With Modi Sarkar coming to power in the centre (May 2014), the picture of the country has changed drastically for the worse. (1) On one hand nation is witnessing the increasing unrestricted control of Corporate on our economy and on the other the sectarian divides are on the rise. This government had come to power standing on two pillars; one was the corporate world and other the solid support of RSS. Modi promised Acche din and danga mukt bharat (violence free society). The things have been totally in the opposite direction to the promises. (2) The big corporate are shining with expansions as per their liking and labor reforms have been brought in to please them. That, the land reforms envisaged by them could not be cleared that’s another matter. The policies of the state have been so changed as to undermine the importance of the social welfare schemes and all the right based schemes related to employment, health, nutrition and education have been put on the margins.
Despite the falling prices of crude oil globally; the prices are on the rise with the prices of routines commodities like dal (pulses), onions, tomatoes; shooting the sky. The much promised employment creation is nowhere in sight and youth are writhing in the pangs promise betrayed, promise of millions of jobs. The prime goal of the ‘guardian’ state is nowhere in sight. The economic scenario is abysmal for the average person in the society.
As far as the social-communal harmony is concerned the last year and a half has seen a very poor record. The social atmosphere has been so created where the rationalists thinkers like Dabholkar, Pansare and Kalburgi were killed brutally. (3) The low intensity; below the radar violence; has dominated the scene and issues like mosque, church in different places have been used to divide the society. Surely the large scale violence of the type of Mumbai 92-93 or Gujarat 2002 or Kandhmal 2008 have not been, but increase in scattered acts of violence have been tormenting the society. The ruling outfit and its affiliates have been the protectors of the ground level divisive activities.
During the first year of Modi Sarkar the Hate speech went up to horrendous limits. One recalls that even before Modi Sarkar assumed the seat of power the divisive activities of ‘BJP associates’ in the form of propaganda of love jihad and Ghar Vapasi were on, and they continued without any respite. Soon after this Government came to power; in Pune; Mohsin Sheikh, a person working in IT was hacked to death by activists of Hindu Jagran Sena. The attack on Churches was very glaring and the process which was dominant in Delhi and Haryana was also witnessed in places like Panvel near Mumbai, Agra in UP amongst other places.(4)
Sakshi Maharaj not only said that Godse was a patriot; he also went on to say that Hindu women should produce four children, as Muslims are overtaking the population. Sadhvi Prachi went to prescribe eight children for Hindu women. She also gave a call that the Muslim film actors, Aamir Khan, Shahrukh Khan and Salman Khan should be boycotted. Pravin Togadia has been the leading person in making hate speeches; he has the highest number of cases regarding hate speech against him. Yogi Adityanath, BJP’s MP keeps making very derogatory remarks, He said that in ‘love jihad’ if one Hindu girl is converted then 100 Muslim girls should be converted to Hinduism.
As such one realizes that ‘Hate speech’ is the outcome of the politics of divisiveness, it is the concentrated expression of the ‘social common sense’ prevailing in the society, it is the forth right and blunt way of putting things, which communal parties propagate anyway. It is not out of the blue that these formulations suddenly crop up, their infrastructure, the base of these has already been made by a section of political outfits.
When Dr. Dabholkar, Com Pansare and then Prof Kalburgi were killed over a period of months, the danger signals started being perceived but still it took the beef lynching of Mohammad Akhlaq in Dadri (5) to give a message that something has drastically changed in the society, and the spate of returning of Sahiya Academy, National and state, awards followed in quick succession. (6) Their protest was against the rising intolerance in the society. The incidents that followed and ran parallel to these ‘award-returns’ were equally horrific. The killing of a trucker on the assumption that he is carrying cows for slaughter; beating of a MLA in Kashmir Assembly by BJP legislatures and the scattered incidents of attacks on Muslims on the ground of beef consumption are too striking. The killing of dalits while they were skinning the dead cow; rings the bell of times to come.
The viciousness of atmosphere is not lost on the social perceptions. The insecurity of minorities has gone up by leaps and bounds. One knows that since the present NDA regime came to power all those ‘spewing hate’ are working overtime. For one Akbaruddudin Owaisi there is an army of Sakshi Mahraj, Sadhvis, Yogis and what have you.
