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The Hindu Rashtra Of Gujarat

By V.B.Rawat

27 September, 2005

What is in the name:

Welcome to Amdavad, are the new signboards in the main roads of Ahemdabad and a serious reader of the events in Gujarat can make out of the situation in Gujarat. Apart from this, the certificate given by the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation and now United Nations Development Programme to Gujarat for best-governed state in India exposes the hollowness of these institutions, who play with economic data without taking into account the issue of freedom from fear, freedom from want and freedom to live in dignity as suggested by Secretary General Kofee Annan, in his famous report 'in larger freedom', to the United Nations. Chief Minister Narendra Modi is enjoying every bit of this now with great hoardings about his achievements all over the state and claiming how his 'enemies' are also eulogizing his work. However, it is another matter that the threat to Modi does not come from the so-called secular camp but the very follower of Hindu Rastra brigade, on whose back he rose to become the mascot of Hindutva in India.

You move to any government office in Gujarat and the change is visible. You have Sardar Patel all over. Gandhi is relegated to a poor second position. The others don't count except the modern days 'bhoodevatas' whose preaching has become a fashion for the entire Gujarat. The day I landed at the Baroda airport, one swami came along with a photographer and the crowd at the airport showed how these modern Mahatmas are finding Gujarat their best abode. They talk of materialism and preach from five star hotels to those who are notorious in exploiting the people. Yes, the agricultural workers, a
majority of who are tribals and Dalits working on the farms of local lords with their Non Resident Resources, are paid much below the minimum wages prescribed. And any question for the same invite cruel economic prohibition.

I take an auto from Vadodara to Anand, the town famously known as 'white revolution' town in India. The young auto-driver Allah-Rakha in his 20s could not complete his 8th standard when he objected his upper caste fellows remark on Muslims girls of his school. Action was taken against him for indiscipline and today he cannot get admission in any of the schools of Gujarat. One does not know how many Muslims have met with such a fate. He is cautious about talking politics in Gujarat but when inform him that I have come from Delhi and that we are not secret service agent of any political party, he open up. " Sir, my auto owner is a Hindu, a very nice man. He belongs to Congress Party. But it is difficult here these days to get employment. I have two sisters one young and the other elder. His house got burnt. He earns Rs 40/- per day from plying auto and pays a daily rent of Rs 100/- to his owner. He is happy that the opposition party is running the government at the center and that the current government in the state now cannot do anything for the fear of antagonizing center. " Muslims are still better', he says, 'the condition of Dalits here is really terrible. Nobody drink water from a Dalit, Sir. Gujarat has a strong caste system, he lament, but I don't believe in it ', he adds.

During my several days stay in Gujarat and different parts of the state, I had a lot interaction with locals in the towns and villages. As I make a visit from Ahemdabad towards Anand, my cab driver has his sympathies clear for Narendra Modi, 'Sir, Modi is an international man. World recognize him. He has made Gujarat what it was never." I ask, why the 'Hindu Hridaya Samrat' is being opposed by the same people who once appreciated him,' Oh, sir, Modi is an extremely honest man, and these VHP, Bajrang wallahs are corrupted fellows and that's why they are opposing him'.

Paradox of Hindutva

Ironically, in Anand, a teacher of political science reflect the dangers of identity politics. He says: 'Narendra Modi is a backward caste person and that is why we all want him to be the chief minister. No body is unhappy with him except for the Patels and Brahmins as he has continuously sidelined them.' The professor spoke the truth as Narendra Modi is on his way to appease the Brahmins and upper castes in Gujarat by inflicting more and more religiosity among the people and putting the religious pontiffs over his head. The so-called confluence of Narmada into Saraswati was meant more to consolidate his vote bank rather then serving water to the people. Most of the big religious gurus kept themselves away from the programme, however, Modi has the backing of his leader ' Lal Krishna Adavani', who has not taken Sanyas from the politics despite his failure to rejuvenate the party. I meet another 'director' of an educational institution allegedly run by one of the top guns of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad. He is in the college, I have gone to meet some of the friends and introduce me that he comes from the institution run by an eminent person. I am not keen to counter him as I want to listen from him what he think about Narendra Modi and he says: Sir, this fellow became chief minister because of VHP and Bajrang Dal and now he has corrupted himself. He is trying to sideline the Patels and Brahmins and these are the backbone of BJP at the moment and during the peak of the Hindutva movement in Gujarat. How can this be tolerated? Clearly, the person himself a Brahmin was angry over the continuous marginalisation of the Brahmins in Gujarat by a Hindutva regime.

