The Saffron Condition: Politics of Repression Hindutva Politics and Terror

The Sangh has come out quite strongly against Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar for his observation that the NDA should have a secular prime minister who can carry all sections of the society with him.

What prompted Nitish to come out with this outburst is for the political analysts to decipher. But the Sangh’s response clearly places on it the burden to clearly define Hindutva to all those Hindus who believe and practice Sanatan Dharm.

I am a practicing Hindu. I was given diksha by his holiness Jagadguru Shankaracharya of Dwarka and Joshi Math in 1983.I regularly pray every day for half an hour and have been doing this since 1969 when I was given Gayatri Mantra after I got my ‘ Yagyo Pavit Sansakar ‘.

I have nine temples at my residence at Raghogarh in Guna District MP. Pooja is performed every day according to the traditions as prescribed by my religion. This has been going on for more than 14 generations in all the above temples.

My mother was deeply religious and inculcated religious values in all of us. She taught us respect for all religions and love and compassion for all human beings. She kept a fast on Ekadashi all her life. We have imbibed these values from her and I have done the same for almost 20 years.

Have been visiting Pandharpur to pray at Vitho Ba’s feet on every Asadi Ekadashi since last 21 years.

Yet Sangh and BJP and their brigade calls me anti Hindu !

My Guru Shankaracharya ji has been unable to explain the meaning of Hindutva which I believe was first used by Veer Savarkar a staunch Arya Samaji who was vehemently against Sanatan Dharm. The intolerance of the Arya Samaj towards Sanatan Dharm is well known . The Arya Samaj does not even allow the use of its premises for religious rites as per Sanatan Dharm.

I have few questions for Mohan Bhagwatji as the head of the Sangh. I don’t think he would respond to my questions but would be very grateful if he did.

1- Is destroying Babri Masjid or any place of worship Hindutva?
2- Is planting bombs to kill innocent people Hindutva?
3- Is spreading hatred against other religion Hindutva?
4- Why object to the very word secularism when you say that Hindutva is a synonym for secularism?
5- If Hindutva is synonymous with secularism, what is the problem with a secular prime minister?

I would as a devout follower of Sanatan Dharm would like to know from Mohan Bhagwatji the difference between ideals of Hindutva and ideals of Sanantan Dharm.

