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2016 for MP CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan: Simi activists encounter, Hindutva politics dominated the year

Bhopal: 2016 saw Shivraj Singh Chouhan firmly in the saddle as he completed his 11th year as Madhya Pradesh chief minister though he had to grapple with the situation arising out of the controversial police encounter in which eight suspected Simi activists were killed.

Chouhan also managed to win back RSS’ confidence after all did not seem to be well following police allegedly beating up Sangh pracharak Suresh Yadav in September at Balaghat district over a WhatsApp message with communal overtones.

He was also upbeat after CBI, the prosecution agency in the multi-crore Vyapam admission and recruitment scam, told the apex court that the electronic evidence in the rip-off was not tampered with.

The Congress has been alleging that the electronic evidence in the scam were tampered with by the state police to save Chouhan and his family.

Cow vigilantes too were seen in action in the first half of the year and in one such case, two Muslim women were beaten up at Mandsaur railway station on suspicion of carrying beef in July.

The state witnessed communal unrest in some parts.

After the encounter killings of suspected Simi activists who had mysteriously escaped the highly-fortified central jail here on Diwali night allegedly killing a security guard, questions were raised but Chouhan’s defence was that the police action was taken “for public good”.

File photo of Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan. AFP

File photo of Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan. AFP

Minutes after the encounter, Chouhan, who seldom speaks to the media, hurriedly convened a press conference to dub the undertrials as “terrorists” who posed a serious threat to society after escaping from the jail.

After the encounter, Muslims huddled in a mosque, on being denied permission to hold a public meeting. They claimed the killing was stage-managed.

Earlier, the community had often found the moderate Chouhan in their midst on Eids, once wearing a Muslim skull cap which Prime Minister Narendra Modi had refused to don.

After initial resistance, the state government agreed to a judicial probe into the encounter after the outcry and criticism by media and public.

The month-long Simhasta-Kumbh mela in the ancient city of Ujjain in April-May too made a political splash when BJP chief Amit Shah took a holy dip with the Dalit seers.

This drew the wrath of seers who said they were being divided on caste line for the first time.

The event also took a political hue with Congress blaming BJP for hijacking the event for political gain and siphoning off crores of rupees from the state exchequer.

Besides, the mela, considered to be one of the biggest congregations of Hindus, saw the participation of eunuchs for the first time despite the reservation of Hindu clerics.

After police action on Suresh Yadav, local Sangh Parivar leaders took to the streets in Balaghat and a confrontation between the RSS and the Chouhan government seemed imminent.

To mollify the RSS, the state government booked Balaghat Additional Superintendent of Police and other policemen and charged them with attempt to murder. The accused policemen, still at large, were suspended.

But RSS apparently wanted more. Finally, the Chouhan government shunted out Inspector General of Police and Superintendent of Police from Balaghat to placate it.

As the lower rungs of Sangh Parivar were still frowning, Chouhan flagged off a 5-month-long yatra from Amarkantak in Anuppur district – the origin of river Narmada – on December 11 with RSS at the helm of the event.

The event, called Narmada Seva Yatra, ostensibly aimed at turning the river pollution-free and maintaining the sanctity of the water body considered to be holy in Hindu scriptures.

At the start of the yatra, RSS general secretary Bhaiyaji Joshi heaped praises on Chouhan for his deep faith and respect for the holy river.

Then on December 19, in an apparent endorsement, senior RSS functionary Alok Kumar said Madhya Pradesh was a laboratory of Sangh Parivar’s ‘ekathma manavad’ (integral humanism).

Twenty-eight people hailing from the state perished in the derail incident of Indore-Patna Express near Kanpur on 20 November.

After 32 years of the Bhopal Gas Tragedy, victims of the world’s worst industrial disasters and the organisations helping them rejoiced on December 7 when a local court issued notices to the then district collector and the then superintendent of police for allegedly helping Union Carbide Corporation CEO Warren Anderson to escape from the state capital and criminal prosecution in December 1984.

Anderson who died last year was facing charges of criminal liability in the compensation case for the disaster.

BJP also won a number of by-polls in the state that were held during the year including Shahdol (ST) Lok Sabha seat and three assembly seats.

During the end of the year, Aam Aadmi Party national convenor Arvind Kejriwal held a public meeting here. AAP has already raised cadres in several parts of the state with an eye on the 2018 assembly polls.

First Published On : Dec 29, 2016 14:57 IST

Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan hits out at MP police; alleges inaction against RSS protesters

Kochi: A day after he was advised by Madhya Pradesh Police not to attend an event in Bhopal in view of Sangh Parivar protest, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan today hit out at the BJP-ruled state saying police did not take action against the protesters as it was organised by RSS.

Vijayan, who is a senior member of the CPI(M) politburo, said the experience he underwent in Bhopal is a reflection of the culture of the Sangh Parivar and the government supported by them.

