Tomorrow, we will be celebrating the birth of a “sovereign” nation, a nation whose constitution mandates the principles of secularism and socialism. Ironically, as we observe the “Independence” of a “secular” and a “socialist” republic, we have the vocal proponents of a Hindu Rashtra at the helm of affairs of the country! Our elected Prime Minister owes allegiance to the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), an organization that swears by the “Laws of Manu”. Should it then surprise us that the RSS and the RSS-inspired Prime Minister have little regard for human rights, women’s rights, religious freedom, sexual justice and secularism?
Right now, across the country, the state-patronised “horror stories” are unfolding! Yesterday, we witnessed the shocking assassination attempt on Umar Khalid, an ex-JNU student and leading activist. The attack on Umar Khalid is a consequence of the relentless campaign of fake news, hate speech and incitement to murderous violence, directed by the Sanghi machinery and the Godi Media against students, academics, activists, dissenters and journalists.
Umar, along with other JNU students was cast in the role of the ‘anti-national’ by Godi Media channels after 9 February 2016. Zee News ran fake videos claiming he and other JNU students raised ‘anti-India’ slogans. Even after months and months vicious campaigns by media and saffron brigade, the Delhi Police has failed to file a chargesheet against any of the JNU students in the past two years. The Delhi High Court has also seen through the mischievous game and has set aside the vindictive and manipulative punishments by the JNU administration to frame Umar and other students not once but thrice in last two years. The hatemongering however continues unabated. It is this climate of relentless hate-speech and fake news that has resulted in the shocking incident where a gunman could attack Umar Khalid in broad daylight in front of Delhi’s Constitution Club, and make his escape unhindered in spite of the “tight security cover” and “terror alert” in Delhi just days before Independence Day! Expectedly, the BJP’s New Delhi MP Meenakshi Lekhi shamelessly has indulged in victim blaming, claiming the attack on Umar is “sensationalism” and “drama”. The same Godi media and the Modi Government however maintain a telling silence when just few days back anti-reservation outfits openly burn the Constitution of India in the national capital.
Acts like the burning of the Constitution at Parliament Street and the attempt to murder Umar Khalid outside Constitution Club days before Independence Day are not the work of ‘fringe groups’ – they are clear messages by India’s fascists that democracy and the Constitution are in their firing line.
Creating ‘Secondary’ Citizens: RSS and Muslims
For the RSS, India is, and should be, a Hindu Rashtra. In the book, We, Or Our Nationhood Defined, RSS ideologue and chief MS Golwalkar wrote: “the foreign races in Hindusthan must either adopt Hindu culture and languages must entertain no idea but of those of glorification of the Hindu race and culture…Or may stay in the country, wholly subordinated to the Hindu nation, claiming nothing, deserving no privileges, far less any preferential treatment — not even citizens’ rights”. He theorised in Bunch of Thoughts that Muslims and Christians are “internal threats” to the nation.
Ever since the Modi government came to power in 2014, we have witnessed a marked increase in hate speech and violence against minorities, specially Muslims. Mob lynchings and its triumphant celebrations have become the “new normal”– bloodthirsty crowds can be seen to revel in humiliation, beatings, killings, video recording and circulating them with with no fear of law. The excuses and ‘justifications’ are by now familiar to us: the targets are branded as ‘cow smugglers’ and ‘slaughterers’, ‘love jihadis’, ‘beef eaters’ and ‘child lifters’ and then openly killed. The trajectory of all these murders is also painfully similar. Essentially, people in positions of power – elected BJP MLAs and MPs and police officials – clearly indicate that they support the mob and the lynchings. In Rajasthan, Afrazul Khan was publicly burnt to death by Shambhulal Regar who proudly videographed the gruesome episode and posted it online. A mob marched to the Udaipur court premises demanding Regar’s release, physically delaying the chargesheet from being filed and finally planting a saffron flag on the court building. Zafar Khan was publicly thrashed to death by Rajasthan civic body officials. A crowd in Dadri wrapped the dead body of a man accused of lynching Mohammad Akhlaq in the national tricolour. Yet another BJP MP and Minister Jayant Sinha celebrated the release on bail of a group of men convicted of lynching Alimuddin Ansari in Jharkhand; Sinha distributed sweets and garlanded the lynchers. In Hapur in UP, the police horribly dragged Qasim, a victim of mob violence, like a captured animal. In Alwar, the police took more than three hours to take Rakbar Khan to hospital after he was beaten by a mob. Rakbar died in police custody, and there are in fact reports that the police added to the beatings.
A sting operation by the NDTV shows the perpetrators of mob lynchings are openly proud of their acts. They are sure of the protection they will receive from the police, from the government and from ordinary people.
In a recent opinion piece, political scientist Christophe Jaffrelot argues that India is now a de facto Hindu Rashtra (Indian Express, 12 August 2018). The Sangh Parivar is not a parallel government; it IS really the “deep state” dictating terms and running the State, he says. There is no “law and order problem”, people are not “taking law into their hands”; rather, they ARE the law in this “new India”. “The Sangh Parivar’s work partakes in a new formation of the state, the formation of a de facto Hindu Rashtra based on unofficial, societal regulation with the blessing of the official state. If one day the Constitution of India is amended, it may become a de jure Hindu Rashtra.”
