Sunday, October 26, 2008

Is it true that Indian Democracy is weathering?

Whither India: Qualitative change in Polity


Ram Puniyani


Last six months have been most disturbing on the Indian political scene. As far as the values of integration are concerned they are being attacked very severely by terrorist-communal forces. First, we saw the series of bomb blasts, Bangalore, Ahmedabad, Delhi and Malegaon. It was projected by the authorities that all these acts are due to Jehadi Muslim groups that police have succeeded in cracking the network. One outcome of this was the Batla house encounter in which police, bravely killed the terrorists. It put out a version that now the terror ring has been busted and kingpins have been arrested. It is another matter that later the relevant-uncomfortable questions were raised and satisfactory answers to these were not forthcoming. On the top of this the claim that Malegaon blasts were done by SIMI proved to be false as the investigation showed the possibility of ABVP/Bajrang Dal being involved in same.


During the same time two Bajrang dal Activists got killed while making bomb in Kanpur, two activists of Hindu Jagran Samiti were involved in placing the bombs in Thane due to which seven people got injured. During this time again in Tenkasi, Tamil Nadu, the bombs went off near RSS office and as usual the cry of wolf was made, but the wolf here had different shades than what RSS wanted to propagate, as most of those planting the bombs turned out to be Hindus, with affiliation, which are not difficult to guess.


During the same time the anti Christian violence was orchestrated and launched in Orissa to begin with, later on spilling to Karnataka. The pretext first was that Christians have beaten Swami Laxmananand (December 2007) and later that Christians have killed the swami. Interestingly a Maoist group claimed to have killed him but the RSS combine stated that they don't believe in the claim of Maoists, meaning there by that they have the right to decide who the culprit is!


The third tragedy related to the Hindu Muslim violence in Burhanpur, Dhulia and few other places on the slightest pretext of tearing a banner or some such. What is disturbing is the way things are shaping in the country. The anti Muslim hate propaganda, which has been sustained on various myths have gradually been taking the shape of deep rooted perceptions. Earlier lot of planning and bigger pretext was needed to unleash the violence, now even a small pretext suffices to initiate the mayhem. Some of the properties are well marked in advance for destroying. The loss of lives of minorities is many times more than their presence in population.


The stereotyping of Muslim community through reporting of acts of terror has boosted the negative perception of the community in a serious way. At the same time the there is a realization that there are two set of laws, that they will not get justice and that their feeling of insecurity in the society is going up by leaps and bounds. One does not know whether this disturbs the ruling coalition or not. For Muslim minorities to keep faith in the Governement in such circumstances is not difficult, it is impossible.


Christian minority was not the target till quite late. As the hate propaganda based on make believe forcible conversions, allurement, insult of our gods, foreign money keep percolating in the society, and a silent sanction for attacking them started building up. Now even a slightest pretext is sufficient to undertake the despicable violence against the community.


This is a clear case as to how already a social mind set has been created, through word of mouth propaganda and media where by the minorities have been demonized and now the violence against them has become the order of the day. Even the global phenomenon of terrorism and local phenomenon has added on to the same and in this case Islamic terrorism, and 'all terrorists are Muslims' has been made the fodder of social thinking. As such, starting from Golwalkar, RSS's formulation that Muslims and Christians are threats to Hindu nation, to the present day, there is a consistent worsening of the level of demonization of minorities.


These entire social phenomenons are raising a deeper question related to our democracy. Democracy not only ensures that are citizens are treated equally it also stands for giving affirmative action for weaker sections of society. As such the litmus test of democracy is the welfare and security of minorities. Here we see that as to how the marginal stream which came up during freedom movement and kept aloof from it, the Hindutva vehicle, RSS, has been successfully working, using the democratic space to abolish, precisely the democratic values which gave it a space to stand. While totally defamed after Gandhi murder by one of its followers, its acceptability began with Jayapraksh Narayan letting it run the movement, which led to emergency and later formation of Janata Party. RSS began by spreading hate against Muslims and Christians, formulated by its founders and penned by its ideologue, M.S. Golwalkar. Golwalkar instructed that Muslims, Christians and Communists are the threat to Hindu nation. The RSS shakhhas kept spreading this ceaselessly and it became a part of social common sense over a period of time.


RSS also planted its swayamsevaks in different walks of social and political life, education, media, police, bureaucracy etc. Once its political child, Jana Sangh became part of Janata party, it ensured that large number of swaymsevaks become part of media establishment. And later during NDA regime, this game of theirs' had a field day. Capping these efforts through Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram, social engineering got intensified in Adivasi areas. With US administration coining the word 'Islamic terrorism' and that propaganda that Madrassas are the dens of training terrorists; RSS completed its indoctrination module.


The deadly poison it spread against minorities first spread hate and created divides in the communities, leading to 'hate other', which in turn forms the base of communal violence. Communal violence in Indian context gets assistance from the communalized state apparatus, sections of police in particular leading to polarization of communities and rise to political power of the communal party. The conveyer belt begins from demonizing other and leads to the RSS's political child becoming politically strong. That's how a political party which managed two seats in parliament in1984 elections has become formidable electoral force today, knocking the democratic values and imposing the religion based nationalism.


Though not in power in center, its machinations are polarizing the society all over, creating divisions in the society, rampaging the rule of law and paving the way for creeping  fascism. What is happening today is reminder of how things happened in Germany, with Hitler leading the carnage. Beginning with hate Jews and then Christian minorities, then Communists and trade unionists paved the way for the stifling atmosphere of fascism, authoritarian state with social base. Today we seem to be helplessly watching a similar situation. While RSS combine is behaving like a rampaging bull, Bajrang Dal planting bombs, its workers carrying arms openly, distributing trishuls en masse, the state ruled by so called secular combine, UPA alliance seems to be a helpless observer, as the whole machinery itself seems to be affected by the communal virus.


Where do we go from here? Opposition to this fascist politics, fighting it tooth and nail cannot be postponed by a single minute. The time has come that all those believing in democracy and welfare of all need to come together and put and end to the politics of hate. Popular front at social and political level is the need of the day. The power seeker political formations may not look beyond their personal gains but the social movements need to put the pressure in the right direction for these political people to hang together before we are hanged separately. It is not just a question of opposition to one political formation. The question is can we let the RSS version of Hindusim destroy the Kabir and Gandhi version of Hinduism and religion? The question is can we let the innocent minorities be the scapegoats for the fascist politics to keep on going? Should we let the democratic space be usurped by those wanting to bring in a nation state in the name of religion?


Whether India will nurture the values of freedom movement and strive for human rights of all depends on us, as in no time in past the very concept of democracy has been stifled as much as we are witnessing today.



Issues in Secular politics


October 2008 II


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Bipin Shroff