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Mixed Bag for Hindutva Politics: Communalism 2005
02/09/2006
By Ram Puniyani

Year 2005 turned out to be a year of mixed fortunes for the right wing Hindutva politics. At surface it seemed that it is crumbling but deep down its grip on societal affairs is getting firmer at places. The electoral face of Hindutva politics, BJP, did not seem to recover from its humiliating defeat in the Lok Sabha elections of 2004. In different moves and strategies adopted by BJP, its frustration was writ large all through. The architect of Hindutva victory, Lal Krishna Advani in a desperate action to project a brand new image for its party did something unthinkable for Hindutva combine. In his trip to Pakistan, on the mausoleum of Mohammad Ali Jinnah he quoted Jinnah's speech in the Pakistan assembly, where he exhorted the people to leave the communal past behind, to regard religion as a private matter and to adopt the policy that people of all religions will be equal in the eyes of law. As such it was a perfectly correct quote and showed Jinnah's thinking at that time.

The problem lay in the fact Jinnah had been practicing communal politics for too long, leading the communal Muslim League to play a divisive role in partitioning the country. The triad which led to partition was British policy of divide and rule supplemented by politics of the Hindu communalism, Hindu Mahasabha and RSS on one side and the role of Muslim league on the other. Jinnah who began his career as a secular politician, soon left the Congress as Congress was adopting the path of mass movement, something alien to Jinnah's elitist approach to the political affairs of the country. The problem lay in the fact that after remaining communal for so long you cannot suddenly wish away the communalists who congregate around you. Also for RSS which had built its cadres on the "Hate Jinnah, Hate Muslims", it would have been a tactical disaster to look at this aspect of Jinnah.

Advani was clear that the Hindutva has paid rich dividends for increasing the electoral clout of BJP via the Babri demolition and engineering of communal violence, but now it is impossible to come to power again on the same plank. His efforts to change the 'line' of BJP politics failed abysmally as RSS, the real controller of the BJP, disagreed with this change and Advani has been forced to bid adieu to his long stint as the strategist of the Hindutva politics in the electoral arena. One sidelight of this was that some RSS swayamsevaks did project Jinnah as being good and Gandhi being the villain, the person responsible for partition. Interestingly some RSS sections have been cleverly using this argument to denigrate Gandhi once again on the pretext of Jinnah controversy.

With Rajnath Singh taking over from Advani, the signals are loud and clear of the supremacy of RSS line. RSS is more concerned about continuing with its Hate Minorities tirade to keep building its onslaught through the ground level work, through its different children organizations.

This year also showed the holes in the parliamentary credentials of BJP. On most of the issues related to the problems of people, it shied away from the debate in parliament. Its only method has been to stall the proceedings of parliament and to take delegations to President as a substitute for its inability to be able to debate the matters in Parliament, the forum of people. For those believing in Fascist politics, Parliament and democracy is a mere means to achieve their goal of authoritarian state over a period of time by eating through the foundations of democracy either through force or through a take over of state apparatus.

In Feb-March one video of the previous Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee came to surface. In this Mr. Vajpayee is ecstatic about the forthcoming events of 6 th Dec.1992. His body language shows assertion and glee, he says that did does not know, what will happen tomorrow 06-12-1992, and also that he has been told not to go to Ayodhya on that day. In all probability the inference is that he was part of the cleverly planned demolition where his role was reserved for the post demolition damage control. With this probably the last mask the face of 'liberal Vajpayee' also fell to pieces.

The nature of RSS has been a matter of debate for many. It loves to project itself as the cultural organization. It trains the young boys into the ideology of Hindutva, Hate minorities. This year one research institute based in Virginia came out with its report, in which RSS has been characterized as a terrorist organization and is clubbed with the groups representing 'new religious' movements, like Al Qaeda. This did create a good deal of ruckus but for reasons not told to the public it kept quiet about this characterization of itself as a terrorist organization. In a way the characterization is very appropriate as what the formations like Al Qaeda achieve through bullets, RSS achieves similar goals through ideological indoctrination of young minds. The logical trajectory of this is again the same, violence at broad social scale at regularly occurring intervals.

The population of 'others' is rising, Hindus will be reduced to a minority, India will become an Islamic state, (or a Christian state), has been the core of RSS propaganda and indoctrination. In democracy as such it does not matter as to what is the religion of the citizens. RSS probably does not know this democratic norm. But for consolidating its politics it did misuse the faulty demographics put out by the Census commission. In this prevailing scenario the Census Commission's faulty analysis that the rate of rise of Hindu population has declined from 25.1% in the decades of 81 to 91 to 20.3% during 91-2001 and the rate of Muslim growth has gone up from 34.5% during 81-91% to 36% during 91-2001, gave a good handle to RSS combine to beat the minorities with. This 'conclusion' of Census commission came as the God's gift to the myth manufacturing machinery. Without wasting a minute various functionaries of this RSS machine started pouring their venom out in the open. Right next day a National newspaper came out with the analytic news that Census commission has goofed and goofed badly. In the first ever report on religions, it forgot that in the data put out in previous reports, data of 91 did not have Muslim majority Jammu and Kashmir in the data. So the comparison and the supposed rate of rise sounded bigger. In real fact there is a decline in the Muslim rate of growth to 29.3 i.e. a decline of 3.7%. The total population of Muslims remains 13.4% while the Hindu population is 80.5%.