For years, the RSS and the BJP have unabashedly been spreading sectarian hatred. The RSS and BJP today are busy promoting their hero Deendayal Upadhyaya and his views/writings on Muslims. Recently, in article titled “Muslim Samasya: Deendayal Ji Ki Drishti Mein” (written by Dr Mahesh Chandra Sharma in a special edition of an RSS magazine Rashtra Dharma Nov 2015), quite a number of self revealing claims and admissions were made. The article claimed that Sangh ideologue Deendayal Upadhyaya was against ‘Hindu-Muslim unity’ and believed that issue of ‘unity’ was ‘irrelevant’ and appeasement of the Muslims. It further claimed that Upadhyaya said that “a person turns an enemy of the nation after becoming a Muslim”!!! (Indian Express 3 Nov 2015).
In the BJP-RSS imagination, Indian Muslims are politically wedded to Pakistan, and hence their Indianness is always suspect. The subordination not only of Muslims and other religious minorities, but of Dalits, other oppressed and backward castes, and women is then central to the RSS vision for India – a vision that is espoused wholly by the BJP.
Celebrating the Laws of Manu: Dalits, RSS and the BJP
“Certainly, the number of incidents (have) increased. So many cases (of atrocities on people from SC and ST communities) are taking place every day because there is no fear in mind.” – Udit Raj, BJP MP.
Lynching of Dalits (along with lynching of Muslims), murder of Dalit activists and protesters, and arrests of Dalit leaders like Bhim Army leaders who challenge the anti-Dalit violence, are now commonplace. Even BJP MPs admit to this fact, stating as Udit Raj has done that “there is no fear in mind”, i.e. there is a culture of impunity regarding crimes against Dalits.
- Continuing Violence: In Rajkot, a 35-year old Dalit ragpicker was recently flogged to death. Beginning with the flogging of four Dalit men in Una for the ‘crime’ of skinning a dead cow, Dalits have been targeted for wearing shoes, drinking water from community sources, riding a horse, and in fact for any show of social, political and economic assertion.
- Scuttling of Reservations: The Modi government has launched a multipronged all-out attack on social inclusion and SC/ST/OBC reservations in education. Through the UGC, the rules for admission to M.Phil/Ph.D have been altered; the new rules are designed to completely finish off reservations and the entry of students from marginalized backgrounds in higher education. If students are being kept away from higher education, reservations in faculty recruitments are being scuttled by making departments rather than the entire institution as the basis of reservation roster system.
- Massive encouragement to private educational institutions, granting of “autonomy” to colleges, universities and so-called “Institutes of Eminence” is only another means of completely scuttling legally mandated and constitutionally guaranteed reservations. Education was meant to be a tool for social mobility and transformation. Under the Modi government, it has become yet another tool for exclusion and discrimination!
- Attempted Dilution of the SC/ST Act – a strong structural and legal protection against discrimination – was diluted. It was only after massive protests that the government was forced to take some steps to reverse this dilution.
Overall, the Modi government is systematically dismantling all institutional safeguards to protect Dalits and the marginalized against systemic oppression and violence.
Worst-Ever Attack On Women’s Autonomy, Safety, And Rights
Modi won votes with the slogan “‘Bahut hua naari par vaar, ab ki baar Modi Sarkaar.” However, what has been his govt’s track record on women’s rights?
- In Muzaffarpur, where inmates of a state-sponsored shelter home Balika Griha were repeatedly drugged, tortured and raped over a long period of time, the BJP-JDU government is implicated in a murky trail of complicity and collusion. In Devaria and Pratapgarh too in UP, similar horror stories are emerging. Yet again, a pattern emerges wherein BJP leaders support perpetrators of rape and justify sexual violence:
- In the Asaram and Ram Rahim rape cases and the Vikas Barala stalking case, BJP leaders including MPs and MLAs and party office bearers defended the accused and blamed the victims
- In the Kathua case, BJP Ministers and MLAs participated in rallies defending the accused. Even after two Minister stepped down, another BJP MLA who had participated in the rally was made a J&K Minister
- In Unnao, the BJP Government of UP protected the rape-accused BJP MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar and killed the complainant’s father after arresting him in a false case
- Students of BHU, JNU, DU, Jadavpur protesting sexual harassment have faced violence at the hands of police and/or sexist victim-blaming by senior BJP leaders. In JNU, a professor of Life Sciences, who is facing serious charges of serial of sexual harassment by as many as eight women students, and still roams scot free and continues to be shielded by an openly Sanghi administration.
- All this is of course accompanied by attacks on women’s freedoms. The Sangh Parivar, with the approval of the Modi Government, has unleashed countrywide, organised violence against inter-faith relationships which they brand as ‘love jehad’ – an abusive term that combines patriarchy with Islamophobia. This propaganda legitimises and encourages ‘honour’ crimes and killings. The Cobrapost sting revealed that Sangh and BJP leaders, as part of this campaign, indulge in abduction, beatings, and even drugging of women to force them to give up their Muslim partners.
The widespread social unrest that we are witnessing today is the result of a systematic political campaign targeting the weakest of our citizens. If democracy and ‘independence’ has to survive in any meaningful manner, we cannot ignore these ominous developments. We cannot sit back quietly and watch as structural safeguards are removed and vulnerabilities of the marginalized only increase. For the people of India, there can be no greater or more urgent task, no better way of paying tribute to the great legacy of the freedom struggle, than defeating the ruling fascist forces who supported the British and opposed the freedom struggle then and seek to divide and rule India now.
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