Protest against Repression of Coaching Students in Bihar

The AISA took up several initiatives against the repression unleashed on students protesting against coaching centres in Bihar and against the loot in the name of Nitish’s boasts of turning Bihar into an ‘education hub.’ On 12 February protest demonstrations and burning of Nitish’s effigy took place at Ara, Darbhanga, Samastipur, Bhagalpur, Sitamarhi,

AISA activists on 3-day hunger strike at Bihar Assembly demanding legislation and other measures to protect rights of coaching students

Nawada and other district HQs. At Patna, students marched from the local radio station to Dak Bangla Chauraha where they held a protest meeting and burnt the CM’s effigy. Addressing the gathering, AISA National VP Abhyuday demanded compensation for the two students – Sachin Sharma and Krishnakant Jha who died in the violence against protesting students, confiscation of the immense ill-gotten wealth and weapons of those who run coaching institutes, a pro-student coaching policy, and end to political patronage of the coaching mafia and an end to the policies of privatisation and commercialisation of education, of which the worst example are the coaching institutes.

On 13 February, AISA called for a state-wide bandh in universities. AISA held a militant march and ensured success of the bandh at Lalit Narayan Mithila University and Tilkamanjhi University, Bhagalpur. At Sitamarhi, AISA’s bandh call not only resulted in shutting down of the government colleges but also private coaching institutes. At Patna University, classes remained fully suspended in Darbhanga House, Patna College, Science College; university offices remained shut and students boycotted exams. Teachers and karmacharis also supported the bandh. The Bandh was also successful at Bihar University, Muzaffarpur, and many colleges in Samastipur, Nawada, Jamui, Vaishali and Jehanabad.

Through the bandh, AISA demanded that maximum fees for any course be fixed at Rs. 1000, a cap of 60 students per batch, a high-level enquiry into the nexus of coaching institutions with politicians, confiscation of the wealth of coaching centre operators, compensation of a crore each to the students who were killed, and fixing of room rent at Rs. 500 in private hostels. AISA warned of a state-wide protest demonstration and hunger strike outside the Bihar Assembly if the Government failed to introduce a bill to rein in the coaching institutes on the first day of the Assembly session.

Students on the Warpath against ‘Coaching Mafia’ in Bihar

It was nine in the night on February 8 – all seemed as usual in Patna’s Bazaar Samiti area famed for its coaching centres. At one corner of the most crowded crossroads, however, an unusual sight could be seen: two students held placards in their hands and were raising slogans, and were gradually joined by a few more students. Coaching centre operator Neeraj Singh had humiliated these students by tearing up their identity cards and throwing them out of class when they asked a question. These coaching institutions have a close nexus with political powers and they have hired goons – therefore it was unheard of for students to dare to challenge them. But that day, two students stood up to them – and students all Patna responded to this brave gesture by spilling out onto the streets.

Within half an hour, thousands of students collected at the crossroads, targeting first Neeraj Singh’s coaching institute and then other such institutes in the area. The students’ numbers kept swelling, and they then made their way to other parts of the State capital. In the morning of 9 February, students targeted coaching institutes at Musallahpur, Naya Tola, Lal Bag, and Ramna Road. Coaching institutes run by K Singh and S K Mishra, Kartar Coaching – all these symbols of commercialised education-shops were targeted by the students. A guard in the S K Mishra institute fired and killed a student Sachin Sharma (from Nalanda) on the spot. The killing made the students’ protests erupt in anger.

The police then unleashed brutal repression and terror, lathicharging students and severely injuring hundreds, who were then dumped in wards at PMCH hospital, where they received no treatment. A student Krishnakant Jha from Saharsa succumbed to injuries for lack of medical care. The police, desperate to suppress the students’ upsurge, beat up and intimidated students into leaving Patna.

The upsurge against these coaching institutes has not happened all of a sudden – what has come to the fore is the expression of long-simmering rage within students against commercialisation and sheer loot in the name of education. The episode has again exposed the reality behind the Nitish Government’s tall claims of ‘educational reforms.’ The fact is that a massive education business has mushroomed in the State capital, with a turnover of 1000 crore every year; and far from any government supervision or control, the whole exploitative business has protection and patronage of various ruling class parties. The ‘coaching industry’ is an extremely unscrupulous one – capitalising on students’ aspirations with faked statistics of successes in competitive exams, ads full of falsehoods, and baseless commendations procured by ruling politicians.

