ignored the agitating political workers and did not provide them with a chance to indulge in a physical brawl. Raj Thackeray’s political ambition of turning this controversy into a “Jain vs Hindu” slugfest should never materialise. This is a question of personal liberty and it should remain that way. Political parties cannot be allowed to further communalise this issue. Uddhav Thackeray has said, “Let us bring the curtains down on the controversy over the meat ban”, but his party’s original stand against the meat ban has made two things clear: not all is fine as far as the BJP-Shiv Sena coalition is concerned. Second, after targeting Muslims, south Indians and north Indians, Jains might be the next set of people to be attacked in Maharshtra by the Shiv Sena on the presumptuous notion of “rich Jains taking away the place of the Maratha people”.


(This article was originally published in DailyO.) 

Meat ban in Mumbai for eight days: Does India want to be a Saudi Arabia?

The decision of the BJP-led Mira Bhayander Municipal Corporation (MBMC) in Mumbai to ban the slaughter and sale of meat during the Jain fasting period of Paryushan goes against the spirit of religious pluralism. (Image: Wikipedia)

The decision of the BJP-led Mira Bhayander Municipal Corporation (MBMC) in Mumbai to ban the slaughter and sale of meat during the Jain fasting period of Paryushan goes against the spirit of religious pluralism. (Image: Wikipedia)

Prior to the arrival of the Muslim holy month of fasting ie Ramzan in June 2014, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) officially urged non-Muslims to respect the feelings of Muslims. A statement issued by the interior ministry of KSA said, “Non-Muslim expatriates should respect the feelings of Muslims by not eating, drinking or smoking in public places such as streets and workplaces. They should not think that they are exempted from this because they are followers of other faiths.”

Saudi Arabia has set many shameful records as far as violation of human rights are concerned but the above mentioned statement of the interior ministry was particularly ridiculous. What has a non-Muslim got to do with Ramzan? Just like a non-Muslim should recognise the right of a Muslim to fast during Ramzan from dawn to dusk without consuming even a drop of water, the government of Saudi Arabia should have also recognised the right of non-Muslims to carry on with their routine lives in the month of Ramzan. Non Muslims cannot be made to go hungry or thirsty during a month considered as holy by Muslims.

Why should a Muslim get offended if he sees a non-Muslim consume food at a public place? The non-Muslim is obviously not thrusting anything inside the Muslim’s mouth to break his fast. Therefore, it was preposterous of the Saudi Arabian government to suggest that the religious feelings of Saudi’s Muslims will be hurt if they come across a non-fasting non-Muslim. Saudi Arabian authorities should have acted with some wisdom and refrained from bullying non-Muslim expatriates in this manner. But sanity is something one shouldn’t expect from the Saudis as they don’t recognise the religious rights of non-Muslims and prevent them from doing something as basic as building their places of worship.

Let’s now move from so-called Islamic state of KSA in west Asia towards east Asia wherein the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is situated. China happens to be ruled by an atheistic, communist regime. In June 2015, Chinese authorities banned civil servant, students and teachers from fasting during Ramzan in the Muslim majority province of Xinjiang. This decision of the Chinese government was as mindless as the one taken by Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The state of China has a particular ideology which does not consider religion as something of very high value but that doesn’t mean that people with certain religious beliefs would be victimised and students prevented from going to mosques and attending religious activities.

By fasting during Ramzan the community of Uighur Muslims would not have indulged in any secessionist activity. In fact by bulldozing their religious freedom, the Chinese officials ended up marginalising those people who held theistic beliefs. Unfortunately, our country India is also moving in the direction of KSA and PRC. The decision of the BJP-led Mira Bhayander Municipal Corporation (MBMC) in Mumbai to ban the slaughter and sale of meat during the Jain fasting period of Paryushan goes against the spirit of religious pluralism.

Some might argue that the ban which is set to expire on September 27 is only for a short period and that non-vegetarians can easily refrain consuming meat during this timeframe. But the question which should be asked is: How are non-vegetarians offending Jains by consuming non-vegetarian food during Paryushan? They are not forcing Jains to consume meat alongside them.

We need to realise that to respect each other’s beliefs we don’t need to start following or observing each other’s religious traditions and practices. An atheist does not have to attend a religious procession to make the world believe in the fact that he stands by religious freedom. He or she can choose to stay at home and yet recognise the right of theists to participate in a religious ritual. Similar attitude has to be maintained as far as the relationship between different religious communities is concerned. If someone does not consume beef or pork because of religious sensitivities then he/she should surely abstain from it but he/she cannot make others abstain from consuming such food items on the account of his/her religious beliefs.

