OPED

Modi Sarkar : Politics through Culture

Ram Puniyani
29-10-2014

The change in the ruling dispensation (May 2014) has more than one aspect which is likely to affect the very social-cultural-political map of India. Narendra Modi won the last elections with an electoral success, 282 seats for BJP, with 31% of votes polled, which is a landmark for a party. There was a meticulous planning to come to power and there were many factors bringing them to power. One was the communal polarization carried forward from the Gujarat carnage of 2002, to the one witnessed in Muzzafarnagar in 2013. The unrestrained support of Corporate World was another, as Modi had given all the facilities to the Corporate World. Corporate in 2007 declared that they will like to see Modi as the future Prime Minister of India. The backbone of the campaign was seven lakh RSS volunteers, who acted as the steel frame of the campaign. The projected factors helping BJP win was the myth of Gujarat’s development. The media management and the discrediting of the ruling Congress was the effective tool for swinging the votes in BJP’s favor. RSS-BJP-Modi want to bring in Hindu nation trampling upon the values of Indian Constitution., which have laid the foundation of democratic ethos, which have provided the ground for social transformation of caste-gender.

Pattern of Power

The previous time, 1999, BJP came to power at the head of a NDA it did not have the simple majority so it suspended its “Hindutva’ agenda. Hindutva agenda stands for abolition of article 370, Uniform Civil Codes and building of Ram Temple on the site where Babri Masjid stood. Now with the majority in parliament, the march towards this Hindutva agenda has been unleashed. Modi has already instilled the authoritarian streak in the new Government. Secretaries of different departments have been asked to directly report to him, and he has not permitted the meeting of the Cabinet in his absence, which was the norm with previous Governments. Though there is a Cabinet, the major power is being centralized around the prime minister.

Acche Din

The major plank of winning the elections was the slogan of Acche din (Good Times). The people at large, who are victims of the rising prices and inflation, were sold the dream of better days in the offing with victory of Modi. The relentless rise of prices despite Modi coming to power has created a sense of disillusion amongst the people, as high hopes were created through propaganda. Some say it is a bit too early to comment on this, as it is a honeymoon period, while others point to the pattern of policies, which do not give a hopeful picture for times to come. FDA in retail has been raised from 26% to 49% in a single swoop. While in opposition; BJP was opposing it. This is an opportunist turn around. The fear of privatization of public sector is very much there in the air. The amendments to Land Acquisition bill are going to affect the interests of the farmers in a very adverse way. What is being proposed is to dilute the consent of majority of the farmers for acquiring land.

Changed Dispensation: Sectarian mindset

Many times we express more by keeping silence than by speaking, so to say. The Pune techie Mohsin Sheikh’s murder allegedly by the Hindu Jagran Sena was part of the well designed communalization process. The violence in Saharanpur, Rampur and other parts of UP and some parts of MP are part of the process to communalize the assembly areas, which are going to face the polls soon. The silence of Prime Minister on these issues is more than eloquent. Rather it gives signal of sorts, which are not very healthy. There are scattered incidents which give us the glimpse of the Modi Sarkar. The shrewdest part of the new Government is that it has solid backing of vast Sangh Parivar to speak in different languages; these different tongues make the whole picture of their agenda. In case of the tennis star Sania Mirza being appointed as the brand ambassador of the newly formed Telangana state, the BJP leaders on TV openly opposed this saying that she is the daughter-in-law of Pakistan, while the top level functionary of the Government said that she is pride of the nation.

Education

All said and done the major problem of the present rule is going to be the changes in education, which will alter the thinking pattern of the coming generations. The goal is to instill a pattern in consonance with the Brahminical norms, to promote orthodox medieval mind set and to undermine the scientific temper. One recalls that in the previous BJP led NDA regime apart from other things, its major impact was the changes in the history and social science books, where the divisive history taught in the RSS shakhas, the communal history, the history where the kings are looked at through the prism of religion, was introduced. One knows that the communal historiography introduced by British was their main tool in implementing the ‘divide and rule’ policy which formed the ideology of the communal streams of Muslim League and Hindu Mahasabha-RSS. This type of history; by focusing on the glories of ‘our’ kings also promotes the feudal values of caste and gender hierarchy. Mercifully the BJP led NDA lost in 2004 and the rational, national historiography was brought back.

