Ram Puniyani

As we welcome the New Year (2016) with hope and optimism, the events of the year gone by flash to our mind; those events which are going to have influences in the times to come. We saw that the politics of the BJP led NDA government was practically marked by the controlling agenda of Hindu nationalism dictated by RSS. With the statements of the Sadhvis, Sakhis and Yogis the atmosphere of hate towards minorities saw a peak of sorts. Be it the issue of beef eating, love jihad or rational thinking; these elements came down heavily on the values of Indian democracy, principles of Indian Constitution and atmosphere of amity nurtured by Indian ethos for centuries. The sense of security of minorities was heavily undermined as Yogi Adityanath made hateful speeches, or as Giriraj Singh advised those not voting for Modi to go to Pakistan. With Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar advising the beef eaters to go to Pakistan, it became clear that the ruling party is hell bent to intensify the atmosphere of Hate towards the religious minorities.

The peak of the display of mindset of Hindu nationalists, led by Prime Minister Modi himself came to the fore when Sharukh Khan joined the likes of Kiran Majumdar Shaw, Narayan Murti and Raghuram Rajan in saying that there is an atmosphere of growing intolerance in the society. When Aamir Khan just shared his chat with his wife Kiran Rao that she feels insecure in the country and is particularly for their son, hell was let loose by these leaders in condemning him. When Shahrukh Khan, out of decency, apologized for his statement, Kailash Vijayvargiya the BJP General Secretary pounced on him saying that the nationalists (Hindu nationalists) have taught a lesson to morons. This is a sample of the atmosphere created by the Modi sarkar and full-fledged efforts by the vast Sangh Parivar. This was running parallel to the retuning of awards by writers, artists, filmmakers, scientists and activists. The return of awards was also heavily condemned and mocked at by the so called fringe elements and their follower’s active on social media.

Against this background came the fresh wind from Bihar Assembly election results. The elections were well fought with PM Modi putting all his resources and energy, using caste and communal cards to win the elections. The people of Bihar, who earlier had halted Advani’s Rath Yatra (which was a major instigator of communal violence), now came forward to save whatever the nation has achieved through the freedom movement. The results of elections not only deflated the balloon of Hate politics of Modi led politics, it also gave a hope to minorities and all those struggling to preserve the liberal and democratic space. This more or less brought a halt to the process of returning awards; it also sent the hate spewers on a sort of sabbatical.

With this has begun the process of coming together of forces believing in pluralism. This process has not only begun at electoral level but even at social level the committed groups and individuals have started making efforts for joint campaigns for preservation of ‘Idea of India’. This has also led to deep introspection by society at large and intellectual-activists in particular, as to how do we go about to combat the forces which have created an atmosphere of intolerance using the issues of demonization of minorities by distorting history. There is a growing realization that our democracy cannot be saved just by electoral maneuvers, we need to operate at social level to bring back the awareness about the civilizational fusion between different religious communities. The communal forces have also used the issues like love jihad and ghar wapasi to demonize the religious minorities.

The coming year will see the intensification of these processes at higher level. Last year also saw that Hindutva forces are co-opting dalits and Adivasis in a big measure. The architect of Indian constitution Dr. Bhimrao Babasaheb Ambedkar is being appropriated by the communal forces. The large sections of dalits and Adivasis, most of the activists and intellectuals working on the issues of marginalized sections of society are becoming conscious of this fact and coming forward to ensure that the teachings of Ambedkar are not distorted and mauled by Hindu nationalists. The coming year is full of hope for the religious minorities, dalits, Adivasis and women for more dignified and humane treatment by society at large. The life of dignity and honor bacons the social movements.

At the economic level this government is undertaking efforts to do away with social welfare. The most fundamental needs of marginalized sections have been undermined by this government. The efforts to have right to food, right to employment, right to information, right to health and education need to be brought to the fore. Social movements need to gear up to see that the movements for these rights are upheld by broader campaigns and agitations. The social movements do look forward to raising platforms where they can jointly raise these issues and strengthen the march of the process of social empowerment of weaker sections of society.

The divisive politics is part of the package deal where authoritarianism becomes stronger. The growing centralization of power in the hands of ‘The Great leader’ will be checked only through broadening and deepening of the social movements for rights of weaker sections of society. The coming year is crucial as for as turning the tide of national politics is concerned. We need to move away from divisive, sectarian and authoritarian politics which has been imposed by the Modi sarkar. This Government is for a political front for the regressive Hindu nationalism being spearheaded by those who at deeper level want to do away with the values of freedom movement and the principles of our Constitution. One can see the game of organizing Constitution day and undermining the values inherent in Indian Constitution being done at the same time. One looks forward to 2016 as the year which will define the foundations of our politics, which is committed to oppose the narrowness of present government. This year is full of aspirations for reviving the spirit of unity of Gandhi, the values of Ambedkar and principles of the foundation of Modern India laid down by Jawaharlal Nehru.