Review Article

‘Shadow Armies’

Joydip Ghosal

'Shadow Armies‘ by Dhirendra K Jha, published by Juggernaut offers its readers valuable insight into dreadful trajectory of the nation’s journey to a horrifying juncture where Hindutva fanatics rule the roost. In this book the author has profiled eight organisations which are fuelled by one particular desire. According to the author they want one particular community to define the identity of India. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) as the vanguard ushered this politics. Despite claiming itself as a cultural organisation political motivation remains the Sangh’s main propelling force. It modelled itself as the British colonial army. Benito Musolini’s fascist outfit in Italy inspired it heavily. Though it was banned thrice it expanded its network rapidly. Mr Jha has established the fact that theoretically the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was the sole outfit dedicated to politics but in reality, most of its affiliates acted as political instruments to dismantle the secular fabric of the country. Publicly the RSS eschewed politics but it supplied ideological and strategic direction in communal conflagration of BJP. Attack on minorities led to stark polarisation which was mainstay for the growth of this fanatic organisation. These outfits driven by religious fanaticism developed issues for political polarisation. During votes these organisations also managed booth-level campaigns. Whenever the other bodies created controversy the RSS and BJP promptly labelled them as fringe organisations. Some of those organisations were not technically created by RSS but after a careful reading of this book one can come to conclusion that these organisations perpetrated brazen acts which were required to create polarisation in the society. Author discussed threadbare the origins of Sanatan Sanstha, the Hindu YuvaVahini, Sri Ram Sena, Abhinav Bharat, Hindu Aikya Vedi, Bhonsala Military School, Rashtriya Sikh Sangat, Bajrang Dal. These bodies were not entirely autonomous. Shadow armies showed that their umbilical cord was attached to Sangh Parivar. They derived their ideological inspiration from Savarkar‘s Hindutva: Who is a Hindu? Despite their play of words with regard to ideology RSS and various offshoots manifest disregard and contempt for other religions. BJP and RSS tried to dissociate from the activities of these fringe organisations but they offered tacit support to them. In this book one finds that shocking evidence linked those organisations to communal disturbances throughout the country. Within the Hindutva universe this book tries to prise open the existence of shadow armies. According to Pragya Tiwari they lurked in the shadows for a long time. These organisations tried to propagate a problematic definition of nationhood by employing falsifying history coupled with hate mongering. At first glance they seemed to reflect manifest the trajectories of local politics. But an intense look would show them as communal eddies. Powerful Hindutva politics generated that. This book deals with the inner workings, their relationship with politics. As each organisation possesses distinct identity this book unearths many details. Author travelled extensively for research. He established in this book that these organisations had their own paths of evolution. Driven by their own motivations these organisations were beset by internal contradictions as well. After the victory in 2014 Hindutva forces tried to recolonise the earlier vacated places. The author has pertinently cited example of Italian scholar Marzia Casolari while discussing Bhonsala Military School. During the second world war and the preceding years militant Hindu organisations ‘seemed to uneasily oscillate between a conciliatory attitude towards British and a sympathy for the dictators.

This book is an essential reading for understanding the bedrock on which communal politics thrives.

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Vol 56, No. 24, Dec 10 - 16, 2023