Ur-Fascism [Eternal Fascism] is still around us, sometimes in plainclothes. It would be much easier for us if there appeared on the world scene somebody saying, “I want to reopen Auschwitz, I want the Blackshirts to parade again in the Italian squares” Life is not that simple. Ur-Fascism can come back under the most innocent of disguises. Our duty is to uncover it and to point our finger at any of its new instances – everyday, in every part of the world.
Politics in this part of South Asia unfolds itself in very many ways. We have before us a spectrum of regimes ranging from electoral democracies at one end to countries which could be said to be unambiguously authoritarian at the other, and some others with varying mixes of electoral democratic and authoritarian features ‘packed in between.’ Since early 1980s we have also been witness to an emergence of right-wing populist parties and movements throughout a growing number of these countries. Appealing to public anxieties in the wake of rapid economic change, these movements have succeeded in mobilizing and exploiting popular resentments against immigrants, minorities, and the political establishment.
The eighty seven plus year journey of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) – loosely translated as ‘National Volunteer Corps’ – an organisation of Hindu males, working for Hindutva and which wants to usher into Hindu Rashtra can also be looked at in this context. Modeling itself on similar experiments in Mussolini’s Italy, drawing inspiration from the ‘ethnic cleansing’ in Nazi Germany, today it has grown into a large behemoth. One can definitely think of other formations, groups – many of them having a regional/sub-national base/appeal which have played or still playing a role in furthering the radical populist rightwing politics in this part of South Asia, but RSS experience in furthering what can be better understood as communal fascism in this part of the world could be said to be unique.
The innovative strategies used by the ‘cultural organisation’ ( as it calls itself) to reach out to different sections of people, the plethora of affiliated organisations started by it to cater to specific concerns, its combination of constitutional and extra-constitutional (read violent) means, its journey from the margins of politics to its centre stage, etc definitely need further elaboration. It is difficult to spot similar organisations in rest of the world which have found themselves implicated in instigating violence, or allegedly involved in engineering riots but still able to maintain their cultural facade or ‘missionary’ image and not been ostracised by the liberal sections of society.
Let me admit, the following presentation does not claim to be a holistic appraisal of this unique project nor it purports to be an overview of its functioning. Its focus is rather limited.
It intends to deal with two of its highly ‘successful’ interventions, one pertains to its internal consolidation vis-a-vis coopting a section of the dalits – the most oppressed in the social hierarchy called caste system , comprising one-sixth of India’s population, who are routinely discriminated against and subjected to overt-covert violence of many forms.
The second one relates to its clever use of the ‘terror of the bomb’ to further stigmatise and terrorise religious minorities especially Muslims. The first decade of the 21 st century has been witness to what is popularly known as the phenomenon of Hindutva terror, wherein activists associated with RSS or one of their frontal/likeminded organisations were found to be involved in acts of terrorism. Taking advantage of the growing stigmatisation and terrorisation of the Muslim community the world over, in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 terror attack, they also tried to apportion the ‘blame’ on the religious minorities only.
Coopting the Dalits : New Footsoldiers, Old Hatreds !
Hinduism is only a derivative, a fraction, a part of Hindutva. Unless it is made clear what is meant by the latter the first remains unintelligible and vague….Here it is enough to point out that Hindutva is not identical with what is vaguely indicated by the term Hinduism. By an ‘ism’ it is generally meant a theory or a code more or less based on spiritual or religious dogma or creed. Had not linguistic usage stood in our way then ‘Hinduness’ would have certainly been a better word than Hinduism as a near parallel to Hindutva. Hindutva embrases all the departments of thought and activity of the whole Being of our Hindu race.
The most surprising as well as disturbing thing about cooption of the dalits is that Hindutva has never tried to hide its deep fascination for Manusmriti – religious edict of the Hindus – which denies any human rights to the Dalits. In fact, Hindutva as the politics of the elite upper class/caste Hindus aims to maintain the status of quo of caste and gender relationships manifests its politics by propagating hate against minorities in general and Muslims in particular. To quote Ram Puniyani “It is interesting how social engineering and politics can be manipulated to use prime targets – namely the dalits – to be unleashed upon the secondary targets in order to bring back the birth-based hierarchies in a refined and modern garb.” ( Hindutva’s Social Engineering, Quoted in ‘Hindutva and Dalits’ Ed. Anand Teltumbde, Samya, 2005, Page 93)
To be precise, it was the year 2002 when one witnessed planned genocide of mainly Muslims in the western province of Gujarat in the aftermath of a tragic burning of bogey of a train that we became aware about participation of a section of the dalits and adivasis in the mayhem. The news itself baffled many, quite a few even refused to believe it, a few intellectuals sympathetic to the dalit movement even called it a propaganda to stigmatise the dalits.
