The elections of 2014 were different in more ways than one. More than in any previous election the campaign launched by Modi was preceded by heavy propaganda at every stage of his elevation, his being nominated the chief of campaign Committee, his being named the Prime Ministerial candidate and finally the electoral campaign itself. He had prepared ground for his campaign through social media, where dedicated team of hundreds kept working for him. He had hired the US based agency APCO for building his image. (1) The first part of the campaign was ready even before the formal campaign began. In people’s eyes he was projected and became synonymous with the ‘development’. His role in Gujarat carnage 2002 was hidden under the cloak of make believe ‘clean chit’. This time around RSS decided to come forward with full-fledged support into the electoral politics to support Modi with huge number of volunteers to man the election campaign from booth level upwards, “Even now, in 2014 elections, the nationalist organization pressed all its workers and volunteers number over 10 lakh besides 40,000 and odd local units, call sakhas, besides sympathizers and likeminded people to support BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, in mission form.” (2). With this the RSS progeny, BJP for the first time came to power with simple majority. In a way this was the major landmark for RSS, which has been working in diverse ways for the agenda of Hindu Rashtra (Hindu Nationalism) from 1925.
Modi is a trained Pracharak (propagator) of RSS, deeply soaked in the ideology of Hindu nationalism, working for the agenda of Hindu nation. (3) In the decade of 1980 multiple factors at global and local level led to the rise of conservative middle classes, the petty industrialists, the rich farmers, the affluent professionals, who are always for the politics of status quo. During this time the global changes, the creeping globalization was on and the attacks on working class movement were stepped up. RSS-VHP during this phase started promoting the religiosity all round. Using the Shah Bano judgment as the pretext, RSS launched the tirade against secular values by putting forward the word ‘Pseudo secularism’ and phrases like appeasement of minorities.
In this backdrop Advani started his Rath Yatra for Ram Temple. (4) This was the time when the country was grapping the issues of reservations for OBCs and the rights of workers. Also the issues related to rights of women and Adovasis were coming to the fore in a significant way. In the country where the dire need of basic amenities for life and the need for protection of the human rights of weaker sections of society are paramount, the RSS combine brought forward the issues related to identity of a section of Hindus. At the same time their propaganda targeted the religious minorities, a mix of distorted version of history, and presenting the victims as culprits. The rath yatra of Advani created the atmosphere of ‘Hate towards minorities’ and this led to series of acts of violence (4).
The major outcome of this campaign for Ram Temple was that the issues related to human rights and the bread, butter, shelter and employment got relegated to the background and social-political scene started revolving around the identity issues. As a part of the communal politics unleashed by RSS combine, the anti Christian violence in Adivasis areas also got stepped up (5). It is no mere coincidence that in these areas the corporate giants want to have a free hand and have been able to encroach the lands of Adivasis.
RSS Combine: Agenda of Hindu Nationalism
RSS began in India during the freedom movement as an organization opposed to the freedom movement led by Mahatma Gandhi (6), opposed to the concept of Indian Nationalism and harping on the glory of ancient Hindu kings, era of pastoral Aryans and ancient Hindu scriptures. RSS began as a response to the struggle of dalits for their land rights and the rising opposition to the values of Brahminism prevalent in the society. The non Brahman movement was inspired by Jotiba Phule and Dr. Ambedkar. As the average people started coming up in the society, started participating in the freedom movement, the elite-upper castes sections felt threatened and they came together to form Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). (7) This organization began by holding shakhas, and developed a training module according to which this (India) is a Hindu nation from times immemorial. The freedom movement’s values of incorporating people of all the religions in the movement were not acceptable to them. They trained the young boys into swayamsevaks, who took oath to work for Hindu nation. They also kept totally aloof from freedom movement. RSS was founded by the Chittapvan Brahmins and is an exclusively male organization. (8)
RSS went on to form various subordinate organizations like Rashtra Sevika Samiti (for women). In this name the word swayam is missing as RSS being a male dominated patriarchal organization, it believes in the inherent subjugation of women as secondary beings. Later RSS went on to form Akhil Bhartiya Vidhyarthi Parishad, (Student wing), and then in collaboration with Hindu Mahasabha it formed Bhartiya Jansangh, the previous avatar of the present BJP, Vishwa Hindu Parishad (for bringing together different Hindu sects under the control of RSS) Vanvasi Kalyan Ahsram (to work amongst Adivasis to Hidutvise them), Bajrang Dal as its foot soldiers (for unleashing street violence against religious minorities) and many other organizations like Durga Vahini etc. (9)
On similar lines it began many an institutions to propagate its views (weeklies like Panchjanya and Organizer), started Sarswati Shishu Mandirs and Ekal Schools for Adivasi children. Its ideological spread was achieved through spread of Brahminical norms through various channels. Infiltration of its RSS swayamsevaks into the state apparatus, police, military, bureaucracy is also very deep.
