Modi's Muslim love-hate: Hugs and kisses for sultans, contempt for ordinary folks

It's not Islam or Muslim Ummah to which BJP objects; it is just to them being here

I have long been intrigued by the prime minister’s desire to hug every passing sheikh and sultan and his contrasting contempt for the ordinary Indian Muslim. The contempt becomes particularly evident at election time when the audience are invited to identify the transgressors by their dress (libhaz), the numbers of their children, or as infiltrators and traitors (ghuspait/gaddaar). Where any other party leader would immediately be pulled up, the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) does not appear to apply, in the eyes of the Election Commission of India as presently constituted, to the prime minister. Secular fundamentalists like me are outraged but clearly the general electorate, especially in the Hindi heartland, are only amused by these sly innuendos. Muslims—at any rate, Indian Muslims, it seems, are fair game—but woe betide any opposition candidate or leader who dares step on what passes for “Hindu sentiment”. Then the knives are drawn (in some cases, literally) and “appeasement”-bashing comes into its own. Reinforcing this contempt for the Indian Muslim is the portrayal of Pakistani Muslims as secessionists-turned-terrorists. Thus are the Indian and Pakistani Muslim linked together in the sangh parivar imagination as the “enemy”.

Imaging: Deni Lal Imaging: Deni Lal

And, thus, is carried forward the Savarkar-Hedgewar-Golwalkar thesis that the Muslim and the Christian can never be true Indians because while they may by birth and ancestry belong to the “pitra bhoomi’ (the fatherland) of Bharat, this land can never be their “punya bhoomi” (sacred or holy land) because their land of worship is located to the distant west of the sub-continent. Regarding Muslims as essentially invaders from outside, the race theories of Hitler and his ilk held a special appeal for the leaders of the RSS. To imported Nazi notions of “race purity”, they added the fascination for violence that B.S. Moonje brought to Nagpur from a visit to Mussolini’s fascist Italy. It gave organisational structure to Savarkar’s belief that the “Hindu discovers himself only in violence” (cf. Vinayak Chaturvedi’s defining study of hindutva).

In the eyes of hindutva bhakts, it is the ineluctable presence of a 200-million strong Muslim community in Bharat that comes in the way of the realisation of a Hindu rashtra, while the slightly larger number of Muslims in breakaway Pakistan makes impossible the realisation of a Hindu rashtra in ‘Akhand Bharat’. On the other hand, the Muslims of the Gulf region, and West Asia and North Africa in general, are in their own punya bhoomi and hence of no concern to the Hindu rashtra that the sangh parivar aims at securing in the pitra-cum-punya bhoomi of Bharat. 
Hence, hugs and kisses on the cheek for the rulers of Muslim lands but subversion of identity for the Indian Muslim; demonisation as “tushtikaran” (appeasement) of measures of compassion for a wretchedly deprived minority, economically, socially and educationally, as revealed by the Justice Rajinder Sachar Commission; fierce opposition to the hijab and a personal civil code for the minorities; perversion of history leading to the avenging of real and imagined happenings in the mediaeval past; rejection of our composite culture and the syncretic heritage of our great civilisation to which all communities have contributed, more often than not in creative partnership, in language, literature, poetry, music and song, dance, painting and architecture; threats to the security of life and limb for Muslims; the bulldozer for their humble dwellings; harassment and discrimination in their everyday existence; sneers for their clothing and way of life; obstacles in their places of worship and burial grounds; all of this leading to lynching, cow-protection related vigilante violence, rape and mass murder.

So, it is not Islam or the Muslim ummah to which the BJP objects. It is just to them being here!

Aiyar is a former Union minister and social commentator.