The language of power doesn’t need translation. Only interpretation. Does national unity depend on a single religion or language? Or a synthesis of both? A large number of countries have retained their geographical identity by invoking Islam as their ruling faith, though some of them are torn apart by the bloody differences over its interpretation. In other parts of the globe, over two-thirds of nations are bound by a single language. Not India though. Though over 70 per cent of citizens practice Hinduism as a way of life or in one form or another, the Constitution has titled India a secular republic. Over 60 per cent of the population can speak and/or write Hindi. Yet India doesn’t have a uniform official language like most nations, proving unity in diversity. Yet it is under constant threat from internal conflicts between differing cultural and sectarian identities.
Perhaps with conflict resolution in mind, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his trusted Home Minister Amit Shah have taken the vernacular bull by the horns. They are determined to banish anything and everything that seems or sounds un-Indian. They intend to ruthlessly marginalise laws and institutions that claim religious entitlement. They are certain that massively mollycoddling minorities is weakening India. During his first term, Modi concentrated on economy and national security. In his second, he is resolved to ensure that his idea of a united India, bound by one law one nation, triumphs.
In his mind, a uniform civil code and uniformly acceptable language are priorities. For the political and cultural unification of this diverse country, Modi needed a person with the will to fearlessly implement his vision with conviction. He settled on Shah, the doer and implementer. The BJP chief has made his party the world’s largest political organisation. His strategy was uncompromising. Parties small and big were split. Large-scale desertions were engineered. Such strategic saffron synergy has brought BJP to the rim of a majority in the Rajya Sabha and helped it push through legislative measures of choice in both houses of Parliament. Power properly pursued perpetuates progress. While other prime ministers have historically hobbled their colleagues to either protect their position or lineage, Modi is supremely secure about Amit Shah’s mojo. For the first time, a prime minister has allowed a visibly powerful Number Two to execute the popular mandate. In return, Shah is a threat to anyone who opposes Modi and his mission. He is Mentor Modi’s strongest armour.
Last week, when the prime minister asked his ministers to hasten to every district and major city to explain their achievements in the first 100 days of the government, he wasn’t talking about the GDP. The mantris carried literature that explained how the abolition of Article 370 and 35A has united India. Liberals and secularists have been dining out for so long on special status for Jammu and Kashmir at debates and seminars. They have been arguing that these were articles of faith that provided India the prestigious secular country tag. But Shah, the 31st home minister, went where no other home minister in the past had dared to go.
Even L K Advani, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s powerful home minister, played second fiddle and failed to achieve his lifelong ambition. Shah is the fourth leader from Gujarat to lead the Home Ministry, two others being Morarji Desai and H M Patel; but they remained in office for less than six months each. India’s first Home Minister Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel created history by forcing the princely states to join the Union. Seventy-two years later, Shah has picked up the gauntlet to handle politically tricky and nationally sensitive portfolios. He is poised to complete the task that Patel had left unfinished. He did in 70 days what no other HM could do in seven decades.
With the prime minister’s full backing, he bulldozed the naysayers in his ministry and the legal fraternity to evolve a constitutionally credible framework to make Jammu and Kashmir a genuinely integral part of India. With one legislative sweep Shah upended the Kashmir narrative. Over the past couple of months, the abrogation of special status has become the symbol of unity. Shah’s assertive conviction put all other parties on the defensive. For the first time, political prophets who had predicted a bloodbath if Article 370 was junked are opposing only the method and not the move. BJP’s longstanding dream has become a reality. From its birth, it had been promising to withdraw special status to J&K when it got a majority on its own. Now, only a few stragglers of capricious conscience whisper about restoring it. Modi has silenced even the international community on Kashmir and isolated Pakistan’s monologue. Shah has successfully convinced locals that special status was the source of corruption, poverty, unemployment and lack of world-class infrastructure in the state.
Bringing J&K into the cohesive national embrace is part of Shah’s bigger vision of isolating trouble points like illegal immigration. Repeated warnings that not a single outsider would be allowed to stay in India is a clarion call to rally the entire country behind his impulsion to deport over 35 million infiltrators from Bangladesh and now Burma. No other government has vowed to complete the National Register of Citizens like the NDA has. The itinerants not only posed a threat to the ethno-cultural and religious identity of Assam but had also influenced the political colour of the state government for decades. The illegal immigration wave has spread to every state from Punjab to Kerala.
The byproducts are the centres of anti-national plots and forced conversion that plagues the country. Unconcerned about being labeled anti-Muslim, Shah has directed his ministry to locate and confine the cross-border visitors. It has already sanctioned huge amounts to construct Detention Camps. BJP chief ministers are mulling over an NRC for their states. Shah’s design is to destroy the minority vote banks that sustain opposition parties by focusing on ending black-market migration which is a threat to India’s security and communal harmony. Now he has flagged off a heated national debate outlining his conviction that only Hindi can linguistically unite India. Though the PM has kept his own counsel, Shah is unfolding his roadmap to convert J&K’s special status, lack of an official language and minority appeasement into emblems of disunity that are sabotaging a singular India. His moves, movements, means and methods are all meant to persuade Indians to chant in one voice, “We are proud to be nationalists.”
Follow him on Twitter @PrabhuChawla