One of the defining images of today’s India has to be that of Anurag Thakur leading a small gathering in Delhi as it chants: “Shoot the traitors of India.”
But for that toxic moment caught on camera, nobody would have given a flying ferret to Thakur. In his decade or so in politics, he has done nothing of significance other than maximising the luck of a typical dynast riding the popularity of a divisive ideology. Even in the video, where he is leading the chants, there are just a handful of people, just about the same number you’d see around a Delhi liquor shop when it is just about to close.
The problem with upstarts like Thakur leading such provocative slogans is that they act like Iagos (Langda Tyagi for Indian movie fans) to susceptible Othellos. Through psychological manipulation — the exact craft used by Jihadist preachers like Masood Azhar — they not only create an atmosphere where violence is not justifiable but also an unavoidable act of assertion of bravado and loyalty for the perpetrators.
For a nation, the biggest traitor is a leader who incites others to dispense mob justice, resort to violence and turn against fellow citizens. By weaponising his followers, this toxic leader takes advantage of their trust, and commits the crime of misusing them for ulterior objectives. But, as the Telegraph said in a frontpage headline, a nation of genuflecting sheep only gets wolves as leaders.
Unfortunately, the typical bhakt, the self-proclaimed ‘Rambhakts’ — the kind of youngsters who finally pull the trigger — just do not understand how they have been mobilised for the electoral benefits, creating hatred and then reaping its rewards. They end up, like Nathuram Godse, walking to the gallows while those who put the gun in their hand get away by pleading innocence.
If you’ve been following the Delhi election campaign, two trends may have become visible. One, the Prime Minister, who usually loves to campaign for everything other than the panchayat polls, has been unusually quiet. In 2015, he had hit the Delhi election campaign claiming oil prices in India have remained low because of his “naseeb (luck)”. But, this time, with everything other than oil prices being down, he has not yet hit the campaign trail to tell the electorate how lucky they are to be led by a naseebwala (lucky) PM.
Instead, we have witnessed the ugly spectacle of the BJP minions trying to go back to their default option — politics of hate. In their desperate attempt to win an election they appear to be losing, the BJP leaders are trying to turn Indians against Indians. It is, of course, a deplorable ploy, rooted in misinformation, canards and toxic slogans. But, it is also pitiable.
Till a few years ago, the BJP wanted everyone to believe it would make their lives better through “vikaas.” Then, once ideas like vikaas and achche din started sounding like vacuous jumlas (slogans), it turned to its favourite bogey — the threat of Pakistan. And, now that Pakistan has been fully used after some serendipitous events, the BJP has now started selling the threat from its own citizens — in India’s campuses and Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh.
Shaheen Bagh is an ode to Indian democracy, its culture of non-violent protests and the Gandhian thought. Protesters at the Delhi locality have been singing the national anthem, marching under the Tricolor with copies of the Indian Constitution. But, for the BJP, these protesters are traitors who need to be punished, and be presented to the Delhi electorate as threats to their “daughters and sisters”, as its MP Pravesh Verma argued at an election rally. If this were toxic and evil, the idea of a group of Indians turning into a monsters if the BJP were not to win the election would have been hilarious. From, go to Pakistan, the defining battle cry of the BJP is now “Pakistan is at your doorsteps.” But, sometimes desperation makes everyone switch off from logic, rationale and common sense.
In a democracy, elections are won and lost. But, at stake in Delhi is much more than power. In the cauldron of hate and desperation, the BJP is boiling a toxic potion that will encourage vulnerable victims like the self-proclaimed “Rambhakt” who fired at protesters at Jamia Millia on Thursday.
The assailant, who is said to be a minor, behaved in a manner that is eerily similar to lone wolves who have acted in the name of jihadist organisations, offering themselves as martyrs for the cause, getting radicalised by toxic speeches and ideologies. Notice that before opening fire at Jamia, he had, like a fidayeen, expressed his desire to be hailed as a hero of Hindutva, believing that he was sacrificing himself for the community. Just like Godse, and, ironically, on the day the Mahatma was killed.
Is it then a surprise the BJP is so desperate to supplant Vinayak Damodar Savarakar as the ideological father of our nation?