By Ram Puniyani, The Milli Gazette, 21 January 2007
Elections for two major state assemblies are due shortly. The electoral wing of RSS, i.e, BJP, is also gearing up to face the elections. Its national image is very low; the major reasons for its poor image and low morale have been the debacle at the Lok Sabha elections, Advani's “secular Jinnah” pronouncement, the murder of its major leader Pramod Mahjan by his own brother for mysterious reasons, and the failure of many of its communal campaigns that did not took off properly. But that's just one side of the story. The deeper communalization of middle classes, the cooption of Adivasis and Dalits into Hindutva fold, the intense communalization of media and state apparatus all over, and more so in BJP ruled states, is posing a major threat to the democratic values, minority rights and to the very existence of democratic polity in the country. The forthcoming elections in Gujarat are posing a stiff challenge to secular elements, with Modi firmly entrenched in the seat of power and the weak opposition, the Congress, in Gujarat.
The blasts in Nanded, Mumbai, Malegaon and the “encounter” near RSS head office in Nagpur, were the events which left a different mark on the political canvass of the country. Nanded was one instance of the bomb blasts where the clear hand of RSS progeny, Bajrang Dal, could be seen and was even investigated partly. But for reasons best known to the political masters and the communalized police apparatus, which develops weak knees while implicating communal elements, the matters rested there only. The vertical and horizontal connections of these were not drawn out. The Nanded blasts in Maharashtra (April 7, 2006) were underplayed, probably deliberately, to give the escape route to RSS and its progeny, which has by now good bit of sympathizers among those wearing Khaki.
The Nanded blast was followed by an encounter, near the RSS head office in Nagpur, with the alleged terrorists, from Pakistan. A citizen's inquiry committee headed by the retired high court judge (http://www.pluralindia.com/articles.php? id=122) demonstrated competently the holes in the police version, but the state government preferred to ignore the clear- cut weaknesses in the story put out by the police. The deeper truth behind these incidents may never come out. The Mumbai blasts of July were followed by the blasts in Malegaon (Maharashtra), where the blasts took place near a Kabristan killing around 38 Muslims. In this case again the 'usual suspects' made the job of investigation easy. Despite strong protests from minority community and by social activist's, matters rest there only and more and more people from the minority community have been put behind bars with even the slightest suspicion.
By now, two set of procedures and legal systems are coming into operation in practice. The one is for the majority community and another for those belonging to hapless minorities. The latter can be picked up for even the smallest of suspicions, and the judgments in those cases do look different. Probably we are on way to the RSS ideologue, M. S. Golwalkar’s, formulation that minorities will have to live at the mercy of majority (i.e., its self proclaimed representative, the RSS).
Who knows this may be their way of paying tribute to this Hindutva ideologue, whose birth centenary is being celebrated this year. Golwalkar, who never took part in freedom movement, who upheld the laws of Manu, and who was jailed in the aftermath of Gandhi murder for his role in spreading hatred, due to which the nation lost its Father, Mahatma Gandhi. His blunt formulations eulogizing German Nazism, his concept of Hindu Rashtra and his treatment of minorities is so “forthright” that during the current times when RSS still needs the democratic set up to capture power and to put forward an acceptable democratic face, his book, "We or Our Nationhood defined", which has all his blunt formulations, is being disowned by his own followers.
The BJP ruled states of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, and Rajasthan are imposing RSS agenda in a very overt way. Singing of Vandematram, and tampering with the school books to project the RSS ideology, is in full flow. The controversy around Vande Matram is being kept alive, despite the fact it is a national song and not National anthem, despite the fact that singing even a National anthem is not compulsory, despite knowing the fact that it has been used more as a war cry during episodes of sectarian violence by the communal elements in the pre-independence period. The state of the implementation of law and norms in BJP ruled states is abysmal, with Muslim and Christian minorities facing flak on every conceivable occasion. The attacks on Christian minorities are chronic and sustained all around. The Muslim minority is yet to recover from the Gujarat carnage. The rehabilitation is nowhere in site. The legal process has hardly delivered any justice to the victims. The state government, whose primary responsibility it is to do the rehabilitation work, has practically washed its hands off, while the Central government is yet to implement a sincere policy towards that.
