India and the sub-continent, the cynical misuse of religion for
political ends has been used to mobilise large sections of the people
and through this mobilisation gain power. Violence is espoused and
used by outfits endorsing this brand of politics. Since 1998, with the
Bharatiya Janata Party coming to power –dominating the NDA alliance at
the Centre and in many States, especially Gujarat—this has assumed
fascist dimensions as the Gujarat Genocide 2002 shows.
Arms training by
the Bajrang Dal in camps is insiduously, yet publicly arming Indian
civil society, creating a public climate of animosity and threat.
Verbal abuse is daily flung at Indian minorities making a mockery of
secularism as enshrined in the Indian Constitution.
Quite apart from
the real threat faced in some areas by foreign-bred mercenaries, a
real and potent threat to the Indian social fabric comes from
home-grown terrorists of these outfits who spread terror and venom to
silence entire neighbourhoods into silence.
ago the UN Declaration of Human Rights came into force worldwide. This
time frame, give or take a few years also coincided with the birth of
fledgling nation states who emerged from centuries of colonial rule in
Asia and Africa.
formulations, many of which consciously, as a result of their
individual nationalist struggles chose the democratic option sworn to
notions of egalitarianism, the realisation of individual human rights
ought to have been more and more assured. India is a classic example.
Our Constitution adopted just two years later after the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the UN General Assembly on
December 10, 1948, is an admirable sister document, of the UN charter
reflecting a seriousness and commitment to notions of equity and
justice in the context of a democratic and secular order.
declaration of the UDHR compares so closely to the Preamble to the
Indian constitution; the UDHR’s Article 2 on non-discrimination on the
basis of race, colour, sex, language, language, religion, religion,
political or other opinion etc. is ably reflected in our
constitution’s Article 15: “Prohibition of discrimination on grounds
of religion, race caste, sex or place of birth of any of them.”
UDHR’s Article 3 on “everyone has a right of life, liberty and
security of person” is reflected in Article 6 of the Indian
Constitution: “Every human being has the inherent right to life. The
rights shall be protected by and under law. No one shall be
arbitrarily deprived of his life.”
comparisons can be found between Articles 7 and 18 of the UDHR that
deal with non-discrimination in protection before the law and freedom
of religion, thought and conscience and the Indian Constitution’s
Articles 14 and 25.
However like in
the west, where inherent notions of white supremacy and dominance have
allowed racism to exist, or subsist, surface and even flourish within
western democracies - side by side with the laudable Bill of Rights
and other fundamental freedoms -- inherent inequities among the social
and economic strata within the Indian nation state have seriously
hampered the deepening of democracy and through this process, the
realisation of actual individual human rights to citizens
living under the Indian political dispensation.
economic deprivation is undoubtedly the greatest obstacle in
the attainment of individual freedoms and genuine liberty. The tragic
disparities that Indian society not merely always did have, but
appears to have enhanced over fifty years’ of independent governance,
are clear pointers to this inescapable reality: that economic dignity
and independence go a long way towards exercising choices and living
lives that are genuine manifestations of lived, personal liberty.
economic disempowerment and inequity in opportunity remain a critical
source of denial of basic human rights, increasingly caste and
community based disparities and discriminations are the cause also, of
not simply denials but serious breaches.
The denial, or
rather violently snatching away of the rights of minorities
(religious) to life, protection from the law, access to employment,
right or residence in any part of India have been insidiously taking
place in the country over the last two decades. This erosion has been
happening under the increasing social sway of and credence being given
to the majoritarian communal ideology of Hindutva —the ideal of
a Hindu rashtra (as opposed to a democratic and plural and
The erosion has
manifest itself through eating at the very morale and ethic of
democratic institutions like the law and order machinery -- the
police, the executive and even the judiciary. Increasingly incidences
of partisan and biased ways of functioning have been discerned and
analysed. In fact, a singular fact of the political functioning of the
BJP and it’s cadres when in power has been to infiltrate
different segments of the police, judiciary, media and education
system with persons avowed to their rigid ideology and worldview.
This, therefore, poses the single most serious threat to Indian
The ideology of
Hindutva can be best summed up in the words of Madhav Sadashiv
Golwalkar, the second Sarsanghchalak (Chief) of the Rashtriya
Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS):
“The foreign races
in Hindustan (read all Muslims and Christian) must either adopt the
Hindu culture and language, must learn to respect and hold in
reverence (sic) Hindu religion, must entertain no idea but those of
the glorification of Hindu race and culture, i.e., of the Hindu nation
and must lost their separate existence to merge in the Hindu race, or
stay in the country, wholly subordinated to the Hindu Nation, claiming
nothing, deserving no privileges far less any preferential treatment -
not even citizen’s rights. There is, at least should be, no other
course for them to adopt.” (9).
We need to clarify
and stress that here was/is not a benevolent philosophy unlike what
the Indian Supreme Court has had to say on Hindutva (“calling
it a way of life”—judgement in Manohar Joshi case). This is what
‘Guru’ Golwalkar had to say about the prosecution of the Jews in Nazi
“German race and pride has now become the topic
of the day. To keep up the purity of the Race and its culture, Germany
shocked the world by her purging the country of the semitic Races -
the Jews. Race pride at its highest has been manifested here. Germany
has also shown how well-nigh impossible it is for Races and cultures,
having differences going to the root, to be assimilated into one
united whole, a good lesson for us in Hindustan to learn and profit
and political backbone of this movement has been the Rashtriya
Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). This outfit has, for over seven-eight decades
since its formation in 1925,
been working on it’s long term ideal of transforming the Indian
democratic state into a hegemonic nation representative of one
people, one faith, one language, one culture integrally different
from its present form of a representative democracy committed to
equity, freedom, justice and non-discrimination. By it’s side has been
the Hindu Mahasabha formed in 1906 that has always claimed for itself
the self-professed mission of ‘militarising the Hindu nation.’
Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the organisation founded also on a
upper-caste Hindu Brahmin ideology, has been working insidiously at
its task through varied front organisations, cultural, educational,
labour fronts, womens’ organisations all over the country. It is
founded on deep-rooted notions of pitrubhoomi (fatherland, land
of ancestors/origin) and punyabhoomi (land of faith, worship).
Implied in these
formulations in the crudest sense is the assertion, often violently
sent home that “Muslims” and “Christians” are by faith and history,
outsiders. So are, of course, the vast majority of other Indians,
Dalits, tribals and OBCs. The narrow Brahmanical (upper caste)
outlook views with suspicion those section of the Indian
subcontinent’s multifarious population who’s cultures, customs, faiths
defy hide bound notions of strict hierarchy and ‘purity’ and
impurity.’ In the past two-three decades there have been attempts to
give this essentially Brahmanic ideology an all-Hindu orientation.
The emergence of
more vociferous outfits like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and
Bajrang Dal who’s basic agenda is the operation of this ideology
through implementing several RSS programmes has enhanced the reach and
success of the movement that is today a monster with many fangs. The
RSS itself has admitted to having no less that 217 front organizations
committed in every way to the programme and orientation of the
recurrent themes linked critically to this redefinition of Indian
nationhood has been the resurgence of a ‘beaten and traumatised Hindu
identity’ that has come on to it’s own today and realized it’s
aspiration through claims to places of worship that have either a
‘Mughal’ (read ‘Muslim’) past or a collective presence (they are the
locales for worship among different sections of different communities
representing as they do ‘syncretic’ or ‘liminal’ forms of worship
influenced by Sufi Islam.
well-orchestrated movement for building a temple at Ayodhya on the
precise spot where a 400 year-old Mosque stood after demolishing the
latter in full public view and defiance of the Indian Constitution on
December 6, 1992
has been the recurrent one that echoes in Indian political life even
today. The fact that the demolition of the Mosque nearly a decade ago
left a bloodstained trail in its wake is also a factor fresh in Indian
The techniques of mobilization for an overtly threatening and violent
movement have included deliberating confusing masses of the people by
using an ostensible religious purpose or function which, in this case
have been used for political purposes which include hate speech
against religious minorities and actual violent attacks on
their person and property.
The mahaartis were so carefully used during the Bombay violence
of 1992-1993, the shilanyas were used both during the run-up to
and are being used again
as are the jalabhisheks this time to foment intra-community
hatreds in states like Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Gujarat.
It is in this context that it is necessary to understand the term used
often within the different nation states of the Indian subcontinent –communalism.
Not to be confused with communitarism, a simple definition that could
be offered is – misusing or
manipulating religion and religious symbols for political ends.
include the constant demonizing of India’s largest minority (Muslims)
by questioning their patriotism
– this deliberate taunting has often resulted in the outbreaks of
violence, and deaths in many parts of the country—and baiting the
conservative leadership visibly representing it.
A backdrop to this demonisation and subsequent conflict is always the
Partition of the subcontinent on religious lines, a result of the
assertions of religion-based nationalisms of the Muslim and Hindu
variety that resulted in not merely a border being drawn between
people’s lives. The severing was brutal taking no less than half a
million lives in religious frenzy that was unleashed.
The issue of
gender just laws concerning marriage, divorce and maintenance is
another recurrent theme within the politics of religious polarization.
This has also been cleverly used by the Hindu rightwing to agitate the
conservative Muslim male leadership resisting changes in laws
Neither the Hindu right wing that raises this issue in a near sure
fire method of provoking the Muslim leadership to irrational
assertions and mobilisations
nor their Muslim counterparts are concerned of justice and equity for
women of all communities. It is a convenient peg to whip up
Who is the RSS?
The RSS is
therefore the ideological and political fountainhead of the
ideology called Hindutva, is moreover the father organization
of the members of the overall movement including the parliamentary
wing that used to be in the past be the Jana Sangh but is today
the dominant party in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) that
The party that
heads the coalition that controls the Indian Union government today is
the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), that is sworn to this ideology. The
senior leaders of the Party that include the present Prime Minister,
Atal Behari Vajpayee,
home minister, L.K.Advani and the architect for distortion of Indian
textbooks the minister for human resources development, Murli Manohar
Joshi are all trained recruits of the RSS. The BJP has ruled in many
states over the past decade and thought he pattern of violence against
the religious minorities has shifted from largescale violence to
individual attacks against Christian religious persons and their
institutions and serious attacks on property of the minorities,
the schisms caused in Indian public life and the political discourse
by the discourse dominated by the Hindu rightwing run deep and have
serious implications for internal peace, progress and even peace on
The decision of
the states of Gujarat in western Indian and Uttar Pradesh in northern
India--- state governments controlled by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)
---to lift the ban on government servants joining the Rashtriya
Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) raised a nationwide debate in January 2000. In
defence of the move, both the BJP, prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee
and home minister, L.K.Advani then said that the RSS was/is ‘a
cultural outfit not a political one.’
What is the RSS?
It can be easily
demonstrated by the reading of the carefully collated documentation
here that the RSS is not merely a political outfit but a fascist one
with a clear goal.
The first active
leader of the RSS, M.S. Golwalkar, said as has been mentioned earlier
in this paper how he admired the cultural nationalism’ on Adolf
pride has now become the topic of the day. To keep up the purity of
the nation and its culture, Germany shocked the world by her purging
the country of the Semitic races – the Jews. National pride at its
highest has been manifested here. Germany has also shown how well nigh
it is for races and cultures, having differences going to the root, to
be assimilated into one united whole, a good lesson for us in
Hindustan to learn and profit by…. From this standpoint sanctioned by
experience of shrewd old nations, the non-Hindu in Hindustan must
either adopt the Hindu religion, must entertain no idea but the
glorification of the Hindu nation i.e. they must not only give up
their attitude of intolerance and ingratitude towards this land and
its age-long traditions, but must also cultivate the positive attitude
of love and devotion instead; in one word, they must cease to be
foreigners or may stay in the country wholly subordinate to the Hindu
nation claiming nothing, deserving no privileges, far less an
preferential treatment, not even citizen’s right.”)