In Gujarat's schools and colleges, Sardar Patel has overwhelmed Gandhi. It is Patel all the way besides Swami Vivekananda, Ram Krishna Paramhansa and other leaders of Hindu society. You visit to any government office and discuss about government programmes and the officials would portray everything 'best' in Gujarat. The easy reference is ' We are not Bihar'. At a barbar's shop in Baroda, I started my conversation with him who proudly says that he was trained by none other then Javed Habib, he said: "Sir, Gujarati's are most tolerant people. Nothing happened here. The Muslims were not killed by the Gujarati's but by the Biharis and UP wallahs who have migrated here. They have made a hell of our great Gujarat, he lamented. I asked 'but situation is still bad and people are boycotting in the villages'. He says, " You know Gujarat's today want to be left alone. The other communities particularly those from outside Gujarat as well as Muslims are not ready to assimilate in Gujarat hence no point of their staying here and disturbing our peace. We are religious people and very simple and we want peace here."

Yes, that is the irony of Gujarat. The Gujaratis who enjoyed the diversity in London and then in United States are today saying that multiculturalism is dangerous. The Gujaratis who settled in South Africa, prospered in their business without any racial bias are today saying that communities are not assimilating here. Did any one of them merged with bigger identity in Europe and United States. No, Gujaratis are business people and their business interest are the biggest. When Gujaratis can stay in Maharastra and other parts of the country, there is nothing that can stop Biharis and other people from migrating to these states. Secondly, as Yunus Chauhan, a teacher in Anand told me, that Gujaratis don't do all the business. Hence the condition is that Gujaratis finds it difficult to get recruitment for the army and police. The upper caste Gujaratis would not like to join army. And that's going to be the crisis in future when they will have to recruit either Adivasis or Dalits or people outside Gujarat in the police forces of the state. Even the cotton market is now in the hands of Marwadis from Rajasthan.

Interesting thing is that after Modi became much sought after person everywhere, Gujarat police has become extra alert. So the entries in the hotels and Internet cafes are noted. I went to an Internet café in front of the Ahemdabad Railway station to find a notice on behalf of the police commissioner of Ahemdabad that all the surfers have to provide their identity cards/ passport/driving license/ credit cards before surfing. Though very few owners follow it, principally, this itself is an effort to curtain freedom of the people. Nowhere, in the world so far, do you find that for netsurfing you need to provide your identities. In the hotels also during the check- in, the manager would give you a slip of paper where you have to provide your name and contact address. This is typically meant to provide the matter to the police. Which means after so much of tandava, Gujarat administration has woken up against a possible threat.

Perhaps it might be, but Gujarat's Hindu Rastra vision is going stronger. The dominance of powerful Patels and other upper caste communities is now a matter of resentment among the Brahmins. We got information how in the Panchayats, those headed by Dalit Sarpanches are actually run by their deputies, at least in Porbandar. The poverty of Gujarat is not in terms of physical though it has also been proved by the latest planning commission data that among the 20 most backward districts of the country, four district including Dang, which unfortunately declared the worst affected by poverty and misery, are located in Gujarat while there is nothing among 20 from Bihar. Sangh Parivar is organizing a Kumbha mela in this area to rub salt on the Adivasis for their fight with the Christian missionaries who are equally visible in this region of ignorance and miseries. District like Anand are totally based on NRI economy and yet the village despite well connectivity and development shows the culture, which is developing in Gujarat during past one decade. The culture of ostracisation as well as segregation. Caste system is notoriously present in Gujarat today and Muslims are just a tool to strengthen that as in the grand frame work of Hindutva, the smaller identities of Dalits and tribals are sought to be merged. They are totally depended on the powerful communities like Patels, Kshatriyas, and Brahmins and the best way to turn them submissive is to strike on their economy. Hence any Dalit assertion or mobilization is countered in term of economical and social boycott.

