While writing this post, I was watching mood of the nation poll of India Today TV. It appears that despite four year on the seat of power, personal popularity of prime minister remains high. Though, the alliance he leads will lose a number of seats, but personal popularity of prime minister remains still very high, almost 49%.
It has emerged that Mr. Modi has come out as an honest and hardworking prime minister. I understand, that government invested a lot of money to build road and rail infrastructure, way above what was done in past seven decades. I accept government has taken many steps to reach to the weakest person at the base of social pyramid by introduing schemes like:
- zero balance bank account,
- direct benefit transfer to account,
- free gas cylinder to BPL families,
- health insurance policy,
- rural electrification,
- housing scheme for poor;
- easy loan to start business;
- crop insurance policy;
- minimum support price for farmers,
- implemented one rank one pension for defence personnel, etc.
Many of the above schemes are aimed at pushing people to get out of a dole centric mindset to standup on their own feet. If schemes have been administered to the last man as claimed, it may bring in a lot of social change in long term and obviously bring electoral gain for the government.
People like me had voted Mr. Modi lead BJP for its development agenda. It was expected that government will take tough decisions. Though critics argue, Mr. Modi did not take as many tough decisions, as he could have given the number of seats he got in 2014, Mr. Modi has made decisions like demonitisation and GST. One may question rationale behind demonitsation, the decision was taken with understanding that core vote base of ruling party, the business community and middle class, will likely be affected. As expected, demonitisation and GST has affected many small and large business.
Government has faced a lot of criticism on issues like high unemployment, high fuel price, farmer suicide etc. High fuel price has stretched budged of people, and high tax that come in the form of direct and indirect manner.
However, the biggest weakness of the present government at center and state level, accourding to me, is the way minorities are being treated. Despite government claim of serving people of India without fear, favour and prejudice, one cannot deny several high visibility cases of lynching of members of minority community have come to light in states ruled by BJP, the ruling party at the center. In many cases complicity of politicians and law enforcement agencies were apparent:
- Akhlaq was killed under suspicion of storing beef in his refrigerator. He was killed by a group of people who happened to live in the same village. One of the accused died in jail. His body was draped in Indian tricolour. Not only murder of a middle aged man outrageous, wrapping tricolour around body of his killers was outrageous.
- Pehlu Khan, a cattle trader, was beaten up. Pehlu Khan died in hospital. Men he named, as part of his dying declaration, were all released on bail. Prosecutor could not establish a case despite having a video evidence.
- Mohammad Afrazul a daily wage laborer from West Bengal, was killed by Shambhu Negar. Shambhu burnt Afrazul’s body and had it filmed. Later on, from high security Jodhpur jail, Shambhu had access to mobile phone to upload WhatsApp message to his supporters.
- Alimuddin Ansari, a meat trader, was lynched. Alimuddin died in hospital. What is disturbing that a suave central minister garlanded the convicted accused when they came out on bail.
- Recently, Rakbar Khan was beaten up for transporting cows. He was brought dead in hospital. As it emerged, police men gave more importance to safely transporting cows to a shelter 17 km away, but did not take Rakbar Khan to hospital on priority which was just 6 km away. To top that, police men decided to have a cup of tea before they brought Rakbar Khan to police station and later to hospital.
Incidences mentioned above are some of the prominent ones, but not the only ones. There have been several such instances in different BJP ruled states against members of minority muslim community.
It is plausible that anti-Modi mainstream media had picked up issues that can embarrass ruling party and its leaders. But an image of a middle aged man being beaten up brutally cannot be wished away. Neither can it be ignored that police men that are expected to bring victim to hospital, preferred to protect cows over a human being. To top it all, a home minister tried to protect lynchers and passed the blame onto his force.
There is no denying that media has been silent when atrocity is committed on a member of majority community. For example in many instances when a BJP cadre is killed in opposition ruled West Bengal and Kerala, we have not seen much outrage in media. It cannot be denied a hate crime cannot be equated with that of a political murder.
In a vast country like India with a billion strong population, the number of cases of lynching may not be very large, but these incidences have happened at regular interval. The sheer unpredictability of the situation makes the situation very uncertain. Question arises that are we slowly but steadily becoming a state where members of minority community have to live as a second class citizen? Will life an liberty of a member of minority community be decided by majority view point? Will a muslim be always told to go to Pakistan, if their lifestyle do not conform to liking of majority Hindu community? In our search for an assertive Hindu identity, are we in a spree to homogenise everything be it eating beef, practicing yoga or singing vandematram?
Biggest weakness of Mr. Modi lead government, according to me, is its inability to put a stop to lynching of innocent muslims. Mr. Modi who is very active on twitter, has remained mostly silent, barring a few generic statements, on the topic of lynching, be it of a minority muslim or that of a majority hindu. Many have argued that silence of prime minister has emboldened those who participate in mob lynching, specially in BJP ruled states.