Rehearsal for Hindu Rashtra
Over forty incidents, of arson, assault,
loot, demolition (remember the ‘kar sevaks’ in Ayodhya?) and forcible evictions
have taken place in the past six months in Gujarat, the land of Gandhi’s birth.
The targets: the state’s Christians and Muslims.
The assailants: Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Bajrang Dal squads. Provocative pamphlets and fiery speeches at ‘dharam sabhas’, spreading falsehoods and inflam- ing passions against the minority communities, have been the weapons deployed by them in selected villages, towns and cities, before the unleashing of violence. Each episode has also been preceded, and followed, by threats to the local administration and the police, warning them against offering any protection to the victims. The VHP’s storm troopers barred media persons’ entry into a village from where all Muslim families were summarily chased away in June, while the police acted as silent spectators at best, accomplices at worst. Regrettably, much of the mainline Gujarati press has assisted in the game–plan by publishing fictitious or twisted reports. This has only helped increase polarisation of local communities that have lived in close proximity for generations.
The bogey of conversions by Christians and abductions of Hindu women by Muslim men, has been raked up by the saffron brigade in Gujarat in a pre–meditated fashion to whip up passion and resentment, particularly in the rural areas of the state. The fact that in no case has the charge of forcible conversion been proven or that of kidnapping or abduction established, has not deterred the BJP government in the state from setting up a special police cell to monitor every case of inter–religious marriage. That such a cell is a gross violation of basic rights of citizens is obviously of no concern to the champions of Hindutva.
As a social activist from Gujarat put it, "lived fascism is a grim reality in Gujarat today." Reason enough for this to feature as cover story this month. More so, because, barring stray exceptions, the national media — print and electronic — has paid little attention to the Hindu Rashtra in–the–making. The issue has hardly figured in Parliamentary debates, neither Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee nor home minister, L.K. Advani (who, incidentally seeks election from the Gandhinagar parliamentary seat) has thought it fit to speak out against the unrelenting outrage in a state where there party is in power. Those who are putting up a brave resistance in Gujarat today experience a chilling isolation from the rest of the country.
The other horror story is from Uttar Pradesh where, too, the BJP rules. With chief minister Kalyan Singh publicly encouraging a policy of liquidation through ‘encounters’, the police have reportedly murdered over 200 innocent persons, among whom Dalit and Muslim labourers figure prominently. Meanwhile, the state’s education minister and a former RSS man, N.K. Gaur, has been busy formalising the association of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) — its exclusivist, fascist ideology et al — with state–run schools in the state. UP, therefore, is the subject for the special report in this issue.
The numbing story of the gang–rape of four nuns in Madhya Pradesh on September 23, and its justification by a prominent VHP leader as a ‘patriotic act’, provides a chilling climax to what has emerged as a clear pattern over the past six months. This is something to which we have been drawing the readers’ attention: Muslims have, for the moment, been tacticly put on Hindutva’s back–burner while the full heat has been turned on for Christians.
The concerted attacks on the country’s minorities have been possible thanks to the failure of the custodians of law to fulfil their primary obligation of protecting the life and property of all citizens, irrespective of community, caste or gender. The murderers and assailants have functioned with utter impunity before the guardians of the law, either browbeating the administration into inaction or engineering complicity from within its ranks. This bodes ill for the health of Indian democracy. Under the circumstances, director general of police, Gujarat, C.P. Singh’s public indictment of the VHP and Bajrang Dal in an exclusive interview with Communalism Combat is very welcome. It is to be hoped that tough action will follow strong words and the guilty will be punished, promptly.
Beyond our borders, in Bangladesh, religious fanaticism has taken the form of a fresh threat to the life of feminist writer, Taslima Nasreen, who secretly returned to the native land to be with her seriously ailing mother. This only underlines CC’s basic doctrine that intolerance — whatever form it assumes and whichever religious tradition’s shelter it seeks – remains a serious threat to pluralism, dissent and democracy.