Last week the Indian express published two news side by side. The title of the first quotes Suraj Pal Singh Amu, spokesperson for Haryana BJP and leader of Karni Sena: âIf you want to make history, Taimur, Aurangjeb, Babur will not be born. The other title was in stark contrast to what Amu said. He quotes Mohan Bhagwat, the head of the RSS, as saying, âIf a Hindu says that no Muslim should live here, that person is not a Hindu.
Amu is known for his communal bigotry and enthusiastic statements like death threats to actor Deepika Padukone for his role in the film, Padmavati which was later renamed Padmaavat, and such declarations can be expected from him, especially when he enjoys de facto state protection.
However, Mohan Bhagwat’s statement was startling. He goes on to say: âThose who engage in lynching go against Hindutva. The law should take its own course against them without any bias. “
The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, or RSS, the parent organization of the Bharatiya Janata Party, is not exactly known to advance the cause of community harmony. Many of its members are known for their uncompromising support for the idea of âââHindu Rashtraâ. They regularly demonize minorities, especially Muslims, in various ways, including their eating habits and, lately, with the invented âjihad of loveâ theory.
I have first-hand experience of the Sangh’s myopic thought process after interacting with one of its affiliates (to which I was invited to give a presentation on border management), which was supposed to aim to identify the problems of the border population but were in fact more interested in their religious profiling.
The RSS is resolutely an anti-minority organization. People belonging to this organization have not only made anti-minority statements, but many also openly advocate violence against them. The hate speeches of Amu and Jamia’s gunman are in front of us. Several reports suggest that Hindutva activists were involved in fomenting the riots in northeast Delhi in 2020. However, the RSS and Bhagwat have kept stoic silence on several cases of atrocities against Muslims.
The RSS has never, in the past seven years, uttered a word against cow vigilantes involved in lynching Muslims for something as common as transporting cows from one place to another. The negative effect on the social fabric of the country is visible to everyone. The amount of hatred towards Muslims during the seven-year rule of the BJP led by a sangh pracharak is palpable.
However, it has now reached a stage where it is proving to be counterproductive, especially in the absence of any concrete evidence of improving the lives of the masses. While what Bhagwat said is a welcome departure from what others have said, the context in which these remarks were made cannot be ignored.
Modified political scenario
In my opinion, the sudden turnaround is directly linked to the change in political scenario and perhaps an internal assessment of the RSS pointing to an imminent loss of political power in Uttar Pradesh. – the greatest state and also the crucible of the Hindutva ideology of hatred towards minorities. The loss of West Bengal despite the BJP communal election campaign has shown that the discerning citizen understands that while religion is important in their lives, it is survival and the availability of basic needs that are more important.
In 2019, the BJP got a larger term than in 2014 because the common man thought a five-year term was too small to implement the agenda of “sabka vikas â and the party deserved a longer term to show results. The common man got caught up in the propaganda against previous âminority appeasementâ governments and saw a messiah in Modi making things right for the majority Hindu community. The BJP also had the advantage of being the first to use social media to its advantage. Their fortunes in 2019 were further aided by the unfortunate Pulwama bombings and follow-up incidents.
The social media advantage has now all but been blunted with a rapid catching up of opposition parties and several fact-checking sites debunking false propaganda. The credibility of leading TV channels is at an all-time low, as was evident during the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) movement and also during the elections in Bengal. The opposition also appears a little more organized to project an alternative narrative.
Low and middle income groups continue to face a bleak future, even after seven years of BJP rule. Rising unemployment and economic slowdown due to various factors with the second largest generator of jobs – the real estate sector – which was already wavering under the impact of the demonetization and deployment of the goods and services tax (GST), now facing the impact of COVID-19. The high cost of fuel is the main driver of inflation. The poor are affected by both high prices and falling real incomes. Manufacturing, retailing and the movement of goods between states are severely affected by the misapplied GST.
The dismal handling of the pandemic over the past two years has added to the woes. A poorly planned and hastily implemented national lockdown in 2020 filled the roads with hundreds of thousands of people struggling to reach their homes. The total halt of transport of any kind has forced them to travel thousands of kilometers on foot, many of them dying on the road.
The premature declaration of victory against the virus, the utter inability to anticipate and prepare for the second wave which resulted in thousands of preventable deaths and scenes of corpses left in the rivers angered many supporters, even the more fervent, of the BJP.
The BJP’s callous handling of the farmers’ agitation and failure to address their real concerns united the masses despite the usual religious and caste divisions. Religious polarization, therefore, may no longer be effective in garnering votes. West Bengal assembly polls have also found no doubt that Muslims have voted almost completely en masse for anyone they believe will protect them from the BJP’s communal policies.
the sarsangchalak, therefore, perhaps realized that to retain power in Uttar Pradesh, the BJP will need the votes of all communities. The crushing victories of 2014, 2017 and 2019 are no longer guaranteed. With large states like West Bengal, Maharashtra and Rajasthan having been lost to opposition, the loss of Uttar Pradesh will spell the end of the Hindutva protagonists. Hence the radiation.
Mohan Bhagwat’s approach, although welcome, will probably have no effect on the ground because the infantrymen of the BJP and the RSS are too full of hatred towards Muslims. His statement is intended only to address political concerns and does not reflect a change of mind or a deviation from community ideology.
Sanjiv Krishan Sood has retired as Additional Director General, Border Security Force.