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Narendra Modi: Transforming mindsets

Author: Semu Bhatt
Publication: The Sunday Guardian
Date: May 5, 2024
URL: https://sundayguardianlive.com/opinion/narendra-modi-transforming-mindsets?s

NaMo has rekindled pride in civilisation and cultural heritage and brought about a fundamental change in how Indians perceive themselves and India’s place in the world.

On 2 November 2014, I forecast on Twitter that Prime Minister Narendra Modi would focus on changing mindsets and building strong social capital. As we stand at the cusp of Modi 3.0, I would like to draw attention to this profoundly impactful, yet often overlooked, achievement of NaMo—the transformation of mindsets.

The Flawed Idea Of India

After India achieved Independence, there was a lack of interest in healing the wounds caused by centuries of foreign rule. One notable exception was the Somnath temple—plundered sand destroyed 17 times by Muslim invaders. Sardar Patel and K.M. Munshi undertook the reconstruction task; M.K. Gandhi approved of it. Although his cabinet authorised the project, PM Jawaharlal Nehru vehemently opposed rectifying the historical injustice. He tried to dissuade the then-President of India from inaugurating the temple, despite it being reconstructed with private funds and the matter being settled peacefully with the Muslim community.

Ideally, PM Nehru should not have boycotted Somnath. He should also have pursued a negotiated settlement in Ayodhya on the lines of the successful Somnath model, when the idols appeared under the Babri dome in 1949.

Nehru’s refusal to associate with the Somnath temple due to his aversion to “Hindu revivalism” had lasting consequences. In the decades that followed, successive Congress governments turned Hindus into third-class citizens. They were forced to bear the sole burden of secularism and tolerance. The majority community was labelled communal for wanting to restore a few main temples out of the thousands that were demolished by the invaders. The ethnic cleansing of the Kashmiri Pandits did not evoke sympathy from the secular setup. It took Hindus 73 years to get two temples—Somnath Mandir and Ram Mandir.

The flawed idea of India was perverted to create a disconnect with our ancient roots. Instead of celebrating civilisational greatness and indigenous values, it glorified temple destroyers and Western ideals. Generations were forced to internalise a sense of inferiority and were taught a distorted version of history that whitewashed the horrific crimes committed against Hindus. India was an independent nation, but the soul of this civilisation was under siege. Indians were mentally enslaved and uprooted from their cultural moorings.

Civilisation-State

When Narendra Modi took office as Prime Minister, he faced significant challenges of steering a “fragile five” economy and restoring public trust that had been severely eroded by the corruption scandals of the previous UPA administration. The most formidable challenge, however, was the deeply ingrained Nehruvian idea of India.

PM Modi’s vision of India as a global leader went beyond economic prowess. It encompassed positioning our ancient civilisation, with its rich heritage, vast knowledge, and spiritual traditions, as a source of wisdom and a symbol of hope for nations that are often overlooked in international politics. However, a great nation cannot be built without addressing historical injustices. It cannot emerge in a cultural and civilisational void. Nor can it be driven by a despondent human capital that is dependent on handouts and suffers from a slave mentality. It also cannot be built or sustained amidst the festering resentment within the majority community, comprising 80% of the population.

In this regard, PM Modi’s participation in the Ram Mandir ceremony, in stark contrast to PM Nehru’s refusal to associate with the Somnath temple, was of utmost significance. It signalled the end of the Nehruvian idea of India, and the rise of Bharat as a civilisation-state, reconnecting to its ancient roots.

K.M. Munshi’s rebuttal to Nehru’s comment on “Hindu revivalism” remains pertinent in today’s context: “I cannot value India’s freedom if it deprives us of the Bhagavad Gita or uproots our millions from the faith with which they look upon our temples and thereby destroys the texture of our lives… this shrine once restored to a place of importance in our life will give to our people a purer conception of religion and a more vivid consciousness of our strength, so vital in these days of freedom and its trials.”

Hindu Concerns

On 17 May 2014, a day after the BJP was declared victorious in the general elections, Narendra Modi participated in Rudrabhishek at Kashi Vishwanath temple in Varanasi, followed by Ganga Aarti. Since then, he has unapologetically practised his religion and freed it from the grip of pseudo-secularism that frowned upon such public displays by Hindus. The Modi government rejuvenated several religious places to instil pride among followers of Hinduism. Modi’s arrival on the national stage also resulted in an environment where the majority community could voice their concerns.

When discussing the oppression of Hindus in India, it is vital to recall the Congress-led UPA era. The UPA raised the bogey of “saffron terror” while simultaneously downplaying Islamist terrorism with “terror has no religion.” It proposed the Communal Violence Bill, intended to disempower Hindus into submission and silence. It aimed to codify Hindus as aggressors, and Muslims as victims, regardless of the facts. To understand pseudo-secularism and its champions, consider the 2002 Godhra train burning where a Muslim mob charred to death 59 Hindus, including women and children. Those victims were dehumanised as “Hindu fundamentalists” and “Hindu extremists” and their horrific end was justified simply because they were returning from Ayodhya. These very pseudo-secularists humanise terrorists like Yakub Memon, Afzal Guru and Burhan Wani, address Hafiz Saeed respectfully, and shed tears for the terrorists killed in the Batla House encounter. Once in power, the UPA appointed the Banerjee Committee, which declared the ghastly crime an “accident”—just in time for the Bihar elections. Later, the judiciary ruled the committee as “unconstitutional” and called it an example of a “colourable exercise of power with mala fide intentions.”

