The violence in Bheema Koregon is still reverberating. We recall that on January 1st, thousands of dalits returning from Bheema Koregaon were beaten up. In that context the names of Milind Ekbote and Sambhaji Bhide cropped up as the instigators of violence. The probe is on. In the context of this earlier five activists, Mahesh Raut, Rona Wilson, Surendra Gadling, Shoma Sen and Sudhir Dhawale, working for issues related to Adivasis and dalits were arrested. Now in the month of September there was an attempt to arrest Gautam Navlakha, Sudha Bhardwaj, Warwar Rao, Vernon Gonslaves and Arun Ferreira were arrested while houses of Anand Teltumde and many others were raided. The charge as per police version is that all these activists were behind Bheema Koregaon violence, in the organizing of Elgar Parishad, where inflammatory speeches were delivered, leading to violence. In a surreal manner the police have succeeded in producing a letter ‘unearthing the conspiracy’ to kill the Prime Minster Mr. Narendra Modi. Interestingly the attempt to arrest these activists was halted due to the intervention of Supreme Court, which gave a sort of dressing down to the police, telling them that arresting these activists is like doing away with the safety valve of our democracy. These activists have been put under house arrest till further hearing.

All through; different political individuals and organizations have affirmed that these arrests earlier and now are an attempt to intimidate the dalit activists, meant to instill fear among them, these are vindictive and arbitrary. Aakar Patel; Executive Director of Amnesty International “This is not the first time that activists working on Dalit and Adivasi rights have been arrested with little evidence,” “The government should protect people’s rights to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly instead of creating an atmosphere of fear.” Now European Union has taken a note of these arbitrary arrests by police and has condemned these arrests and raids. It is due to actions of state like this that India has been named as one of the offenders for 'alarming' level of harsh reprisals and intimidation against those who cooperate with the UN on human rights issues.

The Supreme Court has been forthright in doubting the police action and prevented its attempt to arrest these activists and raid the houses of others. This phenomenon of reprisals against Human rights defenders is very disturbing and also points to the direction in which the present government’s Hindu nationalist agenda is leading the country. In Bheema Koregaon the blame is being put on Elgar Paraishad speeches. While most of these activists have nothing to do with organizing of Elgar Parishad, Retired Supreme Court Judge P. B. Sawant and Retired Justice Kolte Patil have stated that they were the Conveners of this meeting. So the question does arise as to why these activists have been arrested. It seems the major goal of this Government, guided by Hindutva agenda is to label every dissent as anti national, at the same time to suppress all attempts are on to snub those who are trying to help dalits assert their dignity and help demand their rights.

Let’s remember that with this government coming to power the dalit assertion has been targeted all through. Starting with banning of Periyar Ambedkar study circle (IIT Madras) they went on to target the Ambedkar Students Association in Hyderabad Central University leading to institutional murder of Rohith Vemula. In the aftermath of Vemula’s suicide, massive upsurge of dalits all over the country did give rise to a dalit movement, with other social groups chipping in for support. As Hindutva agenda of Holy Cow-Beef unfolded; with targeting of Muslim community, an unexpected parallel to this came up in the form of four dalit youth being stripped and beaten mercilessly. All over the country the discontent of dalits started getting polarized in the form of agitations launched by another dalit young man, Jignesh Mevani, who successfully organized the protests around cow issue, to emerge as a powerful voice of dalits. He has tried to combine the dalit identity and dignity with issue of land, which is the core problem of dalits in the country.

The present political agenda has tried to push the Muslim minorities into second class citizenship by picking up issues like Ram Temple, Cow-Beef, Love Jihad and Ghar Wapasi (Reconversion into Hinduism). Labeling Muslims and Christians as foreigners and in particular Muslims as anti National has been the plank of their politics. As far as dalits are concerned RSS combine has been doing multiple things to co-opt them into their fold. The first major attempt has been that of Samajik Samrasta Manch, (Social Harmony Forum) where the central theme has been to promote harmony between different castes, as RSS propagates that caste inequality is due to the Muslim invaders who tried to convert, leading to caste inequality. This has been backed up by social engineering where attempts have been made to co-opt dalits and even Adivasis into the ideology which hides inequality. Also many a dalit leaders like Ramvilas Paswan, Ramdas Athwaley and Udit Raj have been lured into the posts of power to get their support for Hindu nationalism. At cultural level they have modulated historical icons like Suhel Dev, as great Hindu warriors standing against the foreigners, the Muslims.

Still the rebellion is spilling out; the unrest of dalits is on the streets. The question of equality and dignity of dalits remains undermined. It is in this light that Maharashtra police is desperately trying to implicate those activists/scholars who have stood their ground to help bring up the movement of rights for these marginalized groups. And so this attempts to implicate them with a conference, which was convened by two retired judges. The alert citizens like Romila Thapar have done a yeomen service in invoking the Supreme Court to save the democratic ethos by stopping the reckless police action. Supreme Court has yet again proved that it can protect the rights of the marginalized sections.