Now already there are signs that RSS volunteers are out to change the total education system and the content of history, social science and other books. Even before this Government came to power, with the rise of Modi on political firmament, with the perception that he is likely to come to power, the Right wing organizations intensified their offensive against genuine scholarship. Dinanath Batra, by now is a well known name, he has been heading the RSS outfits, Shiksha Bachao Abhiyan Samiti and RSS-affiliated Shiksha Sanskriti Utthan Nyas (SSUN) from many decades. He succeeded in pressuring Penguin, the World’s largest publisher, to pulp Wendy Doniger's scholarly book ‘The Hindus: An Alternate History’. This book brings out through the interpretation of mythology the need to understand the caste and gender aspects in a sensitive manner. The history she has focused on goes against the hierarchical mind set of RSS combine and so pressure was put to pulp it. Now Mr. Batra emerges as a writer himself and a set of nine books written by him have been translated in to Gujarati and introduced in 42000 schools in Gujarat. This may be a trial run before doing similar things at larger scale.  Former BJP president and present union minister M Venkaiah Naidu explicitly stated as early as last year (June 23, 2013) that “it (the BJP) will change textbook syllabi, if it returns to power”. Batra is also quoted as saying that a nationalistic education system has to be developed to address the requirements and through this we have to develop a young generation that is committed to Hindutva and nationalism”.

The sampling of Batra’s books gives a good idea of what is in store for us. A quote from one of the set of books, ‘Tejonmaya Bharat’, (Radiant Bharat) tells us “America wants to take the credit for invention of stem cell research, but the truth is that India’s Dr Balkrishna Ganpat Matapurkar has already got a patent for regenerating body parts…You would be surprised to know that this research is not new and that Dr Matapurkar was inspired by the Mahabharata. Kunti had a bright son like the Sun itself. When Gandhari, who had not been able to conceive for two years, learnt of this, she underwent an abortion. From her womb a huge mass of flesh came out. (Rishi) Dwaipayan Vyas was called. He observed this hard mass of flesh and then he preserved it in a cold tank with specific medicines. He then divided the mass of flesh into 100 parts and kept them separately in 100 tanks full of ghee for two years. After two years, 100 Kauravas were born of it. On reading this, he (Matapurkar) realized that stem cell was not his invention. This was found in India thousands of years ago. (Page 92-93)

Indian rishis using their yog vidya would attain divya drishti (divine vision). There is no doubt that the invention of television goes back to this… In Mahabharata, Sanjaya sitting inside a palace in Hastinapur and using his divya shakti would give a live telecast of the battle of Mahabharata… to the blind Dhritarashtra. (Page 64)  What we know today as the motorcar existed during the Vedic period. It was called anashva rath. Usually a rath (chariot) is pulled by horses but an anashva rath means the one that runs without horses or yantra-rath, what is today a motorcar. The Rig Veda refers to this. (Page 60)

RSS has already set up a consultative body called Bharatiya Shiksha Niti Ayog (BSNA) to put pressure on Modi’s government to “correct or Indianize” the national education system. In the new syllabus “The passages in the textbooks which pointed out to any unsavory aspect of the Hindu faith like the oppressive caste system in ancient Hindu society, untouchability of the low-caste people and consumption of beef during Vedic ages were scrapped, and anyone who resisted or opposed the changes was dubbed as 'anti-national'.(1)