While the fascist
intentions of the outfit and the ideology has been known and
understood for some years now including as has been quoted from the
above excerpts itself, an expose by Italian scholar
Marzia Casolari in year 2000 presented a real
“The aversion of the Hindutva forces to those of Italian
origin is fairly apparent. Or is it? One needs to thank Italian
academic Marzia Casolari, for telling us otherwise.
Casolari, in a brilliant research paper ("Hindutva's
Foreign Tie-up in the 1930s. Archival Evidence", Economic and
Political Weekly, January 22) has provided evidence of fascist
influence on the organizations and leaders of Hindu nationalism. These
influences, she demonstrates, were the result of direct contact
between Hindu nationalists and members of the Italian fascist state.
Although the organizational structure of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak
Sangh (RSS) was apparently independently conceived by Keshav Baliram
Hedgewar in 1925, the fascist influence on its growth and emergence
through the 1930s and the 1940s, has been ably demonstrated by
Casolari. It might be argued that the fascist influence on the
Hindutva forces was a passing phenomenon, a mere flirtation. These
links then would have nothing to do with the politics of the Hindutva
One way of testing this hypothesis would be to examine
whether the political and social concerns of the Hindutva forces today
are any different from those in the 1930s and whether they are sought
to be resolved any differently.
Among other things, Casolari's research shows that B. S.
Moonje, a Hindu nationalist leader, who was a friend and mentor of
Hedgewar and in whose house Hedgewar was brought up, met Mussolini and
"played a crucial role in moulding the RSS along Italian (fascist)
lines." In his diaries, writings and speeches, Moonje is eloquent
about his Italian experience of meeting Mussolini in Palazzo Venezia
in Rome on March 19, 1931, his visits in Rome to the Military College,
the Fascist Academy of Physical Education and the fascist youth
organizations Balilla and Avanguardisti.
Moonje felt that "The idea of fascism vividly brings out
the concept of unity amongst people ... India and particularly Hindu
India need some such institution for the military regeneration of the
Hindus....Our institution of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh of Nagpur
under Hedgewar is of this kind, though quite independently conceived.
" Extending the activities of the RSS and the setting up of a military
school, the proposed Bhonsla Military School, were at the center of
Moonje's plans. Casolari records that Hedgewar and Moonje organized
meetings to discuss Mussolini, fascism and its relevance to
militarizing Hindus. Her argument is that even if the RSS was
independently conceived, the contact with Italian fascism affected its
organization and imbued it with a sharper functional character.
One of the ways
that the present BJP controlled political dispensation influenced by
the RSS has been revealing it’s fascist inclinations is through it’s
attempts to introduce a partisan outlook into the Indian army,
hitherto known for it’s sterling professionalism.
during the first two years of BJP rule, the Indian army has been made
to play host to an RSS religious festival, called the Sindhu Darshan
festival, in Leh. The festival is the brainchild of Union home
minister, L.K. Advani who on his visit to Ladakh in 1997 discovered
that the Indus River flows through Ladakh. Mainline media in India
the infrastructure for the festival was provided by the 3rd
infantry division in Ladakh. ‘More than 500 RSS workers, including RSS
ideologue Tarun Vijay, attended the Sindhu darshan. Most of
them stayed on premises made available by the Army, which also sent
troops to erect platforms and pavilions’.
officers, who reluctantly had to participate in the festival this
year, were unhappy at the attempt to force a political meeting on
armymen. “We’ve no business here. It was purely a political meeting.
If they wanted to honour the jawans, they should have come to the
units,” one military officer interviewed by the media said.
A more recent
example of the pernicious bid to ‘instill a Hindu consciousness’ in
the army jawan was reported by another section of the national press
in August 1999.
‘Some of the jawans who were injured in Kargil can now recuperate in
air-conditioned comfort and read Tulsidas’ Ramcharitmanas at
leisure thanks to the VHP.’
A VHP brigade led by its president Vishnu Hari Dalmia, working
president Ashok Singhal and senior vice-president Giriraj Kishore ,
visited the Army Base Hospital here (New Delhi) this evening for the
installation of 18 air-conditioners the organisation had gifted. They
also very thoughtfully used the opportunity to distribute copies of
Tulsidas’ epic to the convalescing soldiers. The copies were
distributed irrespective of the recipient’s’ religious persuasion’.
Incidentally both the Kargil war and this happened on the eve of the
last Parliamentary Elections in August-Sept 1999.
especially after the BJP has been in political charge in New Delhi the
whip of the RSS over it’s parliamentary wing, the ruling party in
power, the BJP, is effectively displayed through regular political
utterances by the RSS functionaries either in approval or disapproval
of how the BJP-dominated cabinet functions or on the policy decisions
of the government.
especially evident in the run up to the last elections (1999) when the
RSS presence was covert and obvious on the issues that were
confronting the electorate. ‘RSS
says poll victory first, temple later’
was the media reading of the policy of the RSS vis a vis it’s
parliamentary outfit, the BJP.
Contrary to public perception, the RSS is totally at peace with its
political wing, BJP over the Ayodhya (Ram) temple issue.