Nitish Kumar’s first response to the news of the upsurge was a flippant, “Such things keep happening in Bihar.” Subsequently, when the impact that the episode was having dawned on him, he went into damage control mode, hurriedly announcing that a Bill to regulate the coaching industry would be introduced in the next Assembly session and getting the Patna DM to invite student representatives for a discussion.

But weak and superficial measures cannot address the problem – the root of which lies in the government’s policy of promoting privatisation and commercialisation of education, which in turns forces students to compete for an ever-shrinking space in the education- and job-market.

The Telangana Crisis: Condemn the Ruthless Police Repression on the Osmania University Students’ Rally of 14th Feb 2010!

The Telangana Crisis:

Condemn the Ruthless Police Repression on the Osmania University Students’ Rally of 14th Feb 2010!

Expose and defeat UPA’s Deflective and Delaying Tactics!

March Ahead With the Demand for Telangana State Braving All Repression!

In view of the recent developments in Telangana and faced with the overwhelming evidence of discrimination and underdevelopment that the region has faced , it is clear that while the government is no longer in a position to deny statehood to Telangana, it has resorted to a range of tactics to delay and deflect. From its repertoire of tricks, the central government has pulled out an old favorite – yet another committee, this time headed by Justice Sri Krishna to look into the Telangana question. The ‘terms of reference’ of this committee, made public last Friday(12.2.10), have provoked outrage and a sense of betrayal among the people of Telangana, sparking a fresh spurt of agitations across the state.

There was an immediate call for a Telangana-wide bandh by the JAC (Joint Action committee, comprising political representatives from the region drawn from all parties) and the TSJAC (Telangana Students Joint Action Committee) the following day, Saturday 13th Feb. The State government responded by imposing section 144 all over Telangana and massing paramilitary forces, Grey Hounds and Rapid Action Force in addition to CRPF, CISF and APSP Armed Battalions, Civil Police and Home Guards in Osmania. On Sunday evening, students had assembled in front of the Arts College on Osmania University campus to take out a rally. With the excuse that this was a breach of the just imposed section 144, the police launched a vicious and unprovoked lathi charge against the protesting students. Tear gas shells and rubber bullets were fired. Students and media persons were indiscriminately and mercilessly beaten. Several media persons sustained injuries, their cameras smashed and vehicles set on fire by the police. Women-students were not spared either and were among the worst hit. One girl-student lost an eye, another suffered head injuries, and another girl had both legs injured. Police violence and student-suicides have already resulted in over 200 dead during the current struggle.  While the High Court in Hyderabad has ordered the police out of the campus, students continue to face harassment from the continuing police presence. There have been complaints of abuse by the police from girl students.

Let us look at why the ‘Terms of Reference’ of the Srikrishna panel have aroused such widespread anger and despair in Telangana. The committee proposes to “To examine the situation in the State of Andhra Pradesh with reference to the demand for a separate State of Telangana as well as the demand for maintaining the present status of a united Andhra Pradesh” and to “To review the developments in the State since its formation and their impact on the progress and development of the different regions of the State.”

Shockingly, in the ToR there is no mention of a roadmap for the formation of the Telangana state or any concrete assurance of the modalities to be followed. Following their December 9th announcement initiating the formation of a separate state in Telangana, the UPA government is now perceived to be backtracking on that promise. Despite one of the biggest mass, democratic movements of our times that has forced the government to its feet, the popular demand for a separate state has been disregarded. There already exists extensive research on the disparity of development in the state of Andhra Pradesh. The necessity of further study is questionable and appears more to be an attempt at delaying and deflecting the process.

The committee further intends to “examine the impact of the recent developments in the State on the different sections of the people such as women, children, students, minorities, other backward classes, scheduled castes and scheduled tribes” This point is unclear. By “recent developments in the state” if they mean the ongoing struggle for Telangana, then this would be superfluous, as it is these very sections who are struggling for statehood.

When a consensus has already emerged from Telangana for a separate state, wider consultations on the feasibility of the demand are unwarranted and a further subjection of the Telangana people to the will of other regions. The extended timeframe is also an attempt to diffuse the movement.

