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Mainstream, VOL LIX No 1, New Delhi, December 19, 2020

Will Hindutva succeed in Odisha? | Radhakanta Barik

Saturday 19 December 2020, by Radhakanta Barik


by Prof Radhakanta Barik*

Bhabani Nayak teaching in England raises a critical point regarding the Hindutva project in Odisha. Odisha has two Ms which attract the Hindutva politics. Marwaris, Mining jointly work here to propagate the ideas of Hindutva politics. In mid-1970s they built Ram Temple in the capital for propagating the ideas of Hindutva. Today they are offering money for building the Hanuman temples. For a decade they started organizing the reciting the Hanuman Chautisha in the villages. Today they have started bringing Ram Charit Manash of Tulsi Das which speaks against the Dalits and their discrimination. They are scared of the Bhagvat which does not talk of discrimination. The corporate houses are ready to spend money and muscle power in organizing the political melas of the Hindutva. Without owning mining they cannot add to their wealth. This is a deadly combination of two Ms have turned into three Ms spreading Hindutva in Odisha. Money power has got added to two Ms. The way they are growing it is not far off to get fourth M that is Muscle power to three Ms.

The tragedy with the leading intellectuals of Odisha that they all have some relationship with the Hindutva. H K Mahtab is one of them. In his autobiography, he writes that he was the President to Balesore Congress and he played a certain role in communal riots in the town and the Muslims distrust him. This is his own version. He is from landlord background and plays his political mischief while conducting the Zamindari abolition bill. His friend Nabakrishna Choudhuri was playing an active role in bringing a radical legislation regarding the Zamindari abolition. He tried to destabilize it to save the zamindars. The zamindars could have kept control over the local market, pond and community land which they misused for their own personal interests. He as a literary person created the Prajatantra Trust for daily news papers and monthly journal but he handed over the trust to his son who has destroyed the paper and journal. This is public land and public money for making trust but the loopholes are there which get manipulated by his son Brutahari Mahtab and destroyed the public institution.

With four Ms there is an additional M comes from middle class. Middle class have a peculiar vision in Odisha. They have been speaking for the Hindutva agenda from the beginning. Mahtab to Neelakantha Das openly stood with Hindutva. Writers like Surendra Mohanty to Prativa Ray openly speak in favour of Hindutva. But this middle class behaved like an enemy to Nandini Satpathy. They created underground literature against her. Their sexiest language against her shows their narrowness and their patriarchy. Surendra Mohanty wrote a story “thrown away plantain leaf or aintha patra’ That after eating feast one throws the plantain leaf and she belongs to that. What nonsense? He writes in a poor taste. Her secular progressive commitment to people did not collapse with the attacks from the middle class. During the Janata Party rule she joined the Janata Party but she got isolated by middle class. She turned to be a nominee of Janata Party but the whole middle class put Malati Choudhuri as their candidate. She with the support from masses won the election. She is a brave soul that she survived in politics till her end.

The academia shows their narrowness who is the producers of fake knowledge which in return sustains the Hindutva project. The conference was chaired by Mr Panda an IAS retired officer from 1960s. Each in the conference tried to introduce himself or herself as the relative of a civil servant. This servility explains the character of teachers in universities which is reflecting in the candidates appearing for the written test by the Governor who is an illiterate person. This brings out the character of these people who aspire to be Vice Chancellors of the prestigious universities.

How Hindutva project is working in Odisha? It is interesting to enter into the houses of educated people of the towns where look at their drawing rooms and they used to buy books and journals at least the puja specials. Today all these have stopped. They do not have special room for study room and but managed in their drawing room. But the major portion of the drawing room has been taken as the puja room as space for gods and goddesses are galoring including the calendar gods. It is interesting to note here that in the galaxy of gods and goddesses in their puja room one finds the space occupied by the Lord Jagannath is smaller and the bigger space is given to Ram and Hanuman and Sai and Satya etc. It indicates that their mental landscape has got transformed with the rise of their bank saving in terms the list of deities in their drawing rooms. It is strange that they are ready to pay visit not to Ajodhya but to see the place of the Ram Mandir.

