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Hindutva’s orchestrated violence as elections approach

by Shabnam Hashmi, 25 October 2008

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Combat Law

Well-timed horrors?

There is telling evidence of the involvement of the Sangh Parivar in acts of terror across the country. Now that elections are around the corner, there has been a renewed spate of direct attacks on Christians and terrorist acts whose legal victims are Muslims. Is this just a coincidence, asks activist Shabnam Hashmi

February 27, 1933 Reichstag building, the assembly location of the German Parliament was set ablaze. "You are now witnessing the beginning of a great epoch in German history...This fire is the beginning. The German people have been soft too long. Every Communist official must be shot. All Communist deputies must be hanged this very night. All friends of the Communists must be locked up. And that goes for the Social Democrats as well!" This was what Hitler declaimed on February 27, 1933. After inspecting the fire at the Reichstag, Hitler went to the Völkischer Beobachter newspaper’s office. Hitler and Goebbels stayed up whole night supervising the coverage of the ’communist ploy’ to seize power in Berlin. It came to light much later that the residence of Hermann Goring (Minister of the Interior, and Commander of the Storm Troopers -SA) and the Reichstag were connected by an underground tunnel. Storm troopers, led by Karl Ernst, used the underground tunnel to enter the building, scattered gasoline and incendiaries, then hurried back through the tunnel. Marinus van der Lubbe, a Dutch militant and four Communist leaders were subsequently arrested and prosecuted. This model has evidently been found worthy of emulation by others with similar political motivations.

On February 27, 2002 coach S-6 of the Sabarmati express caught fire and 59 kar sevaks who were returning from Ayodhya died. The readiness and precision with which the Sangh swung into action in Gujarat, attacking Muslims across eight districts, forcing over 2,00,000 to flee from the homes, killing over 2500 people, raping hundreds of women in a matter of a week , did not give the impression that the burning of the train came as a surprise to them. Much before February 27 swords and tridents were transported to all parts of Gujarat and stored in various temples and offices of the VHP to be used from 28 onwards. Gas cylinders disappeared from the market a week before February 27 to reappear in remote villages where women even today cook on cow dung cakes. The cylinders were used to blow up houses, mosques and dargahs. Petrol bombs were openly used and thrown inside the buildings after sufficient amount of gas was allowed to fill into various buildings to be blown off.

Justice Nanawati commission appointed by Modi to look into the incidents of 2002 has given a clean chit to Modi. Nanawati deemed it fit to rely only on the depositions of the police and VHP members. The truth of Godhra will perhaps come out after our generation is dead and gone. The RSS dream of turning India into a Hindu Rashtra was articulated by their second Sar Sangchalak MS Golwalkar. Golwalkar wrote in his first book, We, Our Nationhood Defined, published in Nagpur in 1939, "the foreign races in Hindusthan must either adopt the Hindu culture and language, must learn to respect and hold in reverence Hindu religion, must entertain no idea but those of the glorification of the Hindu race and culture, i.e. of the Hindu nation, and must lose their separate existence to merge in the Hindu race; or may stay in the country, wholly subordinated to the Hindu Nation, claiming nothing, deserving no privileges, far less any preferential treatment — not even citizen’s rights." He also went on to argue, "To keep up the purity of the Race and its culture, Germany shocked the world by her purging the country of the Semitic races — the Jews. Race pride at its highest has been manifested here. Germany has also shown how well-nigh impossible it is for races and cultures, having differences going to the root, to be assimilated into one united whole, a good lesson for us in Hindusthan to learn and profit by."

Even in 1990 the possibility of this ideology taking over the Indian mindset looked bleak. Gujarat became the laboratory of the Hindu Rashtra, where the seeds of hatred were sown, cultivated, tested and re-tested. The means and ways of spreading hatred slowly but persistently were perfected. Now we have reached a stage where they are being exported to all other states in India. From August 24 to September 29, 2008 the attacks on Christians and their institutions, homes and churches have taken place across ten states—Orissa, Karnataka, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Bihar, New Delhi, Punjab and Uttrakhand. More than 50,000 people have been rendered homeless in Orissa. Even the relief camps have been attacked and the attacks continue unabated.

