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Mainstream, VOL LVI No 47 New Delhi November 10, 2018

Has the End of the Indian Democratic-Secular Polity Begun?

Monday 12 November 2018

by Shamsul Islam

India, sadly, is witnessing the Hindutva juggernaut running amok crushing whatever was democratic, liberal and egalitarian in the Indian polity. The RSS, as the charioteer, is not ashamed of this vicious campaign; instead, it is taking credit for it. It was not long back that it used to claim apolitical status. Even when its cadres like Atal Behari Vajpayee and L.K. Advani became rulers of India it would assure the nation that the RSS was a socio-cultural organisation and had nothing to do with politics. Organiser, the mouthpiece of the RSS, in its editorial of February 6, 2000 went on to declare that “the RSS is not a political party. It does not take part in elections nor are its office-bearers supposed to become office-bearers of any political party. The RSS has no election symbol nor its leadership or members have ever endeavoured to seek political office. It is a social-cultural organisation trying to inspire all national activity.” In fact, this was the pledge the RSS made to the first Home Minister of India, Sardar Patel, as a condition for withdrawal of the ban on it for playing a role in the assassination of the Father of the Nation, M.K. Gandhi.

But since Modi became in March 2014 the PM of India, who describes himself as a Hindu nationalist, the situation has deteriorated from bad to worse. Now the RSS sets the agenda and executes Hindutva politics which keeps democratic-secular India on the ventilator. Even the ventilators, which include independent judiciary, neutral bureaucracy, Parliament and the office of the President of the Republic, have faltered in fulfilling their task of safeguarding our polity.

The President and PM neither talk to the media nor explain about the burning issues faced by the nation. However, the RSS boss, Mohan Bhagwat, as the ideologue of the ruling Hindutva group, makes statements about the direction of the government. He has become the de-facto ruler of India. He is allowed to hold conclaves, as the only speaker, outlining the Hindu nationalist polarising agenda, at institu-tions like the Vigyan Bhawan which were meant to deliberate on strengthening our democratic polity. The latest pravachan or sermon was delivered at the RSS headquarters on the eve of Vijaydashami, also the foundation day of the RSS in 1925.

Abandoning any façade of respecting the Indian constitutional polity and its processes, he demanded that an ordinance should be brought in by the government for building the temple at Ayodhya at the place of the Babri mosque demolished on December 6, 1992. It looked as if his chelas or cadres of the RSS governing India had solved all critical problems like violence against Dalits, hunger, poverty, unemployment, violence against women, absence of health and educational facilities and only issues like the Ram temple were to be solved!

According to the RSS, this mosque was built after demolishing a temple at the birthplace of Ram at Ayodhya in 1528-29 by a military commander of Babar (1483-1530). It is to be noted that this mosque was razed to the ground by Hindutva goons despite the RSS leaders’ undertaking to the then Parliament, the Supreme Court and the PM (Narasimha Rao) that the mosque would not be touched. According to Bhagwat, “The construction of the temple is necessary from the self-esteem point of view; it will also pave the way for an atmosphere of goodwill and oneness in the country.”

Interestingly, the issue of destruction of the Ram temple was never raised before 1881. The RSS raised the issue of the Ram temple only after 1949 and never during the British rule since its birth in 1925. Moreover, Tulsidas (1532—1623 during the time of Akbar), who penned the Ramcharitmanas, the epic which popularised the story of Ram as the God in northern India, nowhere in his work in Avadhi language mentioned about this destruction. Bhagwat’s call for a law for the temple is open denigration of the Supreme Court of India which is presently hearing the mosque-temple dispute.

How the RSS and its current boss, Bhagwat, are out to undo the constitutional proprieties will be clear from their brazen opposition to the Supreme Court judgment on allowing women of all ages to visit the Sabarimala temple in Kerala. Interestingly, the judgment was delivered by a the Chief Justice of India who enjoyed respect in the Hindutva circles. His argument was that “We [he meant Supreme Court] should have built consensus. The devotees should have been consulted...the premise of the tradition that has been accepted by society and continuously followed for years together was not taken into consideration. The version of heads of religious denominations and faith of crores of devotees was not taken into account.”

Interestingly, the RSS always want strict execution of the judiciary’s judgment whenever practices of the minority communities, specially Muslims and Christians, are judicially outlawed. Moreover, by the logic of Bhagwat, the tradition that has been accepted by society and continuously followed for years together should not be violated. Then Sati, widow-remarriage, Untouchability, child marriages and slavery would never have been banned in history. This showed what the RSS is.

Unfortunately, the RSS’ opposition to the entry of women in the Sabarimala temple has not been verbal only. The RSS, BJP and its open and hidden organisations have been involved in organising aggressive protests against the Supreme Court judgment. These organisations have declared the CPM-led Kerala Government as anti-Hindu and are working overtime to turn Kerala into another Ayodhya.

