OPED

On the eve of 43rd anniversary of the Emergency, which was imposed on the country in 1975, BJP has come out strongly condemning the event, has issued half page advertisement and Modi said that it was imposed to save the power of a family. There are claims that BJP’s parent organization RSS and its political predecessors valiantly fought against emergency. Surprisingly many streams of Indian politics, like CPI (M), shades of socialists, and sections of dissident Congress streams who fought against Emergency did not make any noise about their role. While Congress itself has not overtly criticized the act of its leader Indira Gandhi, it needs to be recalled that Mrs. Gandhi had regretted the excesses during this period in a speech in Yavatmal in 1978. Apart from Jaitly and BJP leaders there are many others also who compare the authoritarian regime and its excesses with what happened during Hitler’s fascist regime.

It’s true that during this period there was a serious violation of democratic freedoms. The similarity with Hitler’s fascist regime ends here. The main mechanism of Hitler’s regime was to instigate emotions, ntensifying divisiveness by activating the storm troopers and targeting against the racial minority; the Jews. Other characteristics of his regime were to promote the interests of big business houses and suppress the rights of working class in particular. It projected the golden past and also promoted ultra nationalism and implemented muscular foreign policy leading the soured relations with neighbors. People like Einstein left the country. The targeting of racial minorities was the central and most conspicuous part of the policy. The excesses which took place during emergency were not targeting any minority. It’s true that the pavement dwellers suffered a lot, demolitions and the compulsory vasectomy of poor sections affected Muslims as well, but it was not targeted against Muslim community in any way.

How can one say that Emergency which was authoritarianism was not fascism in any way? In fascist methods what is central to the undermining of democracy is to operate through the mechanism of mobilization of foot soldiers, whipping up mass hysteria and giving prominence to emotive issues. Let’s remember Indira Gandhi herself had lifted the Emergency and called for elections in a democratic way, elections in which she suffered a massive defeat. In Germany fascist regime destroyed Germany itself.

While a lot is being said about emergency, what was the role of RSS during this period? The claims that RSS was a central force to fight against this regime are a cock and bull story. TV Rajeswar, who served as Governor of Uttar Pradesh and Sikkim after his retirement from service, in his book, ‘India: The Crucial Years” [Harper Collins] tells us “Not only they (RSS) were supportive of this [Emergency], they wanted to establish contact apart from Mrs. Gandhi, with Sanjay Gandhi also”. Rajeswar in an interview with Karan Thapar disclosed that Deoras “quietly established a link with the PM’s house and expressed strong support for several steps taken to enforce order and discipline in the country. Deoras was keen to meet Mrs. Gandhi and Sanjay. But Mrs. Gandhi refused.”As a matter of fact the executioners of emergency excesses found good favor with BJP as it was formed after Jana Sangh component leaving the Janata Party. One recalls the emergency time slogan, “Aapatkal ke tin dalal: Sanjay, Vidya, Bansilal” (three executioners of Emergency: Sanjay, Vidya, Bansilal). Later BJP gave ticket to Vidya Charan Shukla, and allied with Bansilal to form the Government in Haryana. Sanjay Gandhi’s wife Maneka was taken in to BJP and became minister without ever condemning the excesses committed during that period.

As a matter of fact what is happening today is much more repressive though there is no official emergency. Many have labeled it as undeclared emergency Nayantara Sahgal, who was a strong critic of Emergency, has stated very aptly that “…we have an undeclared Emergency; there is no doubt about that. We have seen a huge, massive attack on the freedom of expression.” The observation is that there are killings of innocent, helpless Indians killed because they did not fit into the RSS’s view of India. Every dissent is labeled as anti-National. She continues “Writers like Gauri Lankesh have been killed. And there has been no justice for the families of the wage earners who have lost their lives in this fashion. In fact they are now being called the accused. So we have a horrendous situation, a nightmare which is worse than the Emergency.” Similarly we know that today the dangers to civic liberties and democratic rights is through the ideologically indoctrinated foot soldiers, who have been called fringe elements, but as such they are part of a clear division of labor, working against Indian Constitution and for Hindu Nation.

The prevalence of violence against religious minorities, the intimidation, the lynching in the name of Holy cow, beef, love jihad, ghar wapasi has become a sort of New Normal of present regime. It not only goes beyond the authoritarian regime but borders on the divisive politics which is out to relegate the religious minorities to second class status in the country. While the top rulers keep quiet in cases of serious violations, the ground level vigilantes have a field day in furthering the agenda which is outcome of RSS ideology. Lately even the use of tricolor to instigate violence as witnessed in Kasgaonj is further stifling our democracy.

We need to distinguish between the authoritarian regime of Emergency where the machinery of state was used to suppress democratic rights with fascist regimes which are guided by narrow nationalism and target the minorities while pushing forward Hindu nationalism and bringing in divisions in society on sectarian grounds. Democracy is stifled in both cases, but in narrow nationalism the very concept of citizenship is denied to the sections o society on the grounds of their religion or race. And this is the crucial marker of sectarian nationalism.

