[From my column OBVIOUSLY OPAQUE in the UTS VOICE,16-30th June]
[Republished in the Counter Currents]
Truth is often far stranger than the imagination. So are the real events. Like the sordid saga that is unfolding in the Bhartiya Janta Party. It has an evil, scheming and manipulative protagonist who does not think twice before letting loose a murderous mob on his ‘enemies’, if that fits his scheme of the things. He has an army, nay personal mercenaries, who champion in inventing these enemies out of poor and hapless citizens whom the protagonist is oath bound to protect.
All these mercenaries need is a new theory that would shame a Newton or two and reduce them to the fate of getting mentioned merely in footnotes. Action-reaction theory will no longer signify anything about the physical, material world as we have always known it. No, it still would. Just that material world would assume a new meaning and a new location like the television shops owned by the enemy, the businesses the enemies run and of course, in the bodies of women that carry the surnames that mark the enemy. In addition, judge these mercenaries on the loyalty quotient and they can give any dogs a run for their money!
Which story, though, gets complete without a villain in it? So the protagonist and his mercenaries cannot complete the story on their own. They need a villain. A villain and not just an enemy, I repeat. One, they have dealt with the ‘enemies’ way back in 2002 and second, the enemies were not worth the ‘fun’. Letting a thousand strong armed mob loose on five or ten unarmed ‘enemies’ is quite good for delivering a message but fun? Gang raping an enemy followed by burning her alive is sadistic enough but not all mercenaries would be content with it, will they? Things like this would not substantiate their claims of being ‘real men’ and thus fail in giving them the reassurance about their ‘manliness’, an assurance they so desperately need.
Evidently, inventing an enemy is good enough a job but not a sufficient one to catapult the evil, scheming and manipulative protagonist named Narendra Modi to the national scene. He needs his own villains. There comes the twist in this dirty tale. Modi has invented a villain long back. In fact, in quite a subversion of natural logic his invention is worth enough making a sequel even before the original was to appear anywhere near the scene.
It was 2005 and the BJP was smarting over the ‘shock defeat’ despite all its make believe tales of India Shining and what not. The balloon of their expectations of returning to power and to finish the unfinished agenda of Hindutva had punctured just when they were expecting it the least. And even while trying their best to pretend otherwise it was apparent that they knew the reason. They knew that it was the murderous politics of Modi that was played out across the streets of Gujarat.
This is not to suggest that Gujarat was a heaven of peace before. The state had a long history of communal strife, emanating more out of slow and painful demise of industry and the robust trade unionism associated with it than anything else. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, fountainhead of majority sectarianism in the country, has seized the opportunity and made it a hotbed of their experimentation.
They have a history to fall back upon as well. A load of money reaching the state in forms of remittances from the Non Resident Indians was finding its way in temples and was being splurged on religious activities. On the other hand, faced with the twin assault of death of textile industry and the failure of cash crops like cotton both the workers and peasants of the state were getting progressively pauperised. Money, unemployed youth, and lots of religious sects engaged in a tough war for supremacy, the recipe for a troubled future was all in place. Add to this explosive mix the movements like Swadhyaya Parivar which, despite being harmless on their own, played a pivotal role in inculcating a particular version of Hindutva politics in the body politic of the state. Needless is to say that this version of Hindutva was quite conducive to be subverted and appropriated by the venomous designs of the RSS.
This is exactly what the RSS and its affiliates did over the decades that preceded the catastrophic pogrom of 2002. And then they broke all hell lose. The extent and the scale of the state led pogrom were unprecedented in the history of the nation. It was a very different kind of a pogrom that had no parallels, not even in the ghastly events of partition. Yes I know what I am saying. I know that partition is the single biggest cataclysm that will scar the subcontinent. I know the scales were far bigger as well. But then, the violence then was mutual.
We had failed as a people, one people. It was majority, whoever they were and wherever they were, killing minorities, whoever they were and wherever they were. Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs, all of them were perpetrators and victims at the same time. The one killing someone here might have lost someone of his own at some other place. It was a communal frenzy that has turned normal human beings into devils, yet it was a communal frenzy that was bound to pass.
Gujarat 2002 was not the same. It was not a riot but a pogrom. One where those prepared with lists of enemy properties, arms, and even bottled water had descended upon their defenseless victims. In fact, this time not all victims were so defenseless. The murderous mobs have targeted everyone from former parliamentarians to big businessmen alike. It was one where state was not culpable merely for dereliction of duty but for its active complicity in organizing the genocide. It was one that has forced the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Bajpeyi to suggest Modi to follow Rajadharma despite being from the same party of the communal hoodlums. Modi did not listen to him, he did not need to. He knew that his experiment would pay rich dividends, and that it did. Modi was back in power in the assembly elections that followed the pogrom.