In fact, RSS
sources say the top thing on the minds of Hindutva monoliths' top
brass is to see Atal Behari Vajpayee back as the Prime Minister,
leading a stable government so that the sensitive issue is amicably
resolved. `Mr Govindacharya's remarks do not mean that the RSS is
angry with Mr Vajpayee, or that its cadres would not work for the
party's victory in the coming elections,'' Mr Tupkari emphasised. ``He
is capable of evolving a national consensus on the sensitive Temple
issue,'' hopes Mamasaheb Ghumre, former vice-president of the VHP and
also former editor of Sangh-managed Marathi daily ``Tarun Bharat''. It
is clear to the ``Sangh Parivar'' constituents that the BJP in power
albiet with its own diluted ideology, is better than any other
political alternative. ``The RSS has full faith in Mr Vajpayee. The
Temple has better chance of getting built with him in the saddle for
five years,'' he adds.
clout that the parent, RSS has over the present government can be
gauged by the following:
The RSS was miffed over Vajpayee's unwillingness to endorse either the
anti-Christian tirade of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP)
or the 'Hinduisation' of school education as mooted by HRD Minister Murli
The high point of the confrontation between the RSS and Vajpayee came at
the end of 1998 over the Insurance Bill, which the government passed a
The RSS was opposed to permitting foreign companies into the insurance
sector, a position which the BJP had shared before it came to power.
The RSS made its parivar members, especially the Swadeshi Jagran Manch
and the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), attack the government's
policy. BMS leader and long-time RSS activist Dattopant Thengdi even
called Vajpayee the worst Prime Minister since Independence!
However, in the wake of Kargil and the 1999 electoral victory of the NDA,
, the RSS realised that whatever influence it can hope to exercise on
government policy and the
shape of the Indian polity can only be with Vajpayee
at the helm. RSS leaders, once
critical of Vajpayee, now only sing his praises!
The mouthpiece of the RSS, in
English, is The Organiser. As Organiser editor Seshadri Chari
observed, "Vajpayeeji has spent a lifetime in the RSS and known the
RSS leadership for over half a century. They understand each other's
minds. The RSS leaders are confident that, within the limitations
imposed by a coalition government, Vajpayee will work in the same
direction RSS leaders would like."
Vajpayee's first major decision as Prime Minister in making India a
nuclear power has evidence of his devotion to the RSS agenda. (From
the start the Hindu right wing had professed a fascination for the
militarisation and nuclearisation of the Indian state.)
The decision to set up a committee to review the Constitution is another
After the hijacking episode, Rajendra Singh called Hindus "cowards", not
the government which set the terrorists free! Some BJP leaders
themselves noted that he was in fact protecting the BJP by heaping
blame upon the entire Hindu community rather than the government.
The RSS’ background
Mahatma Gandhi, remembered as the Father of the Nation was assassinated on
January 30, 1948 by one Nathuram Godse, member of the Hindu Mahasabha
and formerly associated with the RSS. A ban was imposed on the outfit
subsequent to the deed.
When a move was initiated by few sympathizers of the
RSS within the Congress to lift the ban, the ministry of Home,
Government of India through a communiqué dated November 14, 1948
refused. " The information received by the Government of India shows
that the activities carried on in various forms and ways by the people
associated with the RSS tend to be anti-national and often subversive
and violent and that persistent attempts are being made by the RSS to
revive an atmosphere in the country which was productive of such
disastrous consequences in the past".
The Indian government communique had rejected the RSS’
assurance of wanting to reform itself. "He (Golwalkar) has written
letters both to the Prime Minister and the Home Minister explaining,
inter alia, that the RSS agrees entirely in the conception of a
secular state for India and that it accepts the National Flag of the
country and also requesting that the ban imposed on the organization
in February should now be lifted. These professions of the RSS leader
are, however, quite inconsistent with the practice of his followers
and for the reasons already explained above, the Government of India
find themselves unable to advise provincial governments to lift the
ban. The Prime Minister has, therefore, declined the interview which
Mr. Golwalkar had sought".
In a letter to the
RSS chief, Golwalkar, on the ban on the RSS following Gandhiji’s
assassination, Sardar Vallabhai Patel, India’s first union home
minister, had written, “ It was not necessary to spread poison in
order to enthuse Hindus and organise for their self-protection. As a
final result of their poison, the country had to suffer the sacrifice
of the invaluable life of Gandhiji. The RSS man expressed joy and
The involvement of
RSS functionaries in the incidents of violence against the minorities
have been well-documented. Similarly the government counsel appearing
in the judicial commission to investigate the ghastly murder by arson
of missionary Graham Steins (on Jan 22-23, 1999) and his two sons,
found the link between the criminal linked to the deed, Dara Singh and
“Dara linked to
Sangh: Government counsel”:
‘According to the council’s submission, based on the material on
records before it “There is sufficient evidence to suggest that Dara
Singh’s association with the RSS and the Bajrang Dal renders the
matters open to further inquiry and investigation by the CBI.’
Government counsel, senior advocate of the supreme court, Gopal
Subramaniam, and his team of three advocates, noted in their
submission, “It appears that even in order to rule out the involvement
of any organisation, it is appropriate to that a thorough
investigation is undertaken by the CBI. According to the counsel’s
report, the material on record based on witness accounts and police
record show that Dara Singh was an active member of the Go Suraksha
Samiti, a programme sponsored and implemented by the Bajrang Dal and
the VHP that he had campaigned for the BJP in the parliamentary
elections of 1998. He attended RSS camps he held out himself as a
Bajrang Dal activist and that he believed in the strong propagation of
Outfits of the
Hindu right wing, except for a few exceptions were not at the
forefront of the struggle against British rule. Many of the
individuals were seen as collaborators of the British.
The RSS and the Freedom Struggle
The RSS kept
totally aloof from the many anti-British movements of the 1940s: the
individual civil disobedience of 1940-41, the Quit India struggle,
Azad Hind Fauj, the 1945-46 upsurges around the INA trials and the
Bombay naval mutiny.