Category :- English Bazaar Patrika / OPED

Labeling any act of violence in the name of religion is a trend which picked up in the wake of 9/11 twin tower tragedy. There’s a need to look at the construction of perceptions more than before now

Photo courtesy: PTI

Politics in contemporary times is wearing the clothes of religion; much too often. It may be global politics of imperialist countries, to control the oil wealth, or the politics to re-impose values of birth based inequality in South Asian countries, religion is the cover.

In Pakistan and many West Asian countries, it in the name of Islam that feudalism-authoritarianism persists and is being strengthened, in Myanmar-Sri Lanka Buddhism is the cover, while in India, it is the label of Hinduism, which is being abused to stifle the values of equality and liberalism. Too often such acts of sectarian politics affect creative people, their gazal concerts are disrupted, their films are banned-attacked by the storm troopers. Many a times warnings are given to them and apologies sought for the hurt feelings of religion or nationalism.

Priyanka Chopra, the star from Bollywood who has been doing a serial on US television, Quantico, has been in the news for similar reasons (June 2018). In one episode of this series; the character played by her thwarts the nuclear attack by some Hindu-Indian terrorist, in the nick of time when an Indo-Pakistan summit is set to take place. The hurt sentiment brigade announced “Hindu Sena appeals to public in general to boycott any work, ads or movies of Priyanka Chopra and appeals to the Indian government to strip her of her Indian citizenship and deny her entry into India.” In an over-bending attitude the actor tweeted “I’m extremely saddened and sorry that some sentiments have been hurt by a recent episode of Quantico. That was not and would never be my intention. I sincerely apologize. I’m a proud Indian and that will never change,” One actor from film industry Pooja Bhat did firmly stand with Chopra, defending her right of freedom as an actor.

What is in continuation with this pattern is that while in current times the films, serials, acts of fiction abound with Muslim characters as terrorists-extremists, this episode of Quantico, showing a Hindu character in the evil role brought forth the usual threats and demanded the cancellation of citizenship of the actor! One must say that labeling any act of violence in the name of religion is a trend which has picked up in the wake of 9/11 twin tower tragedy.

While the terrorist groups were groomed, indoctrinated by the superpower US, to join the military fight against Soviet Russia’s occupation of Afghanistan, the whole exercise of indoctrination was done by using a version of Islam prevalent in Saudi Arabia. The master of the planning was sitting in Washington. The whole act of insane terrorism was done in the name of Islam. The US media came to coin the phrase ‘Islamic terrorism’ and religion and terrorism got associated for the first time, despite the fact the people from many religions have been involved in the acts of terror most of the time.

It was in continuation with this trend that when India witnessed the involvement of number of Hindu nationalists in the acts of terror, the word, Hindu terror, saffron terror or Hindutva terror started floating in the air. Apologies were demanded for use of this term in the wake of granting bail to the likes of Pragya Thakur or Aseemanand.

In the aftermath of Malegaon blast of 2008, the meticulous investigation of Hemant Karkare, the Maharashtra ATS chief, brought forth the fact that the motor cycle used for the blast was owned by Sadhvi Pragya Thakur, an associate of different Hinutdva organisations. With his investigation, hoards of Hindu names cropped up. This led the trail to Lt. Col. Prasad Purohit, Major Upadhaya, Swami Dayanand and Swami Aseemanand among many others who were part of Hindu nationalist organisations, some owing allegiance to RSS directly. The investigation did lead to arrest of many of them; two of them, RSS ex Pracharaks have been convicted for life term in case of Ajmer blast.

While in current times the films, serials, acts of fiction abound with Muslim characters as terrorists-extremists, this episode of Quantico, showing a Hindu character in the evil role brought forth the usual threats and demanded the cancellation of citizenship of the actor!

The likes of Sadhvi Pragya, Purohit and Assemanand have been let off on bail. Swami had confessed and given the details of planning of terror acts in presence of a Magistrate and lot of material was recovered from the lap top of Swami Dayanand Pande. One Sunil Joshi, who was also alleged to be part of the team, was murdered and it was presumed that he was murdered for making sexual advances to Sadhvi Pragya. Despite these investigations, due to change of the Government at Centre (2014), the likes of Sadhvi and Swami have got bail! Whether the truth will ever be upheld and honored is the question. What also remains unanswered is that Rohini Salian, who was the public prosecutor in the cases involving Sadhvi etc. was asked to go soft on the cases with the change of Government at the centre. It does raise many questions related to crime and punishment. In Mumbai blast (1993) cases, one Rubina Memon was given life imprisonment as the car used for blast cases was registered in her name. In Malegaon blast, Sadhvi owned the motorcycle used for blasts but was given the bail!

In present times, things are much worse as during last few years the number of Hindus involved in lynching in the name of cow has gone up immensely, funds are collected for the family of Shambhulal Regar, the brutal killer of Afrazul, in the name of love Jihad! The linkages of killers of Prof Kalburgi and Gauri Lankesh to Hindutva organisations are coming forth.

While the actors of the stature of Chopra can wriggle out to save their careers and films with an apology, there is a need to look at the construction of perceptions more than before now, as religion has been dragged in the murky world of politics all round.

Category :- English Bazaar Patrika / OPED