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December 15, 2017

Hindi article-Electoral alliances and the Left


आम चुनाव 2009: वामपंथियों को धर्मनिरपेक्ष-प्रजातांत्रिक गठबंधन का हिस्सा बनना चाहिए -राम पुनियानी पिछले कुछ वर्षों में भाजपा की ताकत में जबरदस्त इजाफा हुआ है, विशेषकर 2014 के आम चुनाव में उसकी शानदार जीत के बाद से। वह कई राज्यों में सत्ता में है और उसे ऐसे क्षेत्रों में भी चुनावों में विजय मिल रही है, जहां पहले उसका कोई अस्तित्व ही नहीं था। भाजपा की इस विजय यात्रा से अन्य राजनीतिक दल अचंभित हैं। इस संदर्भ में कामरेड प्रकाश कारत का साक्षात्कार (द हिन्दू, नवंबर 29, 2017) महत्वपूर्ण है। अपने साक्षात्कार में कामरेड कारत कई ऐसे प्रश्न उठाते हैं जिन पर गहराई से विचार किया जाना आवश्यक है। वे कहते हैं कि भाजपा शनैः शनैः देश की सबसे बड़ी और प्रभावी पार्टी बनकर उभर रही है और उसने कांग्रेस का स्थान ले लिया है। इस तथ्य को भविष्य की किसी भी योजना को बनाते समय ध्यान में रखा जाना चाहिए। वे यह भी कहते हैं कि पिछले कुछ वर्षों में भाजपा की नीतियों के कारण उसके पारंपरिक वोट बैंक, जिसमें मध्यम वर्ग और छोटे व्यवसायी शामिल हैं, का पार्टी से मोहभंग हुआ है। श्रमिक और किसान परेशानहाल हैं और उनके आंदोलन मीडिया की सुर्खियां बन रहे हैं। दलित भी संघर्ष की राह पर चल पड़े हैं और विश्वविद्यालयों के कैम्पसों में असंतोष की सुगबुगाहट है। ऐसी स्थिति में, कामरेड कारत के अनुसार, भाजपा का विकल्प प्रस्तुत करना आवश्यक है। वे कहते हैं कि आज सभी को मिलकर संघर्ष करने की जरूरत है और विभिन्न सामाजिक समूहों को एक मंच पर आना चाहिए। यह बिलकुल ठीक है। परंतु कामरेड कारत का यह निष्कर्ष एकदम गलत प्रतीत होता है कि मार्क्सवादी कम्युनिस्ट पार्टी किसी ऐसे गठबंधन का हिस्सा नहीं बन सकती जिसमें कांग्रेस भी हो। उनका यह भी कहना है कि भाजपा सरकार फासीवादी नहीं है बल्कि एकाधिकारवादी और सांप्रदायिक है और अपने विरोधियों पर इस तरह के हमले करा रही है, जो फासीवादियों से मिलते-जुलते हैं। कारत शायद वर्तमान स्थिति की भयावहता और भविष्य में उसके कारण खड़े होने वाले खतरों को पूरी तरह समझ नहीं सके हैं। सच यह है कि देश धीरे-धीरे आरएसएस के हिन्दू राष्ट्र के एजेंडे को लागू करने की ओर बढ़ रहा है। पिछले तीन वर्षों के घटनाक्रम को केवल चुनावी दृष्टिकोण से नहीं देखा जाना चाहिए। उससे हमारी संस्थाएं, हमारे विश्वविद्यालय, हमारी शिक्षा प्रणाली और आर्थिक नीतियां गहरे तक प्रभावित हुई हैं। हिन्दू राष्ट्रवादी विचारधारा का वर्चस्व बहुत तेज़ी से बढ़ा है। राममंदिर, गोमाता और लव जिहाद जैसे पहचान से जुड़े मुद्दों का समाज में बोलबाला हो गया है। गोरक्षा के नाम पर देशभर में कई मुसलमानों की हत्याएं हुई हैं। ऊना में दलितों की सार्वजनिक रूप से बर्बर पिटाई को सारे देश ने देखा है और मवेशियों के व्यापार से जुड़े लोगों ने अपनी जानें गंवाईं हैं। कश्मीर में अतिराष्ट्रवादी नीतियों के कारण भारी संख्या में लोगों की जानें गई हैं और वे घायल हुए हैं। सरकारी पुरस्कारों को लौटाकर बुद्धिजीवियों, कलाकारों और लेखकों ने यह स्पष्ट कर दिया है कि देश में बढ़ती असहिष्णुता उन्हें स्वीकार्य नहीं है। धार्मिक अल्पसंख्यकों को इस हद तक निशाना बनाया जा रहा है कि मुस्लिम समुदाय के कई प्रमुख चिंतकों ने यह कहना प्रारंभ कर दिया है कि मुसलमानों को चुनावों के चक्कर में पड़ना ही नहीं चाहिए क्योंकि अगर वे ऐसा करते हैं तो इससे समाज और धुव्रीकृत होता है। हमारा मीडिया या तो कार्पोरेट मुगलों के