My visit to several villages in Naveli Panchayat strengthen my belief that the so-called peace and harmony in Gujarat today is actually upper caste uncontrolled and unchallenged dominance over the Dalits and marginalized. We visit a colony developed as Sardar Avas Yojna totally supported by Gujarat government for the landless people. The colony is well made and has been mostly provided to the Parmars. One Dalit family here got the house but he too had to migrate to live with his own community. Normally, segregation of Dalits and non-Dalits or Muslims and non-Muslims in the villages of Gujarat is complete. Behind the Sardar Avas colony is Indira Awas Yojna, a central government funded scheme, now victim of state apathy. Most of the houses under the scheme are provided to those who have the capability to build houses.

Anyway, I enter the big house of Sarpanch who happens to be a Patel. The Chaturthi festival is under full flow. It is one of the ten days of the celebrations. I knock at the door to inquire whether the Sarpanchji is there or not. After 10 minutes, a women with red tika over her head and a long Sindoor, comes out and inquire as what do we want. Her looks are contemptuous to us. Sarpanch is recessing at the moment . It was 1 pm and she asked us to wait till 4 pm. We left out of the place. That shows the strength of caste sarpanches in the village.

Socio-economic marginalisation of Dalits

I am in a Harijan Bastee, a term, which is not used by the assertive Dalits anywhere in the world. Never in my life, while working with the Dalits so far and in areas such as Uttar-Pradesh, Bihar, Maharastra and Andhra that they asked me whether I would be drinking water at their place particularly if the person is educated. Here educated youngsters who were about 10 when gathered around me asked whether I could sit in the Harijan Bastee and talk to them. The ten families of the scavenger community here is a challenge to the upper castes because they have educated themselves. When I ask for water from the young man standing nearby, he asks: Could you drink water here? I hope nothing happen to you?" This painful agony of a young mind reflects how the situation remains inside the villages of Gujarat. Harish, 28, is a qualified stenographer but would not get a job anywhere. Another boy Ramesh has finished his M.Com and is without a job. His younger brother Girish is doing Ramesh's father work in local Swami Narayan Mandir as a sweeper and get Rs 800/- per month. Even the great saint's disciples don't way according to minimum wages. But then who care for wages of the Dalits when according to Hindu Rastra concept they were to provide free labour in the service of the other three varnas. It is not that men only are educated in this Harijan Bastee, Padma Ben, sister of Ramesh has done her M.A. in Gujarati. Ironically, she herself is jobless and workless. People expect her to pick up the broom and clean the shit.

Kokila Ben got a house allotted in her name under the Sardar Avas Yojna and supposed to get it like others, already constructed house but no. The authorities passed Rs 40,000 for her; a local contractor said he would be building the house. The money is gone and no toilet, bathroom or flooring is done. The thing is that while all houses under Sardar Avas are constructed and given but for the Dalits in this Hindu Rastra, the pain of segregation is inexplicable. The fact is that this segregation was not with Muslims even when they were target but Gujarat's Dalits particularly Bhangis are totally isolated and marginalized.

Bhavesh Kumar, a young student of 6th standard has been thrown away from the school for his inability to pay fee. His father Jagdish bhai is a scavenger and cannot bear his fees. They mock at him if he is unable to come in the school uniform.

Harish is aggressive and scathing in his attack to the Makwana community. He says that the Rohits, Makwanas and Christians among the Dalits have proved death knell for them. They usurp the entire quota for the Dalits and the Bhangi's remain marginalized. I have two simple questions. I talk to him about a famous person from Gujarat who belongs to his community. Strangely enough, the Dalits here are totally apoliticised and used in the political circus by different parties. We heard about Ambedkar but don't know much as what has he done for us. We don't know about any civil society organizations or Dalit organization. Who care for Bhangis. Please do write that there should a quota among the Dalits for Bhangis.

Harish's word are true. We move to another locality in the same village panchayat. We go to a colony of Indira Awas. We ask a woman standing there: Is this the Harijan Bastee or Indira Colony as usually
call.' She gets disturbed. Ah, we are Rohits, we don't know about the Harijan Bastee.' The other people also have a strange look at us as if we don't know about the caste equation.

