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Published in the 16-31 Dec 2003 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Social Engineering to the Fore
BJP sweeps assembly elections
By Ram Puniyani

The Assembly election results of MP, Rajasthan and Chattisgarh (Dec. 2003) have upset the calculations of pollsters, have surpassed BJP’s own expectations and given it a clear majority. Many factors have been at play in the defeat of Congress. To name a few its lack of coordination with the fellow opposition, its not being so professional in conducting the poll campaign, and its overconfidence. Similarly BJP has been helped to such a majority by combination of motley factors, starting from anti-incumbency factor, to its highly coordinated effort and the success of social engineering by Sangh Parivar in Adivasi areas. The last mentioned seems to be one of the major reasons for its sweep of the magnitude this time around. In all the assembly constituencies where Adivasis are in majority BJP has an overwhelming dominance. The results of its social engineering in the backward, underdeveloped areas are giving it the dividends, it had aimed for.

BJP being the electoral wing of Sangh Parivar(SP) is just one of the constituents which is working for the Hindutvisation of society. It is not just the electoral victory for SP but also is the success of its Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram(VKA) and Vishwa Hindu parishad in particular that such a phenomenon is going on right under our eyes.

One recalls that from nearly two decades VKA has been put in the top gear. It has been working in the Adivasi areas for Hinduising and Hindutvising the Adivasis. With the broadening of trade and industrialization these remote areas came further in contact with the villages and urban populace. The interaction has had diverse results on this section. While some Adivasi sections, a miniscule, could take the advantage of reservations and urbanize themselves, the vast number has been left to the mercy of Gods. The encroachment, displacement, the states putting a tab on their interaction with their forests has resulted in the pauperization of this segment of our society. The major section of social workers who could reach this segment was the Christian missionaries whose work in the area of education and health care did influence a small section of Adivasis in becoming Christians. Also the whole section of communities can not be empowered and uplifted by charity work alone. This type of work has its own limitations. But all the same it had a small effect on Adivasis. Despite the assertions that Christian missionaries are luring and converting them to Christianity, it is clear that the number of Adiviasis coming under their field of work is fairly small and today Christians stand 2.18% as per the 2001 census.

Seats won by Muslims
New Delhi 5 (out of 70)
Madhya Pradesh 2 (out of 230)
Chattisgarh 1 (out of 90)
Rajasthan 4 (out of 200)
Total 12 (out of 590)

It is here that the different type of cultural intervention began from the SP associates. VKA in particular focused on Hinduising the adivasis as their major project. This was necessary from various points of view. The rich peasants and traders in those areas were uncomfortable with the educated Adivisis and asking for their rights etc, thereby disturbing the status quo. The Hindutva project saw them as the indigenous Hindus who had fled to forests to escape conversions by Islamic rulers. Now having escaped the attempts of Islamic rulers they are victims of Christian missionaries. It is here that VKA started its multi-pronged activities. To begin with, they were called Vanvasis, to give the impression that they are an inherent part of Hindu fold. Then hordes of swayamsevaks swooped in these areas preaching that they are Hindus and should be proud of that fact. Simultaneously the promotion of Hindu gods and goddesses was undertaken at hectic pace. Adivasis as such can not be called as Hindus by the parameters of the identity of Hindu religion revolving around Ram, Gita, Acharya, and the belief in cow as mother. But by using the Savarkar thesis of Punyabhumi, Pitrabhumi (All those who regard this land as Father land and Holy land are Hindus) they were called as Hindus and then made to accept the Hindu gods. Also a political campaign of re-conversion (Ghar Vapasi) was unleashed akin to the Shuddhi campaign of Arya Samaj, in early twentieth century. 

While consciously sidetracking the real issues of Adiviasis, the emotional issues, issues of identity politics, were highlighted. Hanuman and Ram are projected as The Hindu gods, and lately the destitute Shabri is also being promoted as the Adivasi goddess. On the other side a hate campaign against Christian missionaries was initiated at high pitch, resulting in the intimidation of the missionaries working in remote areas. The most horrific act in this direction was the burning of Pastor Stains with his two innocent sons. Interestingly, Chattisgarh BJP leader Dilipsing Judeo that time stated that he will defend the murderer of Pastor Stains, Dara Singh. After being reprimanded by the top BJP leader he kept quiet on this issue and his brother took up the brief for Dara Singhâ?Ts defense. Mr. Judeo has specialized in the conversion of Adivasis into Hinduism. The all round attack on missionaries been going on at various levels.

Meanwhile a Hindu identity amongst Adivasis is getting rooted and most of their traditions of nature worships are being replaced by the Hanuman temples and the new priests. The sample of the impact of Hindutva amongst them was seen in the Gujarat anti Muslim pogrom, where Adivasis were mobilized to act as the foot soldiers of Hidnutva. It is no accident that they were used by the cell phones wielding BJP cadres for coordinating the pogrom. Also Dara Singh’s activities cannot be seen in isolation. Dara Singh also could mobilize the youth of the area for the dastardly crimes he did. In addition to Pastor Stain’s murder Fr. Arul Doss and Sheikh Rahman were also done to death in the area on similar and different allegations. 

The threat of BJP winning the elections is manifold. One can feel the undercurrents of creeping Hindutva in different parts of the country. The Kerala Marad incident, the Baba Budan Giri issue, the Church in Goa all are the planks for initial mobilization of the section of Hindus. As witnessed in these elections Hindutva was not brought to the forefront but its subtle undercurrents were present in different forms. It can be inferred that Hidnutva is the initial plank followed by a clever manipulation of the issues which appeal to the voters at the time. The solid base of Sangh Privar also comes in handy in turning the tide even of issues which seem to be crystal clear. Judeo’s taking bribe is projected as a trap. A king taking bribe is an issue which can be successfully marketed to the extent that the camera-proven corrupt can also win the election. Incidentally this also shows the double standards of RSS. Same RSS in case of Bangaru Laxman, in similar situation (taking bribe) stated that Mr. Laxman was a shame on RSS.

There is a serious need for introspection amongst the democratic circles. The Sangh Parivar is slowly utilizing the democratic spaces to strengthen its politics of Fascism. The threat of Fascism is there for real. As one recalls Hitler also came to power through democratic methods, winning over the minds of sections of middle classes and then having assumed power targeted the struggling and weaker sections of society one by one. Tragedy is that many a socialists of yesteryears, blinded by anti-Congressism, are using it as a pretext to further their personal political ambitions and are either sitting in the lap of BJP or having an understanding with BJP at electoral level. The argument proffered is that Congress and BJP are two sides of same coin or some of them go on to say that it is Congress which has given birth to communal politics, in the form of Shah Bano, opening the locks of Babri Masjid, its involvement in Anti Sikh riots and so on. Most of such critics fail to see that BJP cannot be compared to any other political outfit in Indian politics. It is a political handmaid of RSS which is wedded to Hindu Rashtra agenda, which does not believe in Indian Constitution and which rejects the values of freedom struggle, liberty, equality and fraternity. One will like to state that BJP is giving democratic postures at times only because it does not have suffienct majority in the centre. Having manipulated its way to Delhi, at what stage it will totally adopt the agenda and goal of RSS is a mere matter of formality. 

The point is that all those valuing Indian Constitution, standing for democratic values, protection of weaker sections of society irrespective of their religion, all those believing in plural society need to wake up. This surely is the last such call available to us. Democratic options may be limited today but still they are there. And BJP is no democratic option that is for sure.

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