It is only a few days since the BJP assumed office in Tripura, but anti-cow-slaughter movements have begun in the state. This is shockingly a new development in the North-East where people usually respected one another’s food habits and community-traditions. What becomes evident is that ‘Acche Din’ for the BJP means the acceptance of the Gangetic Valley Hindutva Orthodoxy by the ‘Kirata kingdoms’ of the North-East. That is the mission their RSS pedagogues have given them: transplant Narendra Modi’s Gujarat model and Yogi Adityanath’s UP model into the ‘Look East’ land of Eastern India.
Short-term Successes in North-East
The BJP little realizes how slippery the slope on which it is treading is. It won Tripura merely with a 6,518 votes-lead over the CPI(M). Its position in Tripura will reveal its weakness the moment Delhi throne is shaken. The violence that advertised its victory will remain as an invitation to counter-violence when Lenin will return. The expectations of its tribal allies itself will put its ‘Acche Din’ to the test. Short-term successes for which it juggled will lead to long term disasters.
Amartya Sen, when asked why he thought the BJP was winning elections in spite of having a questionable ideology, said, ‘because they have the mastery of techniques.’ One may admit that Amit Shah is a master of techniques. But he does not know the difference between vote-catching techniques and confidence-building techniques. Once public confidence is lost, vote-winning stunts become futile gimmicks.
What Hindutva’s policy-makers ought to understand is that ‘social harmony’ is as important for them as for others; and that it is achieved by respecting different points of view, different styles of doing, different ways of worship...and not by seeking to homogenize society.
Treading on Local Sensitivities
Even Bengal felt, during Ram Navami celebration, that ‘manufactured traditions’ from the Ganga belt were being imported into their land; religious celebrations were tending to become an armed show of strength by BJP minions. Assam has been worrying for some time about the introduction of unfamiliar religious traditions into the Brahmaputra Valley, including the worship of the River itself. There were no such traditions. What riled the indigenous devotees most was the airlifting of ritual purists and holy men from Aryavarta to minister to the lesser mortals of the Mleccha-land of the East...allegedly at state expense.
Hindutva friends little realize that they are doing everything possible to tread on the sensitivities of the people of North-East. Soon after they took over Assam they wanted to impose Sanskrit and open 20 colleges in honour of Deen Dayal. Under vehement protests, they withdrew. That was a bad start for ‘Acche Din’ in Assam. In Meghalaya ‘Acche Din’ began with an hour-long Hindi lecture by the Governor. A walkout followed, with bewildering voices in local tongues. In Manipur, they declared Good Friday as a working day. This was evidently not zeal for work as deliberately intended humiliation for Christians. Under heavy protests, the order was withdrawn.
Land-grabbing, Hindu Rashtra
The tale is not over. Huge stretches of tribal lands have been handed over to the Patanjalis. So far only a cow-shelter has emerged on the land, advertising their real purpose. Tribal areas are being surveyed for mineral resources. The long-term strategy is to make sure that the tribals lose control of their lands. Temples are being proposed in the heart of tribal belts, allegedly to attract tourists, but really to ensure that the masters of Ganga will be masters of Brahmaputra as well. So in the name of development, trade, or tourism, the indigenous people will be deprived of the land and resources that nature had given them. No wonder there are reports of ‘radicalization’ in the Northeast. Government has acknowledged that as true.
But there are many more things up the BJP sleeves. The minorities stand threatened. After all, Savarkar and Gowalkar must come alive. They would say: ‘This is Hindu Rashtra. Christians are here on sufferance. We decide which days are holy. Christmas and Good Friday stand abolished.’ Someone may ask in cynicism, “Since a free trip to Jerusalem was promised before elections, can I go to the holy city on Good Friday?” Not by any means. Promises are promises. Did not Modiji promise one crore jobs before elections? How did unemployment increase?
As for the North-East... not only Christians, but people of the region as a whole feel disadvantaged. Cows will have Aadhaar cards in Madhya Pradesh before citizens in the North-East. People take time to understand the hidden agenda of the BJP: ‘All must be Hindu by 2022.’ The social media warns the minorities in unmistaken terms. The RSS chief, Mohan Bhagwat, is very sure about it. No wonder Lingayats in Karnataka want to pull out from the bigoted bunch; they seek to be listed among minorities.
Deceptive Dimension of Acche Din
Meantime Modi, Shah, and Yogi are furiously visiting Hindu ‘mutts’ to win their support in the Karnataka elections. We feel compassion for them, for they find it hard to interpret the collective psyche of communities beyond the ‘Bimaru’ states. Shah is being mistranslated as he goes round accusing people during his campaign. People in the South are not Hindu enough, he feels. With the reawakening of the Dravidian instincts and anti-Hindi urges in the Southern Hemisphere, ‘Acche Din” may not cross the Narmada.
