The original article was written in bāŋlā by protīk. The opinions of the author are personal.
Beginning of the nineties, the Left Front government in its peak. My paternal cousin’s son has stopped getting promoted in school, which has left his parents worried. My father, a CPI(M) worker, is my cousin’s maternal uncle. Moreover, he is a professional teacher. So, he expressed his worry and consulted my cousin. Before she could respond, her brother retorted, “The fault is not my nephew’s; the fault is yours. You have made the rate of all quantities equal. You have created a system where rickshawallas’ children sit in the same classroom as my nephew. That has not improved their children’s education because they don’t have the education culture. Contrarily, us bhadralok’s children are getting disturbed.” My father adored my cousins; hence he did not respond sternly. He smiled and said, “You haven’t learnt to dance, so you blame the dance platform.” After returning home, he told me, “Did you notice their mentality? He is disturbed that rickshawallas’ children are studying in the same class as his nephew. He is blaming the kid’s failures on the system.”
I cannot quantify how much credit or blame can be attached to the Left Front government for creating such a system. Till then, in many places in the country, rickshawallas’ children used to study in the same school as middle-class office-goers’ children; they would all mingle and play together. The elite would live in palatial houses with gardens in the same neighbourhood as the middle-class in their single-storied buildings and the poor in their tin-shedded dwellings. The custom of sharing a portion of meals between these families could also be observed. This story is not of a golden past. There was a class difference even then. Love would not blossom between a woman from a three-storied house and a guy from a tin-shedded house like in the cinemas; marriages would not happen either. But in the shraddha of one family, there would be an attendant from the other; for the wedding of a guy from one family, there would be at least one attendant from the other. Things started changing in 1991, and now, such things are a part of our imagination. We have either apartments or unstructured buildings, either gated communities or slums. In those places where para-s are still present, parents allow their children to mingle only with kids of the same class. Office-goers’ children’s schools and rickshawallas’ children’s schools should be different — my paternal cousin’s fantasy has become a reality. The children of rickshawallas, domestic workers, and daily wage earners study in ill-equipped government schools because that’s all their parents can afford. Our children are studying in fancy private schools. After thirty years of Manmohan-economics, this country is witnessing an unprecedented uniformity devoid of diversity. The whole country has become a collection of ghettos.
Why did I write all these? Because we are all worried about the state of a country that stands on the principle of unity in diversity. The election results are declared, the BJP wins, and we BJP-opposers of different colours express our desperate concerns angrily, stating, “Nothing will happen to this country. People understand only hindu-muslim. No other issue concerns them.” In such a diverse country, different elections are fought on various issues. Even after keeping all those in mind, it can be asserted that creating religious difference as the primary issue has been largely successful. We cannot wish away the effects of this divide on the elections’ results. But while trying to eliminate the differences, we are not reminding ourselves that religious differences are standing on the shoulders of other, deeper differences. I am unlike you. I earn more than you, I wear more expensive clothes, I own a car but you do not — so I should not mingle with you. I need to associate with people like me. If this idea can be established, you will be outside my circles. I will gradually lose interest in your life; then, a time will come when I will believe that whether you are dead or alive does not concern me. I mingle only with people like me, you mingle with people like you — if the idea that society should be divided like this is successfully planted in peoples’ heads, creating any difference is very simple. Who is unrelated “other” is unwanted, even bad — first establish this. Then, change the definition of the unrelated “other” according to the need — simple calculation.
