Now, a Warning from Hindutva Hegemons
PUNE: Even while politicians and pundits are engaged in analysing the sweeping victory of the BJP at the polls in UP and are still discovering the lessons to be drawn , Hindutva forces have sent a ringing message, a warning, to the entire country.
It is not so much what was stated at the elite conclave by the supreme leader. It is not the latest slogan of “New India” laced with the gross rhetoric of everything having gone wrong in the last seven decades. Nor is it the oratorical flourish to start afresh a movement to reconstruct India from a scratch, as it were. This style which seeks to substitute substance is now familiar. But it assumes a new and sinister meaning when juxtaposed with the real-politick of the choice of CM for UP.
All the feints (or was it simply wishful thinking of the media) of floating names of different candidates for that important constitutional office soon came abruptly to an end. And the choice rested on the name which is most remembered for its authorship of or association with a bunch of crude and uncouth statements bordering on or amounting to incitement to communal disharmony. And even worse, for alleged involvement in cases of communal rioting.
Not long ago, the 'liberal' chatterati and the self- confessed protagonists of neo-liberalism were trying hard to convince themselves and others that the dispensation in New Delhi was distancing itself from the stray elements within its fold, whose staple diet was raw communalism and whose project was to push India into pre-modern medieval times. And many political novices were hoping against hope that this was so in reality. Growing evidence that it could be quite a different ball game was being ignored. Genuine apprehensions were being dismissed as political prejudice or helpless groans of the disgruntled elements of the earlier regime now out of power.
Now it should be easy to put two and two together even for the sympathisers of the New Delhi regime. Starting with Muzaffarnagar riots on the eve of the 2014 general elections; reaching a new high in the adroit decision of not finding even a single Muslim candidate deserving a BJP ticket for the 2017 assembly elections in the very state which has the largest Muslim population; and peaking in the crude, communalising innuendoes of Kabristan vs Smashan and Ramzan vs Diwali : communal polarisation has been and continues to be the overarching political theme and the strategy. The choice of CM says it all. And says it without any gloss or ambiguity.
This is an audacious extension of the Gujarat model of politics developed successfully by the Hindutva forces. Administering 'Shock and Awe' was the essence of the Gujarat strategy. The state machinery there connived at it, and turned its eyes away from mob crimes. That strategy effectively subdued the 9 percent strong minority of Gujarat.
One always thought that this strategy may not be expedient in a state like UP with its Ganga-Jamni tehzib, with little ghettoisation of its minority community, and above all, with the huge size of its minority and its close and enduring intertwining with the majority community. But ideologues of state power seem to be in a different mood. A point sought to be driven home is that subduing of the minority is possible in UP, ergo across the whole country. This cynical and sinister mood is rooted in the hubris of being in -power at the centre, on the one hand, and the popular appeal of the supreme leader, as re-vindicated in the UP assembly polls, on the other.
For this subduing to be achieved, what is necessary is not so much the actual communal conflagration, although the fear of the same erupting any moment must always be kept alive and real. What is essential is the generation of a feeling of hopelessness and acceptance in the minority community at large, particularly in affairs political. Equally important for the strategy to be successful is the co-generation in the majority community of the fear of the “enemy within”, so essential for the sustenance of the distorted and imported concept of “nationalism” cherished by the Hindutva legions. And the right moment for this seems to have arrived in the imagination of the Hindutva forces.
The history of Indian Republic is at the crossroads. The electoral majorities and adroit communal strategies are geared to make history take a decisive regressive turn. But it will never be a one-sided affair. The response has to come and will come from those who are sworn to the IDEA OF INDIA which is enshrined in our Constitution. Which itself was the product of a long and valiant freedom struggle against colonialism, a struggle which built an inclusive political platform seeking to overcome divisions and injustices which characterised the subjugated polity and society of the subcontinent.
The political response has to come primarily from the majority community believing in the Idea of India. And mere waving of the secular flag is not going to cut much ice either with the majority or minority community. What is necessary is an all-inclusive and broad-based campaign to “ Save the Constitution”, on the one hand, and, on the other, radical politics of mobilisation and involvement of peasantry, youth, and the working classes on the minimum alternative agenda of agrarian reorganisation, right to work and provision of basic economic, social and personal security to all.
Nothing short of such a response will be adequate to meet the unfolding challenge to the Idea of India.
Times are difficult. The challenge is serious. But, as Lenin said in a different context, “ We shall not lose heart, no matter which turn history takes. But we shall not allow history to take any turn without our participation, without the active intervention of the working class.”
(S.P. Shukla is former Finance Secretary to the Government of India. He is a retired bureaucrat who has spent his life working for the marginalised in India)