By Moumita Ghosh:
From the U.S President’s ‘cool move’ of quoting Shahrukh Khan’s dialogue from DDLJ to the not-so-cool gum-chewing act at the R-Day parade, Obama’s much controversial visit to India on the occasion of Republic Day ended at Siri Fort Auditorium in New Delhi on Tuesday. For the most part, the US Prez pulled off all the right moves from remembering Gandhi and Vivekananda to the prompt uses of phrases such as ‘Jai Hind’ and ‘Bahut dhanyawad’, also amusing the audience with quips of occasional humour.
Dubbing his visit to India as the reflection of ‘the possibilities of a new moment’, he talked about what the two countries can potentially achieve together and in an attempt to give a cue on how to go about it, he commented – “..every person has the right to practice their faith how they choose, or to practice no faith at all, and to do so free of persecution and fear and discrimination…India will succeed so long as it is not splintered along the lines of religious faith -so long as it’s not splintered along any lines – and is unified as one nation.”
Delivering his address to the people of India at Siri Fort in New Delhi, little did the US President know that a mere 40 minutes drive away, in Dilshad Garden of Northeast Delhi, St. Sebastian’s church was struck by a “mysterious fire” a little more than a month ago, where, to put in the words of the Archbishop – “The entire interior, including the altar, the Holy Bible and Cross were reduced to ashes’’.
In fact, this was a part of a series of such incidents in the city – the latest being the vandalism of the Church of Our Lady of Graces in Vikaspuri about two weeks ago which despite being accredited to the action of “petty criminals” after “laying a bet” by the police, has taken the minority Christian community in the region by fear, as Delhi archbishop Anil J T Couto has found – “a clear pattern of orchestrated attacks on churches to weaken the social fabric”. While Obama’s message also goes out to the Islamic fundamentalists or any kind of sectarian fundamentalism for that matter and rightly so, it is indeed ironical to note that what forms the greater backdrop of the US Prez’s sermon in India is a string of pompous propaganda of “love jihad” and “ghar wapsi” which considers Christianity and Islam as nothing more than a “samasya”; propaganda irresponsibly thrown about by a bunch of Hindu fundamentalists while our Prime Minister, who is otherwise known for his oratory skills, prefers to maintain silence over such issues. Congress minister Digvijaya Singh even tweeted applauding Obama’s statement.
I wonder if Modi-ji and his bhakts were listening. The man whose name is still synonymous with the brutality of the 2002 Godhra riots, although the Supreme Court gave him a clean chit in 2012, is also the face of the Bharatiya Janata Party, a party which even in this day and age remains at heart a communal one, primarily riding on the Hindutva wave under the attractive garb of vikaas. The same party which also did not deter from playing the caste-card and the revival of the ‘quota within quota’ system of reservation to finally win a whooping 71 out of 80 seats in Uttar Pradesh in the 2014 elections. The BJP-led NDA government’s declaration of the Bhagwad Gita as the national scripture and the 25th of December as Sushashan divas are also events which cannot be ignored or seen in isolation.
“When girls go to school — this is one of the most direct measures of whether a nation is going to develop effectively is how it treats its women. Our nations are strongest when we uphold the equality of all our people – and that includes our women…”
As the US Prez suggested, we, women will definitely “go about her (our) day – to walk the streets or ride the bus” but once we get a break from feeding our babies and wiping their bottoms. Almost outdoing Sakshi Maharaj who was quoted as saying – “We have accepted the slogan ‘hum do, hamara ek’. Now these traitors are not satisfied…They are advocating marriage of a girl to a girl, boy to another boy. This is what the last government did. This is why I want to request women to give birth to at least four children.” (No wonder BJP had backed IPC 377 although Maharaj was served a show cause notice by his party for his comment), another BJP leader from Bengal, Shaymal Goswami has emerged victorious in the quest of knowledge bombing on this particular matter, about two weeks back, as he emphatically told us to “make it five” in order to “protect Hinduism”.
If the NDA government’s Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao campaign is a step forward of sorts, then the self-proclaimed leaders of the Hindu community who are prescribing the number of children which Hindu women should conceive and the “bahu lao-beti bachao” campaign of the Bajrang Dal, the youth wing of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, which uses women as mere reproductive machines and pawns in the wielding of communal power are many steps backward.
Finally, Obama addressed the young people of the nation, saying – “you’re the one who has to break down these old stereotypes and these old barriers, these old ways of thinking. Prejudices and stereotypes and assumptions – those are what happens to old minds like mine.” Our mental faculties should be open enough to indulge in the developmental dreams and eliminate communal disharmony because, as the US Prez puts it, “young Indians like you (us) aren’t just going to define the future of this nation, you’re (we’re) going to shape the world.’