The common denominator of casual Hindu-Muslim narratives is that one of them dominated the sub-continent for a thousand years and the other was dominated. Depending on the demands of political expediency one of these inane one-liners will be peddled by the instigators of Hindu-Muslim rivalry on both the sides of the great Indian communal divide. The Muslim leader would not so infrequently embark on long nostalgic trips into the abyss of sub-continental past to relive the moments of Mughal glory and invariably end the speech lamenting the eventual loss of Hindustan to the custody of British.
As the lumbering Indian economy was further stunted into the shameful days of pledging gold to the IMF the Hindu masses had slowly grown to align themselves with the alternative narrative of the Muslim leader. This version seeks to reassert the notion of Hindu nativity and that of an idyllic past that was shattered by invading hordes. The exasperating politics of Mandal Commission and the Shah Bano litigation equally helped the alignment of Hindu masses with the Hindutva brigade. The Ram Janmabhoomi movement was thus a perfect vehicle for a demonstration of Hindu assertiveness.
Beginning with Nehru’s refusal to reform the Muslim personal law and Rajiv’s abject surrender to the regressive Muslim clergy the Indian National Congress Movement has encouraged the propagation of another aspect of the Indian Muslim narrative: the Muslim community stays aloof from the larger community of idol worshippers. The RSS had lost its way into crass religiosity and would only aggravate the communal divide. In their eagerness to accommodate the demented clergy INC had closed the doors on reform and progress for Muslims.. After Dhara Shikoh’s slaughter at the hands of the idealogical megalomaniac no respectable attempt at reconciliation of Hindu-Muslim societies ever happened.
But India today is on a roll. The outlook is not like the impending doom of late 80’s but that of a future where India will take its rightful place amongst the global community. Surely the Hindu’s will move on leaving the events of past buried in text books written by leftist aunties of JNU? The answer is no. Increasing economic prosperity results not in an accurate understanding of the past but an increased urge to visibly demonstrate the superiority of one’s belief system. Instead of the Trishul wielding days of the past the modern Hindu looks to other venues to exhibit his pride. Like economic prosperity. Narendra Modi’s rise must be read in this context: a harbinger of economic prosperity, a crusader against the citadels of socialist bureaucracy – all underlined by his refusal to be an apologetic Hindu.
But with the economy providing an outlet for Hindu assertiveness there is a window for slowly de-constructing the communal narrative and replacing it with a nationalist outlook that draws from the perennial river of Indic civilisational richness. A nationalist center-right alternative with fresh ideas of governance and assertiveness will catch the imagination of the Indian public today. Sadly the BJP flounders.
On the other side of the divide too a nationalist outlet is hard to find if it indeed exists. Without questioning the loyalty of Indian Muslims it is fair to say that representatives of Indian Muslims are drawn more to concerns of global Muslim community. The pandering to radical Islamists of the world even while condemning terrorist attacks inside India is a clear indicator of the fault-line.
In a resurgent center-right movement with a strong organisational base lies India’s hope of reconciling the Hindu-Muslim divide.
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