Modi’s Dussehra address: Backfoot on Surgical Strikes, Front Foot on Hindutva

Prime Minster Narendra Modi’s address on the eve of Ravandahan at Lucknow had more covert messages than overt. He was clearly on the back foot as far as the issue of Surgical Strikes is concerned. There was absolutely no mention of the word “Surgical Strike” or “Pakistan” or “Uri”. He seems to have realised that by making Surgical Strikes public he has invited unwarranted criticism and has united the Opposition. The way questions have been raised on the issue in recent days it is clear that the political strategy of BJP has not worked to its satisfaction.

However, the Dussehra address had some veiled indications that he may now shift his focus from the Developmental agenda to the communal agenda. When he talked of “terror” it only meant the so-called “Islamic Terrorism”. The only example he chose to give was that of a Muslim country, Syria. He forgot that the overwhelming majority of deaths due to terrorist attacks in India in last two decades had nothing to do with Muslims. Out of more than 35000 deaths, Muslim outfits have been allegedly responsible for not more than 1500 deaths. For the rest, Hindu terrorists including Naxalites, Bodos and Maoists have been responsible. In last two years, there have been several hundred such deaths with Muslims involved only in a few in the border areas. He also forgot that in recent history, the LTTE of Tamils of Sri Lanka have been responsible for more deaths than perhaps any other organisation. He and his party do also ignore the fact that “terrorism” forms only a tiny part of the total violence in the world, and his favourite America has been responsible for the deaths of more than 3 million innocent Muslims in the Middle East. While the whole country stands united in fighting terrorism, he should also ensure that our own people in Kashmir are also taken care of like the rest of the nation. If we can take them along, foreign-sponsored terrorism cannot harm us in any way.

He also gave a not-so veiled indication — “I will fight for the equal rights of omen Hindu or Muslim or any religion” — that his Government is determined to pursue the case of Triple Talaq and use it as a means to polarise the country. When he talked of the “atrocities against women” and the “rights of women”, he again forgot that the biggest blot on the face of humankind and women can be none other than that they are forced or lured into prostitution. The unofficial figures indicate that more than 10 million Indian women are into what is called the “oldest profession” by the market forces and their agents in academia and media. Hundreds of thousands of them are “registered sexual workers”. He also forgets that the biggest problem women have to face in their family life is the drinking habits of their husbands, but despite almost 99 per cent of women favouring ban on alcohol, Modi’s BJP Government does not take step in that direction. He also needs to run a campaign to give women their shares in the properties of their parents. Last but not least, he needs to show total commitment to eradicate female foeticide which has become so common in Hindus. In several states, the female/male ratio among Hindus has gone below 800/1000 compared to around 1010/1000 at the global level.

Incidentally, there was no mention of any developmental schemes in the speech. There was no mention of eradicating poverty and controlling inflation. There was no mention of ensuring employment to the youth. There was no mention either of reducing crimes or attacks against Dalits and minorities.

It appeared that Modiji was not speaking on behalf of 125 crore Indians but only on behalf of about the members of BJP, RSS and sister organisations. Ram is a symbol of fight against injustices; and justice demands standing against one’s own people if they are unjust. Hopefully Modiji will try to become Ram for the whole country rather than for the privileged few. As far as Muslims are concerned, hopefully his future speeches and actions will be an extension of what he spoke in Kerala last month.

And lastly, it is hoped that while the armed forces will continue their duty to safeguard the nation without any political interference, the Government and the political parties, especially the ruling party, will not allow issues of national importance become politicised.