Gujarat shows what Sangh Parivar ‘nationalism’ entails
By Nalini Taneja
In what represents a typical Goebelsian intervention to ‘create’ a ‘truth’, the Union Information and Broadcasting Minister, Ms. Sushma Swaraj, chastised the state media and withdrew from circulation all facts related to the anti minority pogroms in Gujarat that might be construed as explaining the immediate context of the torching of the four bogies of the Sabarmati Express in which 58 people, including karsevaks, were killed by a Muslim mob at the Godhra station. Nothing must be allowed to dilute the RSS version of the events, which package images of stereotyped fanatical jehadi Muslims with ISI links, who cannot but kill “innocent Ram bhakts” as part of their evil designs in Hindu India, as integral to the explanation for what is happening there.
If a concerned citizen demands an explanation, he must be made to understand that what is happening is decreed by “Newton’s law”—“that every action has an equal and opposite reaction”. The Sangh Parivar atrocities are then nothing but natural justice on the part of aggrieved Hindus. This is in fact what every BJP or Sangh Parivar leader, including the Home Minister and the Prime Minister of this country, has been saying with regard to the carnage by the storm troopers of the Sangh Parivar.
It is important to realize that, despite the visual depiction and printed factual information that shows the one sidedness of the attacks following the incident and the state complicity in these attacks, the RSS version has remained intact in the media through the media’s significance to the “first strike” in this entire affair cleverly sustained through sub headings such as “From Godhra to Ahmedabad”, which reveal the hegemony of the Sangh Parivar world view even among thinking secular people. There is little attempt to underline the fact that all the incidents in Gujarat and elsewhere, beginning from the burning of the train bogies at Godhra to the cold murder of hundreds of people, mostly with the connivance of the police, are the result of the communal atmosphere which the Sangh Parivar has built up under the very nose of the BJP led government.
This is not to condone the Godhra torching of train bogies by the Muslim mob, which must be investigated and the guilty brought to book, as ways of fighting the Sangh Parivar cannot include provide sanction to counter communalism or counter mob violence.
Yet the Sangh Parivar version of events and its entire framework of ‘explanations’ need to be exposed through the real facts, pertaining to incidents on the days preceding the Godhra killings as well, and through alternate perspectives that question the politics and strategy of the Hindu right wing forces in the current situation, if any long term solutions have to be generated.
A Faizabad based newspaper, the Jan Morcha, reported in its edition of February 25th that trishul brandishing Bajrang Dal activists had beaten up scores of Muslims in the Sabarmati express train on its way to Ayodhya on 24th February 2002 and forced them to shout Jai Shri Ram slogans in the train, two days prior to the torching of the bogies in Godhra. They injured several people to the point that many had to be hospitalized at on the way stations like Rudali, threw a youth who intervened out of the running train, pulled at the burqas of Muslim women, fiercely poked with their trishuls at people who ‘looked’ like Muslims, and generally managed to have a field day of it—an incident that was condemned by many local organizations and intellectuals, while Muslim religious leaders pleaded for peace. The place was already abound with rumours and tension as a result of these incidents when the particular train bringing karsevaks from Ayodhya passed through Godhra.
No major newspaper has bothered to find space for this factual information or for the stories of how the kar sevaks looted, misbehaved with and intimidated vendors at every station besides shouting insulting and provocative slogans at that very railway station in a context where tension had already got built after the incidents of February 24th and the rumours around them a good two days before the torching of the four bogies at Godhra.
This is a significant lapse not because it reduces the enormity of the crime that left people torched in their train bogies, but because it conceals the actual complexion of the crime. It brings reporting in line with the RSS version that sees the Muslim attacks as emanating from a premeditated ISI plot, and the Bajrang Dal perpetrated planned and targeted killings as a ‘natural response’ to legitimate hurt. The entire hate filled campaign in the run up to the UP elections and the daily humiliations and provocations against the Muslims during the temple campaign are minimized at one stroke.
Further, no major newspaper or political leader outside the Left has dared state categorically that there is a clear political distinction, between spontaneous acts of mobs or even self proclaimed terrorists, and the terrorist and anti minority actions of government institutional authorities, officials, elected political leaders and Ministers in the government in a democracy. Those answerable to an electorate and civil society cannot function and act in the same way as those opposed to the norms of civil society. It is not merely a matter of shame, which it certainly is, but a reflection of the kind of politics that a state and government in power represents if the state machinery itself subverts the constitutional- state through its violations of the constitution and the terrorist actions of its fascist storm troopers. Its actions seriously compromise the content and forms of expression of nationalism as understood by the majority of the Indian people even today, despite the rise of the right wing forces in the country and all over the world.
Through the instrumentality of its storm troopers the BJP in power is actually forcing a redefinition of the relationship between nation and state to a point where the state power is at total variance with established national policies on all major issues. This has serious implications for popular sovereignty and the expression of democratic will through organized political process.
The fascist-exclusionist ‘nationalism’ of the Sangh Parivar and its government is laid bare. As the BJP and its allies lose the assembly elections in four states, including the crucial state of Uttar Pradesh, the Sangh Parivar acts on the threat of its leader, Prime Minister Vajpayee, to teach the minorities a lesson. If the Muslims do not vote for us we don’t need them said Mr. Vajpayee, and the outcome is there for all to see in Gujarat—proudly acclaimed by the Parivar as the laboratory of the Hindu rashtra.
They could do without a whole lot of other people too it seems, if the budget is anything to go by. One has yet to see a budget in this country that so blatantly loots the people in the name of reforms to hold out the country in a platter to the multinationals. While taxes on FDIs have been drastically reduced from 48% to 40 %, there is an increase in taxes for salaried employees and measures that can only be characterized as an assault on the lives and the livelihood of the poor.