Nitish Kumar in an obvious reference to opposition to Modi’s possible projection as the Prime-ministerial candidate of NDA, in the next parliamentary elections said that NDA’s Prime Ministerial candidate should be one with secular credentials. His aide went on to say that Vajpayee had the intention of sacking in the wake of Gujarat carnage and the NDA lost 2004 Parliamentary elections due to the Gujarat carnage and role of Modi in the same (June 19, 2012). In response Lalu Yadav questioned Nitish as to how he Nitish continued to be part of NDA after Gujarat happened? The BJP spokesmen talked at various levels. One of them said that ideologically Vajpayee, Advani and Modi are all the same. Another one said that Hindutva is truly secular and liberal so why Modi cannot be the PM candidate. RSS Supremo Bhagwat buttressed the point by saying as to why the nation cannot have a Hindutvawadi prime minister?
With this the ever continuing debate about secularism and the nature of Hindutva is in the social space once again. One concedes that Kumar is no secular angel. When BJP came to become the largest single party in Lok Sabha in 1996, no one dared to ally with it that time as it’s communal face was starkly obvious due to its role in Babri demolition and consequent violence, which was too fresh in people’s memory. By 1998 in a similar situation many parities including Kumar’s JD (U) could not resist the temptation of power and struck some minimum common program to share power with the BJP. Though his JD (U) had a common minimum understanding with BJP, right under Kumar’s nose BJP during NDA regime communalized the polity to no end. Saffronization of text books was done and introduction of courses like Paurihitya and Hindu Rituals in the Universities being just few examples of the Hindutva agenda, were starkly visible. When the carnage broke out in 2002, Kumar was the minister for railways and in that capacity he ignored the investigation of Godhra train burning, which was mandatory as per the rules. Due to this Modi’s concoction that train burning was a preplanned act by Muslims went unchallenged for a long time. Kumar could have called Modi’s bluff that the train burning was a planned act by Muslims.
Nitish was part of the cabinet. What did he tell Vajpayee at that time one does not know, but as a secular person, his threat of pulling out from the Government would have set the house in order to a great extent. Even today, right under his nose his ally; the BJP of Bihar, is communalizing the polity. Communalism is not just communal violence. Communal violence is just the superficially visible part of the process of communalization, which aims to abolish secular space and liberal values.
Some of the statements of BJP spokepersons are partly true also. The claim that Vajpayee, Advani, and Modi (one can add even people like Praveen Togadia, Promod Mutallik, Vinay Katiyar and the likes) are similar, is true to a great extent. They are all ideologically committed swaymsevaks, (RSS trained Cadres) working for the agenda of Hindu Rashta, the goal of RSS politics. There are dissimilarities amongst them also; there is a division of labor amongst them also. Since BJP is not hoping for coming to majority on its own strength, it has to keep a liberal façade. Precisely for this reason Vajpayee was the prime Minister, while prime mover of the chariot of communalism through Ram Temple campaign, Advani, was forced to play the second fiddle. When Vajpayee withdrew from the scene, Advani decided for the image change over and he suddenly realized the secular worth of Jinnah. It is another matter that he overplayed the game and their patriarch, RSS, decided to clip his wings and demote him. All the top brass of BJP, VHP, Bajrang Dal, Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram and many other RSS outfits are primarily the RSS swayamasevaks, which is too well known by now.
When the previous avatar of BJP, Jan Sangh, merged in Janata Party in the wake of lifting of emergency, the other components of Janata party, socialists in particular, demanded that the Jan Sangh members should give up their membership-affiliation with RSS. For Jan Sanghis breaking link with RSS was unthinkable and they decided to pull out from Janata Party and then they regrouped as Bharatiya Janata Party, as it is known at present. Vajpayee, in his famous address to NRI Indians in Staten Island, US, asserted that he is Swayamsevak first and anything else, PM, later.
In that sense they are on the same ideological wavelength but playing different roles at any point of time. They are communal to the core, with the agenda to work for religion based nationalism. To say that Hindutva is secular and liberal is like putting the reality on its head. Hindutva is not Hinduism. Hinduism is an umbrella of various religious streams, which flowered and existed in this part of the world. Hindutva as a concept and political ideology started emerging during colonial period and was later popularized by Savarkar. He defined it as ‘Whole of Hinduness’, a combination of Aryan race, culture and language. In particular Hindutva is based on the Brahmanical stream of Hinduism, subtly promoting caste and gender hierarchy, reviving the feudal hierarchical system in the modern idioms.
When the whole nation was coming together on the principles of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity, the upholders of Hindutva, coming from the sections of Rajas, Jamindars and section of upper caste Hindus kept aloof from the struggle against British. They came together as Hindu Mahasabha and later founded and supported RSS. Their politics was parallel and opposite of the politics of Muslim League, which was arguing on the similar line for an Islamic state, Pakistan. Muslim League also had base amongst the landed aristocracy, Nawabas, Jagirdars and later joined by educated elite. Hindutva stream, Hindu Mahasabha-RSS projected the glorious Hindu past and asserted we are a Hindu Nation from times immemorial. Muslim League identified with the rule of Muslim kings and traced their lineage to the first invasion of Muslim King in this part of the world. The National movement under Gandhi was for throwing away the yoke of colonial rule and for social change of caste and gender relations. It articulated that we are a Nation in the making.
Here one can see the instrumentalist use of religion by a section of society, elite, who wanted to preserve their privileges in the changing social dynamics. The sharpest articulation of Hindutva politics came from M.S. Golwalkar, who in his ‘We or our Nationhood Defined’, eulogized fascism and asked for a second class citizenship for Muslims and Christians. Today the RSS cadres unable to swallow the blunt formulation of their politics by Golwalkar deny the existence of this book. The dilemma of RSS and its progeny is to keep the democratic face till they come to a majority when they can unleash their full scale agenda. Currently also their trained swayamsevaks are infiltrating in different wings of the state, media and education apart from forming the organizations like BJP etc. So who is secular in BJP? They claim that they believe in justice for all and appeasement of none. This is a very cleverly worded sentence to hide their intention of continuing the discrimination of those suffering in the present scheme of things.
How does one understand the difference between Hinduism and Hindutva? One has to take recourse to the example of the ‘father of the nation’ to avoid the heavy academic debates. Gandhi was a Hindu but not a follower of Hindutva. Godse and the RSS tribe are the practitioners of ‘Hindutva politics’. For this politics a Hindu like Gandhi is unacceptable ideologically as he could reach the zenith of secular ethos while being the best of the Hindus! We do realize that while the statement by Nitish Kumar is a symbol of shadow boxing it also presents one of the aspects of the political reality being witnessed by the nation.
