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Sangh Parivar Turns Hysterical

India: BJP is playing with fire

by Praful Bidwai, 24 November 2008

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Nothing speaks as eloquently of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s massive Rightwards shift as the fact that even Prime Ministerial-hopeful LK Advani has had to fall in line with his party colleagues’ hard-Hindutva position on the Malegaon blasts issue. His November 18 statement attacking Maharashtra’s Anti-Terrorism Squad for being "politically motivated" and making "unsubstantiated allegations" against "Sadhvi" Pragya Singh Thakur and Lt Col Prasad Shrikant Purohit is a major departure from his earlier attempt to appear moderate or middle-of-the-road and saying that "terrorism has no religion" and the law must take its own course.
As the sangh parivar feels the heat from the ATS investigation into the Hindutva terrorist network, the BJP has turned hysterical and termed the probe a "huge conspiracy" by the United Progressive Alliance. It has abandoned all pretence of political decorum and decency in venomously branding its opponents terrorist sympathisers and "ISI agents".
Party spokesperson Prakash Javadekar is outdoing even normally abusive sadhus by claiming that the Congress "encourages terrorism", and has no right to accuse sadhus and the Army "of being involved in terror blasts"-regardless of the evidence, too elaborate to recount here. Besides, it’s ludicrous to confuse one stray officer with the entire Army.

VHP leader Pravin Togadia has expectedly gone further by alleging that Congress president Sonia Gandhi is "supervising" the ATS investigations out of "revenge against the Hindus": "Is the ATS going to subject even God to narco tests?" Although the BJP falls shy of this, its line of demarcation from the VHP-Bajrang Dal has got blurred. BJP president Rajnath Singh insists that the votaries of "cultural nationalism" (Hindutva) can never be terrorists-by definition. He clams to possess "certain facts" which exonerate "saints" like Thakur and Amritanand.

Let’s leave aside for the moment all the evidence, including the use in Malegaon of a motorcycle registered in Thakur’s name, numerous other links between the network and bomb blasts since 2002, or the fact that Army personnel present at Purohit’s interrogation have endorsed the ATS version.

Let’s also not ask why Mr Singh hasn’t disclosed the relevant "facts" or moved a court against the arrests. What matters is that the BJP demands that the law of the land shouldn’t apply to sadhus and sadhvis, and argues that the detention of a handful of shady sadhus like Amritanand alias alias Dayanand Pandey is a conspiracy against an entire community! This is deeply offensive to the idea of justice and fairness.

The absurdity of the BJP defending terrorism after making it a central plank of its election campaign should be self-evident. Yet, that’s the unmistakable message that emanated from the sangh parivar’s November 16 Panipat conclave, at which Mr Rajnath Singh and Uttarakhand Chief Minister BC Khanduri joined hands with viciously anti-secular sadhus and resolved to launch a campaign against the UPA for its "vilification of Hindu saints and Army officers".

Nothing can condone, leave alone justify, the presence of these two leaders, one an elected public official with Constitutional responsibilities, and the other the topmost office-bearer of one of India’s biggest political parties, at a meeting with an outrageously communal agenda, which launched the "Hindu Dharam Raksha Manch" and a "Save the sant samaj" agitation.

There is a real danger that the Panipat meeting will go down as a rabid version of the BJP’s Palanpur conclave of 1989 which resolved to build a Ram temple at Ayodhya. This is precisely what the parivar achieved three years later by razing the Babri mosque. It is utterly shameful that the BJP became part of the disgustingly communal Panipat venture.
The parivar has decided to brazenly defend Hindutva terrorism in the belief that the public buys into its propaganda that it’s a patriotic force and means well by the Indian nation. In reality, the parivar seeks to destroy the essential character of this society as a plural, multi-cultural, multi-lingual, multi-religious entity through an anti-secular counter-revolution. It is driven by prejudice, hatred, and blind revenge against real or imagined past injustices.

Crass militarism and violence against non-Hindus have been integral to "cultural nationalism"-decades before the Ramjamnabhoomi mobilisation began in the mid-1980s. Hindutva’s history is one of assassinations, bloody riots and pogroms targeting the religious minorities, whom it brands as foreigners with allegiance to "alien Gods".

