[WSMDiscuss] "India" vs. BJP: Three Shots: Over the years ('98 - '19): One long, one middle, one close-up
sukla.sen at gmail.com
Wed Apr 27 06:03:29 CET 2022
[Quite curiously, a line from the (Feb.) 1998 piece reads: "(I)t is quite
possible [once they gain radically increased access to the levers of state
power], or rather likely, that from their bag of tricks even more
unorthodox ones will start popping out."
These days, "tricks" - too lethal, are aplenty.
The latest one, right at this very moment, is "bulldozer justice".]
'BJP's Real Agenda' (Feb. 7 1998)
<<The RSS, founded in 1925, had nothing to do with this epic struggle nor
did (or does) it accept the evolving concept of pluralistic nationalism
that inspired and informed the Indian independence movement. Its project of
establishment of the Hindu rashtra is essentially based on the
(redefinition - and thereby (reconstruction - of the ’Hindu’, not so much
with reference to itself but more as contrasted with "the evil and the
threatening ’other’ situated outside" and consequent building up of an
ambience of mass frenzy and civil war, which is so very necessary to
mobilise the amorphous masses of the Hindu as ’Hindu’ in a country where
they not only constitute the overwhelming numerical majority but also
occupy the commanding heights in all walks of life. And this is carried out
with the tacit (or, if possible, explicit) patronage of the state
machinery. In fact the RSS has evolved and pursues an elaborate programme
to infiltrate/ permeate into and influence/manipulate the various organs of
the state, e g, the bureaucracy, the judiciary, the police, and the army
apart from the elected legislative (and executive) bodies (and also vital
segments of the civil society). And as regards the ’vil other’,, contrary
to the common perceptions, the Muslims, though the most convenient and
common target, do not hold the exclusive right to be so constructed/
considered. Any section(s) of religious, linguistic and ethnic minorities,
the dalits, the tribals, the poor, the homeless, the liberals, the
socialists, the communists, the feminists - all are fit candidates to be
enlisted as the ’other’, depending on the specific circumstances.
Once they gain radically increased access to the levers of state power the
real game will start. Not only will Ayodhya, Kashi and Mathura start
picking up new momentum, it is quite possible, or rather likely, that from
their bag of tricks even more unorthodox ones will start popping out. Prom
[read: From] that point onwards, the script would be pretty predictable.
Passions will be aroused. Khaki shorts and black caps will be out on the
streets. The armed might of the state will back them up to the hilt. The
BJP juggernaut will roll on, unstoppable. National ’reconstruction’, RSS
style, will commence. And the death warrant for the concept, the dream,
called India, which was shaped out of one of the most gigantic
anti-imperial popular struggles of the 20th century, will be issued.
This piece seeks to be a small contribution to the large and growing body
of efforts to confront the monster, scuttle the scary prospect and turn
itself into a self-falsifying prophecy.>>
'Indian Nationalism, Hindutva and the Bomb' (September 28 2003)
<<...(I)t is perhaps only in the fitness of things that the real break
[with the Gandhian legacy] came when the BJP, the mass
political/parliamentary wing of the hydra-headed RSS, came to power at the
Centre - albeit aided by two dozen sundry political formations, in March
1998. In less than two months’ time the new government deliberately and
publicly launched India’s nuclear weaponisation programme through a series
of five nuclear explosions. This not only completely overturned India’s
official position on the nuclear issue -acknowledging nuclear weapons as an
unmitigated evil, being maintained - even if rather tenuously, till then;
it also evidently signified a clear and categorical rupture with the
Gandhian legacy - anti-colonial nationalism imbibed with the spirit of
universalism, or whatever of it had remained.
