In a scathing attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi after a gap of about six months, top British journal, The Economist’s latest issue (December 20) has once again reminded its readers that Modi remains a controversial leader for his “failure” in 2002, when as chief minister of Gujarat, he failed to “avert a massacre of Muslims.” Insisting that the hostility is born of the ideology that militant freedom fighter Vinayak Savarkar “spawned”, the influential British journal says, Modi “has never apologised for the massacre.” Taking a dig at Modi, the journal recalls how he sought to “regret” the riots once – telling a news agency interviewer that he is as sorry for the killings as he is while “seeing a puppy run over in the street”.
Pointing out that Modi is inspired by Savarkar, the journal suggests, after Modi came to power, RSS supremo Mohan Bhagwat has become more aggressive by increasingly referring to Savarkar for inspiration. Like Savarkar, Bhagwat now says that “all who live in Hindustan are in fact Hindus, whatever Muslims, Christians or secular Hindus might say”, the journal says, underlining, “The group has become an enthusiastic and effective actor within (the BJP). The RSS’s millions of members and volunteers played a big role in electing the BJP by a landslide in 2014. At least 19 ministers in government, including Modi, have a background in the RSS.”
Even as saying that Modi is “India’s strongest leader since Indira Gandhi”, the journal contends, the Prime Minister has made no attempt to “distance himself from the RSS”. It adds, “Those who promote Hindutva and echo Savarkar whip up stories of ‘love jihad’, alleging, Muslim men convert large numbers of Hindu women by seducing them.” Pointing out how earlier this month “a BJP parliamentarian praised Godse as a ‘patriot’ equal to Gandhi”, it says, things have gone so far now that “members of the increasingly influential RSS feel emboldened” and are promoting “majoritarian politics” in order to “absorb or flatten a minority” in “utterly destructive” way.
Pointing out that “India’s tolerance and moderation” may be “at risk”, the journal notes, this is clear the way Modi has been promoting Savarkar. “In 2008 Modi, then chief minister of Gujarat, inaugurated a website (savarkar.org) that promotes a man ‘largely unknown to the masses because of the vicious propaganda against him and misunderstanding around him that has been created over several decades’.” While a “previous BJP-led government put Savarkar’s portrait in parliament… on Savarkar’s birthday this year, May 28, the Prime Minister paid homage to him there. Modi tweeted about Savarkar’s ‘tireless efforts towards the regeneration of our motherland’.”
While calling Modi a firm follower of Savarkar, the journal refers to how Savarkar and Mahatma Gandhi differed from each other ever since they met for a meal in England in 19065. “Savarkar offered Gandhi some of his meal; Gandhi, a vegetarian, refused. Savarkar allegedly retorted that only a fool would attempt to resist the British without being fortified by animal protein”, The Economist says, adding, “The meeting is said to have begun hostilities between the two young Indian nationalists. Gandhi was a pacifist with an inclusive attitude towards Muslims and Christians. Savarkar, who would lead the Hindu Mahasabha, was a right-wing majoritarian who spawned the idea of Hindutva, or Hindu-ness…”
Pointing towards how “Savarkar remains immensely divisive”, the journal recalls how he called Gandhi a weak, a “sissy”, and far too willing to collaborate with Britain. “Gandhian talk of man’s common humanity he regarded as utopian to the point of naivety. In articles from the 1920s to the 1940s Savarkar lambasted Gandhi as a ‘crazy lunatic’ who ‘happens to babble…[about] compassion, forgiveness’, yet ‘notwithstanding his sublime and broad heart, the Mahatma has a very narrow and immature head’. Gandhi promoted ahimsa, a Buddhist rejection of violence which Savarkar called “mealy-mouthed”.