BJP President Amit Shah, a perennial source of spitting communal venom, criticised the verdict as ‘impracticable’. Thus he indirectly declared that ‘Hindus’ would not accept the Sabarimala verdict of the Supreme Court and turned this into a Communists versus ‘Hindus’ issue. According to NDTV, “BJP President Amit Shah’s speech in Kerala using, typical of his style, the language of a school bully, should be seen as a direct assault on the Supreme Court of India.” This call completely disregarded the fact that the Kerala Government was simply trying to implement a judgment of the highest court of India which was delivered by a Bench which was headed by a known ‘Hindu’ Chief Justice, Dipak Mishra. The Kerala Chief Minister, Pinarayi Vijayan, has rightly commented:

“It is obvious that both the BJP and RSS want political capital out of it, and are instigating the devotees. Their only intention is to polarise the society for a few votes...These forces have a long history of adopting such diabolical political games. Their only intention is to polarise society on communal lines. For this, they have gone to the extent of indulging in violence and creating strife. Even the abode of Ayyappa was used as a camp for anti-social elements and criminals. We have maintained restraint, considering the sanctity of the place. Let me make it very clear that the Government of Kerala will not tolerate any such acts henceforth. We will ensure that the Supreme Court verdict is implemented in letter and spirit.”

This exposure comes from a CM who has not wilted under the mass frenzy of the Hindutva organisations and vowed to implement the judgment of the highest court of justice of India.

The RSS, which is talking of the sensibilities and beliefs of Kerala’s Hindu devotees of Sabarimala, has been genetically a believer in gender discrimination. It does not allow women in the RSS. It has a separate women’s wing which is known as Mahila Sevika Samiti (society of women servants) whereas the male RSS body is known as swayamsevak or volunteer force. Women RSS cadres remain identified as servants, not volunteers.

So far as the RSS’ love for Keralite Hindus is concerned, we must compare it with the wretched ideas of the second boss of the RSS, M.S. Golwalkar, who also remains the most prominent RSS ideologue till date. Golwalkar was invited to address the students of the School of Social Science of Gujarat University on December 17, 1960. In this address, while underlying his firm belief in the Race Theory, he touched upon the issue of cross-breeding of human beings in the Indian society in history. He said:

“In an effort to better the human species through cross-breeding the Namboodiri Brahmans of the North were settled in Kerala and a rule was laid down that the eldest son of a Namboodiri family could marry only the daughter of Vaishya, Kashtriya or Shudra communities of Kerala. Another still more courageous rule was that the first off-spring of a married woman of any class must be fathered by a Namboodiri Brahman and then she could beget children by her husband. Today this experiment will be called adultery but it was not so, as it was limited to the first child.” [M. S. Golwalkar cited in Organiser,

January 2, 1961, p. 5]

 The above statement of Golwalkar is highly worrying in many respects. Firstly, it proves that Golwalkar believed that India had a superior Race or breed and also an inferior Race which needed to be improved through cross-breeding. Secondly, a more worrying aspect was his belief that the Brahmans of the North (India), and specially Namboodiri Brahmans, belonged to a superior Race. Due to this quality, Namboodiri Brahmanas were sent from the North India to Kerala to improve the breed of inferior Hindus there. Interestingly, this was being argued by a person who claimed to uphold the unity of Hindus the world over. Thirdly, Golwalkar, as a male chauvinist, believed that only a Namboodiri Brahman male belonging to a superior Race from the North could improve the inferior human Race from the South. For him, the wombs of Kerala’s Hindu women enjoyed no sanctity and were simply objects of improving the breed through intercourse with Namboodiri Brahmans who in no way were related to them. Nobody on this earth can beat the RSS in hypocrisy and double-talk.

What unshackled Hindutva zealots are doing in the largest State of the Indian Union would suffice to know what is happening to the minorities in UP led by a Hindutva zealot who hates secularism and democracy. The State is witnessing the highest number of incidence of violence against Christians ever in history. According to a press report from ground zero, “Uttar Pradesh, the most populous State in north India, considered to be the most populous country subdivision in the world and led by a sitting high priest of Gorakhpur temple, the Chief Minister, Yogi Adityanath, is witnessing the highest number of violence against Christians. What’s noteworthy is, it is happening in a district headquarters located to the northwest of the district of Varanasi, which is a parliamentary constituency of Prime Minister Narendra Modi...In September [2018] alone, UP has witnessed 25 incidents, out of which 20 were in Jaunpur. Overall, since January 2018, the State has witnessed 59 out of 190 incidents of violence against Christians in India...In these 190 incidents of violence against Christians in 2018 from January to September, 135 women and 115 children were either physically injured or mentally disturbed.”

Sadly, Nobel Peace Prize winner and child rights activist Kailash Satyarthi was the chief guest at the event. He took along his wife there and told the RSS gathering that the future belonged to the RSS. It is like Malala Yousafzai, who was co-recipient of the Nobel Prize with Satyarthi, going as chief guest to the foundation day programme of Lashkar-e-Taiba led by Hafiz Saeed in Pakistan. Some analysts thought that Satyarthi went to the RSS programme as the RSS/BJP government has ‘files’ on him. This may not be the only reason. He has been a member of the ‘sleeping cell’ of the RSS and when Hindutva politics is losing support, all such characters are being asked to come into the open and help the organisation. Earlier Pranab Mukherjee was asked to come to the RSS graduation ceremony (June 7, 2018) for the same reason.

Shamsul Islam, a well-known theatre personality, is a former Associate Professor (now retired), Department of Political Science, Satyawati College, University of Delhi. For some of the author’s writings in English, Hindi, Malayalam, Kannada, Bengali, Punjabi, Urdu and Gujarati see the following link: http/du-in.academia.edu/Shamsullslam

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