“It (protest) was organised by the RSS. When a chief minister of a state is going to attend a programme, a protest is organised without any reasons. And police is not taking any action as the protest is being organised by the RSS, then asking the chief minister not to attend the function.

“We should see a cultural issue in it,” Vijayan told reporters here.

CPI(M) had alleged the chief minister was supposed to attend a felicitation programme organised by Kerala Samaj in Bhopal yesterday but when he was about to leave for attending it, Madhya Pradesh Police told him not to go there as RSS and other organisations were protesting against it.

File photo. PTI

File photo. PTI

Following the protest, the programme was cancelled and the Kerala Chief Minister went back.

Leaders of some Hindu outfits had organised a protest before the BSSS college gate, where Pinarayi was supposed to be felicitated in the evening. Police later took nearly 20 protesters into custody from the spot.

Bhopal Malyali Community Association Programme Convenor O D Joseph had said the programme was organised without the presence of Vijayan, whose scheduled visit to the venue was “cancelled due to security reasons”.

DIG of Bhopal Raman Singh Sikarwar had clarified that in view of the protest by Hindu outfits, police requested the Kerala Chief Minister to delay his visit to the venue for security reasons.

“We have never said that we won’t provide security to him. We were ready to take him to the venue but in order to avoid unpleasant situation, we had just asked him to delay the visit,” he had said on Saturday.

“However, Vijayan decided not to visit the venue and therefore it was cancelled,” he had claimed.

First Published On : Dec 11, 2016 17:31 IST

RSS leader who quit to join CPI(M) returns in four days

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Four days after joining CPI(M) as a mark of protest against “demonetization and political violence”, a local RSS leader has returned to the Sangh Parivar fold.P Padmakumar, a former state Secretary of the ‘Hindu Aikya Vedi’, had joined CPI(M) on November 27, after snapping his four-decade-long link with the Sangh.In the presence of CPI(M) district Secretary Anavoor Nagappan, Padmakumar had told reporters here that he had decided to join CPI(M), after being fed up with the “political violence” and “inhumane stand” of the BJP-RSS.However, the leader announced his return to RSS fold in a meeting organised by Yuva Morcha here last evening. “My experience and feelings while being in CPI(M) was similar to that of a nationalist caught in the midst of IS terrorists,” he alleged.He also claimed that the press release distributed by CPI(M) leaders at the press conference on November 27 did not reflect his views.Padmakumar, while announcing his decision to join CPI(M), had said that “I was against the inhumane attitude of RSS and its politics of violence. The demonetization of Rs 1000 and Rs 500 was the last straw and I decided to quit the outfit.”

UP polls: No alliance, there may be merger, says SP supremo Mulayam

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Putting an end to speculation about a ‘maha-gathbandhan’ in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly election, Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav ruled out forming alliance with any party on Thursday and said “there may be only merger”. “There will be no alliance for the UP Assembly polls. There may be only merger,” he told a hurriedly called press conference amid talks among leaders of ‘Janata Parivar’ parties about a possible tie-up.The ruling party chief’s remarks assume significance against the backdrop of marathon meetings Congress’ poll strategist Prashant Kishor had with him in Delhi and Lucknow. Kishore had held talks with the SP patriarch spread over several sessions and had also met Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, fuelling speculation about an alliance. Akhilesh, who did not appear too keen on cobbling together a coalition, had on wednesday said that forming a coalition was not that easy. The fact that SP wanted to go it alone was reflected in the chief minister’s remark that the ruling party can win the election on its own. But, as the alliance picture was not clear, he had also said that in case of pre-poll tie-up, they could garner 300 seats. Uttar Pradesh Assembly has 403 seats.The frequent meetings Kishor had with the SP leadership and the interactions between Mulayam and Ajit Singh of Rashtriya Lok Dal had triggered speculation that a coalition could be on the cards. Leaders of the erstwhile Janata Parivar who had attended the gala SP silver jubilee bash here too had underlined the need to halt BJP in its tracks by joining hands. Akhilesh had, however, said the decision on cobbling together a coalition was not that easy. “Netaji (Mulayam Singh Yadav) is an experienced leader. He will take the right decision…,” he had said, parrying a direct reply on whether a ‘maha-gathbandhan’ was on the anvil.

From shoving to holding hands: Everything that happened at SP’s silver jubilee celebrations