Odiya middle class for the first time came out openly and supported Biju Patnaik a leader who created a historical imagination with these concepts like Kalinga, Utkal and Odisha all three are exchangeable words. They brought a leader of the Congress Party who wanted to build Odisha into a modern Odisha whereas this backward looking middle class supported him and pulled down him. He left the Congress Party because of these people and never turned into the leader of Odisha as a whole. He remained as the leader of this class and did conjectural politics. When mass anger against the Congress Party came up Biju babu won the election during 1977 and 1989 of the Janata phase in Odisha politics. Once he made his friend as the chief minister that is Nilamani Rautray and another time he became the chief minister. His technological modernity remains as a day dream in Odisha politics.

Odisha has a peculiar middle class who are not ready to listen to facts but have a fixed opinion over the person and situation. They cannot tolerate that J B Patnaik as an intellectual who is a well read person and he has a huge personal library. His entry into Congress Politics came with the split of the Congress when he had a command over Odiya and English and Sanskrit which were required for the party. His intellectual inputs were taken seriously by the party. He translated the Bhagvat into Odiya for which he was awarded by Sahity Akademy. He has written many books to his credit. As a politician he stood as a strong pillar of the Congress Party. He brought many public sector industries into Odisha such as Nalco. He built a public library in Bhubaneswar. He built a park for the city. But middle class could not tolerate his intellectual works as they have a feudal outlook as he belonged to the poor palawala. This may be the reason for getting ignored by a class.

The BJP as a partner of coalition with the BJD from 2000 to 2010 started opening the Sarswati Vidya Mandir with the support of elite of Odisha specifically middle class. For instance Shri Panda former chief secretary handed over his house in Jajpur to Vidya Mandir. These people want to open these schools. The BJP leaders have created a mafia that those studying in these schools can get high marks by bribing the officials of the Board. Today the news papers are reporting only one part of the story that these schools are doing well. This is where they have entered into to small towns. Recently the BJP’s students’ wing contested the election in Ravenshaw University where their candidates got the number of votes exactly the number of students from the sarswati Vidya Mandir studying in the university. This is startling information that the BJP is spreading its tentacles in Odisha with the help of these private schools. It is interesting to note here that they do not appoint regular teachers in these schools and they appoint the retired teachers from the government schools without proper salary. This is another dimension of the Hindutva project in Odisha.

ଦେଶର ଉନ୍ନତି ଯେବେ କର ଆଶା
ଉଚ୍ଚ କର ତେବେ ନିଜ ମାତୃଭାଷା
... ଗଂଗାଧର (If one thinks of the country first improve your own mother tongue.)

Today students in Ravenshaw university feel ashamed to make programme in Odiya and they make in Hindi and give an introduction in Hindi. They feel ashamed of writing and speaking in Odiya. All the Hostel programmes get organised in Hindi and they get finances from the Marwaris which make it possible. Gangadhar Meher writes this beautiful sentence exhibiting his love for his language which he learnt from his mother but he would come to Ravenshaw university he would feel ashamed of his own poetic creation.

With death of Biju Patnaik the middle class shifted its base to Hindutva project and that is the time Naveen Patnaik came into politics. Naveen Patnaik confronted his father’s base. In an intelligent design he brought them into coalition politics. Naveen Patnaik did not inherit his father’s social base. He is a self made politician in Odisha. He built his own base by bringing the concept of good governance. By implementing the two most important projects for people such as PDS and Procurement he brought the social base of the Congress to his party. He knows this that he does not bother of the middle class. He is the first politician who is the leader of masses in terms of classes and castes and communities. He stands as a rock in Odisha politics. He abandoned the Hindutva when the allies of the BJP turned into terrorist organisations. They killed Christian fathers like Steins and his children and created riots in Kandhamal by attacking the lives and property of Christian tribals. Hindutva alienated from masses by doing terrorist politics.

Most prominent leaders doing politics in Odisha have owned news papers. Mahtab owns Prajatantra, Nandini Satpathy has Dharitri and JB Patnaik has Sambad and Samaj owned by Gopabandhu Das and Biju Patnaik owned Kalinga It is interesting to note here that Naveen Patnaik does not own any paper. This brings out truth that he does not negotiate with middle class on every day basis. Today the leading news papers have been sucked into the Hindutva project. This is an intelligent design. There is an article in each paper against imaginary enemy Muslims in the form of fiction. Hindutva has selected writers to write this nonsense and it gets published in the daily paper.

