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February 16, 1998


Varsha Bhosle

Killer Instinct

There lives a man in Pune whom I've always adored, kept an unreasonable distance from, and never missed an excuse to meet. He's also one of the two or three people who, by no such action on his part, manages to make me feel like a complete ass. I consider him, along with Vijay Tendulkar, the greatest contemporary playwright in India. His name is Satish Alekar, author of, among other plays, Mahapur, Begum Barve and Mahanirvaan.

I'm in a ruminative mood today -- sometimes, disruptive events bring to surface a mawkishness about one's past. And my formative years were associated with the liberal arts movement of the Theatre Academy in Pune. It was a time when Tendulkar's Ghashiram Kotwal revolutionised theatre. A time when critics who extolled the anti-Brahmanical drama had their faces blackened by those who couldn't handle the political statement inherent in the tragedy. And how we, the buffs, supported artistic freedom of expression! It is only Youth that can mould society: Everything else is naught.

That was when I first met Satish. I remember being dazzled by the black humour of Mahanirvaan -- I couldn't understand how it was possible to have spent three hours ROTFL at Hindu rites of death. It's this play that ripened me to appreciate the warped wit of Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction. Been there, seen that... thanks to Satish. I recall the song I'd hum from it: Ek zan hota, saat zanaan-ni zaal-la ho (one man was cremated by seven). It was sacrilege to speak of such unholy things... But voice it, I did. Today, I'd hesitate: Death is a bit closer than it used to be...

Is this getting too morbid for you? Too esoteric, perhaps? But hey, who says I gotta unfold everything right from go? Stay with me, play with me, linger with me... and by and by I'll take you where I'm going...

I thought of Satish today, because I was musing over our respective maternal uncles. You see, Satish is the nephew of Congress spokesman V N Gadgil. Vitthalrao is the extremely learned man who nurtured Satish and helped him blossom. Just as my uncle, Hridaynath Mangeshkar, did for me. So I began thinking, if Balmama made statements a la Vitthalrao on Sonia Gandhi, what would I do? Honest: I'd take a flying tackle and tape his mouth shut.

Which left me wondering about Satish, and the dichotomy in an individual's public persona. For, if you've heard Vitthalrao on anything other than on behalf of the Congress, you'd certainly think his is a split personality... Which is neither here nor there -- the question being, how does Satish cope with Vitthalrao's statement about the BJP manifesto being akin to Mein Kamph, or Sonia Gandhi being "as Indian as you and I." But why centre on Satish to dissect V N Gadgil, you may ask. Because, all of us need affirmations from people we admire. So when I asked Satish about my quandary, I probably wanted him to say that his uncle had gone senile...

Which is not how it works. From Satish, I gathered that when a headstrong and loyal man chooses a path, he'd do everything within his scope to stay true to it. It translates into what Vitthalrao considers the best for his party and what the party would require him to do for it. Which set off another rambling: Then, who is good for the nation -- a Mani Shankar Aiyar defecting to the Trinamul, a Suresh Kalmadi aligning with the BJP, or a V N Gadgil staying put and making all these horrendous moves for the polity?

Thing is, I feel no shred of respect for people who change camps -- even if they strengthen my fundie cause. Willy-nilly, I prefer those who stay true to their ideology... By whatever name you call it, a gaddaar smells of gaddaari... So if this sounds like a paean to a man whose statements I absolutely abhor, so be it. Let it never be said that Bhosle can't see the "other" point of view...

Which brings me to a letter from a Shoeb Ahmad who wrote in response to my column on Bal Thackeray: "Right from the War of Independence, Muslims have always contributed for the progress and development of India, which may be evident if you see the top ten personalities in any field. But time and again people like Varsha Bhosle remind us of being traitors, Pakistani, Jews...etc. I felt personally offended."

Now this letter gladdened and saddened me. Mr Ahmad inadvertantly confirmed what I've always maintained -- Hindus are inherently secular, and which is why there are top personalities in India who happen to be Muslims. When Advaniji or Balasaheb talk of not pandering to the minorities, when the fundie labels Congressmen as pseudo-secularists, this is precisely what we mean.

The reason it saddened me is, why was Mr Ahmad offended by my equating Syed Shahabuddin with the dominating minority Jews of pre-Hitlerian Germany? Why did he class the nationalistic Mosies of India with the ones who've destroyed the 50 temples in Kerala? As an Indian, shouldn't he have been violently upset that some of his kinsmen are sick enough to destroy *several* ancient temples *even* in this day and age? How long are these guys going to pin the Nazi tail on those who support Ram Janmabhoomi?

And I felt rage, too: What gives Mr Ahmad the right to feel offended at being called a traitor -- when people like him have never voiced against the evils perpetrated by Muslims? Therefore, Mr Ahmad, spare me the crap about being hurt: Go tell it to those devotees who are left without their temples. Go tell it to those Kashmiri Pandits languishing in refugee camps in Delhi... If you don't like labels, peel them off yourself -- by your own constructive deeds: Don't expect fundies like Balasaheb and me to tread warily over your sensitivities.