नियंत्रण में है या वह सत्ताधारियों के समक्ष इतना झुक गया है कि वह श्रमिकों, किसानों और दलितों के संघर्षों को तवज्जो ही नहीं दे रहा है। क्या यह केवल एकाधिकारवाद है, जैसा कि कामरेड कारत कहते हैं। एकाधिकारवाद ऊपर से थोपा जाता है। भारत में आज आम लोगों को गोलबंद कर उन्हें प्रजातंत्र का खात्मा करने के उपकरण के रूप में इस्तेमाल किया जा रहा है। हिन्दू राष्ट्रवादी गुंडे सड़कों पर तांडव कर रहे हैं। हिन्दू राष्ट्रवादी विचारधारा ने देश को जकड़ लिया है। इस एजेंडा को लागू करने में आम लोगों की भागीदारी से यह स्पष्ट है कि वर्तमान सरकार को केवल एकाधिकारवादी नहीं कहा जा सकता। भाजपा सरकार आज क्या कर रही है? वह कार्पोरेट दुनिया को पूरा सहयोग और समर्थन दे रही है, वह देश की प्रतिष्ठित संस्थाओं की स्वायत्तता को समाप्त कर रही है, कश्मीर में अतिराष्ट्रवादी नीतियां लागू की जा रही हैं, विश्वविद्यालयों को हिन्दू राष्ट्रवाद का अड्डा बनाने की कोशिशें हो रही हैं, वंदे मातरम गाना होगा और भारत माता की जय कहना होगा जैसी बातें कहकर अल्पसंख्यकों को आतंकित किया जा रहा है। इस सबके लिए निचले स्तर पर आरएसएस के विभिन्न संगठन सक्रिय हैं और शीर्ष स्तर से उन्हें केन्द्र की भाजपा सरकार का समर्थन मिल रहा है। लोगों में असंतोष और आक्रोश तो है परंतु समाज का एक हिस्सा नरेन्द्र मोदी के व्यक्तित्व की चकाचोंध में इतना खो गया है कि उसे यथार्थ दिखलाई ही नहीं पड़ रहा है। यह सही है कि मोदी का प्रभामंडल धीरे-धीरे क्षीण हो रहा है परंतु अब भी वह बहुत चमकदार है। इन सब कारणों से हिन्दू राष्ट्रवादी विचारधारा के विरूद्ध संघर्ष केवल चुनावी मैदान तक सीमित नहीं रह सकता। हमें सांस्कृतिक, आर्थिक और अन्य कई मोर्चों पर भी इस विचारधारा से मुकाबला करना होगा। कहने की आवश्यकता नहीं कि चुनावी मोर्चों पर विजय का बहुत महत्व है। संघ लगभग पिछली एक सदी से देश में काम कर रहा है परंतु उसके प्रभाव में 1980 के बाद से तेजी से वृद्धि हुई है। वह पहले भी समाज का साम्प्रदायिकीकरण करने की कोशिश करता रहा है परंतु अब उसे इस कार्य में सफलता मिल रही है। सरकार और प्रशासन उसकी राह प्रशस्त कर रहे हैं। अगर हमें हमारे देश के धर्मनिरपेक्ष बहुवादी चरित्र को जीवित रखना है तो हमें संघ और भाजपा जैसी राजनीतिक शक्तियों को दरकिनार करना ही होगा। इसमें कोई संदेह नहीं कि कांग्रेस की ऐसी कई नीतियां हैं जिनसे सहमत होना कठिन है। परंतु यूपीए-1 का न्यूनतम सांझा कार्यक्रम एक व्यापक गठबंधन का आधार बन सकता है। जाहिर है कि इस गठबंधन के निर्माण की राह में कई बाधाएं हैं। बिहार महागठबंधन प्रयोग कुछ अर्थों में सफल रहा है तो कुछ अर्थों में असफल भी। कुछ पार्टियों को एक मंच पर इसलिए नहीं लाया जा सकता क्योंकि उनके सामाजिक आधार एक-दूसरे को काटते हैं परंतु फिर भी ऐसे कई राजनीतिक दल हैं जिनके साथ हाथ मिलाकर वामपंथी पार्टियां हिन्दू राष्ट्रवाद के बढ़ते प्रभाव का मुकाबला कर सकती हैं। श्रमिकों, दलितों और किसानों के हितों से समझौता किए बगैर, आर्थिक नीतियों पर अंतरिम सहमति बनाई जा सकती है। गैर-सांप्रदायिक राजनीतिक दलों के लिए भारतीय राजनीति में उपलब्ध स्थान सिकुड़ता जा रहा है। परंतु जो भी स्थान उन्हें उपलब्ध है, उसका इस्तेमाल कर वे हिन्दू राष्ट्रवाद का मुकाबला कर सकते हैं। हिन्दू राष्ट्रवादी नीतियां केवल अधिनायकवादी नहीं हैं। वे फासीवाद से मिलतीजुलती हैं। उनका मुकाबला करने के लिए एक संयुक्त गठबंधन बनाया जाना आवश्यक है और कांग्रेस को उसका सदस्य होना ही चाहिए। (अंग्रेजी से हिन्दी रूपांतरण अमरीश हरदेनिया)