AISA appeals to all democratic sections of the country to strongly condemn the unprecedented repression that has been unleashed against the students and all sections of pro-Telengana people, rally with the democratic demand for a Telangana state and resist all diversionary and repressive tactics of the Congress government.

From “KG to PG”: Resist Sibal’s Commercialisation Drive: Join All India Forum For Right to Education’s March to Parliament

Reject UPA’s Farcical Right to Education Act 2009!

Demand Free Compulsory and Quality School

Education through Common School System For

Guaranteeing Genuine Right to Education!

from “KG to PG”: Resist  Sibal’s Commercialisation Drive

join All India Forum For Right to Education’s

MARCH to Parliament

24 Feb at 10 am

From Ramlila Maidan to Parliament Street

The Arjun Sengupta Committee on the Unorganized Sector reported that 93% of India’s working population is employed in the unorganized sector, and 2/3rds of these families subsist on 20 rupees a day.

For these groups, the right to education and employment would enable them to escape the unorganized sector and earn more than bare subsistence.

Does the recently introduced Right to Education Bill, passed unanimously in Parliament in 2009, fulfill any of these expectations? The answer to this question is an emphatic ‘NO’.

How should ‘Right to Education’ be defined?

In 1993, in its landmark Unnikrishnan judgment, the Supreme Court declared that from birth until the age of 14, children were entitled to free and compulsory education and this was accorded the status of a basic right. Children below the age of 6 were to be given adequate nutrition, healthcare, a safe childhood, and pre-primary education (KG, nursery). Children between the ages of 6 and 14 were granted the basic right to primary education for these eight years. This is the most widely accepted definition of the ‘Right to Education’: namely – the right of all children until the age of 14 to nutrition, healthcare, safety, and education of an equitable standard free of cost.

But in 2002, the BJP-led NDA Government under the 86th Constitutional Amendment Act (2002) inserted a new Article (21A) in the Constitution, making the Unnikrishnan judgement redundant by defining according to the whims of the government what constitutes ‘free and compulsory education’.

The UPA’s ‘Right to Education’ Bill in its present form is based on the 86th Amendment. It is, therefore, nothing but the next step in curbing the Unnikrishnan judgement’s mandate of genuine right to education as a constitutionally mandated “fundamental rights”.

The problems with the RTE in its present form

The RTE is its present form has several fundamental, structural problems and ambiguities that shelve it of ANY potential to really provide universal right to education.

  • In the name of free, compulsory and universal education, all that the RTE promises is that 25% seats in private schools will be reserved for poor students for “free” education in private schools. The government claims that it will pick up the tab for the tuition fees for these children. However, the fact is that the government only promises to provide “vouchers” to poor children equivalent to the admission fees of government schools. The question remains as to how these children from poor families pay ‘picnic’ fees, textbook ‘fees’, sports ‘fees’ and other such expenses that private schools regularly extort?
  • There are today 19 crore children in the age bracket between 6-14 years . Of these, 4 crore children study in established private schools. If, with 25% reservation, 1 crore children get access to education, then what will happen to the remaining 18 crores? Also, once these private schools realize that the government is willing to reimburse their fees, will not their instinct be to raise these fees even higher so that they can make even greater profits?
  • Even if poor students manage to survive until Class 8, what will happen after this, when the government stops paying their fees? These children will be out on the streets once more, while those of their classmates who could pay the exorbitant fees, will pass Class 12 and go on to enter the hallowed portals of IITs, IIMs or prestigious foreign universities.
  • For all practical purposes, through the RTE, the government is facilitating the handing over of government schools to private ownership through public-private partnerships. Instead of doing this, shouldn’t the state be working to set up better government schools?
  • This is not the first time that the “free” schooling has been promised – residents of Delhi are well aware that private schools in the city were provided land practically free of cost by the government, in return for which supposed to give “free” education to poor children. Exactly how many poor children are able to access these elite facilities is there for anyone to see.
  • What is even more absurd is that this Bill states that if any citizen wishes to go to court against any private school, then he or she must first take permission from the requisite government authority! Clearly, the state desires to lend itself to supporting and protecting the interests of the already powerful private schools rather than actually bringing in legislation to expand the domain of education.