Category :- English Bazaar Patrika / OPED

Like people of all regions and religions, a large number of Hindus have been migrating to all the parts of World. The reason behind this is better pastures and better living standards in those places. In most of the parts of the World one can see a substantial number of Hindus/people of Indian origin. The concentration of these émigrés is particularly more in richer countries. Earlier large number of Indians migrated to UK, Canada and currently United States is the hot favorite. The émigrés from here do tend to adapt to the countries they adopt, still retaining their umbilical cords. Some of them locally meet to celebrate their Indian-ness; some also meet bearing their religious identity as Hindus or Muslims in particular. There is a large Diaspora, from India scattered all over the US. Some Hindus among them recently held World Hindu Congress in Chicago and invited RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat to address the same.

Some of these NRI’s, as they are known popularly, identify RSS combine as representative of Hindus. At one level it should be surprising as to how RSS combine can be representing all the Hindus. RSS upholds a version of Hinduism, which is wedded to Brahmanical norms; majority of Hindus all through freedom struggle chose Gandhi as their icon and identified with freedom struggle. In contrast RSS, which has the agenda of Hindu nation, kept totally aloof from the freedom movement These Hindus, behind the WHC, may well know that greatest Hindu of twentieth Century, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was killed by a person who was the follower of RSS ideology of Hindu nation.

Be it so! Addressing the Congress Mr. Bhagwat made many comments which are indirectly insulting to the people of other religions and ideologies in India. While emphasizing the need for Hindu unity he said “wild dogs can invade and destroy even a lion if he is alone”, a remark that was interpreted by some as a veiled reference to the Sangh parivar narrative of Muslim invaders dominating and leaving their imprint on India, and Christian missionaries work in poor areas leading to conversions. He also made a reference to pests and the use of pesticides in agriculture, analogy being to religious minorities in India.

Summarizing his ideology and understanding of history Mr. Bhagwat, said, “Why are we suffering for thousand years? We had everything and we knew everything. We forgot to practice what we knew. We also forgot to work together,”

Reacting to this many a spokesmen of Indian political parties poured their anguish. Mr. Nawab Malik of NCP stated “The ideology of RSS and BJP is anti-Hindu and they only know how to do caste politics…The day they stop dividing Hindus on the basis of caste, every Hindu and people from other religions as well will be lions. Similarly Sachin Sawant from Congress said, that "RSS ideology is anti-Hindu. It is known for hatred towards other castes and religions. It is shameful of the RSS chief to describe any religion in this way."

At a more forthright level Prakash Ambedkar of Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh leader Prakash Ambedkar felt that that the "dog" reference was for the "opposition parties" in the country. And "I condemn this 'mansikta' (mentality) of Mohan Bhagwat that he has referred to Opposition parties in the country as dogs."

Interestingly at the site of the WHC there were posters which showed RSS agenda in a blunt way. One such poster related to Love Jihad, depicted the marriage of Shramila Tagore to Mansoor Ali Pautadi as love jihad. Posters question whether Saif Ali Khan will force his wife to Kareena Kapoor to convert to Islam and also as to why they gave an Arabic name to their son (Taimur). In loud and clear manner the posters say that interfaith marriages are a silent Holocaust of Hindus, showing a clear patriarchal mindset of the organizers. These assertions of WHC council did not go unchallenged from the progressive Indians community. Many from Indian origin community stood to challenge with a statement and labeled RSS politics as “Hindu supremacist ideology that is spearheading the violation of human rights and religious freedom of minorities in India.” Many young activists from Chicago’s ‘South Asians for Justice’ shouted slogans "RSS Turn Around, We don't want you in Our Town," and "Stop Hindu Fascism." These protestors had some fracas with those attending the conference.

Overall the organizations like WHC have come up cashing on ‘identity crisis of Hindus’ in US. Many a first generation Hindus who migrate for jobs or better business opportunities to US get a cultural shock there. The shock is that related to equality; related to social norms as such and to gender equations in particular. The whole first generation of Hindus landing up in US see women in very different role there, women as autonomous beings, which come as a threat to their own mindset. It is at this juncture that RSS ideology of glorification of the past, a decoy to hide caste and gender inequality, comes in as a succor to these troubled souls, longing for their mother land but pinned down to United States by lure of lucre. RSS type Hinduism gives them the identity they needed to sustain their original values. So for this section; RSS is synonymous with Hinduism, which surely it is not.

This was the ground on which VHP of America, HSS and other parallel organizations started flourishing in US. In elections in Gujarat many NRI Indians come regularly to campaign for BJP, similarly a good amount of donations pour in for RSS combine and BJP electoral campaign in India. Today RSS, parallel Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh has thousands of active shakhas (branches) in US. The statement of RSS chief are a clear denigration of the religious minorities in India, one hopes that the progressive organizations like South Asians for Justice continue to promote secular values, values of amity and counter the divisive agenda, which RSS is spreading there.

Category :- English Bazaar Patrika / OPED