Narendra Modi likes to say that he is Prime Minister of all India. But this is mere rhetoric. His ministers and members of Parliament from the party he leads have shown with amazing frequency that they represent the partisan interests of a group they call “Hindu”. While they justify acts of communal violence and incite hatred between communities, Modi has never called them to account. He has instead employed the same vocabulary to garner support for his Bharatiya Janata Party.
On Sunday, Modi’s colleagues in the government and party were at it again. Speaking at a meeting in Agra held to mourn VHP worker Arun Mahaur, who was killed last week, Minister of State for Human Resource Development Ram Shankar Katheria said: “We have to make ourselves powerful, we have to launch a struggle” so that “these killers themselves disappear”. The alleged murderer is a Muslim, and there is no doubt that Katheria's “we” referred to what the BJP calls “Hindus”.
According to the Hindi daily Dainik Jagran, the minister said that the police should be under no illusion that being a minister had cooled his anger at Mahaur’s murder. He said if the police take any action, the lathi (associated with the RSS) would be raised on behalf of society.
So, here is a minister in the Modi government – who has sworn an oath to defend the Constitution – who feels at liberty to threaten violence against the police.
At the same meeting, BJP member of Parliament from Fatehpur Sikri, Chaudhary Babulal, also issued a threat of violence: “Don’t try to test us… We will not tolerate insults to the community,” he said. “We do not want unrest at any cost, but if you want to test Hindus, then let’s decide a date and take on Muslims.”
Continuing in the same vein, the VHP’s district secretary Ashok Lavania equated Muslims with demons and called for murder. “Revenge for the killing of one brother, demands the killing of ten rakshas,” he said.
According to The Indian Express, Lavania set out how revenge would be taken before the 13th day (a reference to the tehravin or the final day of mourning for Hindus in North India). It would be done exactly how it was done in Muzaffarnagar in 2013 and in Ayodhya in 1992, he said.
“Many have approached me asking why we are not doing anything. They are saying do something – arson, murder, shootout. These are common Hindus. We are avoiding this because the organisation (VHP/RSS) is careful about being held responsible… ultimately it becomes an act of the society. Once people are galvanised, no question would be raised at all. In cases like Ram Janmbhoomi, Muzaffarnagar, the party had disappeared. But it is certain that revenge will be taken before the 13th day is over. Blood will revenge blood. Action will obviously be in Mantola area (where Mahaur was killed), but also across Agra. Wherever Hindus are in a majority, it will happen. We are fully prepared. If they retaliate, then it will be a mahasangram.”
The police has started its investigation into Mahaur’s murder, but this fact seems irrelevant to the BJP and the Sangh Parivar.
When silence speaks
From Muzaffarnagar to Dadri to Agra, by way of several small episodes that never make it to the national media, there is a clear pattern in the BJP and Sangh Parivar effort to pit community against community through rumour and the escalation of local disputes into major conflicts by redefining them as Muslim attacks on Hindus or on Hindu sentiment. It was love jihad in Muzaffarnagar, beef eating in Dadri and now, in Agra, the issue is cow slaughter.
That Union ministers, members of Parliament and leaders of organisations linked to the Sangh Parivar get away with incitement to religious hatred, communal violence and even murder is clearly because they have the protection of the central government.
On February 28, during his monthly radio programme Mann Ki Baat, Modi said that he was sitting for a test the next day and hoped he would pass. He was referring to the Union budget. The prime minister may well have passed that test, but there is another test that Modi has repeatedly failed – the test to be the Prime Minister of all of India. He has remained silent about incitement to communal hatred and violence by his ministers, and members of the BJP and Sangh Parivar. He has himself used the same rhetoric of hurt sentiments as they do. This can only be read as support for an agenda to divide the country between Hindus and Muslims, nationalists and so-called anti-nationals, and those with the Sangh Parivar and those against it.