New India, Naya Bharat, the dream all politicians have been showing us since 2014. Before 2014 it was “Shining India”, and before that, it was “Garibi Mukt Bharat” and whatnot. But are we truly progressing as a nation towards this “New India” we want and are we sure about what it looks like? If all incidents after 2014 are any examples, then maybe it is not only new but also an unrecognisable India. You must think, what am I saying, right? Ok, let me explain.
At the start of the new millennium, Dr APJ Abdul Kalam had written one of his most famous books, India 2020: A Vision for the New Millennium. The India of 2020 is here; what has changed in the 2 decades since this book? Especially in the last 6 years? We saw some of the most historic, maybe not always in a good sense, incidents happen like mob lynchings, beef ban, demonetisation, GST implementation at midnight (trying to replicate the Nehru speech tryst with destiny), abrogation of Article 370 and decriminalisation of article 377, etc.
What is common in all these incidents you ask? It is that they all affected the idea of India, some for better, some for worse. In vision 2020, we were supposed to have eradicated unemployment and poverty, have gender equality (at least) in employment opportunities. Closing on the dream of the leader of the world, a new India, supposedly a progressive India. So, the million-dollar question is; where do we stand on this and what have we done in the last few years? We, the citizens, are what any nation is. So how have we changed/progressed?
We all learnt about the constitution while growing up and what it says, right? We promise to make India a “sovereign socialist secular democratic republic”. Our forefathers made this promise and it was and is on us to fulfil the same. So, have we been able to achieve any of it? The answer is simple: no. Rather we are progressing towards a more intolerant and majoritarian country.
You might think that if a community is in the majority, isn’t it obvious that it will be the dominating force like Sunni Muslims in Pakistan or Buddhist in Myanmar? Yes, it is happening in those countries, but our India that was built on the foundation laid by our freedom fighters like Pt Nehru, Sardar Patel, Maulana Azad, Sarojini Naidu and many others via the Indian Constitution and its famous preamble talks about a secular India: a nation which shall treat all religion and communities with equal rights and freedom from the government.
But what is happening in this New India? It is walking the same path of Nazi Germany or Islamic Pakistan by becoming a “Hindu” Rashtra. The concept that was derived on the same basis as Islamic Pakistan by Muhammad Iqbal and Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s two nation theory based on religious. This idea has been propagated by the Hindu Mahasabha and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). The problem with adopting this belief of Hindu Rashtra is that it will also accept the segregation between the Hindu community known as Chaturvarnya, or in simple words, the caste system.
The India which every day is inching towards a Hindu Rashtra will strengthen the patriarchal system where women will be disempowered and will push the lower castes in the hierarchy towards secondary citizen status, along with citizens of other religions. Such an India will have defeated the purpose of so many fights for gender equality and equal rights and freedom and the very soul of our beloved socialist, secular, democratic, republic, pluralistic India. That is the reason I said that this new India is becoming unrecognisable for its citizens.
The current government passed the triple talaq prevention bill under the name of Muslim women empowerment. It was a welcoming step towards gender equality, but only if the real meaning was women empowerment which rather was dominating the Muslim male. If the government really wants to move towards women empowerment and prevent the injustice to the women with acts like triple talaq, then it should also think about Hindu women by preventing the issue of abandoned wives (which includes the Prime Minister’s Wife as well) or the marital rape issue across religions, because these issues also matter for women.
These past 6 years of India also attacked the eating habits with the infamous beef ban and the whole discussion around Gaumata (the goddess cow). This does violate article 21, which gives every citizen personal liberty which includes the right to eat whatever the person wishes inside the four walls of the house. It was and still is intolerant that humans lost their lives in the process of protecting the so-called Goddess.
The mob lynching incidents like Dadri in 2015 keep reminding us of the harsh reality for other religions in this new India, or may I say the Hindu Rashtra, or maybe intolerant India. This is an unrecognisable country for someone like me who grew up believing that India is a secular socialist democratic republic.
As on 5 August, 2020, Kashmir celebrated (?) the 1 year Anniversary of the abrogation of Article 370, which granted Jammu and Kashmir special status, and the lockdown which started with this so-called historic and brave (?) move. Is this the democratic way to progress and develop the valley?
This new India also witnessed a great increase in online trolling which targeted opposition leaders, calling Rahul Gandhi Pappu, or social activist Gauri Lankesh’s death and labelling anyone who doesn’t share the same views as the government anti-national, like JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar. This is indeed a terrifying picture for not just the present, but also the future generations of Indians.
This New India is not the country which was created through our freedom struggle; this country does not claim the legacy of our freedom struggle nor the values that it gave us. This is not India, at least for me. As someone with deep trust in our foundations as a nation in the form of our constitution, I am asking you to take a pledge with me if you also believe in the same constitutional values as me. Take the pledge to make India a sovereign socialist secular democratic republic once again.