Redistributed via: South Asia Citizens Wire | 12 July 2003
(Original Source: Mainstream vol. xli, no. 30, 12 July 2003, p.17)
The Path of the Parivar
by Mukul Dube
Despite Lal Kishenchand Advaniís strident and menacing rath yatra and its culmination in the engineered catastrophe at Ayodhya in 1992, most of us paid little attention to the onward march of the Sangh Parivar until last yearís horror of Gujarat. Evidence was piling up, but it was in bits and pieces and so was ignored. Our picture became well-rounded and coherent only when the Parivar itself put forward a comprehensive example of its goals and methods. We saw the Beast only when it unambiguously revealed itself. So noisome is it that we may well have wished not to see it while it lurked and built up its strength.
When Gujarat 2002 happened, it shook us to our roots. We felt our world crumbling, the very earth shifting beneath our feet. Ideas and values which we had always held dear, though usually without making a fuss about them, lay in smouldering ruins. Many of us were stunned in a quite literal way: it took us weeks to comprehend what had happened, and then more weeks to rouse ourselves. The sun shone but we could not see the sunlight. It was months before we were able to laugh again.
We looked on, disbelieving, as, while report after report indicted Modi and the goons of his Parivar, Modi himself, ably supported by his mentors Advani and Vajpayee, went on and on howling about how his Gujarat ñ the Hindu Gujarat ñ was being maligned the world over. None of the abuse he threw at the prime villains, the ìnational English-language mediaî and the ìpseudo-secularistsî, was supported by anything that could be called objective or which could be tested.
Today we look on, disbelieving, as the Sangh Parivar roots about in the mess of trivia at the depths to which it has pushed our political discourse, depths unprecedented and unimaginable. The hunger of hundreds of thousands becomes irrelevant while the country reads daily essays about Atal Behari Vajpayeeís dietary preferences. While reports document how poorly India does in providing potable water to its citizens, the leaders of the country wax eloquent on the drinking of cowís urine. Centre-state relations are reduced to whether or not the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh asked for and received the blessings of the Prime Minister for heaven knows what.
We look on, disbelieving, as the likes of Modi and Togadia make venomous speeches against religious minorities and get away with this spreading of poison because those in power can ignore their duty to enforce the clearly written laws against inciting communal hatred. We look on as the administrative machinery of Gujarat incarcerates and prosecutes those suspected of engineering the Godhra carnage, while refusing even to register cases against those repeatedly identified as responsible for the over 2,000 deaths of Muslims in the weeks that followed Godhra. The Constitution of India, from which derive the powers of the Stateís functionaries, might just as well be a roll of scented toilet paper covered with printed flowers.
The title of an earlier article, ìThe Vedic Talibanî, arose from what I see as a natural, inevitable progression. The Taliban of Afghanistan were a bunch of blind bigots who, in the name of Islam, took their country back several centuries. That is precisely what the Sangh Parivar seeks to do in the name of Hinduism. It takes but a moment to see that what the Sangh Parivar touts as Hinduism is a travesty, resolutely backward-looking yet entirely ahistorical, whose only end can be the complete marginalisation ñ through annihilation, expulsion or suppression ñ of religious, ethnic and ideological minorities: and, we must never forget, of the entire female half of our society.
The Sangh Parivar seeks to justify its every action by reference to a mythic past. This past is not what really existed, so far as historians have been able to reconstruct it: it is a creation, taking on new features daily to meet new requirements. Not content to mess with the present, the Parivar moulds the past as well, applying the adjective ìVedicî to anything it pleases, without a glimmer of understanding of what the word represents. This ahistorical construction of the ìVedicî, cobbled together piecemeal, is then sought to be pressed with a steam roller on all Hindus, all Indians, on the whole of India. The extent of the Sanghís deception is seen from these two paragraphs taken from Sukumari Bhattacharji (ìThe Vedas and Hinduismî, from the Ganashakti web site, a translation by the author of an essay in her Bangla book Manthan, Naya Udyog, Calcutta, 2000).
ìThe Sanghis argue that the study of the Vedas is necessary for an understanding of the tradition of India. But which India are they talking about? Is there an Indian tradition which has not embraced the pre-Aryan civilisation and culture commingled with the Dravidian, the Austric, the Mongoloid or the Islamic-Christian-Sikh-Jain streams of tradition? Each one of these is a distinct and separate cultural tradition and each of these cultures is as much Indian as the Vedic culture is Indian.