The RTE in its present form is a farce in the name of genuine right to education – it designed to keep in place the discriminatory, multi-layered education system that currently prevails. The Right to education bill cannot be seen in isolation from the other moves of the UPA Government to institute a wholesale commercialization and privatization of education. In the field of higher education, whether it is through the Yashpal Committee Recommendations or the Knowledge Commission Report, all-out moves are being made to turn education into a commodity which will be out of the reach of the many, but will be a privilege available to the very few.

The Right to Education Bill proclaims that it is providing education as a ‘right’ where it is in fact taking this right away. It needs to be seen as yet another nail in the coffin of providing universal, affordable and quality education: instead, it paves the way for handing over whatever existing government schools to private players.

There is one answer to these complexities — a Common Schooling System where every school [including the private schools] will be a neighborhood school. A full public-funded common education system alone can guarantee free education of equitable quality from pre-primary to higher education. The Right to Education in a true form will not be available so long as the present neo-liberal policy of making education a commodity for profit continues unchecked.

AISA, in association  with the All India Forum for Right to Education is organizing a Parliament Rally on 24 February 2010 to uphold a Genuine Right to Education based on Common Schooling and Neighborhood schools in place of the UPA’s farcical RTE Act. The March will start at 10 am from Ramlila Ground and culminate in a Rally at Parliament Street. We appeal to you to join this March to ensure the status of education as a basic right.

AISA’s 7th National Conference Held in Kolkata

AISA’s 7th National Conference was held in Kolkata from 8-10 February. On 8 February, AISA activists from 18 states marched through the streets of central Kolkata and assembled at College Street for a public meeting. The meeting started with the rendition of popular songs by Com. Sanjay Tiwari and a dance performance by AISA activists from Karbi Anglong. Com Ravi Rai, National Secretary, AISA, addressed the gathering from ‘Bharat-Selim-Tapashi’ manch and called for a student movement to resist state repression and Operation Green Hunt and struggling for the right to education and employment. Ramesh Patnaik, educationist and convener of Save Education Council of Andhra Pradesh demanded that education from KG to PG be made free and urged AISA activists to resist Public-Private Partnership in education. CPRM leader Com. Birendra from Darjeeling Hills said that Gorkhas are deemed fit only for guarding the country’s borders and are not recruited to high posts. He reiterated his organization’s demand for Gorkhaland state and thanked AISA for its support to the Gorkha people’s struggle for identity and against discrimination. Com.Partho Ghosh, State Secretary, CPI(ML), called for the students to raise the banner of resistance against the Conference of CMs convened by the Union Home Minister which Kolkata was hosting the next day to give finishing touches to Operation Green Hunt. He also pointed out that Mamata Banerjee’s slogan of “change” in West Bengal cannot change the fact that she is firmly behind Operation Greenhunt. Anil Sadgopal, Convener of Save Education Council of Madhya Pradesh, exposed the agenda of ‘privatisation’ and exclusion of poor students that underlies the UPA Government’s rosy promises of educational ‘reform’ and ‘Right to Education.’ Nabarun Bhattacharya, Bangla poet, said that restrictions on cultural programmes in Jadavpur University are an attempt on the part of the authorities to intimidate students. Com.Indresh Maikhuri, National President, AISA, spoke of the assaults on campus democracy.

On the second day of the National Conference, the organisational session began at the Triguna Sen auditorium at Jadavpur University with a ‘John Henry’ ballet mime performance by the Thakurnagar Cultural Association. Comrade Dipankar, General Secretary, CPI(ML), delivering the inaugural address, said that it is the duty of revolutionary student activists to free student politics from the clutches of the establishment and direct it towards the struggle of the toiling masses and for democracy.

Comrade Ravi Rai presented the draft document of the Conference. 309 delegates from 18 states attended the Conference, and discussed the document on the last day of the Conference. The draft was unanimously passed and a 95 member National Council was elected by the house. The National Council elected a  45-member National Executive and a 10 member office-bearer team. A 13-point resolution was also adopted by the house. Comrade Ravi Rai was re-elected General Secretary and Comrade Sandeep Singh was elected President.

