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Mainstream, VOL LV No 47 New Delhi November 11, 2017

Hindutva’s attempt to Polarise ‘God’s Own Country’

Saturday 11 November 2017


by Ram Puniyani

Earlier in the year (2017) BJP President Amit Shah had launched a ‘Jan Suraksha Yatra’, a two-week programme to highlight the death of RSS workers in Kerala. Many BJP dignitaries (twelve Union Ministers and five Chief Ministers) participated in this. The one who made big news was Yogi Adityanath. The slogan of Amit Shah was that the CPM has been indulging in political violence, which has led to the death of RSS workers in Kannur-Kerala. He wanted to draw the attention of the people to the Jihadi-Red terror in Kerala. Yogi Adityanath, the Chief Minister of UP, was offering advises to Kerala about health care and administration. This did reflect his audacity as we have recently seen the death of a number of children in a Gorakhpur hospital due to lack of oxygen in the hospital. The Chief Minister of such a State offering advice to Kerala is one among the many ludicrous acts of the Yogi, as Kerala tops in the welfare indices in the whole country.

 The whole propaganda unleashed by the BJP is reflective of the pattern of their politics. The statistics shows that during the last seventeen years, the number of political deaths in Kerala are as follows: those dying from the CPM-85, RSS-65, Muslim League and Congress-11 each. Kannur has seen the rivalry between the CPM and RSS, in which at frequent intervals the political workers have been killed from both the sections. Shah’s attempt to show that it is the RSS workers alone who are being killed is a fake breast-beating. He knows well that the CPM workers have also been killed. The RSS cabal as such has built itself up around identity issues which have led to massive killings. Leave apart the earlier issues raised by the RSS-BJP, the latest such have been the Ram Temple and Holy Cow. Both these issues have led to violence and killings. The RSS combine has been deflecting the blame on the victims in a clever manner. It delves on selective presentation of facts, raising of emotions and consequent violence.

 In MP it tried to consolidate its position by raising the issue of the Kamaal Maula Masjid (Bhoj Shala), in Karnataka it raised the issue of Baba Budan Giri (calling it Datta Peetham). Capitalisation of issues around identity is the speciality of the RSS combine. Can their ploy succeed in Kerala? Kerala is one place where the represen-tation of different religious commu-nities is matching. The first Christian commu-nity begins on the Malabar coast, with the coming of St. Thomas in AD 52, establishment of a series of Churches and the beginning of the Christian community. The Arab traders have been coming for trade all through and from the seventh century onwards Islam comes. The first mosque, Cheraman Jumma Mosque, also came up in Kerala. While Amit Shah thrives on dividing the communities along religious lines, Kerala has been the place of inter-community harmony from ages.

Also, Kerala is a place where social reform has been in the forefront. It’s here that the great social reformer, Narayan Guru, preached for a casteless society, equal respect for all castes by establishing temples where people from all castes were welcome. The same Narayan Guru also organised the first Parliament of Religions, breaking the religious divides to build one Humanity. The Communist Government of Namboodiripad later launched land reforms, rare in other parts of the country, to bring in economic succour for the landless peasants. This is what laid the foundation for other changes making Kerala the Number One State in social development indices.

 The attempt to communalise Kerala has been very intense on the part of the BJP-RSS, it has been raising the issue of love-jihad on a regular basis. Many investigations by police authorities have concluded that there is no organised attempt to woo Hindu-Christian girls to convert them into Islam. It is an occasional case of inter-religious marriage. It is the harmony and bonding of inter-community relations to which the Amit Shah tribe is opposed, leading to harassment of girls and torture of the boys, who happen to choose their life partners of their free will.

Amit Shah has not only been sowing the divisive seeds through his efforts, he has also been highlighting the Brahmanical nature of his politics. On Pongal, the biggest festival of Kerala, he brought out posters celebrating Waman, calling the festival as Waman Jayanti, wished the people of Kerala happy Waman Jayanti. The legend is that King Mahabali was killed through deceit by Waman, the Avatar of Lord Vishnu. Pongal as such is regarded as King Mahabali visiting his subject once in a year. The legend goes that the king belonged to a low caste, and treated all the castes with same respect.

While the BJP has been going strong guns in different parts of the country by its tactics of promoting sectarianism and subtle Brahma-nism, it is unlikely that Kerala, the very enlightened State, with better social welfare and amity, will fall prey to Shah’s tactics. He has been labelling the violence as Red-Jihadi violence; by calling it so he wants to kill two birds with a single stone. Kerala has a large Muslim population; the word jihadi is to demonise them. It is likely that this time around these tactics will boomerang on the saffron party as Kerala is the bastion of social reform and political awareness. While the RSS has been coming up here for the last many decades, its political child, the BJP, has not been able to make any headway barring one seat in the Assembly. One knows that there is a rise in the BJP’s electoral votes lately, but whether that trend can grow is a matter of conjecture and depends on how the CPM and other parties respond to these attempts by the BJP and company.

 It is heartening to know that the Left parties have kicked off yatras,Jan Jagrata Yatra (People’s awareness), to promote the democratic values. Also, it seems that the Congress (UDF) is also planning yatras. It is time for these elements to wake up to the fact that they need to coordinate their efforts to save communal amity. Their coordination on this will help matters a great deal. 

The author, a retired Professor at the IIT-Bombay, is currently associated with the Centre for the Study of Secularism and Society, Mumbai.

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