Engaging with Communalism

Book: India Since 2002
Author: Mukul Dube
Publisher: AlterNotes Press, New Delhi
Year: 2015
Pages: 198
Price: Rs 380

Ram Puniyani

Many progressive writers have taken up issues related to sectarian politics and violence, more so since 1992-93, when the horrific Mumbai violence took place, and later after the Gujarat carnage of 2002. Mukul Dube, like many other sensitive, progressive individuals, began to write on issues related to communal violence and politics in 2002. While religion and related politics were not his priority earlier, he started responding to such issues since they began to threaten the very existence of our democracy. His first book was The Path of the Parivar, and it was followed after a year by The Parivar Raj and After.

The volume under review is a compilation of articles originally published in the Mainstream weekly. They are arranged sequentially, the advantage being that one can trace the trajectory of the politics which has been driving our society in the name of religion in a chronological fashion. In this format one can see the evolution of the intensity of this politics over a period of time. Since the RSS is at the centre of communal politics, issues related to the RSS combine (Parivar) are a central part of the book.

Dube takes the issues upfront in a matter of fact way, with a sprinkling of sarcasm. His generous use of Hindi words fits in naturally with the theme, which he helps us understand in its entire broad expanse. He correctly sees 2002 as a major landmark in the strengthening of the RSS combine, the path to “Hindu Rashtra". Gujarat, which is one of the major subjects of discussion, was labelled the Laboratory of Hindu Rashtra, and over time through other machinations the Parivar (RSS Combine) has come to dominate the national scene. Hints about times to come are sprinkled in many of the articles which were written much earlier.

Prof. D. N. Jha, the eminent historian of ancient India, in his foreword makes a very valuable point when he writes that “Hindu right wing fantasizes about the past, presents a distorted picture of Indian history and culture and acts as a moral police .... We have entered into a veritable dark age." Dube says that he had to return to writing due to the events in Gujarat, such was the intensity of what happened there. Many articles here deal with the enigma of Godhra and the violence which followed. While many investigative pieces have appeared in periodicals like Tehelka, the incisive analysis in Dube’s articles have their own merit. The failure of state and central government to stop the carnage is brought out well. The role of Modi and Advani, who was the Home Minister at the time, is analysed, linking the violence to the violence witnessed earlier in the aftermath of the Rath Yatra led by Advani.

Advani’s keeping silent when the carnage was going on and later, while visiting the UK, saying that what happened in Gujarat was “outrageous and indefensible", shows the hypocrisy of those trained in the RSS ideology. While most of the country is forgetting the role of Advani, who was the original hatchet man and who later tried to create an image of a moderate, Dube says that RSS pracharaks assume different roles at different times. Modi, who presided over the Gujarat carnage, is now trying to present himself as a moderate.

Some of these articles tell us about the plight of the Muslim minority as to how their Muslim identity is coming to the fore and becoming the major identity which becomes the ground of their being subjected to domination by the state courtesy Parivar politics. In contemporary times one can see how the Parivar’s soldiers are giving fatwas for many Muslims to leave India and go to Pakistan. In one of his articles Dube gives a prophetic warning about the repressive times to come: “If religion is allowed to define and dominate the State, disaster is the certain consequence.... The Vedic Taliban will grab power and its rule will be bloodthirsty and aeons away from any kind of rationality” (page 15).

The misery of Kashmiri Pandits is a point of dominant discourse, but while going through these articles one is reminded of the plight of the victims of violence in Gujarat, who were neither adequately rehabilitated nor got relief from non-Muslim organisations. In one of his major essays, the “The Path of the Parivar", Dube brings to our notice the observation from Satyapal Dang about education and fundamentalism. The popular perception is that madrassas are places where fundamentalist education is given, but Dang points to “a number of educational institutions run by the RSS which too teach religious fundamentalism". There are studies on the Shishu Mandirs and Ekal schools run by the RSS. Their network and reach being vast they are going to have disastrous consequences. Dube brings to our notice many social phenomena which violate the norms of a secular democratic society. One of these is the introduction of sarasvati vandana in official functions.

The articles do not have only a flavour of the times but also consider long-term consequences. They make a coherent whole to understand the phenomenon of Hindutva politics. As we are close to witnessing two years of Modi government, it is becoming obvious that the present scenario has its roots in the march of Parivar politics during the last several decades. In a way this compilation is a chronicle of the events related to communalism from 2002 onwards. The observations are sharp, the political analysis incisive and Dube calls a spade a spade.

Apart from the author’s own contribution, many of these events have been factually investigated by human rights groups and some periodicals, like Tehelka in particular. Footnotes or an appendix about these investigations would have put the book on a firmer foundation, making it more relevant to the readers and social activists. The book also needed a longish introduction capturing the core of Hindu nationalism and its agenda. All in all, it is a valuable contribution to the body of work which critiques contemporary times.