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Mainstream, VOL LII, No 42, October 11, 2014

’Clean India’ Tokenism

Saturday 11 October 2014, by Humra Quraishi


After hijacking the good old broom from Arvind Kejriwal, Prime Minister Narendra Modi decided to go on this latest publicity move. Dragging to the fore, several relevant queries. Can the masses be fooled by these symbolic moves? Can the masses not see through these ‘image-building’ exercises at work? Can the masses not see those dried blood stains of the murdered, on the streets and courtyards and verandahs of Ahmedabad? Can the masses not see those murder-accused riding high on the political graphs? Can the masses be taught hollow lessons on cleanliness: bypass the very soul and just about swish-swash dirt from here to there? Can the masses forget and forgo the age old philosophy on cleanliness—that is, cleanse your soul/your very being and the rest will follow? Can the masses not see those piles of garbage, dumped in and around those ghettoes where the economically and socially disadvantaged live? Can the masses not see ministers and their hand-in-glove partners, the bureaucrats, vomit poison not just on the streets of India but all over; sparing not even the graveyards? Can the masses not see the filth in the very interiors of government hospitals and offices? Can the masses not see the dirt in the very system? Can the masses not see through all those camouflages, those gimmicks at work?

In fact, I must quote Professor V.K. Tripathi—he was teaching Physics at IIT, Delhi: “Clean India Tokenism: A Trivialisation of Gandhi...This year Gandhi’s Birthday, Octonber 2, 2014 has been observed as Clean India Day, at the behest of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Orders were passed on Central Government institutions and departments to assemble their employees and do token cleaning of their offices or nearby roads. It is these classes among whom Modi and his patron RSS have strong bases and who have strong anti-Gandhi feelings. Employees followed the orders, with absolutely no change in their attitude towards Gandhi or the underprivileged indulged in very low paid cleaning work but only to bolster the image of their hero and overshadow the real message of the father of the nation....

“Gandhi symbolised truth and nonviolence. He evolved the doctrine of satyagraha and employed it with deepest conviction against discrimination, oppression and imperialism. He embraced martyrdom opposing communalism, the tool of imperialism. RSS opposes every ingredient of Gandhi. In fact two of its most defining elements are contempt for the minorities and contempt for Gandhi.... It is an irony that Valmiki Bastis of Delhi (inhabited by cleaning workers), where Gandhi lived prior to independence, have strong bases of RSS. The Prime Minister chose to do token brooming in one of these localities in full media glare. Whenever Gandhi came to Delhi, he stayed in Valmiki Basti, be it at Pachkuiyan road or Kingsway Camp without asking for any privilege but only to live with the downtrodden, feel for their pain, gain strength for his struggle against untouchability and build strong bond between people of different religious communities. RSS/ BJP systematically cut that influence and tapped the criminal elements from deprived communities to employ them as fodder and foot soldiers of communalism. ...

“Modi’s move can only strengthen the base of his ideological patron. If there was any doubt, it was removed next day when Doordarshan was directed to give live coverage of annual speech of RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat. It may also help RSS making broad inroads in Gandhian institutions, some of whom still hold on to Gandhian values. ...

“A month earlier, a similar move was launched when a three-day conclave, in the name of “Unnat Bharat Abhiyan” was held at IIT, Delhi where RSS-affiliated Ekal Vidyalaya and Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram activists domi-nated the scene in the presence of the MHRD Minister and other Ministers. Such moves help hide the massive pro-rich policies of the government and give strength to the sectarian cadre. On the foreign policy front too the government has moved away from the policy of opposing oppressive wars. In order to hide its stance of not condemning attacks on Gaza, the PM went to Nepal to offer 1000 kg of sandle wood to the Lord.”