At the time of partition the Muslim population was 11.6%. Even in the current data there are some holes. To begin with many an Adivasis have now got them registered in the category, 'other religions', rather than the previous Hindu, where they were placed automatically. This time Jains have also been put in a separate category so this decline in the rate of 'rise of Hindu population'. The National Census commission did not highlight these intricacies of the data analysis. It changes the interpretation in a very serious manner. Was it deliberate? Shiv Sena branch of Dharampur in Bijnor, UP went on to declare Jagrook (Aware person) award too few Hindu women who have more than five children. To give a sanction to this agenda, the RSS supremo went on to advise the Hindus to have at least 3 children and even to go up to 17 children to stave off the "demographic threat" to the majority of Hindus. One is keenly awaiting Mr. Sudarshan setting the precedent in this direction and junior Sudarshans are very keenly awaited! It is also rumored that the vow of celibacy which RSS Pracharaks have to take may be waived off in future so that they can also contribute to the demographic cause of Hindus! With the sex scandal tapes of these Pracharaks of RSS coming to the fore, it may be another reason to lift this celibacy clause for Pracharkas of RSS.

While releasing the CD on the life of Laxmibai Kelkar, founder of RSS subordinate Rashtra Sevika Samiti, Sudarshan did come out with the elaboration of RSS's patriarchal ideology. He stated that separate Rashtra Sevika Samiti was founded by Mrs. Kelkar as Indian society does not approve of boys and girls working together. He also said that this working together of boys and girls has adverse consequences on the society! That is the reason that women in Hindutva fold can be in Rashtra Sevika Samiti, Durga Vahini or BJP Mahila Morcha but not in the hallowed precincts of the decision making RSS.

Handling the Dalit issues has been a major problem for Hindutva politics. While its ideologues like Arun Shourie attack Ambedkar head on, its more deceitful ideologues have started saying that Dr. Amedkar and RSS ideas were matching and that Dr. Ambedkar went on to draft this 'western constitution' under the pressure of Congress. Nothing can be farther from truth. But this is the constantly ongoing stream in the manipulative politics of RSS, which for electoral and manipulative reasons has started seeing the utility of distorting Ambedkar thought to suit its political agenda.

While at national electoral level Hindutva is in shambles, its grass root work is deepening at the same time. The states where BJP governments are ruling are gradually marching on the lines of Gujarat, polarization of communities on religious lines is increasing, the state sponsored activities are getting a deeper communal direction, the minority ghettoisation is on the rise and acts of violence here and there are on the upswing. The states where the local governments are sympathetic to BJP or are its allies, the similar mechanisms are in progress, Orissa and other such states are no exception. In some other states like Kerala RSS has consolidated its ideological work and further consolidates the same through incidents like the one which happened in Marad.

The skeletons from the past continue to rattle till the justice is done to riot victims. The tabling of Nanvati commission report on Anti Sikh pogrom showed the same. The report does not implicate the guilty in the way it should have and its recommendations area also too mild to assuage the hurt of the Sikh community. The redeeming aspect of this was that Prime Minister apologized for this pogrom in fair bit of sincerity and some compensation is being expedited. Better late than never!

Gujarat by now is a "Hindu Rashtra in one state". The aftermath of violence has totally ghettoized the minorities, the polarization is to the extreme and the feelings of biases against the Muslim and Christian minorities have peaked to a great extent. The process of rehabilitation was totally ignored by the state government and the relief measures were a private affair, at the mercy of charity organizations. Legal remedy of the injustices has been a distant dream. Zaheera Sheikh, who was paid 18 lakhs to turn hostile, was declared to be the one lying on oath by a committee formed by Supreme Court. While this case was slightly pursued, other such cases are lying unattended. It is estimated that around 2000 such cases have not even been taken up at all. The recently formed Nyay Pathiks are picking up the threads and are trying to initiate the process of getting justice for those who suffered due to the loss of their near and dear one's, the physical humiliation and loss of property. At the same time many a serious NGOs have initiated the steps for the education and social welfare of the victims. The recovery of several skeletons from the mass grave on the banks of Panam River in the thick of suburbs of Lunawada (Pandharwada) shows the mirror to our society. The Police in order to hush up the matter are claiming that all these bodies are accounted for, while many of those who were declared as missing were buried here. The minority, especially Muslims need an all round program not only to heal the wounds and trauma of the Gujarat carnage but as such need to overcome the handicap of discrimination in education and employment.

