From last couple of decades one is coming across the pamphlets, leaflets and other material containing the propaganda that Christian missionaries are converting the people at rapid pace; the examples mostly given have been those of the North Eastern states. This propaganda has been extensively used at pan India level, particularly before elections in most of the states. It is this propaganda which formed the base of hate against Christians and we witnessed the ghastly murder of Pastor Graham Stewart Stains, the horrific Kandhmal violence, and low intensity anti Christian violence and attacks on Churches in different parts of the country. So how come BJP, the party flaunting it Ram Temple, Mother cow and Hindu nationalism could make its inroads into an area where many states Christianity is the religion with good presence, where beef eating is part of the people’s dietary habits and where different tribes with diverse and clashing political interests articulate their aspirations by forming various groups which have been asking for separate state for their tribes.

While the situation in each state is different, there is a pattern of BJP strategy, which in a flexible manner, supplemented by massive resources, near perfect electoral machinery and the backing of its parent organization’s swayamsevaks is getting the cake in state after state. In Assam it focused mainly on the Bangladeshi immigrants, the Muslims swamping the state and threatening that Hindus will be reduced to a minority. It was clever enough to strike alliances even with separatist organizations. Most of the regional organization in the area looks at Congress as the party which has not focused on the development work, and BJP while at one level abuses those differing with its ideology as ‘anti nationals’, has no compunctions at all in allying with those who have been talking of separate state or even secession. In Tripura left government; despite its clean record; failed to fulfill the aspirations of tribal and OBCs in matters of reservation. It also failed miserably in creating employment opportunities for the youth which gave the ground to BJP to promise and create the illusion of development.

BJP here mainly harped on two major factors. One is the promise of development. As by now its claims of development all over the country stand exposed as mere vote catching slogans, in North East they still could sell Modi as a development man. Manik Sarkar’s failure to implement the new pay commissions must have hurt the large numbers as they are still stuck at fourth pay commission while talk of seventh pay commission is in the air In Tripura, they could also harp on ‘Hindus are Refugees: Muslim is infiltrators’ to influence the Bengali Hindu votes. In tribal area, RSS swayamsevaks working consistently by organizing religious functions, opening schools etc. from long time have succeeded in turning the tables, as Manik Sarkar Government failed to address the needs of Tribal’s in matters of opportunities. In matters of beef, BJP openly took a hypocritical line that their ban on cow slaughter and eating beef, which is being imposed in different parts of country; will not be enforced in North East. As such also one knows that like most of the issues raised by RSS-BJP, holy cow is a political tool for dividing the society and when the crunch comes they manipulate the issue as they have done in Kerala and Goa on the issue of beef and cow slaughter.

In a very loud manner, towering over Christian voters, Mr Modi talked of rescuing 46 nurses in ISIS captivity in Iraq and Father Alex Premkumar from Taliban captivity. What can one say on these issues? Were they rescued as they were Indians or were they rescued because they belong to a particular religion? As is the wont with Modi type politics, they do take advantage of these incidents in a crass political manner. Despite the fact that their ideology regards Christians and Muslims as foreigners they do at the same time manipulate these identities for electoral gains. In Tripura the majority of Congress and TMC MLAS migrated to BJP as well as the electoral support shifted to BJP. What worked for BJP here was the anti Bangladeshi sentiment along with the illusory promise of development.

In Meghalaya, the situation is different. Though Congress did emerge as the single largest party and logically is should have been given the chance to form the Government, the Hindu nationalist Governor, thought otherwise and the second largest party, in alliance with practically everybody including BJP are going to form the Government. Here the failure of BJP to win over electorate is writ large on the results, what is putting them in the camp of power, is the alliance with a regional party, which has not been having amicable attitude and relations to Congress. The role of BJP’s all round clout including money and muscle is the undercurrent of the story.

There is lot of lessons for left in Tripura to learn. Issue of addressing problems of youth, Tribal and OBC are paramount. In addition the issue of BJP manipulating in all possible ways to come to power is something, which can be ignored at the risk of severe declines in the electoral power of the left and other parties. What is being labeled as Karat line, not allying with Congress, will surely decimate the left in times to come, probably sooner than later, as this line underestimates the potential and the deeper agenda of BJP-RSS. It ignores the threat of powerful electoral machine built by BJP over a period of time and its capability to manipulate issues, like beef and conversion by Christian missionaries, is different parts of the country, taking two opposite positions and getting away with it!

The emotive politics unleashed by BJP RSS is visible again in the form of attacking Lenin’s statue and attacks on CPM workers. What is in store for future of the region if democratic forces don’t rise to the occasion is anybody’s guess!

