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Dangerous Game

Dangerous Game

As a response to the violent agitation by the farmers of Madhya Pradesh the Chief Minister of the state, Shri Shivraj Singh Chouhan, resorted to Gandhigiri. The CM began fast at Bhopal's Dussehra Maidan on 10th June 2017 and ended on 11th June. “I will not sit in my office, but I will work from here”, he said. The opposition parties called it a ‘drama’ and ‘hypocrisy’. One wonders how a man groomed in RSS ideology and methodology could adopt the Gandhian method of fasting. Is it a strategy to escape from the failure to tackle the farmers’ agitation? Does the Sangh Parivar believe in non-violence?

 The farmers of Madhya Pradesh were on a war path towards the government from the beginning of June, demanding waving of loans and better price for their produce. The protesting farmers blocked roads, vandalized property and set vehicles on fire on Tuesday, 6th June 2017. The police opened fire to control the situation. The situation escalated  when five farmers died on the spo t in Mandsaur and another farmer, who was allegedly detained by police died on 9th at a hospital in Indore. The death of the farmers in police firing gave further impetus to violence by the agitating farmers. The Free Press newspaper reported on 8th June that 170 vehicles were burnt on Indore-Bhopal road alone during the agitation.

  From the very beginning of the agitation the BJP and the Chief Minister were accusing the Congress party responsible for the violence. The anger of the farmers has been brewing for some time. They are angry because the government neither made arrangements to procure the crop on time nor intervened to ensure a reasonable price. They threw onions on roads given the prices of the vegetables plummeted to as low as Re 1 to Rs 2 per kg in certain markets, especially in the Malwa region, last year. This year too, farmers had to sell their winter crop — tomato and potato — at throwaway prices, bearing heavy loss. According to the National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB), 1982 farmers and farm labouers committed suicide between February 2016 and February 2017. The reasons for the suicide according to NCRB are crop failure, failure to sell produce, inability to repay loans, and other non-agriculture factors such as poverty and property disputes. The loan wave declared by the Yogi Adityanath government in UP was another reason for the agitation of the farmers.

  When the farmers’ unions started agitation the government did not take it seriously. The government reached an understanding with Bharathya Kisan Sangh (BKS), an organization affiliated to RSS and accused that anti-social elements were behind the agitation. This further angered the other farmer unions and they intensified the agitation, resorting to violence. The government could have avoided large scale violence and the loss of precious lives, had it entered into a dialogue with the representatives of all unions of farmers. The BJP governments both at the centre and the states have become arrogant and dictatorial because of the numerical strength in the Lok Sabha and the State Legislative Assemblies.  The weak and disunited opposition has further contributed to the arrogance of the BJP and the Sangh Parivar outfits.

  The BJP has started paying the price for using violence as a means for political mobilization. Large scale violence during the farmers’ agitation in MP shows that people have learned from the Sangh Parivar that the end justifies the means, however cruel and damaging the means adopted. The BJP and the Sangh Parivar often kept silence when the Vigilante groups resorted to violence. Its leaders, including central and state ministers, indulged in hate speech against the minorities and justified the actions of gaurakshaks. It also justified the army using a citizen of India as a human shield to quell stone throwing in Kashmir valley. Many studies and investigations have brought to light the role played by the Sangh Parivar outfits in the Gujarat pogrom in which more than 2000 Muslims were killed and more than one lakh Muslims were displaced and lost everything. The Sangh Parivar has never accepted its culpability in the Gurjarat violence. It always tried to defend the BJP government in Gujarat comparing the Gujarat riot with the anti-Sikh riots in 1984.

All political parties in India have resorted to violence as a political mobilization strategy. But the ideology of the Communist Parties and of the BJP justifies use of violence for political mobilization. MS Golwalker, whom the Sangh Privar considers their guruji, was an admirer of Hitler who was responsible for murdering six million Jews in Germany. The following statement of Golwalkar indicates his attitude towards violence. “To keep up purity of the nation and its culture, Germany shocked the world by her purging the country of the Semitic races, the Jews. National pride at its highest has been manifested here. Germany has also shown how well-nigh impossible it is for races and cultures having differences going to the root, to be assimilated into a united whole, a good lesson for us in Hindustan to learn and profit by." (We…, 1938, p.37). The BJP, in its political journey, has amply exhibited the ideology and approach of its guruji.