The Saffron Condition: Politics of Repression and Exclusion in Neoliberal India by Subhash Gatade; Three Essays Collective, Gurgaon; 2011; pp. X+475; Price: 500.
In December 2010, when Swami Aseemanand, a ‘former’ RSS pracharak and key functionary of the Sangh backed Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram, admitted before a Metropolitan Magistrate to have planned terror attacks on Ajmer Sharif, Mecca Masjid, Malegaon and the Samjhauta Express, it came as the official seal of the Hindutva terror network in India. In his confession, recorded under Section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code (Cr.P.C.) before Metropolitan Magistrate Deepak Dabas at Tis Hazari Court, Delhi on December 18, he confessed that he and other Hindutva activists, were involved inbombings at Muslim religious places because they wanted to answer every Islamist terror act with “a bomb-for-bomb’’ policy. “I told everybody that bomb ka jawab bomb se dena chahiye (we should reply to bomb blasts with similar bomb blasts),” reads his 42-page confession. He categorically named (in his confession) the senior RSS leader, Indresh Kumar, the murdered RSS pracharaks Sunil Joshi, Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur and senior RSS pracharaks Sandeep Dange and Ramji Kalsangra, among others, as being key conspirators in the terror blasts.
What is to be noted here is that this was not a ‘confession’ that the police forces are known for—the forced kind of confession, which is not admissible in the court. Rather, it was a voluntary one, in the wake of a Hirday Parivartan or change of heart and made before the Magistrate under Section 164 of the Cr.P.C., which is also considered as evidence. However, the question arises: should we take this as an exception or an ‘individual’ act of terror, as often argued by the Sangh leaders? Would it be proper to believe that the Parivar people were unaware of their fellow activist’s actions, given the hierarchal and disciplined nature of the Parivar? The books under discussion ably answerthese questions.
Subhash Gatade, as many of us would know, is one of the foremost independent journalists and long-time activist of human rights and social justice. He has been writing constantly and consistently about Hindutva politics, terror and issues of repression and exclusion. Over a period of more than two decades, he has followed many cases and written on them extensively. In his two books released, he deals with the above subject at great length and reveals important facts about the Hindutva forces, its allies, network, politics and agendas—both short and long-term. While the first book, Godse’s Children: Hindutva Terror in India, focuses on the terrorist activities of the Sangh and its allies, the second book, The Saffron Condition: Politics of Repression and Exclusion in Neo-Liberal India, essentially deals with the policies and politics of the Hindutva outfits. The writer in these two important works also outlines the various processes adopted by these forces in persuasion of their long-term agenda—establishment of a Hindu Rashtra.
After reading these two books one would find it to be a gross underestimation, in fact criminal negligence, if one thought these to be individual acts and the first terrorist activity planned and carried out by the Sangh and its ilk. Because the politics of hate and terror were never absent from the Sangh Parivar’s system. “The tag of terrorism,” as rightly pointed out by Dr Shamsul Islam, who is an authority on Hindutva politics in India, “is not something new.” The history of the anti-national and terrorist activities of the RSS is very long and can be traced to its roots. It is because of its activities that the RSS and its network have been repeatedly censured by umpteen numbers of commissions of inquiry for its complicity in communal violence and terrorist activities. The first of these incidents can be traced way back to June 1934, when the first attempt to kill Mahatma Gandhi was made by the Hindutva fanatics in Pune. It is also an established fact that the first terrorist act in independent India, the killing of Mahtama Gandhi, was carried out by none other than a ‘former’ pracharak of the RSS, Nathuram Godse.
Godse’s Children: Hindutva Terror in India
In Godse’s Children, tracing the historical background and ideological foundation, the author points out: “Commission after commission have blamed RSS and its affiliated organisations for their participation in different riots across the length and breadth of the country…but that was different from the confession—about organising terror acts—before a judicial magis-trate by one amongst them.” (p. 32) Ana-lysing the RSS chief’s claim, terrorism and Hindus are oxymorons, Subhash Gatade says: “The thesis of the ‘oxymoron’ has shades of the concept of the Supreme Hindu race emanating from it.” He further writes: “In fact, it can also be interpreted as an indirect admission that whereas Hindus and terrorism are incompatible with each other, terrorism easily gels with non-Hindu religions and communities. Definitely, this is a very dangerous statement to make, not only because it is not based on facts but because it also tries to denigrate every other community and religion, and also because it tries to terrorise them. It can, thus, be seen as a poor attempt to deflect attention from the umpteen crimes committed by Hindu fanatics.“ (p. 71)
On the Hindutvaisation of the military forces, while discussing the case of Col. Purohit, the author notes: “Involvement of military personnel in such activities can happen in multiple ways: i. ideological; ii. direct participation; iii. in the role of facilitator. While people like Purohit could be categorised as ‘direct participants’ in such activities, it can be easily guessed that there might be many more of his ilk who may not have played any direct role in such activities, but would have acted as facilitators and ideological input-givers to the project.” (p. 135) To substantiate his claim, the writer quotes the former Naval Chief, Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat, who says: “There’s a clear majoritarian view in the military. The RSS has always had an agenda to infiltrate the armed forces, the intelligence services and the bureaucracy.” (p. 136)
The author in this book proficiently documents hundreds of cases of Hindutva terror carried out in different parts of India and concludes: “…if the political leadership, intelli-gence agencies and the police were interested, it would have been possible to avoid many innocent deaths at the hands of self-proclaimed pioneers of Hindu Rashtra trying their best to turn the dreams of Savarkar, Hedegawar and Golwakar in to reality.” (p. 187)
While dealing with the global dimensions of Hindutva forces, Gatade points out that “…for quite sometime, Hindutva extremists in Nepal have maintained close relations with extremist forces on the Indian side of the border. This relationship had blossomed during the colonial period in India itself, when one found elements belonging to the RSS or Hindu Mahasabha frequenting Nepal or using its example to demonstrate their ‘model state’. For the Sangh Parivar, Nepal happened to be the only state in the world where the ‘one nation, one people, one culture’ weltanschauung of Hindu Rastra was already in place.”(p. 251)
In this section, the author also deals with the role of the Israeli Intelligence agency, Mossad. Towards the end of the book, while concluding, the author seeks our urgent attention and action as he demands: “A lot depends upon the way the secular forces react to the ongoing investi-gations. Whether they would focus themselves on the role of the State only, and confine them-selves to issuing statements and appearing in talk shows only, or they are ready to take up the gauntlet thrown by the challenges of Hindutva Terror in a more militant and creative way that would be the deciding factor”. (p. 318)