The ideological indoctrination
Through its shakhas it started spreading the hate for minorities, opposition to the values of secularism and Indian Constitution. This relentless opposition went on through many other channels also. It also made inroads to the IT professionals by the web meetings called IT milans (Gathering) (10). The social media also was and has been used by RSS combine in a very effective way. The result has been that the social scene has come to be dominated by the conservative thinking. Meanwhile RSS also popularized the word, Hindutva. This word Hindutva stands for the politics based on Brahimincal values of caste and gender hierarchy. Mistakenly the politics of Hindutva is supposed to be ‘a way of life’ by many. (11)
Throughout the decades of 1960 and 1970 there were sporadic episodes of violence. This led to polarization of the religious communities and provided the ground for rise of electoral strength of communal party. In the decade of 1980s, with the Ram Temple campaign picking up, the intensity of violence also started going up. Major episodes of violence took place in various cities of North India. All this was dwarfed by the communal violence Post Babri demolition. (12) The violence in cities like Mumbai, Bhopal and Surat was too horrific for words. The violence unleashed in Gujarat on the pretext of Godhra train burning shamed the nation as a whole, beyond all previous acts of violence. (13, 14)
Modi: Gujarat Violence and After
The post Godhra violence was a sample of the way state can actively promote violence. So far in the communal violence in India, the police, the state had been by and large an onlooker, mostly police siding with rioters. In Gujarat the equation was worsened much further with state, led by Modi actively promoting violence. Though it is claimed that Special Investigation team has given the clean chit to Modi, the fact is that based on the same report, the Supreme Court appointed Amicus Curie Raju Ramchandran feels the report has enough evidence to prosecute Modi for his role in 2002 violence. (15) After the violence the state of Gujarat totally washed its hands off the responsibility to rehabilitate the violence victims. The process of marginalization of religious minorities went quite far. A large section has been living in ghettoes in Ahmadabad itself, while their civic and political rights have been trampled and they are living like second class citizens. There is an intense propaganda that Gujarat is most developing state, the fact is that Gujarat was already amongst the more developed states, the claims of huge investments through Vibrant Gujarat summits have little substance in them, promises have been more than the actualizations. The real indices of social development are lagging behind. The rate of employment generation is very low, amongst other things Gujarat is low on the per capita spending, the Hemoglobin level of pregnant women is on the lower side and sex ratio has also fallen during last one and a half decade. (16)
Hindutva: Electoral Strategy
RSS combine has been entering into the electoral arena by and by. While in 1984 elections when it was giving the slogan of Gandhian socialism, it had only two MPs in Lok Sabha. In 1996, it went on to more than 150 MPs and it emerged as the largest single party. That time no other electoral party was willing to ally with it. The BJP government fell. After going through couple of ‘third-front’ experiments, BJP managed to cobble up the coalition, National Democratic Alliance. For this it had to give up the core issues of Ram Temple, abolition of Article 370 in Kashmir and Uniform Civil Code. This strategy worked and BJP led NDA ruled for nearly six years. During this time it communalized the text books (17) and recruited RSS volunteers in to various government schemes and supported many NGOs with RSS agenda and RSS got a big boost in the political arena and its dominance was perceptible in different walks of life.
The Hindutva combine knows that it was so far not able to come to power on its own. Now it is hoping that it will go with subtle Hindutva agenda in the background and keeping ‘development-Gujarat model’ in the foreground.
Agenda of Hindu Rashtra – Hindutva Politics
Modi represents the aggressive form of Hindutva agenda. He openly said that they believe in Hindu nationalism. (18) This is a subtle and open hint at the communal fascism which RSS combine, of which Modi is the major leader, wants to bring in. The major support base for RSS combine, more so with Modi at the helm is the corporate sector on one hand and the middle level corporate employees, the Information Technology-MBA groups on the other. Modi has demonstrated in Gujarat that he can open all the state coffers for the industrialists, land, loans and necessary paraphernalia. This has impressed the corporate sector and they are pitching for him in a major way.(19) The corporate media has uncritically propagated his claims about development. The social welfare schemes have been kept in abeyance, due to which the poorer sections are suffering. As for as minorities are concerned the central schemes related to Sachar Committee are not being implemented, the scholarship funds for the Muslim students is being returned back year after year. Modi in this sense is ruthlessly opposed to schemes related to religious minorities. (20)
He is the choice of corporate, middle classes, the traders and the RSS support base. Each of these has their own understanding of Modi and he fits in to the bill of these all. Corporate think he will give them a free hand to plunder, the middle classes know Modi is the best guarantee against social change for betterment of the deprived sections and religious minorities. The RSS, discarded Advani on two grounds, one that he made that statement about Jinnah being secular (20) and other that he is on the wrong side of the age. RSS, the real controller of BJP and other affiliated organizations see in Modi a ruthless swayamsevak out to bring in Hindu Rashtra.