In the Nadpad Tadpat Panchayat, we find Rohits are dominating fellow. Natubhai Valji bhai Makwana is a former member of the Panchayat. He suggests how much he is doing for the Dalits. When I ask him as how many among the Dalits are Valmikis or Bhangis.. He gets disturbed, you see, this village has Rohits as powerful community. No Patel can win without our support so they have to construct houses for us and involve us in their schemes. He also suggest how a Rohit is a cook in the mid day meal programme of the school and how ' we all live here in harmony'.

But a little later, when I walk along with him to visit other areas of Dalits he breaks his silence. "Sir, it has been really difficult for the Dalits during this regime for the past 10 years. Though they pursue our work because of our numbers, the condition of Valmikis is a matter of grave concern. The upper caste are so dominant that any question can break our work and the best form of breaking our bones is the socio-economic boycott. Most of the Dalits work on the fields of the Patels and Kshatriyas and therefore cannot speak for their rights for the fear of marginalisation." I make a visit to some of the houses of Valmikis but they are all isolated. Not even the other Dalit communities want to sit and share with them.

Now I am in a place where houses were constructed as the Chamar-vas some 20 years back. The area was dominated by the Kshatriyas of Shankar Singh Vaghela's community. The chamars were forced to leave. They cannot stay here. Today, 20 years later, we see their conditions. The houses completely demolished. There are other most backward community live who work in the fields of Kshatriyas while the Chamars of that area have been working with the Patels. This village has no approach road. The houses are constructed in most shoddy conditions and in complete isolation with the rest of others. That shows how Gujarat's ruling elite behave and isolate the poor.

The anti Dalit feeling in Gujarat are tremendous. The anti reservation stir against Madhav Sngh Solanki was used by the powerful Patel and Brahmins. Today, they muzzle every case of assertion among the Dalits. If any one of them raise their head, the economic boycott is tremendous. The pride of Dalit is crushed here. Without any Ambedkarite movement, the Dalits are totally out of the idea of assertion. The NGOs might have been there but the political marginalisation of Dalits and tribal in Gujarat has resulted in hoplessness and negativism building up among them.

The irony is that the Patel's are getting agitated with Narendra Modi as charged by many of them that he has marginalized them. The Patel's in the Congress will take over. So the Dalits and Muslims are sandwiched between the powerful communities who switch their loyalty from BJP to Congress and vice versa. The congress remains the same old Brahmanical institution, which betray the emotions of Dalits in the name of secularism while BJP bring them in their fold under the garbage of Hindutva.

Narendra Modi would never have realized that the Hindu Rastra that he was propagating would turn against him. Modi, a so-called backward, is now feeling heat of the powerful Patels, Brahmins and Kshatriyas against him. In fact, Patels, the original land owning caste and Kashtriyas revolted against him because they feel they are the legitimate rulers of Gujarat. In the Manu dharmshastra, Modi does not fit in to rule according to his birth so the Brahmins are today turning against him. Patel and Brahmins both feel that they are the genuine rulers according to Manu Smriti and they would be ruling
Gujarat. The process is now complete. After complete marginalisation and apoliticisation of Dalit, tribals and Muslims, the upper castes in Gujarat now feel that they cannot live under a backward chief minister, hence the bubbling has started. Modi has to go to pave the way of the finalisation of Hindu Rashtra in Gujarat according to Manu Dharmshastra. The battle in Gujarat is not secular verses communal or Congress and BJP, it is now the 'legitimate rulers' verses those who are ruling Gujarat as Madan Lal Khurana charged in his letter to Lal Krishna Advani. Political parties and ideologies don't count in this, only caste interest count hence it is the beginning of the battle. The real battle of power could only begin when the marginalized also get politicized. Unfortunately for them, there is no space in so-called mainstream politics. Till they develop a space for themselves, they will have to content with becoming a tool for the 'rulers' in Gujarat. If Patels, Kshatriyas and Brahmins lose to Modi in this battle, they might shift to Congress but that would not change their attitude towards Dalits and Adivasis. It is here the real challenge of Gujarat lie and for that a new movement of assertion is the precondition among the Dalits and other marginalized communities. Gujarat's Hindutva vision will not end with socalled BJP or Narendra Modi, it is much bigger issue and need an equally stronger remedy, otherwise, social unrest in Gujarat will continue as communities oppressed regularly will one day retaliate and then it would be too late to counter them. Political groups must work in Gujarat beyond their caste-interests, otherwise damages would much bigger than what has so far happened.











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