Ramped up, yet no harbinger
TEHELKA - 21 December 2011
Ram Puniyani examines RSS and its tenets of Hindutva that have found a new shoulder
THIS DECEMBER, the Babri demolition anniversary completed 19 years. On the occasion, many Muslim groups demanded the reconstruction of the masjid, a demand which is just, but mired in complex legalities as it involves diverse players. Once again it calls for the redefinition of Hindutva, which is not a religion of Hindus – Hinduism is. Hindutva is the politics of RSS; it is politics with sectarian vision. This is the vision of the affluent upper caste-elite aiming to abolish democracy. Their aim is to bring in a nation on the basis of a Hindu religion where the upper crust of society can rule as per the norms prevalent in the feudal society. The birth based hierarchy is presented as a glorious tradition in modern form and language. Babri Masjid was not just the demolition of a national monument; it was also the beginning of a phase of politics where the communal undercurrents of Indian politics surfaced amid the political scenario in the country. It was a signal for minority violence. It was a blatant insult for what the Indian Constitution stands for. It was also the first major step for communal parties that allowed them to occupy the seats of power at the Centre.
After the initial sacking of the BJP-ruled states, the polarisation caused by demolition and post-demolition violence rose to frightening levels. The communalised BJP that until then was at the margins of the political structure came to the fore as a major Opposition party. Its parent organisation, the real controller of Hindutva politics, RSS, started becoming more respectable and social thinking was further vitiated with the bias against minorities.
In due course of time, the other minority, the Christians were also brought under the firing range of the communalists. It led to the ghastly burning of Pastor Graham Staines, which was followed up by more attacks on Christian missionaries working in adivasi areas. All this culminated in the horrific Kandhamal carnage.
For the first time the BJP, inherently committed to the anti-democratic notion of Hindu Rashtra, came to power at the Centre in 1996, even as other parties initially refused to ally with it to share the spoils of power. But that changed soon enough, and other political parties, obsessed with power opportunism shared power with those accused of the Babri demolition. The coming to power of BJP at the Centre opened the floodgates of the political space. Soon enough, parties under the aegis of RSS, like the VHP, Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram received encouragement. The state apparatus and police bureaucracy were further communalised. Education was communalised with a hint faith-based promotion, and at the cost of scientific temper and rational thought.
The success of RSS propaganda is not that it targets the minorities. Its bigger success lies in instilling fear in the mind of the majority, of the threat that minority creates. There is a ripple effect of this process and then a section of ‘middle of the road elements’ also start turning over to support the Hindutva parties. Karnataka opened the floodgates of BJP for its entry into South.
The Babri demolition led to multiple processes; denial of justice to victims of violence became structural, and the minorities started being relegated to second class citizenship. The demonisation of minorities has gone to extremely bad levels. This process of demonisation of Muslim minorities later started being created around the issue related to terrorism. US media coined the word Islamic terrorism, and the politics for control over oil resources was taken to absurd ideological manipulation and a religion and a religious community were subjected to immense profiling. In India too, the propaganda against Muslims was taken to worse levels with the global phenomenon of terror, falsely and cleverly attributed to teachings of Islam.
NOW, RSS-BJP politics is entering the new phase. Having reached the acme of anti-minority polarisation, it has found the Hazare movement as the new vehicle for its politics of undermining democratic institutions to bring in a parallel authoritarian structure where the Lokpal plays the big brother. Though this sounds innocuous and is presented as a step to solve the problems, this is likely to create a new institution beyond the control of democratic norms. A few people and groups who are calling the shots and asserting that they are ‘The People’, ‘Anna is above parliament’, will rule through various proxies. This Hazare movement has polarised the social layers according to those who look at either identity issues (Ram Temple) or symptomatic issues (corruption) as the major issues while undermining the problems of Dalits, minorities and other deprived sections of society. Identity issues or matters focussed around symptoms, which are meant to preserve the status quo of political dynamics, is what politics in the name of religion desires.
Since the Ram Temple appeal is fading, those for sociopolitical status quo have jumped on the anti-corruption bandwagon. This is a shrewd move. Marginalised sections feel left out from ‘I am Anna’, ‘We are the People’ type of assertions, the message is that only ‘shining India’ will have say in the shaping of a nation, while the deprived India, will be permanently on the margins.
In a sense, the RSS-Hindutva politics is constantly changing its strategies to communalise, polarise the society and to distract social attention from core issues. While initially, the rath yatras and communal violence played their role in polarising the nation along religious lines, now the issue of corruption is being used to further strengthen the hold of politics aimed at retaining social inequalities.
Ram Puniyani is a communal harmony activist based in Mumbai.