The right-wing lobby, this time led by the MNS, but otherwise dominated by the BJP/Shiv Sena, has had another brainwave. It wants to rename Malabar Hills – probably one of India’s proudest business addresses, perhaps the very epitome, the very nerve-center, of India’s booming economy – as Ramnagari. Renaming places and cities is common in India. Usually, old British names are replaced with names of freedom fighters or leaders. But Malabar is not even a British word (it’s a region in Kerala). And replacing it with something so religiously orthodox, so overtly Hindu is typical of right-wing politics.
But such “basal” thinking is what right-wing parties have traditionally been known for. Right-wingers (read: BJP and its ilk) base their political strategy on the most basic of human values, the most private of them all: religion. And they do so brazenly. After bringing down the Babri Masjid, the BJP never apologized; nor offer to re-build it (quite the contrary – it persists with its demand to build a Hindu temple right there). Nor did Narendra Modi, the BJP’s extreme right-winger, offer to re-build the hundreds of mosques destroyed by his cohorts during the post-Godhra riots. In fact, he found the thought “unconstitutional” (something the High Court of Gujarat disagreed with). Yet the same Modi merrily offered to re-build the floods-destroyed temple of Kedarnath. This is typical of right-winger politics of religion.
Religious bigotism is what the right-wing parties like the BJP find most appealing for attracting votes. So the ludicrous claim of Modi personally (it’s now called “micromanagement”, a term no doubt coined by his US publicist, APCO) ferrying 15K Gujaratis (all Hindus, no doubt!) from the devastated terrain of Badrinath-Kedarnath to safety (do read Abheek Barman’s piece – “Modi’s Himalayan miracle” – in today’s TOI: its an extremely well written piece on the mathematical impossibility of this act!). I wont be surprised if soon there are T-Shirts distributed in Gujarat schools picturing Narendra Modi as Hanuman, lifting the whole of the affected Himalayan range out of danger! Then of course, there is this other crazy thing of BJP politicians in Karnataka spending crores (of tax payers’ monies no doubt) on “pujas” to appease the rain gods when they failed to appear. Then again, all BJP leaders touch the feet of all types of Hindu godmen; even the pseudos. And oh, not to forget, the “mards” (for that’s what the orthodox Hindu man is called) of the party go about blaming the dresses liberal women wear for rapes. And oh, one more: suggesting that unmarried women mustn’t be allowed to carry mobile phones or wear jeans! This is what right-wing politics is all about.
But renaming Malabar Hills as Ramnagari? Why “Ram”nagari? Well, apparently, there is some story that Ram stopped there for a bit before proceeding towards Lanka to rescue Sita. Super! But isn’t it a little bizarre for India’s most progressive part to be named something so orthodox? Besides, haven’t the times moved on? And isn’t the area a typical Mumbai melting pot with lacs of non-Hindus staying there as well? But then that’s the whole point of right-wing politics. The acts have to pinch the “others”; others who have a lesser claim on India than the Hindus. Ramachandra Guha’s article on Golwalkar, the 2nd “sarsanghchalak” of the RSS, in The Hindu (“The Guru of Hate” available at http://www.countercurrents.org/comm-guha281106.htm) was an eye-opener on classic RSS thinking. Golwalkar believed that the biggest internal threat India faced was that of Muslims (the 2nd unsurprisingly: Christians). Well, Golvalkar would be happy today if he was alive. His followers, his descendents, his organization’s brethren outfits like the BJP, Bajrang Dal, Durga Vahini, Vishwa Hindu Parishad are all sticking to the job cut out for them by him.
In yet another example of “basal” politics, the Shiv Sena this time, supported amply by its ally, the BJP (how many parties today call the BJP an ally?) wants to convert the iconic Race Course of Mumbai (some 225 acres of it) into a Thackeray memorial. They are not saying this openly yet. In public, they are saying that they want to make it a public garden. Why should so much land in land-starved Mumbai be reserved for the rich and the famous? This is why I call it basal politics. They forget that India is a heterogeneous country, with the rich and poor co-existing. Being rich is not a crime in India. Besides, the Race Course symbolizes what India wants to be. Mumbai is the financial capital of the country, and when global business folks come visiting, it’s good for us to be able to flaunt this rather modern aspect of Mumbai. But no, in a lowest-common-denominator kind of politics, the BJP-Shiv Sena run BMC wants to erode this symbol of India’s modernity. The idea of ridding Mumbai of its showpiece is repulsive enough; secretly aspiring to make it a Thackeray memorial is despicable.
The real truth is that right-wing politics (BJP-Shiv Sena-MNS variety) is regressive and unfit for a progressive nation like India. India needs to become socially and culturally liberal in line with its economic progress. Right wing parties are an anachronism in that sense. It’s time they changed their thinking…..because new India’s thinking does not align with their’s.