HUM HINDUSTANI: Words and deeds —J Sri Raman - Friday, July 23, 2010

Source :

We have come a long way from the days when one could wonder whether the BJP was for more work or words. Under Gadkari and his revered RSS gurus, the deeds of the BJP and the parivar have now begun to match words, and vice versa. It is time for India's far-right watchers to fasten their seat belts

As a young reporter decades ago, I covered elections in Delhi and around, when rallies of the parent of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) resounded with the slogan: “Jan Sangh ke badhte kadam, kaam zyada baat kam (Jan Sangh marches forward, with more work and less talk).” India’s far right and its political front have, finally, achieved a fine balance between words and deeds.

The recent spate of words from Nitin Gadkari, into his seventh month as the BJP’s supposedly new-style president, supplies a wonderful example. The latest of his verbal salvos to attract wide attention was directed at the leadership of the ruling Congress for its refusal to listen to a BJP-led lynch mob crying hoarse for a hanging. Mohammad Afzal of Kashmir, better known as Afzal Guru, on death row following conviction in the case of an attack on India’s parliament in December 2001, has been awaiting a long-delayed decision on his wife’s petition for a ‘presidential pardon’ to be given on the government’s advice.

Decrying the delay and demanding an immediate hanging at a rally earlier this month, Gadkari asked: “...Afzal inka daamaad hai (Is Afzal their son-in-law)?” Amplifying on the point, he added: “Isko ladki di hai kyaa (Have they given their daughter to him)?” The supplementary raised much more of a storm than the main question. The Congress thought it had cause for serious offence. Sonia Gandhi’s daughter Priyanka Vadra was happily married, after all, and so were the three daughters of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The party leaders’ families did not have to go for unbecoming matrimonial alliances, far less for dangerous liaisons of the kind Gadkari mentioned derisively.

The hail of brickbats from the Congress and the rest of the country hardly made the BJP chief budge. He did not stop with persisting with the posers. He proceeded to pose a similar question to Congress veteran and former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Digvijay Singh. Was Singh, asked Gadkari, “Aurangzeb ki aulad (the son of Mughal emperor Aurangzeb)?” or “Shivaji ya Rana Pratap ki aulad (the offspring of anti-Mughal Shivaji or Rana Pratap)?” “Mein to Virbhadra ki aulad hun (I am the son of Virbhadra)”, said Singh in answer to the communalism-loaded question, but the answer did not leave Gadkari abashed.

This, of course, is not the first time the party used a pejorative aulad in its political discourse. Sadhvi Ritambara, one of the saffron-clad women leaders of the Sangh Parivar (the far-right ‘family’), made liberal use of the word in the campaign leading to the Babri Masjid demolition of December 1992. Her taped speeches, in which she assailed the ‘Babar ki aulad (the offspring of Babar)’ who defended the mosque in danger, were played everywhere in the run-up to the general election of 1991. No party leader of his level, however, had ever got so personal as Gadkari in questioning the opponents’ parentage.

The BJP helmsman was quick to apologise, however, after his earlier exhibition of verbal vulgarity. The targets then were the two Yadavs — Lalu Prasad (of Bihar and the Rashtriyta Janata Dal) and Mulayam Singh (of Uttar Pradesh and the Samajwadi Party). They had enraged Gadkari by promising to back the BJP in a move to vote out the government in parliament and going back on their word subsequently. Condemning their betrayal, the BJP president compared them to “dogs licking Sonia Gandhi’s feet”.

The parivar’s prominent dog-lover and Sonia-hater, Maneka Gandhi, chose not to demur, no doubt putting the country above the canines. Other party colleagues, however, would appear to have persuaded Gadkari to proffer an apology. The BJP, in their view, could not afford to burn all bridges with the Yadavs, especially Mulayam, with whom it had done profitable business before.

Meanwhile, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), patriarch of the parivar, which had put Gadkari in his elevated place, was not very happy with all the verbals. It stood for action — as its documented role in so many communal riots demonstrates. So it set an example by going for some action, with the BJP hastening to back it.

The occasion was provided by a ‘sting operation’ on a television channel, which purportedly showed some known RSS and BJP personalities plotting big-scale communal violence, the top billing going to a plan to assassinate India’s scholarly Vice-President Mohammad Hamid Ansari. The parivar struck on the morrow of the programme. On July 16, around 600 of its men and women stormed the offices of the channel in New Delhi and ransacked it as the local police, by most accounts, looked on. The BJP rushed to the mob’s defence, stating in a circuitous language that the attack was a befitting answer to the channel’s anti-RSS blasphemy.

The same day saw a second attack on a television channel. A battalion of Bal Thackeray’s Shiv Sena invaded the Kolhapur station of another channel, airing a live programme on a border dispute between the states of Maharashtra and Karnataka. Viewers were later to watch shocking footage of a fierce assault on an unarmed participant in the programme from Karnataka under the BJP’s rule. The party has still not condemned the musclemen of the Sena, its staunch ally in Maharashtra.

We have come a long way from the days when one could wonder whether the party was for more work or words. Under Gadkari and his revered RSS gurus, the deeds of the BJP and the parivar have now begun to match words, and vice versa. It is time for India’s far-right watchers to fasten their seat belts.

The writer is a journalist based in Chennai, India. A peace activist, he is also the author of a sheaf of poems titled At Gunpoint

No comments:

Post a Comment