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Published in the 1-15 June 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Foreign rule or deliverance from fascism
By Ram Puniyani

Once it became clear that Sonia Gandhi would be the next prime minister various elements from the Sangh combine started showing their true colors and also their frustration at not being able to hold the power, which gave them such a great chance to deepen their roots in the Nation. Needless to say that the NDA coalition, which in reality was the BJP rule, which in turn was a ploy for unfolding the RSS agenda in action, gave Hindutva politics an ideal platform to mushroom in various ways. Be it the polarization of society in the wake of Gujarat genocide, be it the communalization of school text books or be it the naked subservience to US imperialism, the aims of Hindutva, were unfolding at deeper societal levels. The results of elections came as a severe jolt and the vested ruling clique suddenly realized that they couldn't win elections unless there are emotive issues, which help them come to power.

It is in this context that these elements have stepped up the attacks on the Prime Minister-to-be Mrs. Sonia Gandhi. Sushma Swaraj put it in a most dramatic fashion when she declared that she is going to resign the membership of Rajya Sabha along with her husband, to protest against the foreigner taking over the prime ministership. RSS stated that an outsider prime minister is not acceptable. Not to be left behind the Govindacharya, who is cooling his heels after his expulsion from BJP due to speaking the truth and calling Mr. Vajpayee as the mere mask of RSS, came up with Rashtriya Swabhiman Andolan (National Self Pride Movement), BJP decided to hold nation wide protest against a foreigner becoming primer minister and NDA as a whole decided to boycott the swearing in ceremony of the new government. Meanwhile a SMS campaign has been launched on the mobiles. The message says that India is reverting o the era of slavery. First the Muslims enslaved us, then the British and now Italy is enslaving us.

At one level all the protests on the ground that Sonia is a foreigner is a total hoax. How do we define a foreigner and an Indian? The basic criterion is the citizenship. Indian constitution does not discriminate amongst the citizens on the ground of their birth. The very underlying theme of such protests is superficial, anti-constitutional and so does not hold any water. Coming to a particular person being elected to any post, leave alone the highest post, their are norms and principles laid down by the law of the land. The parliamentary procedure has elected her the prime ministnster. So to undertake all this protest and stage the opposition is to reject the Indian laws and principles. At another level it is also the insult of Indian people who have elected her.
Coming to the issue of slavery to West, Italy in this case. To begin with, to call the Mughal rule as the Muslim period and an era of slavery is a communal interpretation of history. The kingdoms cannot be identified as the slavery of nations in any sense of the word. Mughal kings did not change the social structure of the nation. They did not take away the booty from this land to any other country. The country had the hierarchy of peasant, landlord, kings and emperor. Any Muslim king at any point of time did not rule whole of India. These Mughal kings had Hindu kings as their court officials holding high posts. Nearly 23% of court officials during Shajahan’s reign and 33% top officials during Aurangzeb's period were Hindus. One recalls the loyalty of Rajput King Mansingh to Akbar; of Raja Jaisingh to Aurangzeb ad infinitum. One recalls the loyalty of Muslim officials to Hindu kings: Hakim Khan Sur to Rana Pratap, Madari Mehtar and Maulana Haider Ali to Shivaji. Similarly all the Muslims of the land were not the rulers and all the Hindus were not at the low end of hierarchy. Over 90% Muslims came from the low caste Shudras and were poor peasants or artisans. Hindu landlords and kings were close to the power centers. It was British policy of divide and rule, which on purpose introduced the communal historiography to further their political interests in this country. 

British period was the only one which can be called the period of slavery. They plundered this land and took away the booty to UK, they were not part of this society and they ruled this country sitting from London with their representatives here. Interestingly the Hindutva, political ideology of RSS and its acolytes did not oppose the British rule. It was also true of Muslim communalists. They also did not oppose the British rule. Its ironical that the ideology which was not a part of anti-slavery movement, anti British movement, today is calling the period of prime ministership of an Indian citizen as the period of slavery to Italy or west.

Sonia Gandhi married Rajiv Gandhi while sydying in England. Coming to live in India, she settled here, raised her family, saw the brutal killing first of her mother-in-law and then of her husband, and later under pressing circumstances decided to join the political stream. She is not here as the representative of Italian government. She has no political connections with the Italian ruling party. So why this is being propagated as the period of slavery?
In a way it is simple to understand. We know, RSS knows what slavery of a nation is. We know, RSS knows it is not slavery in any sense of the term. Still it has to bring it up as slavery for a political purpose. RSS politics can succeed only on emotional grounds. This political outfit realized this when it undertook the campaign around the birthplace of Lord Ram. That birthplace politics, emotive to the core, paid rich dividends to RSS and ensured that its political offspring BJP, that was a marginal outfit till then, came to occupy the center stage. Now RSS politics has become a fair deal of an expert in birthplace politics. Keeping the continuity for the same, now the birthplace of Sonia Gandhi is being propped up as another emotive issue. We know that RSS, since it is opposed to the industrial modernity, to the accompanying values of Liberty Equality and Community, is not comfortable with the issues of this world, of bread butter and shelter, of the modern social relationships of caste and gender equality. Bringing up the emotive issues ensures that the basic processes of caste and gender transformation are sidetracked from the social discourse. It has specialized in playing around this politics. At times its political progeny BJP can talk of Bijli Sadak Pani (Electricity, Roads and water) for electoral advantage, but that is not where its heart lies. So the 'place of birth' politics is the center to its agenda. The search for emotive issues is on. This is first one in the line.

Discomforted by the unexpected defeat it is working overtime to look for more such issues, which can be unfolded one by one to push its politics to the center stage. Already many of its acolytes are threatening that they had offered their hands of friendship to minorities and have talked about development issues but could not succeed in elections so the Hindutva agenda will have to be revived. One shudders to think of the times ahead when RSS and progeny will try to actualize its threat. Communal violence is an integral part of the armamentarium of this politics and with Gujarat experiment more of its followers might have picked up the expertise in that art. One prays and hopes that the community at large will realize the divisive agenda of the fascist outfit and will try to focus on the core problems of the society and will relegate emotive issues to the dustbin, and that's where their place should be in a civilized political system.

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