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Akhilesh-Shivpal acrimony and efforts at a patch-up were well on display, and not just in semantics, as the two leaders shared the dais with SP supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav and other leaders of the Janata Parivar at the party’s silver jubilee celebrations.Whether it was an agitated Shivpal Yadav shoving party leader Javed Abidi away from the microphone as he was praising Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, or the CM touching his uncle Shivpal’s feet after being prodded by RJD chief Lalu Prasad, the Yadav family saga was virtually being played out in presence of thousands of party activists at the Janeshwar Mishra park in Lucknow.When the event started, Akhilesh and Shivpal were given swords which they accepted smilingly. While the scene left many chuckling, Lalu stepped in and held hands of both Akhilesh and Shivpal as they posed for lensmen with the props.Egged on by Prasad, Akhilesh touched Shivpal’s feet to seek his blessing who kept his hand on the CM’s head. Former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda too held the hands of the warring uncle and nephew.PTIWhile Shivpal, who was sacked by Akhilesh from cabinet vented out his unhappiness in his speech, the Chief Minister gave a subtle response.Pointing at Shivpal’s confidant Gayatrai Prasad Prajapati, who was sacked by him earlier, Akhilesh said, “You give me a sword but you don’t want me to use it.” Earlier, Abidi, who is close to Akhilesh took hold of the mike and started addressing the gathering in favour of Akhilesh terming him as “future of the party”.”While you (Mulayam) are the soul of the party, Akhilesh is its vigour,” he said.However, Shivpal soon got up and went to Mulayam and soon came near Abidi and shoved him away from the mike.”Everyone should maintain discipline. Indiscipline will not be tolerated,” Shivpal said amid slogan shouting in the audience.The SP has been mired in a power tussle between Akhilesh and Shivpal ever since Mulayam removed his son as state party chief and appointed his brother Shivpal. The party tried to send a message of unity with Shivpal attending the flagging off Akhilesh’s rath yatra on Thursday for assembly elections and giving his “blessings”.

Mulayam Singh Yadav invites Janata Parivar leaders to SP’s silver jubilee celebrations

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Amid the talk of a Bihar-like grand alliance in Uttar Pradesh, Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, who shared dais with Janata parivar leaders on Saturday at an event marking the party’s silver jubilee, said he had invited all to “sit together” and think about the problems prevailing in the country.”Today is the foundation day of the party. I have not invited all of them (Janata Parivar leaders) without any reason. We have to think about the entire nation and the problems people are facing. We will unitedly think about it…,” he said in his address.Six offshoots of ‘Janata Parivar’ had merged together last year ahead of the Assembly elections in Bihar to form a new party to take on a resurgent BJP. The merger took place almost two decades after the then Janata Dal disintegrated in the 90s.”The country is dealing with problems on the border. Soldiers are laying down their lives to save the country. This is the time for struggle, he said, adding, “One cannot get power for free. For this, he has to struggle.” Mulayam claimed that the Muslim community was “facing most atrocities in the country”.”We have to see if atrocities are inflicted on Muslims under the SP rule. This should not happen in our government. Muslims want an SP government in the state again…,” he said and asked Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav to look into problems of the community.Mulayam claimed that 21 crore people do not get a proper meal in India and asked SP workers to observe the party’s foundation day as “Sankalp Diwas” with an aim to eradicate poverty. He also said the party cannot include all in the state and national executives.”Everyone wants to become a member of the party executives. This is a challenge…The national executive should not be big,” he said.

Assam polls as a case study: It’s time to reboot your idea of India

Of all the five state Assembly elections, the results of Assam election are set to redefine political concept of majoritarianism. After all, the first-past-the-poll electoral system is all about winning majority.

Yet the concept acquires a tinge of malignancy with the rise of the BJP that defied the overweening influence of Nehruvian secularism. The Assam results emphatically confirm the Sangh Parivar’s prognosis about India that there is innate Hinduness in the society that is politically exploitable. Perhaps no state elections in the country had achieved this level of polarisation since the Ram Janam Bhoomi-Babri Masjid agitation in the 1990s as Assam’s apparently did.The high turnout fuelling speculation of minority consolidation triggered a counter-mobilisation with equal intensity.

The BJP’s victory will invariably put a stamp of approval to the belief of the RSS-BJP that Hindutva identity could even tide over ethnic-caste mobilisations.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

Assam regarded as a long neglected periphery of India proves to be a classic example of this experiment. Given the complex demography of various ethnic groups and minorities in the state, it was unthinkable till a decade back that the ideology of the Hindutva would get a traction in the state. However top strategists of the BJP were quite confident of making Assam their new laboratory of political experiment in the Northeast. The RSS cadres were deployed and asked to set up educational institutions across the state to ingratiate with those sections that were increasingly chagrined by the influx of outsiders (Bangladeshis, largely Muslims).

Apparently, the strategy seems to have worked in these elections.

The BJP’ sustained campaign of “us versus them” in Assam created a situation over the years where a majority is apparently getting queasy over the minority’s assertion and groping for a coherent political expression. Hindutva filled the gap and provided an instant platform. Though the growth of Hindutva conforms to a pattern across the country, Assam clarifies the ideological underpinnings of the BJP which are often discussed within the family, but camouflaged in the verbiage of “cultural nationalism”.

Those who believe that the victory in Assam is the result of a fluke will find it difficult to reconcile with the fact that there exists a careful planning and a method in the madness within the Hindutva fold about cultivating its own “idea of India”. This is the precise reason why the RSS-BJP combine was never averse to the emergence of regional forces on the strength of ethnic-caste coalitions.