The disbelief was understandable looking at the fact that Hindutva was an anathema in the ranks of the dalits. In fact Dalit movement has always acted as a strong bulwark against the machinations of the Hindutva right. Articulate sections of the dalit movement rightly knew that the essence of Hindu Rashtra is restoration of Brahminical supremacy and relegation of the dalits to a secondary status much on the lines of Manusmriti. The legendary son of the oppressed Dr Ambedkar had rightly cautioned them about the dangers of ushering into a Hindu Rashtra.
“If Hindu Raj does become a fact it will, no doubt, be the greatest calamity for this country. No matter what the Hindus say, Hinduism is a menace to liberty, equality and fraternity. On that account it is incompatible with Democracy. Hindu Raj must be prevented at any cost”
Question naturally arose about this advent of new phenomenon which could be characterised as inversion of dalit consciousness. People asked could the dalits be considered mere victims who still remain at the mercy of the dominant castes who can be swayed away by false promises or (to put it bluntly) whether the incorporation of the dalits in the Hindutva maelstrom could be considered a matter of choice adopted by quite a few among them ?
Of course, the simple sounding questions were not easy to answer.
It was significant to note that the phenomenon of inversion of dalit consciousness and communalisation of the movement has occured / was occuring in the backdrop of the greater dalit assertion which had made its presence felt in the 90s – a phenomenon which has helped unleash the process of deepening and widening of democracy. It cannot be disputed that the growing bonhomie between dalits ( and tribals) and forces of Hindutva carries importance not only because it magnifies the threat posed by communalsim but also because it weakens its potential resistance also. How does one comprehend this metamorphosis of the age old victims of graded hierarchy of Brahminism into perpetrators themselves?
While one could easily find glee on the faces of the Sangh ideologues, who came up with readymade rationalisations of such acts, for a large section of the activists of the anti-communal movement, the very piece of news itself was incomprehensible as well as baffling. The reaction of the dalit/bahujan intellectuals was no better. In fact, the only explanation of sorts which was resorted to by most of them, talked of the dalits playing into the hands of the Hindutva brigade. It was told how they were lured into becoming perpetrators with simple promises.
Perhaps they did not mean it, but all these facile explanations were denigrating these subalterns further. They communicated an impression that dalits were mere pawns who could be waylaid by anyone. At a deeper philosophical level, this also led to the question of agency? Can the dalits be considered mere victims who still remain at the mercy of the dominant castes or (to put it bluntly) whether the incorporation of the dalits in the Hindutva maelstrom could be considered a matter of choice adopted by quite a few among them ?
A related question on mind was whether Gujarat 2002 which awakened us to this phenomenon could be considered as its point of emergence or whether it had a ‘history’ of its own which needed to be recovered.
A cursory glance at few of the old reports on communal flare-ups in post-independent India, makes it clear that eighties happened to be the decade when one could see dalits growing affinity towards communal elements or there participation in anti-Muslim violence.
V. Geetha in her perceptive essay on ‘Dalits, Hindutva and Dravidian movement’ shares her experience of the Tamil society. According to her :
‘ In Tamil Nadu, since the late 1980s, Hindu political groups aligned to the Sangh Parivar in one way or another have attempted to, and partially succeeded in, recruiting dalit youth to their ranks. This has been the case with groups in Chennai that have looked to swelling their ranks during the annual Ganesh Chaturthi processions with a posse of young dalits from the city’s various slums…’
The conflation of Dalit identity with that of a Hindutva fanatic can be said to resemble the behaviour of a section of women in the aftermath of Babri Mosque demolition. ( 6 th December 1992). One very well knows how this period witnessed large scale participation of women especially Hindu women in the riots and which posed quite a few uncomfortable questions before the women’s movement itself. To quote Tanika Sarkar and Urvashi Butalia
“..Politically and methodologically this assertive participation of women in right wing campaigns, pulled down many of our assumptions in a state of crisis for we have always seen women as victims of violence rather than its perpetrators …”
( Women and the Hindu Right : Ed. Tanika Sarkar and Urvashi Butalia, Kali forWomen 1995, Page 3).