In vast areas of our country (or is it everywhere?), segregation based on othering has been prevalent for a few thousand years — casteism. Classism, which I explained, has been added to the mix in the age of globalisation. In this double-weaponised field, harvesting differences based on religion is not at all difficult. The unity in diversity that we are proud of, that diversity had started eroding at the local level much before Narendra Modi came to power at the centre. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has harvested the gains in a prepared field. Think about it: India’s economy was opened to the global market in 1991, and we started becoming “upwardly mobile.” And the RSS’s hindutvavadi agenda that Lal Krishna Advani started spreading in 1989 via the bloody rathyatra tasted its first big success in 1992 by destroying the Babri Masjid. The more the multinational companies have strengthened their grounds in India, the more the RSS’s grounds have strengthened. The RSS, which took birth on the 27th of September 1925, has always worked in strengthening its communal ideology. After the partition and the murder of Gandhi, they remained a marginal force. However, in the India of computers, in the liberalised India, this regressive, fundamentalist organisation has constantly increased its strength and reached today’s unbeatable position. The RSS has increased its influence in Indian politics and society hand-in-hand with the diversity in consumerism and privatisation. The quantity of conservatism in Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Modi’s India is inversely proportional to the amount of liberalism in their economy. The Congress gave a taste of the so-called free wind; the RSS has used it to set sail and land the country in the sea. Even the World Bank now recognises that the liberalised, globalised economy that started worldwide in the 1990s increases inequality. If the basic inequality increases, various other inequalities and differences can be manufactured. Therefore, that is the only way to make India into hindurashtra.
Why am I mentioning the RSS every time? Why not the BJP? Because hindurashtra is not the BJP’s agenda. No responsible leader of the BJP says the word explicitly, and even if the promise of Ram Mandir is made a thousand times, the promise of hindurashtra is not. Some extremist sadhu-sanyasi or some hindi belt leaders have pronounced a few times that hindurashtra will be established in 2023, but people like Modi or Amit Shah never say such things. Cunning journalists and analysts mark such people as “fringe elements.” In hindi, there is a popular saying, “hāti kē daⁿt. khānē kē aur, dikhānē kē aur.” — Elephants don’t show the same teeth that they use for eating. The RSS is nothing but a mighty elephant. BJP-opposing parties, intellectuals, analysts, and us trivials are all discussing a lot, strategising about how we can defeat the BJP in the elections. And we are discovering to our dismay that from the judiciary to the media, from the election commission to the police — everything is filled with “them.” We would not be so dismayed if we realised that this “them” is not the BJP but the RSS.
The RSS calls itself a social organisation, implying that the struggle against fascism is not limited to political parties or electoral politics in modern India. The struggle is social. The RSS has fought against a secular India for hundreds of years and channelled this same fight into electoral politics. And we think that if we somehow defeat the electoral branch of this organisation in elections, our work will be done.
There was a political party in India of the same age as the RSS — the Communist Party of India (CPI). That political party has broken into many fragments over the years. The funny thing is that even within the RSS, there are many contradictions. Still, they are today the ‘Sangh Parivar’. The BJP and the Bajrang Dal do not agree on everything; Togaria, an oldtimer of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, has publicly criticised Modi. Sometimes, even the RSS sings a different tune. However, none of them ever diverted from their primary aim. They are all determined about excluding muslims and on the issue of Ram Mandir. They are always equally ready to scratch, bite, and kill their opponents. Communists lose a lot of resources by fighting amongst each other about who is more communist, and now we have only the tip of the tail remaining. The members of the Sangh Parivar do not have such bad habits.
What is even more important is that the RSS has not entitled the BJP alone to the responsibility of retaining political power and making the dream of hindurashtra come true. They know that it is impossible to win all elections in this diverse country even after appropriating all the institutions and having unlimited access to money via electoral bonds. If the BJP loses, should hindurasthra not get established? That cannot be allowed to happen. That is why, whether there is a “setting” or not, the RSS has established the presence of some powerful opponents who are not hostile to them. In the distant future, some hard-working researchers may figure out how they have achieved this. As of now, we can see that the person who accompanied Advani in the rathyatra and was seen on Advani’s platform holding a mic in Anand Patwardhan’s famous documentary Ram ke Naam, that same person, Shatrughan Sinha, has got a ticket of the so-called secular political party Trinamool Congress for a shot at a seat in the Parliament. The same Babul Supriyo, whom many accused to be involved in riots, who has called bangali muslims foreigners on social media multiple times, has hopped from the BJP to the TMC and got a front seat. He has become a candidate for a seat where many muslims live. We need to remember that the omnipotent goddess of the TMC has declared a long time back, without any pretence, that her problem is with the BJP, not the RSS [13:00+]. The secular and revolutionary people of West Bengal, like Gandhiji’s three monkeys with mouths, eyes, and ears closed, could not see through that; they have not warned others about her party. It must be hence that Mamata is self-confident whether or not muslims of Ballygunge vote for Babul, secular hindus definitely will; whether or not the muslims of Asansol vote for Shatrughan, secular hindus definitely will. Because many people believe that not voting for the BJP will save secular India. They cannot visualise the RSS. The people responsible for them visualising the RSS do not fulfil their responsibility.