In many of these states, "Freedom of Religion" bills are being contemplated or implemented, despite their being contrary to the values of Indian Constitution. The Indian Constitution guarantees the right to preach and propagate one's religion. Despite that, these new bills dictate that prior permission of authorities is a must and already many a Christian missionaries are being beaten up or intimidated on the grounds that they are converting. Also, RSS, which is the political organization in disguise of culture, is being classified as cultural organization deliberately in BJP ruled states, opening the gates for civil servants, the supposedly neutral arm of the state, to join this organization. Just to remind ourselves this organization's aim is to build Hindu nation by overthrowing the democratic charter of the state.
Down South, with the BJP joining the government in Karnataka, the issue of Baba Budan Giri Dargah has been brought to the fore. Here, Hindus and Muslims both have been offering prayers since centuries. BJP has been trying to claim that it is essentially a temple, Datta Peetham, and not a syncretic shrine. Despite the noting in Gazette of its syncretic character, BJP has slowly built this issue up as the “Ayodhya of the South”. This year, the matter got heated up more due to the patronage of BJP elements of the government. Also, Tipu Sultan, who was an ardent anti-British, is being denigrated by the BJP propaganda. Incidentally, Tipu has an important place amongst the major figures from Karnataka; he also laid down his life fighting the British.
The major issue which rattled up the communal forces at national level was the appointment of Sachar Committee to prepare a picture of socio-economic conditions of Muslim community. This had come up twenty five years after the Gopal Singh Committee, formed for similar purpose. Incidentally, that report was not implemented. The RSS combine, particularly BJP, opposed the efforts of Sachar Committee to gather the status of employment about Muslims in army. The report, as such, confirms the fears that despite RSS combines propaganda that Muslims are being appeased, the fact that they are being discriminated against. Today, large section of the 13.4 per cent Muslims are at the bottom of socio-economic ladder, under-represented in jobs, marginalized in bank loans, way behind in educational acquisitions, and witnessing a constant decline in political representations. Not to forget, they are over-represented in jails. It is no wonder! Low socio-economic status is supplemented by the anti-Muslim bias of state apparatus which operates against them as it is broadly gripped by anti-minority myths. Prime Minister and the present government seems to have taken up the repor
t seriously, and the PM has gone on to state that this deprived minority has the “first claim” on resources. The idea was to convey that the community has been pushed to the brink as far as different indices of development are concerned, and hence needs special nursing of its secular interests. But BJP saw in this the golden opportunity to lambast the government for its minority appeasement. The long overdue affirmative action for this community is being presented as being a communal move. This criticism of BJP shows the total lack of democratic, humane values needed for social growth. That, by leaving one major component of society behind, we are bound to suffer in the long term, is of no concern to the practitioners of communal politics.
Afzal Guru, who was put behind the bars in the case of attack on Parliament on 13th December 2001, was awarded death sentence by the apex court. The primary investigation done in this case is faulty, and a lot of this is based on the confession of Guru himself. That the confession was extracted under extreme torture goes without saying. A media trial of Guru was also conducted by the police. All the courts trying him, exonerated him of the charges under POTA, and did point out that he was not part of any terrorist outfit, but retained the death sentence primarily because of his confession. He was also not given adequate legal assistance. One of the reasons for awarding the death sentence is to quench the “collective conscience” of the nation! That speaks volumes about the nature of the judgment. The hanging of Maqbool Butt in 1984 had triggered the intensification of militancy in Kashmir. Surely, this hanging based on the weak case will have adverse impact on the peace process in Kashmir. But, meanwhile, RSS combine is going hammer and tongs, demanding the hanging of Guru and they are all out to make the communal currency out of this. Today, the President is having two sets of petitions on his table, one requesting clemency and retrial, and other baying for the blood of this Kashmiri.
