Published in The Express Tribune
‘Every action,’ Narendra Modi once quoted Newton’s third law of motion, ‘has a reaction.’ Modi was referring to the murder of parliamentarian Ehsan Jafri. As blood flowed in the streets of Gujarat in 2002, a Hindutva mob had surrounded Mr. Jafri’s home in Gulbarg Society.
They were armed with kerosene and, more damningly, lists of Muslim voters and Muslim-owned properties provided by the state. Using gas cylinders to blast through a wall two inches thick, they made their way into Gulbarg. Mr. Jafri called the police, he called the politicians, and he called Narendra Modi. None came.
Mr. Jafri fired at the rioters to disperse; they ended up storming his house. Muslim women taking shelter there — hoping the ex-Congress M.P. would protect them — were raped. When they got to Mr. Jafri, they hacked off his hands and feet before severing his head. A pyre was improvised, and his body set on fire.
Ten years later, a Special Investigation Team concluded its findings — and they found for Modi. The report confirmed Modi used the word ‘action’ for Mr. Jafri firing first, and ‘reaction’ for what followed. That proved nothing on Modi’s part, said investigators; Ehsan Jafri was to blame. Having called Mr. Jafri’s firing ‘self-defence’, it changed the story a few pages later to say he in fact ‘provoked’ a ‘violent mob’, the same that would maim and murder him. File closed.
(Jab) ek chhota kutte ka bachcha bhi car ke neeche aa jata hai, toh humein pain feel hota hai ki nahin? Hota hai.
And this past week, there came the sound of another file closing. Narendra Modi escaped the past by convincing India he was the future. And whatever his faults, NaMo has been dead honest: he never apologised. The closest he came to expressing remorse was, ‘(Jab) ek chhota kutte ka bachcha bhi car ke neeche aa jata hai, toh humein pain feel hota hai ki nahin? Hota hai.’
Modi rode the waves of a saffron tsunami that flung Delhi wide open, stunning the B.J.P. itself. The former chaiwalla led the lotus boys to their best-ever showing in any election: 272 seats was the magic number for the Lok Sabha; the B.J.P. won that and 10 more, with 282. This is a straight majority, the first in 30 years.
Six times as many as their nearest rival. It’s fitting that the B.J.P.’s biggest win means the Congress party’s worst-ever loss. ‘There is a lot for us to think about,’ said Rahul Gandhi, dazed to the very end. To digress: a shout-out to Shashi Tharoor is deserved, who skipped over sleaze and scandal to retain his Thiruvananthapuram seat for the Congis. Part-novelist, part-diplomat, and part-snake charmer, Mr. Tharoor’s life is a Bollywood B-film waiting to happen.
No doubt this is a watershed moment — just not the way the Indian press says it is. Yes, this has been the world’s biggest election. Yes, this is a mega-mandate, and from the world’s biggest democracy. And yes, this is the dawn of a new day.
Because Narendra Modi talks about rolling out ‘the red carpet, not red tape’ for big business. Because the Congress is corrupt, weeps the press, but money bores Modi. Where P.M. Manmohan was weak, they say, P.M.-elect Modi talks about his 56-inch chest. And in an age of dynasts, he is childless (and celibate, for good measure).
Yes, the Indian citizen voted for all that, and may just get it: economic growth instead of anemia, business instead of bureaucracy, decisive Modi instead of the doddering Gandhi-Singhs. But while India becomes India Shining — it will lose its soul on the way. If it hasn’t already.
With some 20 winners, this Lok Sabha will have the lowest number of Muslim parliamentarians in history. Despite their near-300 M.P.s, not a single Muslim hails from the B.J.P.: a representation of four per cent in a country where Muslims make up four times as much.
Meanwhile, the R.S.S. is on the march — everyone’s favourite Hindutva troopers know little else. For the longest time, the B.J.P. had shrugged off their wilder cousins: their aims embarrassed coalition partners. But what better bridge to respectability than Shri Modijee himself, the R.S.S. pracharak since boyhood?
The R.S.S. threw itself in this campaign the way one does for their own — and a win for Modi means an open door for the Sangh.
The teasing’s already begun: on the eve of election, ageless R.S.S. demon M.G. Vaidya crawled out of the morgue to demand Muslims relinquish the land where Babri Masjid once stood. For Vaidya, the masjid embodied ‘an invader’s arrogance,’ and Modi would do well to deliver on Ram Temple in its stead. Expect this sort of thing to get worse.
But was the Indian outcome that obvious? Was Mr. Jinnah’s fear of Hindu majoritarianism valid all along?
Not if India’s starry-eyed founders had their way. Jawaharlal Nehru once wrote, ‘there shall be no unfair treatment of any minority. Indeed we should go further and state that it will be the business of the State to give favoured treatment to minority and backward communities.’
But this isn’t Nehru’s India: his daughter saw to that. As of 16 May, it is the R.S.S.’s. The same R.S.S. that despised Nehru and murdered Gandhi. And the same R.S.S. that has begun praising Indira: it was Indira Gandhi’s India that rewarded her party in 1984, while Sikhs were butchered en masse.
And it was Indira’s India again that saw Modi re-elected chief minister of Gujarat in December 2002 with a two-thirds majority, moments after the massacre. Because the brutal fact remains: Narendra Modi was re-elected chief minister of Gujarat because of the violence, not in spite of it.
That he was elected by millions more last week means no one cares anyway. Or cares enough.
The fireworks blaze orange across Uttar Pradesh, which didn’t return a single Muslim to parliament for the first time. India’s magic has fallen victim to Modi majoritarianism. And the reality of India has vindicated the idea of Pakistan.
Ironic then, that the reality of Pakistan could do so much to unravel its own idea.