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As violence rages, Sangh fishes in troubled waters

delhi Updated: Aug 17, 2012 00:06 IST
Vikas Pathak
Vikas Pathak
Hindustan Times
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As Assam riots rage on - causing reverberations in Maharashtra and Karnataka - the RSS and the BJP have a readymade Hindutva issue: a fight between "Indians" and "illegal Bangladeshi Muslim immigrants".

Threats to students from the north-east in the southern states are being referred to as the "anti-national" siding with the "foreigner".

And even as the state governments geared to prevent the exodus, the RSS student-affiliate ABVP set up 24-hour helplines in 20 cities across India on Thursday for north-eastern students.

Also, people from the north-east who rushed to the Bangalore Railway Station to board trains to Guwahati found about 250 RSS volunteers there to protect them, urging them to stay back.

Repeatedly under attack over the Gujarat riots of 2002, the BJP sees the Assam riots as an opportunity to attack the Congress government there and appeal to Assamese voters.

For the RSS, this provides an opportunity to appropriate north-eastern tribes - the Sangh's influence has been limited in the north-eastern states - within a wider 'Hindu' narrative.

"Workers of the RSS have met north-eastern students and offered all help for their safety and security," RSS joint general secretary Dattatreya Hosabale told the media in Guwahati.

PTI quoted BJP president Nitin Gadkari as saying, "The problem in Assam is not communal but that of Indians versus outsiders. Anti-national people are involved in this violence. In Mumbai, the crowd waved the Pakistani flag, made provocative statements and vandalised the martyrs' memorial."

Talking to reporters in Delhi, senior BJP leader Sushma Swaraj wondered why the PM had talked to the Karnataka CM but not to the Maharashtra or Andhra Pradesh CMs.

She, however, added that the Karnataka government would ensure peace in the state.

The BJP has said that the government must offer refuge to Hindus fleeing Pakistan due to persecution.

This distinction between immigrants on grounds of faith is a fundamentally Hindutva theme which the BJP has articulated as a subtext amid the loud, secular clamour over corruption and inflation.