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Mainstream, VOL LV No 28 New Delhi July 1, 2017

Why RSS pushes for the Cattle-slaughter Ban

Saturday 1 July 2017

by Kumudini Pati

On May 30, 2017, newspapers reported that the BJP chief, Amit Shah, had rushed to the Nagpur RSS headquarters and was closeted with RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat in an in-camera meeting for the whole day on May 29. Naturally, speculation was rife among journalists that the BJP had developed cold-feet in the face of the massive opposition to its cattle-slaughter ban, especially in the southern States, which even threatened to precipitate a constitutional crisis of sorts with Kerala and West Bengal defying the Centre’s ban and declaring that they would not implement it. They even threatened to pass their own laws to nullify the Centre’s order or go to court.

So a section of the media concluded that Amit Shah had rushed to Nagpur to plead with the RSS boss the case for a rollback and there was open speculation in several newspapers that after Modi returns from his European sojourn, a decision would be taken on the rollback and Amit Shah would get the clearance for that from the Nagpur high-command.

Some were opining that there could be partial lifting of the ban and buffalos might be exempted from the slaughter ban, as India is emerging as one of the top beef-exporting countries as slaughter and export of buffalo meat was legal until the recent ban.

The media reading of the complicated relationship between the RSS and BJP falls broadly into two shades. One section thinks that the RSS is dictating to the BJP and the other section thinks that though Modi is in command, he is trying to keep the RSS in good humour. Both are one-sided.

In other words, one view is that the RSS is setting the agenda and dictating to the BJP and the slavishly obedient BJP, having no other option, falls in line due to its political dependence.

The other view is that Modi’s vision is building India as a modern economic super-power with specific agendas like Digital India, Smart Cities, Start-Up India and Make-in-India and so on and, despite having these as priorities, more out of political filial loyalties and as he needs the Sangh’s continued political support and blessings, he reluctantly tries to keep the Sangh in good humour and concedes to its own petty priorities. In other words, in the view of these liberals, Modi is a reluctant saffronite trying to carry along the Sangh by obliging them on their otherwise petty concerns more as a political compromise. Some of them see the RSS agenda as the “fringe” issues and look upon the RSS at best as detractors and even rationalise their intervention as an extra-constitutional authority in government affairs as a “necessary evil”. A section of them harbour fond hopes that Modi would soon show the RSS its place.

Both these apparently conflicting views miss the crucial alternative possibility that the RSS/Bhagwat and BJP/Modi might be working in tandem with perfect mutual understanding as per an integral master plan for an ideological-social consolidation of their stint in power and protect it against anti-incumbency and the routine electoral swings of parliamentary politics. As a senior pracharak, Modi’s standing in the RSS takes him to the core of its policy leadership despite his posturing that he is disinterested in Hindutva issues. Of course, even while working in tandem there are bound to be minor variations in emphases and nuances and it is futile to read too much into these. The Modi-Shah duo cannot be contrasted against the RSS. After all, they are a single Parivar in sangh(am)/confluence! The RSS should not be misunderstood as a group of some kind of non-political, frenzied blokes. Even if they were to rollback cattle slaughter, the RSS would rather propose it to Modi than the contrary.

When political-ideological battles threaten to reach a peak and head for a showdown, the judiciary, as the foremost establishment insti-tution, steps in to defuse the conflict. In fact, the Madras High Court’s temporary ban for a month on this order and the Kerala High Court’s interpretation that this order doesn’t ban private sale and eating of beef has poured some cold water on this issue which was snowballing into a major mass political protest, especially in the southern States and West Bengal. Mass protests have been witnessed in places like Agra too and it is expected that this cattle-slaughter ban, if it had continued, would have caused job losses to more than a lakh leather and leather goods workers, especially in Chennai, Bangalore and West Bengal. It will be established clearly that Modi’s Shreshtha Bharat is nothing but the RSS’ Hindu Rashtra! The whole of India would be made into a cow belt!

Where does the cattle-slaughter fit in into the overall saffron scheme? Now that they are in power already, their main agenda is to consolidate their power and make it long term and even relatively permanent by ideologically and socially reinforcing it as “Hindutva Raj” through communal mobilisation from the top. Cow politics is nothing but a means for such ideological-social reinfor-cement for relative permanence in power, for deepening the foundations of their rule. It is also a convenient instrument of diverting the nation’s attention from the key challenges facing the country and the abject failures of the Modi Government on many fronts as seen in the loss of nearly half- -a-million IT jobs, virtual absence of new job creation and Modi’s foreign policy failures with the USA, China and Pakistan and what not.

In fact, the Sangh always looks for such diversionary “soft” issues like cow slaughter because they have the potential to polarise opinion and earn the support of a section of Hindus whose religious sentiments are asso-ciated with cows.

Likewise, they would rake up triple talaaq, where the Muslim minorities are on a weak wicket and where even a section of Muslim women might welcome Modi on this.

They desperately hope that such communal mobilisation of Hindus and consolidating their support on a deeper Hindutva ideological basis would bring them back to power in 2019 and give them a second stint till 2024.

For the same reason, they would maintain a low-intensity tension at the borders and boast of unproven surgical strikes to whip up ultra-nationalism.

Above all, power can be asserted only by periodically exercising/wielding it. It is common in Indian households to see the “head of the family” shouting at others that he would not allow watching of TV in “his” house, or eating of pizzas under “his” roof or womenfolk of “his” household going out independently for shopping or watching a movie. Somewhat akin to such household authoritarianism, at a larger social level, the saffron power wants to reassure itself. We will dictate what you can eat and what you can wear. We will decide what you can say in public and what you can watch.

If they are threatened by Dalit alienation due to Saharanpurs, they wave the banner of Hindu unity in the name of the cow.

However, the power wielded on ‘soft issues’ is of course hard power—a combination of state power (legal ban) combined with street power (vigilantism). If some Dalits or Muslims walk with some cattle, no matter for what reason, they would be whipped or even lynched. If an IIT research scholar participates in a beef-eating festival organised by the Madras IIT’s Dalit students, he would be pinned to the ground and pounded with a rock and his left eye would be crushed by the ABVP animals. They can do it within the IIT Madras campus but not in Madras Law College, where Dalit and Dravidian student groups are quite strong. They cannot dare to do such a thing in Kerala where they would be paid back in a more befitting manner and so they are challenging the Left to do it in Delhi forgetting the fact that not long ago, last year itself, the radical students’ orgisation in JNU held a similar beef-eating festival.

Can the saffron forces dare to impose a visa ban on foreign diplomats who eat beef? Can they direct the Foreign Office to boycott all official diplomatic functions where beef is eaten? Can they break trade relations with all those economic entities dealing in business with beef-associated products? No, they would never do that. They would only go for soft targets to create terror.

After all, beef or no beef, they want to keep the communal pot boiling.

And the RSS wants to remind the nation day in and day out that they are in command!

The author is a freelance journalist and independent researcher in women’s studies. She is also a former General Secretary, All India Progressive Women’s Association (AIPWA), and was a leader of the CPI-ML (Liberation).

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