December 14, 2017

Fear Nepal, Mr Modi, Pakistan is passé | Jawed Naqvi

Dawn, 12 December 2017

Former prime minister Manmohan Singh, peace activist Mani Shankar Aiyer, a former army chief and highly regarded former high commissioners have been branded by Prime Minister Modi as anti-India conspirators working with Pakistan to depose the BJP government in Gujarat, and to instal a Muslim chief minister there. It’s a motor mouth version of the Democratic allegation against Donald Trump whose presidency is supposed to have been won for him by Russia.

Cock and Bull used to be two rival coach inns on the way from London to Manchester. Drunken exaggerations and distilled tosh were their contribution to many areas of pseudo-expertise, hence cock-and-bull stories, akin to what Mr Modi’s Hindutva practitioners seem to revel in. If they had been keen observers of events in the neighbourhood, they would know better. It is the robust and resurgent Nepal they should fear, not an exhausted and internally haemorrhaging Pakistan. Let me explain why.

There was a time when India’s ascendant right-wing doctrine — a hodgepodge of Italian fascism mounted on garbled Hinduism — anchored its future in Nepal’s regressive monarchy. Successive monarchs were graded as Shri Teen and Shri Paanch, expressing the potency of divinity they claimed as the incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Over time, the rulers — prototypes for Hindutva visionaries in India — became better known for the loot and plunder of the impoverished people of their landlocked country. Now the Shahs and the Ranas are in the doghouse or in exile, even as some of their fellow claimants to divinity in India, the so-called god-men, are lodged in jail.

It was a pleasure to see secular ballot boxes being emptied at the self-assured counting centres of the new nation where a popular communist alliance of former rivals is headed for a landmark election victory. Like their Indian counterparts, Nepali communists and Maoists are misnomers for idealist romantics who are predominantly Hindu social democrats but of a staunchly secular persuasion. That’s how Nehruvian India used to be up to Indira Gandhi’s first term.

A paramount message is about how to stay independent when caught between two giant neighbours who happen to be rivals with nuclear capability.

Nepal’s results are presenting a huge contrast to the groaning and moaning that’s been going on in India, where tired and abused people and their clueless leaders have been hoping, mostly without a strategy, to figure out how to evict fatalism from their midst. Religious fatalism that once dogged the erstwhile Hindu kingdom shores up an abysmally mediaeval ruling mindset in India. Of course, Indians will get their chance in 2019 regardless of the outcome of the Gujarat elections currently under way in the BJP-ruled state.

Many among the worried Indians are focused on the questionable electronic voting machines, which are indeed a threat to representative democracy if reports of their hacking are true, which they probably are.

The results from cash-strapped Nepal offer a lesson about the importance of the old workhorse, the transparent ballot papers, a fairer if not always a flawless route to test popular will. There are, however, other important messages from Nepal to Indians. A paramount message is about how to stay independent when caught between two giant neighbours who happen to be rivals with nuclear capability.

Another message is a more direct appeal to the sectarian and querulous people of India, about how they too can win the battle for democracy against religious hypocrites, by channelling their energies together. It is evident also that what passes for communist ideology in Nepal is an improved variant of any robust democracy. There too, the example was set by Indian communists before they dissipated into small ineffective modules.

Above all, the message from Nepal reflects a palpable reality involving a people’s dream of creating a just and equitable society. The people have rejected packaged mythology that was doled out in a political format by Nepal’s erstwhile rulers. The mythology was purveyed by men who had projected themselves as Hindu godheads. Progressive Urdu poet Niaz Haider may have never visited Nepal, but he had a message that seems to have been heeded by its leftist idealists.

Qahron ke, jafaa’on ke mukhalif chaliye/ Haa’n tund hawaa’on ke mukhalif chaliye/ Kya faaida bando’n ke mukhalif chal kar/ Chaliye tou khudaao’n ke mukhalif chaliye. (Let’s march against adversity and betrayal/ Let’s march against the strong winds of oppression/ What joy is there in punishing an erring fellow human/ The victory will be complete when pretenders of divinity come crashing down to earth.)

Now Nepal’s deposed royals are hoping that the gold they siphoned away would help them crawl back somehow to disrupt the revolutionary changes taking place in their country.