Political mobilisation on ethnic-caste lines helps Hindutva in the long run

For instance, the RSS-BJP combine was never unnecessarily worried about the emergence of the OBCs as a strong political force in the Hindi heartland. Mayawati, Mulayam Singh Yadav, Lalu Prasad Yadav are seen as stumbling block to the growth of the Hindutva forces. Yet within the Parivar, the assertion of caste groups through political formations is usually seen as furthering the agenda of Hindu consolidation. “These social groups will tend to merge with the larger identity once the era of charismatic individual leaders is over,” said BJP leaders whose job is to keep the party and the government in alignment with the RSS.

That the caste based political formations are too fragile to stand up to a popular wave was evident in the manner in which the BJP swept across Hindi heartland. Dalits and OBCs found charm of Prime Minister Narendra Modi irresistible though they owed primary allegiance to their caste leaders. Obviously, the consolidation of pro-BJP vote largely on religious lines in Hindi speaking states and parts of North West India almost eliminated representation of Muslims in the Lok Sabha from the entire region.

Disturbing trend: Muslim alienation

This is indeed a disturbing sign. A large section of Muslims getting sidelined from the mainstream political process of government formation does indicate a ominous foreboding. The Assam election results confirm this fear. But should the RSS-BJP alone be blamed for bringing the situation to such a pass? Of course, the answer to this question would ultimately lead to a critical examination of “Nehruvian secularism” and its distortions that crept into the body politic of India over the decades.

Jawaharlal Nehru’s majoritarianism and its distortions:

The Sangh Parivar has right since its inception, found Nehru’s pursuit of “Fabian socialism” as unacceptable and divorced of the Indian realities. This is the precise reason why the Bharatiya Jana Sangh’s most authentic ideologue and president Deen Dayal Upadhyaya could easily find common cause with Nehru-baiter Ram Manohar Lohia who was the most ardent critic of Nehru’s political approach. Despite the Hindutva underpinnings of the Sangh Parivar, Lohia often aligned his anti-Congressism with the Sangh Parivar’s politics. This was the precise reason Vajpayee, despite being an admirer of Nehru, advocated and embraced “Gandhian socialism” as a belief during his days as BJS chief.

Of course the self-righteousness of Nehru’s approach was so pronounced that a section of top leadership — holding religious right-wing views like Purshottam Das Tandon and C Rajgopalachari — was completely marginalised by bullying majoritarianism. Nehru’s sacking of the Kerala government in 1959 and his military moves in annexing Goa were frowned upon, but never seen as a streak of an autocrat primarily because of his towering personality and his background as freedom-fighter.

Reboot your idea of India now

Those who inherited Nehru’s legacy carried the most perverted form of majoritarianism in the garb of a secular discourse. In the 1990s and by the turn of millennium, the Sangh Parivar has turned the same logic on its head. They have successfully turned majoritarianism with its Hindutva underpinnings as an acceptable political concept. Although there is no denying the fact that this concept is seeded with serious vulnerabilities, it can hardly be challenged by archaic and outdated political idioms.

Those raring to take on the BJP in general and Modi in particular need to “reboot their idea of India and politics” afresh instead of lamenting Hindutva’s brand of majoritarianism.

Unfazed by privilege motion, BJP MP Subramanian Swamy dares Congress, says will teach them the law

Unperturbed by a privilege motion being moved against him, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP Subramanian Swamy on Friday dared the Congress to do their worst and that he will teach them the real meaning of law.Talking to ANI over Congress moving a privilege motion claiming that documents authenticated by Swamy on the AgustaWestland chopper deal were “bogus”, Swamy said that the grand-old party has lost it completely.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”They are irritated of me because I have cornered them in the National Herald case and I exposed them in Parliament. When the privilege motion comes, I will give them the documents,” he said.”First they said I didn’t authenticate the documents and today they are saying that the documents aren’t true,” he added.Swamy further said that he will teach the Congressmen law because they don’t know the mechanism.Congress leader Jairam Ramesh had said that his party will move a privilege motion against Subramanian Swamy and Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar claiming that the documents authenticated and tabled by them during the debate on the AgustaWestland chopper deal was “bogus”.The Congress leader said that among the 13 pages Swamy had tabled and authenticated, there was a two-page email that Swamy had sent to himself, nine pages taken from a website.He further said that Congress will file a defamation case against a US-based website, www.pguru.com, whose material was used by Swamy in the Rajya Sabha debate.It alleged that the website is linked to the Sangh Parivar.