Perhaps there was need to look at the very dynamic of post-Ambedkar dalit movement to look for answers.
It would be opportune to look at the post Ambedkar Dalit movement and do a stock taking of the changes within the Dalit politics to understand the phenomenon.. The ups and downs through which the Dalit politics passed through after the death of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar can be broadly divided into three phases – Rise and decline of the Republican Party of India, emergence of the Dalit Panthers and thirdly the growing assertion of Dalits for political power and their consequent refusal to remain satisfied merely with education and job opportunities arising out of the policy of reservation. The impressive intervention of Bahujan Samaj Party under Kanshiram-Mayawati in the national politics underlines this third stage.
Another noteworthy feature of this period has been the apparent groundswell in various Dalit castes also. One could say that the phenomenon of assertion of identities has trickled down to even subsections of the community/caste itself. Consequently their guns are trained besides the Varna system also on the so-called rich Dalit castes or the creamy layer in them which they feel have monopolised a large part of the reserved posts. The Mahar/neo-Buddhists vs. Matang and charmakar debate in Maharashtra, Mala vs. Madiga in Andhra Pradesh are symptomatic of this rising trend..
One can definitely say that at the political level this caste assertion within the ranks of the dalits has definitely precipitated a section of the dalits switching over their loyalties to the ranks of Hindutva forces. Coming to Maharashtra one can see that parties opposed to Congress have skillfully used the persisting differences between different dalit castes. For example, when the Shiv Sena-BJP government held the reins of power in Maharashtra in mid-nineties, it saw to it that there was representation of Matang and Charmakar in the ministry and the Mahars or NeoBuddhists were kept out.
The decade of the nineties which happened to be a period of great turmoil has acted as a backdrop to this recent changes in dalit politics. This period witnessed apart from the neo-liberal changes undertaken in the economy under the canopy of globalisation, two parallel (at times overlapping) streams which made their present felt in the socio-political arena – namely the phenomenon of dalit-backward assertion and the ascendance of the Hindutva right. In popular parlance it was projected as ‘mandal’ versus ‘kamandal’ politics.
But is it possible to explain the growing fascination of a section of dalits towards Hindutva merely at the political level or there is social basis to it, which has to do with the lifeworlds of the dalits themselves.
Changing Lifeworlds, Changed Worldview ?
Babasahebanchya Mage Kuni Kay Kele/ Kuni Jhale MLA, Kuni Jhale MLC, Aamhi Rahilo Upashi
( What we did after Babasaheb’s Demise, Somebody became MLA, somebody became MLC, We remained Hungry)- A Marathi song famous in 70 s )
The lifeworlds of the dalits in the wee hours of 21 st century present a contradictory picture.
On the one hand we have before us a majority which is poor, which is landless, which is subjected to deprivations and injustices of different kinds. Caste discrimination still persists in most parts of the country. Untouchability might have been officially abolished more than half a century ago but it still exists. Crimes against this section of society are rampant. Ranging from the police to the adminstration to the judiciary, one very well witnesses the continuing stranglehold of Varna mindset. But definitely this is not the total picture of the dalits.
There is no denying the fact that a minority among the dalits has definitely benefitted from measures instituted by the government.The affirmative action programmes – comprising of viz. seats in educational institutions, quotas in employment opportunities, political representation at various levels – undertaken by the state in the post-independence era, coupled with the changes in the economy has definitely impacted the lifeworlds of a section of dalits in very many ways. Despite the fact that the implementation of such schemes and policies has been tardy which still faces resistance at various levels, nobody can deny that a new middle class has emerged from among these oppressed communities, which was unthinkable in the pre-independence era.
The difference in class locations and consequent social-cultural attitudes has led to a state where despite coming from similar social origin, one does find a perceptible difference between the experiences, grievances and aspirations of the dalit masses and that of the dalit middle classes. The way in which the internal dynamic of the dalit movement has unfolded itself , where radical transformatory slogans have given way to the idea of ‘capturing power’ in any manner, has also created an ambience which has reinforced this divide. The explosion of religiosity which is evident among different cross-sections of society has also impacted the dalits.
Talking about Dalit middle class, Sandeep Pendse puts it in one of his articles ( The Dalits and Hindutva : Gainers and Loosers):
It has now come into its own and developed distinct interests. It now aspires not for a distinct and separate identity but for assimilation and acceptance within the mainstream., including the Hindu fold. It no longer even promotes democratic, radical culture expressions. It wishes above all integration.
