Hindu dharma is implicitly at odds with monotheistic intolerance. What is happening in India is a new historical awakening... Indian intellectuals, who want to be secure in their liberal beliefs, may not understand what is going on. But every other Indian knows precisely what is happening: deep down he knows that a larger response is emerging even if at times this response appears in his eyes to be threatening.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Modi issue: Yudhishthira is still relevant

Monday, March 28, 2005
by S Gurumurthy

Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi has been denied a visa by the Bush administration. He had been invited by the Asian-American Hotel Owners' Association. Had the US permitted his visit, it might have gone unnoticed, like any other chief minister's. The US could have quietly allowed Modi to spend a few days in a more tolerable climate. Instead, it chose to deny him the diplomatic Visa. It even cancelled the normal visa that had already been granted to Modi some seven years back. The US did it so resoundingly that it hardly seemed a simple visa denial. Why?

To know the truth we have to go behind the facade of religious freedom issues which the US has raised. The US supports and takes the assistance of jihadi regimes the world over. So the issue of religious freedom as the reason to keep Modi out of America is a lie. Obviously, the Bush administration has used the Modi visa issue to convey a message to global Islamists. The geo-political think tank of the US regarded it as a chance to tell the Islamic world how evenhanded they are.

Look at it from the US perspective. It is engaged in a war with Islam itself, not just Islamic terrorism. No wonder America is under pressure to show that it is not against Islam or Muslims. The visa issue has provided it a golden opportunity to demonstrate itself as a friend of Islam. After all, Modi is generally projected as anti-Muslim. The message of the Bush Administration to Muslims are clear: "See how we are treating an elected chief minister of an Indian state whose population is more than the population of many nations in Europe. Believe us, we are sensitive to Islamic world." This is the American version of pseudo-secularism. So the denial of visa to Modi is part of American geo-politics. That is why they wanted it done, and they did in the most celebrated way, dragged it till the last moment and made it an issue.

But why did the US administration chose to risk a scrap with the Indian government? This is perhaps where they miscalculated. They never expected the divided Indian polity to come together on the issue. They never anticipated the "secular" Indian government to join the protest, much less lead it. They had enough reasons to believe that it would not happen. The secular Indian polity had made Modi a symbol of hate. It suited secular India's political needs to blacken Modi. So he became the Indian version of Hitler - the Hindu version of Islamic terror.

So the US was perhaps right in expecting that the Hindu polity in India would be isolated, that there would be as Secular-Hindu clash in the country over the issue. But that did not happen, even accounting for the marginally different views of the CPI-(M) and RJD. So, by standing together, the Indian polity has stood up to an attempt to humiliate the country. It has surprised the US. The Indian polity has demonstrated total unity on this issue, something which we have seen only in times of war. So the US is in a fix. It cannot hang on to its decision without causing a set back to the Indo-US relations. It cannot change it without hindering its geo-political message to the Islamic world. As of now, America is the loser and Modi the gainer. In the process, the US has put Modi on the global map.

But look at the impact of the Modi visa issue on the Indian polity and its working norms. For the first time the country's polity has followed the dictum of Yudhishthira in Mahabharata. The story goes that the Gandharvas defeated the Kauravas and arrested Duryodhana along with his 99 brothers who had humiliated the Pandavas by vanquishing them in the forest. Bhima and Arjuna were extremely pleased by the incident. But Yudhishthira chided them and told them, vayam panchadikam shatam (when difficulty comes, we are not five and they are not hundred, but we are five plus hundred). He asked them to get the Kauravas released. This was despite all the harm done by the Kauravas.

One might dismiss it as the ethical norm of the Dwapara Yuga that is inapplicable to the Kali Yuga. But one great man, who inspired many Indian leaders like Atal Bihari Vajpayee, LK Advani and even Narendra Modi, dared to give the same advice to Indian polity. He was MS Golwalkar, the man who built the RSS into a powerful organisation. A well-known political leader, who was on the visit to UK, chose to criticise the Indian prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, on foreign soil. Despite Pandit Nehru's visceral hate for the RSS and Golwalkar, the latter quoted Yudhishthira and said that outside India, despite all the differences, "we are all one".

He condemned the prime minister's criticism outside the country. He cited how Winston Churchill owned British prime minister Clement Atlee as "our Prime Minister" on US soil despite their well-known mutual hostility. This is how national spirit works beyond national borders. The moral is: Yudhishthira is relevant even in today's global politics. It is difficult to follow great men. But it is even more difficult to ignore them. The Indian polity can be proud today for acting on the sagacious advice of Yudhishthira.

(Writer's email is


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