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Mainstream, VOL XLIX, No 47, November 12, 2011

On Hindutva Politics and Terror

Saturday 12 November 2011



Godse’s Children: Hindutva Terror in India by Subhash Gatade; Pharos Media & Publishing Private Ltd, New Delhi; 2011; pp. 400; Price: Rs 360.

The Saffron Condition: Politics of Repression and Exclusion in Neoliberal India by Subhash Gatade; Three Essays Collective, Gurgaon; 2011; pp. X+475; Price: 500.

In December 2010, when Swami Aseemanand, a ‘former’ RSS pracharak and key functionary of the Sangh backed Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram, admitted before a Metropolitan Magistrate to have planned terror attacks on Ajmer Sharif, Mecca Masjid, Malegaon and the Samjhauta Express, it came as the official seal of the Hindutva terror network in India. In his confession, recorded under Section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code (Cr.P.C.) before Metropolitan Magistrate Deepak Dabas at Tis Hazari Court, Delhi on December 18, he confessed that he and other Hindutva activists, were involved inbombings at Muslim religious places because they wanted to answer every Islamist terror act with “a bomb-for-bomb’’ policy. “I told everybody that bomb ka jawab bomb se dena chahiye (we should reply to bomb blasts with similar bomb blasts),” reads his 42-page confession. He categorically named (in his confession) the senior RSS leader, Indresh Kumar, the murdered RSS pracharaks Sunil Joshi, Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur and senior RSS pracharaks Sandeep Dange and Ramji Kalsangra, among others, as being key conspirators in the terror blasts.

What is to be noted here is that this was not a ‘confession’ that the police forces are known for—the forced kind of confession, which is not admissible in the court. Rather, it was a voluntary one, in the wake of a Hirday Parivartan or change of heart and made before the Magistrate under Section 164 of the Cr.P.C., which is also considered as evidence. However, the question arises: should we take this as an exception or an ‘individual’ act of terror, as often argued by the Sangh leaders? Would it be proper to believe that the Parivar people were unaware of their fellow activist’s actions, given the hierarchal and disciplined nature of the Parivar? The books under discussion ably answerthese questions.

Subhash Gatade, as many of us would know, is one of the foremost independent journalists and long-time activist of human rights and social justice. He has been writing constantly and consistently about Hindutva politics, terror and issues of repression and exclusion. Over a period of more than two decades, he has followed many cases and written on them extensively. In his two books released, he deals with the above subject at great length and reveals important facts about the Hindutva forces, its allies, network, politics and agendas—both short and long-term. While the first book, Godse’s Children: Hindutva Terror in India, focuses on the terrorist activities of the Sangh and its allies, the second book, The Saffron Condition: Politics of Repression and Exclusion in Neo-Liberal India, essentially deals with the policies and politics of the Hindutva outfits. The writer in these two important works also outlines the various processes adopted by these forces in persuasion of their long-term agenda—establishment of a Hindu Rashtra.

After reading these two books one would find it to be a gross underestimation, in fact criminal negligence, if one thought these to be individual acts and the first terrorist activity planned and carried out by the Sangh and its ilk. Because the politics of hate and terror were never absent from the Sangh Parivar’s system. “The tag of terrorism,” as rightly pointed out by Dr Shamsul Islam, who is an authority on Hindutva politics in India, “is not something new.” The history of the anti-national and terrorist activities of the RSS is very long and can be traced to its roots. It is because of its activities that the RSS and its network have been repeatedly censured by umpteen numbers of commissions of inquiry for its complicity in communal violence and terrorist activities. The first of these incidents can be traced way back to June 1934, when the first attempt to kill Mahatma Gandhi was made by the Hindutva fanatics in Pune. It is also an established fact that the first terrorist act in independent India, the killing of Mahtama Gandhi, was carried out by none other than a ‘former’ pracharak of the RSS, Nathuram Godse.

IN Godse’s Children, tracing the historical background and ideological foundation, the author points out: “Commission after commission have blamed RSS and its affiliated organisations for their participation in different riots across the length and breadth of the country…but that was different from the confession—about organising terror acts—before a judicial magis-trate by one amongst them.” (p. 32) Ana-lysing the RSS chief’s claim, terrorism and Hindus are oxymorons, Subhash Gatade says: “The thesis of the ‘oxymoron’ has shades of the concept of the Supreme Hindu race emanating from it.” He further writes: “In fact, it can also be interpreted as an indirect admission that whereas Hindus and terrorism are incompatible with each other, terrorism easily gels with non-Hindu religions and communities. Definitely, this is a very dangerous statement to make, not only because it is not based on facts but because it also tries to denigrate every other community and religion, and also because it tries to terrorise them. It can, thus, be seen as a poor attempt to deflect attention from the umpteen crimes committed by Hindu fanatics.“ (p. 71)

