'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?
Yes, almost entirely.
It means political morality is deteriorating. Is it just a
reflection of society itself that all of us have become extremely
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.
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
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
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.
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