Even after the awards started being returned the BJP leadership looked down upon the writers/scholars and overlooked the phenomenon which has lead to returning of awards. Disturbed by what is going on, the President Pranab Mukherjee on number of occasions urged the nation to uphold, pluralism, the core civilizational value of the country and to uphold tolerance. (7) The Vice President Haamid Ansari reminded the Government that it is the duty of the state to uphold the ‘right to life’ of citizens. The index of the changing social atmosphere is reflected by the statements of two outstanding citizens of the country. Julio Reibero, the top cop, expressed his pain and anguish by saying that “as a Christian suddenly I feel stranger in my own country.” (8) And the renowned actor Naseeruddin Shah had to point out that “Have never been aware of my identity as a Muslim until now.”(9)
These are not ordinary times. The values of pluralism and tolerance have been pushed to the margins. With this Government in power all the wings of communal politics, the RSS affiliates, have unleashed themselves in full blast. Communalism is not just the number of deaths due to violence, it is much more. The foundation of this violence begins with the manufacture of perceptions about the religious minorities. These perceptions based on history and some selective aspects of present society are given an anti human tilt and interpretation. This is used to create hatred for the minorities and that’s where the communal elements can unleash violence either as a massive violence like the one’s of Gujarat or Mumbai or Bhagalpur or Muzzafarnagar or the targeted one in Dadri. This creates the divides in society which over a period of time is converted into polarization. And polarization is the foundation of electoral strength of party wanting a nation in the name of religion. As per Yale study, the communal violence is the vehicle which strengthens BJP at electoral level. (10)
Qualitative change in Hate Politics
Many prominent entrepreneurs like Narayan Murthi and Kiran Majumdar Shaw have shown their concern over growing intolerance. In the same boat of those calling for preserving values of pluralism are people like Raghuram Rajan, the RBI Governor. (11) The ruling dispensation, the BJP leaders labeled the whole process as ‘manufactured rebellion’ as put by Arun Jaitley. It has been alleged that those returning awards are the leftists or those who were recipients of privileges from the state when Congress was the ruling party and now with BJP coming to power from last one year, they are baffled and so the protests. It has been alleged that these people are trying to derail the ‘development story’ being written by the BJP under the leadership of Narendra Modi. Jaitley even goes to say that Narendra Modi is the victim of intolerance by these people returning their awards. (12)
Why the Awards were returned?
As such what has happened is neither a law and order problem nor the one related to loss of patronage; it is related to the much broader phenomenon related to intense communalization of society. This time the degree of communalization has crossed the civil limits. The jibe that these people did not return their awards at the time of emergency, anti Sikh violence, migration of Kashmiri Pundits and at the time of Mumbai blasts of 1993 is a very superficial way of dealing with the social response to the phenomenon of growing intolerance and its degree. As the awards which have been returned and the statements put out by different groups do give the reasons for the same and these reasons pertains to the cumulative process and not this or that event. The present scenario is in a way a type of climax of divisive politics. All these incidents mentioned by Jaitley and company have been a tragic part of recent Indian history. Many a writers did protest against most of these incidents, many of them had not even been awarded at that time. (13)
The present times cannot be compared with the tragic incidents of the past for various reasons. Take the case of emergency for example. It was a dark chapter of Indian history, still it was the authoritarianism imposed mostly from the top. What is most disturbing in the current times is the vast network of organizations related to the ruling party whose followers either they themselves create hatred in the society or they mobilize the social sectors through hate speech; the result of which is violence. Currently there is a twin attack on the values of tolerance and liberal space. From the top the ruling dispensation has people like Yogi Adiyanath- Sakshi Maharaj, Giriraj Singh, Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti who keep spreading sectarian message while basking in the glory of power and at the societal level divisive statements prevail.
This is just one case in point. The major factor leading to present atmosphere lies in the qualitative transformation of ‘hate for others’. The stereotyping of minorities which began with Hindu nationalism has assumed horrendous proportions where the likes of Gulzar have to say that now people ask your religion before your name! So while the Jaitleys will keep undermining the steps taken by these people and while the Rajnath Singhs’ will keep dubbing it as a law and order problem, the dissatisfaction amongst those standing for democracy is growing, liberal space and tolerance is shrinking. We will have to keep thinking of more ways to draw the attention of larger sections of society towards the threat looming large on our democratic society, the threat of sectarian propaganda and politics leading to stifling of democratic space. And in these times, the divisive process has assumed menacing proportions.
The major initiative of this government has been to change the heads and composition at the top level of public institutions. Since its assuming power it went for major appointments in the institutions of National importance. Most of these appointments are based on the ideological proclivities of the people rather than their professional competence. In Film and Television Institute of India the appointment of Gajendra Singh Chauhan as the Chairman came up with big opposition from the students of the institutes and also forms the major figures of the film World. (14) The governing board of this and other institutes are being filled with RSS sympathizers. The tampering in other institutes like IITs has led to the resignation of Anil Kakodkar as the chairman of Governing board of IIT Mumbai and of Prof Shevgaokar from the directorship of IIT Delhi. Prof Amartya Sen had to resign from the Chancellorship of Nalanda University. The NBT has also got a Hindutva ideologue, former Panchjanya editor Baldev Sharma as its chief. In the case of ICHR one Prof Y.S. Rao has been appointed as the chairperson. He has no peer reviewed publications and has contributed blogs in the name of History research. He holds that Indian mythology is History and attempts have begun to support research in that direction. As per him the caste system was not bad, its rigidities and evils were introduced after the coming of Muslim kings. Zafar Sareshwala, a businessman close to Narendra Modi, has been given the Chancellorship of Maulana Azad Urdu University in Hydrabad.
