NDA report card

One year on, Modi has battered many constitutional principles – but the biggest victim is fraternity

Ruling MPs are wantonly inciting hatred, communal conflagrations are widespread. What happened to the Constitutional idea of bandhuta?

The centrality of fraternity in nurturing and sustaining democracy is one of Babasaheb Ambedkar’s many profound insights. The word used in the Constitution in Hindi is bandhuta, which vividly evokes ideas of comradeship and mutual belonging. It suggests that regardless of our multitudes of differences – of faith, caste, class, gender, language, of the ways we dress and eat, marry, divorce, celebrate and mourn – we are in the end one people, because we belong to one another. The first energetic year in office of Prime Minister Narendra Modi was marked by severe contestations of many constitutional principles, but none more than fraternity.

Fraternity, our common sisterhood and brotherhood, would, if fully realised, result in a seamless oneness, or unity, amidst our limitless diversities. This is an ideal we as a people have never achieved. Instead of complete unity, we articulate interim ideals of amity, harmony and peaceful co-living. These in turn require at the minimum two fundamental principles in public life – of public civility and public fairness. Both these minimum principles for fraternal co-living have been badly battered in the first year of Modi’s stewardship of the central government.

Public civility

Take first public civility. Never in free India has the public discourse been so poisoned by MPs and ministers of an elected ruling alliance. Bharatiya Janata Party MP Sakshi Maharaj labels madrasas as “hubs of terror” fostering “love jihad” and “education of terrorism”. He exhorts Hindu women to bear four children, declaring that in the Modi yug (era), the alleged Muslim practice of having four wives and 40 kids – a fiction of majoritarian paranoia – should be forcefully halted. He further describes Nathuram Godse, Gandhi’s assassin, as a “patriot” and “martyr”. Another BJP MP Yogi Adityanath declares that an India without Ram cannot be imagined, and that those who allegedly torment Hindus with riots will have to pay dearly. Moreover “for every Hindu converted, 100 Muslim girls will be converted as retaliation”. Minister Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti describes those who do not worship Ram as “haramzade” or bastards. A Shiv Sena MP force-feeds a Muslim canteen functionary during his roza fast. Another, Sanjay Raut, calls for the disenfranchisement of Muslims.

These are not hate provocations by non-state fringe fanatics. These are displays of unrepentant public bigotry by elected public representatives of the ruling alliance in Parliament. The prime minister – who is otherwise not known ever to be at a loss for words, prides himself on an expanded chest and imposing his iron will on his ministers and party – is deafening in his silence in response to these criminally culpable hate statements of his colleagues. His occasional reactions, hardly amount to even a mild rap on their knuckles.

Public fairness

Take now public fairness. Consider the state of Gujarat. Maya Kodnani, imprisoned for 28 years for leading the brutal slaughter in Naroda in 2002 of 97 Muslims, including 36 women and 35 children, is out on bail for an intestinal malady since July 2014. Another infamous organiser of the slaughter, Baju Bajrangi, also serving an extended life term, was freed on bail for an eye aliment in April 2015. Caught in 2006 by the newsmagazine Tehelka on secret camera Bajrangi had bragged, “We hacked, burned, set on fire… because these bastards don’t want to be cremated… I have just one last wish… let me be sentenced to death… just give me two days before my hanging and I will go and have a field day… I will finish them off… at least 25,000 to 50,000 should die.”

Senior police officer Vanzara, charged with the murder in fake encounters of teenager Ishrat Jehan, Sohrabuddin and others, was released on bail in February 2015 to a hero’s welcome. In contrast, courageous whistle-blowing police officers Rahul Sharma and Rajnish Rai face a barrage of charges. An exhausted but unbending Sharma finally took voluntary retirement. Police officer Sanjeev Bhatt remains suspended. Gutsy Teesta Setlawad, who pursued many battles for legal justice for the survivors of the 2002 carnage, faces multiple criminal charges and escaped imminent arrest only through the intervention of the Supreme Court.

Communal ferment

India’s Constitution took care to defend not just the right of faith of religious minorities, but also their right to propagate their convictions. Contrary to its spirit, there is influential public advocacy for a national law barring religious conversions. A rash of high-decibel programmes were organised in which converts to Islam and Christianity were “welcomed back” into Hinduism. These programmes were titled “homecomings”, suggesting that the legitimate Indian faith is Hinduism, and conversions to Islam and Christianity represented prodigal straying. The same cultural hegemony of majoritarian upper-caste Hinduism underlay Maharashtra government’s ban on both selling and eating beef, criminalising dietary traditions of not only many non-Hindu faiths, but even many Dalit and tribal peoples.

