Creeping Saffronisation in M.P.

We hear the BJP make so much noise about appeasement of minorities, particularly Muslims. But does anyone use the term ‘Majority [or Hindu] appeasement’ when the party goes all out to ensure Saffronisation of a state?

In Madhya Pradesh, BJP seems to have steadily taken the RSS agenda quite far without much noise. As a commentator in a national newspaper recently remarked that by keeping low-profile, BJP leaders in MP have quietly pushed the Hindutva plan ahead. During the last few months, people have begun to see the design. Either it is the stringent law against cow slaughter that will put onus on any cattle trader if he is “caught” taking bovines to prove his innocence or the introduction of Gita in school syllabus, MP is clearly outpacing Gujarat as the Hindutva lab.

1. The ‘Surya Namaskar’ may seem to be an innocuous activity akin to Yoga but the seriousness of the government in implementing it clearly shows that it wants majority community’s style of worship to enter hitherto secular schools. Personally many people won’t find it too disturbing.

2. The party had proposed renaming Bhopal as Bhojpal in an apparent move to get rid of its Muslim heritage. The founder of modern Bhopal was Dost Mohammad Khan, the first Nawab and ruler of the medieval dynasty. On the ramparts of his fort in the lake, the huge statue of Raja Bhoj was erected. Was it not majority appeasement? It didn’t work though as party understood the popular mood was against the proposed name, Bhojpal. There has been no end to such decisions during the last few years.

3. Even when Abhinav Bharat members were caught for acts of terrorism, no statewide hunt was launched by MP police. But when Kashmiri youths were caught, they were immediately dubbed as “terrorists”. They were later released when it was realised that there was no case against them. Further a campaign was launched against Kashmiri students in Bhopal. It was alleged that if Kashmiris would be allowed to come in such large numbers, this would facilitate the entry of militants who could then sneak into the state.

4. Steps were taken to ensure that Kashmiri Muslims didn’t come for studies in MP in large numbers. It became a national issue. Similar was the case of stringent law against conversion and the religious profiling of Christians that was stopped after it came in the open.

5. There is clearly a larger design. When Gita lessons were about to be introduced, leaders of Sikh, Christian and Muslim communities opposed it. They termed it a step to turn all state-run schools into Shishu Mandirs. Then, the State government said that it had no objection to add teachings from scriptures of other communities as well. It was cleverly aimed to mollify the protesters. When the opposition died down, the BJP government silently introduced the Gita chapters in the curriculum in schools. As long as ours is a secular state bound by constitution, there has to be a limit to this form of appeasement. Muslims can teach Qur’an in Madarsas and Hindus can teach Gita or other scriptures in private schools or Saraswati Shishu Mandirs.

6. Public memory is short. Sometime back the decision to ask students recite ‘Bhojan mantra’ was also taken in the state. The education department had then insisted that it was not ‘objectionable’. It is not that everybody is a fool. They try, assess the response, then either act or stop and reintroduce their plan later.

7. The state government is concerned about education or students. The state-run schools are in a mess. There is little interest to save these schools, let alone open new ones and raise their standards. The buildings are in poor state. Of the 1.3 lakh government schools, over 25,000 schools have no toilets.

8. Government teachers and students of these schools are used to swell crowds by all parties. They come free and can’t question the decisions. It’s easy to force them to attend rallies or mass Surya Namaskar. Unlike party workers brought from far-flung areas at the cost of transportation and food, children won’t ask for money or lunch.

9. School teachers are forced into election duties, vaccination drives and made to attend government functions. The truth is that there is no concern about school children’s fitness or education standards in these schools.

10. The fact is that MP is a classic case. Unlike Gujarat, where Chief Minister Narendra Modi was till a few years back quite vocal and often made crude statements about Muslim community, BJP leaders in Madhya Pradesh have been silent and have projected an image of an inclusive party. MP has 50 lakh (5 million) Muslims. The BJP has held conventions for Muslims. The CM’s pet Kanya Daan scheme for Hindu couples has been extended to include ‘mass nikaahs’ that are held at the expense of the government. When there was criticism about advertisements for ‘Beti Bachao’ scheme, the hoardings were quickly changed. The photographs of Muslim girls adorned them. The couplets like ‘HadeesoN ki zeenat haiN betiyaaN’ were also introduced as slogans. On the law-and-order front, riots were controlled quickly and there were no major communal clashes. The activities of Bajrang Dal and other allied Hindutva groups were kept under control. No wonder, a section of Muslims felt comfortable with Chouhan as Chief Minister. The down to earth approach of the Chief Minister has made him popular among Muslims also. Party is expecting Muslim votes in the upcoming Assembly elections. Many BJP leaders had got Muslim votes in the last election and this was a surprise for the party. Then what prompts the State BJP to take decisions that are now leading to controversies. Everybody in the power corridors in MP knows that the top state leadership doesn’t want any issue that will cause disharmony or unnecessary controversy.

11. Clearly, good governance and popularity are not enough. The RSS doesn’t want the BJP to become Congress 2.0, even if it outperforms the latter on various indicators. In the last two terms, all Sangh institutions in MP have got so strong that even if the party doesn’t come to power for decades, they won’t face any problem.

Huge chunks of prime land have been given to them. If a BJP leader wants to keep his chair safe, then the first thing he must do is to keep the RSS in good humour. Once he has done this, he can be assured that there is no internal threat to his rule.

Unfortunately for the party, the President’s nod for the cow bill came just now when Surya Namaskar was to be organised. The controversy over Gita lessons too hadn’t died. For years, BJP has raised the issue of ‘alpasankhyak tushtikaran’, now they are doing aggressive appeasement of the bahusankhyak [majority] and not many seems to notice! (