Seizing the opportunity to corner the government after the midnight action against Baba Ramdev kicked up controversy, the BJP went ballistic on Monday, likening the police action to the Jallianwala Bagh massacre and the Emergency. The comparison is inappropriate, but the party believes it suits its interests.
Top leaders sat on a ‘satyagraha’ at Rajghat through the day. They also met the President to condemn the government and demand a special session of Parliament.
The imagery was ideologically crucial for the BJP. The Emergency is vital for the party as it gave the Jana Sangh its first entry into the politics of civil liberties beyond its staple — and rather limiting — Hindu cultural politics.
The symbolic imagery of Mahatma Gandhi’s satyagraha is similarly an attempt — tried repeatedly from 1980, with the party’s foundation — to move beyond the charge that the BJP’s ideological mentor RSS stayed away from the freedom struggle and was even accused of the Mahatma’s assassination.
At the same time, the defence of a sadhu — the BJP likened Ramdev to Swami Vivekananda — serves the Hindutva ideological project too.
“Never since those fateful days of June 1975 has the country witnessed such a brutal attack on civil liberties and democratic rights...as it did just past midnight on June 4-5 this year....” said the memorandum to the President signed by LK Advani, Nitin Gadkari, Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley.
“The barbaric attack...by the Delhi Police on the instructions of the government is truly reminiscent of General Dyer’s psychopathic action against freedom fighters in Jallianwala Bagh....”
The memorandum also demanded a special session of Parliament “to 1. compel the government to explain its brutal action against peaceful protesters and apologise for this attack... 2. bring…a resolution declaring all Indian money stashed away in foreign banks as ‘National Wealth’.”
After meeting the President, Advani said the government should introduce a legislation to empower enforcement authorities to take “severe penal action against those who have indulged in such criminal pilferage of national resources”.
At Rajghat, impassioned speeches alternating with patriotic and inspirational songs and dances condemned the atrocities, in which even Swaraj took part.
When Congress condemned the dance at the Mahatma’s samadhi by Swaraj, the BJP reacted sternly.
“If on activists’ request Bharat Mata kee jai was sung, do they call it dancing here? What do we expect of Congressmen who sweep the floor at 10 Janpath?” said chief spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad.