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New rage against the machine

Hindu ‘rage’ is fast slipping out of control of the Sangh leadership. When parties are powerless, society must act. We Hindus, (like Muslims) must reclaim our religion from the angry ‘terrorists’, writes Sagarika Ghose.

india Updated: Nov 11, 2008 22:34 IST

Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur is a woman representing ‘Hinduism’. Yet, she is accused of killing innocents in bomb blasts at Malegaon in September. The alleged mastermind of the blasts is a serving Army officer Lt Colonel Shrikant Purohit. The Bhonsala Military School in Nashik, it is claimed, trained as many as 54 men in military and bomb-making technology in 2001.The Malegaon blast investigation is yielding astounding results: nine arrests so far from Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat. The network is extensive, well-funded and welded by sheer hatred.

Hindu samitis and sanghs are proliferating. Their membership is made up mostly of young men. These young men feel constantly insulted and outraged by plays, articles and minorities. Their method of protest is always violence. A group called the Hindu Janjagran Samiti exploded bombs outside a Thane auditorium that was presenting a play supposed to be ‘anti-Hindu’.

A group called the Shiv Sangram Samiti attacked the home of newspaper editor Kumar Ketkar because he wrote an article asking why the Maharashtra government was constructing a Shivaji statue. At a seminar in Delhi University, an Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) activist spat in the face of S.A.R. Geelani, once an accused in the December 13 Parliament attack case. At MS University in Baroda, VHP activists attacked an artist during an art exhibition for hurting ‘Hindu sentiments’. M.F. Husain still can’t return to India as there are several cases against him for hurting ‘Hindu sentiment’. In Delhi University, ABVP activists created an uproar over an academic text on the Ramayan that was causing hurt to ‘Hindu sentiments’. Young men who should be working at their careers or studies are busy feeling insulted about their deities.

‘Hindu rage’ was supposed to have subsided after the demolition of the Babri Masjid. Under the soothing influence of A.B. Vajpayee, as the NDA was tempered by governance, Hindu anger seemed to be becoming slowly irrelevant. In 2006 when BJP leaders sought to undertake ‘national integration’ rath yatras to mobilise ‘Hindu rage’ about the ‘blatant minority appeasement policies’ of the UPA, these yatras failed to strike a public chord. A globalising forward-looking economy seemed to have little time for calls to aggressive identity politics. Yet today, an exponentially increasing aggression characterises the ‘Hindu’. The Hindu is angry about Muslims, angry at Christians, angry that young women are not wearing traditional clothes, angry at ‘anti-Hindu Euro-Indians’ or ‘pseudo-secularists’ who supposedly defend Muslims.

How are we to understand this Hindu rage? Why do young ‘Hindu’ men want to bash, bomb, destroy, use abusive language and spit? Islamist terrorism, with its roots in the conflagrations of West Asia, its ideology, its preachers, its enemy in the Great Satan posits itself as the nemesis of the industrialised West. The global jihad is the result of a lethal combination of weapons and ideological brainwashing. Islamist terror has its recognisable motivations and goals. But what is making the Hindu angry? And why is he or she trying to create a copycat terrorism to compete with the Muslim, when the global jihad has hardly got India as uppermost on its radar?

The first reason could be frustration. In the years that Islamist groups either from Pakistan or Bangladesh recruited Muslims to their cause, the Indian-State resoundingly failed to apprehend the real culprits. The failure to win the war against the Islamist terrorist, the manner in which militants were freed after the Kandahar hijacking, created the fear that the government, of whichever party, was weak and powerless. ‘Reprisal terrorism’ may well be the reason why an Army officer starts making bombs.

But there is a more important reason for Hindu rage. And this lies in the ‘commonality’ between the ascetic and the terrorist. Both the ascetic and the terrorist feel that they are not part of society. They feel they are left out of economic progress and left out of the political mainstream. There are millions of individuals who even at 35 get nowhere in life. Their small business packs up or their promotions are denied. In an earlier time these bitter men would have become sadhus. Now, they get recruited to the cause of Hindu rage. The persistent perception of failure in a success-oriented society, the daily humiliation of being the loser when everyone around seems to be winning, the factory of glossy cultural products like ads and movies that scream ‘I have it and you don’t’, is creating armies of recruits to Hindu ‘rage’.

The thousands of underemployed or semi-employed youths perpetually available to be part of the screaming ‘nationalist’ mob against ‘minorities’ are not just protesting about Muslims: they are screaming out their own economic and cultural deprivation. Thus, the fashion show, St Valentine’s Day, the English-speaking ‘pseudo secularists’, all the demonstrable symbols of the economy that are new and that appear successful, must be met with hatred and violence because ‘success’ is the enemy. The sad truth is that as political parties become family businesses and as education available in small town schools collapses, the successful are now a minuscule minority. The benefits of the English language is showered on a few but totally denied to the many. Sadhvi Pragya Singh is an MA in history and likes riding motorbikes. In a society that provides equal opportunity, making bombs (allegedly) need not have been this fiery woman’s only method to express her individuality.

The BJP has made an important contribution to public life. It has showed that so-called ‘secular’ governments were flirting with zealots, encouraging Muslims not to follow the laws of independent India and making an apology for the duty of every Hindu. Yet, the sophisticated arguments made by BJP leaders in Delhi have become blunt weapons by the time they have trickled down to the alleys of Jammu and Kandhamal.

Hindu ‘rage’ is fast slipping out of control of the Sangh leadership. When parties are powerless, society must act. We Hindus, (like Muslims) must reclaim our religion from the angry ‘terrorists’. We are lovers of earth, trees and mountains; blind hatred is not our creed. We must draw our children away from the malign ‘religion’ of ‘Sadhvi’ Pragya Thakur and lead them instead to the magnificent river that is our ancestor. A river that reminds every child of the dignified spirituality of the world’s oldest living faith.

Sagarika Ghose is Senior Editor, CNN IBN.