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Vajpayee is as much sanghi as Sudarshan and Advani
By S Ubaidur Rahman

Around two years ago Govindacharya, an RSS ideologue had let slip a truth that no one was ready to believe. He had termed Atal Behari Vajpayee “the liberal mukhota (mask) of the BJP”, to hide the hard core Hindutva agenda. And went on to say that it is donned every time the BJP wished to distance itself from the fascist excesses of its sister organizations like the VHP and Bajrang Dal. People were stunned with disbelief. No one was ready to imbibe the allegation that this suave, liberal, and emotional man was a mere mukhota and was a hard core fanatic like all others in the RSS and its subsidiaries. Later in order to avoid embarrassment, Govindacharya was banished from active politics and sent into political exile by his party bosses. 

People have always taken Vajpayee as soft-spoken liberal in the midst of hordes of fanatics in the BJP and have always tried to defend his integrity and belief in secular ethos of the nation. He has repeatedly been called the right man in the wrong party. There are people who claim that they have seen Vajpayee always rising above the BJP's hardcore Hindutva line. People repeatedly and endlessly cite examples to convince themselves and others that this man is cut above the rest. 

When he installed Bangaru Laxman, a non-RSS Dalit as the party head and who went on to appeal to Muslims that they trust his party, Vajpayee looked like a man who wanted to dismantle the communal inclination of the BJP. The same was the feeling when he drove to Lahore to meet Nawaz Sharif, former Pakistan Prime Minister and showed his eagerness towards establishing permanent peace. But his latest outburst in the thick of the Gujarat carnage has shattered the so called liberal image of Vajpayee. 

Vajpayee's diatribe against Muslims and Islam in the thick of the Gujarat pogrom not only unveiled a new face of barbarism and antipathy towards fellow citizens of the country but also his true psychological leanings. Liberals who most often described him as a humane face of the BJP were shattered. They had never thought that he might be sectarian and prejudiced against Islam and wary of Muslims' existence in the country. This language was never expected of a man who used to receive widespread respect even from opposition parties. It was incredulous for most of the people and everyone tried to get hold of the text of his speech in Goa. And everyone was terrified by the message given by the prime minister of the country. 

The prime minister tried to reason the continuing massacre of Muslims in Gujarat where thousands of people have been slaughtered like anything. It was the undoing of his stature as prime minister of the country. He presented the same argument forwarded by the Gujarat chief minister ‘Gujarat mein kya hua? Agar Sabarmati na hota to jo hua woh nahi hota (What happened in Gujarat? If the attack on Sabarmati had not happened, then what happened later [communal violence] would not have happened). He persisted with the similar argument and directly accused Muslims for what is happening in Gujarat. He asked in the same breath, Lekin aag lagai kisne (But who started the fire?). It is the same theory that the Gujarat chief minister Narendr Modi who is directly involved in Muslims’ massacre in the state has been advocating. Modi has all along been maintaining that the Muslims’ genocide in Gujarat is directly a revenge of what happened in Godhra.

He was out of way communal when he accused Muslims of spoiling every society wherever they live. ‘Jahan Jahan Musalman hain ghul milkar nahi rahte hain (wherever Muslims are they don’t want to live in peace), he said and in the same breath added, ‘Auron se ghulna milna nahi chahte. Shantipurn tarike se parchar karne ke bajaye atankwad se dara dhamka kar apne mat ka parchar karna chahte hain (They don’t want to mix with others. Instead they want to preach and propagate their religion by creating fear and terror in the minds of others). He spoke like a fascist when he went on to say 'we have allowed them (Christians and Muslims) to do their prayers and follow their religion'.

Of course Prime Minister claims he was misrepresented. But he has said that so often that very few people now believe these clarifications. No prime minister in the country has eaten his words so often. Vajpayee seems to have become habitual of clarifying every statement made by him within or after 48 hours. 

Prime minister's diatribe against Muslims was nothing new. With periodical silence he has been exploding like this since the beginning of his political career. He has also tried to clarify his statements several times. Earlier during Bill Clinton’s presidential period when Vajpayee visited the US he made an outrageous remark when he said that, ‘he is savyamsevak first and then Prime Minister and that whether he remains Prime Minister or not he will remain a savyamsevak.’ Members of the fascist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the parent party of the BJP are called savyamsevaks. Later Bajpayee said that he intended by using savyamsevak to project him as the servant of the nation. What he said in Varanasi is still afresh in our memories. He had said while addressing a political rally there that we do not need Muslims' votes.

But Vajpayee has always taken pride in his more than fifty years long association with the RSS. An article written by Vajpayee himself that appeared in the RSS mouthpiece Organiser in its May 1995 issue and hastily retracted throws ample light as to what he believes. The piece threw light on his long standing association with the RSS and his self pride in being associated with the RSS. Eulogizing the RSS he wrote, 'The RSS does not change only individuals. It changes also the collective mind. This is the beauty of the RSS ethos. In our spiritual tradition an individual can attain a great height. Even self realization is possible if one undertakes the right sadhana and also attains nirvana. But what about society? Nobody thinks about his obligation to the society in general. Now for the first time the RSS thought about it and concluded that by changing individual we shall change the society.' 

