By Promod Puri
Obsessed with his impulsive cause based on insufficient knowledge and limited perception of Hinduism, Prime Minister Narendra Modi undertakes a significant transformation of secular Indian democracy towards sectarian nationalism.
With an accelerated pace, the bigoted transformation gets camouflaged by the autonomous and non-partisan institutions like the judiciary, media, and the election commission that have become weak and corrupted in the last few years of Modi’s autocratic rule.
There are token signs of Opposition too. But these are either impotent or fragmented in their own regional or ideological formations. Leading this disengaged pack is the dud leadership of the once-mighty Congress Party.
Modi and his lifelong chum Amit Shah have covered themselves with the fig leaves of democratic attributes, like the Parliament, Supreme Court, media, and internet. This coverup is imperative to mask the blots of their communal and fascist trek.
The Indian democracy is not dead but acquired a novel variant as formulated by the Modi-Shah team. Or it has forged into a new avatar contaminated with dirty politics.
From the soil to which Gandhi belonged, the duo’s political arrangement looks democratic from the outside but completely dictatorial, autocratic, and often brutal from the inside.
The uniqueness of this fabricated democratic structure lies in the installation of controlled windows of dissent. These regulated vents offer the nation’s citizens and the Opposition to let off their bits and pieces of criticism, anger, and protest.
In political terminology, these openings are called Overton Windows.
Well-known American thinker, philosopher and political activist Noam Chomsky aptly describes the Overton Windows as follow:
“The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion but allow very lively debate within that spectrum—even encourage the more critical and dissident views. That gives people the sense that there’s free thinking going on, while all the time the presuppositions of the system are being reinforced by the limits put on the range of the debate.”
Modi has concocted a democracy according to his temperament and taste. The bottle stays the same, but the spirit inside has changed.
Smart as he is, the supremo has not demolished any democratic structures like the Supreme court, the Election Commission, and the Parliament. The symbolic love for his “temple of democracy” involves building a brand new multi-million-rupee complex for both parliament houses while he prefers extended periods of session breaks.
His reverence and value for the media are limited to almost nil face-to-face encounters. He avoids the press and disdains the Opposition; with the bridle in his hands, Modi has disciplined both.
His ubiquity extends to the internet as well, where he controls the on and off buttons. But he has developed an extensive network of social media, a propaganda factory manufacturing news and views for domestic consumption and worldwide export.
In his toolkit, labelled as the “largest democracy in the world,” there is an army of dedicated followers, aka “bhagats,” paid street goons and lathi-wavering police contingents.
On top of that, Modi has effectively muted the nation, particularly its middle class, with the weapon of fear. Voices of dissent often end up in sporadic murders, harassment through legal notices, or lock up in jails, with or without bail, but the message gets across.
While crushing fundamental human rights, the Saffron Democracy steered by Modi maneuvers towards xenophobic and bogus confines of Hindutva.