Jharkhand: RSS, BJP following a two-pronged communalism strategy to keep society divided

On one hand, the BJP has able to wedge suspicion between Hindus and Muslims, on the other, they are trying to create differences between tribals, who became Christians, and Sarnas, who worship nature

Representative Image (PTI file)
Representative Image (PTI file)

Ashlin Mathew

Communalism is deepening the chasm in Jharkhand. Here the RSS, BJP and its acolytes have been following a two-pronged communalism strategy to keep the society divided. On one hand they have been able to wedge suspicion between Hindus and Muslims and on the other, the Sangh Parivar has been attempting to widen the chasm between the tribals, who became Christians, and Sarnas, who worship nature. Here too, the attempt is to politicise tribal identity on religious lines. While the Sarna tribals of Jharkhand have long been demanding to be counted as a Sarna, the members of the Sangh Parivar believe they are simply backward Hindus.

“When we were growing up in Ranchi, the normal greeting was ‘namaskar’ or ‘namaste’, but now it has become ‘Jai Shri Ram’. That is reflective of the society one lives in. Now, communal elements have increased. All of this began just before the arrival of Modi – a sort of laying the ground to ensure he was voted to power,” explains Akash Ranjan, a young Right To Food activist.

“Even the administration is to blame. Earlier, if Dusshera used to happen around the same time as Eid or Muharram, both would get to carry out their procession, but now Muslims hardly hold any such processions and the administration isn’t doing enough to protect them and encourage them,” adds Ranjan.

Jharkhand has seen 18 lynchings ever since the BJP government has come to power of which 11 victims died and in fact, union minister Jayant Sinha garlanded a few alleged mob lynchers after they were granted bail by a court.

“Before the proliferation of non-tribals, several micro-tribals were criss-crossing the region. These were people who would not understand each other’s languages, yet we have not heard of a lynching incident then. Adivasis are people who respect life. They believe an ant has as much right to life as much as humans. Life is at the centre of their universe not humans,” says Xavier Dias, an Adivasi rights activist in Jharkhand.

“One needs to understand global finance capitalism or as I call it global lumpen finance capitalism. Such capitalism needs the destruction of democracy and destruction of human rights to survive. All political parties who would help this would be brought into power and this is a trend world over. Here global lumpen finance capitalism needed BJP and the BJP and all its saffron allies such as RSS, VHP, had to divide the society to stay in power. So then, there is a rush of soft Hindutva towards hard Hindutva. And that is what has happened in Jharkhand,” explains Dias.

“Violence against Adivasis and Dalits multiplied when outsiders started to come in. I have seen several riots especially the 1979 riot in Jamshedpur. Now, the engineers of riots have changed their tactics. They are attacking individuals, so that the message is conveyed to a particular community,” remarks Dias.

In 1979, Jharkhand was still a part of undivided Bihar, communal rioting had rocked the steel city. Then too accusatory fingers were pointed at the RSS, for provoking the riots on the issue of not being granted permission to take out a Ram Navami procession near a Muslim locality.

“There are young boys wearing saffron who come here to collect donations for festivals, and if you deny them, they ask you your religious identity with a such venom that translates into – ‘if you want to live here, then you have to live by our rules’. This has been the achievement of the Modi-Shah combine and the RSS,” stresses Dias.

The RSS, its associated bodies and the BJP were the maximum beneficiaries of the Jayaprakash Prakash Narayan-led Janata Party. It was this party which gave them access to state power, says Dias as one who has seen the rise and fall of the Janata Party during the days of emergency.

“The BJP government needed to destroy the participation of SC/ST and minorities to deny them any access of power. This would ensure that the power remains in the hands of Hindutva elements. Why else is the government trying to kill gram sabhas, denying PDS ration to the poor, slashing down welfare schemes and funding cow vigilantes,” asks Dias.

Dias says that there are 60,000 paramilitary forces in Jharkhand and they are concentrated in mostly Khunti, Chatra and West Singhbhum. “Their per capita number is same as in Kashmir and West Bank – Palestine.

In Jharkhand the tribal population has fallen from 27% to 23%. “This is because of the new migration of upper castes from other states,” contends Dias.

And in front of an Adivasi, everyone else who comes here is an outsider, states Karma Oraon, who teaches at the Ranchi University.

“Here Sarnas and tribal Christians are both from the same race. RSS has been attempting to divide them saying that Christians were getting all the economic benefits. But the tribals have understood them for what they are. Under the banner of Hinduism or Hindutva, the Sangh Parivar has been saying that Sarnas belong to the Hindu fold,” emphasises Oraon, who is a Sarna himself.

“Adivasis do not come under the varnas and just for political gain, some Hindutva elements are creating confusion amongst tribals. Now, the Adivasis of Jharkhand fear an alienation from their land. They now do not want to see the BJP government or Raghubar Das’s face. They have understood that the government is spearheading the movement to subjugate the Adivasis. The current BJP government has registered many cases against Adivasis for the Pathalgaddi movement. Several are still in jail and they are terming us anti-nationals. Everyone knows we belong to this land,” says Oraon.

“BJP can’t make everything about religion. The voters in Jharkhand have realised that they just want to forcefully govern the state so as to strip the people of their identity. It won’t work for long,” adds Oraon.

“The poison that Sangh Parivar has spread across India will take at least 20 years to detoxify. Such violent forces are able to propagate violence when they have access to state power. If they don’t have much access to state power, they remain on the side-lines,” says Dias.

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Published: 06 May 2019, 4:12 PM