He then emphasizes the RSS ideology, ' the RSS has a two-fold task before it. One is to organize the Hindus. To build a strong Hindu society, well knit and rising above caste and other artificial differences. Some differences will persist but then variety is the spice of life. Like we have the differences of the language. We don't want to destroy this diversity.' 

Then he showed as to what he and his Sangh will do with the minorities. 'The other task is to assimilate the non-Hindus, like Muslims and Christians in the mainstream. They can follow the faith of their own conviction. No one can object to it. We worship trees, animals, stones and what not. We have hundreds of ways to worship God. They can go where they want.' 

He went all out after Muslims and Islam saying, 'but this country must be looked upon as the motherland of them. They must have a feeling of patriotism for this country. But the Islamic division of the world into Darul Harb and Darul Islam comes in the way. Islam has yet to learn the art of existing and flourishing in a country where Muslims are in a minority. They cannot convert whole of India to Islam. After all they have to live here. So they have to recognize this fact. And today it has become a matter of grave concern and deep thinking in the Muslim countries. Because the Qur'an offers no guidance in this regard. It only talks of killing kafirs or converting them to Islam. But they cannot do it always and everywhere.' 

Vajpayee then brings out his solution to assimilate them in Hinduism. 'The Muslims of this country can be treated in three ways. One is tiraskar which means if they will not themselves change leave them alone, reject them as our compatriots. Second is puraskar, which is appeasement i.e., bring them to behave which is being done by the Congress and others of their ilk. The third way is parishkar meaning to change them, that is, restore them to the mainstream by providing them samskar' he added.

Vajpayee the so-called soft spoken face among the hard-line ultra rightist thugs then goes on to explain. 'We want to change them by offering the right samskaras. Their religion will not be changed. They can follow their own religion. Mecca can continue to be holy for them. You can go to a mosque and offer namaz, you can keep the roza. We have no problem. But if you have to choose between Mecca of Islam and India you must choose India. All the Muslims must have this feeling: we will live and die for this country' Vajpayee explained.

It is not one of the exceptions. He has always shown his leanings towards the Sangh's rightist, anti-minorities and anti-Muslim rhetoric. While participating in a discussion in the Parliament on 14 May 1970 Vajpayee then a Jana Sangh MP squarely blamed Muslims for every riot and communal tension. 

In fact what he said on that occasion is strikingly similar to what he said in Goa. Vajpayee said, 'The question is why are riots started? I call upon this house to think about this. I have not reached any conclusion. Some Muslims start the riot-knowing they may lose life and property. One reason could be that our Muslim brethren have concluded that now there is no place for them to live in India, no guardian for them, so it is better to die fighting than to live. Another reason may be that some Muslims are connected with Pakistan...The third and most important reason seems to be that some Muslim leaders do not want Muslims to merge with the national mainstream.'

He accused the Muslims to be communal saying, 'Whatever the reason our Muslim brethren are getting more and more communal and as a reaction Hindus are getting more and more aggressive. Nobody made the Hindus aggressive. If you want to give the credit for this to us we are willing to take it. But Hindus will no more take a beating in this country. Hindus will not start, Hindus will not initiate. If you promote Muslim communalism, the other feeling will run high.' He added, 'I agree the feeling of revenge is not good. We cannot allow any individual to take the law in his hands. But will this rule apply only to Hindus? Will it not apply to Muslims?' 

Atal Bihari Vajpayee's anti-Muslim rhetoric of past and present are all based on what Golwalkar advocated. Golwalkar articulated his attitude in the following words, 'the non-Hindu people in Hindustan must either adopt the Hindus culture and language, must learn to respect and revere Hindu religion. Must...give up their attitude of intolerance and ingratitude towards this land...or may stay in the country wholly subordinated to the Hindu nation claiming nothing, deserving no privilege, far less any preferential treatment, not even citizens' rights'. Vajpayee is a true shishya (disciple)of Golwalkar.

Vajpayee has been rebuking Muslims for their alleged lack of patriotism. He himself has rarely gone above the petty politics of Hindutva. He has been claiming that he participated in the freedom struggle, but there are instances that show that instead of participating in the freedom struggle he ditched the people who were fighting for the freedom. 

Leeladhar Bajpai, a freedom fighter who was jailed for five years because of a confession made to the British police by Prime Minister AB Vajpayee in 1942. Mr Leeladhar Bajpai three years ago accused prime minister that he had betrayed the freedom movement and therefore had no right to describe himself as a patriot and freedom fighter. Though the issue has been raised several times in the past but Leeladhar Bajpai was the first affected person to open up.

For everybody who believed that the mask only got off recently in Goa it will be terrible to come to terms with the reality. Reality is that Vajpayee is as much hard-core Sanghi as Sudarshan, Advani or Ashok Singhal. He wore a mask which has finally slipped.

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