For the first time in 20 years, an Indian Prime Minister ascended the Swiss Alps to reach the city of Davos. Narendra Modi was there to attend the World Economic Forum meeting focusing on ‘creating a shared future in a fractured world.’ Addressing world leaders and CEOs of several multinational corporate houses, he waxed eloquent on the diversity and development in the country. He invited investors to take advantage of the affable atmosphere in India. Ironically, as he was welcoming the world leaders, with the warmth that could melt the ice of Alps, hoodlums of Karni Sena and others were wrecking havoc on the streets in many places seeking ban on Padmaavat film. Aided by political psychopaths, as one writer puts it, people who have not even seen the film took the country to ransom despite Supreme Court giving its nod to screen it. Those who have watched the film say there is nothing in it that tarnishes the ‘Rajput pride.’ In fact, it is a testimony to their chivalry. If so, where is the rule of law that Mr Modi assured to the world leaders in Davos? Where is the freedom of expression for the law-abiding citizens?
Mr. Modi’s narrative of India was to lure investors to the country. He might have succeeded in it. But, world leaders, who follow-up his call to invest in India will definitely have a shock of their life if things do not change for the better. The number of irresponsible fringe elements in the country is growing. Rather, they are becoming central figures. Those who made reckless statements in the past few weeks include Ministers in the Central government, giving an authenticity to what they say. Union Minister Anant Kumar Hegde sent shockwaves stating that his government would rewrite the Constitution of India. He was perhaps echoing the voice of right wing elements who clamour that the present statute does not have Hindutva spirit and culture. But they conveniently forget the fact that the Constituent Assembly which gave birth to the Constitution had such orthodox Hindu stalwarts like former President Rajendra Prasad and former Home Minister Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.
In Davos, Mr Modi and his delegation might have portrayed the picture of an India that has moved ahead in various fields. But back home, the likes of Satyapal Singh, the Minister of State for Human Resource Development, believe in taking the nation away from the scientific temper which the Constitution tries to promote. One may discard with ridicule his statement that nobody saw apes turning into human beings and hence Darwin is wrong. But, it brings out the ongoing efforts to take the country back to the dark ages of legends and superstitions, rather than taking forward in an age of reason and logic.
The Prime Minister quoted Mahatma Gandhi in his Davos speech: “I don’t want the doors and windows of my house to be closed. I want multinational ideas and cultures to flow in. But I don’t want them to uproot me.” But, it is not the ideas that come from outside that uproot us. It is the obscurantist ideas and their proponents within the country which is the biggest threat to us and our diverse culture.
(Published on 29th January 2018, Volume XXX, Issue 05)