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Mainstream, VOL LIII No 1, December 27, 2014 - Annual Number

Grim Scenario, Ominous Setting

Saturday 27 December 2014, by SC

EDITORIAL

As Mainstream steps into its fiftythird year with this Annual Number, the overall domestic situation has never been as grim as it is today.

Seven months ago the outcome of the 16th Lok Sabha elections resulted in a political earthquake the tremors of which are still being felt even if the intensity of those tremors has lessened with the passage of time. The coming to power at the Centre of the BJP in a decisive mandate with one party securing absolute majority in the Lower House of Parliament found many among the middle classes hailing the unfractured verdict especially when the newly elected ruling party was headed by a leader as strong, powerful and focussed as Narendra Modi who had sought public support during his election campaign on the twin planks of ‘development’ and ‘governance’ in order to build what he called a ‘Congress-mukt Bharat’. However, those with foresight and endowed with the capacity to analyse the BJP/RSS’ motivations and objectives were certain that these planks were actually intended to deceive the gullible and hoodwink the bulk of the electorate. The recent spate of activities by leading members of the BJP, including some of its MPs, as well as the operations launched by its allies, like the various constituents of the Sangh Parivar, provide sufficient testimony to what was asserted in these columns in the previous issue of Mainstream (December 13, 2014):

However much the leading figures of the BJP-led NDA Government accuse the Opposition of diverting the nation from the main agenda of the Narendra Modi administration, namely, that centring on ‘development’, it is the divisive steps aimed at causing communal disharmony which constitute the real agenda of the BJP/RSS now that they have tasted absolute power at the Centre under Modi’s ‘dynamic’ leadership.

It is worthwhile to recount those divisive steps once again. As was pointed out in the same issue,

First came the reprehensible public utterances by the BJP’s Union Minister of State, Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti, that reflected the Hindutvavadis’ attitude towards non-Hindus. Then began the ghar wapsi movement planned by the RSS following high-level discussions at its headquarters at Nagpur from November 7 to 9. Thereafter a known face of the BJP/RSS claimed that Taj Mahal was built on the ruins of a Hindu temple—implying thereby that it was the first step on their part to lay claim on the heritage monument. And then a BJP MP placed Nathuram Godse at par with Mahatma Gandhi by affirming that both were ‘patriots‘! [His subsequent half-hearted retraction in Parliament carried little conviction.]

The last such pronouncement has come from the Governor of UP, holding a constitutional position. He is a known RSS figure who was a Minister in the erstwhile A.B. Vajpayee Government He announced that a befitting Ram temple will soon be built at Ayodhya at a time when the matter is still pending in the court. [Before that External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj called for making the Gita the national scripture; this provoked Gopal Gandhi to say that such a move was “tinkering with the loom of India’s diverse republic”.]

Mention must also be made of the statements of RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat and VHP leader Ashok Singhal last month. Both highlighted return of a Hindu Raj after 800 years of thraldom. Such observations clearly militated against the secular ethos embodied in our Constitution.

One wonders how the founding fathers of the Constitution—Dr B.R. Ambedkar, Dr Rajendra Prasad, Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel—would have reacted to such provocative and insensate remarks striking at the roots of India’s pluralism based on the idea of unity in diversity that cannot be squeezed into the straitjacket conditioned by the majoritarian communal outlook.

Of course in any democratic country such as ours anyone has the freedom to voice one’s opinions. But such views, when aired by persons close to or even representing the powers that be, can cause legitimate concern among all democratic forces in general and the minorities in particular. What becomes all the more alarming is the eloquent silence of the PM to all such activities and it is quite reasonable to interpret the silence as consent to all these on the part of the PM, that is, these pronouncements, actions and operations have the full blessings and backing of Narendra Modi who for obvious reasons of constitutional propriety does not want to explicitly say so as long as he occupies the office of the head of government.

It would be unfair to make a comprehensive assessment of the Narendra Modi Government since it has been in power for just seven months. Yet the symptoms are already there—the spate of communal riots in UP owe their origin largely to BJP President Amit Shah’s policy of effecting communal polarisation in order to garner votes for the party in the elecitons; the project of saffronisation of education has begun in right earnest with pro-Sangh scholars expressing their preposterous views while assailing distinguished academics of international eminence not prepared to accept the former’s opinins bordering on the absurd; the concerted drives against love Jihad in the first instance and subsequently for reconversion of minorities to Hinduism in the name of the so-called gharwapsi that has incensed the Opposition reflecting the public outrage outside Parliament (the Upper House of the national legislature has been rocked and continually disrupted in the winter session on this vital issue as the PM was not forthcoming in issuing a firm assurance that such incidents won’t recur in the short or long run).

In this context what needs to be emphasised is the dubious role being played by the RSS at this juncture. This organisation was banned in the wake of Gandhiji’s assassination in January 1948 as it was listed among the outfits that spearheaded the anti-Gandhi crusade from the communal angle in those days leading to the murder of the Father of the Nation by a Hindu fanatic, Nathuram Godse, who is being lionised today by persons of RSS origin (some of them are planning to raise a temple in Godse’s honour on January 30, 2015, the day of Mahatma Gandhi’s martyrdom). It must be remembered that the ban on the RSS was lifted by the then Union Home Minister, Sardar Patel, only after he had received a solemn undertaking from the Sangh that it would henceforth never engage in any political activity. Today that undertaking has vanished into thin air and the RSS is deeply involved in political activity rendering political guidance to the ruling party at the Centre. Besides extending support to such nefarious activities as raising a temple in Godse’s honour, RSS activists are currently holding key political positions in the BJP reinforcing fissiparous trends in the country at large.

Against the backdrop of this grim scenario one finds the Modi wave has finally started to lose momentum, although it would be premature to say that it is on the wane. The inability to act on his promises has helped to generate a feeling of public disenchantment with Modi that is yet to mature into street protests. In the just-concluded State Assembly elections in Jharkhand and J&K the BJP’s tally did not match its performance in the Lok Sabha polls even though it is on the verge of winning absolute majority in Jharkhand. More importantly, it has failed to accomplish the ‘Mission 44’ (that is, winning an absolute majority in the J&K Assembly) it had set for itself in those elections. Not only is it nowhere near the magic figure, the massive turnout of the voters in the Valley has ensured that the saffron party draws a blank in that vital region. It has lost public support there essentially due to its policy of undermining and destroying the special status enjoyed by Kashmir by withdrawing Article 370 of the Constitution which PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti aptly described as the life-line of “our integration with India”. This is definitely a blow to the BJP/RSS’ divisive policy (for the fruition of which Modi had strained every nerve). The electorate of the Valley merit unreserved acclaim for this remarkable development. However, despite this verdict hectic parleys have begun for the backdoor entry of the BJP to power in the State by forging a post-poll combination with the PDP. Politics finds strange bedfellows in the quest for power!

Be that as it may, it is increasingly becoming as clear as daylight that if the juggernaut of the BJP/RSS dispensation headed by Narendra Modi and his Sancho Panza, Amit Shah, is to be halted in its tracks there is no alternative but for the secular democratic forces across the nation (including those of the Left) to unite to save the country from the depredations of the Sangh Parivar which now claims to control the levers of power in governance. This effort doesn’t brook the slightest delay. And as in the past, Mainstream reaffirms its resolve to extend full support and help to this endeavour to the best of its ability.

In the first issue of this journal (which came out in September 1, 1962) it was pointed out in the editorial that “it shall be our endeavour to try relentlessly to demolish the wall of misundersanding, mutual suspicion and even personal pique that divides progressive sections in the country from one another”.

That remains the policy-perspective of this periodical even today.

In fact when dark clouds of uncertainty and chaos are hovering over the Indian horizon with the setting turning ominous as never before, that policy-perspective assumes greater significance than at any time in the past.

December 23 S.C.