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Mainstream, VOL 62 No 4 January 27, 2024

RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat and Narendra Modi twisting Hinduism to turn India into a Hindu Rashtra | Arun Srivastava

Saturday 27 January 2024, by Arun Srivastava


Politics has been ubiquitous in India. Indians have a love and hate relation with it. From a teenager to a centenarian every one prefers to analyse and put forward his own perception on the political discourse. They claim to hate the politics of hate and deceit. But unfortunately the more the contour of politics is debated and discussed in public domain it is getting more and more murkier. Probably a common Indian must not have witnessed the murkiest face of politics in past as is seen during current time. If ideology has become an alien concept, the idea of philosophy and policy has lost its relevance.

Though economists and social scientists share the opinion that populism and neo liberal policies have been dictating the lives of the Indians, it does not appear to be tenable. Today a politician carries Kamandal in one hand and Mandal in other hand. These two are quite contradictory political hypotheses. Kamandal represents the rightist forces and Mandal underlines inclusive social order. But the politicians use both for their political gain.

The best illustration of this species is none else but Narendra Modi. Consecration of Ram temple on January 22 in Ayodhya was an honest exhibition of new rightist identity of India. Modi ably guided by his guru, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat put his entire effort to promote the rightist ideology and forces. These two leaders redefined Hinduism and made the people believe that politics of Hindutva propounded by Bhagwat was the real religion of Hindus.

Once again Modi lied to the country with his claim “the construction of Ram Temple is an instrument to unite the country”. The controversy surrounding consecration of Mandir and the vehement opposition from the Shankaracharyas makes it abundantly clear that he has even betrayed the Hindus. If a person who cannot keep together the Hindus, how could he be expected to unite the people of country.

The mega event of January 22 was simply a machination to boost the rightist ideology and forces and provide them the opportunity to occupy the centre stage of the Indian society and control the political institution. True speaking while the event was not at all a national celebration. It was an event of RSS representing the rightist forces their ideologies. Tere is no need for nesting any illusion for the goal and objective of the consecration.

Look at the dignitaries, claiming to represent the Indian traditions and Hindu ethos, present inside the sanctum sanctorum. Besides Modi the two prominent faces were Mohan Bhagwat and ultra-Hindu face Yogi Adidtyanath, chief minister of UP. It is an open secret that both the individuals imbibe the Hindu aspiration and hatred against the other communities, especially Muslims. Their presence must be questioned. In what capacity the two saffron guys were present inside. There were many worthy people who could have made inside. In fact the presence of Bhagwat and Yogi was a device to encourage the Hindu bigots.

January 22 will be remembered as the most important date as the event that took place on that day left no scope for nursing any illusion that Indian middle class is a centrist or liberal class. This has proved to be a wrong notion. The middle class, especially the lower middle class have lent out their fullest support to Modi and his design. In almost all the cities and towns these people took out “jathas” ( rally of a group of people) and chanted “Jai Sri Ram” slogan. Their active participation nonetheless made it abundantly clear that they are bunch of half-educated people who intend to use RSS and BJP for their financial gains.

Modi overriding and rejecting the objections of four Shankaracharyas about the consecration being anti-Sanatan Dharam and his even not following the basics of Sanatan Dharam explicitly conveyed the message that they were on the mission to change the character and identity of India. Modi’s assertion that he provided an opulent living space to Ram and he brought Ram from the tent to the palatial mandir clearly underscores that both Bhagwat and Modi were projecting them as superior to Lord Ram. This design of theirs as a definite political dynamic. This they were using it make the Hindus believe that Modi and Bhagwat were their saviours.

The consecration has thrown open multiple questions in the public domain. Question such as who has the patent right for Ram, is it Mohan Bhagwat or Narendra Modi, and whether it’s the only one person and none else, RSS’s mandir-man Modi has the right to enter into the mandirs across the country. Also, why, the most important issue, persons like L K Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, who had launched and spearheaded the movement for demolition of Babri Masjid and construction of Ram Mandir in the 1980s and 90s, were not allowed access to the celebration, and whether RSS is on a mission to redefine the religious importance and relevance of Ram through Modi.