ìAn argument often advanced is that the Hindu Culture is the most ancient culture known to human history and the Vedas are its oldest extant texts. The truth is - among the ancient cultures, not only is the Vedic not the oldest, it is actually the youngest. Civilisations such as the Chinese, the Sumerian, the Assyrian, the Babylonian, the Greek, the Roman, the Iranian and the Mexican are more ancient than the Indian. Evidence is available of some such civilisations pre-dating the birth of Christ by five thousand years, while the Vedic civilisation had had its origin some time before the tenth century B.C. Therefore, from the point of view of antiquity, the Vedic civilisation was the youngest of the ancient civilisations.î
Arguably the chief casualty in the Sangh Parivarís raj is the truth. The truth has no meaning for these people, it figures nowhere in their scheme of things. Different limbs of the Family describe the same subject or event in radically different terms ñ and yet see no contradiction. For the Parivar, a ìfactî is merely that which happens to be convenient at the time, never mind that it may be wholly imaginary. A fiction today can become a fact tomorrow. The tape measure that these people use is made of elastic material. An ìinchî can be anything between a nanometre and several miles. Kilo today, quintal tomorrow. Nothing in their universe is fixed. There is no unchanging reference point of the kind that we all need to navigate through life, through good and bad, through right and wrong. Their statements cannot be depended on, for their words mean nothing in an absolute way. Every lie is explained away with an essentially brahminical sophistry and double-talk.
While Gujarat burned, Advani kept silent, only occasionally opening his mouth to intone that his man Modi was in control and should not be disturbed. It was only in London in August, when people refused to buy this tripe, that he admitted that something very bad had happened. Back in India, though, he became again his poker-faced lying self. Vajpayee, for months silent about the horrors wrought by Hindutva in Gujarat, admitted only in New York, when on a visit to the United Nations, that they had indeed been uniquely devilish; but like his deputy, he too abandoned the truth when he returned to his kingdom.
The lying is part of a larger phenomenon. The Sangh Parivarís people have, throughout history, in any field of human endeavour, done nothing worthy of recognition or praise. Now they have upended the universe to make themselves out to be the heroes. They wildly elevate one another and so establish their claim to the honours which have so far eluded them. No member of the Parivar need fear a dearth of praise ñ for those other members sing his praises whose praises he himself sings. For the present, those who decide on the honours bestowed by the State are of the Parivar: so we have the spectacle of hundreds of mediocrities and worse being given all manner of awards. We have the spectacle of Savarkarís portrait being put up in Parliament along with those of Gandhi and Nehru. Only one of these three national heroes carried the freedom movement forward by abjectly promising to be of service to the imperial power.
The procedure is simple. Since the world has long known them to be nothing other than touts and middlemen who have contributed nothing to it, ever, they have fashioned their own little world in which each is a king, or whatever he chooses to have the others define him as. A happy world cobbled together from fictions and untruths. A bunch of odious playwrights casting themselves in heroic roles. Notions of good and bad which were established over the centuries, mean nothing in this redesigned world, for the Sangh Parivar has fashioned the rules precisely so as to be able to determine from them that it alone is and always has been all things good.
The reverse of ordinary name-calling is at work here. In preference to rational argument, the Parivar calls its opponents names without offering a shred of evidence. In exactly the same way, without any proof or backing, they sing paeans to themselves. It might perhaps be described as a kind of collective criminal narcissism. You tickle my willy, I tickle yours.
Nor is evidence needed when calling Muslims and Christians names. Every crime under the sun can be attributed to the religious minorities, for to be blamed for all evil is the reason why they have been placed on this planet. Guilt and punishment are not related to each another in the foul miasma that is the mind of the Sangh Parivar. Some Muslims burn a railway carriage, all Muslims are held guilty and made to suffer. A Muslim did something bad hundreds of years ago, vengeance is visited today upon all Muslims alive now. And it is not only the living who suffer: for the hatred is so utterly beyond reason that a grave is dug up so that the bones in it might be burnt with the help of petrol. The ordinary Muslim, every ordinary Muslim, is held to be so transcendentally evil that even his rotting bones need to be destroyed by unholy fire so that the land may be pure again.
In a mad stampede of the mind, the soldiers of the Sangh Parivar are given no time to think, are barely allowed to breathe. Tanika Sarkar writes that a ìbreathless climate of terror and counter-terror is the cement that consolidates Hindu unity under Sangh termsî (ìSemiotics of Terrorî, Economic and Political Weekly, 13 July 2002). Here are minds firmly kept from rational, productive thought, being filled day and night with a concocted poison of blind hatred. The tempo never flags: the lies follow one another so rapidly that there is no time to question. The pace is, in a singularly apt word, breathless.
And no one else is given time to breathe either. As the sociologist Nasreen Fazalbhoy says, the chief difficulty today is that we all must ìaccept the agenda set by the Togadias of the country and end up working within thatî (personal communication, 10 March 2003). Unable to look forward as we should, we must devote our time and energy to undoing the damage that these resolutely reactionary people do by every so often letting yet another preposterous genie out of their bottomless bottle. No sooner is one mess cleared away than another gigantic cobweb, glutinous and immobilising, is made to descend upon us. It is almost impossible to recall when a serious economic or social issue was last raised and put to the people. The very future of the country now hinges upon a probably mythical temple to a character in a fairy tale.
