British author HG Wells wrote and published War Of The Worlds in 1897, serialised first in the Cosmopolitan magazine, and issued in hardcover in 1898. It took the reading audience by storm with its descriptions of an alien invasion. When the visionary Orson Welles, of Citizen Kane fame, narrated an adaptation of the self-same on the radio as part of the Mercury Theatre on the Air series, in 1938, he actually created a national panic in America. Wells broke new ground and anticipated scientific developments that came decades later. This, in a spectacular series of prescient science-fiction novels. And Welles also was much ahead of his time. In the cinematic techniques he introduced, his scripting, and the realism of his radio theatre. As a metaphor for the clash between “The Idea of India” of Nehruvian extraction, with its selective secularist pretensions, which the opposition now clings on to, and the Modi era’s “New India”, replete with its Hindutva assertions, it could be seen as apt. One world struggling to survive, the other determined to replace it.
In the middle, are competing interpretations of the Indian Constitution. But is the Constitution really under threat? Is it a living thing rather than a set of commandments set in stone? What is under attack surely is the long-standing status quo.
Today, opposing worlds seem to be colliding with great heat and light. In Modi 1.0 many bills were stymied in the Rajya Sabha where the NDA was well short of a majority. And many working days were lost to disruption, both in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. By way of contrast, Modi 2.0 has been highly successful in passing its bills into acts of Parliament.
So now, the protest has mostly spilled onto the streets. Because, in Parliament, the government is winning support for its legislation convincingly in both houses. This in the teeth of noisy but electorally inadequate opposition. Many, nominally in their ranks, are actually siding with the BJP.
The ruling dispensation is still short of a majority in the Rajya Sabha, but this is no longer stopping legislation. The fact that the opposition is unable to gather enough support to defeat any of its bills, is indicative of profound and sure-footed change. The sheer pace indicates there is much more to come between now and 2024. Changes such as the UCC, the retaking of PoK, labour and land reform. It will put the challengers out of commission. There will be no turning back the tide, and the India we once knew will transform into a de facto majoritarian universe without apology.
It is this trend that has prompted the Home Minister to assure the people that CAA will be implemented despite the protesting on the streets of multiple cities. The protest is seen as a proxy fight against the Modi government itself. It does not harm the interests of the Indian Muslim at all.
The parliamentary parties on the losing side are disturbed, perhaps for the anticipated loss to some of their vote banks. It is reminiscent of the opposition fury from quarters such as the Congress and the TMC when demonetisation affected their electoral funds kept in cash.
However, it is still they, along with underground and banned political entities, antisocial elements, gangs of illegal immigrants. This, rather than many students who are being put to use. Together, they are accused of instigating most of the protest. Given that the ethnic Assamese, those from Meghalaya, Tripura, have a legitimate grouse, that must, and is, being addressed.
This protest has been sometimes violent, leading to loss of life and limb. It has been accompanied by arson and flagrant destruction of buses, trains, cars, motorcycles and other private and public property.
The new CJI has made it clear that the Supreme Court will not even hear petitions from human rights lawyers and the like against police action to restore law and order. Not unless the violence and wilful destruction stop first. The government has also been quick to tell international commentators to mind their own business.
Bangladesh has offered to take back its citizens living here illegally. France has said the CAA is India’s internal matter.
At first glance, the apex court has also refused to find fault with the constitutionality of the CAA, though it will hear petitions against it in January 2020. This judicial clear-headedness follows on from the historic judgement on the Babri Masjid-Ram Temple imbroglio in Ayodhya. To underline its conviction on the judgement, the SC collectively dismissed as many as 20 review petitions filed since.
There was also no judicial disapproval or censure against the discarding of Article 370 and Article 35A regarding Jammu, Kashmir, and Ladakh, before that — as well as various corollary actions taken and promulgations made since. And all this has happened since the Modi government won its second term in May 2019.
It is often stated that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah at the pinnacle of this government, are running an authoritarian NDA. That it is very different, it is said, compared to the one run by Atal Bihari Vajpayee nearly two decades ago. But it must be remembered also that the Vajpayee government was a large multi-party coalition, with sharp differences in ideology. It had no political elbow room to take action on the BJP’s long-standing positions. Vajpayee and his Home Minister LK Advani, depicted almost as liberals by the opposition, particularly when the Vajpayee era legacy is under discussion, may have played it very differently if they had a majority in government.
Even then, it was claimed somebody had called Vajpayee a mukhauta or mask. And Advani was seen once as the hardliner that led the Rath Yatra that brought the BJP into contention for national power — up from just 2 seats in Parliament to 162. Despite this, the ruling dispensation of the time and later did not take the rise of the saffron forces seriously and made no course corrections.
Nevertheless, despite the pressures of coalition politics, Vajpayee pushed through India going nuclear within a fortnight of coming to his full term in power. He was also the architect of the BJPs trademark emphasis on infrastructure, with the massive Golden Quadrilateral Highway projects.
The opposition-friendly critics have taken up a propaganda position that is undemocratic, even as they point fingers at the most popular government in over 35 years. It is perhaps little use to suggest that the old order and its supporters will never get their way going forward. The change in India is irreversible and as substantial as the ones wrought by Lenin-Stalin in the October Revolution of 1917, or that brought about by Mao in 1949. But, it is without the bloodshed and the massive purgings of those upheavals.
The people of India are no longer willing to repose their faith in corrupt regimes, which parties today in the opposition had led, that never walked the talk. A Hindu Rashtra may nevertheless be blasphemy to those who hang their hat on a very hypocritical interpretation of secularism. After all, it has served them very well for decades.
But turning India inexorably into a Hindu Rashtra is neither a betrayal of its founding principles nor likely to destroy it. It is a natural and just development to right the wrongs of our early decades. The Indian Constitution may have to be amended in a few articles to stop it being a rod for our own backs in the hands of those who want to turn the clock back.
The minorities, however, will have nothing to fear, but won’t be allowed, as before, and to an extent presently, to bully the Hindu majority. The intelligentsia will have to stop its thinly veiled abuse of the government when it makes changes using legitimate democratic processes. No country should permit this, and almost all do not. And in time, neither will India. Elements in the permanent bureaucracy will have to change their attitude or be shunted out. It is better for many leftist students and thought leaders to see the writing on the wall and not let it come to this. The government is not saying any of this yet, but perhaps it will. But for now, if this must still be a war of the worlds going forward, the victors seem preordained, and not the least bit alien. On the contrary, what is being rejected was imported and distorted to suit.