If there is any sort of compulsion pertaining to food consumption then it definitely amounts to food fascism. The government has no right to tell the people what they are supposed to eat and when or where they are allowed to eat. The sooner countries like Saudi Arabia, China and India realise it; the better it would be for religious plurality and freedom. The state cannot police any person’s diet merely to further its own political designs or to protect a certain group’s religious feelings. Toleration and respect towards a religious community’s traditions is essential but replication of their rituals is not.


(This article was originally published in DailyO.) 

Is Modi the modern day Aurangzeb?

some of the observations which are being made in relation to Aurangzeb's character make him appear strikingly similar to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. (Image: Wikipedia)

Some of the observations which are being made in relation to Aurangzeb’s character make him appear strikingly similar to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. (Image: Wikipedia)

The decision of the New Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) to rename Aurangzeb Road after former President APJ Abdul Kalam has been met with both jubilation and resistance. Those who consider Aurangzeb a Hindu-hating Mughal emperor are rejoicing at the fact that a road located in the heart of India’s capital city will no longer bear the name of a man who desecrated several Hindu temples. On the other hand, there are people who view Aurangzeb as a misunderstood Muslim king from medieval India who extended grants to Hindu temples and whose legacy is being wrongfully eroded due to myths propounded by the Hindutva brigade.

There is another opinion which is of the iconoclast or the maverick. He is none other than former Supreme Court Judge Markandey Katju who has reserved his judgement on Aurangzeb. While Katju recognises the fact that “there is evidence to show that in Aurangzeb’s time grants were given to several Hindu temples, for example, Mahakal temple at Ujjain, the Chitrakoot temple, etc,” he also does not shy away from mentioning that Aurangzeb “demolished several Hindu temples, for example, the original Kashi Vishwanath temple” and that he “antagonised Rajputs, Marathas, Sikhs, etc.” Therefore, Katju suggests the need for “more objective research” in order to find out whether Aurangzeb was communal or not.

However, some of the observations which are being made in relation to Aurangzeb’s character make him appear strikingly similar to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The emphasis is being laid on Aurangzeb’s austere way of living and the fact that he used to make caps to earn bread. Prime minister Modi too comes from a humble background as he claims to have helped his father in selling tea at a railway station in Gujarat. After being anointed as prime minister designate, Modi donated Rs 21 lakh out of his personal savings “to educate daughters of drivers and peons” working with the Gujarat government. Following the Nepal earthquake, Modi donated a month’s salary towards the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund to help those affected by the tragedy.

This makes both Aurangzeb and Modi similar as far as their approach towards the state treasury is concerned. Aurangzeb could have easily survived on the state’s wealth but he chose not to and Modi decided to give away his savings as chief minister of Gujarat for the purpose of education. This reveals the tender nature of the two men but the similarities don’t end here. Tenderness was limited to austerity and it was replaced by ruthlessness when it came to political succession.

To ascend the Mughal throne, Aurangzeb executed his own brothers and had his father Shah Jahan more or less imprisoned within the Agra Fort. On the other hand, Modi brought to an end the political career of his mentors LK Advani and Keshubhai Patel to become prime minister and chief minister, respectively. Both threw tantrums and resisted Modi’s rise but were eventually overcome. Advani was forced to withdraw his resignation after the appointment of Modi as BJP’s campaign committee chief for 2014 Lok Sabha elections and pushed into the Margdarshak Mandal following Modi’s magical election campaign promising “ache din.” Keshubhai Patel was first dethroned as Gujarat’s chief minister by Modi in 2001. In 2012, Keshubhai launched Gujarat Parivartan Party and challenged Modi’s might in Gujarat but the verdict of the ballot box turned out to be a disappointment and Keshubhai tasted sweets from the hands of Narendra Modi at the end of a bitter political battle. Advani and Keshubhai have been reduced to political non entities and Modi lords over the entire country without any opposition from within the BJP just as Aurangzeb did after eliminating his many brothers including Dara Shikoh.

The biggest similarity between Aurangzeb and Modi comes to light when one compares their track record in terms of their policy towards religious monuments. As was argued by Katju, Aurangzeb extended grants to Hindu temples as also destroyed several of them. This clearly indicates that he was a political opportunist. Add to that the fact that he executed Sikh Guru Tegh Bahadur and Sufi saint Sarmad Kashani allegedly on account of opposing forced conversions and blasphemy, respectively. IIT Mumbai’s Professor Ram Puniyani, a renowned communal amity activist, has mentioned that “Aurangzeb did not hesitate to destroy the Jama Masjid in Golconda as Nawab Tanashah refused to pay him tribute for three consecutive years and hid his wealth underneath a mosque, which was damaged by Aurangzeb to recover his dues.” Such actions hint that Aurangzeb wasn’t a principled person but was rather a political opportunist who could construct temples, destroy temples, construct mosques and destroy mosques to further his political ambitions.

