On 30th March 2019, Shekhar Gupta authored a fine article which went by the name: Modi’s 2019 mantra: Forget achhe din, fear terror, Pakistan, Muslim (here is the link to it). The article highlights the stark difference between the campaign ran by Modi and Shah in 2014 and the campaign that was being run by BJP for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. According to the author, in 2014, Narendra Modi ran a campaign which talked about achhe din and development, whereas in 2019, the campaign revolved around fear.
The fear comes from Pakistan and terrorists who want to wreak havoc on India. The author argued that Modi is “building further insecurities” in the minds of the people as the theme of the campaign. Instead of thumping his chest on the achievements of his administration in the realm of national security, the author argues, Modi has been trying to put this fear into the minds of the people that only he can keep the country safe. Looking in retrospect, the strategy must have worked exactly the way Modi wanted it to, given the massive mandate he won and given how Balakot was described as a game changer.
9 months later, this article seems relevant again. Not because of some national security reason, but because of the fear factor. During the campaign it was Modi who tried to scare the people into voting for him, this time it is the opposition which is trying to scare the Muslims in the country.
The controversial Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2019 was passed in the parliament on Wednesday. This bill has been responsible in creating a lot of ruckus both inside and outside the parliament, with one particular MP from Hyderabad tearing the bill inside the parliament while delivering his speech, showing his anger.
The opposition parties have been successful in putting into the minds of the Muslims that with the passage of this bill, their livelihood in the country they call their own, where they have spent their whole life, will be endangered. Not only the Muslim citizens of India, the opposition even wants to scare the Muslim refugees in India by making them think that they will be deported whenever and wherever they are found.
This is proved by the fact that so many notable journalists such as Saba Naqvi, Barkha Dutt, Marya Shakil, etc have gone to Twitter to express the fears that Muslims have after the passage of the bill.
This article will not argue as to whether these fears are well founded or not. Although Kartikeya Tanna’s article in SwarajyaMag has been pretty persuasive in trying to assuage all these fears, this article will talk about this form of politics that has been around in the country for some time now. This kind of politics is the politics of fear and how it can have detrimental impacts on the society.
As soon as Modi came back to power, the opposition did not waste any time in positing that the lives of the minorities, especially Muslims, is in danger now. They were made to think that any day now something bad is going to happen to them.
This kind of fear may be a good brand of politics, as it helps in polarising the people on the basis of caste or religion and helps the political party to consolidate their voter base. But if looked at from the perspective of the people in which the fear is being put, this can have detrimental impacts on the society. If a citizen of the country is made to live in the fear of the other community, how can we expect to have any harmony towards each other?
Imagine a country in which the minorities are always looking over their shoulders as they fear for their safety. And the reason they fear for their safety is due to the propaganda peddled by the politicians for their petty gains. This creates a trust deficit in the society, where any small incident between two people from different religions can be painted in communal colours and that can have a domino effect leading to large scale violence. The instability right after the Hauz Qazi incident is a perfect example as to how something like this can blow up into something larger which challenges the social fabric of the country which is known for its pluralism and inclusiveness.
This kind of fear mongering is expected from the politicians, but what is even worse is that even respected veteran journalists have not done enough to address the fears of the people. It is the job of these journalists to tell the people who are asking them questions about the bill that they have nothing to fear. This bill does not target anyone. It just gives certain minorities from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh a chance to apply for citizenship, citizenships are not handed to them as soon as they enter our borders. And this also doesn’t mean that citizenship is denied to the people already living here.
Given that this fear mongering has actually worked and the minorities are genuinely scared, the next big task for the BJP, given that the bill is passed in the parliament, is to take the minorities into their confidence and address their fears step by step.