Even as the Parliament resounded with a Budget speech that will bleed the poor, the strategy for countering all opposition to its infamous economic policies was being implemented in Gujarat through an equally cynical assault on the Republic of India, through an orgy of killings and looting and arson against the Muslims of this country by the storm troopers of the Sangh Parivar. There is a method in the casual manner in which the BJP led central government is responding to the communal pogroms.
The army was called in after an inexplicable two day delay, and that too merely to display how well it can march at the behest of the government, because having flag marched through the city it was promptly ushered back into its barracks by Chief Minister Narendra Modi, who is busy justifying to all and sundry that killings in the name of Ram do not amount to crime, if they are perpetrated against Babar’s aulad (progeny). It was on the same night that the toll went up from 80 to 200 (IE, March 2, 2002)
According to major daily newspapers, reports have been pouring in of mobs targeting Muslims throughout Gujarat as the police stood by. The Sangh Parivar mobilized mobs brandishing country-made rifles, swords, spears, and iron rods indulged in arson, looting and mass murders, and openly loaded bricks and cans of petrol on to trucks, even as the police were conspicuous by their absence (TOI, March 2, 2002). Thousands of youth waving sharp weapons menacingly roamed the towns of Gujarat, sporting saffron bandanas and headbands. There were been mass killings in some instances, which the Chief Minister still characterises as within bounds of “restraint”.
The minorities in several places, including the slain former Congress MP Ehsan Jaffri, who dialed the police in vain for six hours, were left undefended. Many seeking protection were slain just next to the State Reserve Police headquarters (IE, March 2, 2002). Curfew was imposed selectively, pinning the Muslim population of the walled cities inside their homes, even as Hindu mobs were allowed to run amok elsewhere.
All the worst trouble spots across Ahmedabad were in Hindu strongholds where Muslim families formed small, easily identifiable targets.
Muslims have had to rely on the resources of community help, with the government, according to a civil servant not even “recognizing them as citizens”. The government has rendered no assistance to them, and the injured lie in a dangerous state unattended medically. Curfew made it impossible for them to even claim their dead for a decent burial. Thousands are fleeing the state leaving behind their homes and jobs. Scores of mosques and mazars have been destroyed and overnight converted into “temples”, often near police stations and with encouragement from policemen.
Official figures already talk of 540 dead, but secular activist groups in the area say when actual counts are later made the count may well be much, much higher when the truth comes out. Thousands more have been injured and rendered homeless. The systematic destruction of minority property all over the state, too has been enormous, with virtually a design to cripple them economically, and according to a Communalism Combat estimate anywhere between 35-40,000 persons are lying hungry, and without shelter in Ahmedabad's relief camps alone. In the midst of all this misery the Sangh Parivar is busy distributing its leaflets asking Hindus to boycott Muslim shops and establishments. There has been a systematic assault on the sources of income and livelihood of the Muslims during the days of “riots”. Detailed reports would easily bear that out.
There has been curfew in as many as 70 towns of the state, and violence spread even to the remote villages in Gujarat. There have been incidents of violence in many towns of UP as well, some towns of Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Andhra and Karnataka, while five mosques/mazars have been razed to the ground in Kaithal (Haryana).
In many ways the situation resembles the 1984 massacre of Sikhs following the killing of Indira Gandhi, with lumpen youth running wild and the government of the day, the government machinery and the political leadership of the ruling party facilitating the ‘teaching of lessons’, and in addition a Prime Minister who confers only with the RSS in any grave matter.
Gujarat Governor, S S Bhandari, has ruled out sending any report to the President on the law and order situation in the state saying, “it is not necessary”. Mr. Advani cavalierly, without evidence and in a diabolical fashion, talks of ISI handiwork, making a clear distinction between “terrorism” of the Muslims and the ‘natural’ ”anger” of the Sangh Parivar cadres, and sees no justification for handing over the state to the army. With a RSS leader and a criminal of Babri Masjid demolition at the helm of affairs as Home Minister and a RSS pracharak as Chief Minister there is little hope of justice for the victims.
The arrogance of the mean and the desperate implies political cynicism of the worst kind, and that is what the Indian people have to contend with today. The events in Gujarat are the logical consequences of the enemy based exclusionist ‘nationalism’ that the right wing Hindutva forces have been articulating through word and deed in the last decade, and of the ‘education’ imbibed for years at Vidya bharti schools and from government schools in BJP ruled states. It is not surprising that Gujarat, which has the maximum number of RSS shakhas, with the highest number for a district being in Rajkot, is the state where the middle class is most communalized, where casteism has had virtually no challenge, where the worst the worst anti minority pogroms and castist violence in post independence India should have been perpetrated, and which should have given to the VHP the maximum number of artisans who, for years, have been engaged in making the pillars for the Temple at Karsevakpuram. All this is why they have chosen Gujarat as the “laboratory” for the Hindu rashtra.
This right wing ‘nationalism’ finds expression in its fullest sense as “war against terrorism” unleashed by the Hindu right wing under the able leadership of President George Bush, and sanctioned and accommodated by this great self-proclaimed defender of “civilization”, who has yet to make a statement on what is happening in Gujarat, even as he cannot stop talking about the Islamic enemies of civilization.
Clearly both see that liberalization is possible only through making the Indian people fight themselves. The stormtroopers after all comprise those who have little to look forward to in a liberalized regime, and better for the Sangh Parivar and Mr. Bush that they be killing Muslims rather than leading food riots and attacking FCI gowdowns. This is the real meaning of Gujarat happenings. Sadly the mainstream bourgeois parties are reluctant to defeat communalism today as people’s unity can result in united struggles against liberalization economic policies as well, which they fully support.