Following the first few arrests of sadhaks of the Sanatan Sanstha who were manufacturing bombs and planning to blow up temples and Ganpati pandals, I found many of the people flummoxed by those arrests in a state governed by the BJP and a nation generally controlled by the Sangh Parivar.
“There is a sinister design here,” one source told me. “I am not sure what will happen next. I think they will play a game with Pakistan and implicate Muslim boys next. If there is an outcry, they will say the liberals said nothing when saffron terrorists were accused by a saffron government. But are crying blue murder when we pick up Muslim terrorists.”
He was right on all counts but one - the Muslim factor. When some activists, professors, writers and journalists were picked up by Pune police for their alleged involvement in the Bhima-Koregaon violence on January 1 this year, it was obvious what was afoot. It was indeed the equalisation of scores but not with Muslims. In the past four years, the current dispensation has virtually reduced Muslims to second class citizens of this country and terrorised them so much that they prefer to put their heads down and not fight for rights - theirs or anybody else’s.
However, those who continue to fight for people’s rights whether Muslims, Dalits, tribals or any other sections are now what the bigots describe as ‘left liberals’. The latest term for them this decade is “urban naxals” – a convenient sweep of the brush that equates them with gun-toting Maoists while at the same time attempting to put an end to the robust opposition that many of these sections are giving to the government.
However, after this exercise one thing is confirmed - the ruling dispensation thinks little of Hindus or Hinduism. All it is concerned with is its own model of Hindutva politics. And if Hindutva cannot consider the aspirations of more than 80 per cent of the Hindu population, then whatever the liberal or bigoted argument, it is a grand failure
It was only after the recent raids on writers, journalists, poets, professors, lawyers and activists last week, then, that the penny dropped.
There indeed is an attempt at whataboutery on the part of the government which is trying to cover up the arrests of Sanatan Sadhaks with others. But now the focus has shifted from Muslims already sent packing home to those they call left liberals. So instead of Hindus versus Muslims, the battle is now between left and right – the right being Hindu bigots, but in both cases they are merely Hindutvawadis arresting other Hindus for fighting for the rights of even more marginalised Hindus.
But here is the funny thing – apart from the fact that Pune police could not articulate themselves before the judiciary on why they were arresting these intellectuals, there is no mention of Bhima Koregaon in any of the documents and no conspiracy letter as part of the charge sheet. Would professors, lawyers and activists be so stupid as to write to each other in a plot to assassinate Narendra Modi “in a Rajiv Gandhi type of killing” and leave it sitting in their computers for the police to conveniently discover the same?
Obviously, the police knew that the conspiracy letter would not stand the scrutiny of the courts and chose wisely to hold it back. But they are plain silly to think that anyone would buy the argument that ‘all documents need not be part of every charge sheet.”
Excuse me, sirs? There is a so-called plot to suicide bomb the leader of the nation and it is not necessary to bring the conspirators to book? There was never a sillier argument I have heard from a state police who used to proudly claim that if a naxal sneezed in Gadchiroli, they would hear him in their headquarters in Mumbai - and they would. Now, however, they have been caught napping (the nicest thing one can say about them, though emasculated would be closer to the truth) as the government bends them to its will and makes right royal fools of them.
What they are now doing in the Bhima Koregaon case is exactly what they have done in the past with cases like Malegaon and Ajmer Sharief, where they first picked up innocent Musliim boys with no proof of their involvement and then started investigations against the right wing culprits. But it ultimately obfuscated the case as is now happening with Pune rural police lodging a FIR against Hindutva ideologues Sambhaji Bhide and Milind Ekbote while Pune city police is insisting it is these activists they described as “urban naxals” who planned the violence at the Elgar Parishad a day before the riots.
However, none of these activists were part of the Elgar yatra and I wonder why there has been no probe into the real rabble rousers - like Bhide who has been caught on video or Tushar Damgude, who has been baiting the left and Dalit leaders and first floated the story of a “Rajiv Gandhi type of killing” on his Facebook page in May, a good month before the first arrests of five activists allegedly in the name of that conspiracy. Damgude’s wild allegations are good enough for a FIR, so are videos that show Bhide and Ekbote inciting the violence in Bhima Koregaon.
I am sure when the clamour grows and the two are finally arrested (Ekbote already was and is out on bail), there will be another clamour against unfair treatment to the bigots as opposed to the liberals and the entire case will go down the drain.
However, I am saddened by how Maharashtra police has either been compromised or allowed itself to be used by the government of the day and could eventually end up with a lot of egg on its face.
They are not dealing with young, insecure and unprotected Muslim boys here who cannot fight back and usually never get the right kind of legal help. As is obvious from the manner in which the country’s hot-shot lawyers moved the Supreme Court in their defence and the judiciary rose to the occasion, there could be more embarrassment for both the cops and the government, which is in any case isolated by its allies, all of whose vote banks could be affected and they would not like to be seen on the same side as the BJP which is now getting not just an anti-Muslim but also an anti-Dalit and anti-tribal tag in recent months.
However, after this exercise one thing is confirmed - the ruling dispensation thinks little of Hindus or Hinduism. All it is concerned with is its own model of Hindutva politics. And if Hindutva cannot consider the aspirations of more than 80 per cent of the Hindu population, then whatever the liberal or bigoted argument, it is a grand failure.