But no! ‘Acche Din’ has already come. But unfortunately, for a select few... for persons close to power-structures, like Lalit Modi, Vijay Mallya, Nirav Modi, Mehul Choksi and a few others, who knew how to cook books, draw up fictitious audit reports, fabricate minutes of the board meeting. The most worrying side of ‘Acche Din’ is the latest news that there are over Rs. 2.5 trillion ‘bad’ bank loans. The bank bosses are helpless.
Hindutva ideology is a drug. The victims may remain anaesthetized for a short while. Then they wake up, open their eyes, and see clearly how they have been deceived by self-interested Titans. Large scale RSS gatherings, multiplication of volunteers, opening of more yoga centres, dramatization of Rath Yathras, enthusiastic declaration of Ram Rajya, report of 8000 Ghar Wapsi rituals already performed, promise of a temple at Ayodhya, preparations for the biggest Ram statue in the world....all these serve as eyewash for the unthinking crowds. Are any of them development-oriented to bring relief to the needy, production-related to strengthen the economy; or calculated to produce assets for the nation in a world of competition? How much of this pageantry is at the tax-payers’ expense? Is there any sense in spending public money on gorgeous statues in a land of iconoclasts? Every day we hear of one statue or the other being vandalized, including Mahatma Gandhi’s. What have suffered most are the representations of Bhim Rao Ambedkar. His pointed finger seems to threaten the dominant classes most.
There are reasons to fear that pointed finger. Over 47,000 cases were filed against Dalits and tribals in 2016. Possibly, last year even more. Legal cases have proved the most effective way of silencing the dalits and tribals. Having no legal expertise and financial resources, they are reduced to total helplessness. In every inter-caste clash, the dalits are taken to court, not the criminals who initiated violence. They feel that the cases they themselves file are not taken seriously. The recent Supreme Court hesitations have not given them any re-assurance.
Meantime, their victimisation has intensified: there were over 75 cow-related killings of late; violence at the hand of vigilantes; houses burnt even of MLAs; and victims of police-encounters especially in UP. No wonder their confidence has been broken and they respond in the best way they think they can: dalits in violent protests, Maoists in the stronger language they are familiar with. Indeed, ‘Acche Din’ are here!
Leaders in the Mythic World
The people at the helm of affairs are in their own mythical world, Mahabharata debates continue, ‘Nishkama Karma’ is their advice to the dalits and farmers. The fruits they produce are for the top-dogs. Hindutva pundits solve problems by referring to an imaginary Golden Age of ancient India, of well-being, peace, and homogeneous collective identity. Meanwhile, farmers in Maharashtra are crying for attention: their lands are going dry, no adequate plans for water conservation; they have anxiety about marketing, storage, and minimum support price. Gurujis say that in Gita you find everything, Gita is our culture. Indeed, Kurukshetra of Gita comes alive even today with war-games by the Air Force, while farmers commit suicide. The descendents of the Mahabharata warrior races are the biggest purchasers of armaments in the world.
Every ambitious person in India is competing to please the Hindutva High Command with some mythical references. The Chief Minister of Manipur said in Porbandar the other day, “In the time of Lord Krishna, there was no separate Arunachal Pradesh, Assam or Manipur....But Lord Krishna made them part of India during his time.” Scholars in Manipur roared in protest for such a non-historical statement, threatening to throw him out of power. For national leaders the Constitution used to be the reference when discussing with dissident groups at the borders, not Puranic legends. But for the Hindutva proponents, legendary border lines will do for the time being, since the Constitution of the Hindu Rashtra is still to be written.
Call for a Scientific Temper
And they are determined to go forward. Mahesh Sharma, minister of state for culture and tourism, has set up a 14-member committee to re-write Indian history with a “Hindu first” emphasis. Minorities will be relegated to the shadows, as also women and lower castes. Re-writing national history and re-shaping a people’s collective identity are typical of authoritarian governments (Nazi, Peron, Pakistan). This research committee will evidently be a mouthpiece of the Government. Today’s society will be put to a process of unlearning; they will be told what to think from now on.
A response is not slow in coming. Scientists and students across India are planning to come together in protest. Soumitro Banerjee of Calcutta says, “Science is under attack. There appears to be an increase in efforts to undermine scientific temper.” All India People’s Network re-echoes the message: “The current governing and affiliated forces, including ministers and other political leaders, are promoting obscurantist belief and pseudo-science and citing myths as history...”
We look forward to ‘Acche Din’ for Science and Sanity.(Published on 16th April 2018, Volume XXX, Issue 16)