For Democratic Polity
By Ram Puniyani
16 June, 2004
Issues In Secular Politics
verdict of 2004 elections has come as an utter surprise to most of the
people of the country. All those individuals and groups who perceived
the threat from the rise tide of communalism during last few years have
felt great relief. The major setbacks suffered by the country during
last six years of BJP
rule had been multiple. The erosion of democratic institutions has been
one of the main. The riots of Gujarat, on the pretext of Godhra train
burning had been too shocking for words, and the post violence handling
of issues had been worse than the pogrom itself.
Added on to this
was the issue of communalization of textbooks, blatant violation of
the autonomy of centers of learning and the introduction of obscurantist
course like astrology and Karmakand in the universities. The pro US-Israel
tilt of the foreign policy was very visible and India bending its knees
in front of the US Empire was a big shame. Add on to this the appointment
of key personnel in the positions that matter, the grip on the different
wings of state apparatus by pro Hindutva individuals made the picture
gruesome. This did stifle the liberal and democratic space to no end.
The scar of these policies, the Gujarat riots and the formation of 'two
nations' within Gujarat, on the minority psyche has been too deep for
Steps are being
taken by the Government to undo some of the damage done by the RSS's
political arm, the BJP. Various ministries are chalking out programs
to put the things back on rails. Various civic rights groups are drafting
the petitions and appeals to ensure that the violations of democratic
norms and human rights indulged in by BJP are reversed at the earliest.
While it is too early to comment on the outcome of these attempts, it
is sure that more the pressure from civic groups more is the possibility
of democratic norms and practices being restored.
Is that the end
of the threat from intimidating Hindutva/Fascist threat to Indian democracy?
We have to realize that the defeat of BJP has not been comprehensive.
BJP has been able to do good showing in MP, Rajasthan and Chattisgarh.
It has registered its presence in Kerala and come up in Karnataka. Despite
erosion, it has retained good bit of strength in Gujarat. Its voting
share has gone down by mere two percent. BJP is not alone in this game.
The problem lies
in other direction also. It has the support from VHP, Bajrang Dal, Vanvasi
Kalyan Ahsram and myriad other organizations which are manned by RSS
volunteers. The threat to Indian democracy is from various directions
and BJP is merely the political angle of the story. RSS's role in subjugating
culture, and other arenas of life cannot be underestimated. One can
say that it is precisely due to the activities of BJP affiliates that
BJP can make its impact.
It is due to the
mass indoctrination and doctoring of mass consciousness that communal
violence breaks out and it is the communal violence, which lays the
base for the politics of BJP. Who can take on this foundational work
of RSS? Can the Government machinery counter this onslaught on our society?
The best it can do is to undo the damage to curricula, the farthest
it can go is to ensure that the heads of controlling bodies like ICHR
and others are appointed on the grounds of their competence, professionalism
and not due to their loyalty to Hindutva as has been happening during
last six years. But that's just the small subset of the problem, which
one can see in the most visible manner.
The problem has been created due to the RSS ideology being percolated
through thousands of Shakhas, the RSS swayamsevaks infiltrating in different
wings of our state machinery. And surely the vehemence of other wings
of Sangh combine had reached very dangerous proportions under the political
umbrella provided by BJP rule. It is true that the very fact of BJP
not grabbing power again has demoralized many of these outfits. One
was also puzzled by the momentry eclipse of Togadia. His 'quiet' period
is being extended and one is wondering about the future of this 'poison
machine. Is he on way out like his predecessor Sadhvi Ritambhara or
is he recuperating after too many of outpourings?
One has to wait
and watch as to what is up the sleeve of RSS. What course it adopts
now. After having said that BJP defeat is due to underplaying the Hindutva
agenda, even RSS is at loss to find another emotive issue, which can
put it, back into offensive track? They really must be cursing Sonia
Gandhi for taking away the highly usable emotive issue of Sonia Janmbhumi
from their gambit. Ram Janmbhumi may not deliver the desired results
any longer and the Kashi, Mathura is also unlikely to enthuse the gullible
While one awaits
the future strategy of RSS and its progeny one does realize that some
of the damages done to democratic polity done by the acts of commission
of this multi headed hydra cannot be undone by the state or the Government
all by itself. The two pressing problems of the day relate to the influence
of 'Hate Other' propaganda ceaselessly done by this outfit. Lately the
impact of this propaganda has been boosted by the international events
in which the likes of Osama bin Laden and Talibans have added fuel to
the fire of Hatred generated against Muslims in particular, from last
nearly eigth decades. The other major problem is the creation of divides
amongst communities on the grounds of religion. While Gujarat is the
worst example of this, other states are also not spared and one finds
dime a dozen examples where one cannot buy a house in a particular locality
because one happens to belong to the 'wrong religion'.
It is here that
efforts of civic groups, social movements are most crucial to deepen
the democratic ethos in the country.
The Hate propaganda
generated against minorities has to be undone in a most humane and effective
method. The projections of History, the communal viewpoint of history
introduced by British, are the ruling viewpoints in popular minds in
the sub continent. The community divides are on the increase.
The teachings of Bhakti saints and Sufi saints have been dumped in to
the backyard. The efforts of Mahatma Gandhi in building the modern India
on the ground of Citizenship cutting across religions are being challenged
by the notions of religion based nationalism of Jinnah, Savarkar-Golwalkar
variety. Can the government efforts reach the nook and corners of society
to re-cultivate the concepts of composite nationalism? Sure, merely
the correction in the school curricula, though an essential prerequisite,
are not adequate enough. New programs are to be designed by the Government
to propagate the values, which were the foundation of freedom movement,
the values that guided our Indian constitution, in a way that all and
sundry re-imbibe these values in their psyche?
How can the hurt
minority psyche be soothed and how can they be made to feel secure in
this country? One fears that the threat of bringing back Hindutva agenda
may mean more violence and more bloodshed. One fears that the 'defeated'
BJP, RSS combine may resort to any method to deepen the divisive agenda
in the society. The present 'feel good' of the democratic secular-democratic
groups may not last much once RSS combine hits back with its usual 'tools'.
One is aware that preservation and strengthening of Human rights is
the need of the hour. One is aware that the social groups whose human
rights have suffered adversely during last two decades are dalits, women,
workers, adivasis and minorities. One is also aware that it is precisely
to suppress these issues that Hindutva wants to bring in emotional issues.
will be faulting in their commitment to social issues if the divisive
politics is not combated at social level. And this government must feel
duty bound to morally uphold these initiatives for harmony and the efforts
in the directions, which strengthen the grass root bonding and amicable