A Clear and Present Danger to Indian Democracy


rssThe rise of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and its growing importance in Indian politics has serious ramifications for Indian polity and secular democracy

By Kuldip Nayar

Fundamentalism is rearing its ugly head once again. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has openly said that it would take part in politics. On the other hand, even the liberal Jamiat Ulema-i-Hind has talked about the Muslim vote. The impending parliamentary elections may be compelling the political parties. Yet, the polarization they are trying to effect is telling upon the coexistence of the Hindus and the Muslims, something which they have come to accept.

Take the RSS first. Apparently, it is not happy with the working of the Bharatiya Janata party (BJP), its political wing. The RSS had its way in imposing the Hindutva poster boy, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, as the BJP’s candidate for the office of prime minister. Maybe, the RSS is upset over leaders like LK Advani, Sushma Swaraj and ArunJaitley who are seen as the liberal elements in the BJP.

By entering politics, the RSS is going back on the undertaking it gave to Sardar Patel, Union home minister, after Partition. The RSS promised and wrote in its constitution not to participate in political activities. This was the price it paid to have the ban lifted following the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. Nathuram Godse, the assassin, was found to have with the RSS.

True, Patel, known for his pro-Hindu views, did not think that the RSS had a hand in the Mahatma’s murder. He said so in his letter dated January 27, 1948, to Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. Yet, Patel believed that the Sangh’s “violent” ways had contributed to the climate in which the Mahatma was killed.

The then Sarsangh chalak, Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar, pleaded not guilty. Nor did his telegrams to Nehru and Patel, expressing shock over the murder, make any difference. The Sangh had to specify in its constitution that it had ‘no politics’ in mind and would remain ‘devoted purely to cultural work’.

Yet, the ranting by Mohan Bhagwat, the RSS chief that it would directly participate in politics is the violation of the promise given to Patel. However, this is one case which the Election Commission would have to ponder over. How can a cultural organization jump into the political arena? Even if the RSS changes its constitution, how justified is it, to give an undertaking to the central government, to have the ban lifted?

Take the statement of Mahmood Madani, chief of Jamiat Ulema-i-Hind. He asked the so-called secular parties not to invoke the bogey of Narendra Modi to create fear among Muslim voters. He said that the parties should instead seek votes “on the basis of promises fulfilled during their tenure and the promises they would make through election manifestoes”.

I have no exception to the statement Madani made except his invoking the phrase of “Muslim vote”. There is no Hindu or Muslim vote, but only the Indian vote. What holds good for one community holds good for the other community. To single out the Muslims is exactly what the RSS does for Hindus. And I have not been able to comprehend Madani’s love for Modi. He should have said in the same statement that his remark should not be misunderstood and that he was opposed to Modi’s parochial politics. In fact, he let the Congress, and Samajwadi Party too, off the hook.

The Congress got the opening and said: “We do not make strategy keeping in mind any individual. Our strategies are with regard to the policies and programs of the party”. However, this self virtue does not convince anyone. It is a fact that the Congress has decided to attack Modi alone. And this can be seen in the manner in which the union ministers are taking turns to criticize Modi. It is unfortunate that the Congress has not raised any substantial issue like development and has played into the hands of Modi who has converted the 2014 polls into a presidential form of election. He, instead, is talking about development and covering up his Hindutva ideology.

The Achilles heel of the Congress is non-governance as well as the incumbency factor. I wish there had been early elections so that the new government would have planned something for the country for a long tenure. But the six months between now and the elections will be without any serious work. Ministers will only be crossing the T’s and dotting the I’s. Consequently, the economy is going haywire. If the ventures in the private sector can register a phenomenal growth, why not then the public sector undertakings?

Yet, the worst is what the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the BJP are doing at Ayodhya. They were responsible for the demolition of the Babri Masjid and the killing of hundreds of Muslims. They are trying to create a similar atmosphere by wanting to stage a rally which the state government has rightly banned. I wish the two parties show the same verve in getting justice for the Dalits, who are Hindus but undergo all indignities and humiliations. They are not getting their due even in the courts.

The recent case is that of a Bihar village, Laxmanpur, where the members of bhoomihars (the landlords) killed 58 Dalits, including 27 women and 10 children. An upper caste judge has released all the 16 accused, on the plea that there was no evidence. It is a travesty of justice. The lower court had sentenced the accused to life imprisonment.

If the high court judge did not find any evidence he could have constituted a special investigation team to work under supervision to hold a fresh probe. The result of his judgment is that the Dalits have migrated from the village where they and their forefathers lived for years. What has happened at Laxmanpur is the fate of Dalits all over the country. The equality before law, enshrined in the constitution, is a farce.

Attention is now focused on the Supreme Court where an appeal has been filed against the High Court judgment. The Supreme Court would do well if it were also to look into the functioning of the Bihar High Court which is dominated by the upper caste.

Clarion India - News, Views and Insights about Indian Muslims, Dalits, Minorities, Women and Other Marginalised and Dispossessed Communities.

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