The Left Alliance made a clean sweep in Nepal’s provincial and federal elections. It is understood that the chairman of the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist, KP Sharmal Oli, would lead the government and the chairman of the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist Centre, Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’, would be the chairman of the new Nepal Communist Party, formed after the merger of both. The election results also show that six out of the seven provinces would have a leftist government.

A message the Indian left can glean is that the communist victory in Nepal became certain when the two biggest left parties announced the formation of an alliance ahead of provincial and federal elections. Both parties were the second and third largest force in the parliament respectively. They also announced that they would work for their formal merger after the election. In India, it means the numerically weaker comrades have to seek out a common agenda with the secular opposition groups, including the Congress.

Allow me to believe that the Nepali message for Rahul Gandhi is firm and clear also. His Congress party habit of visiting temples or other religious places to woo electoral support is not the best strategy to pull his country out from officially fuelled ignorance saddled on the world’s highest corpus of illiterate adults. In a similar vein, Nepal’s message is just as clear for Pakistan’s woes with its own religious satraps.

December 11, 2017

Padmavati-Power of Historical fiction


Rampage around Film Padmavati: Power of Historical Fiction Ram Puniyani Nearly a year ago multiple rowdy protests took place when the film Padmavati was being shot in Rajasthan. Sanjay Leela Bhansali had to interrupt the shooting for some time. Currently again, more intense opposition has been witnessed as the film was due to be released. On the basis of its trailer, the Karni Sena threatened that film should not be released. Crores of rupees were on offer from BJP leaders for cutting the nose of Deepika Padukone, the one doing the role of Padmavati and for the head of Bhansali, the director of the film. Bhansali was also interrogated by the Parliamentary committee. The assertion from Karni Sena was that the film distorts history and is an insult to Rajput honor. An intense intolerance to the artistic freedom of the director has been on display, with state looking the other way around, in a way giving silent support to the violence and attempt to suppress the freedom of expression. The Chief Ministers of five BJP ruled states have already proclaimed the film will not be released in their states and one of the Congress Chief Ministers also talked against the film. What is the story line of the film? Mostly the story is drawn from the classic Novel of Malik Muhammad Jayasi, modified as per the film makers. Jayasi in his novel tells the story of Allauddin Khilji, the 13-14 century ruler of Delhi. As per this fictional tale he is smitten by the immense beauty of Padmavati, attacks Chittor to get her. As he lays the siege of Chittor, Padmavati along with many valiant Rajput women commit Jauhar (self immolation) and kill them depriving Khilji from getting Padmavati. The objectionable part of the film for Karni Sena-BJP types is probable dream sequence of romance between Khilji and Padmavati. The film makers are denying such a sequence. As such Jayasi’s narrative is a metaphor for the futility of power and aspiration of the soul for liberation. Historians like Rajat Datta (The Wire, Rani Padmini: Classic Case of How Love tale was inserted into History. https://thewire.in/200992/rani-padmini-classic-case-lore-inserted-history/) tell us that Padmvati or Padmini is not a historical character. Khilji did lay the siege of Chittor in 1303. Novel Padmavat was written in 1540, over two centuries later. The books which were written between these two periods do not mention Padmavati at all. After Padmavat appeared many bards picked up this tale and made it a part of popular folklore. Its further and communal distortion took place after the British ethnography-historiography began and aimed at the demonizing the Muslim rulers. While bards accounts underplayed the Muslim aspect, Todd’s Annals ( Annals and Antiquities Rajasthan (1829), transformed it and gave the narration an anti- Muslim, anti Khilji slant. This is an insertion into the history, which has come to life over a period of time. Currently the incidents of Rajput women and Muslim men have two major types of presentations. One is that which shows the velour of the Rajput women, committing self immolation rather than relating to the Muslim kings. The other one is where the interaction and alliance of Muslim rulers and Rajput families are at the core and intermarriage is the part of the relationship. Over a period of time the understanding is being promoted that the ‘giving away’ daughters to Muslims was a surrender, weakness of Rajputs. This latter falls into the category of ‘our women’ being given away to the ‘others’; its’ a patriarchal presentation of events, which is interpreted as a matter of shame for Rajputs! The way at looking at the obverse like film Bajirao Mastani is totally different from this. While film is yet to be seen in full what one can glean from the trailer of the film is that that Khilji is shown to be cruel; barbaric person, unkempt, attacking food for example. His army is carrying a flag looking like that of Pakistan. The present stereotypes about Muslims seem to be embodied in Khilji. This creation of ‘Muslim as evil’ has roots in the intervention of British accounts. British colonial powers followed the policy of ‘divide and rule’. The British officers/Historians followed their masters and gave a tilt to the events where the image of Muslim kings was tarnished. Kings have their own characteristics and religion is not the only marker for their nature and character. Kings cutting across religions had traits which can be attributed to their power. They also had their specificities. The historical accounts don’t present an out of the way cruelty of Khilji. What is recorded is that he expanded the Delhi rule and fought against the Mongols, and saved the Delhi Empire from their invasion. With time and growing intolerance these types of films are getting a more hostile reception. We first had Mughal-E- Azam, one among the great films from India, a fiction nevertheless, where Jodha bai, a Rajput princess is married to Akbar. The reception of the film was extraordinarily positive, the alliance was not questioned. This was few decades earlier when the communalization of society was not so intense. Few years ago we had Jodha Akbar on the same theme. This time around there was some protests but film did carry on. Now with Padmavati the protests are horrific. History has been distorted here for sure, but what part of history and which way? Padmavati is a fictional reality, how it has been depicted needs to be seen. But the fear of a Hindu girl romancing a Muslim is what is agitating the Sena’s and the CMs of BJP ruled states in particular. Here surely the film distorts Khilji, presenting him as an embodiment of the currently prevalent negative perceptions about Muslims. Still film makers can have their own liberty and film must be seen, appreciated and criticized on the grounds of its strengths and weaknesses. What stands out is the fictional Padmavati coming to haunt as a real character, and Khilji being painted in the biases of present reflected on the past.