While Shri Prakash Jaiswal, and many human rights fact finding teams were not allowed to enter Kandhmal district, the VHP leader Pravin Togadia was allowed to hold meetings and spew venom in these areas. The body of Lakshmananda, the self-proclaimed Swami and the leader of the VHP was taken in a procession travelling almost 150 kilometres, accompanied by a VHP mob and the police and administration. It stopped in front of many churches, raising highly abusive and provocative slogans, attacking the churches, Christian institutions, breaking glasses, furniture, attacking people, while the police, including the highest officers of the state and the district, looked on.

The Swami had come to Kandhamal in 1969. He travelled from village to village initially contacting the business community, organising poojas and bhajans, which very soon turned into inflammatory messages against the local Christian community. Initially, in 1970s, the attacks were directed at the smaller villages. The first organised attack came in 1987. People from six or seven villages were collected together to attack a village which had a large Christian population. Under his leadership 16 churches were burnt down in 1986-87. There were 56 cases registered for this but Swami was not arrested. Not even under ’secular’ governments. The sheer fact that none of the political parties touched him, due to their deep concern for the ’Hindu’ vote, he got emboldened and his campaigns became more aggressive and vicious.

While Christians were attacked using the bogey of conversion, the VHP and the Swami spearheaded the campaign to forcibly convert local animistic tribals and Christian tribals to Hinduism, calling it ghar wapsi or reconversion, as if the tribals were ever in the Hindu fold to begin with. Under the garb of doing educational and development work the Sangh has opened Vanvasi Kalyan Ashrams and Ekal Vidyalayas throughout the tribal belts in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Orissa. The VHP alone has over one lakh workers in Orissa. There are approximately 6000 RSS shakhas.

The youth wing of the VHP has also contributed a great deal since the Nanded bomb blast in April 2006 in demonising the other minority—the Muslims. The first chargesheet filed by Maharshtra ATS in the Nanded bomb blast case was watered down later by the CBI. It is important to note that in 2006 the Maharshtra government was run by the NCP-Congress alliance and the UPA government had been in power at the centre for two years. The first chargesheet, while establishing a Bajrang Dal-Sangh Parivar terror network also clearly said that the same accused were also responsible for a number of blasts in 2003, 2004 in different districts of Maharashtra, mainly targeting mosques. The accused were trained in bomb-making near Pune, Goa and at the Bhonsala Military School at Nagpur. During the police raid, false beards, moustaches and shervanis were also recovered from the house. This information has been systematically blacked out from the media.

There are many other cases which have come to light showing the direct involvement of the Hindu right wing organisations and their terror links. A bomb blast took place at the RSS office at Tenkasi, in the Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu on January 24, 2008. This act of terror was the work of seven persons belonging to Hindu Munnani, a frontal organisation of the Sangh Parivar in order to instigate the local Hindu population against the Muslims. The bombs which exploded in Gadkari Rangayatan on June 4, 2008 injured seven people. The culprits were part of Hindu Janjagaran Samiti (HJS), an outfit of the Sanatana Ashram in Panvel. These culprits were also involved in other blasts, in Vashi, Panvel and Ratnagiri. We have not heard anything about the further investigation of this very important lead. On August 24, 2008 in Kanpur two Bajrang Dal workers, Rajiv alias Piyush Mishra and Bhupinder Singh were killed while making crude bombs.

Do we take these as coincidences: attacks on Christians across India, the involvement of Sangh outfits in terror attacks across several states and the efforts to push these facts out of people’s consciousness, the release of Nanawati Commission report giving a clean chit to Modi, demonisation of only the Muslims in relation to all bomb blasts taking place in India and the silence on the part of those sitting in power? With elections round the corner the need to polarise the people is becoming urgent for the right wing forces. These are the most decisive elections for the Sangh. The sinister design of converting India into a Hindu Rashtra can only be fully achieved if the Sangh captures power at the centre. The conditions for total annihilation of democratic voices are ripe as the RSS is the largest non-governmental armed force in India and its penetration into every social, cultural and official spaces is at its maximum since India’s independence.

The question is whether the ordinary people of India will rise to the occasion and show the door to these fascist forces as they have done many times in the past? The question is also whether the same political forces which have given India on a platter to the Sangh during the past five years, if voted back to power, will stop their onward journey?