Udhampur killing & The Indian Muslims

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The Idea of India as a secular, plural and democratic polity is being inverted 

Zahid Rasool Bhat, the Kashmiri trucker injured in an arson attack at Udhampur (Jammu division), passed away on Sunday. The 18-year-old has fallen victim to an insidious and dangerous ideology that appears to have India enthralled.

The proponents of this ideology hold that India is a ‘Hindu Rashtra’ (Hindu nation) and other groupings in India(read Muslims) are essentially aliens who marauded India, and destroyed its Hindu essence. This narrative of nationalism is essentially a narrative of victimhood which enjoins Hindus to assert themselves and can be called a nationalism of revenge and vendetta. It is a perverted form of nationalism in which a historical narrative and imagination is twisted to construct an ‘other’ against which the majority community can define itself against.

This nationalism has two components: an internal one and an external one. Both are compressed and packaged into one. Domestically, it is the Indian Muslim- held to be a ‘convert’ by the proponents of this ideology- who is to be either ‘tamed’ or shown his/her place. Externally, the ‘Other’ or the enemy is Pakistan- a Muslim nation, which was carved out of the Indian dominion.

The proponents of Hindutva, as this ideology is called, draw their sense of individual and collective self from these two themes. If I may indulge in some pop psychology, this narrative and the ideology that sustains it suggests that the collective personality and unconscious of the Indian nation is a weak one; it needs an ‘other’ to draw sustenance and define itself. This may well be fine but the problem is that it exacts victims in the process. The Dadri lynching and the murder of Zahid are the natural and inevitable fallout of this process of ‘othering’.

This is, insofar as the, psychological processes and philosophy that informs this insidious ideology. But what about its politics?

The politics of Hindutva emerge and draw from the philosophy that informs it. It aims to homogenize a diverse polity and society under the rubric of the ideology of Hindutva. The modus operandi is clear and obvious: the Hindu vote is consolidated by ‘othering’ Muslims under the guise of Hindu pride and the alleged marauding of ‘Hindu’ India by Muslims.

Democracy and its procedures and processes are instrumentalised to attain state power and then the preferences of the majority (read beef ban issue) are imposed on the peoples of the country. The Hindu psychology and emotional matrix is sought to be perverted and twisted and a Hindu Rashtra sought to be constructed from the detritus of violence and state power.

This perversion is real and a departure from Hinduism. To paraphrase Professor Trautmann of the University of Michigan, Hinduism as it evolved and its Vedic texts held life to be of such a cardinal and intrinsic value that it proscribed animal sacrifice and consumption. The premise or the principle that undergirded this was value for all forms of life. But, ironically, this form of Hinduism has been perverted by the ideology of Hindutva: human life is being taken and people murdered to avenge the killing of an animal.

All this will have consequences. Muslims in India will increasingly feel more fearful insecure. An already ghettoized minority will feel threatened. This can take two forms: Muslims will either further retreat into themselves in India or may lash out. Both scenarios are alarming. Violence is implicated in both. This may well be the aim of the Hindutva brigade but the issue is the price that will be paid: lives lost, livelihoods destroyed and communities decimated. All in all, the Indian condition may pan out in a way and correspond to what VS Naipaul called , ‘A Million Mutinies Now’.

Hitherto, the institutional fabric of modern India maintained a degree of inter-communal calm and peace. But this institutional design is being reviewed and revised to correspond to the ideology of Hindutva. The rejig of institutions sought by the proponents of this ideology leaves scant (or even chokes) space for ‘others’ –especially Muslims. The Idea of India as a secular, plural and democratic polity is being inverted. In the schema, the future of Muslims is an ‘unknown unknown’.

How they will react and respond will determine larger peace and calm in the country. But the drift of things suggest that events may acquire a momentum of their own and an involuted idea of India may well take hold. A new imaginary is taking hold in India and this imaginary is ominous.

Muslims will either further retreat into themselves in India or may lash out. Both scenarios are alarming. Violence is implicated in both. This may well be the aim of the Hindutva brigade but the issue is the price that will be paid: lives lost, livelihoods destroyed and communities decimated. All in all, the Indian condition may pan out in a way and correspond to what VS Naipaul called , ‘A Million Mutinies Now’.

 

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