OPED

Pragya Singh Thakur is no ordinary member of BJP, the ruling dispensation in the country. She is a MP from Bhopal and was also made the member of defense committee before she was removed from that committee for her statement hailing Nathuram Godse. She first came to lime light after the Malegaon blasts, in which six people were killed. Hemant Karkare, the police officer who was killed in 26/11 (2008) attack was investigating the case and he came across the fact that the motor cycle used in Malegaon blast was previously owned by Thakur. That led to her arrest and unearthing of the plot in which many were arrested. She is currently under bail on medical grounds.

Then she came to prominence as she stated that Karkare had tortured her and it is due to her shap (curse) that Karkare got killed. Under pressure from top, she withdrew this statement. After this she went to state that Nathuram Godse was a nationalist, is a nationalist and will remain a nationalist. Again she was pressurized to withdraw this statement, and Mr. Modi even said he will not be able to forgive Thakur.

Latest in the series of her statement come the one about Varna system. On one hand she stated (on 13 12 2020) that “shudras “feel bad” when they are called shudras due to “ignorance” about the social system. Addressing a gathering of the Kshatriya Mahasabha, Thakur said that society has been divided into four categories in “our dharmashastra (social treatise)”. In the same vein she commented that “Today’s kshatriya  need to understand their duties and produce more and more children to induct them into the Armed Forces so that they can fight for the nation and strengthen its security.”

It is likely that she may be pressurized once again to withdraw these utterances of hers’, but it is not just incidental that what she says is the part of deeper understanding of sectarian nationalists. Despite the meticulous investigation of Karkare, what is being propagated currently that it was the UPA II which wanted to implicate Hindu right wings groups. Two of RSS workers have been in jail for the blasts around that time. Many of those against whom cases were going on, were given bail or exonerated. The reason for this has been that the prosecuting authorities have been told to go soft on these cases. Rohini Salian the Public Prosecutor (PP) in Mumbai court stated this and she refused to budge. Thereby she was removed as PP.

As far statement about Godse is concerned they are so many from the cabal of Thakur who have been openly celebrating Godse, temples in his name are coming up. Even that act of assassination of Gandhi was recreated by Poonam Pandey of Hindu Mahasabha on 30th January 2019.

Caste Varna has been the thorn in the flesh of this sectarian nationalist ideology. While Ambedkar burnt Mausmriti for its prescriptions of Varna and Gender hierarchy, the second Sarsanghchalak of RSS, M.S. Golwalkar praised the laws of Lord Manu and stated that these ancient laws are matter of admiration even today. RSS mouthpiece Organizer criticized the Indian Constitution on the ground that it does not draw from the great laws given in Manu Smiriti and many from Hindu nationalist argued that India does not need a new Constitution as it already has the one, Mausmriti.

The dilemma for this sectarian ideology is to keep talking in the language which should appear to fit into the contemporary times, to keep giving lip service to the Indian Constitution, while doing everything to undermine it in practice. While demonizing Muslims has been the starting point of consolidating Hindus and mobilizing them but keeping dalits in subjugation as a strategy has been more complex.

Ambedkar aimed at caste annihilation, the ideology of Hindu nationalism has floated ‘Samajik Samrasta Manch’ (Social Harmony Forum). The projection here is that in ancient times all castes were equal and living in harmony. It was due to coming of Muslims, who wanted to convert and as natives offered resistance, were displaced leading to castes becoming unequal. Mr. Modi in his book, Karmayog, since withdrawn, tells us that Manual scavengers are not doing so just for the sake of livelihood but for the spiritual pleasure which they derive from that. The process of social engineering, in co-opting the sections of dalits into Hindutva political fold has been very deep, and dalit-Adivasis have even been used as foot soldiers of Hindu nationalist politics.

BJP has also succeeded in incorporating many dalit leaders by luring them with power. What Pragya Singh Thakur says is not out of the sync with what the ruling dispensation and RSS plan. It is a question what to say and what to mean. Closest analogy may be that of Elephant’s teeth, what is seen, shown and what is visible is different from the real one. The biggest challenge for this ideological organization is to take the name of Gandhi while keeping Godse alive in their ideology. Keeping caste-Varna system alive, while mouthing equality, is their aim.

As far as Khstriyas producing more children, it is being heard for the first time in a loud and clear manner. So far different RSS Chiefs have opposed family planning programs on the ground that Muslims don’t follow it, Hindus follow it so the Muslim population will go up. Most of these celibate propagators so far have been advising Hindu women to produce more children. Thakur is bringing forth the Varna, among Hindus and saying that Khstriyas (Warrior group) should produce more children. This is novel. Whether this will also be followed by the recruitment policies of the armed forces will become clear over a period of time.

