Don’t you just wish for a kicking Sadhu Baba sometimes?

In all our mistakes and mis-steps never did we see such blatant anti-minority campaign from a govt. But now, RSS achieves its objective: Violent, divisive, destructive religious fervour is all around

PM offers prayers at Kal Bhairav temple in Varanasi
PM offers prayers at Kal Bhairav temple in Varanasi

Ranjona Banerji

Thus, after seven years, the RSS has achieved its objective: religion is centre-stage in our political and social discussions. And religious fervour of the worst sort is now everywhere: the violent, divisive, destructive sort. And because India is a Hindu majority nation and the RSS is a Hindu supremacist ideology, rank majoritarianism once again raises its ugly head and dominates.

The momentum began soon after the victory of the BJP at the Centre in 2014 with a series of mob lynching of Muslims ostensibly in the name of the cow. Once that behaviour was normalised, once the murderers were lauded and garlanded and their actions justified, the groundwork was laid.

Tucked away in between was a far less physically violent act – to redesignate Christmas as “Good Governance Day”. Looking back, perhaps that was a test, a small check to gauge the general response. It did not work so well then, so the idea was shelved. But the seed had been planted.

Attacks on Muslims though have run parallel to increasing Hindu involvement in the government or more correctly, increasing government involvement in Hindu matters.

The religion-secularism maze is not new to India and governance. British colonialism played it to the hilt, setting various fault lines into motion to exploit to their profit and benefit. Ever since, we’ve struggled to find just that particular Indian definition of secularism. But in all our mistakes and mis-steps never have we seen such a blatant, persistent anti-minority majoritarian campaign from a government in power.

Interestingly, although the usual tired references are made to the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb or to the various assaults on the Somnath Temple to justify the murder of Muslims, those are just bits of window-dressing to get public intellectuals excited. The real movement has been on the street and the mobilisation of RSS goons. Digital platforms like WhatsApp are used to ensure middle class approval of anti-minority violence.

Further ballast comes from the refusal of the media and commentariat to condemn the violence and Hindu majoritarianism by the state. Some channels push the despicable lie of “Hindu khatre mein hain” (Hindus are in danger) thus reiterating the BJP and RSS’s position.

I can remember people laughing when Indira Gandhi and other politicians visited a Sadhu baba (Lath Baba?) who sat in a tree and kicked his devotees. What a sense of humour that man must have had to come up with this way of blessing his following! And the scathing anger against Narasimha Rao and his dealings with the devious “god man” Chandraswami.

Yes, I have named two Congress politicians.

Where was the same humour and scathing approbation from the civil society when the Supreme Court, in 2019, behaved as if the demolition of the Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992 never happened and handed over all the land to build a temple? And when the former Chief Justice of the court writes in his just-released memoir that the judges went out for a celebratory meal after this extraordinarily Hindu supremacist verdict?

Regardless of the terrible toll of Covid-19, of massive government incompetence in dealing with the pandemic, the height of irresponsibility in holding the Kumbh Mela a year earlier for electoral purposes and causing mass infections and deaths, attacks on religious minorities have continued. Running parallel to the campaign in Haryana to stop Muslims from open air Friday Namaz is the attacks on Christian prayer halls, churches and schools from Karnataka to Madhya Pradesh to Uttarakhand.

If Muslims are murdered in the name of the cow, Christians are assaulted with that favourite Hindutva bogey of “conversion”. The Sikhs, as one saw during the farmers protests, were dubbed anti-nationals and Khalistanis. Dalits are excoriated one way or another, because that is how the Brahminism inherent in Hinduism is kept afloat. No one is spared by the RSS convoy of state-sponsored armoured vehicles.

Narendra Modi of course is the lynchpin of this latest RSS campaign, the fruition of its century of trying to destroy India’s spirit and after Independence, of India’s democracy. And Modi has spent the last few days preening all over Uttar Pradesh, campaigning for 2022’s assembly elections. And where has he chosen to play his latest game of hatred and incitement? At one of Hinduism’s holiest of bastions – the Kashi Vishwanath Temple.

Modi enjoys a boat ride in the Ganga in Varanasi
Modi enjoys a boat ride in the Ganga in Varanasi

Why is the Government of India here at all? It’s all very cleverly done. Modi inaugurates the new Dham corridor – to the Ganga – with full ritualistic pomp and circumstance. Is that the private Modi or the public Modi? Is he there as Prime Minister or as a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party? It’s all neatly conflated and confused. Hinduism is now at the centre of the Government.

Don’t you just wish for a kicking Sadhu Baba sometimes?

(Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist & independent commentator. Views expressed are personal)

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