Even before this government has come to power many attempts to make the education in confiormity with the RSS, Hindutva world view were being pushed through. In Delhi University A. K. Ramanujan’s classic essay on Ramayana (Three Hundred Ramayanas) was withdrawn under the pressure of ABVP, the RSS affiliate. (15) Dinanath Batra of RSS had been instrumental in getting the academic book by Wendy Doniger ‘The Hindus: An Alternative History’ getting pulped. (16) Batra’s books have already been introduced in the schools of Gujarat. RSS has floated Shiksha Bachao Andolan Samiti to promote its views through school books. These ideologues from RSS are the major advisors for reviewing curriculum in the states. Rational thinking has been opposed, as exhibited by the murders of Dabholkar, Pansare and Kalburgi. RSS affiliated organizations like Vidya Bharati are focusing on Bhartiyakaran of education. They assert that Indian education is not suitable for India and propose to bring in changes aimed to promote Hindutva icons and values. They are trying to appropriate Ambedkar through their efforts. (17)
In the previous NDA regime (1998), the major changes were brought in the field of education which brought in Astrology, Paurohitya and Karmakand as part of the courses. Sanskrit is being introduced at different levels to the extent of replacing German as an additional language at places. This time around RSS seems to be preparing for a total Hindutvisation of education, the samples of which were there in the previous NDA regime with Murli Manohar Joshi doing what came to be known as saffronization of education. (18)
Agenda: Hindu Nationalism
RSS is working for Hindu nationalism, a nationalism which stands in polar opposition to Indian nationalism, as inherent in the values of freedom movement and later in the Constitution of India, the values of Liberty; Equality and Fraternity. The goal of India as ‘a nation in the making’, the plural diverse nation with multiple cultures supplementing each other and enriching the society is opposed by for this organization. They have adopted Hindutva as their politics and Hindu nation as their goal. As per them we have been a Hindu nation from times immemorial and the wisdom of ancient Indian society has all the ingredients for the growth of the nation. This political agenda regards secularism and democracy as the Western concepts which should be done away with. It is in pursuance of this agenda that it kept aloof from freedom movement. It has been propagating a view of history where Muslims and Christians are aliens, foreigners. It attributes the ills of society like caste system to the influence of invading foreigners. (19)
For them the major thing is Hindu unity at societal level. This; they have been doing through their shakha baudhiks and by floating many organizations for this purpose. These organizations like Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram, Bajrang Dal, Akhil Bhartiya Vidarthi Parishad are doing the propagation of this work through their work in the society. The present degree of communalization-polarization is due to the ceaseless anti minority propaganda. The issues they take are related to identity, like Ram Temple earlier and currently Holy Cow. The issues like love Jihad and Ghar Wapasi also are strong tools in their hands.
The second aspect of Hindu nationalist project has been to infiltrate in bureaucracy, police and other organizations of state. Their trained swayamsevaks join these services and influence the policies. This work as such is in progress but when BJP is in power, this type of work of RSS becomes very intense. Now with BJP having majority in the centre on its own it is moving fast to communalize the state apparatus. This has gone up in intensity in the current times.
When Lal Krishna Advani became the Information and broadcasting minister in Janata Party Government he ensured that most of the media agencies helped by state are taken over by Hindutva volunteers. Currently not only media but also culture, education and science are all being taken over. With this Government the control over institutions of national excellence is going on at a fast pace. (20)
Resistance: Struggle for Democratic Society
The rise of Hindutva politics has been going on from close to a century. This was mainly through RSS shakha baudhiks (intellectual sessions), through education and media apart from the role played by other Hindutva nationalists. This has brought us to a pass where the hate for other community is manifesting as intolerance. This has been strengthened by the use of identity issues, temple, and cow being the major ones, and the proganda related to love jihad, ghar wapasi and terrorist violence. The pyramid of communal politics stands on the ‘hate other’ and the consequent communal violence.
The efforts to save and pluralism and diversity have to be the foundation for all social groups wanting to preserve democratic space. The programmatic unity of these groups on issues related to violation of human rights of weaker section of society is need of the hour. The targeting of religious minorities has to be opposed and their sense of security has to be restored by social and legal struggles for ‘right to life’ as enshrined in our constitution. A multi-layered social platform for defense and nurturing of democratic and human rights is of utmost importance. Here the minor differences between different social political groups have to be overlooked for a broader program based unity, this effort is long overdue.
(Writer can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)