Composite township for Kashmiri Pandits ‘unjustified’: Hurriyat

A day after the Centre asked Jammu and Kashmir government to identify land where displaced Kashmiri Pandits could be suitably rehabilitated, hardline Hurriyat Conference led by Syed Ali Shah Geelani on Wednesday said “rigidness of the Indian government” was “unjustified”.In a written reply in Lok Sabha yesterday, Minister of State for Home Haribhai Parathibhai Chaudhary had said further action would be taken once the land has been identified. “The rigidness of the Indian government over the setting up of the composite township for the migrant Kashmiri Pandits is unjustified.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”Hurriyat cautions that the division of Kashmiris on religious lines and isolation of the Pandits from the society will not be allowed and both the communities collectively will not let this to happen,” a Hurriyat spokesman said here. There are about 62,000 registered Kashmiri migrant families in the country, who left the Valley after the onset of militancy in Jammu and Kashmir in the early 1990s.About 40,000 registered Kashmiri migrant families are living in Jammu, about 20,000 in Delhi-NCR and about 2,000 families are settled in other parts of the country. The Hurriyat said the Pandits are a vital part of the Kashmir society and no individual or any group is against their return. “We are in no way against the return and rehabilitation of the Pandit community in the Valley but the Indian government and its policy makers want to play a very dangerous game under its grab and they not only want to divide the Kashmiri society on religious lines but they also want to harm the freedom struggle of the Kashmiris,” he said.The spokesman said Kashmir issue is not about Hindu-Muslim dispute but the “people of this land are demanding their right to self determination for the last seven decades”. The Hurriyat expressed apprehension that the composite townships “will act as safe zones for the communal agents and the Sang Parivar people and there is every possibility of misuse of these safe zones”. Hurriyat also criticized the role of PDP, NC and “all other people of this tribe”, saying these people are “playing a leading role in the implementation of the dangerous policies of India and they have sold their conscience for the chair and power”.

Nitish Kumar hits out at Modi govt for ‘not keeping’ poll promises

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Saturday lashed out at the BJP-led central government for failing to keep its promises, including bringing back blackmoney stashed abroad and charged it with harping on “emotive issues” to divert attention from the ones affecting the people.”The NDA government has not only failed to keep various promises, including bringing back black money stashed abroad and distributing it among the people, but it is seeking to create a strife in the society by raking up emotive issues from time to time to divert attention from problems of the masses,” he told an expanded meeting of the JD(U) state executive, legislative party and district unit presidents and office bearers at his official residence.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”The NDA government is about to complete two years in office, but nothing has been heard on bringing back black money from abroad … It has failed to generate employment for youths nor has it kept various promises made during the general election,” Kumar said. Failing to live up to the people’s expectation, the central government and the Sangh Parivar have been intentionally raising emotive issues like ‘love jehad’, ‘ghar wapsi’ and nationalism to divert public attention, he told the party leaders and workers.Kumar hit out at BJP for harping on nationalism as a core issue of its ideology and agenda and said it was so then why did the saffron party stitch an alliance with PDP despite its adoption of a resolution condemning the hanging of Afzal Guru. “What type of nationalism is it when you slap sedition charge on students (of JNU) for raising slogans and stitch an alliance and form government with a party (PDP) which had publicly backed Afzal Guru?” Kumar asked.Contrasting the NDA government’s failure on various fronts with his government’s performance in Bihar, he said that his government has set out on ‘saat nischay’ (seven pledges) for improving of life of the general people.”Unlike the BJP-led NDA government, we are performers and believe in translating our commitments into action….we are going to implement the seven pledges with full vigour as we know that these measures will impact the lives of the people in positive ways,” the JD(U) leader said.

The Walter Andersen interview: ‘Modi has a sense of a great India; he’s an ascetic devoted to his work’

Walter K Andersen is known for his profound scholarship on contemporary Indian politics, especially the rise of Hindutva. At the peak of the Ayodhya agitation, his book The Brotherhood In Saffron: The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and Hindu Revivalism was probably the first dispassionate academic inquiry of Hindutva, which traditional Indian academia treated with disdain and subjectivity. After nearly 35 years, Andersen with his co-author Sridhar D Damle, will be rewriting the book in the new context (of an Hindutva party leading the Union government with a majority of its own).

After attending a series of meetings at the World Sufi Conference in New Delhi, Andersen spoke at length about Prime Minister Narendra Modi, secularism and Indian politics. In an interview with Ajay Singh and Shishir Tripathi, he spoke about the inherent cultural strength of India, the rise of Hindutva and changes he has observed in the Sangh Parivar over the past five decades of his research, all of which will be part of his new book.

What are the social, cultural, political and strategic importance and ramifications of this ‘World Sufi Forum’? What were the top takeaways of this meeting?

The goal of this meeting, as I understand, was to establish linkages among Sufi leaders all over the world so we had people from West Asia, from South Africa, the US, Europe, Pakistan and from India. This was an opportunity for them to meet each other because this sort of event has never taken place in the past. And, also to establish some sort of organisational base for future efforts and to advance the cause of Sufi Islam, which is the moderate form of Islam. You know Sufism is not wedded to narrow textual dogma and therefore, the ultra-orthodox don’t like them.

