The prime minister has done it again. Misusing the platform provided to him, he converted the grand celebratory occasion of Independence Day into an opportunity to score cheap political points against those banding together against him in the name of I.N.D.I.A. This column will restrict itself to challenging him on his charge of “tushtikaran”, which the sangh parivar translates into their English as “appeasement”.
In his renowned biography of Winston Churchill, The Last Lion: Alone, 1932-1940, the author, William Manchester at p.101 gives the dictionary meaning of appeasement as “to buy off (an aggressor) by concessions, usually at the sacrifice of principles” and cites F.E. Smith Lord Birkenhead as first using the expression in the House of Lords to condemn conciliatory tactics towards advocates of Indian independence, calling those who did so “appeasers of Gandhi”. The term was seized upon by Churchill to derogate the British policy of conciliating Hitler by forgiving him his successive invasions of the Rhineland, Austria, and Czechoslovakia. “Appeasement” reverberated in the English language political vocabulary during Chamberlain’s handling of Hitler.
In other words, “appeasement” is used with respect to enemies. Are our Muslims “enemies”? Then what does it mean to accuse political opponents of tushtikaran? Does that not show that for all his citing diversity, the inflexible assumption of Modi’s policies is to regard non-Hindu minorities, especially Muslims, as “enemies” whose ancestors brought upon us “1,200 years of slavery”?
This is the proposition that has been peddled by Hindu extremists from the end of Mughal rule in India, and then through the writings and propaganda of V.D. Savarkar and M.S. Golwalkar, and constitute the core of the sangh parivar’s view of Indian’s nationhood. That is principally what hindutva is about. Hence the dog whistle “appeasement” to hint at the essential enemy—the poor, wretched Indian Muslim. From the allegation of tushtikaran spring ‘love jihad’, lynching, the ‘hijab’, azaan, and namaz controversies, the ‘bulldozer’ mentality, bullying non-Hindu victims to repeat ‘Jai, Shri Ram’ till they pass out, the fiddling with textbooks, the passing of laws with an evident communal bias, and all other acts of viciousness with which the history of the past nine years is littered.
The civility of a nation is measured by its treatment of its minorities. Gandhiji embodied this principle. So did Nehru. That is why the Mahatma insisted on the return of all occupied Islamic places of worship to Muslims at the time of Partition. And “appeasement” is indeed the rationale presented by Nathuram Godse for assassinating the father of the nation. Therefore, when the ‘Vishwaguru’ describes kindness and consideration to our minorities as “appeasement”, that is, “conciliation of the enemy”, it makes an enemy of our minorities. It derogates from our civilisational heritage. It also derogates from the constitutional duty to regard all sections of our composite nation as equal.
Do Muslims of India require special treatment? Yes, for their share in Parliament has fallen under the present dispensation to an abysmal 4 per cent, while they were assured of equitable representation through the goodwill of the majority in the constituent assembly. Do they need special privileges for their educational progress and economic emancipation? The Sachar committee returned a resounding verdict of “yes” to this question. And, yet, this is called tushtikaran even as Modi seeks a vote bank among poor Muslims (the ‘pasmanda’) by dividing the Muslim community. The nation needs more compassion and less hypocrisy.
Aiyar is a former Union minister and social commentator.