Ironically, Modi’s approach isn’t very different. In 2002, shortly after the infamous Gujarat riots, Modi took out a Gujarat Gaurav Yatra. On September 9, 2002, Modi arrived in Bahucharaji and proudly thumped his chest while mentioning that his government had allotted Rs 8 crore for the development of Bahucharaji Devi Temple. Six years later in 2008, Modi was likened to Mahmud of Ghazni by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad for having initiated a drive to destroy illegal temples in Gujarat. Modi hurriedly met VHP Chief Ashok Singhal and “ordered a ban on temple demolition in the state with immediate effect.” Five years later in 2013 came the Uttarakhand flash floods. Modi travelled to Uttarakhand and urged the then Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna to outsource the task of reconstructing the Kedarnarth Temple to the Gujarat government.

Such was Modi’s love for temples. He would allocate millions of rupees for their development, prevent the demolition of illegal temples and even request a state government to allow the Gujarat government to rebuild an ancient temple in their state which was clearly outside of its jurisdiction. But does Modi really love temples? Or he loves temple politics? The Islamic Relief Committee of Gujarat filed a PIL (Public Interest Litigation) asking the Gujarat government to pay compensation to the over 500 religious monuments destroyed during 2002 Gujarat riots. The religious monuments included both Hindu and Muslim places of worship. But an overwhelming majority of those belonged to the Muslim community. Modi’s government opposed the PIL in court arguing that the state government cannot pay any such compensation as it goes against Article 27 of the Indian Constitution which gives citizens the freedom from payment of religious taxes. Thankfully, such bogus arguments were neither accepted by the Gujarat High Court or the Supreme Court and they ordered proper compensation.

But the question which Modi needs to answer is the following: Wasn’t Article 27 coming in the way when he was allocating Rs 8 crore for the development of Bahucharaji Devi Temple? Wasn’t Article 27 a constitutional roadblock when he offered to reconstruct the Kedarnath Temple? If Modi’s government really cared for temples then they would have paid for the compensation of those temples which were destroyed during the 2002 Gujarat riots. But they didn’t because Modi’s government did not intend to provide compensation which was to benefit a few temples as opposed to several mosques and shrines. It would have sent out a wrong signal that Modi is trying to reach out to the Muslim community which is such an anathema to his image of Hindu Hriday Samrat. So his government decided to oppose compensation for religious monuments destroyed during the Gujarat riots.

Interestingly, Modi becomes prime minister in 2014. He makes it a habit to visit a temple whenever on a foreign diplomatic trip. He proclaims “India First” as his definition of secularism and on his trip to Abu Dhabi in United Arab Emirates, Modi gets land allocated for the construction of the first Hindu temple in Abu Dhabi while simultaneously paying a visit to Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque thereby making both Hindus and Muslims happy. Does that make Modi secular? Absolutely not!

How can we forget that this is the same person who pitched temples against mosques? Modi allocated money for development of Bahucharaji Devi Temple, offered reconstruction of Kedarnath Temple, prevented demolition of illegal temples fearing backlash from Vishwa Hindu Parishad but refused to provide compensation for religious monuments destroyed during 2002 Gujarat riots simply because 241 of those were mosques and 273 Muslim shrines. He did not have a problem in donning a Sikh turban or traditional North Eastern headgear but refused to wear a Muslim skull cap during his Sadhbhavna mission and did not even extend greetings to the nation on the occasion of Eid during his first year as prime minister.

Today, Modi might be visiting Central Asian nations and invoking the teachings of Islam. He might have visited a mosque in Abu Dhabi but that doesn’t make him secular. It exposes him as a political opportunist, much like Aurangzeb, who does communal politics in the name of temples and mosques at his own convenience so as to appeal to his increasing base of supporters or votebank. Only an opportunist of the stature of Narendra Modi can be an admirer of both MS Golwalkar and Syedna Mohammed Burhauddin, the former being the communal Sarsangchalak of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) who hurled choicest abuses at Muslims and Christians while the latter was the despotic spiritual leader of Dawoodi Bohras who levied religious taxes, violated their human rights and tried to silence moderate voices like those of Asghar Ali Engineer. Such is politics!


(This article was originally published in DailyO.)