December 10, 2017

India: Gujarat Assembly elections - BJP masterclass in religious polarisation ...

After Gujarat, nobody can say BJP is party of 'vikas'

BJP's consistent electoral success over past few years has been product of having far more money, being far better organised, and playing far better caste politics than the Opposition

 
 
One of the biggest myths of the past few years has been the notion that the (BJP) wins elections on the basis of “aspirations”, of its promises of “development”, and because of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s reputation as an economic manager. In fact, the party’s consistent electoral success over the past few years has been the product of having far more money, being far better organised, and playing far better caste politics than the Opposition.

This myth has been thoroughly exploded in the This is an election that was the BJP’s to lose. Nobody gave the Congress — unprepared, inefficient, underfinanced, and with a broadly unpopular leader — much of a chance. For good reason; after all, Modi is Gujarat’s favourite son. And, let’s be clear, I still think the Congress will not just lose on December 18, but will lose badly. But that’s not the point: the point is to examine how the behaves when it fears it may just have its back against the wall. At the moment of crisis, “development” goes out the window, “aspiration” is dumped, praises of Modi the economic manager are reserved for appreciative well-heeled audiences at New Delhi’s many winter “summits”. Instead, we are treated to a master-class in religious polarisation and caste politics. Is a Hindu? Does represent all Patidars, or can some be sliced off from his coalition? If the Congress comes into power, will it not — horrors! — appoint a Muslim chief minister? Isn’t Mani Shankar Aiyar insulting OBCs? [. . .]


http://www.business-standard.com/article/opinion/it-s-not-the-economy-stupid-117120900005_1.html

India: The Babri Masjid Demolition Was Impossible Without RSS Foot-Soldiers Like These - Filmaker Lalit Vachani recounts

The Wire

In studying the Sangh parivar for my film, I encountered the disciplined manner in which the December 6, 1992 operation was planned.

Filming the boys in the RSS Nagpur branch in September 1992. Courtesy: Lalit Vachani