Caste and Gender

While these changes in the text books give us a full idea of the agenda of this Government, which will have to follow the guidelines set by its parent organization, its already manifest in the appointment of Prof Y.Sudarshan Rao as the chief of ICHR. This national body guides the research into the Indian history. Prof Rao is not much known in the circles of Academic history, as he has hardly written any academic, peer reviewed papers or books. He has been engaged with writing few blogs on his understanding of history, which is more of a fiction suiting the agenda of Hindu Rashtra, reinstating the caste system in particular. In one of his blogs he emphasis that caste system served the society very well and there are no complaints against it. As per him “Most of the questionable social customs in the Indian society as pointed out by the English educated Indian intellectuals and the Western scholars could be traced to this period of Muslim rule in north India spanning over seven centuries.” He argues that “The (caste) system was working well in ancient times and we do not find any complaint from any quarters against it.” This is a distortion. The customs related to caste oppression were integral to the so called Hindu scriptures Vedas (Rig Veda, Purush Sukta) Upanishad, (2) the scriptures which were written in the Pre Historic BC period. Even in Manu smiriti the caste division is well articulated. Manu Smriti was written around 1-2 and Century AD. Contrary to this Prof Rao states that distortion in caste system came with the coming of Muslim Kings. He had so far been working on proving the historicity of our mythological Mahabharat as a part of History. Interestingly RSS combine presents only one version of Ramayan but there are nearly 400 versions of Ramayan. The scholarly essay by A.K.Ramanujam on the diversity of Ramayan telling again was withdrawn from Delhi University curriculum, and the publisher forced to withdraw the book.

With the coming of this Government the peripheral elements have started talking about making these scriptures as a part of our curriculum. Justice Dave talks of bringing in Gita and others are talking of Ramayana. Both these holy tomes have heavy projections of caste. In Gita, Lord talks of taking birth whenever Dharma is in danger. And this Dharma is Varnashram Dharma (Varna system). In Ramayan Lord Ram kills Shambuk, as Shambuk a Shudra is doing penance and this is something not permitted by Caste system.

Fringe Elements or Division of Labor

VHP supremo and RSS member Ashok Singhal has also called Modi “an ideal swayamsevak” and emphatically declared that Muslims must respect the sentiments of the Hindu culture, threatening that “they cannot survive for long by opposing Hindus”. He has also asked Muslims to give up their claims on Ayodhya, Mathura and Kashi. The idea is to reduce Muslims to second class citizens with no privileges and rights. Another firebrand VHP leader Pravin Togadia, known for his ‘hate speeches’, has endorsed these views by issuing a warning to the Muslims, saying they may have forgotten the 2002 Gujarat riots but would remember the Muzaffarnagar riots of last year. (3)

Goa's deputy chief minister Francis D'Souza apologized for his comment that India was already a Hindu nation. This was a tactical retreat. He was the one who said that all Indians are Hindus. Christians are Christian Hindus for example. Deepak Dhavalikar another BJP member stated that under Modi India will become a Hindu Rashtra. This is what the deeper part of RSS-BJP-Modi agenda, to see that the religious minorities adopt the Brahminical Hindu norms. That’s why they want that to use terms like Christian Hindus or Ahmadiya Hindus. Gradually, the assertion will be that since you are a Hindu you must practice Hindu norms.

On the long term agenda of RSS-BJP-Modi one needs to see the statement of RSS worker Joshi,   “During a question-and-answer session, a volunteer asked Yadavrao Joshi, then the head of Sangh workers across all of south India, “We say RSS is a Hindu organisation. We say we are a Hindu nation, India belongs to Hindus. We also say in the same breath that Muslims and Christians are welcome to follow their faith and that they are welcome to remain as they are so long as they love this country. Why do we have to give this concession? Why don’t we be very clear that they have no place if we are a Hindu country?” Joshi replied “As of now, RSS and Hindu society are not strong enough to say clearly to Muslims and Christians that if you want to live in India, convert to Hinduism. Either convert or perish. But when the Hindu society and RSS will become strong enough we will tell them that if you want to live in India and if you love this country, you accept that some generations earlier you were Hindus and come back to the Hindu fold.”  (4)

So where are we heading to becomes clear in the last few weeks of Modi Sarkar. The government will be trying to stick to the language which will be subtle while undertaking steps in Hinduization. Its associates, VHP-RSS will tell us bluntly about their agenda. Needless to repeat that this agenda, being unfolded is that of Hindu nation, where religious minorities will be relegated to secondary position  and the Chaturvarnya system will be slipped in a subtle manner.