Some people, ideologues, try to argue that more violence has taken place in Congress ruled states than under the regime of BJP. This way BJP is defended for its being communal. While Congress ruled period has seen large number of cases, the role of Congress is in not controlling the violence which is instigated by some communal organizations. Most of the inquiry commission reports have made it clear that violence is initiated, planned and executed by communal organizations, while Congress leadership is either watching helplessly or subtly exacerbating it. (22) What we have to remember is that BJP as a party cannot and should not be compared with any other party, as BJP is not just and electoral party, it is basically the electoral wing of RSS, whose agenda is opposed to the agenda of secular democratic India, the dream of Indian nationalism, the dream of those who contributed to the ‘Making of the Nation-India’, the diverse streams represented by Gandhi, Bhagat Singh and Ambedkar!
The results of Parliamentary Elections were very interesting. With 31% vote share BJP-Modi won 282 Parliament seats. Modi has been of course the flavor of the season and this time around it is being said that it was his plank of ‘development’ which attracted the voters to him, cutting across the caste and religious equations. How far is that true? Keeping aside the fact that Modi was backed to the hilt by Corporate (23), money flowed like water and all this was further aided by the steel frame of lakhs of RSS workers who managed the ground level electoral work for BJP (24). Thus Modi stood on two solid pillars, Corporate on one side and RSS on the other. He asserted that though he could not die for independence he will live for Independent India. This is again amongst the many falsehoods, which he has concocted to project his image in the public eye.
One knows that he belongs to a political ideology and political stream of RSS-Hindutva, which was never a part of freedom struggle. RSS-BJP-Hindutva nationalism is different from the nationalism of freedom movement. Gandhi, freedom movement’s nationalism is Indian Nationalism while Modi parivar’s Nationalism is Hindu nationalism, a religious nationalism similar and parallel to Muslim nationalism of Jinnah: Muslim League. From the sidelines, RSS and its clones kept criticizing the freedom movement as it was for inclusive Indian nationalism, while Modi’ ideological school, RSS is for Hindu nationalism. So there is no question of people like him or his predecessors having died for freedom of the country. (25)
There are multiple other factors which helped him to be ‘first past the post’, his aggressive style, his success in banking upon weaknesses of Congress, his ability to communicate with masses supplemented by the lackluster campaign of Congress. The Presidential style of electioneering added weight to Modi’s success. Congress, of course, has collected the baggage of corruption and weak governance. The out of proportion discrediting of Congress begun by Anna movement, backed by RSS, and then taken forward by Kejriwal contributed immensely knocking Congress out of reckoning for victory. Kejrival in particular woke up to BJP’s corruption a wee bit too late and with lots of reluctance. Anna, who at one time was being called the ‘second Gandhi’ eclipsed in to non-being after playing the crucial role for some time. (26) Kejriwal pursuing his impressive looking agenda against corruption went on to transform the social movement into a political party and in the process raising lots of questions on the nature and potentials of social movements. The anti corruption propaganda of AAP was directed mainly against Congress, unmindful of the fact that corruption is the symptom of the deeper malady of our social system, unmindful of the fact that corruption is related to power and those who want shortcut to wealth are equal partners in the game of corruption. AAP put more than 400 candidates. Many of these candidates have excellent reputation and contribution to social issues and for engaging challenges related to social transformation. AAP played a major role in discrediting Congress and it let occupy BJP the anti Corruption space also, as its criticism against BJP’s corruption came more as an afterthought.
Modi’s Victory: Development or Divisiveness
Coming to the ‘development’ agenda, it is true that after the Gujarat carnage, Modi quickly took up the task of propagating the myth of ‘development’ of Gujarat. This ‘make believe’ myth of Gujarat’s development as such was state government’s generous attitude towards the Corporate, who in turn started clamoring for ‘Modi as PM’ right from 2007. While the religious minorities started being relegated to the second class citizenship in Gujarat, the myth of Gujarat development started becoming the part of folk lore, for long unchallenged by other parties and scholars studying the development. When the data from Gujarat started being analyzed critically the hoax of development lay exposed, but by that time it was too late for the truth of development to be communicated to the people far and wide. On the surface it appears as if this was the only agenda around which Modi campaigned.