Twenty five years after the demolition of the Babri Masjid, The Wire, through a series of articles and videos, captures how the act of destruction changed India forever.
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In September and October 1992, the Wide Eye Films team and I filmed The Boy in the Branch at the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) headquarters in Nagpur. Commissioned by SOUTH, a documentary and current affairs programme on UK’s Channel 4 television channel, the film looked at the process of indoctrination and recruitment of young Hindu boys by the RSS shakha system.
Prior to this, in December 1990, I had observed my first RSS shakha while working with journalist Lindsey Hilsum on a BBC radio documentary about the Ram janmabhoomi movement.
We visited the RSS headquarters at Jhandewalan in Delhi where we interviewed K.S. Sudarshan, who was sah sarkaryavah (joint general secretary) of the RSS at the time. Sudarshan organised an ekatrikaran (a gathering of shakhas in a show of RSS strength) for us to document, and seeing the two of us arrive with just a tape recorder and a few microphones he seemed visibly disappointed that there were no cameras or a TV crew.
Subsequently, I began my research on the shakha at the RSS headquarters in Delhi, secured permissions and a year later, found myself in Nagpur filming The Boy in the Branch.
K.S. Sudarshan at the RSS headquarters in Mahal Karyalaya, Nagpur. September 28, 1992. Courtesy: Lalit Vachani
Juxtaposing the activities of two different RSS shakhas or branches, my film documented the stories and the games, the rituals disciplining the body and the mind, and the social worlds and sense of community that the young RSS initiate inhabits. In the process, I hoped to reveal how the shakha regime enabled the RSS to revitalise, reproduce and replicate itself and spread its Hindutva ideology to newer areas.
The Boy in the Branch never had the Ram janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid issue as its central focus – yet, it was impossible to escape the mandir-masjid discourse that was at the core of RSS activity at the time in Nagpur.
When we talked to the young boys at the RSS shakha, six-year-olds would tell us about the need for Hindu unity, how the Muslims were not letting the Ram temple be built in Ayodhya and why the mosque should not be there.
At proudh (adult) RSS shakhas, swayamsevaks read and discussed journalist Arun Shourie’s writings on the Ram janambhoomi movement. Later, Shourie would make an appearance in Nagpur on October 5, 1992, as the chief guest for the RSS founders’ day.
In his speech as the chief guest, Shourie praised the RSS for highlighting symbols and transforming them into national issues, as they had done with the Ram Janmabhoomi Andolan:
“We will have to achieve the aims of this movement.
If you were to present the average Muslim in UP with the archaeological evidence and the historical proof of the temple’s destruction, the Muslim would realise that leaders like Shahabuddin are giving him false information.
… They say that Islam will be destroyed by breaking a mosque… Prophet Mohammed had himself broken mosques. It is written in the Koran… Allah approved it in the Koran. Mosques would be shifted routinely…”
The third RSS sarsanghchalak Balasaheb Deoras (c) watches Arun Shourie speak as chief guest on RSS Founders Day, October 5, 1992.  Courtesy: Lalit Vachani
At the time, the RSS and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) were promoting the Ram Paduka Poojan Abhiyan (worship of Ram’s slippers) as a way of enlisting support for the Ram mandir. The padukas would be blessed at a central temple from where they would be taken to neighbouring districts and villages. The aim was to raise finances and enlist volunteers for karseva at the end of November and December. We documented the puja at the Durga mandir in Pratapnagar and filmed ‘our’ volunteers taking the padukas to different neighbourhoods in Nagpur.
I was aware of the sleight-of-hand by which the Kalyan Singh-led UP state government had acquired 2.77 acres of land around the Babri Masjid for purposes of ‘promoting tourism’. Subsequently, the area around the masjid had been built up to lay the foundation for a temple, even though the UP government claimed this was merely a platform for ‘performing bhajans‘.
There had also been assaults on the Babri Masjid on October 30 and November 2, 1990, and police firing on karsevaks by the Mulayam Singh administration in UP. While official accounts claimed that 16 karsevaks were killed, the RSS and VHP suggested that thousands had died, and in a highly emotive and communally charged atmosphere, volunteers carried the asthi kalash (urns with the ashes of the dead karsevaks) in a national campaign to accelerate the mobilisation of volunteers for the December 1992 karseva.

As we began editing the film in mid-October, I had an uneasy sense that something was going to happen at Ayodhya in the coming weeks. I expected there would be unrest, and perhaps some violence and clashes between security forces and the karsevaks. But I had also come to believe the Hindutva propaganda that all of the mobilisation of personnel and resources we were witnessing was towards a symbolic karseva – at best a political tool to pressure the courts to allow the building of the temple in the distant future.
When the Babri Masjid was demolished, we were near completion of our film.
As I watched the images of the demolition, I was stunned. How had this been achieved? How spontaneous was this movement? What was the RSS’s role in all of this? Had the RSS volunteers in my film any part to play in the mobilisation and the demolition?
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Eight years later, in 2000, as the RSS-BJP reaped the benefits of the mosque demolition and moved from the opposition and the periphery of Indian politics to the centre, I returned to Nagpur to meet the boys in the branch – Sandeep, Sripad and Purushottam – to renew my engagement with the RSS and to talk with them about their role in the Ram janmabhoomi movement. This journey was to result in a sequel and my second film on the RSS – The Men in the Tree.
The 1992 film was made with official RSS permission and therefore we had to negotiate a system of constraints and an informal system of surveillance. There was always an appraisal of the questions we asked and the inquiries we made, along with pressure to project and promote certain RSS social service initiatives. The current sarsanghchalak of the RSS – Mohan Bhagwat – was All India Sharirik Pramukh in 1992 and was in constant touch with the RSS volunteers during our filming.
In contrast, my visit to Nagpur in 2000 was a personal one just to meet the characters from my earlier film and it happened largely under the radar of the RSS.
I traveled alone on my first two filming trips in August and October 2000, and was accompanied by cameraman Ranjan Palit on a third shoot in April 2001.
Cameraman Ranjan Palit films Sripad at the Telecomnagar shakha in October 1992. Courtesy: Lalit Vachani
When I met Sandeep, Sripad and Pururshottam, they were eager to tell me about what had happened in their lives in the intervening years. But most of all, they wanted to talk about the demolition of the Babri mosque, their contribution to the movement, and “how they made history”. There was absolutely no holding back and I was surprised at how outspoken they were.
Sripad described the Ram janmabhoomi movement planning as a “war strategy where some are sent to the front while others man the base camp”.
Both Sripad and Purushottam were at the front lines, while Sandeep was one of the RSS volunteers who was deputed to “stay behind and work on the foundation”.
They explained that there was detailed, meticulous organisation and deployment of personnel for months before the karsevaks were to arrive in Ayodhya. As Sandeep said, “there was micro-planning”. Groups of five karsevaks were formed and sent to Ayodhya under a leader. Purushottam was one of the group leaders. Sripad was one of ten RSS swayamsevaks from Nagpur especially selected to do ‘a job’, which he was proud to have accomplished.
Both Sripad and Purushottam climbed onto the dome of the Babri mosque and took turns with the other karsevaks breaking it. Sripad told me proudly that they were able to accomplish their mission of breaking the mosque in just five hours.
But what about the ordinary Ram bhakts unconnected to the RSS family of organisations who spontaneously ventured to Ayodhya to perform karseva out of a sense of personal devotion and enthusiasm?
Sandeep told us that there might have been a few volunteers who arrived in Ayodhya independently, but they would have had to report to RSS workers at the centre who made all local arrangements and effectively controlled the activity of such persons.
It was a movement – there was planning and discipline. It wasn’t possible for just anyone to land up there as a temple volunteer.


