UP Means India

Beyond Communal Riots


According to the affidavit submitted by the UP government to the Supreme Court, the gruesome riots that took place during August-September in Muzaffarnagar and four other districts led to the death of 62 persons altogether among whom 16 were Hindus and 46 were Muslims. In Muzaffarnagar district aione, 52 persons were killed. Among those against whom FIRs were filed by the police, 615 were Hindus and 261 were Muslims.

Now, it has first to be noted that communal riots do not constitute a novel phenomenon in pre-independence or post-independence India. Both Hindus and Muslims have lived as neighbours for centuries, and from time to time they have been engaged in quarrels and small-scale conflicts. Riots took a dangerous proportion only when politically motivated persons or outfits sought to derive political mileage by attacking some particular community.

The riots in UP, which, besides taking a toll of 62 lives, displaced thousands from their homes, took place not just due to a quarrel between some Muslim and Hindu young men. There was of course a quarrel, and young men of one community teased ladies of another. What needs to be pointed out here that even within one religious community, such examples of teasing are not uncommon. Misled Hindu youths trying to tease or violate Hindu women or Muslim lumpen youths trying to harm the dignity of Muslim women are common events, and all sensible persons have to condemn such deeds. But a small incident in Muzaffar-nagar assumed an astonishingly huge proportion and continued for twenty-one days over a wide area. The reason is that there was a premeditated plan to spread communal riots in Uttar Pradesh.

The area that was the scene of the riots belongs to rural UP and is not usually riot-prone; even after the demolition of the Babri Masjid communal riots did not take place here. In Muzaffarnagar and four other districts that were the scenes of riots, the Jaths were the dominant community, although they did not constitute the majority of the population. The Jaths are not necessarily Hindus in this place, and although Hindus are a majority among them, there are some Jath Muslims also, just as many Jaths in the Punjab adopted Sikhism. The vast majority of Muslims here are of lower castes, and in terms of occupation, they are mainly agricultural labourers and poor peasants. Among Hindu Jaths, there is a class of big landowners, who have appropriated the fruits of the Green Revolution and acquired much wealth. As in other parts of the Indian countryside, here too there is a contradiction between big landowners on one side and agricultural labourers and poor peasants on the other, which may under specific circumstances take the form of Hindu-Muslim contradiction. But it does not seem that in Western UP, the class-contradiction has grown into communal conflict.

It is more reasonable to think that the riot in UP was instigated as part of a plan drawn up with an eye to the Lok Sabha polls of 1914 and in doing so, various locally existing contradictions were utilized. Immediately prior to that, some events of all-India significance took place; the foremost among them was the BJP’s projecting of Narendra Modi, the mastermind behind the genocide in Gujarat and the embodiment of Hindu communalism, as the Prime Ministerial candidate. The dispute within the BJP on this issue came out in the open and the intervention of the RSS clinched the matter in favour of Modi.

Uttar Pardesh is the most populous province of India and it has 80 Lok Sabha scats. On both of the occasions when the BJP was able to form governments at the centre, they did well in UP, One of the reasons for overall deplorable performance by this party in the all-India Lok Sabha polls in 2004 and 2009 was their poor showing in this province. This party has now seemingly made a big plan to recover their lost position here, a part of which is the appointment of Amit Shah, a top leader of Narendra Modi's Hindu brigade, as the person in charge of Gujarat. The same plan was reflected in the holding of a Jath conference in Mujaffarnagar and in openly aiding and abetting in the riots. The aim of the BJP is to build up a ‘Hindu Samhati’ (Hindu Consolidation). It many be noted that at the time of the Babri Masjid episode, they were able to build up such a Samhati that enabled them to capture about half of the Lok Sabha seats in UP.