This has also been a year of widespread communal ferment. Big communal conflagrations are now unlikely, because they attract international condemnation and troublesome domestic activism. But these have been replaced by an undeclared continual epidemic of small, but deeply toxic, communal attacks and skirmishes across the length and breadth of the land. Assaults on churches here, disputes over mosques and cemeteries there, raids on religious processions, throwing of animal carcasses into shrines, raising of communal tempers when young people choose to love or marry outside their religions, and against cow slaughter, all of these have resulted in several hundred communal clashes throughout the country, peaking in regions which are due to face elections.

Modi in his first year in office has led our nation into a long, blistering majoritarian summer. This has scorched both the fairness of institutions of the state – including sadly the judiciary – as well as fraternal social relations. None but the most delusional right-wing radicals expect millions of people of minority faith to leave this nation. But what they want is that these millions learn to live in separate ghettoes, economically enfeebled, socially submissive, politically disenfranchised. This is their competing idea of India.

Support our journalism by subscribing to Scroll+ here. We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Following a mountaineer as he reaches the summit of Mount Everest

Accounts from Vikas Dimri’s second attempt reveal the immense fortitude and strength needed to summit the Everest.

Vikas Dimri made a huge attempt last year to climb the Mount Everest. Fate had other plans. Thwarted by unfavourable weather at the last minute, he came so close and yet not close enough to say he was at the top. But that did not deter him. Vikas is back on the Everest trail now, and this time he’s sharing his experiences at every leg of the journey.

The Everest journey began from the Lukla airport, known for its dicey landing conditions. It reminded him of the failed expedition, but he still moved on to Namche Bazaar - the staging point for Everest expeditions - with a positive mind. Vikas let the wisdom of the mountains guide him as he battled doubt and memories of the previous expedition. In his words, the Everest taught him that, “To conquer our personal Everest, we need to drop all our unnecessary baggage, be it physical or mental or even emotional”.

Vikas used a ‘descent for ascent’ approach to acclimatise. In this approach, mountaineers gain altitude during the day, but descend to catch some sleep. Acclimatising to such high altitudes is crucial as the lack of adequate oxygen can cause dizziness, nausea, headache and even muscle death. As Vikas prepared to scale the riskiest part of the climb - the unstable and continuously melting Khumbhu ice fall - he pondered over his journey so far.

His brother’s diagnosis of a heart condition in his youth was a wakeup call for the rather sedentary Vikas, and that is when he started focusing on his health more. For the first time in his life, he began to appreciate the power of nutrition and experimented with different diets and supplements for their health benefits. His quest for better health also motivated him to take up hiking, marathon running, squash and, eventually, a summit of the Everest.

Back in the Himalayas, after a string of sleepless nights, Vikas and his team ascended to Camp 2 (6,500m) as planned, and then descended to Base Camp for the basic luxuries - hot shower, hot lunch and essential supplements. Back up at Camp 2, the weather played spoiler again as a jet stream - a fast-flowing, narrow air current - moved right over the mountain. Wisdom from the mountains helped Vikas maintain perspective as they were required to descend 15km to Pheriche Valley. He accepted that “strength lies not merely in chasing the big dream, but also in...accepting that things could go wrong.”

At Camp 4 (8,000m), famously known as the death zone, Vikas caught a clear glimpse of the summit – his dream standing rather tall in front of him.

It was the 18th of May 2018 and Vikas finally reached the top. The top of his Everest…the top of Mount Everest!

Watch the video below to see actual moments from Vikas’ climb.

Play

Vikas credits his strength to dedication, exercise and a healthy diet. He credits dietary supplements for helping him sustain himself in the inhuman conditions on Mount Everest. On heights like these where the oxygen supply drops to 1/3rd the levels on the ground, the body requires 3 times the regular blood volume to pump the requisite amount of oxygen. He, thus, doesn’t embark on an expedition without double checking his supplements and uses Livogen as an aid to maintain adequate amounts of iron in his blood.

Livogen is proud to have supported Vikas Dimri on his ambitious quest and salutes his spirit. To read more about the benefits of iron, see here. To read Vikas Dimri’s account of his expedition, click here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Livogen and not by the Scroll editorial team.