Which brings me back to Vitthalrao's calling the BJP manifesto harmful for India. I read that Bishop Ezra Sargunam, Dr M Deivanayagam (Forum for the Protection of BC/SC/STs and Religious Minorities of TN), and MG Dawood Miakhan, (Tamil Maanila Muslim League) had petitioned the Madras high court to delete a portion of the BJP manifesto relating to the Ram Mandir, viz, 'The party is committed to facilitate the construction of a magnificent Sri Ram Mandir at Ram Janmasthalam in Ayodhya, where a makeshift temple already exists. The BJP will explore all *consensual*, *legal* and *constitutional* means to facilitate the construction of the temple.'

Now, what I find strange is, how do Christian bishops and Muslim Leaguers find the gall to petition the court on what a Hindutvawadi party should or shouldn't do? Can't Hindus have any aspirations about their country at all? Is India to be so "secular" that the majority is to live like second class citizens, directed by the will of minorities? The more the minorities fight the Ram Janmabhoomi, the more to the extreme right people like me will veer -- isn't that evident yet?

Today, 81 people have died in and around Coimbatore -- due to bomb blasts set off on the route that Mr L K Advani was to have taken. And a car-bomb at the venue killed 7 Hindus on the spot. If it hadn't been for our chronically unreliable flight schedules, Advaniji would have been right on target -- of those who sought his mahanirvaan...

We all know who are responsible for the blasts... Within hours, Karunanidhi issued a ban on Al-Umma and the Jihad Conference, and there was the usual talk of the ISI hand... What a bloody eyewash. Treatment of a symptom is not a prevention of the disease!

According to central intelligence sources, the Islamic Defence Force has long been operating in Coimbatore, the outfit going by different names in Karnataka, TN and Kerala -- to escape a governmental blanket ban. A 1993 blasting of the headquarters of the TN RSS unit took 11 lives. It was followed by the murder of a Hindu Munnani leader in Madurai in October 1994. To this day, the assassins have not been apprehended.

The Pioneer of 31 August, 1997, said, "Ghastly murders of Hindu Munnani activists in Tirunelveli and killing of a supposedly liberal ulema in the state capital have sent shock waves among the Tamil Nadu police... Senior officials concede that fanatical groups are getting more active in the state... Only last fortnight, a Hindu Munnani activist and two of its patrons were brutally slayed in a day-light operation by a group of masked youth, who reportedly shouted Allah-o-Akbar as they fled... When the police unearthed a massive haul of explosives a few months ago, enough to recreate Mumbai-type horror stories, this very organisation was suspected to have been behind such operations."

In December, ten persons were killed and 70 injured in bomb blasts on three trains originating from Madras: Reports from Thiruvananthapuram said the Islamic Defence Force had claimed responsibility for the blasts. The same month, Ganesh Nadar wrote a superb piece about the very large cache of explosives seized in Madras, and three men being arrested with explosives: All of them belonged to the Al-Umma.

The Karunanidhi government flaunts its solicitude for the minorities, even while ignoring provocations of Hindus... In March 1997, the Madras high court held that trustees to temples must be persons who believed in the tenets of Hinduism. The petitioner's charge was that the Karunanidhi government had no faith in Hinduism... And India Today of 28 February 1997 said, "Party supremo Karunanidhi remains an incurable atheist. He has kept his secular image intact by regularly hobnobbing with Christian leaders and attending iftar functions during Ramazan -- though Hindu religious leaders continue to be taboo. How is it that the Dravidian parties pick only Hinduism for condemnation? In contrast, Karunanidhi is seen as more than indulgent with the followers of other religious denominations... A rationalist of the Dravidian movement vintage, Karunanidhi has been known to be at the forefront of condemning all religious practices of the Hindu variety."

So I began thinking, why not develop anti-bodies to this disease? Since we Indians are so enamoured of dynasties, why not rejuvenate Nathuram Godse's, too? What India needs are radical martyrs for Hindutva... like there are those for the ummah... The Bajrang Dal does not fit the bill. Yes, this *is* horrifying, for this is how a nation degenerates. But, no parity equals anger. And anger equals violence. And when the majority of a country finally begins to indulge in it, a Holocaust cannot be far off...

This is what the Gadgils of the world will never realise till it is far too late. Every action against Hindutva will simply bring India closer to conflagration. No peoples can stay eunuchs forever. We saw that at Ayodhya; we do *not* want to see it at every dargah, church and masjid. Do not arouse the Hindu's killer instinct: It EXISTS -- even if buried deep under...

But all this falls on deaf ears... There will only be letters about my approving Gandhiji's assassination, or other such assinine shit. My anger, frustration, worries are things that will be deliberately twisted out of context -- I'm resigned to that. But, never say I didn't warn you. I -- the angry Hindu -- am only being pushed towards a path I traditionally abhor. For, the only other route is to be an oblation to the false god of Nehruvian Secularism -- and that I will never do. So I say: Bring back the Hindu Mahasabha...

Varsha Bhosle

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