Yet the early
and mid-1940s remained a period of rapid growth, with the number of
shakhas doubling between 1940 and ’42, and with 10,000
swayamsevaks being trained by 1945 in Officers Training Camps (now
set up in nearly every province).
Similar to the
Muslim League and the other Hindu communal groups, the RSS, too,
benefited from the fact that it was never a target of British wartime
But much more
important was the way in which Hindu and Muslim communalism were
feeding into each other, with the drive for Pakistan making more and
more Hindus feel that the RSS was their best, and perhaps only
defender. Such sentiments spread particularly among the Hindus of the
Muslim-majority province of Punjab, as well UP where there was a
highly articulate and aggressive Muslim leadership. A section of the
Congress too, has come to consider the RSS a useful bulwark against
the increasing intransigence of the Muslim League.
In Bengal, the
other major Muslim-majority area, in contrast, the already powerful
progressive and Left traditions were able to block large scale RSS
inroads. Taking the country as a whole, however, recruits were
trooping into shakhas, and money, too, was pouring in.
It was a time
of prosperity for trading groups, with ample opportunities for war
contracts and profiteering, and traders have always provided the major
social bases for the RSS. Significant inroads seemed to have been made
during these years into government services also.
communal holocaust of 1946-47, ushered in Jinnah’s call for direct
action and the Great Calcutta Killings of August 1946, was regarded as
its ‘finest hour’ by the RSS.
Through active participation in riots, relief work in Hindu refugee
camps and virulent propaganda, the RSS contributed vastly to the
development of a massive fear psychosis among large sections of Hindus
about the ‘foreign’ Muslims.
onward march of the RSS was abruptly halted by the impact of the
murder of Mahatma Gandhi. Nathuram Godse had left the organisation
many years back, but no one could deny that he had been initially
trained by it, and RSS rhetoric about ‘appeasement’ of Muslims seemed
all but indistinguishable for the justifications offered for the
February 1948, the Government of India declared the RSS illegal.
shakhas lay low. Confining themselves to ‘social functions’ and
quiet group discussions. The organisation in fact crumbled quiet
rapidly, despite its much vaunted discipline and militancy, even
though repression was never very severe – much less so than what the
Communists were facing in the same period.
Eventually the RSS agreed to adopt a written constitution, maintain
regular registers of members, not to admit minors without parental
permission, and work openly and in the cultural field only.
RSS won back its legality on 12 January 1949 in this way, agreeing to
conditions, which were general enough not to seriously hamper its
work, but which still represented a humiliating surrender under
contrast with Communist behavior in the same years is rather
illuminating. The RSS leader wrote letters from the jail offering
cooperation: Communist opened ‘jail fronts’ to carry on militant
confrontations even inside prisons.
The issue came to the fore in March 1999 when a huge
controversy exploded after prime minister Vajpayee released, in the
presence of then RSS chief, Professor Rajinder Singh, a commemorative
postage stamp to mark the 110th birth anniversary of, "freedom fighter
and the founder of the RSS, Dr. KB Hedgewar."
To know the attitude of
the RSS towards Quit India Movement of 1942, one should go through the
following statement of Golwalkar, it s second active chief and
"There are bad
results of struggle. The boys became militant after 1920-21 movement.
It is not an attempt to throw mud at the leaders. But these are
inevitable products after the struggle. The matter is that we could
not properly control these results. After 1942, people often started
thinking that there was no need to think of the law"… Shri Guruji
continues, " In 1942 also there was strong sentiment in the hearts of
many. At that time too the routine work of Sangh continued. Sangh
decided not to do anything directly." No publication of Sangh throws
any light on what great work Sangh did indirectly. However, it is not
at all difficult to know what was this routine work. It was to sharpen
and aggravate the division between Hindus and Muslims. And for this
the British regularly rewarded them. During the British rule neither
RSS nor the Muslim League ever faced any ban.
The party that
heads the coalition that the Indian Union government today is run by
the political party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), that is sworn
to this ideology of majoritarianism, Hindutva. Public discourse
is muddled by the pronouncements of their leaders and functionaries
who insist that the Hindu nation is by definition tolerant, secular
However, the ideology in operation both at the level of the
central government in India and through rule in five states three
years ago, denies minorities their basic rights of the right to life,
liberty and dignity.
Both in its
ideological construct and its actual operation -- now we have had the
sorry privilege of Hindutva-inspired Hindu rashtras in
many parts of the country-- demonstrate that this ideology is
anti-democratic and violative of the basic tenets of the Indian
Constitution. In theory and applied politics it has denied the basic
human rights of a life of equality, freedom and dignity. We have seen
clear and continuing evidence of this in Gujarat, Rajasthan, Uttar
Pradesh and Maharashtra we have had, or still have in these areas that
have had their influence.
Much time and
unnecessarily wasteful energy has been spent on discussions of whether
or not the Hindutva agenda can be termed fascist. The blatant
harking to a superiority of race for one section of the population
over others, the artificial “demonising” of the “enemy other” to
explain current day problems, wrongs or conflict, the blatant
disregard for the rule of law and flaunting violations of it, all
through an embracing of violence. What more indicators of fascism do
difference between today and the situation in India five-ten years ago
is this. It is the difference between say, a historical denial of
access to resources, employment and self improvement to large sections
of our Dalit population (in over 75% of our village even today Dalits
cannot draw water from our village wells) and the current day
humiliations, through acts of targetted violence being perpetuated
against Indian Muslims and Christians, and justified by lies, that
through mass hysteria become weapons of venom and murder.
Police and Hindutva
The law and order
machinery has watched silently as more and more administrative
measures that disempower the minorities are adopted and violent
attacks on persons and property of the minority community, continue
In the Randhikpur
and Sanjeli incidents in August 1998, (wherein Muslims were forcibly
evicted from their villages)
the actions were preceded by Dharamsabhas held by the
VHP-Bajrang Dal in full public view as a silent police merely watched.
