Vol. XL No. 42 October 16, 2016

Misusing Armed Forces for Hindutva Ends

USUALLY, Vijayadashami day has seen two addresses by the Hindutva forces – one by the RSS chief in Nagpur and the other by the Shiv Sena chief in Mumbai.  This year there was a third pole – the speech by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at a Ramleela gathering in Lucknow.  This is what has made the politics associated with Dussehra distinctive this year. 

Both the RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat and the Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray lauded Modi for the “surgical strikes” across the Line of Control.  This was an acknowledgement of the elevated stature that Modi has acquired in the Hindutva camp. 

The RSS chief spoke on expected lines.  He defended the “gau rakshaks”, who are an RSS creation, as doing a good job of protecting the cow as ordained by the law.  He warned the administration that they must keep this in mind.  According to him, those who break the law are not “gau rakshaks”. Thus he dismissed the terror unleashed by the cow vigilantes against the Muslims and the dalits.   Such a pronouncement from the RSS chief , after the series of lynch mob attacks in Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Gujarat and other places, was a clear signal that the RSS outfits will continue their violence and intimidation against Muslims and dalits on the pretext of cow slaughter and eating beef.

As for Narendra Modi’s foray into Lucknow, the obvious motive is the forthcoming assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh. Modi utilised the religious festival to lace his political message in a religious idiom.  He started his speech with “Jai Shri Ram” and talked of fighting terrorism using analogies from the Ramayana.  The message was clear – the electoral battle in Uttar Pradesh would be fought by mixing religion with politics and on a strident communal agenda.  The army’s “surgical strikes” have already become an election propaganda point for the BJP in Uttar Pradesh.   

What is truly disturbing is the use of the army for the BJP’s narrow partisan ends.  In Rajasthan, the chief minister Vasundhara Raje attended a religious ceremony, “Rashtra Raksha Yajna”, at the Shri Mateshwari Tanot Rai temple to “protect the troops from the enemy” organised by the Rajasthan Sanskrit Academy. The Yagna was performed by 21 “patriotic Brahmins” on October 6.  According to the Sanskrit Academy chairperson, Jaya Dave, “Earlier too, when kshatriyas fought wars, Brahmins performed such ceremonies to protect them”.  Earlier, the defence minister Manohar Parrikar had stated that “Indian troops were like Hanuman who did not quite know their prowess before the surgical strikes”.  Thus, the government itself is projecting the armed forces in Hindutva terms and using crass casteist and religious imagery to describe their role.  This is dangerous stuff which will corrode the integrity and the secular basis of the armed forces.

The warning bells are loud and clear. Under the BJP-RSS dispensation, no institution of the State, including the armed forces, are immune from the Hindutva subversion.  This should be a matter of serious concern for every citizen of the country.  All those who wish to protect the secular democratic character of the Republic should raise their voice to tell the BJP and RSS – “Hands off the armed forces”.

(October 12, 2016)