At political level a large chunk of Gujarat BJP had been opposed to the dictatorial methods of Narendra Modi. Keshubhai Patel the previous Chief Minister called Modi's rule as 'mini emergency'. Despite all this Modi continues to rule with the iron fist. His opponents know the fate of Haren Pandya who deposed against him to the citizen's tribunal. In a polarized society of Gujarat Modi's aggressive stance has paid 'rich dividends' for his own self. In the scenario where fear has been installed in the majority Hindus that Muslims are terrorists, it has been successfully propagated that only a brusque person like Modi is the savior of Hindu society. As such the social common sense in Gujarat is heavily dominated by anti minority, (Muslim and Christian) sentiments and misunderstandings. These myths have become deeper and more pernicious after the carnage. Some social groups are making efforts to work against these but these efforts are too little for the type of challenge which this state is facing at the moment. The petty Muslim traders, richshaw drivers and the like are having a tough time making a living due to the unwritten social boycott against them.

The continuing anti Christian violence is going at deeper social engineering of Hinduising Adivasis. Shabri is being promoted as goddess amongst Adivasis and Hanuman as the major deity. The same process is on in many a state where Adivasis are in good number. In Gujarat massive Shabri Kumbh is been organized in mid February 2006 to mobilize the Adivasis and to convert them into Hinduism. Most of the development funds of Dangs are being diverted to provide the infrastructure for this Kumbh, which is being organized by non Adivisasis. RSS is putting full strength in this. It goes without saying that the Christian minorities working and living in the far off areas are feeling very insecure and also feeling intimidated due to this process, which carries a subtle message against the Christian minorities on the pretext that conversion activities are being done by the Christian missionaries. The sectarianism cannot just be directed outside. The opposition to the Muslim boy Hindu girl marriage had taken horrendous form when the Hindu girls were abducted from their marital homes and the boys beaten up. Now a new outfit has been floated by a VHP person, Babu Bajrangi, who is also the prime accused n the Naroda patia carnage.   Now, this Bajrangi has abducted 4 Patel girls who married non Patels, the Maharashtrian Hindus. Sectarianism has its own logic; it just cannot stop at Hindu-Muslim equation.

The other states with BJP government have devised different techniques to push forward the Hindutva agenda. In Madhya Pradesh, while the political compulsions are resulting in the change of Chief Ministers at regular intervals, the ground level communalization goes unabated. Uma Bharati, the first Chief Minister one after the defeat of Congress Govt. was heavily inclined to promoting cows. The CM's residence got converted into a Goshala (Cow shed), with number of 'saints' giving company to this holy animal. A cow based economy was conceived and efforts were made to implement it. But meanwhile the Sadhvi Uma had to go. Trishul diksha which was banned earlier has now become a regular affair with distribution of knives disguised as Trishul being distributed at some price. This is accompanied by intense communalization and feelings of hatred against the minorities. Keeping in tune with the patriarchal notions of society, Maharani Laxmibai Girls College, which was located in a Muslim majority area, has been shifted to Hamidia College. This on the ground that during last few years over 400 odd Hindu girls have been lured into marriage by Muslim youth. "Our" girls are being taken over by "them", the Muslims, has been the major ground for this move, which will surely reduce the number of Muslim girls coming to the college since it is being shifted to far off place and also many a departments will have to be closed as Hamidia College does not have all the faculties. A similar move was forced in Indore where Muslim youth were barred from celebrating Navratri festival on the ground that they will be luring away 'our girls'. Indore also saw the state government totally supporting the hooligans of VHP/Bajrang dal in breaking the security cordon at the Airport and obstructing the take off of a flight. These hooligans were rampaging and demanding the release of their coworkers who were arrested for rioting. The intensification in the activities of Vanavasi Kalyan Ashram in the Jhabua area has gone up since the Hindu Maha Sangam there couple of years ago. Trishul Diksha has been spreading in different areas and it is reflective of the state patronized communalization of society in the state.

Rajasthan is another state where the communalization process is very intense due to the BJP government's direct promotion of these activities. Apart from the frequent Trishul Dikshas, communal violence in Banswada has been having a serious impact in the society. Vasundhara Scindia has been encouraging the VHP, Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram people to go ahead with their agenda without any restrictions. The local MPs have been pumping their funds for the spread of Sarswati Shishu Mandirs. A report from Bhilwada indicated the rapid spread of Anti Muslim violence and attacks on mosques. In Maandal a saffron flag was put on the mosque and a placard was put with the slogan Jai Shri Ram. That the state complicity in these incidents prevails goes without saying.