In fact instead of wholesale rejection of the Hindu order, they seem to opt for this path in a belief that this would enable them to claim their due in matters of both faith and social status. As Nalini Pandit puts it in her above quoted writeup ‘These middle class Dalits have a desire to assimilate with the upper caste middle class which at least in Maharashtra is extremely communal. Naturally the Dalits imitate them in their thinking and behaviour.’
At general level the very dynamics of caste has also manifested itself. The caste system as is widely known is basically a system of social hierarchy based on the twin concepts of purity and pollution which is sanctified and legitimised by religion. Looking at the whole process of social mobility there are only two options open before the lower castes. They can either reject or renounce the whole edifice of religion which sanctifies this system and strive for an alternate identity or they can strive to climb the social hierarchy by imitating the way of life and ritual of the dominant castes
It would not be incorrect to say that the cumulative impact of deradicalization of the dalit movement coupled with the growing hiatus between the broad sections of dalit masses and a stabilized dalit middle class , the overall spurt in religiosity has led us to a situation where it is not easy to map the dynamic of dalithood in a linear fashion.
One could even say that the dynamic of Dalithood has simultaneously traversed a terrain which has contradictory features. While one of its stream is showing a newfound enthusiasm for Hinduism or the political project of Hindutva, the second stream has aligned itself with democratic or radical forces and is involved in struggles of dignity or livelihood, including political power. The ‘guest actor’ role ( to quote Prof Gopal Guru) of the Dalits and their leaders in the unfolding dynamic of Indian polity is long passe, today they happen to be the most vibrant section of Indian society able to make choices for themselves.
Ofcourse apart from the internal logic of the dalit movement which has created a basis for the spread of statusquoist ideas gain wider currrency , there has been a sea change in Sangh Parivar’s whole stratagem as far as coopting dalits in its hate project is concerned. One can see for oneself that it has shrewdly modified its focus keeping its essential understanding intact. Gone are the days when Dalits were abhorred like during the reign of Hedgewar-Golwalkar and Ambedkar was a hated figure in the Sangh circles, today not only Ambedkar has found a prominent place in the Sangh pantheon ( Pratahsmaraniya – worth remembering in the morning). The Sangh patriarchs have of late been talking about Hindu community getting organised under dalit leadership.
Terrorising the Minorities
Like all fascist/protofascist movements, fascination for violence against the ‘other’ is nothing unusual as far as RSS or its ‘anushangik’ (affiliated) organisations are concerned. A cursory glance at the reports of various enquiry commissions in post-independence India, which have probed riots makes this thing very much evident. This fascination for violence in the saffron parivar seems to have reached its pinnacle with the phenomenon of Hindutva terror.
It has been more than a decade that this phenomenon has raised its head which saw many avoidable deaths. Here we witness activists, workers, Pracharaks of the ’cause’ collecting arms, storing explosives, engaging themselves in arms training and making elaborate plans to put it at crowded places to have maximum impact supposedly to teach the ‘others’ a lesson. We have also been witness to camouflaging by these conspirators themselves as the ‘other’ to further stigmatise the other community. As things stand today many activists of different Hindutva formations have been apprehended, cases have been registered, investigations are on.
A special director of the Intelligence Bureau (IB) is understood to have told the state police chiefs that the Hindutva activists have either been suspected or are under investigation in 16 incidents of bomb blasts in the country. The top intelligence official’s remark during the annual conference of the Director Generals and Inspector Generals of Police from the states last year revealed that the saffron terror had assumed a much larger proportion.
Contrary to general impression that Hindutva terrorists are lying low, one discovers that they are very much active, in fact they have learned from their earlier mistakes which helped the police and security agencies to lay hands on them easily and have reworked their strategies. A random look at few events which occurred last year make things very clear.
A Look at News Clippings…
A section of the media reported about how a ‘terror plot was foiled and explosives were seized from a car near Brahmavar’ near Udupi, Karnatak. As usually happens in all such cases the followup of this incident was not reported, despite the fact that the person carrying the explosives named Ganesh Prasad happened to be activist of some Hindutva organisation (Terror plot foiled, explosives seized from car near Brahmavar, by CD Network Thursday, 10 May 2012 10:16, http://www.coastaldigest.com)
Whether we will ever get answers to the query that who had directed Ganesh Prasad to carry ‘huge quantity of explosives’ and what was the game plan ? Who else was involved in the conspiracy ? Imagine whether the response would have been similar if the carrier of explosives would have been belonging to one of those minority communities.
