Bharat Jodo Yatra: A Sense of Its Mission
To the BJP, the constitutional commitment to treat all citizens as equals is a nuisance it must somehow sidestep by valorising a mythical Hindu past
Going by eyewitness accounts, the Bharat Jodo Yatra has been a phenomenal success. So much so that debating its success/ failure is now a prime-time obsession.
Many of these TV debates are biased, but it’s neither right nor fair to dismiss them all as ‘manufactured’; there is an attempt to gauge the impact of the Yatra. Not even just in TV studios but in political circles too. There is also a perceptible curiosity among common folk about the Yatra, about what makes it so different.
They have heard, of course, that the Yatra is not about elections or electoral gains—and the outcome of the recently concluded assembly elections in Gujarat and Himachal lend some credence to that assertion. Nor is it about unifying the Opposition.
A rather ludicrous theory doing the rounds is that the Yatra is to salvage/ burnish Rahul Gandhi’s image; this deserves no comment. But that also begs the question what the Yatra is really about, if not any of the above.
The answer is the name itself—the words ‘Bharat Jodo’ (reconnect India) declare, loud and clear, what the Yatra seeks to do. But to grasp the spirit and the urgency of this mission, it is necessary to comprehend the disconnect the RSS and BJP are cynically engineering.
The most visible disconnect is, of course, the great trust deficit between the Hindus and Muslims (also Christians) and the great gap between the super-rich and the poor. These have featured in Rahul’s speeches throughout the Yatra.
There are three other divisions the RSS has worked hard to create—think of them as mental walls, designed to divide. The first of these walls stands between the truth of things and the information circulated about them among people. Supplicant media is made the instrument to effect this divide.
Two, the massive negative propaganda about Congress leaders, both living and dead, which serves to tarnish their public image and demoralise party workers. Never before has a political party spent so much sinister energy maligning opposition leaders. The third wall stands between Indians and their understanding of their past.
The Yatra has successfully breached the first two walls. The disaffection with the Gandhis, spread by the BJP among Congress workers, seems to have evaporated, judging from the spontaneous affection Rahul is receiving wherever he goes. In fact, against the background of that malicious propaganda, he now looms larger than life. The doggedly concealed failures of the Modi government are also now out in the open.
The third wall tries to divide the people of India from their real history—of diverse communities, languages, cultures and what Nehru described as India’s palimpsestic past—and concoct an alternative narrative that somehow validates the RSS’s fiction of a once-glorious Hindu India.
The current government has done its damnedest to embellish and embroider this fiction. In the Sangh schema, all that India knew of its past is made to look like a diabolic conspiracy of European scholars and post-Independence Indian historians. Also integral to this project are attempts to sanitise history of elements that expose the Sangh’s own dubious past.
Prof. Kesavan Veluthat, president of the recently held Indian History Congress in Chennai, said the Vajpayee government had started concealing documents published by the Indian Council for Historical Research, documents that apparently exposed the Sangh’s dubious deals with the British Raj.
History rarely makes front-page headlines, but it did in the last week of 2022. Speaking at an event to mark the newly conceived Veer Bal Divas, Prime Minister Modi reportedly said that a concocted history gave Indians a sense of inferiority, and that the ‘new India’ emerging under his rule was ‘correcting past mistakes to restore India’s true legacy’.
Joining issue with him the very next day, while inaugurating the 81st session of the Indian History Congress in Chennai, Tamil Nadu chief minister M.K. Stalin said: “Distortion of history is a clear danger facing India today. The study of history should be based on scientific methods…. Some people are trying to construct an illusory history that we shouldn’t believe.” The elliptical reference to ‘some people’ should require no explanation.
Citing a nine-judge Supreme Court judgment (1994) that underlined secularism as an inseparable feature of the Indian Constitution, Stalin also said: “We should all strive to create a secular society.” The politics of Hindutva, on the other hand, militates against the constitutional commitment to a secular nation.
It must, therefore, construct an alternative narrative about our past in which only Hindus ‘truly belong’ to India. Even Jains and Buddhists are an afterthought in this schema, but ‘all others’ must learn to live as ‘others’.
To the BJP, the constitutional commitment to treat all citizens as equals is a nuisance it must somehow sidestep by valorising a mythical Hindu past. This wall, too, the Yatra has to breach. Which means its mission must continue even after the current pilgrimage is over.
To recap, these are the divisions the Yatra aspires to bridge—the divide between the rich and poor; between communities; between the truth and media propaganda; between leaders and political workers; between the real and imagined histories of our people. In the ultimate analysis, the success of the Yatra will lie in its ability to reconnect people, in living up to its name.