Sufis talked about brotherhood among the many faiths something that you will never hear an orthodox speak. The big threat to religion and religious ideas today is not from religion, but from a kind of modern secularism which sees all religions as retrograde. They see all religious sentiments as impediment to progress. You see this very bright student from JNU, Umar Khalid, who said that he is an atheist. But I have heard his father is an extremely religious man. Probably when he looks at religion he does not find it appealing and in consonance with his scientific temperament. Science is what you need to prove, but religion is based on faith.

Don’t you think that this initiative should have come from the West — essentially the US — which actually needs to be made aware of the moderate face of Islam?

There is a practice in the US to ensure division between church and state, a practice that refrains the state from getting involved in religious activities and there is very strong sentiment regarding this. Further, Islam is relatively weak in the US and does not have the required push to get involved in such activities. Though, such events are indeed in the interest of US as Sufism is the moderate face of Islam.

But is it not in consonance with the fact that President Barack Obama went to Egypt and addressed Muslims with the same kind of appeal? Would it not have been better if the US has taken this initiative?

If this is identified with American interest, in this part or any part of the world, that would undermine its legitimacy. This is the world of conspiracies. Any involvement of the US would have been looked at with suspicion. Even in India, I have heard people raising doubt about the motive of the World Sufi Conference.

File image of Walter Andersen. Screen grab from YouTube

File image of Walter Andersen. Screen grab from YouTube

Why, in spite of Islam having such a peaceful and compassionate face like Sufism, are young people still drifting to radical Islam, manifesting in organisations like Islamic State?

There are two facts to explain this. One is that they are getting attracted to radical Islam and two they are getting attracted to atheism; and basically for the same reason. The institution of Islam in many ways is not satisfying to them; one thing that came out in this meeting too. They don’t have much to say to young people. One of the initiatives that Sufis from Ajmer are taking up is to establish a school with technical education for young Muslims boys because there is a very high rate of unemployment and data shows it is Muslims at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder in urban areas, who need real help as they are mostly unemployed.

Islam has not done much about it.

Do you feel this meeting can act as an antidote to radical Islam?

I don’t think so, not because I think it should not be but because it is so difficult to organise. Then there is another problem with Sufism. It is very individualistic and at times its practices border on idolatory. On the other hand, orthodox Islam gives a sense of community to believers and gives them a direct connect to Allah. This is the reason Sufism, in spite of its message of love and compassion, gets overshadowed by the orthodox Islam.

Where does this initiative go from here then?

I think there is some success with Salman Chisty from Ajmer as he is very assertive and active internationally. He is doing a fairly good job in articulating Sufism to the world audience and in a clear and cogent manner. He is the man behind this conference.

Of late, comparisons are being drawn between the RSS and Islamic State (first by historian Irfan Habib and lately by Ghuam Nabi Azad). How do you react to that?

I don’t think it is at all an apt and valid comparison. In the India cultural context, it is very difficult to organise a group like Islamic State. Leave aside Hindus, it will be impossible for such a violent philosophy to get acceptance among Muslims or any other social groups. India’s cultural moorings are far too varied, resilient and complex to let such a tendency grow.

You held a view that the BJP and the RSS will grow simultaneously. Do you still hold this position?

They are closely linked to each other. I don’t see any split.

Is there any possibility of merging their identity in future?

No, I don’t think so.

Why so?

The RSS will lose its role as of a mediator to resolve the differences in the Sangh Parivar. It will lose its ability to be objective.

Don’t you think that it has a tendency of becoming an extra-constitutional entity?

That has always been the danger. A lot of it depends on how one defines it. There is nothing illegal in seeking advice. The RSS has organisations in almost every aspect of Indian life. Look at the schools run by the RSS; it is by far the largest private school system in India. What the government thinks, affects them. So they are interested in having polices that are favourable to them. They have meetings with ministers to express their views. Whether or not it is wrong, I don’t know.

In the US, it is expected that the state will never get into religious activities, but that has never been the case with India. The Indian government provides funds to Muslims to go for Hajj. At Tirupati, an IAS officer is the director of the trust, chosen by government so you have the government involved in religion in so many ways.

In your book you dealt at length with the evolution of the RSS as a santhanist (organisational) entity. How do you see Narendra Modi as ‘sangathanist’ leader; as an organisational man?

He started off in the RSS as a young man. Here is a man who at the age of 17-18 decides to go around India as a religious student from one religious institution to another. Then he realises he wants to be an activist, a karmayogi. He becomes an RSS pracharak. He gets a degree in political science. He is an ambitious man and terrific speaker who works seven days a week, 16-17 hours a day. And so when LK Advani was organising his rath yatra, the Gujarat part was organised by Modi and he did a fantastic job and that is why perhaps Advani was attracted to him and eventually got him to Delhi to organise elections in some states.

He again did a fantastic job and was then sent back to Gujarat. In Gujarat, there was a BJP chief minister who had flopped and they were looking for someone else, and found Modi. But Modi had a particular bit of bad fortune of that event (post-Godhra riots) taking place in 2002.

However, after 2002, he progressively moved away and left that behind and started focusing on development. When I met Modi in 2013, he told me that economic development, in his view, was originally part of the Hindu message.