Category :- English Bazaar Patrika / OPED

Hindus, Muslims and RSS Chief Bhagwat

Ram Puniyani

RSS is one of the only organizations, which claims to be cultural and controls the political agenda of the National ruling party. Over years taking further its agenda of Hindu rashtra, it has grown and is the largest organization in the country. Its Chief, Sarsangh Chalak (Supreme Dictator) is one who not only controls the RSS, but indirectly exercises control over all the affiliate organizations like BJP, VHP, Bajrang dal, ABVP and hundreds of outfits scattered in most of the arenas of our social and political life. Its Chief keeps spelling out its agenda on occasions, the one held at Agra, Rashtroday Samagam (National Awakening Conclave, 24 Feb 2018), was one such where he spoke on issues related to the agenda of Hindu Rashtra. Many of the formulations presented by him may sound very bizarre, but seems these are the subtle expressions of deeper agenda of this organization.

He said that Hindus should unite, and not fight along caste lines. Hindustan is the country of Hindus, and they have no other place to go. What he is calling as fight along caste lines, as such are the movements for social justice. Struggle against the caste structure of Hinduism has been old, the initial one’s were in the form of Lord Gautama Buddha’s teachings and later Saints like Kabir, Tukaram and Namdeo articulated anti caste sentiments in their works of profound wisdom. What is being called as fight along caste lines begins during colonial period with efforts of the likes of Jotirao Phule who ensured that education reaches the untouchables. Ambedkar took this further and struggles for caste equality picked up.

It is at this point of time that Hindu Mahasabha and RSS, who were upset due to social changes parallel to freedom movement that they started talking of Hindu Unity! They stand for social status quo while likes of Ambedkar will go for annihilation of caste. So Ambedkar burnt Manu Smriti and later became the Chairman of drafting committee of Indian Constitution, which gives us Equality. This lofted principle of equality was also backed up by affirmative action from the state to ensure that equality does not remain on paper but state is the agent to bring in substantive equality.

Hindu nationalist politics; as it is for status quo; opposed reservations and affirmative action. On the pretext of merit, it launched ‘Youth for Equality’. One understands those who are on the side of social equality have been talking of measures to eradicate structural inequality and work towards social justice. So What Bhagwat says may sound innocuous, but it hides the deeper agenda of his organization, and that is also manifested when different leaders from this stable call for changing Indian constitution and when their ideologues like Golwalkar stand to praise Manusmriti and as they feel uncomfortable with Indian Constitution.

What does he mean that Hindus have no other place to go? He may be unaware that many Indians, Hindus, included have been undertaking economic migrations all over the World. While US, Canada, Australia and UK are the hot favorites, there are many other countries where Hindus have been emigrating and settling. His statement is factually incorrect.

Also saying, this land belongs to Hindus is a simplification. As such the barometer of who is an Indian is Indian Constitution. Who came to constitute India becomes clear from the composition of freedom movement in which people from all religions participated in equal measure. In earlier history also this land has been thriving with diversity when nomadic tribes initially and kings of different dynasties Shaaks, Huns, Muslim, came as invaders in North, while Zoroastrians came through sea route and initial Islam and Christianity came to Malabar Coast in Kerala. Even word Hindu initially began as a geographical category, and Hindu as religion, came to be constructed much later.

It is true that India is multi religious, but to say that all those living here are Hindus is a travesty of truth. To say that Hindus celebrate diversity as Bhagawat said; is a bigger lie. Hindutva ideologue Savarkar went on to define Hindu as one who regards this land as Holy land and father land. Golwalklar focused on the greatness of scriptures, so where do Muslims and Christians stand in this scheme of things? As such even large sections of Sikhs, Buddhist and Jains will also not like to be labeled as Hindus. As far the diversity, he is right that large section of Hindus in the mould of Gandhi respect other religions and diversity emerging from that. As far as the agenda of RSS combine is concerned, it is based on sectarianism and narrowness. The central agenda of their politics is not around economic betterment, social and gender justice but is structured around divisive issues which lead to intolerance. Their major issues Ram Temple, Mother Cow, Love Jihad, Vande Matmram and Ghar Wapasi are constructed around rejecting the diversity

Most of the utterances of this combine are far away from what the Indian Constitution says. His assertion that all those who regard Bharat Mata as their mother, again is in a mould which is far away from Indian Constitution’s values. Constitution tells as we are India that is Bharat. To bring in Bharat mata ki Jai, which people from some religions may not be comfortable with is a deliberate ploy to bring narrowness and intolerance in our political life. To say that Muslims are also Hindus, is an intimidating statement. First to say they are Hindus and then to insist that as Hindus they have to respect scriptures like Manusmriti, to worship lord Ram and cow, seems to be a clever move.

Bhagwat calls Rana Pratap's battles as part of freedom struggle. This is not innocuous, Rana Pratap fought for his Mansabdari (status) against Akbar, not for India against British. As per Bhagawat battle against Muslim king automatically makes you part of freedom movement not knowing that even Akbar was represented by Raja Mansingh in the battle about which he is referring to!    

Category :- English Bazaar Patrika / OPED