‘The Delhi result is not due to CAA but due to freebies being offered. Globally, governments cannot give grants just like that. In India, state governments can and they are doing so since they are reaping electoral dividends.’
New Delhi: The Bharatiya Janata Party has been unable to breach Arvind Kejriwal’s Delhi fortress second time in a row despite focusing heavily on national issues including the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the Shaheen Bagh protests. As we decode the Delhi mandate and its larger pan-India impact, we sit down with American Vedic guru and scholar, Dr David Frawley to understand how much the intensifying anti-CAA protests will impact the Indian polity and what his vision is of the proposed Ram Mandir. Edited excerpts:
Q: How do you read the Delhi results since BJP’s entire focus was on the anti CAA protests, but that issue could not connect with the electorate?
A: Delhi election seems to be a combination of many factors, both local and national. So while the BJP did see an increase in its vote share and number of seats as compared to the last election, there were other factors at play. This was not a national election but a local one. Local issues are something that have to be dealt with by the local BJP unit and not the national leadership and the Prime Minister. Also this is an election that had many other things, for instance, we saw what all Kejriwal did—he chanted Hanuman Chalisa, said “Bharat Mata ki Jai”. And some people were not happy with Kejriwal for doing all this in the election.
Q: Do you think the ongoing CAA protests had any bearing on the Delhi election?
A: Yes, the protests have had an impact. These have been backed by jihadists and Marxists. And that has now been very clearly exposed. The Amendment to the Citizenship Act is aimed to address the persecution of religious minorities in the Islamic countries of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh and has no impact on Indian Muslims. It’s a false propaganda that was timed with the Delhi election. CAA is a pretext; protests are essentially about the construction of Ram Mandir and abrogation of Article 370 and that is what most people have now been able to understand. But the question that I ask is whether these protests are now going to work as intimidation or whether people will go against these protestors.
Q: Do you expect these protests to escalate given that it is being perceived that the Delhi mandate was a clear referendum on the CAA where it has been rejected?
A: These Shaheen Bagh protests can continue if they are peaceful. Around the world, protests keep happening on causes that people want to be associated with. But these will not escalate and will most certainly not last till the next election, which is Bihar. In the first term of Prime Minister Narendra Modi there were the “award wapsi” narrative and the “attacks” on churches in Delhi. These developments were well timed and almost immediately disappeared after elections, despite many believing it was very significant. In his second term, PM Modi has the CAA protests which are supported by Marxists and jihadi elements. “Award wapsi” didn’t matter in his first term, the CAA will not have an impact now. So these protests will continue in some form or the other. After the defeat in 2019, the forces supporting such protests have become more desperate and will now resort to anything. The Delhi result is not due to CAA but due to freebies being offered. Globally, governments cannot give grants just like that. In India, state governments can and they are doing so since they are reaping electoral dividends.
Q: What do you think about the issue of Ram Mandir that has been resolved now with the focus now shifting towards construction of the temple?
A: The only way India can truly honour its culture, tradition, history and civilisation is by building the Ram Mandir as a global heritage site. Not just in India, Hindus and tourists from Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Indonesia (particularly Bali), will come to Ayodhya due to the reach and impact of Ramayana. The temple premises in Ayodhya should be made into a seat of learning. People like Asaduddin Owaisi who have been making disparaging comments about the Supreme Court decision and the Hindu community should know that the Babri mosque was never a sacred site for Muslims around the world, but Ram Janmabhumi is sacred for every Hindu. In fact, I hope there should now be a movement towards reclaiming the other two holy sites of Hindus—Kashi and Mathura. It has to be a through process and I hope that it starts soon.
Q: You have been at the forefront of freeing Hindu temples from government control, but since this falls under the ambit of state governments how confident are you that this is possible?
A: Temples should not have to pay their revenues to states. Since they don’t take anything from mosques and churches, state should not be able to legally take anything from temples as well. I think the Sabarimala case could be a defining moment in the larger movement to free Hindu temples because there are legal issues there. Because the Hindus accept all religions but this is a specific sect issue. This is exactly what the Marxists have been saying all along—since Christians and Muslims also go to Sabarimala, they should also have a say in the overall management and policy of the temple. So in effect this is punishing the Hindus for being liberal. There are also larger issues related to specialized temples, temples for certain communities. The point is there is a far greater variety of temples in India and essentially that is not the domain of the courts.
Q:At a time when the Pakistani diaspora has become extremely active against India, like how they came in busloads to disrupt the Howdy, Modi! event in Houston or attacked the Indian High Commission in London last year, what do you think NRIs can do to correct the false narrative.
A: Most Indians are ideal immigrants—they are better educated, have higher per capita income, have higher amount of per capita asset ownership, have lower crime rate and contribute more to the GDP. However, unlike the Pakistanis, the Indian diaspora is not consolidated and does not vote. So despite being more in number, Indians in UK are not wooed the way Pakistanis are, simply because they are not voting together and most are not even voting. So my advice to all NRIs would be that they should organize themselves even better and should vote. Only then the Indian diaspora will go a long way in creating a very significant voice of India overseas. But till then Pakistanis will be the one getting more attention and kid glove treatment, whether in UK or in US.