Yet it would be a mistake to think that it is only organizations like the RSS and the Viswa Hindu Parishad that are in the campaign to enthrone Modi as the Prime Minister. The corporates of India have also entered the field. Some newspapers are openly campaigning for Modi. The opinion survey conducted by Economic Times / A C Nielsen Group among 100 Cliief Executive Officers of the Corporate world reveals that 74 of these CEOs want to see Narendra Modi as the Prime Minister, while supporters of Rahul Gandhi number only seven. In the conference of industrialists held in Gujarat this year (‘Vibrant Gujarat’), the top bosses of the 'industrial world' of the country showered fulsome praise on Narendra Modi. Among these admirers of Modi were (and still are) Mukesh Ambani, Anil Ambani and Ratan Tata. Big corporate bosses and big newspapers have been trying to project Modi as the symbol of economic development, and are trying to suggest that the whole of India should follow the Gujarat model. During Modi's period of rule, much of the surplus land that had earlier been distributed among the landless has been taken away from them and handed over to the big industrialists, whose understanding of favourable investment climate means cheap land, low wages and absence of workers' rights. Modi has built up a 'Hindu solidarity' by means of communal politics and on the basis of it, had created a rule of terror in Gujarat. The communal riots in Gujarat have a different character from those happening elsewhere in the country. In other places, the state remains a silent spectator, while in Gujarat, it is an active participant, and powered with the right to kill any person by branding him as a 'terrorist'.

What type of development does the Gujarat model represent? Even in respect of per capita GSDP (Gross State Domestic Product), Gujarat's place is ninth in India. But the story does not end here. The Physical Quality of Life Index (PQLI), which is one measure of the standard of living of the people, is a combination of the rate of literacy, the rate of infant mortality and the expectation of life of one-year old infants. In 2001, Gujarat was in the seventh position in this respect, and in 2011, its position is the same, i.e. behind Kerala, Maharastra, Tamilnadu, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab and West Bengal? Why should these states follow Gujarat? It is abundantly clear that despite massive investments of capital, the results of the additions to output have not accrued to the people, and that large corporate houses like the Reliance and Essar have been given a free hand in plundering the economy. That is why Narendra Modi is now the ‘Grand King’ to them.

Class Basis of the BJP
One must look at the RSS in order to gain an insight into the ideology of the BJP, because the RSS is its brain. The same brain guides many other outfits, e.g. the Bajrang Dal, Viswa Hindu Parishad, Sanskriti Surakha Mancha, Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, Banabasi Kalyan Parishad and a number of other organizations. Together these organizations constitute what is known as the Sangh Parivar. These organizations play different roles, but in accordance with a common plan. Some take the charge of the Home Minister, while some launch terrorist attacks on the Samjhota Express, or conduct genocide of Muslims and Christians in the Bajrang incarnation.

The RSS was formed in 1925 in Nagpur, and its founder was K B Hedgewar, a Telegu Brahmin. Earlier, Binayak Savarkar's book 'Hindutva : Who is a Hindu?' was published. It may be called the Manifesto of Hindutva. The main proposition of Savarkar was to unite Hindus against 'opponents', because Savarkar had assumed that these opponents were a menace to the very existence of the Hindu race. Savarkar called Hindus a 'nation', which lives in a definite area and belongs to a common cultural heritage. This area stretches from the Himalayas in the north to the Indian Ocean in the South and the Indus in the west. The people of this nation are racially descendants of the Aryans who had settled on the banks of the Indus. As their common culture, Savarkar meant the Sanskrit language and the Brahminical customs and rituals. Savarkar was not ignorant of the fact that the majority of the Muslims and Christians living in this country were converts, having a racial origin not different from the Hindus. Yet he did not consider them as parts of the Hindu nation. According to him, the Christians and Muslims are unlike the Hindus in one respect; they do not consider India as their motherland. Savarkar was the president of the Hindu Mahasabha for five years. The Mahasabha first worked as a pressure group within the Congress but in 1937 it dissociated itself. Many Hindu nationalist leaders like Madan Mohan Malavya, however, remained inside the Congress, representing the Hindu extreme right-wing trend in it.

