Saturday, April 12, 2014

Season of Discontent Teesta Setalvad Column for the Week

Season of Discontent
Teesta Setalvad
One of the greatest achievements of India’s leading opposition part since the mid-1980s to the early 1990s has been to manipulate and shift Indian discourse from the real to the distorted, from the factual to the manipulated. Behind this Goebellian technique is the proto fascist organisation, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) owing it’s inspiration to no great Indian pluralist tradition but to the very modern fascism of Mussolini and Nazism of Hitler. To date their parliamentary wing the BJP has not de-linked itself from this core organisation. It is RSS that males the major decisions, it is RSS that will rule the country if the BJP commands enough seats to cobble together a government. See
Remember the discourse in the mid-1980s that was echoed on one of our abusive national networks last week. By the way, our national television networks display a crass majoritarianism that has crept into the polity and Indian institutions of governance. It was the RSS and then the BJP that tried, albeit not entirely successfully to alter the name of the 400 year old Babri Masjid to ‘disputed structure”. Now of course, after the shameful Allahabad High Court verdict of 2010 they go further as to call it the Ramjanmabhoomi! That’s how far our institutions have succumbed.
For the Advanis, the Modis, the RSS secularism is not the flame that breathes life into the idea of India. Why are secularism and democracy so closely intertwined? Because in a country that is diverse, segregated, unequal, all on the basis of caste, community, class and gender, the only way democracy can be true is by upholding the values of egalitarianism, equity and non-discrimination. This is what secularism is, State being distant from all religions while institutions of state never discriminating between the religion, the caste, the class, ethnicity and the gender of any community.
Yet for the AMRs (Advanis. Modis, RSS) clan, to be secular is to be psuedu-secular and to be brazenly majoritarian is to be actually secular. The sad appropriation of the fundamental belief on which the edifice of the Indian republic stands. Asks their chelas, the commentators who were with them at Ayodhya when the Babri Masjid was demolished (Chandan Mitra and Swapan Das Gupta) and who today edit party owned newspapers and hog column and television space whether they defended the demolition of 6.12.2002? Ask this question to Modi. To Shah. To Swaraj. To Jaitley. What will be their answer. We will not know as the question will not be asked.
Today we have an even more sinister to this tale. Where a Sri Sri Swami and a Baba openly campaigning for the Man who would be PM and his party is to be secular but to solicit and meet an Imam and dignify the support of a minority community is dubbed communal. That the RSS says so is understood, they are masters of Gobellian manipulation but what happens when the Indian media falls in line. The mot question today is has the mainstream Indian media become completely and utterly majoritarian?
Take this argument further. Iqbal Masood said what he did and the authorities were quick to swoop down, lodge a case and he was even jailed for several days. Akbaruddin Owaisi’s speech went viral for days before he too faced some consequences for his actions. But what of Modi’s speech at Becharaji on 9.9.2002? The state intelligence bureau found it communal and hate-ridden, as did the National Commission for Minorities (NCM), audio and video recordings are available with the news channel and the authorities but are being concealed from the courts. For years when Hindutva consolidation was necessary the Becharaji speech made by Modi at his Gaurav Yatra (9.9.2002) were gleefully displayed on the net, only after the Zakia Jafri petition started to be heard were they, in a cowardly backtrack removed from the internet.
What of Amit Shah’s poison regarding which an FIR has been lodged? The EC has sent him a notice but why does he not meet the same fate as Masood? Equality before the law demands just and equal treatment to all. By the way, the Man who would be PM has defended Amit Shah’s speeches to the hilt.
And speaking of Owaisi, what of Praveen Togadia? Ashok Singhal? Giriraj Kishore? Togadia roamed the country freely between 199-2004 when the NDA was in power, illegally distributing trishuls, delivering diatribes laced with venom in Assam, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. Check out this Cover Story of Communalism Combat that I wrote in May 2003, Against the Law. ( Not only did the Vajpayee-Advani nexus at the Centre not arrest him, the State governments allow him to roam freely but worst Indian courts were silent. No suo moto action was initiated against Togadia for saying, April 2003, "In the coming days, each and every village in the country will be turned into an Ayodhya. Once the campaign starts, I cannot say where it will head. People in the villages will then turn their attention towards every mosque that was built after destroying some temple. I do not know what will happen then," Togadia had said. Or Ashok Singhal who said “every village in India would be made into a Gujarat” (2002) and predictably, no criminal action has ever followed.
History needs to be recalled so we learn from it, the cardinal errors are not repeated. Voting an NDA into power will allow the hate speech makers to roam, spreading fear and hatred in every village, division in every heart, potential violence in every location.
Rewind back to April 16, 2003. Praveen Togadia was billed to be the star speaker at a ‘Viraat Dharma Sabha’ tobe held on the premises of an English language school in Roha, the adjacent block to Alibag in coastal Maharashtra. A brave chief minister of Rajasthan arrested him en route to Ajmer and he was jailed for 10 days. Ashok Gehlot was the only man who dared to do this. Togadia was arrested for making inflammatory speeches and distribution of trishuls in Rajasthan just a few days prior to his arrival in coastal Maharashtra. Undettered, the organisers found a substitute. The Roha ‘Dharma Sabha’ was held nonetheless, was addressed by Swami Dharmendra who spewed his own brand of poison. And got scot free.
For every Modi there is a Shah, for every Togadia an Acharya, for every Advani a Vajpayee. This is what a proto fascist organistion does. It breeds prototypes of rabble rousers, hate mongers ensuring a quick line of succession if one fails or is shifted out of the way. To ensure that the public atmosphere is poisoned, the fundamentals of the rule of law are eroded and in fact ground prepared for violent attacks on a section of our own people. Every major communal conflagration is preceded by hate speech and hate writing, creating a public climate that silences the majority into compliance. Allowing the perpetrators free elbow room to barter hatred and bloodshed.  To uphold the rule of law demands that Indian institutions respond to this phenomenon, cynically and cyclically  used and repeated. To ensure equal treatment before the law for one and all.
As we go forward into a long summer of election driven high temperatures, there are warnings that in desperation to make the numbers, desperate players will play the predictable, desperate communal card. Will our institutions be paralysed as in the past or rise to the occasion and deliver?
As for us, you and me, we would do well to remember. It is crucial more than now that we ensure that the forces of majoritarian communalism are decisively and resoundingly defeated. At the polls.

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