But then, India is not merely Gujarat. Modi’s murderous politics in Gujarat had scared even those who toed the line of soft Hindutva. It was a politics of blood and violence, one the middle classes were least comfortable with. After all, cheering up killers in some faraway place is not the same as welcoming them in one’s own compound. However strong the wish to ‘teach the enemies a lesson’ could be, risking the lives of one’s own does not come mean the same. This is Modi’s biggest handicap, the biggest obstacle in his road to Delhi and he knows that. Ironically, this is his biggest strength as well. The strength of demonizing communities and making villains out of them and reaping political dividends out of the same. This is why he is unacceptable and indispensable at the same time, and BJP leadership knows it way too well for their comfort.
Modi knew it as well and needed to quell any voices that could have nailed him as the culprit, for such small acts of pointing fingers at despots have been known to start the chain reactions that eventually bring them down. He needed to make the first move for preempting the threats to his prime ministerial ambitions by making the first move. The move came in the form of a sleazy video compact disc containing intimate scenes of Sanjay Joshi, another BJP stalwart and Modi’s bête noir, with someone. The scandal ensured Joshi’s unceremonious exit from the BJP and bolstered Modi’s position in the party. A full three years after butchering the ‘enemies’, Modi and his herds have finally found a villain worth fighting.
This victory of Modi was not an ordinary one. He has preyed on someone who was not merely a tall leader of RSS and close to the inner coterie that runs it but also a chitpavan Brahmin. Brahmins, for the uninitiated, have this long running feud among themselves about who is the best of them all with abundant claims and counter claims. RSS, however, seems to have made it mind in favour of the Chitpavans of Maharashtra.
This is nothing less than a miraculous feat for Modi, an OBC! After all, RSS’ penchant for maintaining Brahminical hierarchy in its most pristine form is not hidden from anyone. Neither is its dislike for the OBC or Dalit leaders of its own clan who grow too big for their boots. Think of Uma Bharati, Kalyan Singh, Vinay Katiyar and the likes, and one does not need another evidence for understanding that RSS/BJP does not treat the ‘lower castes’ more than cannon fodder. It has never thought twice before bumping them off once they are past their use by date.
The story seems to take a twist for Modi. He had bumped a chitpavan Brahmin off in 2005. He ensured an even more unceremonious exit for the same villain in 2012, ensuring that he did not attend the National Conclave of the BJP till Joshi was shown the door! RSS did not look happy. In fact it did not mince any words in criticizing the ‘intolerance’ shown by Modi. So did BJP with the editorial of its organ Kamal Sandesh telling leaders not to be in a ‘hurry’ and telling everyone to consider the party to be above him and her.
Then came the turnaround with the organ of the RSS talking of Modi as being indispensable. Seems like a fairy tale ending of the story for Modi and his herds. The protagonist vindicated, the scandalized villain bumped off not only the national executive of the party but also off its primary membership. So is it the time for curtain call with no more need of cds, dvds, tantrums and of course fasts?
Not really. For one, for all his aggressive selling of Hindutva ideology, Modi’s location makes him an absolute unfit in the long term goals of the RSS. For an organization driven by the ideals of the varnashram, or the hereditary hierarchy of several castes, an OBC can be accommodated only till a particular place. Any attempts to let him cross that glass ceiling will defeat the very epistemology that defines RSS and its politics. And an organization can afford anything but going against the fundamentals it is based upon, can it?
If any of this seems farfetched, all one needs to do is learn from History. Narendra Modi, after all, is not the first one to reach this far. Neither is he ‘the executioner’ of Hindutva. Kalyan Singh, Vinay katiyar and Uma Bharati, all of them have done it almost as good as him. It does not take much to spit venom in any case, if all one wants to do is incite communal hatred. Modi is still there for he is yet not past his use by date. Modi is still there for he has yet not exhausted his potential of converting carnages into votes. But then, his brand of politics is against the very fundamentals that have produced the syncretic Ganga Jamani tahjeeb of our nation and therefore it is bound to fail.
Murderers can have a field day; history is abundant with such tales. But then, they end up meeting their nemesis, mostly in the form of a people’s collective. This ‘hero’ of murderous politics is placed far worse. He is in a party where his detractors outnumber his supporters by a huge margin. He is in a country that has its moments of shame like partition but has always sprung back to normalcy. And he is in an alliance that has tall leaders hating him and his brand of politics is something I have not even mentioned till now!