If Ganesh Prasad was carrying explosives to create disturbances in and around Udupi, his ‘friends’ in Hyderabad were found to be engaged in temple desecration to trigger a riot. It has been widely reported how Hyderabad witnessed communal tension in first half of April 2012. The communally sensitive Madannapet was rocked by communal clashes on April 08 following a temple desecration. Over a dozen people were injured in the violence spread to Saeedabad and surrounding areas forcing police to impose indefinite curfew.Police had clear evidence then itself that hindu extremists were behind this move who had desecrated the temple themselves (Saffron extremists desecrated temple to trigger riots: Cops, Times of India, 14 th April 2012). Within few days the Special Investigation Team of Central Crime Station arrested four hindu youths who were allegedly involved in temple desecration at Kurmaguda in Madannapet police station limits.
According to an official involved in investigation all the four arrested were mere pawns and real challenge before the police is to reach the real conspirators who had planned and executed the operation.
Merely two months before this ‘engineered riot’ police busted a hindutva terror group in Punjab. It may be told here that Haryana witnessed five terror blasts in different parts of the state in 2009 which included a mosque, madrasa and a slaughterhouse. The blasts witnessed death of one person. According to details provided by the police the accused had planted two bombs in a slaughterhouse in Satakpuri village of Mewat district in 2009. They had also planted bombs in mosques in Malav village (Mewat) and Jind, besides conducting a blast in Safido. Interrogation revealied that Rajesh Kumar, one of the gang members earlier worked in a stone crushing company and used to procure explosives for the blasts.
The Patiala Police on 16th February arrested five persons in connection with the series of bomb blasts in various districts of Haryana in 2009. The accused included one Sagar (alias Azad), chief of the Azad Organization under which these people were working.
Sindagi, a small town in Bijapur district of Karnataka witnessed terror act of a different kind on the eve of new year. No sooner than this town of around 30 plus thousand people with a mixed population of Hindus as well as Muslims wokeup to their routine activities came the news that a Pakistani flag was fluttering at the tehsil office. And by the time shops opened up members of different Hindutva organisations – Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Sri Ram Sene, Bajrang Dal – had gathered near the tehesil office, raising provocative slogans, and they even tried to damage public property. The very next day bandh call given by pro-Hindu organizations at Sindagi town in the district on Monday received good response.
The investigating team formed had its task cut out. And within three days the real culprits behind the incident were produced before the media. When the police held a press conference to present the real terrorists, people were in for a big shock. They were those very youngsters who were leading the protests the other day. The hooded photographs of these jeans wearing youth – namely Rakesh Siddaramiah Mutt (19), Anil Kumar (18), Parashuram Ashok (20), Rohit Eshwar (18), Sunil Madiwalappa (18) and Mallangouda Vijaykumar (18) all students of colleges in Sindagi and Bijapur – appeared in one of the newspapers the next day.
Officially, the police maintained that it was the handiwork of Sri Ram Sene led by Praveen Muthalik, whereas district unit of the Sene denied their group’s involvement. They even held a press conference to say that the accused belonged to RSS and even released several pictures to prove their point.
The ‘Sindagi fiasco’ where Hindutva terrorists made a self goal demonstrates once again that they and their ideologues suffer from poverty of ideas. There have been umpteenth occasions where they were caught engaged in terrorist act trying to ‘impersonate’ the ‘other’.It would not be an exaggeration to say that they have been adopting this tactics since pre-partition days. The book ‘Param Vaibhav Ke Path Par’ written by a senior RSS functionary (Sadanand Damodar Sapre, Suruchi Prakashan, Delhi, 1997) provides details of this technique where ‘Swayamsevaks even adopted Muslim religion to gain the confidence of the Muslim League during partition days.’
While there has been no let up in the Hindutva terror operations, one discovers that the accused in the earlier terror cases have started getting bail one after the other. It appears that the NIA, (National Investigating Agency) the premier investigating agency, especially constituted to look into terror cases has suddenly ‘lost interest in taking saffron terror cases’ to their natural conclusion.
