Vol. XL No. 35 August 28, 2016

Hollowness of BJP’s Tiranga Yatra

R Arun Kumar

The BJP had just concluded its week-long 'tiranga yatra' that was started on the Independence Day. The stated purpose of the yatra is to instill a 'fresh bout of nationalism' among the people. This is a blatant attempt to appropriate the 'national flag' to serve its parochial nationalist designs. National flag is a product of our anti-colonial freedom struggle, in which the BJP or its mother organisation – the RSS, played no role. BJP's skewed understanding of nationalism, which in fact is the reason for its non-participation in the freedom struggle, had come out clearly once again in one of its meetings.

In a recently concluded meeting of BJP leadership, media reported that its leaders were exhorted to 'work to attract dalits and tribals' to BJP's fold, 'without diluting its nationalist identity'. It seems, the leaders were asked to analyse why 'dalits and tribals don’t consider BJP as their own party'.

Clearly, this is another sign to say that BJP is rattled by the recent protests of dalits, particularly in Gujarat, which is considered as its pocket borough. Attacks on dalits have increased since the BJP had assumed power. IIT Madras, Hyderabad Central University, Una, demolition of Ambedkar's building in Mumbai are the most visible and brazen incidents among such attacks. Each of these incidents also brought out increasing number of dalits and other concerned citizens on to the streets protesting these attacks, which made the BJP jittery. Winning over dalits, whom BJP considers as a 'vote bank', is essential to realise its ambition of winning state elections in Uttar Pradesh and Punjab.

Narendra Modi, according to the Indian Express (August 24, 2016), stated: “Rashtravadi toh hamare saath hain, humein dalit aur pichchde ko saath lana hai,” (The nationalists are with us, we need to bring dalits and backwards). This statement exposes the mindset of the BJP and exposes whom it considers as nationalists. It means, dalits and backwards are not nationalists and reconfirms BJP's concept of nationalism as confined to upper-castes and Hindus only. It is indeed an application of the 'manuvadi' social order to the present day society. This also explains why any protest against upper-caste oppression, caste discrimination is readily branded as 'anti-national'. Modi's statement shows the attempts of the BJP to use its access to State power for imposing its outmoded manuvadi, rashtravadi concepts on the people of our country. Tiranga yatra is hence, another attempt made by the BJP to impose its nationalist agenda on the people of our country.

BJP, the most prominent member of the family of organisations known as the 'Sangh Parivar', nurtured by the RSS, has no claims to the anti-colonial legacy of our freedom struggle. Its nationalism is thus not anti-colonial nationalism. Deen Dayal Upadhyaya, ideologue of the BJP in its earlier Jan Sangh avatar, had clearly stated that nationalism is 'nothing but Hinduism'.
Our struggle for independence had many streams in it, including the Congress, the national revolutionaries, the communists and others. The RSS, which was formed in 1925 was conspicuous by its absence. Its leaders neither joined any 'stream', nor carved out their own path of struggle against the British. Moreover, they were very much against the broad character of the freedom struggle, which also brought in both Hindus and Muslims together. This is in consonance to the Hindutva philosophy, propounded by Savarkar. MS Golwalkar, the RSS leader, in his Bunch of Thoughts had written: “Those who declared, ‘No Swaraj without Hindu-Muslim unity’ have perpetrated the greatest treason on our society”. It is hence no surprise that they, along with the Muslim League, were the champions of the 'two-nation' theory.

Attempts to appropriate legacy of freedom struggle
Part of BJP's attempts to appropriate the legacy of anti-colonial freedom struggle is owning up Mahatma Gandhi. There is an attempt to push under the carpet, all their earlier writings and utterings condemning Gandhiji. That it was Gandhi whom Golwalkar was targeting in the above quote is quite clear. According to Golwalkar, the freedom movement led by the Congress had 'disastrous and degrading effects on the country', as it did not lead to the explicit establishment of a Hindu rashtra as they had desired. It is a well known fact that Gandhiji was the preeminent leader of the Congress and was responsible for this result. It is with this understanding that Deen Dayal Upadhyaya demanded Gandhiji not to be called as the father of the nation.

Then comes the question of Gandhiji's assassination. Who is Nathuram Godse, what are his ideological moorings and why did he assassinate Gandhi? At the cost of repeating, it needs to be once again stated that Godse is clearly a man of the RSS. Gopal Godse, brother of Nathuram and also a co-accused in the case of assassination of Gandhiji openly mentioned this fact in an interview he had given to the Frontline in 1994: “All the brothers were in the RSS. Nathuram, Dattatreya, myself and Govind. You can say we grew up in the RSS rather than in our home. It was like a family to us. Nathuram had become a baudhik karyavah (intellectual worker) in the RSS. He has said in his statement that he left the RSS. He said it because Golwalkar and the RSS were in a lot of trouble after the murder of Gandhi. But he did not leave the RSS”.     If the RSS felt these statements by Gopal Godse were wrong, it could have countered him and disowned him. That it did not, becomes quite clear when we see the Organiser, official organ of the RSS carrying an advertisement by a Delhi publisher for six 'readable attractive new books' in its October 5, 1997, issue. Two of them are written by Gopal Godse.