Hundreds March in AISA-AIPWA’s Rally From Vivekananda Statue (DU) to Kamla Nagar Called in Defense and Celebration of ‘Love in Our Times’!

Students, Teachers, Activists and Intellectuals March to Uphold

the Right to Freedom and Dignity!!

Public Meeting Tomorrow (Feb 15) From 12.30 pm At Vivekananda Statue!!

Hundreds of students, teachers, intellectuals and activists marched on the streets of Delhi today from Vivekananda statue (DU) to Kamla Nagar in defense of the right of each individual to make independent decisions on love and marriage. This march was organised by the All India Students’ Association (AISA) and the All India Progressive Women’s Association (AIPWA). “The past few years have seen a resurgence of attacks by fascist and patriarchal forces on the rights of women to make choices regarding their lives – the shameful attack on women in a pub in Mangalore by goons belonging to the Sri Ram Sene, the regular attacks by the Shiv Sena on couples celebrating Valentine’s Day, or the patently illegal diktats by ‘khaap panchayats’ dictating whom one can marry and whom one cannot are examples.”, said Rajrani, vice president, AISA DU.

Today’s rally therefore was to reassert the importance of love in our times. “As a political act this is all the more important when we consider the increased spate of attacks by fundamentalist forces on women.”, said Sunny, General Secretary, AISA DU. “These groups seeks to curtail and control women’s agency, and they reinforce their hidebound diktats in the name of upholding ‘Indian culture’. This is the case, whether we think of the stereotyped portrayal of male and female roles in consumer culture, in the horrific judgments of khaap panchayats, or even the recent declarations made by the courts of the land on upholding a woman’s ‘virtue’ and ‘chastity’,”, said Sucheta, General Secretary, AISA, JNU Unit.

AISA-AIPWA is also organising a public meeting on the theme tomorrow (15th Feb): the list of speakers includes poets Anamika and Noor Zaheer; Pankaj Bisht, editor of Samyantar and a noted writer; Arvind Jain, Supreme Court lawyer; and Rukmini Bhaiya Nair, poet and academic from IIT Delhi. The meeting will start at 12.30 pm at the Vivekananda Statue, Arts Faculty, Delhi University.

Unite Against Forces of Chauvinism, Communalism and Hate !!

Expose UPA’s Divisive Politics! Defend All Peoples’ Right For Education and Employment With Dignity !!

A couple of days back, the Congress government of Maharashtra took a highly dangerous and divisive decision that taxi permits in the state will only be given to  individuals who have resided in the state for 15 years and who are able to demonstrate competence in speaking, reading and writing Marathi. Though they have subsequently tried to partially backtrack, this step reeks of precisely the language that is commonly associated with fundamentalist and chauvinist forces like the MNS and Shiv Sena.

This is not the first time that migrants in Mumbai and elsewhere in Maharashtra – taxi drivers, factory workers and vendors eking out a living – have been the targets of attack by fundamentalist forces like the MNS and Shiv Sena. In fact, many of the MNS’s goons had bashed up migrant workers to drive home their point about the Marathi Manoos before the Assembly elections. Throughout MNS’s repeated violent attacks on migrants, and their hate campaign, the Congress not only gave MNS goons and leaders a free hand, it actually played the same game of chauvinism. For every MNS-led agitation against outsiders taking the railway recruitment board exams, there has been a Congress echo in the form of ‘reservation of jobs for locals’. For every Sena ‘Shiv’ pav vada, there has been the Congress’s ‘kaande pohe’. And now it is no surprise that the Congress government is singing the same tune against the taxi drivers with the hope to outsmart MNS-Shiv Sena in the upcoming Mumbai civic polls.

This decision taken by the Maharashtra Cabinet is completely undemocratic and violative of the Constitution. It is completely violative of the fundamental Right to Freedom which is a part of the Indian Constitution which allows citizens of India to freely move throughout the territory of India, to reside and settle in any part of the country, and gives the freedom to practice any profession or occupation.

Through such actions, the Congress has once again exposed its rank opportunism as well as its readiness to provide opportunities for forces like the MNS and Shiv Sena to expand and incite people with their hateful propaganda. Now, with this latest offensive, the floor has been opened for the MNS, with Raj Thackeray proclaiming that “Maharashtra is not a dharmashala for North Indians” and threatening that if taxi licenses are not allocated to Marathi youths alone, his  organization would go on a rampage and not allow taxis to ply.