And the most significant has been the reluctance of the powers that be even interrogate a man – Indresh Kumar – who has found mention in many of the accused’s statements. In one of its reports some time back ‘Siasat’ had described him a ‘kingpin of terror strikes’ (Thursday, 10 February 2011(www.siasat.net).
In Search of Mastermind ..
Indresh Kumar, one of the top leaders of the RSS, looks confident these days.
Not many would recognise today that there was a time – only few months back – when there were reports that he would be arrested allegedly for his involvement in one of the most criminal and murderous phase in the trajectory of majoritarian politics in the country, popularly known as the phenomenon of Hindutva terror. Many of those activists of RSS or other Hindutva organisations who are behind bars for their role in different terror acts had shared with the investigating agencies their interaction with him during different phases of the work or the instructions allegedly given by him or the mobilisation of funds he supposedly did for these terror acts.
Reports appearing in newspapers and other media channels then can give one an idea what was in store for him. “Masjid blast heat on RSS top man’ (Mail Today, 23 Dec 2010).,’CBI grills Indresh and calls his bluff’ (Mail Today, 24 th Dec 2010), Indresh Kumar ke Puchhtachh se Sangh ki Dhadkan Tej (RSS dreads questioning of Indresh Kumar. Bhaskar, 24 Dec 2010) etc.
It described how :
The heat is on senior RSS leader Indresh Kumar, who was already blamed by Aseemanand as one of the kingpins of terror strikes in Malegaon, Ajmer and Mecca Masjid and Samjhauta express.More trouble is brewing for him as Rajasthan ATS has arrested another one of Indresh’s aides – Bharat Bhai Rateshwar. He was the one who was given the task of mobilising funds for terror strikes.His confession statement – accessed by CNN-IBN – corroborates a lot of what Aseemanand had told investigators himself…
All that is passe !
His interview to a national daily one and half a year demonstrated (Jagran, 31 October 2011) his new found confidence. Answering the query about his name being linked to different terror cases he stated that it is the result of ‘the investigating agencies playing into the hands of the government and an attempt to deliberately link Hindu society to terrorist activities’. Lambasting Digvijay Singh, the general secretary of Congress, he said that ‘he visits houses of terrorists in Azamgarh and Delhi and one needs to investigate his relations with terrorists’ and also the manner in which home minister removed ‘names of Pakistanis from the list of terrorists which clearly shows that he has good relations with ISI.’
With hindsight one can say that the retraction of confession by RSS Pracharak-terrorist Swami Aseemanand ‘saying it was “coerced’ (March 31, 2011), before a court in Ajmer could have played a role in Indresh Kumar’s fresh assertiveness.
Today neither the investigating agencies seem keen to interrogate him nor the ruling Party at the centre appears keen to take the investigations to their logical conclusion despite the political resolution adopted by the Congress Party at Burari (2010) to launch a ‘full probe into the RSS’s alleged terror links.’
The Congress party’s dilly dallying on the question of fighting communalism is a known thing. In recent decades, “[t]he party has oscillated between a form of ‘defensive secularism’ at times bordering on soft Hindutva, and an ‘instant secularism’ crafted more as a reaction to the BJP’s taunts than as a result of its own convictions.” (Editorial ‘Dealing With Communalisms’ ,The Hindu,Dec 24, 2010)
The doublespeak of the UPA on ‘Saffron Terror’ in fact follows from this.
There are number of examples which show how it oscillates between anti-communalism in words and soft Hindutva in practice.
On the one hand while it is being told that the investigating agencies owing allegiance to the home ministry are busy in making a strong case against Indresh Kumar, on the other hand the same Manmohan Singh led government had no qualms in rewarding his supporters for ‘harmony’. (Nai Dunia, 14 Sept 2011, Bhagwa Atankwad Par UPA Sarkar ki Kathani-Karni The gap between precepts and practice on the question of saffron terror) It was the month of August when in a programme organised in Delhi Vice President Dr Hamid Ansari, PM Manmohan Singh and Home Minister P Chidambaram felicitated Dr Mohammad Haneef, Ms Saroj Khan of Centre for Human Rights and Social Welfare and Acharya Lokesh Muni. All these three persons who were felicitated with communal harmony awards gave detailed interview to the monthly magazine of ‘Himalay Parivar’. It may be told here that Indresh Kumar happens to be a member of the advisory board of the magazine and also a key figure in the Himalya Parivar. While Mohammad Haneef said that he took inspiration from Indresh Kumar, Ms Saroj Khan appreciated the help rendered by Rashtriya Muslim Manch in her work of communal harmony. Not very many people know that Indresh Kumar is closely associated with the Manch, in fact, according to informal sources, he was the brain behind launching the Manch.
