• Has the End of the Indian Democratic-Secular Polity Begun?

    Shamsul Islam

    November 1, 2018

    Image Courtesy: The Indian Express

    India is witnessing the Hindutva juggernaut running amok, crushing everything democratic, liberal and egalitarian in the Indian polity. The RSS as its charioteer is not ashamed of this vicious campaign and is instead taking credit for it. It was not long back that it claimed to have an apolitical status. Even when its cadres like Atal Bihari Vajpayee and LK Advani became rulers of India, it would assure the nation that RSS was a socio-cultural organisation and had nothing to do with politics. Organizer, a mouthpiece of the RSS, went on to declare that in its editorial of February 6, 2000 that "the RSS is not a political party. It does not take part in elections nor are its office bearers supposed to become office bearers of any political party. The RSS has no election symbol nor has its leadership or members ever endeavoured to seek political office. It is a social-cultural organisation trying to inspire all national activity". In fact, this was a pledge RSS made to Sardar Patel, the first home minister of India, as a condition for the withdrawal of ban on RSS for playing a role in the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi.

    However, ever since Modi, who describes himself as a Hindu nationalist became the country’s Prime Minister in March 2014, the state of affairs have only deteriorated for the worst. The democratic-secular India is on a ventilator, because the RSS is freely setting agendas and executing Hindutva politics under the Modi government. Even the ventilators which include independent judiciary, neutral bureaucracy, Parliament and office of the President of the Republic have faltered in fulfilling their task of safeguarding our polity.

    The President and PM neither talk to the media nor do they address burning issues faced by the nation. However, Mohan Bhagwat as the ideologue of the ruling Hindutva group makes statements about the direction of the government. He has become the de-facto ruler of India. He is allowed to hold conclaves as the only speaker outlining the Hindu nationalist polarising agenda at institutions like Vigyan Bhawan which were meant to deliberate on strengthening our democratic polity. His latest sermon was delivered at the RSS headquarters on the eve of Vijaydashmi, also the foundation day of RSS.

    Abandoning any façade of respecting the Indian constitutional polity and its processes, Bhagwat demanded that an ordinance should be brought in by the government for building a Ram temple in Ayodhya at the place of Babri mosque which was demolished on December 6, 1992. As if the cadres of RSS governing India have resolved all critical problems like violence against Dalits and women, hunger, poverty, unemployment, absence of health and educational facilities and only issues like building the Ram temple are to be solved!

    According to RSS, the Babri mosque was built after demolishing a temple in Ayodhya at the birth place of Ram in 1528-29 by a military commander of Babar (1483-1530). It is to be noted that this mosque was razed to ground by Hindutva goons despite RSS leaders' undertaking to the then Parliament, the Supreme Court and the PM (Narsimha Rao) that the mosque would not be touched. According to him, "the construction of the temple is necessary from the self-esteem point of view; it will also pave the way for an atmosphere of goodwill and oneness in the country".

    Interestingly, the issue of destruction of Ram temple was never raised before 1881. RSS raised the issue of Ram temple only after 1949 and never during the British rule since its birth in 1925. Moreover, Tulsidas (1532–1623, during the times of Akbar) who penned Ramcharitmanas, the epic which popularised the story of Ram as a God in northern India, nowhere in his work in Avadhi language mentioned this destruction. Bhagwat's call for a law for the temple is open denigration of the Supreme Court of India which is presently hearing the mosque-temple dispute.   

    How RSS and its current supremo Bhagwat are out to undo the constitutional proprieties is clear from their brazen opposition to the Supreme Court judgment on allowing women of all ages to visit Sabarimala temple in Kerala. Interestingly, the judgment was delivered by the chief justice of India who was greatly respected in the Hindutva circles. His argument was that "We [the Supreme Court] should have built consensus. The devotees should have been consulted…the premise of the tradition that has been accepted by society and continuously followed for years together was not taken into consideration. The version of heads of religious denominations and faith of crores of devotees was not taken into account".

    Interestingly, RSS always want strict execution of the Judiciary's judgment whenever practices of minority communities, especially Muslim and Christians are judicially outlawed. Moreover, if one were to go by Bhagwat’s logic of not violating the traditions that have been accepted by society and continuously followed for years together, the Sati, widow-remarriage, untouchability, child marriage and slavery would never have been banned in history.

    Unfortunately, the RSS opposition to the entry of women in the Sabarimala temple has not been verbal only. RSS, BJP and its open and hidden organisations have been involved in organising aggressive protests against the Supreme Court judgment.  These organisations have declared the CPM led Kerala government as anti-Hindu and are working overtime to turn Kerala into another Ayodhya.

