Ink on Whose Face?

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After blackening the face of the former BJP ideologue Sudheedra Kulkarni, Hindutva radicals threw ink at the face of the legislator Engineer Rashid. He was in New Delhi holding a press conference along with the families of the victims of the truck attack at Udhampur on October 9, one of whom Zahid Ahmad succumbed to his injuries on Sunday. After the attack, Rashid sarcastically said this was “Modi’s India” and not Mahatma Gandhi’s. A leader not known for mincing his words, Rashid also saluted Jinnah for creating Pakistan. Not only him, National Conference president Dr Farooq Abdullah too invoked Jinnah. “I am afraid that people in Kashmir will start to think that Quaid-i-Azam will start to think that Quaid-i-Azam Jinnah about his two-nation theory,” Abdullah said.  

Far from the situation getting any better in India, it is getting worse. And with every attack directed against the minorities, Abdullah’s and Rashid’s Jinnah invocation rings true not only for Kashmiris but also for the Muslims in India. However, the issue is not only about the targeted attacks on minorities, which have now become too numerous not to be seen as a part of a pattern, it is about the thought process that underpins them. And this thought process sees Muslims as a perennial “other” who have to be subservient to the expectations of the majority.

That this thinking is not only confined to the Hindutva forces but resonates with large swaths of the majority community in India is obvious by the overwhelming support commanded by the prime minister Narendra Modi. And that this kind of majoritarian politics has an abiding appeal in the society  is obvious from the BJP’s tendency to rake up divisive issues in the run up to every election. The trick seems to be to pander to the full range of the sentiments and the instincts of the majority population. Over the past two years, the strategy has invariably paid off. In one stroke the majority community is persuaded to paper over its differences and confront a single enemy and in the process turned into one undifferentiated vote bank.

Would the strategy again pay off in Bihar? It remains to be seen.   Bihar outcome could, therefore, either endorse the prevailing politics of hate or turn a new positive leaf in the country whereby BJP and its larger Parivar will get a message that their politics had crossed its limit.

Coming back to Engineer Rashid, the legislator has once again shown a canny ability to relate his politics to the burning issues of the day. Though his politics has its share of baiters, Rashid has filled in the huge gap left by mainstream political parties in the articulation of the concerns of the majority community in the state.  On beef ban issue too, Rashid  has flagged public anger and shock which was left unaddressed by the major parties. His politics is provocative, with deep separatist overtones but it is not negative.  By attracting the attack twice on him, first by BJP legislators in Assembly and second by the rightwing groups in New Delhi, Rashid has exposed in part the vicious nature of the unfolding new politics in the country. Kashmir needs a mainstream politics that aggressively champions the rights of the aggrieved people. And in its absence, the sense of powerlessness runs deep in Valley. People elect the governments but they seem to be representing someone and something else.

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