Not just the Trinamool Congress, the RSS would have no qualms if the party that many people who have recently started trusting to take the place of the fading Congress, the Aam Aadmi Party, comes to power in ten states instead of two. I notice that many communists are also enthused by the welfare work carried out by the Arvind Kejriwal led Delhi Government. This situation is probably the best proof that leftists have forgotten the basics of left politics in the era of Manmohan-economics. They are not even thinking that what Kejriwal is doing is the same as the welfare work carried out by the Congress in the period of Rajiv Gandhi. The only difference is that the AAP cannot match the level of corruption in the Congress. Kejriwal has stated many times that he is neither leftist nor rightist. We have noticed that when it comes to political issues, either he does not take a stand or takes the stand that the RSS likes. His party took no part against the communal pogrom in Delhi and ditched even his own party’s muslim councillor, Tahir Hussain. The party supported the abrogation of Article 370. That is, the AAP can give you good roads, schools, and hospitals, cheap water and electricity. But they won’t bat an eyelid if there is mass murder in a state they rule. That is, the AAP is not a hurdle in establishing hindurashtra.
Similarly, there is no hurdle posed by Odisha’s Naveen Patnaik. Not only in the eyes of the ‘Godi Media’, Mamata, Kejriwal, and Naveen are great in the eyes of all the national media. Because they supply a product called “good governance.” It is an apolitical nectar, like Dulaler Taalmichri. By showing these faces, people have been made to believe that good governance is roads, schools, hospitals, and subsidies — not employment, law and order, or taking the correct stand in national politics. If this criterion is not a problem, please don’t be angry that people have re-elected Yogi Adityanath. The people of Uttar Pradesh do not have many complaints about the condition of roads there. Even if the BJP government in Uttar Pradesh could not provide schools and hospitals, they provided free rations. It has even compensated the families of those who died of COVID-19.
An opposition leader in India agrees that the struggle is social and declares that it’s against the RSS. That’s Rahul Gandhi. The problem is that he is a social media leader. These days, he is quite active there but rarely hits the streets. I don’t think he understands that the value of YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter likes in politics is zero. Many BJP-opposers make a supreme mistake. They believe the rule of the BJP is via social media. The source of this mistake is their ignorance about the RSS working in the grassroots (trinamool) overtly and covertly for a century. Probably Rahul suffers from the same error. From paying attention to Rahul’s declarations from the past few years, it seems he understands that overt religious divisions cannot be eradicated without eradicating fundamental divisions. And subsequently, the RSS cannot be defeated. However, he is devoid of such abilities, and so is his party. In the pre-independence era and even during Lal Bahadur Shastri’s times, although the wealthy and elite had a significant presence in the Congress, the party still had some connection with the country’s poor. The disconnect started from the Indira era, whose pinnacle was the Emergency. Even then, there was an effort to stay on the side of a welfare state in terms of the economy. Even that started reducing during Rajiv, and when Narasimha-Manmohan assumed power, the Congress became a right-wing party in its true sense. PVRK Prasad, the erstwhile media advisor to Narasimha, has written that Narasimha wanted to construct the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya even before the BJP. The story of the coexistence of liberal economics and hindutva. Hence he is called the first BJP Prime Minister of India. The Congress is still on the same path; how will Rahul turn the wheel upside down?
So who will fight the social struggle against the RSS? Laluprasad, Mulayam Singh, and Mayawati’s politics not delivering on the electoral front do not imply that lower-class people are now well-off. Caste-divide has become deeper, I have already talked about the class divide, and discrimination based on religion has reached dangerous levels. Who will carry out the political struggle of fighting against all these discriminations?
The arithmetic of elections will not shed light on the path to liberation from this darkness.