No doubt Advani has been prime accused for provocation of the anti-Muslim sentiment, demolition of Babri masjid and subsequently creation of the present situation. But he too was denied the opportunity to be a witness to consecration of Ram Lala. Obvious this was done to deny him the opportunity to hog the limelight, but more than that to encourage the rightist forces and send a message that they are the decisive voices.

Through the celebration RSS sent a clear and loud message to the Muslims, Sikhs, Christians and all other communities that they have no place in the New India. They have either to break or bend. It is for them to decide. Bhagwat being the pandit of Hindutva must be aware that Ramayan has been scripted in many of the languages and gets mentioned in religions of India. Even Muslims have Ramayan and the epic of Malaysia is famous across the world. Then what made himand his disciple Modi to keep the gurus, saints and priests of these religions away from the celebration? RSS certainly has its readymade explanation to this query: that it was not a government event obviously; the Ram Janma Bhoomi trust did not invite these people. But it’s not the truth. It was aimed at appeasing the Hindu bigots and rightist forces; look you are for us and we are for you!

About the Mandal, just after 48 hours of enticing the rightist forces, Modi made an overture to the centrist and socialist forces by conferring Bharat Ratna honour on Karpoori Thakur. What a paradox the richest, and capitalism-friendly prime minister Narendra Modi bestowing Bharat Ratna, although officially being awarded by the President, Draupadi Murmu, on the deprived socialist leader Karpoori Thakur who symbolised the aspiration of the poor and outcaste.

If Modi had really desired to honour a leader who tirelessly fought to empower the poor, especially the extremely backward castes, he would have done it just after coming to power. But he chose to identify with persons who somehow proved to be catalysts in promoting his own political interest. No denying that Karpoori Thakur deserved this honour well before C. N. R. Rao (chemist and professor) – 2014, Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar (cricketer) – 2014 and Pranab Mukherjee (politician and former President of India) 2019 were accorded.

The socialist icon Karpoori Thakur had implemented OBC quota in Bihar in 1978, which included a sub-quota for MBCs, quotas for women and economically weaker sections. While Modi honouring Thakur has come too late and is too little, he ought to realise that Karpoori has a much taller status and he did not require this award for boosting his image. In sharp contrast Modi tried to fool the socialists and the Dalits, EBCs and proletariat and buy their support.

Thakur’s stint as CM is remembered for his two important decisions. First, in 1970, he enforced the total prohibition of alcohol in the state; and second, he implemented the recommendations of the Mungeri Lal Commission on quota for backward classes. This panel was a harbinger of the Mandal Commission. The Commission also suggested separate sub-category called Most Backward Classes. This category also provided the template for the "ati pichhda" plank built by Nitish Kumar years later.

Modi was effusive in his appreciation for Karpoori Thakur though he had no opportunity to meet him personally. In his write up he mentions that he came to know about him from senior BJP leader Kailashpati Mishra. Ironically Mishra was instrumental in puling down Thakur’s government. He was vehemently opposed to the Dalits and oppressed people. He did not approve of Thakur empowering them. In 1978 Karpoori Thakur implemented a 26% reservation in government jobs for the underprivileged and marginalised classes. Kailashpati Mishra disliked his move.

Thakur was the CM of the government running on the support of the then Jan Sangh (now BJP). The Jan Sangh founder in Bihar, Kailashpati Mishra, was the finance minister in the Thakur-led cabinet. It is an open secret that MLAs of this faction came out in the open on the streets, opposing Thakur and verbally abusing him. The leaders of Jana Sangh and RSS most from the ‘upper’ caste shouted abusive slogan, “Ye reservation kahan se aai, Karpoori ke mai biyayi.” (Where did this reservation come from? Karpoori’s mother has birthed it.) The saffron guys incited the ‘upper’ castes against the backward castes, leading to bloody clashes. Thakur’s government fell in 1979, soon after the implementation of this reservation.

