‘Jihad’ in Reverse?
There is an interesting pattern in which the Hindu Nationalist Organisations (HNOs) exploit a non-issue to stigmatize communities which were declared by them as "foreigners".
The HNOs have a peculiar way of taking up issues that stigmatize the communities they believe are foreigners. First, they are indoctrinated in the training programmes for their high level officers. The officers so trained then take up the issue at the local level grossly exaggerating the threat and magnitude of the issue and even creating one. The issue is spoken about regularly till some individuals start perceiving the threat to be real and critical, and develop negative attitude towards the community. When the individuals who develop negative attitude towards the community grow into a critical mass, they are mobilized for a violent action targeting the imagined "enemy" community. Violence generates media coverage and curiosity on the issue among the people and the trained officer of the HNO has an opportunity to popularize the disinformation on the issue and polarize the communities.
The "fringe" elements take up an issue that stigmatizes the "enemy" community and test waters. If there is adverse public reaction and hostile coverage, as in the case of attack on women in the pubs, or Valentine Day Celebration, then it remains at that level. However if the violent attack does not attract public outcry or condemnation, then the issue is taken up by one of the more established HNO at a higher level to generate more literature, ideas, spice it up with imaginary facts and carry out wider campaigns on the issue to invoke feeling of distrust and misgiving against the targeted "enemy" community and at worst, hatred and anger. Finally, the issue is taken up by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) at the level of state and governance. The HNOs are like a team of players in a football or a basket ball game, where the team players (HNOs) dribble with the ball (i.e. a divisive issue) and pass it on to the forward player to score a goal. At every stage, violence is strategically deployed to ensure adequate coverage in the media on the issue and enhanced curiosity among members of public while disinformation is being disseminated. The Babri Masjid issue too passed these stages. In 1949 idols of Ram were installed and the doors of Masjid were locked to Muslims—only a priest was allowed to worship the installed idol. Then in the 1980s VHP took up the campaign to open the gates of "Ramjanmabhoomi Temple" to members of public, which was done in 1986. The campaign was so successful that large number of people knew the precise spot where Lord Ram was born even if they did not know when—even the century in which Lord Ram was bom. More than the Temple, the campaign succeeded in dinning the "fact" that Muslims demolished temples to construct their Masjids and claim was made that there were 3,000 such Masjids though the list was never furnished and the goal post was widened to include any Masjid in future.
Anti-Muslim Gujarat riots in 2002 did not happen in a day and as a spontaneous response to the train burning—action-reaction theory was just a cover up for the hard work that was racheting up the communal polarisation following Savarkar's advice of necessity of a "common foe" to fuse the Hindus into a nation. Muslims and Christians were being projected as the common foe of Hindus exploiting various issues during the period BJP was in power first in coalition with Gujarat Janata Dal of Chimanbhai Patel and later on its own. Varsha and Hanif’s marriage was exploited to call for a Bardoli bandh for days until Hanif was put behind bars under draconian Prevention of Anti-Social Activities Act (PASA) with similar detention powers in the hands of police as in MISA and TADA. The term "love jihad" was not yet invented then. Entire Muslim community in Bardoli was punished by violence, social boycott, torching of their shops; and homes and other measures for the "crime" committed by Hanif (and Varsha). Varsha resisted and stood up with Hanif till she could not bear anymore with the pressure that was brought on her -including the responsibility of riots. Media increased its TRPs and circulation covering the violence and "juicy" stories.
"Anti"-cow slaughter campaign by HNOs stops any vehicle owned by a Muslim or whose driver is a Muslim and transporting animals from one destination to another, seizes the vehicle and the animals and beats up the Muslim associate with the vehicle with the news being covered in the media that the Muslims were taking the cows illegally to a slaughter house. At times the animals being transported are not cows at all, and at times they are transported not to slaughter house but to another bonafide purchaser and with proper papers. This happens in places where the HNOs enjoy political patronage or at least have a favourable police officer and media support. The animals seized are often a booty earned for their "hard work".
The attitudes nurtured using such campaigns are that Muslims are polygamist and multiplying fast and would soon overwhelm the Hindu population in India; they are disloyal to the nation, loyal only to their religious commanders and to Pakistan, an aggressive and violent lot, bunch of anti-social and sexual assaulters, exploiting their own women, following completely different social code and morality, etc. The "enemy" communities are to be projected as completely different.