On the Hindutvaisation of the military forces, while discussing the case of Col. Purohit, the author notes: “Involvement of military personnel in such activities can happen in multiple ways: i. ideological; ii. direct participation; iii. in the role of facilitator. While people like Purohit could be categorised as ‘direct participants’ in such activities, it can be easily guessed that there might be many more of his ilk who may not have played any direct role in such activities, but would have acted as facilitators and ideological input-givers to the project.” (p. 135) To substantiate his claim, the writer quotes the former Naval Chief, Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat, who says: “There’s a clear majoritarian view in the military. The RSS has always had an agenda to infiltrate the armed forces, the intelligence services and the bureaucracy.” (p. 136)

The author in this book proficiently documents hundreds of cases of Hindutva terror carried out in different parts of India and concludes: “…if the political leadership, intelli-gence agencies and the police were interested, it would have been possible to avoid many innocent deaths at the hands of self-proclaimed pioneers of Hindu Rashtra trying their best to turn the dreams of Savarkar, Hedegawar and Golwakar in to reality.” (p. 187)

While dealing with the global dimensions of Hindutva forces, Gatade points out that “…for quite sometime, Hindutva extremists in Nepal have maintained close relations with extremist forces on the Indian side of the border. This relationship had blossomed during the colonial period in India itself, when one found elements belonging to the RSS or Hindu Mahasabha frequenting Nepal or using its example to demonstrate their ‘model state’. For the Sangh Parivar, Nepal happened to be the only state in the world where the ‘one nation, one people, one culture’ weltanschauung of Hindu Rastra was already in place.”(p. 251)

In this section, the author also deals with the role of the Israeli Intelligence agency, Mossad. Towards the end of the book, while concluding, the author seeks our urgent attention and action as he demands: “A lot depends upon the way the secular forces react to the ongoing investi-gations. Whether they would focus themselves on the role of the State only, and confine them-selves to issuing statements and appearing in talk shows only, or they are ready to take up the gauntlet thrown by the challenges of Hindutva Terror in a more militant and creative way that would be the deciding factor”. (p. 318)

THE Saffron Condition: Politics of Repression and Exclusion in Neolibral India is divided into three main sections, namely, Saffronisation and the Neolibral State, Logic of Caste in New India, and State and Human Rights. The book deals with the day-to-day and larger politics of the Hindutva outfits. While the first section of this book is most of what is discussed in Godse’s Children, the section on ‘The Saffron Condition’ is a very crucial one. In this section, the author outlines the politics of repression and exclusion with the marginalised sections of the society especially Dalits, despite the constitutional safeguards. The author notes: “It is a tragedy of our times that in India, more than sixty years after independence, the age old exclusivist mind-set which stunted the growth of our society, remains unchanged. It is a mind-set based on the notions of purity and pollution, which has helped strengthen the structured hierarchy in our society, and claims religious sanction as well.” (p. 9).

Going into the historical details of ‘merit’, on an earlier point he writes: “The manner in which the reservation discourse has developed in our society reflects a very static understanding of merit. Interestingly, all those who have become upholders of the ‘merit mantra’ would be shocked to find how badly their own forefathers and foremothers fared when they took their first hesitant steps in the education system initiated by the British. The very genesis of third division in education in the Madras Presidency College way back in first part of the nineteenth century was necessitated by the large number of failures amongst the students, most of them upper caste (Tamil Brahmans), who were unable to pass their examinations in first and second divisions.” (pp. 7-8)

Linking Hindutva politics with the neo-liberal paradigm of development, the author comments: “The growing dominance of the highly regressive and reactionary Hindutva politics appears more striking if we consider the simple fact that Gujarat is supposed to be a more ‘advanced State’ of the Indian Union, recognised for its progress in the economic sphere. It has awell-developed middle class. In so far as foreign direct investment is concerned, it stands at number two in being able to attract foreign direct investment. The enterprising nature of the Guajarati elite is also noticeable in that many of the noveau riche from the farming sector have made inroads in the urban sector…Of course this elaboration of the dynamic Gujarati society would be incomplete if we do not focus on the ‘other Gujarat’ which exhibits the underlying social tensions not normally visible. Apart from the overtly visible violence, the invisible violence takes up myriad forms.” (p. 229) Explaining the role of courts and other apparatus of the state in the era of neo-liberalism, the author notes: “In the era of LPG (Liberalisation, Globalisation and Privatisation) and triumphalism of the market, one is not very surprised to see the judiciary becoming more and more insensitive to the rights of the marginalised and the underprivileged, whether it is the workers in a polluting industry or squatters in one of those sprawling slums.” (p. 428)

While these two books inform us, they are instructive as well and place a great responsi-bility before all of those who wish to create an egalitarian, just and equitable society. A must read for all kinds of activists, human rights and social justice campaigners, students of social sciences, especially those of sociology and political sciences. Those working on Communalism, Terrorism and Caste issues can hardly afford to miss these.

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