The BJP which had only 2 seats in the Lok Sabha in 1984 could increase its strength to 282 (more than absolute majority) in 2014 through a combination of various strategies. Polarization of the Hindus through sensitive issues like Ram Mandir at Ayodhya, cow slaughter, uniform civil code, appeasement of Muslims, ‘pseudo secularism’ etc. played a major role in increasing its political strength. BJP also benefited immensely from the communal riots in different parts of the country. Right from Ranchi riots in 1967, the Babri demolition in 1992, the Gujarat riots in 2002 to the Muzaffarnagar riots in 2013 the Sangh Parivar has always used strategies to foment, organize and spread communal riots for rich political dividend. The degeneration of the Congress party because of large scale corruption, dilution of secularism by adopting soft Hindutva and dynastic functioning also contributed to the emergence of BJP as strong political alternative to the Congress.

 The BJP and RSS always deny that they do not use violence as a political mobilization strategy. The hate speeches of the Sangh Parivar leaders, filled with revenge against the minorities, reflect the intense violence within them and their hate filled statements widen the divide between the majority community and minority communities. Hate speeches create revulsion in the minds of the majority community against the minorities. Hate speeches present minorities as enemies, traitors, terrorists, anti-nationals etc. Take for example the statement of Baba Ram Dev, the yoga guru turned businessman during Sadbhavna rally organized by RSS in Haryana (April, 2016). While referring to Muslims he said, “Some person wear a cap and stand up, and “… say I will not say ’ Bharat Mata ki jai’ even if you decapitate me. This country has a law, otherwise let alone one, we can behead lakhs…if anybody disrespects Bharat Mata, we have the capability of beheading not one but thousands and lakhs.” Another veteran in hate speech is Praveen Togadia, the International Working President of Vishva Hindu Parishad. Maximum number of cases for hate speech is registered against him. According to the Home Ministry sources until August 2014 nineteen cases were registered against him in twelve cities of India. Togadia had reportedly exhorted an audience in Bhavnagar to force a Muslim businessman to vacate a house he had bought in a Hindu locality. "Remember Nellie in Assam, where the police was removed, over 3000 people died, not one of them was a Hindu. Remember Bhagalpur, where the police was removed, so many people died that it was difficult to count, not one of them was a Hindu. Dead bodies flew into the sea. Remember Meerut, Moradabad, Gujarat'', said Togadia in a tit for tat to Akbaruddin Owaisi on 22nd  January 2013 at a place called Bhokar in Nanded district of Maharashtra. The year after Modi assumed the mantle of Prime Minister was a period of hate speech and attacks on the minorities by the Sangh Parivar organizations. “365 Days: Democracy and Secularism Under the Modi Regime- A report by Human Rights Group” documented 200 cases of persecution against Christians,170 Against Muslims and 230 cases of hate speech within a year of Narendra Modi becoming the Prime Minister of India.

The overt and covert support given by the BJP governments at the centre and the states to the Sangh Parivar Organizations to indulge in violence against the minorities on the pretext of cow protection, preventing love jihad and religious conversion has created an atmosphere in which any individual or group of individuals who are the supporters of the Sangh Parivar can take law into their hands. As a result the Jats in Haryana, who were the supporters of BJP in the previous Lok Sabha and Assembly elections, resorted to large scale violence for including them in the list of communities eligible for reservation. The relatively wealthy farmers of Madhya Pradesh, who have been the supporters of BJP, indulged in violence to get their demands accepted by the government.

The BJP and the Sangh Parivar have to understand that violence as a means for political mobilization has a limit; beyond a limit it will boomerang and that is what happened in Madhya Pradesh. This is, indeed, a dangerous game. If the BJP wants to be counted as a party of all Indians, time has come for it to shed its hatred against the minorities and stop the culture of allowing violence targeting the minorities.  The future of BJP as a political party is in transforming itself into an inclusive party and not an agent of Hindutva.  Without undergoing this attitudinal and ideological change, meeting the bishops in Kerala by Amit Shah, the President of BJP, is a futile exercise.

(Published on 26th June 2017, Volume XXIX, Issue 26)