That’s far from true. Modi as such used communal and caste card time and over again. This was done with great amount of ease and shrewdness. He did criticize the export of beef labeling it Pink revolution, (27) subtly hinting the link of meat-beef to Muslim minorities. This converted an economic issue into a communal one. Modi spoke regularly against Bangla speaking Muslims by saying that the Assam Government is doing away with Rhinos for accommodating the Bangla infiltrators (28). He further added that they should be ready to pack their bags on 16th May when he will take over as the Prime Minister of the country. The communal message was loud and clear. BJP spokesmen have already stated that these Bangla speaking Hindus are refugees while the Muslims are infiltrators. His party men, Amit Shah talked of revenge of Muzzafarnagar and Giriraj Singh warned that those opposing Modi should go to Pakistan. (29)
If one examines the overall scatter of the areas where BJP has won this time, a very disturbing fact comes to one’s mind. While at surface the plank of development ruled the roost there is definitely the subtle role played by communal polarization. BJP has mostly succeeded in areas where already communal polarization has been brought in through communal violence or terrorist violence. Maharashtra, Gujarat, UP, MP, Bihar, Assam all these have seen massive communal violence in the past. While the states which have not come under the sway of BJP-Modi are the one’s which have been relatively free from communal violence: Tamil Nadu, Bengal and Kerala in particular! Orissa is a bit of an exception, where despite the Kandhmal violence, Navin Patnaik’s party is managing to be in power.
The socio political interpretation of the deeper relations between acts of violence and victory of RSS-BJP-Modi needs to be grasped at depth; the polarizing role of communal-terrorist violence needs a deeper look. While on surface the development myth has won over large section of electorate, it has taken place in areas which have in past seen the bouts of violence. Most of the inquiry commission reports do attribute violence to the machinations of communal organization (30). While overtly the caste was not used, Modi did exploit the word Neech Rajniti (Low level Politics) used by Priyanka Gandhi and converted it in to Neech Jati (low caste), flaunting his caste (31). At other occasions also he projected his caste, Ghanchi to polarize along caste lines.
What signal has been given by Modi’s victory? The message of Mumbai, Gujarat Muzzafrnagar and hoards of other such acts has created a deep sense of insecurity amongst sections of our population. Despite Modi’s brave denials and the struggles of social activists, justice delivery seems to be very slow, if at all, and justice eluding the victims. The culprits are claiming they are innocents and that they have got a ‘clean chit’. While there are many firsts in Modi coming to power, one first which is not highlighted is that, this is the first time a person accused of being part of the carnage process is going to have all the levers of power under his control. So what are the future prospects for the Indian democracy, values of Indian Constitution? Can Modi give up his core agenda of Hindu Nationalism, which has been the underlying ideology of his politics, or will he deliver a Hindu nation to his mentors?
Modi’s Persona: Autocratic-Fascist
With Modi coming to power in the 2014 elections Modi is being compared to the likes of Nixon, Margret Thatcher, Reagan (32) on one side and Hitler on the other. His being compared to Hitler has met with severe criticism by many other commentators who are saying that Modi is no Hitler and India of 2014 is very different from Germany of 1930s. (33) They argue that after the defeat of Germany in the First World War, Germany was going through a rough patch which was worsened by the great depression of late 1920s and this created a situation of the rise of Hitler and his genocidal politics. The second factor which they assert is about the weakness of German Democracy where the Nazi’s just with 30% of the votes could come to power.
It’s true that no two political situations are exactly alike. What is also true is that despite the superficial differences there are deeply embedded trends which have similarity in more ways than one. While India has not seen the type of post First World War ignominy which Germans suffered, it is also true that during last few years, beginning with Anna Hazare movement and later through Arvind Kejrivals’ AAP party a serious sense of mistrust in the ruling party and the political system was carefully orchestrated. The moving force of Anna movement was Modi’s parent organization RSS. Through a vicious propaganda and spectacle of mass programs Anna movement practically constructed a total mistrust in the present system of parliament and the ruling Party. Kejrival, by taking along sections of social movements and civic society groups took this discrediting of the ruling party to further limits.