The politics of ‘Hindutva’ - a term first coined and popularised by V D
Savarkar in 1923 [for use in political parlance], and later identified with
the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) - an organisation launched in 1925 on
the Vijayaa Dashami Day by one Keshav Baliram Hedgewar to champion its
cause, has a rather fascinating history. But before trying to plot the
trajectory of Hindutva, it is imperative to keep in mind that the project
of ’Hindutva’ is, in its essence, one of building up mass mobilisation,
geared to the task of forging a new “Hindu” nation-state - out of the
extant one through its appropriation and negation, around a core
’majority’, propelled by whipped up feelings of ’insecurity, paranoia,
hatred and aggression’ against an array of ’adversarial and menacing
others’, both internal and external, by making extensive and manipulative
use of real and imaginary, past and contemporary ’history’ of fissures and
conflicts. While religion is put to extensive and intensive instrumentalist
use in this task of militant, exclusionist, majoritarian mobilisation,
elements of (ultra)nationalism are also put to good use by borrowing and
(mis)appropriating the idioms and icons of (widely accepted) mainstream
(secular) nationalism, particularly (though not exclusively) of its
Mainstream Indian nationalism, on the other, came into being through the
process and as the culmination of India’s long drawn out struggle for
emancipation from the British colonial rule. At its core lies the widely
cherished dream of a democratic, pluralist and egalitarian India - at peace
with itself and the world without. Consequently the ’idea of India’ that
emerged and evolved over the last 150 years or so during the course of this
epic struggle (and also in its aftermath) essentially recognises the
legitimacy of the multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, multi-religious and
multi-cultural character of the Indian society and consequently pluralist,
secular, integrative democracy as the only viable basis for the independent
Indian state. It bears reiteration that Hindutva calls for nothing short of
deliberate negation of this ideological basis and undermining of the
post-independence Indian state, along with its rather elaborate
legal-constitutional and institutional framework, while masquerading itself
as the greatest defender of the Indian nation state.
Before proceeding further with our investigation an important caveat needs
be entered here for any meaningful journey down the line. Indian
nationalism from its very inception assumed an ‘omnibus’ character. This
deliberate ‘all-inclusiveness’ constituted its key characteristic and made
it eminently suitable as the foundational ideology for the ‘India in the
making’, given the size and vast diversities amongst the peoples of the
subcontinent - in terms of culture, language, ethnicity, social-economic
station and, of course, religious belief/practice. As a result we could
find the call for ‘Ram Rajya’ and activist support for the Khilafat
movement to go hand in hand. This tendency to (uncritically) accept all and
reject nothing, overlook otherwise evident differences and contradictions,
in so far as they meet the basic criteria of anti-colonialism, however,
made it highly incapable of clearly demarcating itself from and
consequently taking head on various aberrant tendencies within the broad
spectrum. Moreover, the demography and history of the subcontinent saw to
it that Indian nationalism, and its principal agency - the Indian National
Congress, assumed a distinct (upper caste) Hindu flavour notwithstanding
its pluralist and egalitarian commitments, particularly of its most visible
symbols - Gandhi, Bose, Nehru, and also Tagore. The quest for and invention
of a “golden past” as a critical element and the psychological ballast in
the struggle against the commonly perceived civilisational superiority of
the colonial rulers further blurred the dividing line between ‘secular’
liberal nationalism and “Hindu” communalism.
It is against this backdrop that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS -
National Volunteers’ Federation) opened its shop in 1925, apparently
borrowing the basic organisational model from the Anushilan Samity - a
militant nationalist organisation in Bengal, to propagate its distinctive
brand of “nationalism” under the cover of “character building”. It placed
itself outside of the arena of “political” activities, unlike its
ideological ancestor the Hindu Mahasabha (Hindus’ Grand Assembly). This
made it easier to avoid any direct confrontation with the Congress, the
principal vehicle of Indian nationalism, and also adverse attention of the
colonial rulers. The strategy was essentially two-pronged : to critique and
discredit the mainstream nationalism (in the eyes of its actual and
prospective adherents); and (rather surreptitiously) supplant its broad
pluralist vision with its own hate-filled sectarian one. In other words :
delegitmise/subvert Indian nationalism; and (mis)appropriate it. It is
quite significant that this basic duality till this day continues unabated.