Almost three decades after your first book was published, what kind of change do you observe in the RSS?

It is much bigger now with many affiliated organisations. To a certain extent, the tail is wagging the dog. We have all these groups like the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) and many others. They are in extremely outspoken roles and there are differences. The RSS has expanded in many new areas and now represents a much more complicated social spectrum.

That includes organisations like BMS,  Kisan Sangh; have they also expanded?

Yes, absolutely. The RSS has reacted recently to this expansion and differences of opinions by assigning more pracharaks to various affiliated organisations. In 1960, Deen Dayal Upadhyay began to establish these affiliated organisations and the then Jan Sangh began to grow and have more support. So he assigned pracharaks to provide coordination among the groups, but the way these affiliates operate is a big issue. When pracharaks are assigned to affiliates, they began to identify with the affiliates. Look at the way head of the BMS reacted to the land acquisition bill. He termed it as illegitimate and also criticised Modi for it. But I think they will eventually get over it (the differences).

Doest that criticism really affect Modi? Given the fact that his stature as a leader has far outgrown the RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat. Doesn’t it overawe leaders like Bhagwat?

Modi is probably the most important figure in the Sangh Parivar. And compared to him, Bhagwat appears to be a diplomat and far less influential than his predecessors. But that is because of the changed political context where the BJP has far outgrown the RSS. And that could be the reason why Modi initially found it difficult to get acceptance within the Sangh fold.

How does he get acceptance then?

There is no secret to it. The RSS has a system wherein when they want to take a decision on something they pass the word down that this should be discussed. Then the opinion from the bottom travels to the top. A top RSS leader told me that this was the first time when the cadre forced the leadership to take a decision (the elevation of Modi as the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate) that the leadership did not want. But the opinion was so strong that they could not reject it.

Do you see this as transformation of the RSS from a brahamanical organisation to an all-encompassing entity.

That is already happening. The RSS has an increasing number of pracharaks from other backward castes (OBC), some are Dalits and they are trying to appoint Muslims too. The organisation is now so much bigger and is in transformation and is no more the brahmanical group that it was. However, it has a brahmanical orientation, as Christophe Jaffrelot points out, which the RSS won’t give up easily.

Do you think the ascendance of Modi repudiates this brahmanical character of the RSS?

Yes, it does.

So is there a possibility of friction between sections of the RSS and sections of the BJP?

There has probably always been some tension. Look at the way the land issue was dealt with. The way Bhagwat spoke on the eve of Bihar elections, wherein he questioned caste-based reservation and the joint general secretary Dattatreya Hosabale’s views on homosexuality. More and more expression of differences is emerging. It is interesting to see how the RSS performs its traditional role of mediation.

Why is that the RSS reacted in a totally different manner to Modi’s visit to Lahore from Advani’s Karachi visit in 2005?

This is a part of the research of my new book for which I will be speaking to lot of RSS people. There were people who privately expressed their discontent over his visit to Lahore. Advani’s visit received much more criticism because of his comments on Muhammad Ali Jinnah. The RSS saw it as anathema.

Is Modi’s understanding of the RSS more profound than Advani’s then?

I think so. Advani came into the RSS during the days of partition. Modi came to the RSS in very different circumstances. There have been two strands in the RSS represented by MS Golwalkar and KB Hedgewar. Ashis Nandy in his recent book wrote about it. Hedgewar was in many ways an activist, political hard-nose and not particularly religious. Golwalkar, who was called ‘Guruji’, tried to portray himself as a religious figure. He emphasised on character-building, which was a very brahmanical way of life.

Which strand does Modi represent according to you?

The activist. Though he has had a sort of religious episode when he travelled across the country, I don’t think it (religious) is his inclination. He is the son of working class parents who had to move up in the world. Modi genuinely has a sense of a great India. He wants to build a great India which is strong and is respected, that can feed its entire people. That is a very activist orientation.

Onto the BJP as an organisation, and those who were heading the party were intellectually very sound people like LK Advani, Deen Dayal Upadhyay and Atal Bihari Vajpayee. In that respect, how do you see Amit Shah as the head of the party?

Amit Shah is Rahm Emanuel of American politics. Emanuel was Barack Obama’s hard-knuckled manger of election. He forced people one way or the other in Obama’s favour. Amit Shah does that for Modi. I think Modi recognises that. It is a very Machiavellian relationship. I think that Shah has a skill that Modi needs to win elections. After all, he is a politician.

There was always this question that who after Jawaharlal Nehru. Similarly the question now is who after Modi? If Modi falls like Advani, there is a probability that the BJP as an organisation will be intrinsically changed and it will be very difficult to revive it. Your thoughts?

Modi is relatively young and healthy. He has no vices that I am aware of. Before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, I went to Modi’s room in Gujarat Bhawan (New Delhi). It was like a monastery cell. There were no pictures on the wall. There were some books and a bed — a simple cot. He is an ascetic devoted to one thing that is his work. He works seven days, he has never taken a vacation in the past 25 years. Most charismatic leaders don’t think about who will take their place.

