by Syed Suhail Yaqoob
Bollywood movies are full of emotion, drama and suspense. It has produced some all-time best like Devdas, Tare Zameen Par, PK and many others. In some movies, a father (who prevents union of young lovers) was presented a villain – like in – Mohabbatein movie thus reflecting the patriarchy in the Indian society.
Seemingly, the times have changed, so has the content of movies and also the villains. Today’s villain has a Muslim name and Muslim dress. In every ‘nationalistic movie’ or a ‘patriotic movie’ Muslim male is presented as a villain. The most interesting point is that he is usually presented as savage, conservative, brutal, devoid of emotions, murderer. Moreover, in these movies women from the minority are depicted as beautiful, sensual and in ‘love’ with the ‘hero’ of the movie who is usually a non-Muslim Hero – like in – Love Story of a Spy and Kashmir Ki Kali. This is quite a familiar procedure adopted by majority nationalism. The male members of the minority are ridiculed and its women presented as sensual.
Although the movies have laid the ground for majority nationalism, it is now the news channels who have taken over the role. In every ‘prime time’ shows minority is blamed for everything wrong happening to India. They are blamed for ‘forced’ conversion, love Jihad, imperialism and partition of India and whatnot. Some media channels blame them for creating ‘mini-Pakistans’ in India.
Recently Tablighi Jamaat was blamed for the spread of coronavirus in the country. It was even labelled as Muslim virus and a conspiracy by the Muslims to halt the progress of India. The history and statistics completely reject these constructed lies. The media channels forgot that the virus was spread from Wuhan in China and not from any Muslim country.
United Nations Report on migration further nullified these false claims. The report claimed that Indian diaspora was largest (17.5 million) in the world in 2019. During the same year, India hosted around 5 million international migrants. Also during the same period when the virus had reached India, the prime minister was hosting a great welcome for Donald Trump, the president of the USA; many temples were open for millions of devotees.
It is not difficult to understand why the current ruling party needs a scapegoat. BJP won landslide wins in 2014 and 2019 thanks to the charisma of Narendra Modi. In 2014, the party had promised development, corruption-free society, return of black-money and turning India into a global superpower. Things do not go as we imagine.
The economic growth slided close to 5 per cent in 2019 and many economists even challenged this figure. Arvind Subramanian, Narendra Modi Government’s chief economic advisor, has deduced that India’s economic growth rate has been overestimated by around 2.5 percentages between 2011and 2017. The decline in growth rate is alarming for populous country like India.
As every economic student knows the decline in the economic growth rate is a sure recipe for unemployment. The unemployment rate has touched around 7 per cent, the highest since 1972-73. What makes the unemployment rate more worrisome is the structure of the Indian population. In India, people under the age of 35 per cent make up to 65 per cent of the population and every year around 10-12 million young people enter the workforce every year.
In addition to unemployment, slowing down of economic growth causes substantial rise in Non-Performing Assets (NPA) of banks. It is due to this reason why Yes Bank failed. The other factors include investment in risky areas. Many influential business men just failed to repay the banks loans back. Although some people have claimed that NPA in public sector has declined it was precisely due to ‘Written off’ amount rather than repayment of loans. The ‘written off’ loans make a hole in the soundness and resilience of banks.
The slowness resulted due to mismanagement of the Indian economy. First shock was due to ill prepared demonetisation. After the announcement, the economy barely managed to crawl. Everyone was busy exchanging the old notes with the new ones. Although the plan was to create a ‘Digital India’, it however backfired and curtailed growth in Indian economy. Immediately, after demonetisation sales of consumer durables and appliances slipped by around 40 percent.
The effect of this move was more pronounced in Tier-II towns and beyond, generally referred to as up-country markets. As expected the economic growth slowed down to 6.7 percent, a four year low.
In addition to demonetisation, Make in India campaign was launched to boost industrial production in India. It was like a Swadeshi Movement where in reliance on other countries was expected to be reduced to minimum level. The programme was destined to fail due to several reasons. First it set ambitious growth rates for industrial sector (a growth rate of 14%) which is beyond its capacity. India has never achieved this sort of growth. Indian economy directly shifted from agriculture based to service sector based, in process skipped the industrial sector. Second it was an ill timed policy.
Precisely it was the time, when the world was going through the phase of nationalism and protectionism. No wonder no one likes to talk about the Make in India programme. Further at international spectrum, India is significantly isolated owing to rising anti-Muslim sentiments. The issue of National Register of Citizens, Citizen Amendment Bill and detention camps’ have taken country by storm. The issue was even debated in many countries and United Nations also opposed the moves. Also India has isolated many of its long time friends. India has itched close to USA. This will has inflated anger in China, Russia and Iran. China sees India as a card used by USA to counter its rising global power. Russian and Pakistan’s relations have improved. The plan was to use USA against Pakistan; however USA had its own interests at stake in Afghanistan. It was impossible for USA to pressurize Pakistan due to its Afghan crisis. No wonder in Afghan- USA peace deal, Indian presence was bare.
As if this was not enough, Covid-19 has brought the world on its knees. The world is struggling to cope with the situation. The alarming situation can be gauged from some statistics. The deaths have surpassed one lakh; major cities worldwide are under lockdown; air travel and road is restricted and industries are closed. International Labour Organisation has estimated that Covid-19 could cause 195 million job losses worldwide.
At home the situation seems to get worse. The Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) has estimated that India’s Urban Unemployment rate soars to 30.9 per cent even as overall rate rises to 23.4 per cent post lockdown. Also, Indian economy is expected to grow between 2 per cent and 4 per cent in the financial year 2021. India needs at least 9 per cent economic growth to keep unemployment low, a figure between 2-4 per cent will make things only worse. Furthermore, the response to Covid-19 was criticised as the images of people walking barefoot to home went viral. Without food, water and other necessities the images captured the crisis in the Indian society. Although the lockdown was necessary, however, millions of people moved out of urban areas into rural areas increasing the risk of infection. On top of it India’s testing of Covid-19 is relatively very low (just around 123 per million) and the country is spending below 2 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
The rise of communalism in India has to be seen in context of slowdown in Indian economy, failure of government to contain corruption and mismanaging spread of Covid-19. In order to foreshadow the failures of any government, there will a scapegoat – a bearded man with shalvar and kameez and a skull cap?
(Author is pursuing PhD at Aligarh Muslim University. Ideas expressed are personal.)