What we see here is what has been seen many times before: how the  Congress for their own opportunism and short term gain time and again works to fertilize the field of hate, communalism and chauvinism whose benefits are eventually reaped by the declaredly fundamentalist forces of the Sangh-Sena brigade. Let us not forget:

  • It was Rajiv Gandhi’s Congress government that opened the lock of the Babri Masjid which allowed the saffron brigade to demolish the mosque and plunge the country into a bloody communal frenzy for almost a decade.
  • For almost two decades, Indira Gandhi-led Congress played the soft Hindutva card which earned her the accolade of ‘Devi Durga’ from no less than Atal Bihari Vajpayee. In the elections following Mrs. Gandhi’s death and the bloody anti-Sikh riots, it is the RSS which came out in open support of the Congress with the RSS chief proclaiming before the elections in 1984 that there is no alternative to the Congress.
  • Even earlier, in the early 60s, it was no less than Nehru who invited and allowed the RSS to participate in the Republic Day Parade, lending a false legitimacy to the RSS as a ‘cultural’ organization, even while it was openly indicted for Gandhiji’s murder.

The Congress’s recent act in Maharashtra has to be seen in the continuity of its shameful history of pandering to and cajoling these chauvinist and communal forces.

The neo-liberal policies of the last two decades have spawned massive unemployment and increasing joblessness. The UPA’s policies are intensifying this process with every passing day. Be it the Shiv Sena-MNS or the Congress, the ruling class forces have chosen the convenient shortcut of pitting the unemployed youth in different states against in a bid to deflect their insecurity and anger in the face of joblessness and unemployment. It is only through such devious methods of division and hate that the ruling parties are clouding the face of the real enemy and trying to escape the wrath of the people against anti-poor policies.

It is high time the democratic sections of the country resist the forces of open chauvinism of the saffron brigade and expose the outright hypocrisy and the ‘human mask’ of the Congress. The real questions of accessible quality education, of dignified jobs and employment, must be the central agenda of the student and youth struggle today. The forces that are trying to divide a mass united movement of the student, youth and the working people against neo-liberal assaults must be given a fitting rebuff.