In this backdrop what could Kailashpati would have told Modi about Thakur could simply be gestured. Modi’s assertion also makes it clear that he never bothered to find out from his other saffron friends or from independent sources more about him. While Modi heaps eulogy on him, his creator L K Advani had in fact launched his Rath Yatra to break the unity of the backward classes mobilised in favour of Lalu Yadav and Mulayam Singh Yadav and pit the upper castes against the Dalits backwards and EBCs.

The fact is Karpoori fiercely fought against the forces nursing rightist ideology propagated by the RSS and upper-caste feudal lords, who perpetrated worst kind of torture and repression on the poor, downtrodden, untouchables and proletariats. Karpoori Thakur became the chief minister of Bihar twice, but on both the occasions, RSS and saffron leaders manoeuvred to pull down his government.

Following the announcement, politicians across party lines hailed the decision to give the socialist leader India’s highest civilian honour. Nitish Kumar also greeted. But before expressing delight, they should have done some introspection and sought to find out why Modi announced this award at this crucial juncture, when the Lok Sabha election is just three months away. There is no denying that Modi was trying to play around with the emotions of EBC and poor people.

Politically, Nitish and Lalu Yadav would have to appreciate Modi’s move. But they are the ultimate victims of this action of Modi. Their eulogy of Modi will simply confuse the people of state. Modi’s decision will invariably unsettle the INDIA parties, which raised issue of a caste census in recent months. The Mahagathbandhan even went upto increasing the reservation percentage. For Modi, this is a strategy to diffuse the tumult of a Nitish’s masterstroke to put Modi on a losing wicket.

While Nitish was feeling euphoric about his gain, having made Modi to confer Bharat Ratna on Thakur, Modi did not deter from resorting to his dirty game of denigrating Nitish. His action forced Nitish to express his anger publicly. Addressing a rally organised by the JD(U) on the birth centenary of Karpoori Thakur, Kumar said; "I was told by Ramnath Thakur, my party colleague and the late leader’s son, that the prime minister had called him up after the announcement. The PM has not called me so far. It is possible that he may claim full credit for the move.”

Undeniably, Modi’s decision to honour Karpoori Thakur is a move to weaken the electoral consolidation of OBCs and MBCs [most backward classes] in Bihar in a situation where the RJD and the JD(U) contest the Lok Sabha polls together. Modi’s move would have adverse impact on Nitish’s strategy to create a ‘Maha Dalit’ class in Bihar. This he had resorted to prepare his own support base. With RJD having a strong Yadav-Muslim support base, Nitish desperately needed to have a base on which he could fall back. Now Modi’s latest move primarily targets Nitish’s core base. It is quite significant that Modi took this step only after Nitish declared the findings of its caste survey, which pegged the state’s total backward class population to be around 63%, with OBC comprising 27% of the total and MBCs about 36%.

With RSS taking command to make the Dalit and EBC rally behind the BJP, Modi can feel assured that he would gain from his move. With a weak state BJP leadership, Modi and Amit Shah, have chosen to directly reach out to this huge electorate base by conferring the award on Karpoori Thakur. This is the part of their design to expand in Bihar and other Hindi-speaking states, particularly UP and MP for consolidating OBC and EBC population.

In the recently-held assembly elections to Chhattisgarh, MP and Rajasthan, the Dalits and EBCs had sent clear signal of their shifting allegiance. Taking a cue from that change, Modi has intensified his efforts to win over these people. Incidentally at his Ram Janmabhoomi speech, Modi referenced to Sabari and Nishad Raj to identify with Adivasi and OBC communities.

The political circle, especially some INDIA leaders nurse the view that it was at the behest of Nitish that Modi honoured Thakur. The decision was taken after Nitish’s meeting with the Governor Rajendra Arlekar, which lasted for nearly an hour. In fact, his meeting the Governor has given rise to political speculations. It was during his meet at Raj Bhawan, that Nitish talked to Modi and after that the award was announced.