Who can forget that Nathuram Godse killed Gandhi because for the parivar, to which he belonged, the Mahatma a "pro-Muslim" because he tried to prevent communal riots? If the Godses and Narendra Modis are "patriots", this nation will only breed assassins and terrorists acting in the name of a community whom they don’t represent. India will be doomed.
For years, the RSS-Jana Sangh-BJP tried to distance themselves from Godse by claiming he was not an RSS member in 1948-although he had been one earlier, for years; as a Hindu Mahasabhaite, he was inspired by the same ideology of communal hatred. Today, not just the RSS, but even the BJP, blatantly defends Abhinav Bharat’s Himani Savarkar, daughter-in-law of VD Savarkar’s brother Babarao, and daughter of Gopal Godse, brother of Nathuram.

The principal difference between Hindutva extremism and other forms of religious extremism is that the former tries to pass itself off as nationalist by virtue of claiming to speak for a majority of the population, which by definition cannot be separatist. This view is dangerously majoritarian and exclusivist, and hence anti-democratic. Majoritarian extremism is also more widespread and enjoys a degree of state patronage and indulgence.
The emergence of the Hindutva terrorist network cannot be seen in isolation from the climate of divisiveness, parochialism and chauvinist nationalism and the culture of hatred that the BJP has promoted in its cynical pursuit of power. Violence is integral to this culture. Indeed, it is part of the party’s strategy of political mobilisation.
This culture has percolated over the years into police forces and the national security apparatus, which views terrorism through an Islamophobic prism. All governments are affected by this to some extent or other. As hate speech and hate crimes are increasingly granted impunity, and ethnic hatreds become part of normal public discourse, civil servants and the police no longer feel constrained not to air their communal views, or worse, to act on them without fear of anything more than a transfer of posting.
Take the crass communalisation of the Maharashtra police, who moved a application in a Dhule court in the October 5 case of communal rioting, which brazenly stated: "It is an established fact that Muslims are the masterminds behind all terrorist activities across India." They also exonerated the Hindu Rakshak Samiti, which participated in the violence, in which seven of the 10 people killed were Muslims, by saying its activities were "mere retaliation to what has been happening in the country for the past few years."
The BJP is now hardening its rabid Hindutva posture. If the Rajnath Singh line prevails, as is happening, and if the BJP does relatively well in the Assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Delhi, it will see its victory as a vindication of its defence of the saffron terror accused. This will encourage it to mount a grossly communal and divisive campaign in the Lok Sabha election, the like of which India hasn’t seen, with potentially terrible consequences for this society and polity.
Already, disturbing signs are discernible in the BJP’s evolution. Mr Narendra Modi has emerged as the undisputed successor to Mr Advani. He has gained legitimacy through Tata Motors’ decision to shift the Nano project to Gujarat, and been lionised by Big Business. The RSS has tightened its grip on the BJP. As membership and attendance in its shakhas plummets, the RSS will try to play a more active role in other parivar outfits, including the BJP, and of curse the VHP-Bajrang Dal. After the Panipat conclave, the BJP’s stance is set to harden.

This demolishes the wishful argument that incumbency in power would impel the BJP towards "moderation" and sobriety. The BJP, quite simply, isn’t that kind of party. It will always occupy the dark region between parliamentary politics as an instrument of power, and its foundational loyalty to the sangh parivar and its hate-driven ideology and violent politics. It’s now playing with fire. It must be stopped.

It goes without saying that the unearthing of the Hindutva terrorist network presents a major challenge to the Indian state. It has become a litmus tests for its secular credentials, indeed its loyalty to the Constitution. The police must investigate the network impartially and professionally. They must refrain from making premature statements to the media before the investigations are completed and solid evidence is obtained.
The Union home ministry has done well to ask the states to furnish reports on the activities of Hindutva groups. It should now act on them by banning the VHP-Bajrang Dal and the RSS. True, bans have their limitations. But their value in delegitimising extremists must not be underrated. They can put the more dangerous organisations in the parivar on the defensive and enable the government to prosecute BJP members connected with them.