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Gujarat Carnage - upsurge or shame
By Ram Puniyani

Close on the heels of Ashok Singhal’s statement that Gujarat incidents are an awakening of (May 13,2002) Hindu society, Giriraj Kishore, another heavyweight RSS-VHP leader went on to reaffirm the same formulation. According to the latest thinking in the Sangh stable, now Hindus will not be cowed down anymore and VHP will spread the awareness of this among Hindu masses. While the political outfit of Sangh will not openly endorse this stand for electoral reasons, it is more than clear that there is celebration in the Sangh Parivar for the achievements of the Parivar in Gujarat.

The events though, recent do need a brief recapitulation. In the wake of failure of response to Ram Temple campaign and the successive electoral defeats, Godhra tragedy provided the best pretext to the warriors of Hindutva for unleashing genocide of Muslims in Gujarat. As the events took place most of the reports have indicated that Godhra was NOT handiwork of International Islamic terrorism through ISI and local Muslims but was an inexcusable response to the incitement of the returning Kar (not Ram) Sevaks who maltreated the Muslim vendors on the Godhra platform and also picked up a young girl. Even before the Nation could register the ghastly tragedy the Sangh Parivar machinery, as they were ready to respond right in advance, came in to action and by now the violence with a difference has made several firsts in the history of communal violence. It has been the first major riot where apart from the targeting of poor sections, even the affluent Muslims have been meted with the newly developed techniques of dealing with anti-Nationals. Total elimination of Muslim business, ingenious use of Gas cylinders, which were kept in readiness and the role of state Govt. in giving total and unconditional assistance to the rioters combined with blocking the relief work and ensuring that rehabilitation work is sabotaged, has been utterly shameful. So far in the communal violence the ratio of Muslims has been rising. Before Gujarat it stood at 80% of riot victims being Muslims. This carnage changes this ratio a great deal. So severe has been the mayhem and violation of Human rights of Muslims in general and women in particular, that even the European bodies could not but comment adversely about this.

The violence was implemented in a very efficient manner. While the higher ups in the Govt. provided umbrella, their acts of commission and more so, omission laid the foundation for the violence assuming the shape of Genocide without any shadow of doubt. The upper caste/class coordinators did not too much dirty their hands with the blood and other gory acts as they successfully recruited the unemployed, lumpen, dalits and Adivisis to do the dirty job on their behalf. While BJP is talking of elections and planning to fish for votes in the rivers of blood, other children of RSS are engaged in deepening the divide between different communities. They are further communalizing the Gujarat society and the radiation of this communalization is reaching other places as well. The process of organic transformation, the slow insidious process of spreading hate towards minorities is reaching newer dumps.

And this is what is being described as upsurge or reawakening of Hindu society! The silence of the majority is being projected as their approval of the politics unleashed by RSS and its progeny. Does Sangh Parivar represent Hindu society? RSS has been around from last seven decades or so. Hindu Mahasabha came up a century ago and went through a decline after independence. During freedom struggle most of the Hindus, like most of the Muslims, Christians, Sikhs etc. supported the vision and values of Indian National Congress. Most of the Hindus stood for Secular democratic India. RSS was just a body of handful volunteers, which neither participated in freedom struggles, nor had a substantial following amongst Hindus. Barring small sections of upper caste, Brahmin Bania and other anglophile sections nobody gave it any approval. Hindu Mahasabha did enter electoral battles against Congress, propagating its concept of Hindu Rashtra but it did not get any electoral support and at the best of times its support base did not go beyond a percent or two of the total votes polled. Same was the fate of other side of the coin of communal politics, Muslim League, which peaked its performance at six percent while the Muslim population was 25 percent.

Even after independence, while Muslim League went into oblivion with migration of affluent Muslims to Pakistan, Bharatiya Janasangh came up to carry on the agenda of Hindu Mahasabha. Most of the Hindus rejected it. Its newer edition BJP also kept putting forward one or the other deceit in the name of its agenda, from Gandhian Socialism to Hindu Rashtra. But despite it leading the Babri demolition squad and the regular communal onslaught against Muslims its electoral base has not gone beyond 25 percent or so in a country where 85 percent are supposed to be Hindus. There is no question of accepting Sangh Parivar assertion that it represents Hindus. Any criticism of Sangh Parivar is projected as being anti-Hindu. In no way are these worshippers of violence representatives or spokesmen of Hindus.

Hinduism has multiple traditions. The Upper caste, Brahminical values are put together in Manusmirti. The Lower caste, Shramanic traditions have expressed themselves in the streams represented by Charvak, Shiava, Tantra, Kabir and innumerable local Saint traditions. These synthesized the aspirations of low caste and were in a way polar opposite of the Brahminical values. Closer in time starting with Jotiba Phule, who was a great champion of education for low caste and women, his efforts were ridiculed by the elite by saying that the taking of education to Shudras and women is a sign of coming of Kalyug (Dark Era as per Hindu scriptures). Also efforts of Raja Rammohan Roy to eliminate Sati and other vices from the society did not find approval amongst the upper conservative sections. Forget of those times of 19th century, even in late 20th century in the wake of Roop Kanwars Sati, BJP (its vice president Vijaya Raje Shinde) defended the right and glorious tradition of Hindu women committing Sati. Later Gandhi brought in a fresh and unique interpretation to Hinduism as the tolerant, all embracing positive concept. Hindu Mahasabha and RSS combine, for whom Hinduism is pure and simple Brahminism in a newer garb of modern language, opposed his interpretation. Gandhi murder symbolized the clash of two concepts of Hinduism. The elite, intolerant, violent Hinduism of Hindu Mahasabha-RSS was in a way symbolized in the person of Godse. This Hindutva definition of Hinduism is based on negative notions and is linked to land (all those who worship this land as Holy land and Father land) rather then values. This concept cultivated itself on hatred of Muslims and Christians. For Gandhi Hinduism was an embodiment of personal beliefs which respect other religions as well. So his Hinduism was incomplete without drawing form the humanism of other religions. Clearly most of the Hindus opted for the positive and Humane Hinduism of Gandhi than the hate filled and violent Hinduism of Hindu Mahasabha-RSS.

In the scenario of social transformation, Ambedkar opted out of Hinduism due to its identification with Brahminism. The process of transformation has got halted in last two decades, and the retrograde Hinduism of RSS has been trying to occupy social space by default. Since the majority of Hindus are quiet and not taking on the aggressive Hindusim of Sangh Parivar, it is trying to create an impression that its Hinduism is THE Hinduism and it is the spokesperson of Hindus. Both these formulations are flawed and fraught with danger to the Indian society as a whole and to Hindus in particular. Attempt is being made to stifle and strangulate the
Hinduism of Saint traditions and Gandhi.

Surely it this vision of Hinduism which has a broad acceptability amongst Hindus in general. RSS Hinduism gloats over the destructive acts like Babri demolition as Hindu Shaurya Divas, Gujarat carnage as a resurgence of Hindus. It has also in its kitty murder of Mahatma Gandhi and burning of Pastor Stains, the acts that many a supporters of Hindutva politics privately celebrate. In contrast most of the Hindus consider these as the black marks on the face of Hindu society. To each ones own Hinduism, Gandhis or Godses. It also has a lesson for the majority of Hindus, what happens when you let the aggressive politics to appropriate your religion, what shame it can bring to them. Only a deeper introspection and speaking up for the Hinduism of Gandhi and Saints can restore the dignity to Non Brahminical Hinduism, which it should try to retrieve to save itself from the imminent extinction in the hands of Sangh Parivar. 
(Writer works for EKTA, Committee for Communal Amity)
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