It is the ilk of Thakur which shows us the deeper agenda of sectarianism, it is not only marginalizing of minorities, it is also aims at putting up the show of Hindu unity, while retaining the caste/Varna hierarchy.

Category :- English Bazaar Patrika / OPED

In the process of formation of the nation one of the major pillars is the concept of Fraternity. The words, Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity are flagship of French revolution, the revolution which overturned the feudal system, the kingdom and heralded the coming in of Modern Nation state, the concept of democracy. The path of these values has not been easy in India, where the process of ‘India as a nation in the making’ begins in the colonial period, running parallel to development of values of a modern state. As an aside since Fraternity, the classical part of triad, is male oriented so we should use ‘National community’, with all its inherent diversity in place.

This process of formation of national community in India ran along with the anti colonial movement and came as an overarching Indian identity above the identities of religion, caste, region, ethnicity and language. The national movement integrated all these sections as Indians. History does not run in a smooth line, as National movement led by Gandhi united the people, there were communal elements, Muslim League, Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which focussed on religion based identity. These tendencies were at the root of sectarian politics, which acted as a counter to the uniting influence of the national movement.

Nearly seven decades after Independence we are facing a situation which is very close to when Gandhi made all efforts to unite the people cutting across the lines of religion. The rise of communal politics during last three decades has widened the gulf between the religious communities, particularly Hindus on one side and Muslims and Christians on the other. Those wanting to uphold the values of Freedom movement and values of Indian Constitution have been scratching their heads as to how to cultivate and restore the bonding which made India, a nation. One effort has been to try to make bridges among different communities through respecting the traditions and faith of ‘others’. These efforts have also talked in the language of religion; have attempted to follow the moral values of religion. Moral values of religion were the core of teachings of Bhakti-Sufi saints. These also formed the base of Gandhi’s practice of Hinduism, which was inclusive and attracted the people of diverse religions.

In contemporary times there are activists who are endeavouring to walk this path. It may sound innocuous few decades ago, but not any longer. Now we see the case of arrest of Faisal Khan, who has tried to revive Khudai Khidmatgar, the organization floated by Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan, Seemant Gandhi. Gaffer Khan was ardent supporter of the path of non violence. He stood for respecting all religions and was totally opposed to the partition of the country, for which he had to spend years in the jails of British rulers and later in the ‘Muslim Nation’ Pakistan.

Faisal Khan, yearning for amity love and peace began his journey for communal amity with other peace workers. He decided to revive Khudai Khidmatgar to pursue the path to strengthen the spirit of Indian Community and on these lines has been trying one after the other move to bring the religious communities together.

He set up Apna Ghar for people of all religious communities to share and enhance the intercommunity bandings while celebrating festivals of all religions. He is also a trustee of Sarva Dharma Sadbhava Kendra Trust located in Ram Janaki Mandir Sarju Kunj, Ayodhya. There is a plan to develop an all-faith communal harmony centre in this Temple. Faisal Khan has offered Namaz several times in this temple. People of all faith and caste including Dalits are welcome in this temple. At another level he is part of organizations for Human rights like NAPM and at global level with Hindus for Human rights in US.

Recently he undertook a five day peace yatra in Brij region in UP along with four of his friends. This peace yatra was '84 Kos Parikrama' of Braj in Mathura during which they paid a visit to Nand Baba Mandir. As Faisal visited the temple he received prasad from temple priest and recited verses from Ramcharitmanas to the priest. The priest happily allowed him to offer namaz inside the premises on October 29, 2020. The petition that has been launched on Change.org, says, “When it was time for the midday namaz (Muslim prayer), Faisal was going to pray outside, but the priest invited him to pray right there in the temple. Faisal and one of his associates, Chand Mohammed, prayed in the temple compound.”

He has been arrested on charges which are related to inciting intercommunity tensions and is in jail for last few weeks. When we are talking of promoting intercommunity amity such an act is what gives the signal of intercommunity harmony. The state is duty bound to promote fraternity, the sense of Indian community, which Faisal Khan and his friends were trying give a message of. Many people accuse that secular forces have failed to address the people as they have been talking in a language which is away from the language of people, people who are steeped in the religiosity. Faisal Khan is doing precisely what many sympathetic critics are alleging is the failure of secular forces.

Gandhi and Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan saw religion as a moral force, as a spiritual path. They succeed to a large extent. After their passing away from scene, communal forces have overshadowed the moral ethical component of religion and presented religion as pure identity, and have used it as divisive force.

Today we are in a strange situation. The religious gulfs are rising and those trying to bridge it are accused precisely of things which they are fighting against. Society needs to introspect and take the path of Gandhi and Khan Saheb, to cement to gulfs which have crept in due to the divisive politics of sectarian nationalism. People like Faisal Khan need to be understood and respected for the path they are pursuing to promote the idea of inclusive India.

Category :- English Bazaar Patrika / OPED