January, which is almost upon us, is a good time to remember the two-faced Roman god Janus, after whom the month is named. He is considered the God of Beginnings. All his temples had one gateway that faced the rising sun, and the other the setting sun. Roman soldiers going off to battle marched through these doors because they represented a journey to a new place; in the Roman context—conquest.
The narrative of nations is the story of the war of conquest in the name of the gods. Deities represent race and nationalism. Islam is driven by Arab nationalism. America’s Bible belt, from where the President’s votes come from, defines its national identity. The Sangh’s successful ‘Ghar Wapsi’ movement is just history reasserting itself. Narendra Modi, India’s first self-confessed Hindu nationalist Prime Minister, got the Indian Right its first-ever parliamentary majority by riding the development promise. Now, the Indian Right is seizing the moment to establish itself as a religious force, which even the Prime Minister may not be able to fully control in spite of his disapproval.
The Congress and most other parties have used the rhetoric of secular vocabulary to portray Hindu nationalist politics as the enemy of India’s multi-cultural, multi-linguistic and multi-cuisine society even as they encouraged the confrontation of castes to great electoral advantage. They played Brahmins against Kayasthas, Dalits against Brahmins and divided the Kshatriyas. They played the Hindus against the Muslims and Christians. They engineered nano-polarisation by manipulating hostility among communities: Ezhava vs Nair, Lingayat vs Vokkaliga, Yadav vs Dalit, tribal vs tribal and so on and so forth. The current national polarisation is the backlash of this divisional politics—an overall social correction to rectify the policies of secular parties and the Left.
According to Christian community expert Peter Wagner, India may even be 25 per cent Christian, with most of the growth happening in the past 10 to 15 years. Since many of them were lower castes and SC/STs before conversion, the fear of losing social benefits may be preventing many from declaring their religion officially. Between 70 per cent and 90 per cent of Indian Christians are Dalits, tribals and the poor. Operation Mobilisation, one of India’s largest missionary groups, has 3,000 congregations in the country compared to 300 a decade ago. India has reportedly about 177 million Muslims, comprising 14.6 per cent of the population. The Pew Research Centre research shows that by 2024, it would have grown to 236 million—the same as the number of Muslims in Indonesia, which has the world’s biggest Islamic population. Yet, an NCAER study reports that 31 per cent of Indian Muslims live under the poverty line. It is among India’s tribals, the worst exploited and the poorest in the country, where Christian missionaries have been most successful; of the 84.51 million (2001 Census) tribals, 52 per cent belong to BPL families.
Ram Rajya is where peace, duty, prosperity and justice prevail. To bring the poorest of the poor into Ram Rajya is the true homecoming. This can be achieved only through development coupled with pride in Indian heritage. But Modi’s priority of creating a modern Ram Rajya by expanding infrastructure, boosting manufacturing and creating a booming economy seems to be getting obscured in the celebration of the fall of ‘secular’ Lanka. Will Modi become a prisoner of his own agenda? Sure, Janus is the God of Beginnings but he also has two faces. The forward-looking face cannot be looking backward at a time when India needs governance and development the most.