Contemporary records and police station records reveal what was said
by these leaders at these Dharamsabhas. “If Muslims want to
live here they must live as Hindus!” And to any member of the police
who dare to speak up: Journalists were embargoed form visiting Sanjeli
Mediapersons attempting to document the trends in Gujarat have been
Two years later,
for a period of a whole week, bands of the BJP, VHP and the Bajrang
Dal went on a rampage after 33 Hindu pilgrims were killed, allegedly
by militants in the Kashmir Valley. “We will reply for the killings
there with our actions here,”
said VHP’s international general secretary that proved to be the
signal for men to ‘avenge the killing of the pilgrims by attacking
properties and businesses of innocent Muslims of Gujarat”. In six
cities of the state they caused a total of Rs. 15 crore worth of
damage to the Muslim minority.
The bogey of
“forced” conversions by Christians is also a myth that is
systematically propagated by forces of the Hindu right to gain public
complicity with the violent attacks on Christian nuns, and religious
persons. Statistics inform us that Christians who formed 2.6% of
population in 1961, 2.4% in 1981 constitute only 2.3% of our
India has had a history of intra-community (communal) violence since
Independence and Partition. In report after report of every judicial
investigation into post-partition communal riots -- since Jabalpur in
1961—the judiciary has identified right-wing, Hindu exclusivist
organisations as responsible for repeated provocation that finally--
after weeks of keeping the atmosphere on the boil--- erupt into
Research has been carried out into the detailed judicial commission
reports set up after violent outbursts in different parts of the
country. These include:
Jabalpur Riots. 1961. Justice Shivdayal Srivastava’s Report.
Ranchi Riots. 1967. Justice Raghubar Dayal’s Report.
Ahmedabad Riots. 1969. Justice Jagmohan Reddy’s report.
Bombay-Bhiwandi Riots. 1970. Justice D.P. Madon’s Report.
Tellicherry Riots. 1971. Justice Joseph Vidyathils Report.
Jamshedpur Riots. 1979. Justice Narain Ghosh and Justice Rizvi’s
Meerut-Maliana. Bhagalpur (1989).
Delhi Riots (1984). Justice Ranganath Mishra Commission.
Bombay riots (1992-93), Justice B.H. Srikrishna
What are the
patterns that these investigations reveal?
investigations have revealed that in riot after riot the reports have
identified the systematic vitiation and poisoning of the atmosphere
has always been through the provocative acts of Hindu communal
organisations like the RSS, Jana Sangh, SS, Hindu Munnani, VHP, or
Not only is every
riot a replay of these orchestrated lies. The guilty -- though
identified by all these wonderful, historic documents, the reports of
inquiry commissions -- have gone unpunished.
The analysis has
also revealed that each of these judicial investigations have
identified, and strongly criticised the conduct of senior officers in
uniform who have acted in an utterly partisan way. The Justice
Srikrishna report, the most recent document of its kind, has named 15
senior police officers, including one as high-up as the then Joint
Police Commissioner, R.D. Tyagi. Incidentally, this officer was
rewarded for his conduct during the riots by the SS-BJP combine who
made him Mumbai’s police commissioner in October 1995! On retirement
in early 1998, he joined the SS, publicly declaring, “I am a loyal
soldier of Balasaheb.”
Apart from this,
most recent such indictment, every riot report since 1961 has
castigated the complicity and bias visible in the state machinery.
Justice Jagmohan Reddy, commenting on the situation in Ahmedabad as
far back as 1969 says that while more than half a dozen Muslim places
of worship were attacked though they were actually adjoining police
lines or police stations whereas not a single Hindu place of worship
was similarly destroyed. Or take the comments of Justice Madon on
police conduct during the Bhiwandi riots in 1970: “The working of the
special investigation squad was a study in discrimination.”
Every example fits
in. The Justice Vidyathil inquiry into the Tellichery riots of 1971
has observed, how, in the heat of the moment, two constables in a
complete state of frenzy yelled to the Muslim victim: “Go to Pakistan”
with two of them getting so carried away as to enter a mosque, beat up
the elderly Usmankutty Haji and shatter the tube light, chandelier
Meerut, Maliana, Bhagalpur. Same story. The height of course was
Mumbai rioters. In the taped wireless messages intercepted by this
speaker, policemen were intercepting official communication exhorting
their officers not to go to save “landya” areas, not to reach
Barely two months
after the brutal targeting of the Muslim minority in Bombay, Bombay
witnessed 13 serial bomb blasts that killed over 300 innocents. After
the bomb blasts, things only got worse. In the guise of a displaced
national honour, several hundred Muslim families were illegally
detained – often women members of alleged accused in the bomb blasts –
and then physically stripped and humiliated at the Mahim police
station and along the Konkan coast where the RDX was purportedly
smuggled in. There are recorded videotaped interviewed with the
torture was systematic. Young men, but women too. Physical assaults
and the taunts that accompanied these assaults were, “Where is your
Allah now? Learn to say He Ram.”
Over the past
decade, responding to this acute bias displaying itself in the conduct
of the Indian police forces, senior policemen have been speaking out,
boldly identifying the problem and suggesting systemic remedies.
The crux of the
analysis of members of the Indian Police Service (IPS) like Mr.
Vibhuti Rai (IG, BSF), Padma Rosha, former DG, Jammu and Kashmir,
Julio Ribeiro, former DG, Punjab, Shankar Sen, former chairperson of
the National Human Rights Commission is:
where communal riots are not put down firmly within a few hours, the
failure must be accepted as a major failure of the state
administration and the state must accept responsibility for fully
compensating the loss and injury to innocent victims of communal
rioting and restoration of their homes and sources of livelihood;
This must be done
not as an ad hoc disbursal of charity but as something which citizens
are entitled to as of right and according to certain norms laid down
beforehand. Indian citizens must have the security of feeling that
they are insured against injury.
