It is not very often that a journalist has to actually tell his/her source about his religious identity, but in the times we are living in abnormal has become the new normal. Recently while I was strolling through Central Delhi, I stopped by a tea seller sharing political gossips with people surrounding him near his little makeshift kiosk.
As a part of my habit and also someone who has an appetite for such political conversations, I joined in with a cup of hot tea. When I informed the gathering there that I was a journalist interested to know about their views on the present regime, the question shot straightforward at me was about my religious identity.
Becoming uncomfortable for a moment, I regained composure and replied Muslim but at the moment just a journalist. I could see a smirk on their face or maybe it was a subconscious reflection of my own assumption of being a Muslim in these times.
However, now I was more curious to know what this bunch of people thought of the current regime when we are a few months away from the General Elections and of course also in the context of their curiosity to know about my religious identity. As we talked more, the general perception that I could gain from the interaction was that these people earning a daily living were shattered on the question of their economic ambitions. Nevertheless, the same people were feeling bolstered when it came to their Hindu identity against an imagined Muslim aggressor.
As I walked away from there, the thought that occupied my mind was that if the opposition can win over these common Hindus by showcasing their Hindu identity, writing books such as Why Am I A HINDU or going to temples? I think, clearly no. The leaders on another side of the fence have to choose its strength over BJP’s strength, which is Hindutva. It’s not just going against the idea of India for opposition to toe the Hindutva line but also choosing an unequal battle.
The opposition parties must remember that if the common Hindu is feeling emboldened against an ‘Imagined aggressor’, he/she also has the feeling of being cheated by the present regime on the economic front. The latter is where the opposition has to hit hard and consider it as their strength. Certainly, in the more accurate term, the opposition has to bat for a welfare state that is more inclusive.
The ‘secular’ outfits should also learn from History that if it does not initiate programs through its organizational structures to neutralize a fascist ideology like Hindutva, they will anyway lose a longer battle even if they manage to win the forthcoming elections. A society polarized on the idea of Hindutva will never let a democratic government function efficiently for a welfare state.
The opposition should accept that critical element in defeating Hindutva will be ideas of diversity, pluralism and it must use it efficiently in a blend with secular nationalist Indian Histography.
It is time that leaders of the opposition party do not shy away from talking about Muslims, their security, and their everyday problems. If Muslims are being otherized by the present regime in a bid to polarize the society, others should talk about them rather than making them invisible in a bid to defeat this polarization.
They should make the nation understand that as long as a member of a family is weak the family’s fortune as a country cannot flourish. The family, in this case, is India. The opposition must shed its reticence and place high on its agenda the active strengthening of secular fabric on our land. It cannot afford to be diverted by spurious debates around pseudo secularism now.
Clearly, the way forward for many leaders to defeat BJP is to not embrace BJP’s Hindutva agenda by calling themselves Jnaeudhari Brahmin or making symbolic visits to temples, maintaining silence on the marginalization of Muslims but by asserting our diversity. Talking about India as a family and various communities as its members. It should learn to counter Hindutva rhetoric’s through its narrative of a better economic future for the country and importance of communal harmony and peace within this family called India for it to be a global power.
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