As far as the democracy in India is concerned it is a contradictory process, in the process of evolution. Some steps forward: some steps back! On one hand we see that the democratic awareness is spreading far and wide, the keenness to participate in the electoral process is increasing by the day, which is a very positive trend. At the same time there is the Westminster model of electoral politics, which totally undermines the representative character of Indian democracy. In Germany Nazis could come to power with 30% of votes. Here in 2014 India, BJP with 31% of votes has emerged as the party with the simple majority! The other process undermining the character of Indian democracy is the prevalence of caste and gender hierarchy. This graded hierarchy prevalent in the society due to which women and dalits both are subject to the injustices, which are there but not perceived and projected so easily in the society. Yet another factor undermining Indian democracy is the communalization of state apparatus due to which religious minorities are not only subjected to regular repeated violence but are also deprived of justice. Many a youth have been recklessly arrested in the wake of bomb blasts, their social lives and careers ruined before the court exonerated them on the ground as the evidence against was totally fabricated one. Meanwhile the demonization of this minority goes up and they are relegated to the status of ‘second class citizenship. (34)
While Hitler may have been an overt hater of Jews, Parliamentary democracy, Modi is deeply rooted in the ideology of ‘Hindu nationalism’, which regards Hindus alone to be the ones’ deserving to be the citizens of this country. The people of ‘foreign religions’ Muslims and Christians are regarded as the threat to Hindu nation. Golwalkar, the RSS ideologue outlined this in his book Bunch of Thoughts. Modi’s ideological foundations are in this ideology which again goes on to model itself on the lines of Hitler. Appreciating Hitler’s genocide against Jews. Modi’s ideological mentor, Golwalkar writes, writes, “…To keep up the purity of nation and its culture, Germany shocked the world by her purging the country of Semitic races-The Jews. National pride at its highest has been manifested here. Germany has also shown how neigh 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 Hindustan to learn and profit by. (35)
Modi has shown this in practice in Gujarat, where nearly two thousand people were done to death by brutal methods and then large section of the Muslim community has been reduced to live the life of humiliation and deprivation, concentrated in the ghettoes.
When a German delegation visited Gujarat (April 2010), one of the members of the delegation pointed out that he was shocked by parallels between Germany under Hitler and Gujarat under Modi. Incidentally in Gujarat school books Hitler has been glorified as a great nationalist. (36). The similarities with Hitler don’t end here. Like Hitler, Modi enjoys the solid support from the corporate World. Like Hitler Modi has deep hatred for religious minorities and he believes in Hindu nationalism, as per his own admission. His attitude to religious minorities and his own persona was best described the psychoanalyst Ashish Nandy, who interviewed him much before he presided over the Gujarat when the carnage was on, he wrote “…I had the privilege of interviewing…it left me in no doubt that here was a classic, clinical case of a fascist. I never use the term ‘fascist’ as a term of abuse; to me it is a diagnostic category comprising not only one’s ideological posture but also the personality traits and motivational patterns contextualizing the ideology.”
While Germany of 1930 and India of 2014 are different there are many similarities also. The context of Hitler and Modi is different but the underlying politics (sectarian nationalism) is similar, demonization of the ‘other’ is similar, charisma created around them is similar. The fate of the ‘largest democracy’ is in doldrums, the only thing which can help it is the rule of law, morality laced justice, revival of movements for democratic and human rights, to work for the platform of social movements which is inclusive and stands for the values of Liberty, Equality and fraternity in a substantive way.
Modi in Seat of Power
With coming to occupy the Prime Ministers chair, just a few weeks ago, there are already symptoms of his deeper agenda unfolding. The Hindu right wing elements have become assertive and indulged in acts of violence. The state machinery is more blatant in their biases. The six College students and Principal of a Kerala College have been booked for putting Modi’s picture along with the likes of Hitler and Osama, the face book posting of anti Modi nature by a person from Goa and the acts of violence which followed the Modi’s electoral victory are signs of times to come. Following the posting of morphed pictures of Shivaji and Bal Thackeray on the net, a communal violence broke out in Pune, (May 2014) leading to the death of a techie, who was sporting beard and wearing Pathani suit. (38) The progeny of Sangh parivar has started raising the Hindutva agenda, abolition of article 370, Uniform civil code and construction of Ram temple. The gagging of civic society groups has begun right away beginning with targeting the ones’ who have been struggling against the violation of environmental norms and rights of Adivasis. (39)
Modi has already started centralizing most of the power; the Secretaries are to report to him directly and Cabinet system of Ministers is being undermined. Even earlier many a books have been banned but now RSS affiliate Shiksha bachao Abhiyan has stepped up its activities and out of fear many publishers are reviewing the already published books, Megha Kumar’s book “Communalism and Gender Violence: Ahmadabad Since 1969”. The major NGOs who have been opposing the policies of MNCs leading to uprooting of natives and those leading to environmental damage are being targeted. The same NGO’s who were earlier accused of working on behest of foreign corporations are being accused of blocking the foreign investment by these Corporations. The pro Hindutva officials are being given the core positions in the bureaucracy.
