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'The BJP is sitting on a time bomb and will be destroyed when it explodes'

Do you agree with the view that today's political leaders lack clear vision and care a damn for society?

Paul Zaharrica Yes, almost entirely.

It means political morality is deteriorating. Is it just a reflection of society itself that all of us have become extremely selfish?

It is a reflection of society itself. But up to a point only. It is also because the middle class is increasingly turning fundamentalist. They feel fundamentalism is the only way out. Another reason is, some of the most intelligent people of the middle class -- scientists, engineers, doctors, executives, management persons and the like along with the upwardly mobile lower classes emerging as the middle class have opted out of politics. The Indian middle class -- because of its colonial training as clerks -- are so security-oriented and less-work-and-more-pay oriented that they prefer to draw a salary from somewhere than meet the challenges of political life.

Politics requires adventurism and tremendous hard work besides willingness to suffer hardship, physical hardship. You also need mental alertness, the ability to speak convincingly and make people move in a particular direction. Even some of the bad politicians have all these qualities. Even a person like Karunakaran is a superman.

Today you portray Chidambaram as a brilliant man. But if you look at our society, you will see at least 5,000 or more people of his calibre. But only one Chidambaram took the decision to enter politics and reach a position from where he can control other people's lives.

You have always been vociferous in your attacks against the BJP. What is the reason behind your antipathy to that party?

I am against any theocratic state, I am against any role religion tries to play in public affairs. I don't think organised religion has any reason to exist at all. Ultimately if you are a believer in God and if God happens to exist, then it is something very private between you and God. You can't impose that stupid belief on tens of thousands of people and say that you also believe what I believe. It's all rubbish.

And to build a nation on the concept of a few priests's idea about God is utter nonsense and a criminal activity. All fundamentalism -- whether political or religious -- is narrow-minded and fascistic. Indian society as a whole is very orthodox and conservative. It's very easy to introduce fascism into India as proved by Indira Gandhi.

As far as I am concerned, the BJP is religiously fundamentalist, fascist, and its entire plank till recently at least, was hatred towards Islam and minor hatred to other religions like Christianity. It has a tendency to look at Indian history in a very distorted fashion as if there was only one single past for India, there is only one single future for India and the whole Indian cultural identity is a Hindu identity. I am totally against any attempt to consolidate people behind a single facade.

You mean the BJP does not believe in pluralism.

BJP Rath Yatra Yes. And pluralism is the only thing that can function. Secularism has been misused by all political parties. That doesn't mean you can denigrate a notion that religion should be kept in your home.

The neo-nationalists project an all-Hindu identity as true nationalism and point to 'non-Hindu' minorities as 'enemies within.' But they have also created another kind of enemy within. It is the 'they' Hindu posed against the 'we' Hindu.

Do you think if the BJP comes to power they will do a lot of harm to Indian society?

They may not create any harm to society. They might destroy themselves because they are sitting on a time bomb.

If they cannot harm, why are you so against the BJP?

I am a thinking person. I cannot remain silent when I see a fascist trend developing. I have to speak because I see a tendency in them to destroy themselves. Otherwise, I will remain like the middle class.

If they are not harmful to society, harmful to anyone other than themselves, why not let them destroy themselves?

The very idea (to destroy themselves) itself is harmful to society. Their very existence at this point is harmful. They can pack public institutions with fundamentalist people. They can even pack the army with fundamentalists which can be extremely dangerous. While I said they are sitting on a time bomb and will be destroyed when the bomb explodes, a lot of other things will get destroyed too.

Why is it that everybody blames only the BJP for being communal? What about the other parties which use caste as their platform? Are they also not equally harmful to society?

It all depends on how you are using the name of God. The moment you start using God to prove your point, you are playing the most dangerous game. You use Christ, Rama, Mohammed. I feel anybody who plays the God card is dangerous. The BJP has for the first time played the religion card in India. Other parties are playing only with caste which is a system that has evolved in India and which has to be changed.

But who has emerged as the single-most vociferous spokesman of fundamentalism and hatred? Who has come around and said all Muslims should quit India, all Muslims are bad and all Muslims are traitors?

Here is a set of people who demolished a mosque, symbolically or whatever, and said the demolition means they are the masters. This is demagoguery and a dangerous path towards dictatorship. If you look at history, you will see that a number of nations have been torn apart with this kind of fanaticism.

BJP Leaders The BJP is operating with the psyche of the majority community which is even more dangerous. They believe that the sub-continent's absolutely distinct cultural and political groups can be held together on the religion card. This is the greatest fallacy of religion which has been disproved again and again. Even today in the Gulf Islam cannot hold anybody together, and Christianity could not hold Europe together. All of them are Christians but a German will be a German and an Italian will be an Italian and the French will be French. You cannot have a single nation operating on religion.

Do you think extremism in the BJP is taking a back seat with Vajpayee at the top?

I don't think Vajyapee is any different from Advani or anybody else in the party. It is like saying Rajiv Gandhi was such a nice man. Once you are an RSS man, you are an RSS man for your whole life. It is like once you are trained a Jesuit, you remain a Jesuit forever.

Like your attacks on the BJP, you also write a lot of articles in support of the Muslims. What made you choose the stand?

Because there is nothing wrong with the Muslims. They have not done anything in the last fifty years that can harm this nation. They have been pictured as enemies of this nation. They are pictured by the West as enemies of this world. All because there are pockets of fanatics in that religion also, like any other religion.

Muslims Christianity has had an existence for almost two thousand years. Christianity was lucky enough to enter a continent where technology was taking shape. Thus, it became the master of the world, but through lots of cruelty, massacres and injustices.

Islam is reaching its medieval age. Christianity's medieval age was the most bloodthirsty, atrocious and inhuman phase of its existence. Islam's current medieval age cannot even touch a hair of that in terms of violence.

I will say Islam is just a child with some wayward habits. Reality is that it is held in the hands of some mullahs and some politicians now. In India, even when Islam ruled here, the Muslims were not looked after. So, Islam is not what today's average Hindu Indian is talking about or the average Western media is talking about. And everyone knows about it.

Yes, you have some fanatics in Algiers, you have fanatics in Afghanistan.... But what did America, a Christian country with a Christian motto, do in Vietnam? What was the level of inhumanity that was committed in Cambodia which is a Buddhist nation? What is going on in Sri Lanka? These are not Islamic nations. In Bosnia, Muslims have been butchered by the Christians.

Now, Islam is a catchword everyone has been using for quite sometime. Salman Rushdie was the symbol of all that. The starting point was when the West lost Iran. For them, there are two kinds of Islam. One is Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and UAE who are blood brothers. There is another kind of Islam which is a fiend. I think Islam is like any other religion which is not going anywhere and is in a mess.

Paul Zacharia's photographs by Sanjay Ghosh

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