To Wear or Not to Wear

Did Modi think by making him wear the skullcap Muslims were trying to dupe him? Or did he merely think he should not give the impression to his supporters and antagonists alike that he had fallen prey to a trick, and become a possible object of ridicule?

Manash Bhattacharjee Delhi

 

Uneasy lies the head that wears a (skull) cap

~ With apologies to Shakespeare, in Henry IV.

 

To wear or not to wear the skullcap – that is the (secular) question!

No one to my knowledge has so far mentioned the most obvious thing in the topi controversy. Among some communities in India, the phrase “Topi pehnana” (making someone wear a cap) carries a connotation of ridicule that means the person allowed himself to be duped. The sarcastic accusation against Gandhi is well known, that though he made everyone else wear the Gandhi topi, he himself did not wear it, meaning to say he duped others with the (apparently tricky) significance of his own cap but he did not allow himself to be tricked. So perhaps we too can connote that Modi, by refusing to wear the skullcap, fell prey to the popular cultural prejudice by implying, ‘I won’t allow myself to be duped by the Muslims.’

Though this whole matter lies at the level of perception and speculation, it cannot be brushed aside, because politics is a lot about both. So we can ask the question, what can possibly be Modi’s perception of the gesture of the Muslims? Did he think by making him wear the skullcap Muslims were trying to dupe him? Or did he merely think he should not give the impression to his supporters and antagonists alike that he had fallen prey to a trick, and become a possible object of ridicule? If he thought the latter, then it’s merely Modi’s way of staying out of this potentially risky act. But if he thought the former, then it would prove that he felt the Muslims were making a false show of love, admiration and respect. If this possibility holds, it would further raise the obvious question: Why would Modi suspect that the Muslims want to make a fool of him? Since the whole episode is centered on the elections, there has to be a political reason why the Muslims would want to do that. Is the community trying to placate Modi in the event of his becoming Prime Minister? If the answer is yes, what does such an act of placation signify? That the Muslims are apprehensive, even scared of their future in Modi-ruled India? If Modi suspects that is the reason, why does he not try to allay their apprehensions and fears by wearing the skullcap? What prevents him from attaining at least a semblance of goodwill? It would have also countered his image of being anti-Muslim. But though he agreed to don the green chadar, Modi did not accept the cap. Why?