June 01, 2014

Double Whammy Attack

The new RSS/BJP Government

THAT the RSS/BJP speaks with a forked tongue has been well-established. This perfection of the practice of `double speak’ is designed to pursue a dual agenda. One that constitutes the pursuit of the RSS’s core agenda – sharpening communal polarisation – while pursuing another agenda for public consumption. That the RSS/BJP adopted such a dual agenda during its election campaign was articulated in these columns earlier. The very projection of Narendra Modi as its prime ministerial candidate was sufficient to ensure communal polarisation as he continues to be the `poster boy’ of the 2002 Gujarat communal pogrom. On the other hand, the open discourse on issues of `development’ projecting the `Gujarat model’ and `good governance’ was to seek the voter’s support on ostensibly non-communal issues. The effective pursuance of such a dual strategy permitted the RSS/BJP to reap electoral benefits. However, on the eve of the swearing-in of this Narendra Modi government and on its morrow, the face of the real agenda has begun to unfold. One of the main persons indicted in several instances of Hindutva organisations-sponsored terrorist attacks, RSS national executive member Indresh Kumar has called for the withdrawal of all such cases being pursued by the CBI, NIA and the ATS that have, so far, arrested various leaders of the Hindutva outfits. “The election results have come as a second freedom”, he said in an interview to a national daily (The Indian Express, May 24, 2014). Elsewhere in this issue, there is a detailed report on this. Soon after assuming office, the new minister of state in the prime minister’s office, Jitendra Singh, declared that this government is open to a review regarding the continuation of Article 370 of the Indian constitution. The readers will recall that it is on the basis of this Article that the state of Jammu & Kashmir acceded to the Indian Union at the time of our independence and partition of our country. This unambiguous statement saying that the process/discussions to revoke Article 370 has begun has naturally evoked a sharp condemnation from both the ruling and opposition parties in J & K. The repealing of Article 370 of the constitution was part of the “real agenda” of the RSS/BJP during these elections. They had claimed that they could not repeal this Article during the period of the Vajpayee government due to a lack of majority. The BJP manifesto had said that it “remains committed to the abrogation of this Article”. The RSS/BJP had all along maintained that the issues constituting its core Hindutva agenda are the building of the Ram Mandir on the disputed site of Ayodhya; imposition of a Uniform Civil Code and the abrogation of Article 370. Likewise have come comments by the newly sworn-in ministers of the Modi cabinet concerning the reservations for religious minorities. Social Justice minister Thavarchand Gehlot told the media that the BJP government was opposed to the 4.5 per cent sub-quota for minorities because it was reservation based on religion which was “unconstitutional”. Minority Affairs minister, Najma Heptullah, also said she was opposed to minority reservation because quotas killed the “spirit of competition” (Times of India, May 28, 2014). The minorities affairs minister further went to the extent of saying that Muslims were not minorities because they constitute a large number and argued that instead, Parsis with their dwindling population qualified for `the tag’. She appeared determined to re-orient the ministry by playing down its role in the welfare of Muslims and dismissing the policies espoused by the previous UPA government. “Muslims are not minorities. Parsis are. We have to see how we can help them so that their numbers do not diminish”, she told media persons (Times of India, May 28, 2014). Readers will recollect that following the Justice Sachar Committee report on the economic and social status of the Muslim minorities which showed that on the basis of many parameters, their living conditions were below that of even SCs and STs, the UPA government had appointed the Justice Rangannath Mishra Commission to suggest measures to improve the situation. Upon the recommendation of carving out a quota within the 27 per cent OBC reservations for religious minorities, categorised as part of the OBC list, the UPA government, in December 2011, carved out a 4.5 per cent sub quota. It is on the basis of the Justice Rangannath Mishra Commission report that the former Left Front government of West Bengal had categorised various Muslim groups in the state’s OBC list and earmarked a 10 per cent reservation for such groups within the OBC quota. This was well before the decision taken by the then central government. The new minister for minority affairs needs to be told that attention to Muslims as minorities was never considered in terms of their physical numbers but on the basis of their economic and social status. On these parameters, it is very cruel to draw comparisons of the Muslim minorities with other minorities like the Parsis. While the core Hindutva agenda is finding its reflection in such a manner on matters of government policy, it is of grave concern that the RSS/BJP’s core Hindutva agenda is also raising its ugly face in terms of sharpening communal polarisation in various parts of the country. Media reports show that various Hindutva organisations and groups organised a protest in Mangalore, Karnataka on Sunday, a day before the Modi government was sworn-in at New Delhi demanding the imposition of a ban on the Azaan – call for prayer or namaz. In various parts of Karnataka, communal tensions were heightened since the declaration of results in these elections (TwoCircles.net, May 27, 2014). Elsewhere in Bijapur in Karnataka, a BJP procession of celebrations coinciding with the swearing-in ceremony at New Delhi in the heart of the city’s vegetable market turned into a full-fledged communal riot leading to the injury of at least 15 persons and the ransacking of the market. Local Television channels aired the footage of this violence. On the eve of the swearing-in at Delhi, communal clashes occurred in the Gomptipur area of Ahmedabad, capital of Gujarat. Police fired teargas to break up the clashes between Hindu and Muslim groups. A petty altercation between the people of two communities was reportedly the cause for this clash in which some shops, one mini bus and few two-wheelers were burnt (DNA quoting international agency AFP, May 27, 2014). On the front of the economic policies, the agenda of neo-liberal reforms is all set to continue with the new defence minister indicating at increasing the ceiling for foreign direct investment in defence production from above the existing 26 per cent. It must be recollected that it was the BJP-led Vajpayee government, which in the first place, allowed the induction of FDI into areas of defence production much against the opposition based on concerns of compromising national security. The initial signals coming out from this government only appear to re-confirm the apprehensions aired in these columns during the election campaign of the sharpening of communal polarisation, on the one hand, and the imposition of further burdens on the people due to the implementation of further economic reforms of liberalisation, on the other. Indeed, there is a need to not merely brace ourselves for such a double whammy attack but to prepare for mightier struggles in the future in defence of our country’s unity and integrity and for improving the quality of life of our people. (May 28, 2014)