Pakistan should look closely as the far right takes over India
The saffron tide by Kingshuk Nag
published by Rupa Publications
The party claims that it stands for equality among all sections of the society which is not true. It is quite afraid of the Muslim and Christian minorities. It wants expulsion of all foreign Christian missionaries particularly from Assam because it fears that ‘The foreign Christian missionaries, in their bid to have a Christian majority state in the hill areas of Assam, have been playing a game of Communist China and Pakistan.”
‘The saffron tide’ by Kingshuk Nag is the story of Bharatya Janata Party (BJP) which has emerged as a strong political alternative to the once indomitable Indian National Congress; the latter stooping to a miserly 45 seats tally in the national legislature in the 2014 general elections. Not many could believe this unthinkable BJP victory, including the leaders of BJP itself, one of whom in a voice choked with emotive tears admitted, “I had never expected to see this happen in my lifetime. This has happened after sixteen general elections.” And the person who made it possible for them is Narendra Modi, becoming the first Indian prime minister who has had no connection whatsoever with the Congress because all Indian premiers before him of which ever party had their political origins in the Congress.
The prime objective of a political party is to gain political power. BJP has achieved this objective. Now, what does it want to do with that power? It may have many targets but one of them is definitely to make India ‘Congress-free.’ This it plans to do by emphasising upon its Hindu identity hinged upon ‘Hindutva’ and ‘Akhand Bharat’: the former marginalises the non-Hindus in the polity whereas the latter would deteriorate further the already debilitating relations with neighbouring Pakistan because the idea of ‘Akhand Bharat’ — indivisible India — rejects the partition of 1947 and challenges the independent existence of Pakistan. The Pakistanis know this although I doubt whether anyone has ever done a serious study of ‘Hindutva’ and ‘Akhand Bharat’ in Pakistan mainly because the primary texts that deal with these ideas and the Hindu intellectuals who conceived and developed these concepts are not available in the public libraries, at least of the Lahore city. It is time that these texts are carefully studied and their critiques developed so as to develop a counter intellectual narrative. Till that happens, we shall have to rely on the Indian authors or the western writers who have the means to conduct researches on the history, evolution and contemporary trends and thoughts in Hindu nationalism and we, the Pakistanis, will remain dependent on their borrowed interpretations and will not be able to develop an understanding of the core Hindu nationalist concepts from a purely Pakistani perspective.
The BJP uses the Hindu religion particularly the Hindu mythology and the mythical characters and this it has been doing for over three decades. The Hindu classics such as ‘Ramayana’, ‘Mahabharata’, etc, televised in the 1980s were so successful in raising the Hinduness among the urban and semi-urban Indians that BJP fielded some of the actors of these televised dramas in the national elections and they won. We know that the BJP’s flag is one-third green and two-thirds saffron with the lotus flower situated in the saffron colour but we do not know the significance of both the lotus and the saffron in the Hindu mythology.
The party claims that it stands for equality among all sections of the society which is not true. It is quite afraid of the Muslim and Christian minorities. It wants expulsion of all foreign Christian missionaries particularly from Assam because it fears that ‘The foreign Christian missionaries, in their bid to have a Christian majority state in the hill areas of Assam, have been playing a game of Communist China and Pakistan.” Similarly, its leaders allege that Muslims do not believe in co-existence. How can a small minority think of fighting an absolute Hindu majority? The Hindu-Muslim riots have been a permanent feature of Indian politics and guess who is to be blamed? The Hindu nationalists blame the Muslims for triggering these riots. Sometimes state enquiries into these riots are ordered but mostly not. The author has looked into the report of at least one such enquiry known as Jaganmohan Reddy Commission which concluded that the Hindu nationalist organisations were behind the communal riots.
Even the ‘doves’ among the Hindu nationalists have no soft corner for the Muslims. Atal Bihari Vajpayee was often touted as a ‘dove’ — someone who was thought to be ‘soft’ toward the Muslims and his ‘bus yatra’ to Pakistan is cited as an example in this regard. When the Godhra riots erupted in India, the ‘dovish’ Vajpayee became ‘hawkish’ toward the Muslims. His comments on that tragedy revealed his communal bias. He said, “Wherever Muslims live, they don’t like to live in coexistence with others, they want to spread their faith by resorting to terror and threats… the subsequent developments were condemnable but who lit the fire?” This was clearly an accusation against the Muslims. A little later, he felt that the killings of the Muslims in the aftermath of that tragic incident were justified by pointing out, “Godhra killings were not adequately condemned by the Muslim community.” After the Gujrat riots, the same Vajpayee adopted a ‘dovish’ approach toward the Muslims by commenting, “The impact of Gujrat riots was felt nationwide. This was unexpected and hurt us badly. Modi should have been removed after the incident.” These words were not ejaculated for the ‘love’ of the insulted and humiliated Muslims but to cover up the defeat of the BJP in the general elections under his stewardship and as the author points out, this criticism of Modi was not for the sympathy towards the Muslims but was more the result of personality clashes within the party.
BJP is not a monolith organisation rather it is an amalgam of several Hindu religio-political outfits such as the RSS, Shiv Sena and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP). Since 2013, when Narendra Modi was brought in the BJP Parliamentary Board (the only sitting chief minister to be included in that board), there occurred a rift between the ‘Old’ and the ‘New’ Guard. When Modi was elevated to the post of the chief of the BJP election campaign committee, LK Advani, resigned in protest from the National Executive as well as the Election Committee of the party stating that he was “finding it difficult to reconcile with the current functioning of the party or the direction in which it is going,” and added that the “BJP no longer was the idealistic party created by Shayama Prasad Mokherjee, Deendayal Upadhyaya, Nanaji Deshmukh and AB Vajpayee.” His resignation was a victory for the ‘Young Guard’ against the ‘Old Guard’ because since 2005 the ‘Young Guard’ had been demanding that Vajpayee and Advani should make way for the younger leaders. The salvos were fired by the RSS chief KS Sudarshan, who, while referring to both Advani and Vajpayee, had said, “Age is a factor after all” (both were in their late seventies) and the VHP General Secretary had expressed his displeasure against Vajpayee by branding him a ‘pseudo Hindu’ who had not helped the cause of Hindu nationalists by not assisting in the construction of Ram Temple in place of the Babri mosque. The Babri mosque was demolished by the Hindu nationalists in 1996 but the plan to convert the mosque into a ‘mandir’ dates back to December 1949 when a small idol of Ram Lulla – the infant Ram – was surreptitiously smuggled into the mosque. Premier Nehru’s order to remove the idol was thrown in the dust bin by KK Nayar, the district magistrate of Faizabad, on the plea that ‘Removing the idol is fraught with the gravest danger as it would lead to [a]conflagration of horror” whereas the fact of the matter was that Nayar was himself involved in smuggling the idol into the mosque. Communal harmony will remain under threat during the BJP rule because all of its political allies are as communal as the BJP is or are worse.
Kingshuk Nag picked up a topic of immense interest because people would like to know about the BJP that is now ruling the so-called biggest democracy of the world, however, this book has little scholarly value because neither the author has cared to mention a single source of his information nor is there any bibliography at the end for the readers to judge the variety and quality of the sources consulted. The timing of the publication coincided with the coming of BJP into power so it can be assumed that the author was more interested in quick-sell and less in improving the quality of his work.