Priorities for Modi Government
The biggest challenge facing Modi is as to how to act in a manner so as to avoid divisive conflict in the society – this is dependent on how he acts towards the Minorities, especially the Muslims.
By Rajindar Sachar
The Public disgust with Congress (UPA) government of the last decade has seen it being defeated, nay decimated. But BJP must not over exult by assuming that the majority has endorsed its policies. It should be politically honest enough to admit that it is corporate created TV, SMS, Publicity image of Modi that has scored. A delusional image of development being unleashed by Modi has somehow temporarily sanitized the young into the Modi club.
Modi is obviously a deeply religious man which is shown by his doing Puja of Mother Ganga. No one can take any exception to his personal belief and action. But Modi is now the Prime Minister of this country where 20% people are non Hindu minority, out of which 80% are Muslims. Modi has been proclaiming that he intends to function evenly and without any discrimination either in favour of Hindus or against Muslims and other minorities. Could Modi in this hour of his unimaginable triumph do a humane gesture to clear the fear amongst Muslims–Could he pay a similar visit to Ajmer Dargah and offer a Chadar?.
As for Modi’s developmental model which is similar to Congress model there is obviously going to be deep conflict – between the neo-liberal strategy of development and of decentralized development as envisaged by 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendments of our Constitution. On this matter the peoples immediate resistance would be on the UPA sponsored Japanese financed Amritsar–Calcutta and Delhi–Bombay corridors development plan, which is going to displace millions of small landholders and poor (and which Modi is likely to follow up because this fits in with his developmental pattern). So this is a continuing danger and this conflict is axpectable and is natural in any democratic nation.
But the biggest challenge facing Modi is as to how to act in a manner so as to avoid divisive conflict in the society – this is dependent on how he acts towards the Minorities, especially the Muslims. This is because under our Constitution no religion can claim superiority of status against any other religion. All religions under our Constitution have equal status.
It is a truism that in any country the faith and the confidence of the minorities in the impartial and even functioning of the State is the acid test of being civilized State. This is accepted wisdom, and was expressed succinctly by Lord Acton; “A state which is incompetent to satisfy different races condemns itself; a state which labours to neutralize, to absorb or to expel them is destitute of the chief basis of self-government”. We need only substitute ‘minorities’ for ‘races’ in the above quotation to apply the test in India.
Thus inclusive development in India and for that matter in any country alone is the path to prosperity. It is an undeniable truth and needs to be irrevocably accepted by all in India, namely that minorities, Muslims and Christians are not outsiders. They are an integral part of India. This was emphasized by Swami Vivekanand, (whom Modi certainly considers as one of the greatest Indians we have produced) thus; “He also told Hindus not to talk of the superiority of one religion over another. Even toleration of other faiths was not right; it smacked of blasphemy”. In his letter to a Muslim friend in 1898, he again emphasized. “For our own motherland a junction of the two great systems Hinduism and Islam – Vedanta brain and Islam body – is the only hope……. the future perfect India.”
Modi often purports to show his neutrality by proclaiming that he does not recognize any special rights for minorities – he treats all people as Gujaratis or Indians. This apparently impartial approach for all is similar to the taunt by French author Anatole France – who ironically commented at the neglect of the poor by French State thus; “Law in its majesty gives equal rights to the rich and poor to sleep under the bridges”. Thus to say that minorities who are admittedly far behind in the race of development as against the others should not be given special treatment is not only sheer injustice but violative of the mandate of report of UN Human Right Council, Forum on Minority issued in December 2010 which has said; “Consequently, the right of minorities to participate effectively in economic life must be fully taken into account by governments seeking to promote equality at every level. Governments should gather and regularly publicize disaggregated data to measure and monitor the effective participation of minorities in economic life.” Thus it is a mischievous propaganda that targeted programme for minorities is not legal or Constitutional.
Modi rightly reveres Gandhiji – (surely Modi would remember what the Mahatma said in 1921 and March 1947) namely; “I would say that Hindus and Muslims are the two eyes of mother India-just as the trouble in one eye affects the other too, similarly the whole of India suffer when either Hindu or Muslim suffer.”
Would not Modi like to pay obeisance to the memory of Gandhiji if in his inaugural speech on being sworn in as Prime Minister he was to declare that Government of India’s 15-point Minority Programme will continue as before and that he is open to meeting with Minority leaders so as to make it even more effective. This declaration will act as a balm and relieve the tension in the country especially amongst Muslims, and thus enabling Modi to attend to other urgent problems.
Will Modi like to be remembered as a Statesman or as a partisan leader – he alone can decide, because this victory has given him an unparalleled position amongst his colleagues. This situation poses a danger to democracy as pointed out by Dr. Ambedkar thus; “There is nothing wrong in being grateful to great men who have rendered life long service to the country. But there are limits to gratefulness – For in India unlike in any other country in the world, Bhakti in religion may be a road to the salvation of the soul. But, in politics, Bhakti or hero-worship is a sure road to degradation and to eventual dictatorship”. We must never forget this warning by the architect of our Constitution.
(The author is Chief Justice (Retd.) of Delhi High Court. He headed the Prime Minister’s High Level Committee on Status of Muslims. The author can be reached at [email protected])