Or, look at its flip-flop on the question of banning ‘Sanatan Sanstha’ whose activists have been found to be involved in terrorist activities and some of them have faced convictions also for their role in blasts at theatres and cinema halls in Thane and Panvel in 2008. The issue has been hanging from more than three years with this or that department of the central government seeking additional information. With the conviction in the Thane Panvel blasts, the Maharashtra government has again approached the central government to ban the organisation but no decision has yet been taken (Ban Sanatan Sanstha : Maharashtra to Centre, Indian Express, 13 Sep 2011).
But is it the case only with ‘Sanatan Sanstha’ ?
Said Hamid, Bombay bureau chief of Rojnama Rashtriya Sahara, Urdu writes (Kaumi Farman, December 2011, Page 23)
No Hindutva organisations has been banned since last ten years under UAPA…The list of such organisations which have been banned five times since last ten years comprises predominantly of Muslim organisations. Not only SIMI, it includes Deendar Anjuman, Dukhtarane Millat, Indian Mujahideen, Al Badar, Al Mujahideen, Al Burk, Al Fateh Force, Al Jihad Force, Al Umar Mujahideen, Awami Action Committee, Harkat ul Ansar, Harkat ul Jihad Islami, Harkatul Mujahideen, Hizbul Mujahideen, Ikhawanul Musalmeen, Jaish-e-Mohammad, Lashkar Muhammadi, Jamaitul Mujahideen, Lashkar-e-Toiba, Pasban Islami, Tehreekul Mujahideen etc.
How is it that since last ten years no Hindutva organisation has been declared terrorist .. despite the fact that dozens of Hindutva terrorists have been arrested for their role in terror acts in Muslim dominated areas, mosques, kabristan etc. .
While one can understand that the ten year period which Mr Hamid mentions comprises of two plus year rule of BJP at the centre but his observation is worth consideration. Forget banning the organisation one finds a differential treatment when the police deals with ‘Jihadi terrorists’ or ‘Hindutva terrorists’. .’
One can just compare the ‘kid glove treatment’ meted out to accused in the Hindutva terror cases or the ‘NIA’s dragging its feet in such investigations’ and the ongoing communal profiling of Muslim youth /elders in terror related cases.
Leave Congress none of the parties of the secular bloc or even the left covered themselves with glory in this unfolding phenomenon. No serious attempt to join the dots and try to understand the emerging pattern was taken up by them. All those acts which came to light from time to time were considered isolated events, which supposedly did not demand serious scrutiny.
Looking back, one finds that formations of the Hindutva right were slowly moving on to from ‘terror of riot’ to ‘terror of bomb’ but the change in their stratagem remained unregistered and unnoticed. Hindutva had discovered that the older strategy was no longer paying rich dividends at the pan-India level, and the new strategy was more appropriate for the following reasons:
1. It was in tune with the times as ‘terrorism’ had been made a global phenomenon, and was inculcated in the psyche of the people world-over by the reactionary forces..
2. In the name of security of the country, it was possible to rope in sympathisers in the intelligence, the Executive and the Judiciary for the ultimate project of building Hindu Rashtra, and blackmail even the vulnerable political opponents.
3. It created fear in the hearts of all citizens,
4. It required fewer prople’s participation, and also carried less risk for the perpetrators.
5. It also helped victimise the victims further through arrests and torture.
6. It helped create wider divide in the name of religion,
7. The tag of terror could be pinned on Muslim community, thereby consolidating the image of ‘evil other’ – a must for moving the society towards authoritarianism and ultimately thrusting fascism
8. It had wider reach, and helped in faster consolidation of people behind them.
Thus it was more beneficial for the reactionary political project of building fascism.
One could see it as a result of two processes – one national and the other international. The universal condemnation the Hindutva brigade received for aiding and abetting Gujarat carnage 2002 definitely forced the Parivar people to revisit the politics of riots. There was a slow realisation that engineering communal riots would not yield the desired results and would not pay handsome political dividends but would boomerang on them and would effectively nullify their political gains which they have been able to achieve through communal politics. The sixty four reports prepared by national and international human rights organisations exposing the role of the different affiliated organisations of the Parivar or the compromising role played by the police or the strictures passed by the highest courts of the country against the ‘Neroes of Gujarat’ were a testimony that such a mode would be counterproductive in the long run.
