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Narendra Modi, for a change, broke his customary silence on the antics of the saffron brigade and condemned the pulling down of statues, if only because he realised that such desecration could not be the monopoly of the Parivar as was, for instance, the breaking of a mosque or of the legs of a police horse. Here’s a report, for Different Truths.
The delight which Tripura’s saffron governor Tathagata Roy, the go-between between the RSS and the BJP Ram Madhav, the Hindutva gadfly Subramanian Swamy, and others in the Sangh Parivar expressed over the toppling of Lenin’s statue in a town in Tripura was short-lived because it did not take long for the act of vandalism to go viral, as they say about widely circulated social media items.
What is more, Narendra Modi, for a change, broke his customary silence on the antics of the saffron brigade and condemned the pulling down of statues, if only because he realised that such desecration could not be the monopoly of the Parivar as was, for instance, the breaking of a mosque or of the legs of a police horse.
Besides, the outbreak of mob violence ranging from Tripura to Tamil Nadu to West Bengal to Uttar Pradesh was not the best advertisement for the prime minister’s assertion in Davos about India’s role as a “humanizing and harmonizing force” to attract investment. When he made the claim, the Karni Sena were running amok, threatening to cut off the nose of a popular heroine for her role in a film which they had not seen.
Now, the anger of the saffron mobs against the “terrorist” Lenin, as a BJP M.P. described the Bolshevik hero, the atheist Periyar and the supposedly anti-Hindu BR Ambedkar was replicated by the non-BJP supporters when they attacked a statue of the saffron Icon, Shyama Prasad Mookerjee.
Arguably, violence has long been a feature of the Parivar’s politics. This tendency was evident not only during the communal riots with which the BJP and earlier the Jan Sangh were associated but also when the Babri Masjid was brought down in the presence of senior BJP leaders. Although Modi has tried to shift the focus to Vikas, the depredations of the saffron storm-troopers have continued.
Where they haven’t resorted to murder and mayhem as over the holy cow, the Hindutva Gestapo have tried provocation as when the Taj Mahal was described as a “blot” on Indian culture and Muslims were asked by BJP MP Vinay Katiyar to leave for Pakistan or Bangladesh. The use of the party’s favourite bogeyman Aurangzeb, to frighten voters as by U.P. chief minister Yogi Adityanath while campaigning for the Gorakhpur and Phulpur by-elections or the description of the Siddaramaiah government in Karnataka as anti-Hindu by BJP president Amit Shah show that communalism remains the party’s main agenda rather than Vikas.
The perception that the BJP’s reference to development is no more than lip-service to keep the political fence-sitters on its side can be strengthened by the fact that Vikas, after all, is not taking place – at least not at the pace which Modi promised in 2014. What is more, as long as social tensions remain high on account of the sporadic acts of violence, investors will not be flocking to the country.
Yet, the BJP cannot come down too heavily on the rioters because, first, they can be said to constitute the party’s committed supporters even if they occasionally give the party a bad name and, secondly, because there is a broad measure of agreement within the Sangh Parivar on what they say. As much is also evident from the comments of the trolls who make up the BJP’s base of support.
Given these constraints, all that the party can do is to intermittently condemn an outrage which attracts public or even judicial attention as, for instance, the violence of the gau rakshaks. The attacks on the statues fell into this category of occasional disapproval because the first attack which set off a chain reaction took place in Tripura where the BJP did not want to give the impression so soon after its success that there is little to choose between the communists and the fascists. It is obvious that if Vikas does not take place in the state, the tide will begin to turn against the BJP as it is already doing in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.
Unlike the past, a feature of present-day politics is that the people want quick results. In the years immediately after independence, the voters were willing to wait, even for decades, for the governments to deliver. But no longer. Just as the generally high voting percentages of the recent times underline the faith of hoi polloi in the electoral system, they also point to the popular expectation of promises being honoured.
Although Modi won in Gujarat on the basis of Hindu consolidation after the 2002 riots and the espousal of Gujarati Asmita (pride) in the wake of the media criticism of his handling of the communal carnage, he realized that bringing Hindus alone on board will not work on a larger stage. Hence, his emphasis on economic growth and the assertion in the company of the King of Jordan, who is a descendant of Prophet Mohammed, that the BJP’s fight is against terrorism and not Muslims.
It is a line, however, which may not be endorsed by the likes of Tathagata Roy, who spoke of how a solution to the Hindu-Muslim problem lay in a civil war, or by BJP MP Sakshi Maharaj who called Mahatma Gandhi’s assassin Nathuram Godse a patriot.
Photo from the Internet