Praise Gandhi to the sky - claim him as one of your own; celebrate the
memory of Nathuram Godse - his unrepentant killer. Demand forced respect
for the national flag; spread disaffection against it for containing
colours other than saffron. Ditto for the national anthem and the Indian
constitution. Even as regards the nuclear explosions : project it as a bold
departure from the pusillanimity of the nationalist/Congress traditions;
claim it as the continuation and culmination of the earlier policy backed
by broad national consensus.
While it definitely goes to the credit of the RSS that it could follow this
strategy of duality with high degree of persistence and fiendish finesse,
it could hardly have been possible without the intrinsic fuzziness of
Indian nationalism, more noticeable on its fringes.
To sum up, the rise of the Hindutva politics, constituting just not of
‘minority’/Muslim bashing but encompassing a changed conception of
“nationalism” itself, since early eighties in particular, has a strong and
clearly discernible correlation with the steady drift, decline and
vicissitudes of the Congress, which had till then been not only the ruling
power at the centre, albeit with a brief interlude, but also regarded as
the very core of Indian nationalism.
Pokhran-II together with the demolition of the Babri Mosque, about five and
half years earlier, constitute the two darkest spots in post-colonial
Indian history - far more ominous than Gandhi assassination as it, in any
case, had elicited massive and visceral disapproval on the part of the
Indian masses. Both the cataclysmic events are symptomatic of a
considerable closing of the gap, especially over the past quarter century
or so, between Indian Nationalism and Hindu Nationalism - a rather
unanticipated spin-off of India’s grand project for modernisation, and
symbolise grave threats to the very concept of ‘India’ as had evolved
through the epic freedom struggle. In spite of all the dismal consequences
and, waiting to be realised, mind-numbing possibilities, Indian elite is
yet to get over its phase of denial. It continues to most obstinately
refuse, like a thoroughly spoilt brat, to acknowledge the stark reality
staring in the face.>>
'2019 Parliamentary Poll : Outcome: Drivers: Consequences : An Exploration'
(June 15 2019)
<<Taking off from that basic proposition [as enunciated above], the new
regime is likely to have two major focal points on the "political" front:
I. Dismantling of all opposition - both party and non-party.
Towards that, dislodging, maybe even dismissal, of, at least a few,
opposition-run state governments.
ED, IT, CBI raids on opposition politicians; also, in some cases, buying
Tightening the screw, in a myriad ways – including enhanced digital
surveillance, also as regards the civil society organisations and
II. Sharply spiking communal polarisation by way of (phased?) nationwide
roll-out of the NRC, also scrapping of Art. 370 (and Art. 35A) and putting
to good use the Mandir-Masjid issue(s), as per the demands of the situation.
Other expected developments are:
(i) Further intensification of non-state physical violence.
(ii) Mega sale of PSUs.
(iii) “Economic reforms”.
(iv) Stepped up trashing of environmental norms and safeguards.
(v) Tightening the grip over the education infrastructure and institutions.
(vi) Further defining of watchdog institutions.
(vii) More repressive laws, if felt necessary.
While the actual (detailed) work plan will evolve and be calibrated, based
on the perceived ground situations, and be punctuated with some measures to
project a “people-friendly” image – to confuse and divide the potential
opposition, there is little scope that the general direction would be
anything significantly different from the one sketched out above.
_It would no longer be business as usual, not even by the standards of the
last five years._
Modi 2.0 very much presents us with the looming threat of the dismantling
of the "India" - embodying the values of "democracy", "pluralism" and
"egalitarianism", that had been wrought out in the crucible of the epic
freedom struggle and, in the process, finally emerged on the 15th August
1947 - in pursuance of a project to supplant it with a "Hindu Rashtra"
(Hindu nation state) - by mobilising the Hindus of India as "Hindus",
drowning out all other identities linked to language, culture, gender,
caste, class etc., constantly stoking hatred and violence against the
constructed inimical "others".
Regardless of all the (innumerable) flaws and shortcomings that "India" –
real and even notional, encapsulates, the success of the above project
would prove to be an unmitigated disaster for the vast majority of the
people inhabiting this land.>>
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