Communal poison gets inculcated into minds of the middle class on every day basis. This is the first state where the Hindutva project has sucked some leading writers and poets into it. One time they were icon of the middle class. Sitakanta Mahapatra a leading poet perhaps the first one experimented T S Eliot in odiya poetry has joined the Hindutva. His poetry lacks energy to create ripples in literary world. As his clumsy language does not appeal the young poets. The other one is Prativa Ray writes stories and novels in a binary model to explain the characters in a Hindutva project. Both of them joined the Hindutva project. They write in daily news papers showing their animosity against the Muslims and Chrisitians. They construct the Hindutva project by adding some bricks to it.

Hindutva project has got academia, writers into its fold. They write nonsense as they twisted facts. A member of academia writes that the chief minister does not know Odiya and he has not right to be the Chief minister. It is a violation against the constitution but they go on writing in the news papers as they provide them space. They write the factious stories related to Jagannath as being attacked by the Muslims and got stolen and kept in a jungle. These articles get published in the news papers. Odiya news papers do not have space for economic issues or rational debate on any issue. This middle class have a dream to create Hindu rastra but there is little hope as masses do not bother of them. They are rootless people who do not stand with the sufferings of people. This is the only hope for the future of Odisha. It may not go into clutches of the Hindutva project.

Hindutva approached Odisha the way they have entered into politics of the Northern India. They bring the high castes into political fold and they create a social imaginary that they stand for nationalism. Their nationalism based on anti Pakistan and anti Muslims. They have changed their politics in the context of Odisha. They approached the high castes. They went to Karans and approached them who refused to get into their net as they are educated and the most enlightened community in Odisha who played an important role in national movement and renaissance of Odiya society. They came down to the Brahmins who told them as they told to Chaitandeva that they cannot leave non veg food which made the BJP unhappy. But some selected members of the Bar and academia they recruited without the support of the whole community. As two important communities abandoned the Hindutva project,they went to Khandayats as they work in the field for earning their livelihoods they are not happy with the Hindutva. Then they have divided the community into small groups as Paiks from Khurda and went to them with a manufactured historical project that the protest against the Maratha and Britishers is going to be recognized as the first Independence war rather than the 1857 rebel they felt elated but went with the BJP.

Hindutva got involved in communal politics of some towns such as Bhadrak and Kendrapara

Which have got a substantive Muslim population. The leaders of these riots remain the Marwaris who are doing business there. After organizing riots they got promoted as the leader of the Party in Rajasthan. In 2000 after coming as a coalition partner they engineered riots against Christians. In the 1990s their killing of Stains family while sleeping in the open jeep made them unpopular and they wanted to change the strategy. They created large scale riots in Kandhamal against the Christian tribes. This encourages the leaders of BJP that Odisha would be their second Gujarat. This is the slogan given by some leading faces from Gujarat. They started coming to Odisha frequently.

One sees the rise of Hindutva in everyday life in Odisha. Universities are having the RSS pracharaks who are being involved in criminal activities and threatening the shop owners for getting things done of free of cost. They cite the word Jay Shri Ram in place of Jay Jagannath. They are able to force the shop keepers not to sell fish and meat on three days such as Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. The shop keepers under the duress accept the dictates. They are ready to create communal riots in the rural society against the Dalits and tribals. Prime Minister Modi went to Khurda and addressed the meeting where encouraged the farmers belonging to Paiks to attack the poor and marginalized and dalits. After the speech, the incidents of attack in Puri district and Khurda district have increased. I went to conduct a study of attacks on fishermen community in a village of Puri District where local king shri Mahapatra has got elected as MLA from Brahmagiri and after his election this is happening. For the first time the concept of Brahmins Rajput nexus has got invented in Odisha. Last general election of 2019 most of the candidates of BJP belonged to these communities. As Odisha does not have the Rajput community and they have invented the rich of Paiks as the Rajput. The swords have been distributed for holding function. Hindutva is able to create tremors in Odisha politics and culture today.

(Author: Prof Radhakanta Barik, retired as Professor, Indian Institute of Public Administration, New Delhi )

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