Excerpt - The Men in the Tree from Lalit Vachani on Vimeo.


Sandeep, Sripad and Purushottam’s accounts suggested that there was nothing spontaneous about the Babri mosque mobilisation. It was a highly controlled, disciplined and secretive operation carried out with months of prior planning and premeditated calculation.
A persistent strain in Sangh parivar discourse about the Babri Masjid demolition is the spontaneous nature of the mobilisation, as an assemblage of angry, outraged Hindu victims congregates. This is invariably followed by a significant rupture as the mob gets unruly and breaks the rule of law in an outburst of emotional outrage and indisciplined excess.
Ten years later, we would be witness to a re-enactment of the same performance programme of ‘spontaneous mob combustion’ during the horrific Gujarat pogroms that would catapult Narendra Modi to the centre-stage of the Indian polity.
In studying RSS and Sangh parivar movements, there is an urgent need to look beyond the manifest and performative dimensions of an action that often involves the staging of events to create the illusion of spontaneity.
After painstakingly compiling its evidence over 17 years, the Liberhan Commission indicted the Sangh parivar in 2009:
“Prognosis of the evidence leads to the conclusion that the mobilisation of the kar sevaks and their convergence to Ayodhya and Faiziabad was neither spontaneous or voluntary. It was well-orchestrated and planned. In conformity with the army-like discipline of the organisations like the RSS, the manner in which the arrangements and mobilisation was carried out does not corroborate the theory that the convergence or the mobilisation of such a large number of karsevaks was for symbolic karseva alone.” (pg 917)
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In 2016, I stop by Nagpur to meet the RSS men from my two films. It has been 15 years since we met last. Today, both Sandeep and Sripad have successful careers and shakha-going children. Although they are not full-time activists, they continue to be involved peripherally in RSS work. They continue to feel great pride in their involvement in the Ram janmabhoomi movement and their ‘historic achievement’ of December 6, 1992 – the day the ‘dhancha’ – or ‘structure’ – was destroyed.
But when I meet them this time, there is an embellishment to the story:
“Lalitji, woh jo aapne gift diya tha, woh Bangali shirt to bahut kaam aaya! (The Bengali shirt that you gifted was very useful)”
‘Bangali shirt’?
Sripad reminds me that at the end of our shoot in October 1992 we had given gifts of ‘Bangali shirts’ (long, knee-length khadi kurtas) to the five main characters in the film.
Sripad tells me with a laugh:
“Jab hum Babri dhanchey par aakraman karne ja rahe the, ek vichaar tha ki hamein ganvesh mein nahin jaana chahiye. Par hum to RSS knicker pahen rakhe the. Phir hamne uske upar woh Bangali shirt pahen liya… aur issi tarah dhanchey par kaam karte rahe, todte gaye kaam karte rahe, todte gaye…
Lalitji, aapka tohfa toh bahut hi kaam aaya…
(When we were going to attack the Babri mosque, one thought was that we must not go in our uniform. But we were wearing the RSS knickers, so we wore the Bangali shirt over that.. and that’s how we worked on the structure, we kept breaking it and working on it..
Lalitji, your gift was very helpful indeed).”
Lalit Vachani makes documentary films and teaches at the Centre for Modern Indian Studies (CeMIS) at the University of Göttingen, Germany.

December 08, 2017

India UP Chief Minister Adityanath Hails Karsevaks Who Demolished Babri Masjid in 1992

Adityanath Hails Karsevaks Who Demolished Babri Masjid For Showing ‘Might of Hindus’
By The Wire Staff on 08/12/2017

Provocative speech made by the UP chief minister during an election campaign in Amreli, Gujarat was clearly aimed at dividing the electorate on religious lines. [ . . . ]

https://thewire.in/202944/adityanath-communal-polarisation-gujarat-polls/

India: No country for non-Hindus? | Dushyant

Mumbai Mirror, Dec 8, 2017

No country for non-Hindus?
By Dushyant, Mumbai Mirror

Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi during a visit to the Swaminarayan temple at Botad in Gujarat last week
The pluralistic nation Gandhi, Nehru, Ambedkar, Patel and Azad envisioned is fast transforming into one where calling someone a Muslim can diminish their chances of electoral success.