    BJP president and a perennial source of spitting communal venom, Amit Shah criticised the verdict as “impracticable”, indirectly declaring that “Hindus” would not accept the Supreme Court’s Sabarimala verdict and turned this into communists versus “Hindus” issue. According to NDTV, “BJP President Amit Shah's speech in Kerala using, typical of his style, the language of a school bully, should be seen as a direct assault on the Supreme Court of India.” This call completely disregarded the fact that the Kerala government was simply trying to implement a judgment of the highest court of India which was delivered by a Bench headed by a known “Hindu” chief justice, Dipak Mishra.

    The Kerala Chief Minister, Pinarayi Vijayan has rightly commented that “It is obvious that both BJP and RSS want political capital out of it, and are instigating devotees. Their only intention is to polarise the society for a few votes…These forces have a long history of adopting such diabolical political games. Their only intention is to polarise society on communal lines. For this, they have gone to the extent of indulging in violence and creating strife. Even the abode of Ayyappa was used as a camp for anti-social elements and criminals. We have maintained restraint, considering the sanctity of the place. Let me make it very clear that the Government of Kerala will not tolerate any such acts henceforth. We will ensure that the Supreme Court verdict is implemented in letter and spirit.”

    This exposure comes from a CM who has not wilted under the mass frenzy of Hindutva organisations and vowed to implement the judgment of the highest court of justice of India.

    It is ironical that RSS is talking about the sensibilities and beliefs of the Kerala Hindu devotees of Sabarimala while the organisation itself has been an innate believer of gender discrimination. It does not allow women in RSS and has a separate women’s wing known as the Mahila Sevika Samiti (Society of Women Servants) whereas the male RSS body is known as Swayamsevak or volunteer force. Women RSS cadres remain identified as servants not volunteers.

    As far as RSS’ love for Keralite Hindus is concerned, we must compare it with the wretched ideas of another important figure of RSS, MS Golwalkar who is also one of the most prominent RSS ideologue till date. Golwalkar was invited to address the students of the School of Social Sciences of Gujarat University on December 17, 1960. In this address, while underlying his firm belief in the Race Theory, he touched upon the issue of cross-breeding of human beings in the Indian society in history and said:

    “In an effort to better the human species through cross-breeding the Namboodri Brahamanas of the North who were settled in Kerala, a rule was laid down that the eldest son of a Namboodri family could marry only the daughter of Vaishya, Kshatriya or Shudra communities of Kerala. Another still more courageous rule was that the first off-spring of a married woman of any class must be fathered by a Namboodri Brahman and then she could beget children by her husband. Today this experiment will be called adultery but it was not so, as it was limited to the first child.” [M. S. Golwalkar cited in Organizer, January 2, 1961, p. 5.]

    This statement is highly worrying in many respects. Firstly, it proves that Golwalkar believed that India had a superior Race or breed and also an inferior Race which needed to be improved through cross-breeding. Secondly, a more worrying aspect was his belief that Brahmans of the North (India) and specially Namboodri Brahamans, belonged to a superior Race. Due to this quality, Namboodri Brahamanas were sent from the North India to Kerala to improve the breed of inferior Hindus there. Interestingly, this was being argued by a person who claimed to uphold the unity of Hindus world over. Thirdly, Golwalkar as a male chauvinist believed that a Namboodri Brahman male belonging to a superior Race from the North only could improve the inferior human Race from South. For him wombs of Kerala’s Hindu women enjoyed no sanctity and were simply objects of improving breed through intercourse with Namboodri Brahamanas who were not even related to them in any way.

    What unshackled Hindutva zealots are doing in the largest State of the Indian Union would suffice to know what is happening to the minorities in UP led by a Hindutva zealot who hates secularism and democracy. The State is witnessing the highest ever number of incidents of violence against Christians in history. According to a press report, “Uttar Pradesh, the most populous state in north India, also considered the most populous country subdivision in the World is led by a sitting high priest of Gorakhpur temple, Chief Minister Yogi Aditya Nath and is witnessing the highest number of violence incidents against Christians. What’s noteworthy is that it is happening in a district headquarter located in the northwest of the district of Varanasi, which is a parliamentary constituency of Prime Minister, Narendra Modi…In September [2018] alone, UP has witnessed 25 incidents, out of which 20 were in Jaunpur. Overall, since January 2018, the state has witnessed 59 out of 190 incidents of violence against Christians in India…In these 190 incidents of violence against Christians in 2018 from January to September, 135 women and 115 children were either physically injured or mentally disturbed.”

    The presence of Nobel Peace Prize winner and child rights activist Kailash Satyarthi as the chief guest at the RSS foundation day event was like Malala Yousafzai being invited as the chief guest by the Lashkar-e-Taiba. Some analysts suspect that Satyarthi attended the programme because the RSS/BJP government has “files” on him. However this may not be the only reason. Satyarthi has been a member of the RSS “sleeping cell” and with the coming general elections, people like Satyarthi are being called upon to come out in open and help the organisation. Earlier, Pranab Mukherjee was asked to attend the RSS graduation ceremony (June 7, 2018) for the same reason.


    Shamsul Islam teaches at the University of Delhi.

    First published in हस्तक्षेप .

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