The NDA government has demonstrated great ideological clarity since it came to power in 2014. Within six months of Narendra Modi’s second term as Prime Minister, his government took several monumental steps to strengthen the territorial integrity of India as well as bring to closure disputes that have festered in the country ever since independence. MEA Jaishankar, too, has on several occasions hinted towards the fact that the current government wishes to resolve disputes that it has inherited from predecessors.
Narendra Modi has always demonstrated remarkable clarity in matters of governance and politics. It was, perhaps, most evident during a debate on the Big Fight with Rajdeep Sardesai as the anchor in the aftermath of the 9/11 terror attacks almost two decades ago. During the debate, he called out the mentality and the worldview that is now amplified by the anti-CAA protesters when they made ‘La ilaha ilallah’ the central theme of their protests.
In the debate, Narendra Modi said, “Indian media never had the courage to use the term Islamic Terrorism because pseudo-secularism weighed heavily upon them. When, last Tuesday, after the attack in the USA, when global newspapers started using the term, then for the first time, and I wish to compliment Rajdeep Sardesai for the same, that they have demonstrated the courage to say the truth.”
However, immediately, Rajdeep Sardesai “clarifies” that NDTV had not used the world “Islamic terrorism” in its reports. “We don’t need the compliments from you,” Rajdeep is heard saying in the video clip just after Narendra Modi’s opening remarks.
Narendra Modi, who hadn’t become the Chief Minister of Gujarat yet, added, “As far as Islam is concerned, it has numerous positive aspects, yes. The question is, in what way is it being used by people today. Where do the roots of it lie? When one community argues that their community is different from everyone and superior when it is argued that until and unless you adopt my ways, you will not be able to attain Moksh, Allah or Jesus, then conflict is bound to arise.”
He continued, “And I believe, India has advocated the philosophy of Truth is one but approaching it is many. If this remains the root of one’s ideology, that every path is equal, then there’s no possibility of conflict. But when I argue that yours is false, mine is true, conflict arises and hatred manifests itself. And when this hatred combines with sentiments of nationalism, then terrorism occurs.”
The politician who would go on to fundamentally alter the direction of the Indian State also said that instead of criticising Islam as a whole, it would be better to focus on those elements who are using it to further their nefarious agenda. Rajdeep Sardesai, true to his nature, quickly retorts, “We haven’t used the term Islamic Terrorism, we have only raised the question. So we don’t need the compliments from you at the moment.”
The words spoken by Narendra Modi almost two decades ago are still relevant to this day. The notions of supremacy that he alluded to during the debate are relevant to this day as can be seen in the manner in which ‘la ilaha ilallah’ was made the central chorus of the anti-CAA crowd. ‘La ilaha ilallah’ is a declaration that means ‘There is no God but Allah’.
It’s a slogan that denies the existence of all Hindu Gods and Goddesses and calls them false. That it has been made the central focus of political protests ought to concern every sensible citizen of the country. Even Shashi Tharoor, one of the most ‘secular’ politicians from the Congress party was disturbed by it and when he called it out, he faced intense criticism and protests from the anti-CAA crowd.
Later in the debate, Narendra Modi further elucidates the manner in which terrorism manifests itself. He said, speaking of the ideology of the terrorists, “Terrorism has reached the strength it has today because it is intertwined with fundamentalism. You have to understand that Muslims, and when I say Muslims I do not mean Islam, they have divided the world into three parts.”
Explaining himself, he said, “One, Dar-ul-Aman, second, Dar-ul-Harb, third, Dar-ul-Islam. Dar-ul-Aman means land of peace, that is, where Islam has reached or not in a position to assert itself. There, peace should prevail. Then Dar-ul-Harb, where you have the strength, fight for it, plant your flag. And the third is Dar-ul-Islam, to convert the whole world to Islam. To this end, certain political activists who belong to the Islamic faith are indulging in these activities. Until and unless we understand these people, we will not be able to tackle terrorism.”
As expected, Modi set the cat among the pigeons with his explanation of the ideology that motivates terrorists. Rajdeep Sardesai, consistent with his nature, tried to interrupt him on several occasions but he managed to get his points across in spite of the cacophony. Narendra Modi did not stray away from his points even when accusations of Islamophobia were levelled at him. He said clearly that he was not levelling allegations at the entire Muslim community but only explaining the motivations that drive terrorists to commit the crimes they do.