Another factor which acted as a backdrop to this new modus operandi of the Hindutva brigade pertained to the new commonsense foisted on the people of the world by United States post 9/11. The ‘war against terror’ launched under its aegis had strong overtones of undue targeting of a particular community and its religion namely Islam. In the backdrop of Soviet disintegration, the ‘evil other’ of the two reactionaries – the mighty U.S. imperialists and the homegrown Hindutvawadis – had become one and the same, ‘the Muslim’!
In Lieu of Conclusion
One can go on providing details of the way Hindutva brigade’s machinations have helped in the further terrorisation of minorities or how the saga of Hindutvaisation of a section of Dalits is proceeding ahead. The ‘success’ of both the interventions by the Hindutva right present before the left movement important questions to handle.
In fact, the Indian left today presents a very contradictory picture. As opposed to many left formations/movements in different parts of the world which witnessed decline/reverses after the Soviet collapse, it has been able to sustain itself and at places even expand itself. It’s sustenance and continuation amongst heavy odds, does not mean that it is not beset with challenges. The challenge of outlining its emancipatory vision of social transformation for 21 st century, devising innovative strategies of mobilisation and rejuvenating itself organisationally still remains. It also needs to reboot itself to address few important issues which are of key importance for any radical restructuring of Indian society and state. Undoubtedly, its failure on this count has cost it heavily. Question of dalit emancipation or the whole struggle for annihilation of caste forms one such core issues which demand serious attention. The need to strategise correctly to enhance and strengthen the anti communal struggle or struggle for secularism in a multireligious country like ours forms another core issue. It also needs to be explored what are the interlinkages between both the issues.
The exposures in the phenomenon of Hindutva terror – thanks to the investigations in the Malegaon bomb blasts 2008 – which brought to be the fore a nationwide network of activists of RSS and other Hindutva organisations engaged in raising terror modules and the consequent reaction of the left could be seen as a signficant marker of the lacunae that exist especially in overall understanding of the communal problem.
Much like other secular formations who were missing from mass actions then, left forces of various shades – from the parliamentary ones to the extra-parliamentary one – kept themselves busy giving statements, appearing on talk shows, holding press conferences as if it sufficed their anti-communal task. It was incomprehensible what stopped them from taking up the issue of majoritarian terrorism in a big way. It was a historic moment when looking at the grand aversion towards terrorism in society, they could have gathered lot of wavering masses to their sides, exposed the true face of the Hindutva politics and compelled it to go on the defensive.
If Shahbagh Uprising in neighbouring country like Bangladesh today can put communalists and war criminals on the defensive and help reinvigorate the core principles of secularism and democracy back on the agenda, what stopped the left movement whose combined strength could be envy of left/progressive movements in other countries from taking up the gauntlet for similarly reinvigorating secularism.
For close watchers of the trajectory of secular politics, there was nothing surprising in this scenario. It was continuation of its approach towards majoritarian politics in general and communal politics in particular. Limitations of their approach were similarly on display when preparations for launching the ‘biggest mass movement in independent India’ were on in late eighties and early nineties which had culminated in the demolition of five hundred year old Babri Mosque. On the one hand Hindutva forces were busy mobilising people in very many ways, through plethora of mass organisations, but there was no counter-mobilisation on streets challenging them on the ground, trying to take the struggle to a new pitch.
Looking back, one can say that the approach of left to tackle communalism is largely ‘state centric’, it not only emphasises the role of the state in combating communalism but makes demands on the state. It asks the state to ban communal outfits or take strict action against violation of constitutional rights or popularise scientific temper etc. The approach which clearly has the imprints of the immediate post independence times when communal forces of all hues were on margins leaves the question of secularisation of society wide open. It is left unsaid but effectively the societal vacuum is left open to religious, communal organisations or NGOs or similar status quoist formations. Clearly the approach does not even envisage the possibility that a day may arise when the state itself would be in the hands of communal forces that would then have a free run, enacting laws, carving out statues to present majoritarianism itself as another name for democracy.
It is high time that the left gets ready to ‘put daring above everything else’ and decides to take up these challenges.
(Draft Paper presented at the international conference on ‘New Cultures of the Left’ organised by the journal ‘Historical Materialism’ in Delhi, 3-5 th June 2013)