It has been a confusing time for the Modi fans who ache for approval from their idol.
Since the BJP came back to power, the bhakts have decided to give Jawaharlal Nehru a break and turned their sights on Mahatma Gandhi instead.
With their representatives at various levels of government doing their best to insult the man known as the Father of the Nation – down to calling him the Father of Pakistan, the Son of the Nation, and referring to his assassin as a “patriot” – they have begun a campaign to honour a man who was convicted of being a co-conspirator in the assassination of Gandhi.
This man is V D Savarkar, Hindutva ideologue, one of the founding fathers of bigotry, and as his letters show, a weak-willed prisoner who pleaded with the British for clemency when he was incarcerated in the Andaman Islands.
The bhakts, in government as well as on Twitter, have been calling for Savarkar to be awarded the highest civilian title in the country, Bharat Ratna.
Narendra Modi, for his part, said he would never forgive Pragya Thakur for calling Nathuram Godse a “patriot”.
He also recently met the film fraternity to discuss ways in which Mahatma Gandhi should be popularised.
If you’ve been to the cinema recently, you would have noticed a video featuring a dozen A-list and B-list actors from Bollywood, spouting pop philosophy and calling for “change”.
Around the time photographs from the event began to surface, there was a trend on Twitter, in both English and Hindi – “Boycott Muslims”.
Unfortunately for the bhakts, Modi did not seem to have got the message.
One of the photographs from the event had him posing with two of India’s most popular Muslims, actors Shah Rukh Khan and Aamir Khan.
Even more damningly for the bhakts, both these men would fit their definition of “love jihadis”.
They married Hindu women, with Aamir Khan even accomplishing this feat twice.
The photograph was taken at the same event, titled – or should we say hashtagged – “Change Within”. In the nearly ten-minute video from the event, we see Modi walking in to kitschy heroic music. As it happens, the first hand he shakes belongs to Shah Rukh Khan. Not long ago, the bhakts wanted Shah Rukh Khan to go to Pakistan. Even more recently, they wanted him boycotted.
It appears the saffron enthusiasts are undergoing a crisis. They are not sure whether to insult Gandhi or idolise him.
The man whom Donald Trump called “The Father of India” – and most of us can agree that history is unlikely to be Trump’s forte – believes Gandhi needs to be popularised, and that Bollywood stars hold the solution to this.
In the meanwhile, his aficionados believe the man who plotted Gandhi’s assassination should find a place among the “jewels of India”.
The Change Within Meet, which commemorates the 150th birth anniversary of Gandhi, was ostensibly held to brainstorm ways in which Gandhi’s ideas should be propagated through television and cinema. Of course, as with most functions attended by a prime minister, it turned into a celebration of clothing and photographs, but that is beside the point.
Perhaps the bhakts would be further inconvenienced by the notion that some of the ideas that will be popularised are not exactly in keeping with their own beliefs.
In 1919, for instance, Gandhi said, “I would not kill a human being for the protection of a cow, as I will not kill a cow for saving a human life, be it ever so precious.”
In 1947, he said, “India is the land not only of the Hindus, but also of the Mussalmans, the Sikhs, the Parsis, the Christians, and the Jews, and all who claim to be Indian and are loyal to the Indian Union.”
He also didn’t quite subscribe to the notion of cows being reared for the benefit of humans.
While he embraced the notion of “cow protection”, this extended to protecting them from rape and industrialised production of milk for human consumption.
He vowed never to drink cow’s milk about a century before the large scale use of milking machines, which cause infections to the udders of cows and are excruciatingly painful if left on for longer than a few minutes.
He found it inhuman that while cows were being worshipped as representatives of The Mother Goddess, their own calves were discarded within hours of their birth. Male newborn calves were typically sent off to be killed for their leather.
Under such circumstances, it would appear Modi is trolling the habitual trolls with his newfound love for Gandhi’s principles, and his refusal to boycott Muslims.
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the author of Invisible Men: Inside India's Transmasculine Networks (2018) and Hitched: The Modern Woman and Arranged Marriage (2013). She tweets @k_nandini. Her website is: www.nandinikrishnan.com