The rationale for
this sound argument, being articulated by senior echelons of the
police force is that –
Firstly, mob violence takes place more or less openly in public spaces
where the mobs go on the rampage looting, burning, killing, often with
live coverage by the media.
Secondly, such mobs include large numbers of the inhabitants of those
areas. The whole process of inflaming passions of sections of the
populace, bringing them out, working them into a frenzy, and then
pushing them over the threshold of violence, allows ample opportunity
to the administration at every stage. There is nothing covert or
surreptitious in such mob violence.
immediate transfer of the SP or the CP responsible for laxity of
control in a riot in the area in his jurisdiction and strict punitive
action for the failure in containing the violence are also among the
suggestions that have emerged.
Punishment of the guilty, whether they be the masterminds behind
communal outfits who fuel and fan the flames of violence, the
individual rioters themselves or guilty men in uniform is a must if
society needs to be given a message that the guilty will be punished,
justice will be done and the peace and reconciliation process
initiated, facilitated by the political will of the state.
The role of the
Indian Judiciary in dealing with or tackling with the phenomenon of
majoritarian politics or neo-fascism has been singularly wanting.
Considered as the last bastion of Indian democracy, the Indian
Judiciary has failed to respond to the insidious and overt perversions
and subversions of the law and the Indian Constitution by these
majoritation forces of Hindutva.
In the run-up to
Dec. 6, 1992, there were conscientious citizens petitioning every
forum that they could in an attempt to contain the ultimate event.
They were concerned as much about the demolition of the 400 year old
Mosque as the violent rhetoric that resulted in systematic and
pre-planned violence in Ayodhya and other parts after the event.
On November 30,
1992, one such, through a public interest petition, earnestly pleaded
before the Supreme Court of India: “ Do not turn a blind eye, My
Lordships, he said. The Kar Sevaks are arriving in their
hundreds of thousands at Ayodhya. Look at the kind of speeches being
made to mobilise these crowds along the way, whether it is Sadhvi
Rithambara or Lal Krishna Advani.
(The latter, L.K.
Advani is India’s Home Minister today. He had, exhorted crowds en
route to Ayodhya, between December 1-5, 1992, both at Kashi and
Mathura advised the teeming crowds, that, “the kar seva shall
be performed with bricks and stones, not bhajans and
kirtans this time.”)
brought these points before the apex count, urging the judges to
intervene, to be more pro-active, saying it would be naïve to believe
that the kar seva could –under all these circumstances-- be
peaceful. What did the Court do? It sent an “observer” to watch, who
could only have been sorry witness to the demolition and violence!
We have in
existence today on our annals a judgment from the apex court giving a
clean chit to the philosophy of Hindutva, describing it as a
“way of life.”
One of the worst judgements in the annals of Indian jurisprudence, is
one related to hate speech, dated September 1994.
Bombay riots (1992-1993) committed citizens and lawyers from Mumbai
filed another path-breaking, historic, writ petition in the Bombay
High Court. Quoting extensively from writings in Shiv Sena chief Bal
Thackeray’s mouthpiece, the Saamna, written before and at the
height of violence in 1992-93, the petitioners demanded his arrest by
the state. The grounds?
Serious and consistent violation of sections 153a and 153b of the IPC
that relate to the offence of promoting enmity, hatred and incitement
of violence against certain groups.
Before, during and
after the outbreak of violence in Bombay, 1992-1993, the organ of the
Hindu right wing Shiv Sena, Saamna had proved itself to be the
vehicle to goad and galvanise the mobs of Shiv Sainiks into action to
kill minorities and burn and loot their properties.
Among the reams of vitriol reeled of by Shi Sena leader, Bal Thackeray
through the Saamna is this: “Muslims should draw a lesson from
the demolition of the Babri Masjid. Muslims who criticise the
demolition are without religion, without a nation.”
What was the
Bombay High Court’s response? Justices Majithia and Dudhat dismissing
the petition commented, “These articles refer to the fissiparous
tendencies among Muslims…these articles do not criticise Muslims as a
whole but Muslims who are traitors to India.”
The High Court did
not recognise that the statements contained in the writings in the
Sammna constituted violations of Indian law : 153a and 153b. The
Courts came to their decision despite the fact that Bal Thackeray had
made a public statement in the course of these hearings revealing his
utter contempt for the judiciary and the rule of law.
The Bombay High
Court exonerated the hate speech by Bal Thackeray and dismissed the
petition. When the petitioners moved the Supreme Court through a
Special Leave Petition, the apex court of India threw the appeal out.
The SLP had asked for a judicial review.
and lawyers, the late H. M. Seervai, Soli Sorabjee, Nani Palkhiwala,
Fali S. Nariman, Justice Suresh, opined
that the judgement of the apex court was wrong in law, a dangerous
precedent and should be taken up for review. A 50-pg legal opinion was
exclusively authored by the late justice H.M. Seervai for
Communalism Combat to establish his point.
Fali S. Nariman, a
senior lawyer, was constrained to observe, “When Judges speak, what
they say (and, significantly, what they, do not say) sends down strong
signals. People listen and shape their actions accordingly. The
message conveyed by the judgement lies as much in what it does not say
as in what it does. The message clearly is that the intemperate words
(of Thackeray) against a particular community likely to cause
disharmony will now not only go unpunished, but will not ever suffer a
judicial rebuke. This is the single most sinister, most deplorable
fallout of the judgement of Justices Majithia and Dudhat (of the
Bombay High Court). That all this should not have seen fit to be
corrected by the Supreme Court of India when its jurisdiction was
invoked, prompts only a plaintive prayer, “Where then, O Lord, shall
we turn for the redressal of palpable wrongs?”
developments in India need to be viewed in the light of increasingly
intolerant functionings by the police and state governments that
justify deaths through encounters.
