H****ism, that eight-letter word
No doubt, for us Hindus in India, life has an ersatz quality about it. You can find any amount of people, including atheists and non-Hindus, dilating on the fundamentals of Hinduism, how/what we must think, where we err and what's good for us. Ours is the
community which perpetually needs external guidance.
Ours is the country where objections are raised to (Hindu) ministers being pledged by the Bhagwat Gita, and where a prime minister is criticised for performing a (private) yagna. It isn't secular, you see. For in India, secularism does not denote a government's being free of religious influence. What it means is that the majority of citizens has no right whatsoever to a political lobby. Here, democracy is not the same as majority rule; here, a good Hindu is one who denies his identity.
It doesn't matter that even the American Prez must touch the Bible at swearing-in; or that the sovereign head of Great Britain is officially the Protector of the Church of England, and that the House of Lords must include two Anglican archbishops and 24 bishops to serve as Lords Spiritual… Anything West and white, is secular and right (so also, anything Middle East, can't be bad in the least).
Like most of my ilk (go figure what that is), I'm wary of Bal Thackeray. And frankly, the Shiv Sena frightens me. But then, so do BJP, CPI and Congress: each bears its unique odious defects. Lately, however, I find my back pushed to the wall by these diatribes against 'divisive, fascist, communalist forces' – since they are used exclusively to still the Hindu voice.
For instance, there was not a peep from our noble secularists when: in October 1996, the Khilafat movement – the Quranic concept which urges Muslims to unite into a single nation devoid of zonal boundaries and local loyalties and to obey only an Islamic government – was launched in Bombay by the Students Islamic Movement of India; on January 26, an armed 8,000-strong mob of CPI-M activists attacked and set ablaze Kavada village, the base of (Hindu) tribal sympathisers of the BJP in Talasari taluka.
earlier this month, the education department admitted that since 1990, the Jammu and Kashmir government had absorbed 1,100 hardcore Jamait-e-Islami activists as teachers in government schools – and which accounted for the high rate of drop-outs, which fed the terrorist brigades.
Such things aren't weighty enough for us Hindus to feel insecure – that temperament being reserved for sensitive minority souls. Thus, we are advised to defend the rights of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh; to reject Article 44 which mandates the enacting of a religion-free common civil code; to applaud the scrapping of the anti-terrorism Act used against the Bombay-blasts accused; to condemn the Intelligence Bureau's raid on the Islamic university suspected of harbouring terrorists, and then to ignore their being found there, and then to overlook their being released by Mulayam Singh, and so on and so forth…
Like Mr Kumar Ketkar, I'm a Maharashtrian. Unlike him, I'm a capitalist bourgeois who does not need to parrot a party line, nor to adhere to Zhao Ziyang's counsel to those akin to our intelligentsia: 'Communists should be the first to be concerned about other people and countries and the last to enjoy themselves.' Thus, I am concerned only about my own lot and my own country and, above all, I'm going to enjoy this:
Mr Ketkar's speech foxes me throughout. First he says that 'over the past decade, nationally, it is this section – the upper caste and upper middle class – which provided the critical support base for this Hindutva alliance in Maharashtra'; after which comes, '(Bal Thackeray) enthused youngsters to violently challenge their family's political leanings.'
Now, is there a 'critical support base' or isn't there? If there is, does he mean that Mr Thackeray incites rebellion against that familial, pro-Hindutva base? If there isn't, then 'how could a force like the Shiv Sena and all that it represents be born on Maharashtra's soil?' Well, Mr Ketkar, why not look to the appeasement policies your sort advocates… or have you forgotten that, along with a Tilak, Maharashtra's soil also threw up a Nathuram Godse?
From his tirade, we know Mr Ketkar believes that Hindutva must be vanquished at any cost. He also says that 'in Maharashtra, the support the RSS has had (comes) traditionally from the educated, thinking, upper middle class.' Now does this mean that the political decisions of an educated, thinking class is only fit to be routed…? Really, Mr Ketkar will be happier in rustic Bihar. Oh, and he should avoid Punjab.
On a run now, Mr Ketkar lapses into familiar hammer-and-sickle motifs: 'The BJP has emerged from the fast-urbanising upper caste and upper class elite and its support of Hindutva…', 'to struggle against the fascist thought-processes within society that this alliance represents…' Which makes me ask: Does everything undesirable stem from the upper caste/class? Don't mill-workers support Thackeray's Hindutva? And if Hindutva is fascist, what's Stalin's Communism?
And then, Mr Ketkar can't help his roots (this is India remember, where even Muslims and Christians have castes): 'The BJP could pull the support of this class and give the Shiv Sena the respectability of the middle class it needed, while it was the Shiv Sena that could provide the numbers from the ordinary Marathi manoos.' Since we know all about the goonda base of the SS through Mr Ketkar's Maharashtra Times, we finally know what constitutes it: the ordinary, non-elite, Marathi manoos.
But wait a minute: 'In these 31 years, (Thackeray) has commanded the support of not merely the uneducated but undivided loyalty of the educated middle class.' Uh? Didn't he just say that the BJP provided the SS with middle-class respectability?
Actually, in Ketkar-speak, neither the elite nor the non-elite should have a say in Maharashtra's politics – it's best left to the 'Left and progressive forces'. You see, 'political opportunism and a wedding of numbers' isn't what the CPI-M is engaged in with its once sworn-enemy, the Congress, and the alphabet-soup of parties that form the United Front: Apparently, that holy alliance 'put the country above all else' – by assuming power!
But the best part is when Mr Ketkar ascribes to us his 'Muslims saale,' 'uncouth, fanatical, they breed like rabbits' – and goes on to declare that 'the birth rate of Muslims is on par with, in certain regions even less than that of Hindus'. Strange, that, coming from an editor. Especially as 1995's year-end national census showed that while the birth rate of Hindus had declined by 2%, that of Muslims had risen by 3%. But to rue the trend even when the slightest increase in population may be detrimental to India, is to betray shades of the Final Solution.
Mr Ketkar waxes eloquent about 'genuine Maharashtrian culture that is full of dissent, struggle and debate.' Yes, but only 'progressives' can dissent etc. The rest of us have 'fascist tendencies', and so the caucus is quite right to topple the single-largest party, and never mind the ethics in a solely anti-BJP agenda. I marvel at Mr Ketkar's vision of this 'genuine, secular, democratic trends within society'.
Mr Ketkar won't stop: 'In the central government, too, we have an alliance, maybe of opportunistic rogues…' Now picture Mulayam Singh Yadav, Laloo Prasad Yadav, H K L Bhagat and Phoolan Devi as 'maybe' merely scamps.
I do not understand Mr Ketkar's pique when he adds, 'If the BJP had remained in power today, the text books in all our schools would have been changed.' For a cadre whose foundations lie in making an entire royal family disappear, for whom 'indoctrination' is not a terrifying word, what's a few facts in history books? Or would he prefer us to continue in the mutiny-for-Independence-war Colonial mode? (BTW, this week, after a two-day academic seminar on distortions in history books, eminent historians including Dr Romilla Thapar and Dr D Pannikar urged upon the government a review of text books every five years).
All in all, it's not just that 'we have been deluding ourselves these forty years or more', but that we continue to do so even after all the evidence of a Hindu backlash. 'That ideological base will stay', all right – after all, it has survived the Mongols, Arabs, Portuguese, French and British. But it won't merely stay – it is growing, and it will sweep India to bloodshed if the scales remain tipped. Arthur Miller said, 'Without alienation, there can be no bloody politics.' To say that the majority does
not feel alienated in its land, is the dangerous delusion I dread.
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