Recently, the Congress government in Karnataka attempted to impose a temple tax. Last year, its ally DMK called for the eradication of Sanatan Dharma. These two incidents highlight the plight of Hindus even when a “Hindutva” government is in power at the Centre.

The CSDS-Lokniti survey revealed that only 10.9% of respondents believed that India belongs exclusively to Hindus. This result is noteworthy considering the heightened religious sentiments surrounding the Ram Mandir consecration ceremony in January. It is no secret that India’s secular ethos emanates from its Hindu majority. Hence, it is all the more critical to pay attention to the majority community’s legitimate concerns regarding discrimination, vilification, conversions, and the targeting of its festivals and temples. While the Modi government may not have addressed all of the grievances, it has provided freedom to put forward views and demands. NaMo is well aware that this is a double-edged sword; and that a long-oppressed community is likely to be impatient. Nonetheless, for the sake of India’s stability and progress, it is essential that its majority community is treated with equality and respect, and feels invested in and valued by the nation.

Empowering Indians

The eradication of the servitude mentality is one of the “Panch Pran” (five resolutions) of “Amrit Kaal,” outlined by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Several steps have been taken in this regard, including renaming roads and islands, celebrating great leaders like Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj as well as unsung heroes like Lachit Barphukan and Bhagwan Birsa Munda, People’s Padma, and promoting Indian culture.

Firstly, liberating the Indian mindset from oppressive constraints involves a much broader scope. This entails dismantling the ruler and the ruled equation, as well as the associated “mai-baap” culture. Seemingly simple steps like removing VIP red beacons or the PM identifying as “Pradhan Sewak” have a positive impact.

Secondly, it requires winning the trust of common citizens (scam-free governance, last-mile delivery, direct benefit transfers that plugged leakages, saturation of welfare schemes), and reposing trust in them (self-attestation of documents, overdraft facility in Jan Dhan accounts, collateral-free microloans, confidence in the people to adopt technology).

Thirdly, it calls for inclusion—geographical (Northeast, J&K, border villages, backward blocks, and troubled areas), financial and digital (Jan Dhan, Digital India, mobile and Internet connectivity), socio-economic (Drone and Lakhpati Didis to break barriers for rural women, 10% Economically Weaker Sections reservation, special budgetary allocation for the Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups).

Most importantly, it necessitates dispelling the notion that human life comes cheap in India. The “third-world mentality” prevents us from asserting the inviolability of human life, let alone human dignity. The construction of 12 crore household toilets serves as a great example of preserving human dignity. With an average family size of four, this translates to 48 crore individuals, a significant percentage being female. Similarly, the commitment to protecting Indians is evident—be it the evacuation operations from conflict zones or rescuing workers trapped in the Silkyara tunnel.

The “third world” and “poverty glorification” mentality is being countered by world-class infrastructure and facilities. These advancements demonstrate that a better quality of life is not an impossible dream, but rather an achievable reality. NaMo inspires citizens to set higher goals and aspirations, and his government provides a conducive system with schemes like MUDRA, Skill India, Make in India, and Startup India.

The Modi government equally stresses citizens’ duties and actively seeks their involvement. Initiatives like giving up LPG subsidies and joining cleanliness drives show that citizens step up for national progress.

Namo’s Legacy

In ten years, the Narendra Modi government has revolutionised the relationship between the governed and governing by liberating the citizenry from political patronage and raising the standards for governance. In ten years, the Modi government showed that it is possible to achieve the impossible–the abrogation of Article 370, the Citizenship Amendment Act, pulling 25 crore people out of multidimensional poverty, becoming the fifth largest economy, achieving close to 100% electrification or open defecation free status. Under Modi 1.0 and 2.0, the shift away from pseudo-secularism became irreversible; in Modi 3.0, a shift towards harmonious coexistence as a shared responsibility appears inevitable. All of this, while relentlessly battling the ideologies and forces that seek to keep India shackled.

NaMo has rekindled pride in civilisation and cultural heritage and brought about a fundamental change in how Indians perceive themselves and India’s place in the world. He ignited a paradigm shift—from hopelessness to aspiration, entitlement to empowerment, inferiority to confidence, and widespread apathy to active participation as stakeholders. This is extremely crucial for harnessing the demographic dividend in the coming decades.

This ongoing transformative impact on the mindset of the Indian people is fundamental to New India and will play a pivotal role in shaping the nation’s trajectory in the 21st century. This profound transformation, in my opinion, will be NaMo’s crowning achievement.

- Semu Bhatt is a strategic adviser and author specialising in governance, geopolitics, and conflict. She has a comprehensive understanding of Narendra Modi’s politics and policies and a consistent track record of accurately predicting his political decisions.

 
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