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Trishuls, Lathis And Books

By Kancha Ilaiah

The Hindu
16 May, 2003

The basic idea behind the Vishwa Hindu Parishad's campaign of distributing trishuls (tridents) is to send signals to intimidate the minorities. But there is a signal to other sections as well. The Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Castes who are trying to form alternative organisations and set alternative agendas are also warned.

As a response to this Hindutva agenda the Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh started distributing swords and the Rashtriya Janata Dal in Bihar started distributing lathis.

Even before this competitive distribution of weapons began, we have been witness, every other day, to leaders of political parties being presented with swords — never with books — as a mark of victory or of the growing strength of their party.

Where does this celebration of lethal weapons in civil society and the construction of warring ideologies around them weapons lead to? When some organisations seek justifications on spiritual and social grounds for distributing weapons, others who cannot find suitable arguments in their traditions will be forced to distribute weapons covertly.

All this will only lead to an anarchic civil war. The change that people like the VHP leader, Praveen Togadia, and the RSS chief, K.S. Sudarshan, want will only see a lot of blood spilt without any socio-economic transformation. Any cornered community would resort to terrorism, as it finds no alternative for its survival.

The justification put out by the Hindutva forces for handing out trishuls is that they are `divine weapons' and therefore no legal hurdles should be created in their distribution. Similarly the RJD and the Samjwadi Party came up with their own socially sanctified alternatives. A point to note is that the youth to whom all these organisations and parties keep distributing weapons come from the Scheduled Castes, the Scheduled Tribes and the Other Backward Castes.

No English-educated child of the forward castes — Brahmin, Baniya, Kshatriya or neo-kshatriya — is willing to carry a trishul or a sword or a lathi in his or her hands. The political parties or organisations are not starting English medium schools for the children of the poor or distributing books that give them knowledge so that the youth coming from the Dalit-Bahujan communities could also compete with their own children.

Do the children of top leaders of RSS or VHP carry trishuls? Do the children of the Samajwadi Party leader, Mulayam Singh Yadav, or of the RJD chief, Mr. Laloo Prasad Yadav, keep carrying swords and lathis? Mr. Mulayam Singh who opposed English all along got his son (now an MP) educated in English-medium schools.

How liberating is a spiritual and social tradition that hands down weapons but not books to its adherents? All the ancient Gods were war heroes. Except the Buddha, who was born in a ruling tribe and lived outside the fold of ancient Hindu thought, no prophetic figure could gain status and currency without holding weapons within the fold of ancient and medieval Hinduism.

No Hindu thinker could construct a spiritually democratic text that could be distributed among the youth belonging to all castes. Though in the modern period, the Bhagavad Gita was projected as the single spiritual book of Hinduism — on the lines of the Bible and the Quran — - the priestly class never believed in distributing even that book to the children of all castes and training them in its study.

The Arya Samajists claimed that Dayanand Saraswati's `Satyarth Prakash' is a great spiritual democratic book. But the mainstream Hindu Brahmin priests did not accept it as spiritual text to be used for prayer in the temples and also at the time of marriage and death. Neither did the Arya Samajists themselves distribute it to the children of all castes in the villages.

The VHP does not have a spiritual, democratic book to distribute, as opposed to the Bible and the Quran, in a context where many educated youth want to have such a reference point with which to attack untouchability, inequality and indignity of labour. Quite cleverly, therefore, it resorted to weapon distribution so that the Scheduled Castes, the Scheduled Tribes and the Other Backward Caste youth could be involved in violence against the minorities. It is an attempt to build muscle power around the oppressed communities to use in the cause of Brahminism.

Without understanding the implications of the Hindutva project of weapon distribution other parties are aping it. Such an agenda will have long term negative impact on society. These weapons can in no way empower the Dalit-Bahujans and the poor. Obviously, the Hindutva forces have decided to waste the financial resources of the state. Even Mr. Laloo Prasad might justify the distribution of colourful lathis as a socially accepted weapon in the hands of lower castes or as he said "it was a weapon in the hands of Mahatma Gandhi too". But it is better to distribute books and not weapons of any kind.

Youth belonging to the Scheduled Castes, the Scheduled Tribes and the Other Backward Castes have been brutalised, and their humanity suppressed, by their having been used as muscle power; considered good only for using weapons. All fascist forces had celebrated weapon-using youth within their organizations.

The spiritual-fascist tradition that handed down the tradition of weapon wielding and pushing people into bloody wars did not do this nation any good even before Islam and Christianity took root. The people fought among themselves. As a result this nation fell prey to any small invasion. We had trishuls, chakras, bows and arrows all around and yet the invaders walked over all these weapons.

The reason was that the people of this country were never unified on the basis of common book that a shoemaker, a pot-maker, a shepherd, a school teacher and a priest shared, debated and discussed. A weapon is not a source of knowledge or a social source of unity. Any war weapon is a source of division and destruction.

Let the Togadias distribute books among the Dalit-Bahujan youth. Let the VHP distribute one book that children of all castes could read with pride and let all these social forces teach the illiterate youth how to read those books. Let all of them stop distributing weapons.



Politics And The Rule Of Law
By Ajay K. Mehra