I forced myself to watch the video that is now viral; you must watch it too. A man films himself beating another man to death in broad daylight, with what looks like an axe, then he sets the man on fire and declares, “This will be the fate of all ‘love jihadis’”. He counsels Hindu women not to fall for “love jihadis” and also says, “Bharat Mata ki Jai” and “Jai Hind”.

I blame Nehru. Not just Nehru, but also Gandhi, Patel, Ambedkar and Maulana Azad, among many others. I am not joking. I am now convinced that these people held India and Indians back from becoming what they could have become much earlier, what Indians were always slowly but surely destined to become. We are now on our way to fulfilling our destiny, but if not for these gentlemen, we would not have had to wait so long.

Gandhi believed India belongs to everyone equally, and there is no one superior religion or way of life. He literally died for this belief. Nehru and, believe it or not ,Patel loved Gandhi, and often turned to him for counsel. After Gandhi’s death, Patel said “We did not follow him when he was alive; let us at least follow his steps now that he is dead.” Within two months of Gandhi’s death, Patel had a heart attack, which he attributed to the “grief bottled up” due to Gandhi’s death. Nehru spent his entire life insisting on pluralism and secularism. Ambedkar spent his fighting not only caste, but insisting that every human being was equal. He gave us a Constitution which embodies this principal. It is therefore clear that the foundation stones of our nation held us back from becoming what we will now become — a Hindu Pakistan.

Imagine, instead, that a grouping of amajoritarian mentality, say the RSS, had instead been in charge of India from Day One. Religion would have been at the centre of our lives in every way. Their name is Pakistan; ours would have been ‘Punyasthaan’. There, children are radicalised early? Here, there would have been as many shakhas as there are milk shops. Our children would have grown up learning about Golwalkar and Godse, and training with swords, trishuls and, god-willing, guns too. Every child would have known the Gita by heart, and children would have said “Jai Shri Ram” instead of “good morning”.

Punyasthaan would have no place for anyone other than Hindus and thus there would be no social strife whatsoever. No wait, but Muslims are murdering each other over religion in Pakistan, aren’t they? No, let me think more about this one. Rana Pratap would not have had to wait for over 400 years to be declared the victor of the battle of Haldighati. There would have been a Yogi Adityanath in every state. Every citizen would have enjoyed their basic right – to violence. Every morning in school assemblies, children would have pledged never to let another Babur invade this country again. Even in 2017, we would have been able to comfortably live in the 15th century.

But all is not lost. I think many Indians no longer feel shackled. It is now time that one per cent of the country stops pretending that we are a civilised, modern, progressive nation. No, we no longer need to rein in our bloodlust; there are plenty of reasons justifying murder freely available — travelling with cows, owning cows, eating beef, inter-faith marriage, and more. In a state election, one party is trying to scare voters by spreading the rumour that a Muslim might become chief minister if citizens voted for a certain party. The national spokesperson of the party in power in the state is accusing Rahul Gandhi of being a bhakt of Babur, a 16th century king, and a relative of Allaudin Khilji, whose reign stretched across the 13th and 14th centuries. The message is clear, and it isn’t about either Babur or Khilji, but to wink-nudge claim that Rahul Gandhi is a Muslim. We live in a time when calling someone a murderer boosts and calling someone a Muslim diminishes their chances of electoral success. Free of our shackles, India is now more willing to accept murderers than it is to embrace anyone who is non-Hindu.

In another state election, an Indian politician declares that there will be celebrations in Pakistan if a certain party, comprising Indians, wins. Which party was in power when Bangladesh was born? Which party was in power during most military conflicts faced by India? Which party has been in power for most of our history, and yet we have managed to somehow not be mortgaged to Pakistan? But no one is pretending that the sentence had anything to do with Pakistan.

Unless you live in denial or are complicit, it is clear that a project is on to reduce Muslims to second-class citizenship, to ensure that it is a matter of shame to be in India and not be Hindu. When this happens, we will realise our true destiny and become who we were always meant to be – a nation of bloodthirsty religious fundamentalists. We will have finally overcome the efforts of our founding fathers to hold us back.

In India after Gandhi, Ramachandra Guha notes political scientist Robert Dahl predicting in 1947 that it was highly improbable that India would be able to sustain democratic institutions for long. He quotes British journalist Don Taylor writing in 1969 that it was incredible that a nation could emerge despite multiple religions, races and languages. It is often asked – what have governments done in the last 70 years? I have at least a part of the answer: They have held us back. But no more. We will prevail.