In the past years alone, increasing deaths through shooting have been
the norm and many states, including Maharashtra
have included draconian preventive detention laws that are a potential
and real threat to free speech and basic human rights. In the wake of
these developments, taking full advantage of the September 11, 2001,
WTC attack and the attack on the Jammu and Kashmir state legislature
and the Indian Parliament on December 13, 2001, the Indian government
has promulgated a preventive detention ordinance.
In the decade
between 1984-5, India had another preventive detention law, The
Terrorist and Disruptive Practices Act (TADA) that was noted for both
poor rates of conviction and abuse of natural justice and basic lives.
Far from targeting terrorists, the law had been used to target
dissenting voices, and increasingly in the early and mid-nineties as a
tool to silence the religious minorities.
In the present atmosphere of ‘nationalist’ hysteria and anti-minority
jargon, it is being apprehended that POTO can only do worse. TADA was
finally repealed after vehement protests by human rights and civil
liberties groups; a pro-active role played by the National Human
Rights Commission (NHRC). The NHRC has strongly opposed the
imposition of POTO too.
The state and
fabric of Indian democracy and the rule of law, today is extremely
fragile. International interventions are vital. While the assault is
directly from the Hindu right wing, the failure of other ‘secular’
political parties has allowed the sway of these forces. The erosion
that we presently witness began its destructive course even under
previous governments ruled by avowedly secular parties like the
Congress (I), Janata party and the United Front. The Congress (I) in
fact, with its cynical disregard to the systemic blows being
perpetrated by the venomous leaders outfits sworn to the Hindutva
world view, ignored, pampered and fondled these tendencies allowing
them greater and greater legitimacy and sway in civil society each
No better example
of this can be found than the manner in which the party, in
Maharashtra encouraged the shrewd machinations of the Shiv Sena and
its chief, Bal Thackeray, who from the launch of his notorious
political career, ridiculed democracy as a political choice, scorned
debate and dialogue, eschewed violence and just by the way, in the
course of his unhindered political career, activity fermented hatred
among his followers, urging them through persistent hate propaganda,
to kill, attack and loot the homes of first south Indians, then
Gujaratis and now, Muslims.
Thackeray and his
senior party men stand seriously exposed for their techniques of
operation most recently in the Justice B.N.Srikrishna Commission
report of Inquiry into the Mumbai riots of December 1992- January
no action was taken against them by the Congress dispensation in the
state between 1993 and 1995 when the Congress (I) continued to rule
This document, the
Justice Srikrishna report, is one of the finest analyses from a member
of the Indian judiciary, a sitting member of the Mumbai High Court of
how the politics of hate-mongering actually works. It elaborates in
detail how the systematic whipping up of sectarian, communal
sentiments among the majority community creates a climate conducive
for the complete failure of the state administration -- because the
administration itself has become victim of a certain malicious
propaganda based on lies and myths, and therefore an agent provocateur
in the violence itself --- to intervene and protect lives and property
of minorities. That is how a minor or major incident of communal
violence swiftly transforms itself into an all-out, full-fledged
pogrom against the minorities.
It happened under
a Congress (I) regime here in New Delhi in 1984 when senior Congress
leaders were found leading mobs and policemen to attack and kill over
3,000 Sikhs following the assassination of prime minister Indira
Gandhi, simply because her assassin belonged to the same religious
It happened in Mumbai in 1992-93 too.
It is important
not to forget that the signals were also visible through the
Meerut-Malliana massacres in Uttar Pradesh in 1987 (when the UP state
Provincial Armed Constabulary cold-bloodedly gunned down 17 Muslim
youths) and thereafter in Bhagalpur a few years later. Here, corpses
of over 100 Muslim bodies were hurriedly buried and cauliflower
planted over them to obliterate the crime!
It is interesting
to see, how, in every single post-Independence (and therefore
post-Partition) communal riot on Indian soil as mentioned before, the
pattern has been clear.
clear-cut evidence through this analysis that exposes that most often,
these perpetrators of violence and hatred belonged largely to majority
communal outfits, the Indian executive ruled by a “secular” Congress(I)
has also shown a singular reluctance to act against them or those men
in uniform found prime facie guilty of biased conduct. The laxity of
the state involves a reluctance to:
(a) Putting down
Punishing those guilty of illegal activities and incendiary speeches
that prepares fertile ground for the violence to break and
Punishing the guilty men in uniform who's actions have revealed both
criminal action and partisan conduct
Rewarding the rare examples of lawful, brave and exemplary conduct.
This is indeed a
sorry record for any society or polity interested in strengthening or
deepening the values of justice, equality and fairplay among the
for Sabrang Communications & Publishing Private Limited
The Communal Threat-A Deepening Challenge to the Struggle
for Human Rights, memorial
lecture delivered at the Champa-Amiya Rao Foundation, New Delhi,
by Teesta Setalvad, December 10, 1998
Communal Threat-A Deepening Challenge to the Struggle for Human
memorial lecture delivered at the Champa-Amiya Rao Foundation, New
Delhi, by Teesta Setalvad, December 10, 1998
We or Our Nationhood Defined,
M.S. Golwalkar, founder of the RSS, 1939
or Our Nationhood Defined,
M.S. Golwalkar, founder of the RSS, 1939
Khakhi Shorts and Saffron Flags,
Orient Longman, 1993
The Fascist Convention, Economic and
Political Weekly reproduced in
Hindustan Times, February 18, 2000, ‘The Other Italian
The Hindustan Times, August 20, 1999:
Indian Express, August 15, 1999
The Indian Express,
August 15, 1999
Khakhi Shorts and Saffron Flags, Orient Longman, 1993
Shorts and Saffron Flags, Orient Longman, 1993