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A disturbing tendency visible during the election campaign appears to have become the perfected strategy of the RSS/BJP now in government with an absolute majority in the Lok Sabha, albeit with a mere 31% share of those who voted. This tendency, true to their character, is to speak/act with a forked tongue — one for public consumption to give a false comfort level and the other for ground level mobilisation. The BJP discharges this responsibility as the political arm of the RSS.
Thus, ‘development’ and ‘Gujarat model’ employed as election mascots were only the veil concealing the actual ground reality of the campaign that focused on the sharpening of communal polarisation. Much of the BJP’s electoral gains, apart from various other factors, including a widespread disgust with the Congress-led UPA 2 rule during the last few years, has been due to such brazen ‘vote-bank’ politics, ie, the communal consolidation of the ‘Hindu vote-bank’. It is, therefore, quite natural that this BJP victory would lead to the aggressive pursuit of the RSS ideological project of converting the secular democratic Indian Republic into their version of a rabidly intolerant fascistic ‘Hindu Rashtra’.
This has been confirmed by the RSS chief who, at Cuttack on August 10, asked that if inhabitants of England are English, Germany are Germans and the US are Americans, then why aren’t inhabitants of Hindustan not known as Hindus. He went on to say, “The cultural identity of all Indians is Hindutva and the present inhabitants of the country are descendents of this great culture”. This question was rejected following a detailed discussion in the Constituent Assembly when it laid down the foundations and structure of a secular democratic Republic. Precisely, in order to disabuse such exclusivist categorisations, which negate the very idea of India, Article I of our Constitution defines our country thus: “India, that is, Bharat is a Union of States”. Bharat was chosen instead of Hindustan and many other terms to convey the inclusivist ‘idea of India’. From this flows the consequent equality of all citizens “irrespective of caste, creed and sex”. The RSS, which all along stood against this very idea of India as a pluralistic society of rich diversity, is today seeking to negate the vibrancy of the mosaic that distinguishes our country.
Consider the forked tongue at work. Even during the so-called ‘honeymoon’ period, this government, belying the hopes of a naïve and gullible public, is negating the developmental electoral agenda. Soon after assuming office, it has hiked the administrative prices of petroleum products and steeply raised railway fares. Its budget and the parliamentary legislative business reflect the unabashed pursuit of economic reforms. Given the massive support rendered by international finance capital backed by India Inc to the Modi election campaign, it is only natural that such a course should appear inevitable. Facilitating greater inflow of foreign investments to permit profit maximisation at the cost of our people and country’s sovereignty (eg, FDI in insurance, defence production, etc) and greater concessions to India Inc have been the result.
Within a few weeks of the new government, those who were arguing during the election campaign that the BJP is downplaying its communal agenda are already feeling betrayed and, thus, silenced. The core Hindutva agenda — the abrogation of Article 370, Uniform Civil Code, building of the Ram temple at the disputed site in Ayodhya — have all been articulated by Cabinet ministers and RSS leaders. A Goa minister has stated that with the BJP’s victory, the establishment of a ‘Hindu Rashtra’ has begun.
At the ground level, this is reflected in the sharpening of communal tensions across the country leading in some places to brutal riots and the death of innocent Indians. Even during the elections, such communal polarisation was being resorted to as evidenced in the Muzaffarnagar riots. According to home ministry statistics, a total of 823 incidents of communal violence have been reported across the country in the run-up to the elections during 2013. In Uttar Pradesh alone, where the BJP won 71 plus two of its allies out of a total 80 Lok Sabha seats, 247 incidents took place in 2013. During the second quarter of 2014, April-June, 149 communal clashes were reported across the country. Maharashtra, where assembly elections are due, closely follows Uttar Pradesh. In the 10 weeks after May 16, when the new government took over in Delhi, 605 incidents of a communal nature took place in Uttar Pradesh alone. Significantly, two-thirds of these took place in and around the 12 assembly constituencies where by-elections are due shortly. Similar reports are also coming in from Bihar where by-elections to 10 assembly seats are due.
There is also an element of ‘social engineering’ in fomenting such communal tensions. While the Muzaffarnagar riots brought the Jatavs into conflict with Muslims, the Saharanpur riots brought the Sikhs into conflict with the Muslims. The destruction of social harmony has disastrous consequences for the unity and integrity of our country and people. The RSS/BJP, however, has no compunctions in damaging such harmony among our people in pursuit of its political gains for the eventual realisation of the RSS vision to metamorphose the Indian Republic.
The crescendo of incendiary speeches is rising. Last week, a VHP leader thundered in Indore that the Muslims may have forgotten Gujarat 2002 but would remember the Muzaffarnagar riots last year. This comes on the heels of another VHP patron saying that, “Tables had turned on the Muslims”.
The signals, thus, are amply clear. Being forewarned must mean being forearmed. Every patriotic Indian must rise to the occasion to prevent such sharpening of communal polarisation that has the potential to weaken and disintegrate the immensely rich and diverse social fabric that has woven together our great country.
Sitaram Yechury is CPI(M) Politburo member and Rajya Sabha MP
The views expressed by the author are personal