The heads of the Sangh Parivarís acolytes are packed full of lies and myths tangled together, the supply of which is truly endless. One nephew of mine, a student of medicine, sought to justify the violence of Gujarat by referring to the supposed collective celebration in Muslim mohallas in India of victories of the Pakistani cricket team. Another nephew, an engineer about to begin doctoral studies in the U.S.A., justified it by another myth, that acid had been used in the attack on the railway carriage in Godhra. An older nephew, a computer professional, held that anything done against Indiaís Muslims was already too late, because they were (he said) 17 per cent of the population and would become 25 per cent in a decade.
The stunning absurdity of such convictions, the profound idiocy they represent, leaves one aghast and speechless. They follow one another thick and fast. Where in the impenetrable jungle does one begin to snip away with the puny scissors of reason? Should I say that I was a fan of Hanif Mohammedís and used to celebrate every high score by that fine batsman ñ without in any way lessening my admiration for Vijay Manjrekar? Should I point out that the forensic science laboratoryís report speaks only of inflammable material in the carriage and says that testing suggested that that could not have been introduced from without? Should I offer a simple equation which will show even to a school child that, if present rates of growth are maintained, every percentage rise in the Muslim share of Indiaís population will take the total population that much closer to overwhelming the entire planet? Or should I simply say that when the starting point itself is false, any construction built on it has to be ordure?
Where does one begin? I do not know if there is any way in which mere reason can fight such staggering unreason, such perverse blindness. My three nephews are intelligent individuals who have been successful in their chosen fields. Yet they swallow such obvious lies wholesale, laying aside the routinely used tools of logical evaluation and the checking of facts, tools in the use of which they have been specially trained for their professional lives. The fovea can be dealt with, but how does one attack the blind spot? It is ultimate blackness, invulnerable to attack.
Narendra Modi, with surpassing wit, speaks of ìHum panch, hamare pachchees (We are five; ours are twenty-five)î. Then he bare-facedly says that he was speaking not of Muslims but of the population explosion. But the illogic of his words is swallowed unthinkingly. The goons of Hindutva do not stop to consider that each Muslim man in the country cannot have four wives because there simply are not enough women to go around. According to the 1991 Census of India, the sex ratio among Muslims was 930 females to every thousand males. If some men have four wives each, there will be a very substantial number of men who have no wives. A further piece of nonsense lewdly implied is that polygamous Muslim women reproduce more than do monogamous women. But who needs sense when flinging abuse? Who needs facts and rationality? Not Modi in his smutty demographer avatar. Not Advani, when he trots out his daily piece about madrasas and terrorism. Not Vajpayee the would-be statesman, when he makes his muddy statements about the world-wide danger posed by ìjihadi Islamî.
Unfortunately for the Parivar, though, those who are abused are uncooperative and resentful. ìAn Urdu writer and activist ... describes other dimensions. Young Muslim men are bitter about being suspected, baselessly, of being pro-Pakistani, and [about] being regarded as potential terrorists. Older women live a nightmare life of anxiety over the safety of their sonsî (Vimal Balasubrahmanyan, ìHoly Truths and Communal Factsî, Mainstream, 15 February 2003). I am certain that this is not the kind of life I would wish for any mother, not even one whose darling son ties a saffron scarf around his head and goes about stabbing, raping and burning my fellow citizens.
Those who speak out against the Sangh Parivar are routinely criticised for being ìone-sidedî. Behind this is the view that no one should speak of post-Godhra Gujarat without first lamenting, loudly and at length, Godhra itself, and the displaced Pandits of Kashmir, and the sack of Somnath, and Aurangzeb, and bin Laden, and ñ the list will end only when every Muslim since the birth of Islam has been named.
Can I not make the simple statement that curare is a poison without having, every single time, to read out the entire Schedule of Poisons from the pharmacopoeia? In what way is my condemnation of the Hindu Right a defence or denial of the Muslim Right? Can I not call a crime a crime without first listing out all the crimes ever committed, anywhere and by anyone? The magicians of Sangh Hindutva, who are all-powerful and can do anything, seem to think that their opponents too are sorcerers, for whom it is possible to pack a damn encyclopaedia into every 500-word newspaper article.
I shall use anotherís words to show how one-sided is the Sangh Parivar. ìAs regards criticism of Muslim madrasas, it is possible that some or even many may be teaching fundamentalism. But there are quite a number of educational institutions being run by the RSS which too teach religious fundamentalism. Both deserve to be bannedî (Satyapal Dang, ìOn RSSí Shaurya Smriti Samarohî, Mainstream, 15 February 2003).
A warning has been held out by the Parivarís generals many times after the Gujarat massacre. Do this, they say, do what we ask ñ or else there will be a ìspontaneous upsurgeî and we will not be responsible. This is of course not a warning but a threat. The kennel keeper starves and provokes his hounds so that he may say that he cannot hold them back. A strange kind of leadership, in which ìpopular sentimentî is cited as the cause of the most inhuman actions ñ while denying through silence the ugly passions beneath which have been systematically whipped up. This ìpopular sentimentî is not something which has arisen naturally ñ it is a fire lit and stoked by man. Creating it is part of the larger plan which culminates in citing it as the justification for butchery. Pile up the wood, light the tinder ñ and then scream, in pretended surprise, that the fire is out of control.
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