In 1927, there was a Hindu-Muslim riot in Nagpur, in which the RSS participated directly under the leadership of Hedgewar. Hedgewar built up bands of preachers, who set up branches of the RSS in various comers of the country. In 1940, Madhab Golwalkar became the RSS chief. In his book We or Our Nationhood Defined, published in 1939, he openly supported German racism and advanced the idea of forming Indian nationhood according to this racist model. His definite proposal for India was that all the non-Hindus would have to acquire knowledge of the Hindu culture and language, and they must not think of anything other than enhancing the glory of the Hindu race and culture. Otherwise, he suggested, they must live under the Hindu race, must not demand anything, let alone any special privilege, and they must not even have any civil rights. Golwalkar characterized as mlechhas all those who did not follow the social customs dictated by Hindu religion and culture. It may be mentioned here that among the persons designated as Hindu in the Indian census, the majority does not follow the social norms dictated by religion. According to Golwalkar's hypothesis, they are all mlechhas and should live in a condition of subservience to real Hindus, i.e. those who abided by the Brahminical canons of social behaviour.

The Congress notion of nation-building was entirely opposite to that of the Hindu nationalists. In this notion, the nation was composed of all the people, who live in India, irrespective of caste, religion or creed, or, as Gandhi suggested, the religious communities residing in India. According to Nehru, Indians were a diverse mixture of various races, and hence he characterized the Hindu Mahasabha or the RSS as communal organizations. Yet it is a fact that many Hindu conservatives were inside the Congress and even in its leadership. Hence in the political behaviour of the Congress, Nehru's secularism was in various degrees intermingled with the communalism of the RSS, although he never accepted the idea of the Hindu State.

The ideology that the RSS upheld about the formation of nationhood was in reality a fascist one, although it had many differences with European fascism. This ideology not only characterized the religious minorities as aliens, but also sought to bring the millions of lower-caste Hindus and adivasis under the Brahminical social customs. This was a specific kind of racialism in Indian conditions. In 1950, Mahanta Digwijay Nath, the General Secretary of the Hindu Mahasabha, declared that if his outfit came to power, it would take away the voting rights of Muslims for five to ten years, because the government would need this time in order to ascertain if Muslims were willing to act according to the interests of India.

The RSS, the Jana Sangha or the BJP have, however, never talked of depriving Muslims of their voting rights, but whenever they have found an opportunity, they have robbed Muslims and even Bengali Hindus( as in Mumbai and Assam) of these rights. They have amended the rule of identification of foreigners in such a way that any Muslim can be branded as a foreigner and expelled from the country.

India is at present the home of about 150 million Muslims, the broad majority of whom lie below the poverty line and do heavy odd jobs at extremely low wages. Large numbers of them are artisans, who weave clothes, make bidis and work in various other handicraft industries. They are tied with their moneylender masters through the work-process. If such people could be pushed to a condition in which they could claim nothing and would not even have civil rights, hence the level of wages in the unorganized sector can be fixed at an extremely low level, and the extra-economic process of receiving wage-labour at much below its value could be strengthened. This is the principal reason why the BJP (Jana Sangha of the past), before its countrywide expansion in 1990, became particularly popular among the bania-money-lending classes in urban areas.

