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Issue No.: 574 | April 2015
 

Growing Saffronization

Firoze Hirjikaka
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In his column in the March 16 edition of The Indian Express, Ribeiro joins a growing group of rational and intelligent personalities who have been lamenting the creeping saffronization taking place in our secular and tolerant country over the past few months. It is poignant and deeply distressing that a thorough gentleman who has served India with great distinction for most of his adult life is being made to feel like a "stranger in his own country”. 

Ribeiro is right when he concludes that the "systemic targeting” of those who do not belong to the majority community has begun only after the BJP government of Narendra Modi came to power. Here I would make a subtle distinction. During the previous BJP regime under Atal Behari Vajpayee, we did not witness this kind of open communal venom being spewed by Hindu fundamentalists. No doubt some extremists owing allegiance to the RSS and their offshoots were present even then, but Vajpayee kept them in check. It is inexplicable that a strongman like Modi who exercises total control over his party members, cannot do the same. It leads one to the conclusion that he is either turning a blind eye or is content to let the hardliners expound their perverted version of Hindutva and proclaim a Hindu Rashtra. 

Some would argue that Modi has occasionally made strong statements against this practice. Agreed, but they have been not been followed up with concrete actions and are not taken seriously by the venom-spewers. Witness how the Sadhvi made her trademark inflammatory statements in public only three days after Modi gave a speech in Parliament on how all religions must be treated with equal respect. Also, even after his speech in support of the Christian community, churches continue to be attacked. It is also noteworthy that during the recent reshuffle of the BJP’s top decision making committee, while Smriti Irani and others were dropped, the Sadhvi and the Yogi retained their places. 

And it is not only the fanatics. The new Chief Minister of Haryana, a committed RSS sevak, has not only banned cattle slaughter in his state, but has made the penalty for violation equal to that of murdering a human being. Then there is the outrageously incompetent Chairman of the Censor Board, whose only qualification for the job seems to be that he is an RSS man. More eminent citizens like Ribeiro need to speak up. It will be a tragedy if we allow grand visions and promises of development and prosperity - many of them yet to be fulfilled - obscure the reality of what is taking place in this imperfect but democratic and tolerant nation of ours, of which we are justly proud. 

Firoze Hirjikaka
leonardo8_99@yahoo.com
 
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