References

1.       (http://www.onislam.net/english/news/asia-pacific/475865-india-set-to-saffronize-school-curriculum.html)

2.       http://www.countercurrents.org/puniyani300714.htm

3.      (Modi and Hindutva footprints - Editorial, Kashmir Times Kashmir Times - Monday, July 28, 2014)

4.      http://www.caravanmhttp://www.caravanmagazine.in/reportage/rss-30#sthash.GmBGCZLQ.dpufagazine.in/reportage/rss-30#sthash.GmBGCZLQ.dpuf 

Category :- English Bazaar Patrika / OPED

Is the Face of Hinduism Changing?

Ram Puniyani
06-10-2014

Fali S Nariman recently made a very significant observation on the current political situation in India.

The distinguished Constitutional jurist noted:

“Hinduism has traditionally been the most tolerant of all Indian faiths. But, recurrent instances of religious tension, fanned by fanaticism and hate speech, have shown that the Hindu tradition of tolerance is showing signs of strain...my apprehension is that Hinduism is somehow changing its benign face...”

There is no doubt that Mr Nariman’s observation came in reaction to recent outpourings from some organizations or establishments that subscribe to the ideology of RSS. He is concerned about the aggressive Hindutva ideology of those who seek to turn India into a Hindu nation or asserting that it is indeed a Hindu nation. 

Hinduism is a religion, while Hindutva is a political ideology.

Recently from some self-styled champions of Hindutva we have witnessed innumerable outbursts of hate speeches on issues ranging from the propaganda of what they call “love jihad” to the ideological assertions that in India ‘we are all Hindus’.

They have also unleashed an attack on the liberal Hinduism. They are telling those Hindus, who accept Shirdi Sai Baba- a Sufi born in Muslim family, as their God, that they are doing it wrong.

In a broad pattern of their attack they target the religious minorities in one way or the other. The basic question we need to address is whether the voices coming from the RSS combine represent actual Hinduism or they are related to the new practice of politics in the name of Hinduism? The question becomes more pertinent when we see group like Al Qaeda or ISIS acting against humanity, in the name of Islam.

During the freedom movement, we saw men like Gandhi and Maulana Azad, who, despite being deeply steeped in their religions, came forward and led a political movement, which was secular to the core. During the time we also saw people like Jinnah and Savarkar, who were not religious in the real sense, but they led the politics in the name of Islam and Hinduism, respectively.

RSS combine identifies Hinduism mainly with the narrow stream of Hinduism, or rather, Brahmanism. Hinduism is not based on a single book, prophet or a clergy. Polytheism being at its root, the religion has many theologies, practices and a plethora of holy scriptures.

Gandhi followed a liberal tradition of Hinduism and while laying the foundation of Indian nationalism during the freedom movement, he did not let religion intrude the politics. In contrast, the Hindu nationalism, which is being propounded by those claiming to be representing Hindus- Hindu Mahasabha, RSS and their offshoots is narrow and intolerant.

Since large sections of Hindus, were following Gandhi, the illiberal Hindu Mahasabha-RSS brand of Hinduism, remained on the margins during those days. But, during the last three decades, starting with the Ram Temple agitation, the Hindu nationalist-driven political campaign has thrown up the intolerant propaganda about the ‘others’ in a blatant way. With the current dispensation where BJP is leading the coalition, the leaders of the ruling Hindu nationalist party and its affiliate organizations are being patronized by the state which has helped them intensify the hate propaganda against the country’s religious minorities.

Their pronouncements are aimed to intimidate those who do not agree to their version of state and politics. The politics of RSS is not just intimidating the ‘others’ but also threatening those liberal Hindus .

As religion is being pushed deeper into politics the intolerance level in the society is going up. The challenge of our times is to distinguish between the politics in the name of religion and religion per se.

Mr Nariman’s statement reflects how the veteran jurist is disappointed with the democratic liberal ethos being challenged by the rising assertion of the Hindutva politics led by the RSS combine.

On a personal note I have long been receiving good number of hate mails routinely, as these articles of critical of politics in the name of Hinduism, or politics in the name of any religion for that matter. I know that another article on RSS and Hindu nationalism is going to uptick the quota of the hate mails for me.

Category :- English Bazaar Patrika / OPED