‘ Love Jihad ‘ : Communal Myth Recycled

– Mona Das

Recently, Bajrang Dal leaders of Mangalore beat up three young Muslim men who were found travelling with some Hindu girls, claiming that these boys were a part of the ‘love-jihad’ racket and ‘our girls’ have to be ‘protected’ from the terrorists. The RSS propaganda machinery has been aggressively pushing the story that professional ‘jihadis’, many a times from across the border, are out there plush with foreign funds to lure innocent Hindu girls into converting to Islam, marrying them, and producing four children to be used in the ‘Jihadist’ project; over 4000 Hindu girls have been lured into conversions, according to them.
Even the Courts have given credence to the Sangh propaganda. High Courts of Kerala and Karnataka, in different habeas corpus petitions, have directed the state administration to investigate the alleged ‘love jihad racket.’ In one case, the Karnataka High Court discounted the statement by the 23-year-old software engineer Siljalraj that she had gone with Azghar of her own accord, and has said that the case had “national ramifications… concern security, besides the question of unlawful trafficking of women”! The Kerala Court has even written to the Home Ministry at the Centre to take due care as this project has national security ramifications.
These court rulings were preceded by an order from the Congress-led Maharashtra Government for a CID investigation into all marriages between Hindu women and Muslim men. This order was in response to a demand made by two BJP MLAs who smelt a “conspiracy to increase the Muslim population” in the growing incidence of such marriages in the state’s rural areas. This order was later withdrawn as a result of protests.
For groups like Bajrang Dal and Sri Ram Sene, the court verdicts are a heaven-sent opportunity to unleash violence on the Muslim community and intensify moral-policing of women. Sri Ram Sena has actually declared the formation of a band of 6000 goons who will keep an eye on activities of young Muslim boys in places like ice-cream parlours and cinema halls. This, when the highest officials of the police have made categorical statements both in Kerala and Karnataka that there is no evidence pointing to any such racket. Then what is the hype all about?
The RSS has a time-tested penchant for peddling myths and using rumours to fan communal tension. “Love Jihad’ is nothing but a figment of communal imagination to be used to tighten patriarchal controls and create a fear of the ‘other’. No fascist project can be complete without tightened control over a woman’s body, her sexuality and agency, which makes for ethnic, cultural, racial and national purity. Women’s bodies, for them, represent porous borders – and the ‘love-jihad’ project is part of the project of sealing borders.
‘Lustful’ Muslims: ‘Innocent’ Hindu girls
Creating a bogey of Muslim men out to seduce Hindu women is an age-old Hindutva project. The Arya Samaj, Hindu Mahasabha and the RSS set themselves the task of creating a mythology beginning with Allauddin Khilji to the present times about forceful abductions, rape conversion of Hindu women – all towards mobilising Hindu masculinity to ‘protect the honour’ of the community, whose central signifier was a Hindu woman. Her body was seen as a potential site of sexual and religious defilement by the lustful Muslims.
In 1924, an Arya Samajist brought out an Urdu booklet titled ‘Rangila Rasul’ (The Playboy or The Debauched Prophet). This booklet was a perverse and fantastic detailing of Prophet’s sexual life and tastes. The booklet opens with the lines:
“If someone is out of sorts, marry her!/To light an extinguished lamp, marry her!/If she is a beauty, marry her!/She has a treasure, marry her!/Let the flowers in the garden entice the bulbul/I am enticed by my Rangila Rasul’
By vilifying the prophet an attempt was made to portray the entire community as lustful, perverse. This booklet created a lot of controversy, the writer was killed and the booklet eventually banned by the British Government. Even then, pamphlets were circulated issuing warnings and instructions to Hindu women. They were advised not to let any Muslim selling bangles inside the house, not to approach any Muslim for help even if you are lost.
Let us not forget that in the wake of the Gujarat carnage the propaganda mills spun rumours that Muslim boys were luring adivasi girls. The BJP during the last assembly elections in UP had distributed CDs that were carefully engineered to create the bogey of the ever-deceitful, violent, anti-woman Muslim youth whose main agenda is to coerce, deceive and rape gullible Hindu women. Prior to their pub attack, the Sri Ram Sene in the Dakshina Kanada district had indulged in innumerable attacks on Muslim and Hindu men and women who befriend each other – one young 15-year old schoolgirl even committed suicide after public humiliation by the Sene.
‘Dying race’: another age-old RSS formula
Besides creating this image of lustful outsiders there is repeated evocation of visions of a shrinking Hindu population. Hindus as a ‘dying race’ are pitted against an exponentially growing Muslim population. Anshu Malhotra in her historical work describes how the Shuddhi and Sangathan programmes launched by the Arya Samaj in Punjab embodied anxieties about the supposedly dwindling numbers of Hindus.
The Gujarat carnage witnessed horrors like ripping wombs of pregnant Muslim women with trishuls because these wombs would produce ‘terrorists’. Narendra Modi’s ‘hum paanch hamare pacchhees’ plays on the same theme, as do the call by Sadhvi Rithambhara and Uma Bharati to Hindu women to produce more children.
The ‘love-jihad’ propaganda reproduces the exaggerated notion of Muslim population growing to overtake Hindus, with its claims of ‘forced conversion’ of Hindu women who will then ‘produce four children.’ The BJP MLAs of Maharashtra made this precise point when they demanded investigation into cases of Muslim men marrying Hindu women, which they claimed was part of a conspiracy to ‘increase Muslim population.’
But the question remains, how are communal fascist forces able to garner support for such actions and propaganda? This is mainly because in wider society, too, there is great anxiety over woman’s autonomous sexuality – as expressed by the phenomenon of ‘honour’ killings, khap panchayats etc. This is why even some Christian groups in Kerala have unfortunately reacted to the communal bogey of a “Love Jihad” by echoing the VHP and warning Christian families to guard their ‘wards’ more closely.
The ‘love jihad’ theme of the RSS seeks to combine two agendas of the saffron brigade: the agenda of moral-policing and that of communal witch-hunt of Muslim youth by branding them as terrorists. The women’s movement faces the challenge of taking the saffron propaganda head-on and defending women’s rights and the civil liberties of minorities.