Apparently this does not sound politically correct. Nitish could have talked to Modi from anywhere. However sources say that Arlekar, an old friend of Nitish, had taken the initiative. Irrespective of the veracity of the news, it has caused immense damage to the personal image of Nitish. The latest episode has enraged the people and they hold that he should not take their support as granted and treat them as proverbial goats. They also argue if Nitish is not inclined to cross over to NDA, he must categorically deny it, instead of allowing himself to be used by BJP, giving opportunity to mainstream media to malign him.

Through this consecration RSS succeeded in its mission to send the message that India is the exclusive domain of Hindus and other religions are irrelevant. In Hindu mythology; Ram is omnipresent, he is the creator of the universe. But see the audacity of Modi. He did not hesitate in saying that Ram Lalla has finally got a place to live. This only underlines that power has gone into his heads and treats himself even superior to Ram. It was shocking to listen Bhagwat: “Ram Lalla has come to Ayodhya, but why did he leave Ayodhya? According to the Ramayan, he left Ayodhya because there was discord in Ayodhya. Ayodhya has to be without tension, discord or confusion. He (Ram) went into vanavas for 14 years. He returned to Ayodhya after resolving discord across the world. Ram Lalla has come back again after 500 years.”

It is beyond imagination to what extent these people can go on to distort the Hindu epics and mythology. After the consecration, Bhagwat remembered to preach his lesson in morality. He advised: “We have to behave accordingly. We have to discard all the discords…. We have to discard our small differences…. Everybody is ours and this is why we are able to move forward. We have to behave in a coordinated manner with each other, which is the first truth of religion. Compassion is the second necessity, which includes service (seva) and charity (paropkar).” It was soothing to the ears.

But unfortunately while Bhagwat was acting as the priest at the celebration, something was happening in far Assam, which definitely furrowed his sermon to “stay in one’s senses amid all this excitement”. Rahul Gandhi, who was leading Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra, was not allowed to visit the Sri Sri Sankar Dev Satra in Nagaon district of Assam. Surprisingly, it coincided with the inauguration of the temple in Ayodhya. Only a day ahead, Gandhi was granted the permission. But once he reached there he was denied the entry. The reason cited was really ridiculous and flimsy. The district officials told him that some ritual was going on inside the temple and allowing him could create law and order problem. The most shocking explanation from the police and district administration was: “Everyone can go to the birthplace of Vaishnav saint Srimanta Sankardeva, only ’Rahul Gandhi cannot go.’”

He could go inside after 3 in the afternoon, by the time the consecration in Ayodhya would be over. Was Modi afraid that allowing Rahul entry into the Sankardeva’s temple would take away the shine from him and make the camera crews to turn its focus on Rahul? Or was it a design to send the message that none else, except the RSS’s Mandir-Man Modi has the exclusive right to visit any temple at any point of time. Or was it meant to convey the message that Modi was the only Hindu who has got the inherent right to visit any Mandir and Rahul was not entitled of this privilege.

Modi did not hide his intentions of using Ram to win the Lok Sabha election. He had won 2014 Lok Sabha election by making false promises and deprecating Congress, then he used ultra-nationalism and the mysterious genocide of soldiers to win 2019 election, and this time he would use religious nationalism with the blessing of RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat to win LS election.

Under attack for destroying democracy and subverting Constitution, Modi used the forum for consecration to speak politics and motivate the people to vote for him. He referred to the Constitution in the Ayodhya context with the pure aim as attestation of faith. “In India’s Constitution, in its first copy, Lord Ram is present. Even after the advent of the Constitution, legal battles over the existence of Lord Shri Ram continued for decades,” Modi said. “I express my gratitude to the judiciary of India, which upheld the dignity of justice. The temple of Lord Ram, synonymous with justice, was also built in a judicial manner.”

(Author: Arun Srivastava is an independent journalist on the left based in Calcutta and a long-standing contributor to Mainstream )

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