Pattern of Power
The previous time, 1999, BJP came to power at the head of a NDA it did not have the simple majority so it suspended its “Hindutva’ agenda. Hindutva agenda stands for abolition of article 370, Uniform Civil Codes and building of Ram Temple on the site where Babri Masjid stood. Now with the majority in parliament, the march towards this Hindutva agenda has been unleashed. Modi has already instilled the authoritarian streak in the new Government. Secretaries of different departments have been asked to directly report to him, and he has not permitted the meeting of the Cabinet in his absence, which was the norm with previous Governments. Though there is a Cabinet, the major power is being centralized around the prime minister.
The major plank of winning the elections was the slogan of Acche din (Good Times). The people at large, who are victims of the rising prices and inflation, were sold the dream of better days in the offing with victory of Modi. The relentless rise of prices despite Modi coming to power has created a sense of disillusion amongst the people, as high hopes were created through propaganda. Some say it is a bit too early to comment on this, as it is a honeymoon period, while others point to the pattern of policies, which do not give a hopeful picture for times to come. FDA in retail has been raised from 26% to 49% in a single swoop. While in opposition; BJP was opposing it. This is an opportunist turn around. The fear of privatization of public sector is very much there in the air. The amendments to Land Acquisition bill are going to affect the interests of the farmers in a very adverse way. What is being proposed is to dilute the consent of majority of the farmers for acquiring land.
Changed Dispensation: Sectarian mindset
Many times we express more by keeping silence than by speaking, so to say. The Pune techie Mohsin Sheikh’s murder allegedly by the Hindu Jagran Sena was part of the well designed communalization process. The violence in Saharanpur, Rampur and other parts of UP and some parts of MP are part of the process to communalize the assembly areas, which are going to face the polls soon. The silence of Prime Minister on these issues is more than eloquent. Rather it gives signal of sorts, which are not very healthy. There are scattered incidents which give us the glimpse of the Modi Sarkar. The shrewdest part of the new Government is that it has solid backing of vast Sangh Parivar to speak in different languages; these different tongues make the whole picture of their agenda. In case of the tennis star Sania Mirza being appointed as the brand ambassador of the newly formed Telangana state, the BJP leaders on TV openly opposed this saying that she is the daughter-in-law of Pakistan, while the top level functionary of the Government said that she is pride of the nation.
All said and done the major problem of the present rule is going to be the changes in education, which will alter the thinking pattern of the coming generations. The goal is to instill a pattern in consonance with the Brahmanical norms, to promote orthodox medieval mind set and to undermine the scientific temper. One recalls that in the previous BJP led NDA regime apart from other things, its major impact was the changes in the history and social science books, where the divisive history taught in the RSS shakhas, the communal history, the history where the kings are looked at through the prism of religion, was introduced. One knows that the communal historiography introduced by British was their main tool in implementing the ‘divide and rule’ policy which formed the ideology of the communal streams of Muslim League and Hindu Mahasabha-RSS. This type of history; by focusing on the glories of ‘our’ kings also promotes the feudal values of caste and gender hierarchy. Mercifully the BJP led NDA lost in 2004 and the rational, national historiography was brought back.
Now already there are signs that RSS volunteers are out to change the total education system and the content of history, social science and other books. Even before this Government came to power, with the rise of Modi on political firmament, with the perception that he is likely to come to power, the Right wing organizations intensified their offensive against genuine scholarship. Dinanath Batra, by now is a well known name, he has been heading the RSS outfits, Shiksha Bachao Abhiyan Samiti and RSS-affiliated Shiksha Sanskriti Utthan Nyas (SSUN) from many decades. He succeeded in pressuring Penguin, the World’s largest publisher, to pulp Wendy Doniger’s scholarly book ‘The Hindus: An Alternate History’. This book brings out through the interpretation of mythology the need to understand the caste and gender aspects in a sensitive manner. The history she has focused on goes against the hierarchical mind set of RSS combine and so pressure was put to pulp it. Now Mr. Batra emerges as a writer himself and a set of nine books written by him have been translated in to Gujarati and introduced in 42000 schools in Gujarat. This may be a trial run before doing similar things at larger scale. Former BJP president and present union minister M Venkaiah Naidu explicitly stated as early as last year (June 23, 2013) that “it (the BJP) will change textbook syllabi, if it returns to power”. Batra is also quoted as saying that a nationalistic education system has to be developed to address the requirements and through this we have to develop a young generation that is committed to Hindutva and nationalism”.