Two significant but under-projected reports which were released during 2006, and which went unnoticed were the one by the India People's Tribunal (IPT) on Communalism in Orissa and the other by the Secretary General of UN, of an initiative called Alliance of Civilizations. The IPT in Orissa, under the leadership of Retired Chief Justice of Kerala High Court, Justice Usha, found that the rights of minorities are being violated with impunity in Orissa. The RSS combine organizations — Bajarang Dal, VHP and Vanavasi Kalyan Ashram — are intimidating them and spreading hate against them, with the state acting as the onlooker. The major themes, on which the assault is being sustained, relates to the bogey of conversions by Christian missionaries and the anti-National character of Muslim minorities.
The state of affairs has been termed as very alarming by the tribunal, requiring the intervention of Central Government and the National Human Rights Commission. These minorities are living under fear and the basic norm on which the democracy sustains, the security of minorities, is being violated with impunity. The tribunal urges for the restoration of communal peace through affirmative interventions.
Communal poison in India draws a lot from the worldwide propagation of “Clash of Civilizations” by the power that is, and the acts of attacks against the countries where the larger population is Muslim. UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, was a helpless witness when the US launched aggressions after aggression on the West Asian countries — Iraq, Afghanistan and then again Iraq — killing close to a million people and destroying the region. Kofi Annan saw the bypassing of United Nations, when this entire rampage was being conducted under the banner of Clash of Civilizations. The High level initiative with representatives from various countries has put out a brilliant report (http://www.unaoc.org/repository/report.htm), which points out that there is essentially an alliance between different civilizations, which are not hierarchical but supplementary to each other. The inference is that any attempt to demonize Islam, and civilization in Muslim countries, is basically motivated by politics and has nothing to do with the norms of civilization or religion as such. The report urges the powers and people around the World to stand up to the positive heritage of civilizations, and to restore the amity between people cutting across all the countries, religions and regions. One knows that UN has very limited appeal as it has been emasculated by the global bully. Even its moral appeal is not heeded to by the possessor of brute power, as it does not command any battalions. Will the conscience of the humanity rise to bypass the might of US to restore the humane values, which global human society have been developing over a period of centuries, and have currently come under the cloud due to the politics adorning the cloak of religious identity that remains a million dollar question.
As the year 2002 to came to end, the Kangaroo court set up by the occupation army in Iraq gave death penalty to Saddam Hussein. This is the last ditch attempt by US to save its face in the light of debacle of its West Asia policy to control the oil wealth in the World. This mighty nation is playing the villain to the global peace, being the biggest violator of human rights. While Saddam, a tyrant, was helped all through by Western powers in his policies of war against Iran, atrocities against Shias and Kurds, the present judicial assassination of Saddam, murder by proxy, is likely to worsen the communal strife and intensify the strife in Iraq, and the bogus claim of bringing “Democracy” to Iraq will remain a hollow claim only, as neither can democracy be imported nor can it be imposed from the top.
The year 2007 is likely to see the return of hard core Hindutva and Ram Temple on the agenda of BJPs electoral appeal. As such, again BJP is more comfortable with identity issues as they have bigger emotive appeal. The issues related to the secular interests of communities don't cut much ice with their scheme of things. It remains to be seen as to how much successful this will be in wooing the voters to the BJP kitty of votes. It is desperately trying to create more Ayodhya models, like in Bhopal, Kamaal Maula Masjid or in Karnataka Baba Budan Giri Dargah. It is bent to use terrorism, and also the Afzal Guru case for frightening the voters into its fold. The propaganda is shaping in such a way that sections of population do get swayed by these make-believe issues, although the place of such issues is very limited as far as livelihood is concerned. But since creating a fear consolidates the communities, it is likely to give some benefits to BJP electoral campaign.
The optimism for the future of democratic values lies in the rising resistance to the assertions of sectarianism amongst a section of people who are becoming more aware of the threat posed by the communal fascism. Various secular action groups, peace activists and minority rights groups are making their presence felt through their campaigns and deliberations. A good deal of literature against these threats is coming into circulation. This and the visible campaigns against injustice, through diverse activities, will surely work towards a society with amity and peace as the core values.
Source: The Milli Gazette, 16-31 January 2007, p. 7