Christian community too having their holy land in Jerusalem were stigmatised as bunch of poachers aggressively converting vulnerable members of Hindu community. Voluntary conversion by any individual to Christianity was problematised by hundreds of districts were taking up the issue using violence and exaggerated claims and once BJP formed Govt. in states and NDA Govt. was formed at the Centre, violence against Christians was scaled up in the Dangs district in Gujarat and Jhabua district in MP and the then PM called for a national debate on conversion. Murder of Graham Staines and his two sons in Mayurbhanj followed by anti-Christian riots in Kandhamal, Orissa in 2007 and 2008 (when BJP was a coalition partner in the Govt.) are instances of functioning of Hindu Nationalist Organisations.
Hindutva is highly uncomfortable with cozy relations that develop due to common bonds between communities. Common worship, common culture, common civilisation, shared localities and common marital relations are an absolute anathema with "enemy" communities. Savarkar writes in his tract on Hindutva, "Moreover everything that is common in us with our enemies, weakens our power of opposing them. The foe that has nothing in common with us is the foe likely to be most bitterly resisted by us". Commonness is resisted by stigmatizing campaigns and use of violence. Most insignificant and routine differences, including culinary preferences are overemphasised and essentialised with the use of violence and propaganda accompanying it. Violence, invention and essentialisation of differences and stigmatization has led to more popularisation of the opinion that Muslims and Christians are essentially different from "us" than it was a few years ago. The opinion that Muslims and Christians are essentially different than "us" is more popular in areas where there have been higher outbreak of communal violence than in other areas. Muzaffarnagar is the latest instance of this. Before the communal violence in September 2013, Jats and Muslims followed the same traditions and social code, spoke the same dialect and followed the same norms as regards to prohibited degree of matrimonial relations and gotra system is concerned, etc. with only one difference—they went to different places for their worship. The perception of difference from Muslims was palpable when this writer visited villages of Muzaffarnagar after riots and the language of "we" and "they" was liberally used. Every incidence of communal violence is followed by segregation of spaces where the community lives on religious lines. Mumbai has higher degree of segregation of living spaces and ghettoisation after the 1993 riots. Huge Muslim ghettos have come up in Mira Road and Mumbra after 1992-3 communal violence. Pravin Togadia recently incited a mob to force a Muslim who purchased a flat in a Hindu neighbourhood to surrender the same and even seize the flat if necessary.
The proposition of common blood was less likely to be bought by those on the bottom of the caste ladder facing oppression, exclusion and daily indignities and status even lower than animals. Therefore creating and essentialising differences, constructing a common foe through use of violence has been the second element in two pronged strategy to fuse the diverse social existence into Hindu nation. To Savarkar, talking "mumbos and jumbos of universal brotherhood" leads to rebirth of Asuras killed by Vishnu in the form of "Mlechchhas" who "kill the Brahmans, destroy the religious rites like the sacrifices, abduct the daughters of the sages; what sins do they not commit!"
Therefore interreligious marriages are a huge issue for the HNOs. It essentially checks their march towards fusing the diverse community into a "cohesive nation and race" in spite of all the diversities and hierarchies. Savarkar warned of identifying anything common with the enemy weakens the nation. His 1923 tract problematised Mlechchhas abducting daughters of sages. After the post partition bloodshed, the first major communal riot in India was in Jabalpur in the year 1961 when Usha Bhargav eloped with a son of a Muslim bidi magnet who was gradually succeeded in enhancing his share in bidi industry. The aggressive media coverage accusing the Muslim youth of raping Usha Bhargav led to her commit suicide. In 1998, interreligious marriages in Randhikpur (Dist. Panchmai) and Bardoli became a pretext for fomenting communal violence in the BJP ruled state. VHP accused Muslim youth in Randhikpur of abducting Hindu girls and raping them without any substantiation. Communal violence on the 60-70 Muslim families in the sleepy village led to the minorities fleeing for three months from the village for their security. Varsha Shah and Hanif Memon in Bardoli married in June 1998. The incident not only led to violent attacks on minority and their social boycott and arrest of Hanif under PASA. The state ruled by BJP following the Hindutva ideology responded by making far reaching changes in fashioning state as an invasive state requiring prior permission for registration of interreligious marriage from revenue officials. Invasive inquiries are carried out and the HNOs learn about such marriages and make it impossible for such marriages to be solemnized even if the couple was willing and ready and parents too supported the couple.
Vol. 47, No. 47, May 31 - June 6, 2015