Uttar Pradesh, the state where Ayodhya is located has been the hotbed of communalism as such. With the declining fortune of BJP the intensity of the problem is somewhat less. But here additionally there are other things like Mulayam government being soft on Hindutva for reasons which are overtly political. Here in Ayodhya Mahant Gyan Das has been holding Roza Iftar in Hanuman Gadhi temple, the biggest one in Ayodhya. This program which acted as the healing balm amongst the communities was well appreciated by both the communities. This year the local VHP came in the way of holding this function. It is a serious setback to the amity efforts in Ayodhya. UP witnessed the riots in Mau. The riot was preceded and accompanied by anti minority propaganda, the attack on their shops and religious places apart from the attacks on their lives. The administration, despite the claims of secularism and minority protection remained paralyzed on purpose, to let the rioters complete their work of intimidating the Muslim minority. It also showed the vulnerability of the Eastern UP, that the communal atmosphere is prevalent here and that one may have to witness the repeat of the violence.

The matters are more complicated in places like Orissa for example. Here the sustained work of VHP/VKA is sowing the seeds of hatred against the minorities to a large extent. The real problems related to land, the Adivasi rights, have been marginalized as in other Adivasi areas and the identity issues are brought to the fore. Orissa was the state where Pastor Stains was burnt alive, and that does reflect the reach of communal organizations, which persist and are actively doing their work of communalizing the society.

International situation is adding on to the anti Muslim propaganda in a serious way. After the invasion on Iraq, its occupation by U.S. armies continues. With lakhs of U.S. soldiers still present on the Iraqi soil, the accompanying social and political tensions continue to be serious. By now thousands of Iraqis and U.S. soldiers have lost their lives. The incidents like the one of Abu Ghraib are no exception and such events continue. Meanwhile George W. Bush dragged the Lord almighty in its political project by stating that he decided to invade Iraq on instructions from the Lord almighty himself. The regular resistance in Iraq does come in the form of acts of violence against the U.S. occupation, but due to the strong propaganda machine these acts are labeled as the terror acts of Muslims. France witnessed the violence from the immigrant, alienated Muslim youth living in the sub human conditions of Paris and other cities of France. These are the youth who came to France to make some living. The economic conditions have left no room for them to survive and their frustration of theirs' surfaced in the form of these despicable blind acts of terrorism, but it was projected to be one more act of Islamic terrorist.

At home the United Progressive alliance prepared the Bill to control the communal violence. The events of Gujarat have once again highlighted the fact that state Government is accomplice to many of the tragic events. In Gujarat it was on its display at its worst. The Bill submitted by the Government further put more powers in the hands of state machinery. It is clear that the riots can be controlled if the political will is there to do so. How that can be ensured is a million life question which such bills can not answer. The basic mechanisms need to put in place where the citizens are able to exercise their citizen's rights and demand for security and justice. The deeper malady of communalization of social space and state apparatus needs to be looked. There are some good measures which aim to declare a place as disturbed area, the provision to shift the cases in a different state but lot more is needed to modify this Bill before it can serve a suitable purpose. Many Human rights groups are currently deliberating seriously to put forward suggestions which can make the Bill close to what can be had under the present constraints.

The heartening bit of the adverse scenario has been the response of human rights groups gearing up to face the challenge of communalism in a serious way. The efforts to get justice for riot victims, to investigate the ongoing acts of violence, to try to broaden the awareness about the threat to democracy have some important tasks which many groups have taken up in all sincerity. And that's what gives hope for the future of democracy and secularism in the society.

The older 'allies' of BJP seem to be keeping a distance from it, but one cannot trust these opportunistic formations, as to when they will sit in the lap of BJP for political gains. BJP itself and its closest ally Shiv Sena seem to be having severe leadership crisis. The very survival of Shiv Sena is at stake. The BJP is embroiled in the revelation of various scandals, the cash for question scandal, in which majority of MPs are those from BJP and that too the one's with RSS background. The video of RSS pracharak Sanjay Joshi may be tip of the iceberg showing the deeper rot which is part of RSS system. The popular image of BJP is taking a sharp nose dive. At the same time the deeper communalization of society, the communalization of state apparatus and anti minority sentiments is on the upswing. While RSS shakhas are drawing lesser crowds, it work of cultural manipulation is going on stronger due to the seeds planted in sections of print and visual media. Sangh organizations like Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram are stronger in the Adivasi areas, discovering new Gods like Hanuman and new goddess Shabri for the Adivasis. The Samajik Samrasta Manch is trying to lure the Dalits into the trap of Hindutva politics. The lakhs of Pracharaks and swaymsevaks of RSS are going on with their usual work which has brought the communalism to the fore in India polity.