BJP wants to hide all this murky crap and mislead people by constantly chanting the name of Gandhi, tiranga and other icons of the freedom struggle.
Feigning their ignorance of history, precipitated by the non-participation of their founder leaders in the freedom struggle, Modi states that BJP faced more adversities in the past 50-60 years, than the Congress during the freedom struggle. Or is he under the wrong impression that all the freedom fighters of country were like their revered Atal Bihari Vajpayee? The BJP and RSS tried to build a brave narrative around Vajpayee and his participation in the Quit India movement in 1942. All this fizzled out as facts of the day saw light.

Vajpayee was 16 years of age in 1942 and by that time he was already enrolled as a member of the RSS. He joined RSS in 1939 and by 1942, ie, within three years, he had already completed two Official Training Camps (OTC) of the RSS, intended to train promising cadres for leadership. This establishes that he was politically active at that age, apart from being a recognised orator. It is this Vajpayee, who had given a 'confessional statement' to the police after he was arrested for being part of the mob that had attacked the forest outpost in Bateshwar, his native village. He denied being part of those who had attacked, stated that he was only part of the passive 'crowd' and named two persons who had led the action. His statement played an important role in the conviction of those two persons for their role on that day, incidentally which is August 27, exactly 74 years ago. So much so for being a brave heart! Indian freedom struggle  indeed is replete with names of thousands of valiant freedom fighters who bravely stood up to the British and owned up their acts, without naming any of their accomplices. Any comparison of Vajpayee, with them is sacrilegious.

RSS philosophy on freedom movement
A more important question here is, why did a boy (Vajpayee here) who was active in RSS, disown his participation in the freedom struggle? The answer lies in the philosophy of the RSS and its attitude towards the freedom struggle. It lies in the deliberate distance the RSS maintained with the struggle for Indian independence and in its flawed understanding of nationalism. Savarkar of the Hindu Mahasabha and whom the BJP leaders extol, categorically urged non-participation in Quit India struggle: “I issue this definite instruction that all Hindu Sanghathanists in general holding any post or position of vantage in the government services should stick to them and continue to perform their regular duties”. (As quoted by AG Noorani, Frontline 1995)
The RSS never ever apologised for its role in the pre-independent India. Apart from non-participation, evidence points out to its role in fomenting communal clashes between Hindus and Muslims. Even during the partition of the country, Koenraad Elst an apologist for the RSS writes: “some Sangh workers were active in taking revenge on Muslims inside India (as eyewitnesses have told me), doing some bullying of their own”. All this shows that RSS, instead of uniting the people was busy sowing the seeds of hatred and division, all the while keeping itself away from the freedom struggle.

Modi and his ilk in the BJP trace their lineage from people with this kind of chequered history. And now they are trying to claim a slice of the freedom struggle. It is not due to their ignorance that they are belittling the 'atrocities' faced by the freedom fighters. It is by design they are doing it to fit into their broader narrative of 'nationalism', meaning Hindutva.

Their claim of no other party facing more adversities or making more sacrifices since independence, flies in the face of evidence. Where was the BJP when separatist forces in Punjab, Assam and other parts of the country unleashed a wave of violence on those who stood for the unity and integrity of the country? It was the CPI(M) and the Left that bore the major brunt of their attacks, with hundreds of party leaders and cadre martyred. Even in Bengal today, where democracy is under severe attack and the ruling TMC goons trying to physically eliminate all kinds of opposition, it is the CPI(M) and the Left that is their main target. More than 200 of CPI(M) comrades were murdered by the TMC in the past three years, hundreds more severely injured; thousands were forced to leave their homes and forego their livelihood and rape became a political tool. All this while, the BJP is overtly and covertly with the TMC.

It is the CPI(M) and the Left that stood by the people in their struggles both during the freedom struggle and post independence. Whether it is the question of economic exploitation or social oppression, it is they who braved the State repression and other physical attacks. It is we who stood for national unity and integrity; for secularism, against communal violence and for the rights of the minorities; for the rights of women, against patriarchy, and for the dignity, respect and rights of the dalits, adivasis and other backward sections in the society. It is as champions of these struggles that one inherits the legacy of freedom struggle. It is only through carrying forward these struggles that the dreams of the freedom fighters can be realised.

BJP or the RSS can do neither, irrespective of their attempts to falsify history and appropriate icons of freedom struggle. People are wise enough to see through their nefarious designs.