In Central India, large landed intermediaries, e.g. jaigirdars, zamindars, malguzars etc rallied behind the Hindu Mahasabha. In 1952, their association described the manifesto of the Congress as a Marxist manifesto, because there were slight talks of land reforms in it. These intermediaries were so strong that Deshpande, the leader of the Hindu Mahasabha, was elected from two Lok Sabha constituencies in the same year. In its Nagpur session in 1959, the Congress adopted the proposal of land reforms and talked of distribution of surplus lands among peasants. In that very year, the Ceiling Law was passed in Madhya Pradesh. Against the Congress resolution and the Ceiling Law, the Jana Sangha conducted a nationwide propaganda campaign, and organized public meetings in about 55000 villages. Balraj Madhok, the leader of the Jana Sangha, argued that if the ceiling was fixed at only 25 acres per person, landowners would no longer invest in land. The Congress, however, did not take long to forget about the Nagpur resolution and the landowner -moneylender class maintained their hegemony in the countryside without much anxiety. In 1990, in the perspective of the post-Mandal turbulence, the Hindu traditional elite became more inclined to the BJP than to the Congress, and in 1990-91, many former army officers, police officers and retired judges joined this party. In the rural areas of the Hindi belt, landlords and kulaks of the forward castes began to rally around the BJP. In consequence, they received 20.1 percent of total votes in the 1991 polls, nearly twice the percentage they had managed to obtain in 1989.

In course of running two rounds of the UPA government, the Congress has introduced 100 days' work programme, forest act, right to education act, right to information act, land acquisition act etc and has thus tried to project itself as the custodian of the interests of the poor. At the same time, it has tried to deepen the economic reforms programme, various aspects of which have led to nationwide protests. A number of scams have badly tarnished the image of the Congress. In this situation, one section of the big business has been trying to project the BJP as the alternative. About the economic reforms, there is no contradiction between the Congress and the BJP. But one section of the tycoons thinks that if a 'strong man' like Narendra Modi is placed at the helm of affairs, the vacillations of the Congress can be wiped out. Secondly, this section is willing to take a more aggressive anti-China and anti-Pakistan stand about foreign affairs. This difference is noticeable not only among the ruling elites, but within the army and bureaucracy as well. This is evidenced by the fact that after the announcement of Modi as the BJP's Prime Ministerial candidate, the former army chief Mr V K Singh, was present, along with Modi, at a meeting of former army officers. At this meeting, Modi heavily criticized the Government of India for showing a soft attitude towards China and Pakistan. Besides, the BJP is opposed to whatever precious little the Congress Government has done to come to an agreement with Bangladesh on Tista water and Chhitmahal. The fact is that to the extent India succeeds in normalizing relations with her neighbours (mainly China, Pakistan and Bangladesh), the better it would be for the Indian economy. One section of the Indian big business understands it, and this understanding is reflected in various attempts of the Government of India. On the other hand, the foreign policy the BJP is talking of (to which Mamata Banerjee has also lent her voice) will not only aggravate the economic crisis, but will push the country to a position of increasing subservience to imperialist powers. A campaign is going on to make the people forget that Modi is the mastermind behind the communal carnage in Gujarat and is the bearer of a fascist ideology, and to project him as a tea-seller. It is known to all that his principal backer is the RSS. They are trying to paint him as the symbol of communal harmony and economic development. But by perpetrating the planned communal riot a few months before setting foot in Uttar Pradesh and sending his right hand in the Gujarat massacre, Amit Shah, to take charge of Gujarat, Modi has sent his real message, the message of Hindutva and confrontation. It is clear that now Modi, in conformity with the script composed by the Sangh, will go on talking only of ‘development’ in public meetings and at the same time, the storm troopers of the Sangh Parivar will perpetrate one riot after another in their bid to build up the so-called Hindu "samhati'. It is possible that imperialists have a hand in this game. For arranging the 'Vibrant Gujarat' ceremony, Modi gave the responsibility to an enterprise named 'Apco Worldwide', which is located in Washington. They have done much to refurbish Modi's diehard communal image and to establish his image as an "architect of development'. Yet, even Modi's die-hard supporters cannot say much about the extent to which the effort to make him acceptable to the whole of India will succeed. Yet the people have to remain vigilant. Sowing seeds of communalism with full knowledge of facts will only create a tree bearing the fruit of fascism, however much it is varnished with the colour of development,

Vol. 46, No. 25, Dec 29 2013 -Jan 4, 2014

Your Comment if any