What will you say about the RSS replacing its age-old khaki shorts with trousers?

Why has it taken so long? There was so much opposition to it for so many years. I think it took so long because these symbolic items are so intrinsically connected to an organization that they are usually reluctant to give it up because it is part of the image of the organisation. Some of the senior leaders too felt were silly. Now they see it as part of a modernising move.

No Mr Arun Jaitley, the BJP hasn’t won the ideological war; it’s only the beginning

Everything that had to be said about Kanhaiya Kumar’s speech has been said already.

Yes, it was brilliant. It was beautiful in its simplicity, clarity and sincerity. It exuded positive energy, and reflected the essence of being young, and a student in particular. It was political, deeply political. It articulated in soft words a narrative of the nation the Congress, the Congress-like parties and even the Left failed to present to people at large. His speech lacked the toxicity and shrillness that one usually associates with hate-mongers of several hues who go by the generic description of the Indian Right these days.

Kanhaiya was assertive without being overtly combative. He threw a challenge to the party running the government and its ideological joint family without being abrasive. Only those with a compulsive obsessive dislike for youthful idealism and the vibrant spirit of the young or those blinded by the ideology of hatred would find fault with the content.

Arun Jaitley. File photo. PTIArun Jaitley. File photo. PTI

Arun Jaitley. File photo. PTI

If Union HRD Minister Smriti Irani’s response in Parliament to Rohith Vemula and the JNU controversies made the BJP’s position on matters related to the nation and nationalism unambiguous, Kanhaiya’s speech stated in clear terms where the Left and Left-of-centre stand on both. It’s interesting that the rebuttal to the Right would come from a student, not from seasoned politicians. Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi has been mentioning the RSS on and off, but he never made it precise where the Congress stood. Neither was the BJP too open. Irani and Kanhaiya have cut through the haze and drawn the battle lines in the great ideological war.

In his address to the members of Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha, senior minister Arun Jaitley said the battle of ideology had been won in JNU. “Those who were raising slogans to divide the country are now raising slogans in praise of the nation and waving the tricolour…” he said. But this proclamation of victory could be premature. The battle has just begun. Kanhaiya, as evident in his speech, stood his ground and showed no sign of backing out. Waving the tricolour and the accompanying slogans are only peripheral to the core issue.

Now that a clear position has been taken, it would be interesting to watch how both sides escalate the battle. The BJP and the Sangh Parivar believe that in nationalism, they have a trump card in their hands. With nothing much to show in the form of performance as the ruling establishment, they plan to play to emotions by making patriotism central to the mainstream political discourse. They have set the agenda; the rivals would have to prepare an effective counter to that. The upcoming assembly elections would be a big test for all. Most importantly, the results would indicate whether the people at large are as serious about nationalism as an issue as the political players.

If it fails, the BJP won’t have many emotive issues to fall back upon. It has used up most of its important weapons – secularism, intolerance, beef etc. If it wins, there would be no stopping its nationalism agenda. Victory in the elections would be construed as an endorsement. Expect the Hindutva forces to go hyper-active yet again. For other parties it would be a matter of life and death. If they are not convincing enough for the electorate they would lose massive political and ideological ground. Recovery would a Herculean task.

It would be fascinating how it all unfolds. The end result would re-define India as a nation. JNU is only the beginning and long engagement is ahead for all concerned. The BJP and the Sangh Parivar should put on hold the victory celebration.

Kerala CPI(M) MP gets abusive calls after Facebook post supporting Kanhaiya Kumar

CPI(M) MP M B Rajesh today claimed that he had received threats and abusive calls after he came out in support of JNU Students Union president Kanhaiya Kumar, who was arrested on sedition charges.In a Facebook post, Rajesh criticised the BJP and Sangh Parivar for the arrest and had also questioned the alliance of PDP-BJP in Jammu Kashmir. He had also sought answers for 10 questions from the BJP.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Rajesh said he had first got a call from a person at midnight yesterday stating that he wanted to talk something important to him. The caller, identifying himself as Biju, wanted to know why he was “supporting anti-national and Pakistani forces”.Though he discontinued the conversation and switched off his mobile, the man called him repeatedly on his landline also. He said the caller had been identified and he would file a police complaint soon. In one his Facebook posts, Rajesh had shared a photo with that quoted Kanhaiya Kumar as saying, “Don’t need a certificate of patriotism from RSS. our beliefs are on the other side of the spectrum from those in power at the Centre.” Rajesh had captioned the photo asking, “Where is the anti-nationalism in this? Where is the treason?” ഇതില്‍ എവിടെയാണ് ദേശ വിരുദ്ധത. ഇതില്‍ എന്താണ് രാജ്യദ്രോഹം?
M.B. Rajesh on Tuesday, February 16, 2016(With PTI inputs.)

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