The sampling of Batra’s books gives a good idea of what is in store for us. A quote from one of the set of books, ‘Tejonmaya Bharat’, (Radiant Bharat) tells us “America wants to take the credit for invention of stem cell research, but the truth is that India’s Dr Balkrishna Ganpat Matapurkar has already got a patent for regenerating body parts…You would be surprised to know that this research is not new and that Dr Matapurkar was inspired by the Mahabharata. Kunti had a bright son like the Sun itself. When Gandhari, who had not been able to conceive for two years, learnt of this, she underwent an abortion. From her womb a huge mass of flesh came out. (Rishi) Dwaipayan Vyas was called. He observed this hard mass of flesh and then he preserved it in a cold tank with specific medicines. He then divided the mass of flesh into 100 parts and kept them separately in 100 tanks full of ghee for two years. After two years, 100 Kauravas were born of it. On reading this, he (Matapurkar) realized that stem cell was not his invention. This was found in India thousands of years ago. (Page 92-93)
Indian rishis using their yog vidya would attain divya drishti (divine vision). There is no doubt that the invention of television goes back to this… In Mahabharata, Sanjaya sitting inside a palace in Hastinapur and using his divya shakti would give a live telecast of the battle of Mahabharata… to the blind Dhritarashtra. (Page 64) What we know today as the motorcar existed during the Vedic period. It was called anashva rath. Usually a rath (chariot) is pulled by horses but an anashva rath means the one that runs without horses or yantra-rath, what is today a motorcar. The Rig Veda refers to this. (Page 60)
RSS has already set up a consultative body called Bharatiya Shiksha Niti Ayog (BSNA) to put pressure on Modi’s government to “correct or Indianize” the national education system. In the new syllabus “The passages in the textbooks which pointed out to any unsavory aspect of the Hindu faith like the oppressive caste system in ancient Hindu society, untouchability of the low-caste people and consumption of beef during Vedic ages were scrapped, and anyone who resisted or opposed the changes was dubbed as ’anti-national’.(40)
Caste and Gender
While these changes in the text books give us a full idea of the agenda of this Government, which will have to follow the guidelines set by its parent organization, its already manifest in the appointment of Prof Y.Sudarshan Rao as the chief of ICHR. This national body guides the research into the Indian history. Prof Rao is not much known in the circles of Academic history, as he has hardly written any academic, peer reviewed papers or books. He has been engaged with writing few blogs on his understanding of history, which is more of a fiction suiting the agenda of Hindu Rashtra, reinstating the caste system in particular. In one of his blogs he emphasis that caste system served the society very well and there are no complaints against it. As per him “Most of the questionable social customs in the Indian society as pointed out by the English educated Indian intellectuals and the Western scholars could be traced to this period of Muslim rule in north India spanning over seven centuries.” He argues that “The (caste) system was working well in ancient times and we do not find any complaint from any quarters against it.” This is a distortion. The customs related to caste oppression were integral to the so called Hindu scriptures Vedas (Rig Veda, Purush Sukta) Upanishad, (41) the scriptures which were written in the Pre Historic BC period. Even in Manu smiriti the caste division is well articulated. Manu Smriti was written around 1-2 and Century AD. Contrary to this Prof Rao states that distortion in caste system came with the coming of Muslim Kings. He had so far been working on proving the historicity of our mythological Mahabharat as a part of History. Interestingly RSS combine presents only one version of Ramayan but there are nearly 400 versions of Ramayan. The scholarly essay by A.K.Ramanujam on the diversity of Ramayan telling again was withdrawn from Delhi University curriculum, and the publisher forced to withdraw the book.
With the coming of this Government the peripheral elements have started talking about making these scriptures as a part of our curriculum. Justice Dave talks of bringing in Gita and others are talking of Ramayana. Both these holy tomes have heavy projections of caste. In Gita, Lord talks of taking birth whenever Dharma is in danger. And this Dharma is Varnashram Dharma (Varna system). In Ramayan Lord Ram kills Shambuk, as Shambuk a Shudra is doing penance and this is something not permitted by Caste system.
Fringe Elements or Division of Labor
VHP supremo and RSS member Ashok Singhal has also called Modi “an ideal swayamsevak” and emphatically declared that Muslims must respect the sentiments of the Hindu culture, threatening that “they cannot survive for long by opposing Hindus”. He has also asked Muslims to give up their claims on Ayodhya, Mathura and Kashi. The idea is to reduce Muslims to second class citizens with no privileges and rights. Another firebrand VHP leader Pravin Togadia, known for his ‘hate speeches’, has endorsed these views by issuing a warning to the Muslims, saying they may have forgotten the 2002 Gujarat riots but would remember the Muzaffarnagar riots of last year. (42)
Goa’s deputy chief minister Francis D’Souza apologized for his comment that India was already a Hindu nation. This was a tactical retreat. He was the one who said that all Indians are Hindus. Christians are Christian Hindus for example. Deepak Dhavalikar another BJP member stated that under Modi India will become a Hindu Rashtra. This is what the deeper part of RSS-BJP-Modi agenda, to see that the religious minorities adopt the Brahminical Hindu norms. That’s why they want that to use terms like Christian Hindus or Ahmadiya Hindus. Gradually, the assertion will be that since you are a Hindu you must practice Hindu norms.
