THREE RULERS AND THEIR MAJORITY RULE BY SHANTONU SEN

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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)

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