Twenty-two-year-old Avinash Misra of Faizabad was back in Ayodhya after being trained in
(stick) in Himachal Pradesh in mid-October. He had also taken part in a 21-day camp in Ayodhya attended by 172 young men in June. “I have trained in guns as well at an RSS camp here. The RSS is planning an Islamic party,” he had said at the 25th anniversary function of the Bajrang Dal at Karsevakpuram.
This was the first version. In the ‘official’ version, relayed two weeks later when contacted by phone, the story had changed.
In the others’ versions, some of the details change too. Uttam Singh, the sangathan mantri, or organisation councillor with the Akhil Bharthiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), Ayodhya, said akraman (attack) had no part in the programme. “If you want to know about that, ask pehelwans or jawans. We don’t give our boys bomb or arms training, but if need be we will make more than bombs,” Singh says.
“The boys learn judo, kabbadi and how to jump — from terraces, from cliffs…. Last year, when we held our camp even the District Magistrate of Faizabad came for inspection. We showed him how we wield sticks, do yudh (war). And no, we are not planning an Islamic party — how can we, when we are against Muslims?” he adds.
Mishra’s friend, Dileep Tripathi, an ABVP student leader at Saket University and an RSS sympathiser, is getting into poll mode. Physical training among Bajrang Dal cadre “will help the Faizabad BJP candidate Lallu Singh”, he said.
Despite the BJP’s attempts to distance or even maintain an image of separateness from the RSS, in the minds of ordinary cadre, the BJP and the RSS are the same. “The BJP is the RSS’s party,” says Tripathi. “This election, who else will we support?”
This is also good tactics. “Outfits like the Bajrang Dal and the ABVP are stormtroopers of the Hindu right,” says historian Tanika Sarkar. “Their capacity for sudden violence and their subsequent disappearance in the larger Hindutva organisation of the RSS are classic characteristics of fascism, which is an ideology and a symptom of socio-economic failure.” Tripathi bears this out. A Brahmin, his frustrations point to the failure of successive governments to engage sections of society in traditional learning. “No government speaks for my class or the Thakurs,” he said.
The result: harping on Hindutva as the dominant culture and a rejection of the West — the anti-culture. “I have nothing against Valentine’s Day,” he clarifies, “but provided it’s illustrated with ‘Bharatiya’ stories such as Heer Ranjha. The name itself, ‘Valentine’s Day’ gives off a foreign smell. It puts me off.”