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Confronting Religious Governmentality of Saffron Supremacists

We are now on this dangerous crossroad of religious Governmentality in Modern India

Saturday December 28, 2019 0:52 AM, Farrukh B. Hakeem, ummid.com


While interrogating the mechanics of power in Security, Territory and Population, French philosopher Michel Foucault coined the term Governmentality - as a way that governments try to produce citizens who are best suited to follow policies and organized practices through which subjects are governed. Perceived through this Foucauldian lens it reveals the increased reliance of the modern state to legitimize its power through the institution of organized religion. There is an increasing use of religious symbols, rites and practices to consolidate vote banks and evade accountability. We are now on this dangerous crossroad of religious Governmentality in Modern India.

The passage of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) poses a grave danger to the Democratic and secular credentials of the current Indian administration. Of all the religions in India, only one has been singled out for exclusion - Islam. In effect, it sets up a discriminatory confessional religious test for anyone seeking refuge in India. Its ascriptive categories of the excluded (Muslims), and the included (Hindu, Sikh, Christian, Jain, Parsi, Buddhist), reveals the sinister disparity in treatment of one religious minority group.

Akin to the policies and practices of former fascist and white supremacist regimes the new India is being polarized by our neo-fascists - the Saffron-Supremacists. The Colonial mode of warfare is now being gradually implemented through legislation to ‘other’ Muslims. This system of identity-based politics has singled out Muslims for special judicial and legislative control through passage of laws like Triple Talaq legislation, Article 370, Babri Masjid verdict and now the CAA/NRC. These seem to reveal a clear agenda that these Saffron Supremacists (who have hijacked Hinduism) are following. There also seems to be an over-policing of Muslims as perpetrators but an under policing of Muslims as victims. Mob lynching of Muslims by cow vigilantes along with the cyber lynchings of Muslims by the Desi trolls are a good example. Acts very similar to the Ku Klux Klan that plagued America before it was confronted by the Civil Rights Movement led by Martin Luther Kin g. The cross burnings and brutal lynchings of African Americans are an eerie reminder of this hateful, ugly system of violence that sought to keep African Americans in their place. The Indian cow vigilantes and their mob lynchings of Muslims seem to echo this Ku Klux Klan script to put Muslims in their place.

These hateful hegemonic policies seem to fly in the face of the deeply spiritual, inclusive and tolerant ethos of India. It calls for a time of introspection and examination of the spirituality and love propagated by the Bhakti and Sufi saints of yore.

It is time to wake up from this old, tired and worn-out colonial game of identity-based politics that was fostered upon us by our former colonial masters. The need of the hour is to step back from this dangerous precipice and move over to an issue-based politics. It calls for an evidence based and collective efficacy approach to address our problems. There are grave problems facing India that demand immediate attention. The economy is in shambles and barely sputtering. The ill-advised demonitisation fiasco has wrought untold misery on the rural populace of India. On the heels of this disaster, the roll-out of the GST has badly damaged the rural economy. This has been a blunder of Tughlaqian proportions!

The safety of women in India is another serious public safety issue that needs to be addressed. If our sisters, wives, and mothers are not safe from sexual violence it is an indicator of how far we have strayed from our ideals.

In 64 AD, Rome was ravaged by a great fire for six days. This fire engulfed 70 percent of the city and left more than half its population homeless. The decadent and highly unpopular Emperor Nero is reputed to have fiddled while Rome was burning. Today, my India is burning - will our Indian emperor merely tweet while India burns?

[The writer, a Ph.D. is an Indian American based in New York. He is the author of Policing Muslim Communities. Comparative International Context. (New York: Springer-Verlag, 2012)]

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