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Mainstream, VOL LIV No 23 New Delhi May 28, 2016

Dividing the Nation, RSS-Style

Sunday 29 May 2016, by SC


The BJP-led NDA Government has completed two years today. As it observes its second anniversary, one is reminded of what happened in 1979. That was the time when the first anti-Congress government at the Centre, represented by the Janata Party comprising the major non-Congress parties—the Congress-O, Jana Sangh, Socialist Party and Jagjivan Ram-H-N. Bahuguna-sponsored Congress for Democracy—and headed by the then PM, Morarji Desai, completed two years in power after having vanquished the Emergency regime of Indira Gandhi and her younger son, Sanjay, in the historic Lok Sabha elections of 1977. On the occasion of its second anniversary, the Morarji Desai dispensation, which had assumed power with the blessings of Jayaprakash Narayan, the architect of the democratic struggle against the Emergency raj, was already tottering with deep dissensions affecting its unity. The essential reason for those dissensions to surface was the fast pace at which the RSS, the ideological mentor of the then Jana Sangh (and present-day BJP), was growing across the country, something which had caused legitimate concern among several leading figures of the ruling Janata Party and its supporters. That was the development which soon brought about a split in the ruling party on the famous ‘dual membership’ issue, and the consequent ouster of the Morarji Desai Ministry and its replacement by a new government headed by Charan Singh even though the incumbent Janata Dal-S-Congress-S Ministry was shortlived. Finally the country had to face another election, in early 1980, and that found the Congress-I, led by Indira Gandhi, returning to power within less than three years of its 1977 defeat.

Why is one recalling those days of 1979? Precisely because the crisis in the then ruling Janata Party was triggered by the RSS. Of course there is a vital difference between what happened in 1979 and the situation that prevails today. If the Jana Sangh’s ties with the RSS were instrumental in effecting the 1979 ’July crisis’ leading to the split in the Janata Party and the formation of the Charan Singh Government and eventually the end of the Janata experiment by the beginning of 1980, today it is the RSS-guided BJP under Narendra Modi’s stewardship that enjoys absolute majority at the Centre. In that sense it is a unique situation for the RSS now. So much so that the organisation, which was banned in the aftermath of Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination in 1948, and kept at arm’s length by sizeable sections of even the Janata Party members in 1977, is now in the driver’s seat and many MPs have only in the recent past publicly declared their intention to build memorials and temples in honour of Nathuram Godse who had himself killed the Father of the Nation. The RSS, as is well known, had created an atmosphere in those days that resulted in Gandhiji’s assassination. Today it is the same RSS under whose inspiration several incidents have taken place in the country in the last two years that threaten to destroy the secular fabric of our nation while striking at the root of our pluralist ethos thereby undermining national unity and amity between peoples in our multinational and multire-ligious state.

Commentators and specialists, totally oblivious of or deliberately concealing this phenomenon, may highlight the achievements and/or failure of the Modi Government in the economic and political fields since May 2014, but it is the above-mentioned danger that imparts a grave dimension to the past two years of the present BJP regime. It is the RSS which is taking the country in a particular direction. Taking the cue from RSS publications the BJP-led NDA Government is following a divisive course. Instead of seeking to remove the sense of alienation growing in the minds of the people in J&K and the North-East, it is trying to perpetuate that very alienation by reinforcing the Armed Forces Special Powers Act in those regions of the country and at the same time branding student leaders like Kanhaiya Kumar, the General Secretary of the JNU Students Union, as anti-national thus causing profound resentment among the student community.

Yesterday The Times of India quoted extensively from the latest issue of the Organiser, the RSS organ, to highlight the opinion of the RSS workers. It concluded with the following words:

...It (Organiser) has also taken on JNUSU student activist Kanhaiya Kumar for his alleged support to Left-wing extemism. “There are many Kanhaiyas who support anti-national activities in the name of free speech,” says the weekly, also alleging that certain parliamentarians are on “the payroll of terrorists to raise questions in favour of anti-national elements”.

Tomorrow we shall observe the fiftysecond anniversary of Jawaharlal Nehru’s death. It is thus pertinent to recall that immortal son of India whose name is being sought to be erased from textbooks as another major ‘achievement’ of the Narendra Modi Government (simply because he was an implacable enemy of and uncompromising crusader against majoritarian communalism). Recounting what Nehru wrote in his Discovery of India, Ashutosh Varshney, the Sol Goldman Professor of International Studies and Social Sciences in Brown University, has written in The Indian Express on the prevailing scenario in India:

In Discovery of India, Nehru writes that while interacting with millions of farm workers, who chanted Bharat Mata ki Jai (Victory to Mother India), he would suggest that Bharat Mata was all of us together and upon hearing that, their faces would light up with joy and instinctive approval.

Nehru’s Bharat Mata was an inclusive, kind and compassionate mother, who cared for all of her children. So long as we think of India as a mother, should we not debate whether we want a mother who loves and looks after all her children, or a mother who discriminates, reserves her compassion for one set of children, and hurts the others?

To conclude, India’s democracy is going through an especially troubling period of its fundamentally paradoxical character. It continues to shine electorally, but its attack on liberal freedoms between elections is a cause of great concern.

Varshney mentions only of “attack on liberal freedoms between elections”. One would like to describe it as a manifetation of the Indian version of fascism emanating from those who came to power two years ago in 2014. It is time the pernicious ideology of these elements is frontally assailed and uprooted from the Indian soil, howsoever long and arduous be the process of carrying out that imperative task.

Let us also not fail to understand that this Indian version of fascism is the gift to India from the RSS now enjoying the fruits of power under Narendra Modi’s benign benevolence.

May 26 S.C.

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