On the long term agenda of RSS-BJP-Modi one needs to see the statement of RSS worker Joshi, “During a question-and-answer session, a volunteer asked Yadavrao Joshi, then the head of Sangh workers across all of south India, “We say RSS is a Hindu organisation. We say we are a Hindu nation, India belongs to Hindus. We also say in the same breath that Muslims and Christians are welcome to follow their faith and that they are welcome to remain as they are so long as they love this country. Why do we have to give this concession? Why don’t we be very clear that they have no place if we are a Hindu country?” Joshi replied “As of now, RSS and Hindu society are not strong enough to say clearly to Muslims and Christians that if you want to live in India, convert to Hinduism. Either convert or perish. But when the Hindu society and RSS will become strong enough we will tell them that if you want to live in India and if you love this country, you accept that some generations earlier you were Hindus and come back to the Hindu fold.” (43)
So where are we heading to becomes clear in the last few weeks of Modi Sarkar. The government will be trying to stick to the language which will be subtle while undertaking steps in Hinduization. Its associates, VHP-RSS will tell us bluntly about their agenda. Needless to repeat that this agenda, being unfolded is that of Hindu nation, where religious minorities will be relegated to secondary position and the Chaturvarnya system will be slipped in a subtle manner.
New Dispensation and Social Movements
The election results have brought Narendra Modi to power. Those struggling for the rights of weaker sections of society have begun to relook at the strategies to uphold the democratic rights and liberal space. The threat of an autocrat slowly implementing the agenda of Hindu nation is looming in the air. Even the one month period of Modi sarkar has given many signs of the way of things to come. The threat to democratic freedom, the civil society resistance has been visible through various actions. To defend these democratic freedom-rights many civil society groups have begun to come together to defend the plural, liberal values. There is an introspection to draw up a strategy for the dream and vision of a society where freedom of speech, faith and our diversity is upheld. The realization is that this can be done only through the solidarity of social action groups who have uncompromisingly been struggling to uphold these values.
In the wake of 1992-93 Mumbai violence the need to struggle against communal forces came up in a larger way, this was reinforced by the Gujarat carnage of 2002 and later in the wake of Kandhamal violence of 2008. The social action groups have been the major fulcrum around which the defense of human rights of weaker sections of society could sustain itself. The autocratic regime of Modi which has fascist potential is a grave threat to such struggles. The need for building broad alliances and platforms for solidarity amongst social action groups is picking up and needs to be intensified. On one hand there is a need to step up the defense of the rights of struggling sections of society on the other there should be an urgent effort to extend the solidarity to groups-movements who are taking the path of struggle for preserving the democratic-liberal space. The site of contestation will be ranging from opposing repressive laws in Parliament, to the law courts to defend the victims of discriminatory policies of the state and to the street demonstrations to articulate citizens’ rights as citizens and to oppose the repressive acts of state.
By now it is clear that while we can work in our own area of struggle, freedom of expression, women’s rights, environmental protection, sexual orientation, defense of minority rights and number of other rights for our basic survival, it should also be clear that there is an urgent need to stand in solidarity with each of these groups. The need for these solidarity platforms has to be realized and the work in that direction has to begin in each city, state and go on till the national level. The left of the center political parties who take people’s issues seriously also need to come forward and extend full hearted support to social movements, led by the non party left. This is what will go a long way to defend our democratic rights and norms.
7. Basu, Datta, Sarkar, Sarkar and Sen, “Khaki Shorts Saffron Flags, Orient Longman, Hyderabad 1993,
9. Ram Puniyani, Fascism of Sangh Parivar, Mythri, Trivandrum , 1993, p 26
13. http://books.google.co.in/books/about/Communal_politics.html?id=gvRtAAAAMAAJ&redir_esc=y chapter 2
30. Teesta Setalvad, Combat Communalism, March1998http://www.sabrang.com/cc/comold/march98/document1.htm
35. We or Our nationhood Defined P. 27, 1938
42 (Modi and Hindutva footprints – Editorial, Kashmir Times Kashmir Times – Monday, July 28, 2014)