THREE RULERS AND THEIR MAJORITY RULE BY SHANTONU SEN
With the American President in India on 25th January 2015 an assessment of our Prime Minister as a Ruler who comes off quite well in comparison with others whom he is often compared appears highly desirable.
Russia , Turkey and India have rulers who are in their sixties : Vladmir Putin in Russia ,Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey and Narendra Damodar Modi in India. Apart from their age they have many more things in common. They have been rulers for a long time. Putin has ruled since 1999, Erdogan since 2002 and Modi since 2001 ( as Chief Minister of Gujarat) and now India since 2014. They aspire to be holders of the destiny of their people. Their political narrative is a mix of nationalism and anti traditionalism. Their vision of society allows them to concentrate power in their hands. They do not respect opposition and have little time for the media. All three of them play the religious card. Erdogan believes in the Muslim Brotherhood and sees himself as the protector of the Sunni Muslims in the Middle East , Putin has been using the Orthodox Russian Church to boost patriotism and boost the Russian influence through the Slavic world and Modi who began his political journey as a RSS Preacher, is a devoted Hindu who laments the 800 years of slavery and hopes to see Hindutva and India become synonymous.
They aim to restore national pride. Their historical narrative is one of victimization. Putin vituperates against the victors of the cold war who shaped the world as they wanted and thereby committed many follies against the Slavic world including Russia. Erdogan laments the 1916 carving up of the Ottoman Empire by the West soon after First World War. He is referring to Sykes- Picot Agreement and the consequent Franco- British follies against the Caliphate. Modi has his cosmic theory of enslavement of India by Muslims . It has been widely believed that his deep seated resentment induced by this belief is one of the causes of the furious hate filled violence which engulfed the State he ruled as Chief Minister in 2002.
Today, the destiny of 220 million people comprising Turkey and Russia and 1.20 billion people in India are ruled by three different persons but vastly similar. They rode to power on the crest of waves which offer the majority better days. In the world they straddle majority is calling the shots . They are not unhappy if the fruits of power are theirs and largely theirs to enjoy. The others , those that constitute the minority, are at a disadvantage.
The Russian leader has crushed urban middle class movement against his rule in 2011 and 2012. Erdogan in Turkey has faced a Youth movement across many Turkish cities in June 2013. Both these upheavals were repressed and have faded away in the face of the resurgent nationalism of the majority. In India there is no organized opposition. The events that led to Gujerat riots of 2002 can at best be described as protests by a minority group which felt stifled and handicapped. It did see though, ethnic, cleansing of the minority with the support of the state machinery though the exact role of the State in suppressing the minority is still under probe.
Prime Minister Modi also talks of a inclusive model of government. He has gone on record to praise the patriotism of the minority. it is , however, quite clear that a large section of the minority have little faith in his this articulation. Recently Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid has made this charge . He is light weight but no heavy weight Muslim leader has contradicted him. There are signs that the distress and unease among some of the 120 million Muslims is rising. It cannot be repressed nor will it disappear .
What will be the fall out? Ashis Nandy writing in the Seminar in May 2003 in the context of Gujerat happenings had said “ the minority all over the country have seen the experiments in ethnic cleansing and attempts to break the economic back bone of the Muslim Community. “ He concludes “ The Sangh Parivar’s two nation theory is genuine stuff and has already initiated the process of the second partition pf India , this time in the mind” . The happenings in Muzzafarnagar ,UP and recently in Trilokpuri , Delhi may look like bearing him out.
However, despite Shahi Imam and despite the distress among the Muslims Asis Nandy’s dire predictions following the Gujerat riots “ that the sense of desperation brewing among the Gujerati Muslims is likely to be contagious “ will not come true. Many Muslims have told me that India is the best Islamic country in the World. The man who has put it the best is Tufail Ahmed. He writes India is “arguably the best Islamic country in the world today. Muslims in India enjoy complete political and religious liberty, a free legislative environment to undertake economic and educational initiatives, a vibrant television media and cinema that teach peaceful coexistence and access to vast number of universities and institutes of modern education. There is absolutely no Muslim country that offers such a vast array of freedoms to its people”. In India minority will assert its rights, as they should in a democracy . There will never be an opposition that Vladmir Putin in Russia or that Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey face for Narendra Damodar Modi in in India.
(With inputs from The Guardian and Seminar)