The Saffron Condition: Politics of Repression and Exclusion in Neoliberal India
The Saffron Condition: Politics of Repression and Exclusion in Neolibral India is divided into three main sections, namely, Saffronisation and the Neolibral State, Logic of Caste in New India, and State and Human Rights. The book deals with the day-to-day and larger politics of the Hindutva outfits. While the first section of this book is most of what is discussed in Godse’s Children, the section on ‘The Saffron Condition’ is a very crucial one. In this section, the author outlines the politics of repression and exclusion with the marginalised sections of the society especially Dalits, despite the constitutional safeguards. The author notes: “It is a tragedy of our times that in India, more than sixty years after independence, the age old exclusivist mind-set which stunted the growth of our society, remains unchanged. It is a mind-set based on the notions of purity and pollution, which has helped strengthen the structured hierarchy in our society, and claims religious sanction as well.” (p. 9).
Going into the historical details of ‘merit’, on an earlier point he writes: “The manner in which the reservation discourse has developed in our society reflects a very static understanding of merit. Interestingly, all those who have become upholders of the ‘merit mantra’ would be shocked to find how badly their own forefathers and foremothers fared when they took their first hesitant steps in the education system initiated by the British. The very genesis of third division in education in the Madras Presidency College way back in first part of the nineteenth century was necessitated by the large number of failures amongst the students, most of them upper caste (Tamil Brahmans), who were unable to pass their examinations in first and second divisions.” (pp. 7-8)
Linking Hindutva politics with the neo-liberal paradigm of development, the author comments: “The growing dominance of the highly regressive and reactionary Hindutva politics appears more striking if we consider the simple fact that Gujarat is supposed to be a more ‘advanced State’ of the Indian Union, recognised for its progress in the economic sphere. It has awell-developed middle class. In so far as foreign direct investment is concerned, it stands at number two in being able to attract foreign direct investment. The enterprising nature of the Guajarati elite is also noticeable in that many of the noveau riche from the farming sector have made inroads in the urban sector…Of course this elaboration of the dynamic Gujarati society would be incomplete if we do not focus on the ‘other Gujarat’ which exhibits the underlying social tensions not normally visible. Apart from the overtly visible violence, the invisible violence takes up myriad forms.” (p. 229) Explaining the role of courts and other apparatus of the state in the era of neo-liberalism, the author notes: “In the era of LPG (Liberalisation, Globalisation and Privatisation) and triumphalism of the market, one is not very surprised to see the judiciary becoming more and more insensitive to the rights of the marginalised and the underprivileged, whether it is the workers in a polluting industry or squatters in one of those sprawling slums.” (p. 428)
While these two books inform us, they are instructive as well and place a great responsibility before all of those who wish to create an egalitarian, just and equitable society. A must read for all kinds of activists, human rights and social justice campaigners, students of social sciences, especially those of sociology and political sciences. Those working on Communalism, Terrorism and Caste issues can hardly afford to miss these.

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