In the BJP’s eyes, who’s a ‘Hindu’?
The caste, religion and class identity of perpetrators come into play whenever the Hindutva ecosystem confers the identity of ‘Hindu’ upon victims. It’s opportunistic and hypocritical
Recently the house of a Congress MLA was ransacked and burned down by a mob comprising Muslim men in Bangalore. The incident received much attention in the national media as the perpetrators were ‘Muslims’. The BJP media ecosystem invoked the ‘Dalit Hindu’ identity of the Congress MLA in their presentation of the incident. This incident, apart from helping the BJP to push its narrative of ‘violent, anti-national, anti-social Muslim’ imagery, also helped them to counter the Dalit-Muslim unity in electoral arena. A BJP spokesperson tweeted: ‘Has anyone seem MIM-BHIM people?’
The identification of the Congress MLA as a ‘Hindu Dalit’ when the entire Congress is called anti-Hindu by the BJP begs few important questions like ‘Who is a Hindu for the BJP’ and ‘When does a person become Hindu for the BJP’.
Presently we are being ruled by a party which claims itself to be the champion of Hindus and its ‘Supreme Leader’ is often referred to as the ‘Hindu Hriday Samrath’. While claiming this, the BJP merges itself with the ‘Hindu’ identity and anyone who goes against the wisdom/personalities/policy of the BJP is branded as anti-Hindu and thereby anti-national. But this is about the BJP.
What about the huge mass of Indian population which is divided on the basis of caste, class, gender, region and ethnicity? What identities are imposed on them by the BJP and their supporters? The BJP since long has tried to build a unified ‘Hindu’ mass in opposition to the ‘other’ which is largely Muslim. The Hindutva propaganda machinery has since long claimed that “Hindu Khatre me hai” to refer to a) perceived demographic threat due to increase in Muslim population and b) attack on Hindu culture by left-liberal-secular elites. The “Hindu Khatre me hai” victimhood denotes both demographic and cultural danger.
So how does this actually play out in the real world? Is the ‘Hindu’ (who is in danger!) a unified single mass for the BJP/RSS and their supporters or the labelling of ‘Hindu’ identity is more opportunistic and fluid depending on the context? Let us take a few examples to explore this complex (actually very simple) issue.
1. When hundreds and thousands of migrant workers were forced to take a long march back to their homes in scorching sun putting many in mortal danger, nobody identified them as ‘Hindu’. When 11 migrant workers were killed on Aurangabad railway track, no one thought that now there are 11 less Hindus! Probably the class factor played out and those 11 people and countless others were reduced to non-persons.
2. In 2018 alone 10,349 farmers committed suicide. The almost two decades long agrarian crisis has till now consumed around 300,000 farmers. All those unfortunate farmers and their families are never identified as ‘Hindu’ by BJP or their supporters. No one says that now there are 300,000 less Hindus! Probably, again, the class factor plays out here and those farmers are reduced to non-persons.
3. Indian is undergoing a massive unemployment crisis. Many youngsters are forced to take up low-paying basic survival jobs which makes their lives very difficult. These unemployed people are never identified as ‘Hindus’! No one says that lives of ‘Hindus’ is becoming difficult every day because of economic and employment crisis. Why the ‘Hindu’ identity is not invoked here?
These are just some cases related with ‘class factor’. Now let us turn to ‘caste factor’.
1. When four men belonging to the Dalit community were lynched in Una by an upper caste Hindu mob, they were not identified as ‘Hindus’, but when a Dalit colony in Jaunpur district of Uttar Pradesh was attacked by a Muslim mob on June 9, 2020, the Dalits became ‘Hindus’. In another case when a Dalit teen was shot dead by upper caste men for entering a temple in the BJP-ruled Uttar Pradesh, the victim was not identified as a ‘Hindu’. So basically the ‘Identity’ of the perpetrators decides when ‘Hindu Dalit’ identity is invoked and when not.
2. Vindo Kumar Kashyap, a Dalit Man, was lynched to death during the East Delhi riots. The Hindutva social media machine promptly identified the victim as ‘Dalit’. Here the identity of perpetrators i.e. the Muslim Mob, decided the identity conferred upon the victim. During the same riot one of the instigators, Raghini Tiwari, in a video can be heard saying: 'Bhimti Hai Kya? Kaat Daalo’. So, whether a ‘benevolent’ or ‘malevolent’ Dalit identity is granted to Individuals depends upon who the perpetrator is.
Now let us turn to ‘gender’.
Whenever a girl or a woman is killed or harassed by a Muslim, the right wing media ecosystem picks up the Incident immediately and starts to propagate the ‘girl’ as a ‘Hindu victim’ at the hands of Muslims. But whenever a girl/woman – be of so-called upper caste or Dalit - is killed or harassed by upper caste Hindu Men or powerful leaders, either the girl herself is hounded or the incident is completely glossed over. Take the cases of BJP leader Kuldeep Singh Sengar or Swami Chinmayananad. In both the cases, the victims were never identified as a ‘Hindu’!
A lot of such similar cases can be cited here where the religious and caste identity of the perpetrators decides who is a ‘Hindu’ and who is not a ‘Hindu’. Everyday criminal acts are seen through the lens of Hindu-Muslim binary. Even if one of the perpetrators of any everyday crime like theft, robbery, harassment, murder, etc. is a Muslim, the victim immediately becomes a ‘Hindu’. But if the criminal is a Hindu, the incident is glossed over and loses its political significance in the eyes of the Hindutva movement.
For the BJP and their supporters, the archetype ‘Hindu’ is an Upper Caste Male, which is only conferred upon Women and Dalits if they are victims at the hands of Muslims. For the BJP or for the Hindutva movement, the ‘Hindu’ is not an undifferentiated mass; rather the ‘Hindu’ identity is contextual. The factors of caste, gender, religion and class come into play whenever the Hindutva ecosystem confers the identity of ‘Hindu’ upon anyone. It’s opportunistic and hypocritical.