This is an open letter to Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) and Non-Resident Indians (NRI) living overseas and who are staunch supporters of the right-wing Hindutva political group by the name Bharathiya Janatha Party (BJP).
The last five years (2014–2019) has witnessed a dramatic set of measures by the BJP Government starting with swach bharat (clean India) scheme, overnight demonitisation of higher value notes in tender, forced link-up of Aadhar (biometrics based identity) with Government subsidised payouts or wages, implementation of Goods & Services Tax (GST), orchestration of Indian Administrative Service and Indian Revenue Service to the tunes of the central leadership etc.
In parallel, the Government has stood a mute witness to hyper-nationalism, raise of Hindutva elements, widespread attack on Dalits and Muslims, financial assault on the economically poor and destruction of small and medium scale industries that relied on cash based economy.
We have neither seen the claimed virtues of demonitisation nor ache din (good days). Yet the country gave the BJP Government an overwhelming mandate to lead the country for a second successive term. Does this means immense trust on Modi’s leadership?
I would say the majority have fallen victims to the hyper-nationalist tones of BJP in-turn amplified by its propaganda organs (the Corporate run media) and the vilification of Muslims as the threat to a Hindu rashtra (nation). Secular values have been eroded and the Hindutva goons (Cow vigilantes) have been given a free reign to lynch any minority or Dalit whom they claim or suspect to be a seller of Beef. The cows have become sacrosant than the women in the society.
Have you noticed why the southern-most States like Tamil Nadu and Kerala, south-eastern coastal States like Andhra Pradesh and Orissa have rejected the notion of handing power to BJP for the next 5 years?
Many of us are tired of the Hindutva policy of the BJP which has been used as a trump card to stoke communal restlessness between largely co-existent Hindu and Muslim communities. The southern States haven’t seen an extended period of Mughal invasion (before the arrival of the East India Company) but has had Muslim communities live in harmony with other religious followers. As a matter of fact, we have a secular Constitution and every religion is protected as guaranteed by the fundamental rights.
Whenever someone questions about the lack of GDP growth (as a measure of economic success) or employment rate over the last five years, the reply from BJP media team has been that the country has given a fitting reply to neighbouring nations that harbour terror groups instigating attacks in Indian soil. This sort of mindset deflects the problem and harbours on the mainstream sections’ weakness for nationalism or the Hindu identity in peril theory.
Now coming back to the NRI and OCI brethren — would you agree to such hyper-nationalist or hate-based or extreme conservative politics of Donald Trump, Jair Bolsonaro or Viktor Orbán ? Say, if you are an expatriate or a resident or a naturalised citizen of the Country, how do you feel when a far-right group gains momentum and the country votes the group to power?
Hate based politics has no place in modern day society. We need to understand why hate based politics catches a nerve of the mainstream crowd? It is a separate topic altogether. We need to ensure that we don’t fall prey to the subtle and sometimes blatant manipulation of our minds by mainstream media.
How many of you read about the issue of electoral bonds which was passed in the lower house of the Indian Parliament without the need for approval from the higher house (i.e. Rajya Sabha)? The issue of non-transparency of electoral bonds was taken up by the Supreme Court and the way it handled the issue was criticised in some sections of the media (The Court asked for the names of the donors to be provided in a sealed envelope).
Essentially, the Indian Democratic process is up for sale much like America. America has a concept of PAC funding which allows a cluster of Corporate interest groups to pledge funding to political parties that align with their goals. Likewise, electoral bonds in India allows vested Corporate interests to buy such bonds from a public sector bank (currently, State Bank of India is the only place to purchase the bonds) favouring a party. BJP is the highest recipient of electoral bond to the tune of INR 2000 crores.
That is an immense amount to finance their poll operations which includes dissemination of funds to grass-root level workers, hoardings, advertisements in National media, print media, online Ads etc. The election process has become an expensive exercise these days and not many independent candidates can contest without some sort of a backing. It is more like promoting a good low budget film in the sea of commercial big budget cinema. Quality is lost against quantity (money power).
Many of BJP supporters claim that the party has clamped down on corruption. But what they miss out is the legalised platform that BJP has dished out to Corporates to channelise funds to political parties that would be tax exempted or even written-off as expenses. In a way, the power of Democracy should have been centered on the people. Instead, BJP is shifting the center towards Corporates thereby creating a sea of daily wage or contract workers with diminished labour rights which would end up serving its Corporate sponsors.
Social harmony and values come with social security and not insecurity as created by unregulated rampant crony capitalism. Nehru dreamt of a socialist India and Gandhi knew that villages form India’s heart. Ambedkar was quite literally the Abraham Lincoln of India (and probably more). He worked towards the emancipation of the Dalits. Dalits still face a long battle in a caste ridden Hindu society.
As long as the mainstream Hindu crowd believes that Narendra Modi will bring about a change, there is no respite from the Hindutva goons as RSS (an organisation of predominantly higher caste Hindus) is intricately interwoven with BJP and BJP leadership largely goes about enforcing RSS ideologies on people. Time will tell how the second term (2019–2024) turns out to be. No matter what, Narendra Modi has scripted himself a place in India’s modern history as the only non-Congress prime minister to be elected for a successive term.
Let us hope that in our blind submission to religion, we don’t trample on civil liberties and the secular fabric of the nation which makes it unique.