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Sectarian nationalism and the state of Bihar

BN-JQ686_indube_J_20150730234928In Bihar, the atmosphere could not be tenser for the recent political losses that has been incurred for the ruling party: the Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) lost the elections by an overwhelming majority in the overpopulated constituency, most of whom are poor. This significant political impairment has been regarded as quite plainly the biggest disappointment in Narendra Modi’s career till date – if he had won the elections then the party could have occupied a majority of seats in the Indian parliament’s upper house, as a refreshing change of power demonstration in Indian politics of today.

India is such a state, where politically-driven movements do not cease, the media is downright, loud and so crowded (but united) over the tiniest mention of trends and yet, there is always communal disagreements inbetween separate religious groups, or prejudice amongst it all. Some believe that this is possible because the ruling party is peppered with followers who strongly believe that India should only be a land composed of Hindus, and nothing else.

National sentiment isn’t kind to these attitudes because it hurts (and goes against) all the many liberals in India, religious minorities and commentary about India, here and locally, and what they truly believe in. Although, the government has pressed for national goodwill, there really has been no coherent public discussion about the differences of opinion between people in India, over important matters, such as the nature of democratic governance and religious tolerance.

Perhaps, these local episodes did a good job feeding into the elections for the BJP but the party claims that the opposition Congress party does not exactly have a cleaner record for in the ’80s they systematically targeted Sikhs. Protests have come from all corners, be it historians, writers, businessmen (who can claim to be supporters of the BJP), film-makers, with demonstrations such as the returning of awards and coming together to express the woes involved over intolerance, while the President of India, Pranab Mukherjee has stated that India does believe in integration and forbearance towards separate religions.

Modi seems to be quite stressed over how all of this can spell out for the economy of India, in the midst of Moody’s declaring that if he cannot rule BJP effectively then Modi will lose both national and international tenability. The push for more talks has been felt from the governor of the central bank of India too but there is no sight of that at all, publicly. When the BJP came to power, faith was reinforced in the national environment, in businesses and in the economy – Modi was praised for his desire to drive out corruption from India, for his proficiency, excellent sovereignty skills, for an infamous self-assertiveness character attribute and the desire to practice a more liberalised approach in Indian society, than ever before.

3000The coalition (inclusive of the Congress) that the BJP lost to, is riding high on support from low-caste Hindus and Muslims and the party has received this by publicly declaring unity for all Hindus in India, with Modi denouncing that the opposition party was going to take away all freedoms from the Hindu support it is enjoying, to grace Muslims in India. This is a good example of how different religious factions divide India and how there needs to be a clearer addressing of the Prime Minister’s past in religious, anti-Muslim violence in Gujarat (2002) and quenching of fears that the government has no plans to preach religious intolerance or Hindu nationalism.

The BJP has a track record of denouncing many Hindu beliefs, such as those towards eating beef, and ruling, even when it does so in a very diminished size. This attitude towards tainting Hinduism for a nationalism that favours one religion as the state religion, over the other, is not really about re-election in 2019 for the party, as much as it is about what the party is shaping itself up to be. The elections in Bihar has sliced the BJP’s ambition of spreading this nationalism around India and brought new questions to the surface about the elections still awaiting in states as diverse as the West Bengal and Kerala.

Despite strong campaigning by Modi in the state in rallies, caste-politics is a dominating issue in rural Bihar that the coalition has pulled a lot of support from, be it for middle- or lower-tier castes. Even though the BJP drew a lot of support from Dalits (the lowest castes) and the upper castes, the electoral results reveal an alternate truth, that can be counted as the national attitude towards divisive behaviour fuelled by religion. Patna, the capital of the state of Bihar, is a place that is littered with rickshaws built of bamboo-canopy and IT-training centres that front glass structures and yet those “reigning” saffron-decorated billboards frowning at you from filth-covered roads, seems to only play for political and societal animosity.



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