It is time to parse Modi’s Independence Day speech carefully, behind the hype and rhetoric, for signals of what India can actually expect in terms of policies from his Government.
On a range of troubling questions ranging from rape to sex-selective abortion to farmers’ suicides to communal violence, the Prime Minister’s words, artfully chosen to create an impression of ‘inclusive governance’, contrasted starkly with the actual actions of his Government, BJP leaders, and the Sangh Parivar.
His speech waxed eloquent on parental responsibility in checking rapes. It did not for one moment answer why a rape-accused man had been given a place in his own Cabinet. More significantly, as a measure to curb rapes, he called upon parents to “impose as many restrictions on the sons as have been imposed on our daughters.” Women protesting rape have, time and again, sought that no restrictions be imposed on them in the name of protecting them from rape. Moreover, the fact is that ‘restrictions on sons’ are already imposed – by branding their love of a woman from another caste or community as ‘rape.’ The khap panchayats that kill inter-caste couples and the moral-policing outfits that force couples to tie ‘rakhi’ to each other do, after, all ‘impose patriarchal restrictions’ on both women and men. On the very eve of Independence Day, RSS leader S Gurumurthy declared that Indian women are ‘shy not shameless’, and the very day after Independence Day, a Goa BJP Minister called for a ban on women wearing bikinis on Goa’s beaches. Modi’s words did not convey any hint of censure to his camp followers who seek to curb the freedoms of women; he instead legitimized those restrictions by ‘balancing’ it with talk of ‘restrictions on boys.’
Likewise, Modi’s ‘appeal’ to doctors not to perform sex-selective abortions is lame, coming from the PM. Modi was silent on what his Government plans to do to ensure that the law is upheld and doctors performing such illegal abortions are punished.
Modi rhetorically asked “who has benefited from communalism” and called for a “10-year moratorium on communal violence”. But he chose to be silent about the systematic communalization project being undertaken by the BJP in Uttar Pradesh. In UP, it is very apparent “who has benefited from communalism” – none but Modi himself and the BJP. When Modi himself communalized the question of the meat industry by calling it a “pink revolution” involving the slaughter of cattle, was it not communalization? When Amit Shah and the BJP in UP communalize rape, branding the entire Muslim community as rapists and terming even consensual elopements as ‘rape’, is it not communalization? Is the BJP not creating communal flare-ups over every possible event from kids’ quarrels to disputes over loudspeakers?