September 11, 2021

Are All Fundamentalism Similar: Can Taliban be compared to RSS? | Ram Puniyani



Are all Fundamentalisms Similar: Can Taliban be compared to RSS?

Ram Puniyani

With Taliban coming to power in Afghanistan, the memories of horror stories of yesteryears have been rekindled. When in power they not only implemented their version of Sharia law but also undertook the horrifying oppression of women. That was not all; they went onto impose dress and beard code on men and went on to destroy the Lord Gautama Buddha’s statues in Bamiyan.

With their coming to power a small section of Indian Muslims felt that it is the victory of Islam over the foreign occupation and expressed their joy. The majority of Muslims, including Muslim women groups were horrified and came down heavily on the Taliban ideology.

It is in this background that statements of two notable Muslim celebrities created turmoil, though of different variety. Nasiruddin Shah came forward condemning those who are joyous with Taliban coming to power, saying that Indian Islam is different, it needs reform and modernity and not the barbarism of previous times. This statement was upheld by Hindu right wing organizations. The large section of Muslims appreciated his condemnation of those appreciating Taliban, approved for reform and modernity among Muslims but was skeptical about painting all Muslims in the same brush and calling the Muslims of previous centuries as barbaric.

The point is very clear that life of Muslims during last century or so cannot be compared to the same during the period of Kingdoms. While Muslim kings have been demonized, it is during this medieval period that India’s syncretism saw its peak, it’s during this period that Bhakti and Sufi, the high points of morality of religions, flourished with large followings.

Javed Akhtar has more than demonstrated his disdain for Muslim fundamentalism times and over again. One example of this being his saying Vande Matram in Rajya Sabha. His disdain for religious obscurantism is very obvious. He criticizes the faith based politics and religious orthodoxy with gay abandon.  He went on to compare Taliban with RSS combine in India. And this did create a mini storm, with Shiv Sena mouth piece defending RSS and BJP MLA threatening that his films will be boycotted.

What has Akhtar in mind when he compares Taliban with RSS? Last few decades we have been seeing the ascendance of Hindu right wing politics here at home. With BJP coming to majority in the center, the influence of Hindu nationalism has intensified exponentially. The incidents of cow-beef lynching’s, the attacks on students in Universities (Kanhaiaya Kumar, Rohith Vemula), intimidation of Muslim minorities through steps like CAA-NRC. Love Jihad is another pretext for intimidating Muslim youth, (Shambhulal Regar killing Afrazul) has all been creating an atmosphere of Muslim community feeling being pushed to the corner. With incidents like Pastor Stains’ killing by Bajrang Dal’s Dara Sing, and the Kandhamal violence; large section of Christian community is also being snubbed.

One concedes that RSS is never directly involved in any of these incidents. There are layers through which its ideology of Hindu nationalism and agenda of subjugating the religious minorities operates. It has floated BJP, ABVP, VHP, Vanvasi kalyan Ashram and set up institutions, where they are ideological part of its combine but legally they are different. Starting right from Nathuram Godse, who was trained in RSS shakhas, it can always wriggle out of the situation by claiming it has nothing to do with those involved in the crime. The latest example is that of Panchjanya article, which criticizes Infosys for being part of conspiracy to destabilize Indian economy. It came forward promptly that Panchjanya is an independent institution, so RSS is not to be blamed.

Where Akhtar is right is in stating that the goals of both these organizations are similar, Taliban wants Islamic Emirate and RSS wants Hindu Rashtra. RSS also goes on to define that all those living here are Hindus, thereby submerging other religious identities into Hinduism. The other common factor is both are exclusively male organizations, with their own interpretation of Islam and Hinduism respectively.

As far as methodology is concerned there is no similarity in these organizations. Taliban’s cruelty, when it was in power, is very visible. It is a single organization which discharges multi layered functions from that of policy makers to its implementers on street. RSS has a structure in which one is sure that the person who is taking up lathi or gun may not be a member of RSS. Its ideology trickles down through multiple conveyer belts and at the level of implementation the person mobilizing the foot soldiers for action is a link in the informal chain, chain of ideology of Hindu nationalism.

Last century or so has seen the rise of fundamentalism, communalism in many countries. This has taken place mainly in the post colonial states, partly in the imperial powers also. Surprisingly the first fundamentalism was the Christian fundamentalism in America when women and African Americans started coming to the social space in 1920s onwards. In West Asia the rule of colonial powers has ensured that those wedded to pre modern hierarchies of class, caste (in India) and gender survive the changes brought in by industrialization and modern education.

This fundamentalism-communalism combo has diverse strategies depending on the country where they want to impose themselves. The values of Liberty, Equality, Fraternity and Justice, which should be accompanying the modern societies, are presented as being ‘alien’ western. Their common agenda is to revive the values of birth based hierarchies as part of our revered religion or as part of our golden past.

These modern values are being linked to the colonial masters and one of the projects of this politics is to ‘decolonize’ the society, this is a ploy to oppose liberal, plural values which should be accompanying the modern societies.

Naseeruddin Shah is making a broad sweep and missing the transition from feudal society to industrial society while wanting the Muslim society to reform and progress to modernity. Akhtar is on the dot in seeing that such organizations have revivalist agenda in the garb of religion. But he misses the point of finer nuances which make these organizations unique in their situation and are not comparable in totality. 

September 01, 2021

Partition Horrors and Scattered attacks on Muslims

Combating Hate in a Plural Society: Scattered attacks on Muslims Ram Puniyani India’s diversity has been amazing as different cultures, religions, languages and ethnicities had been living here, cheek by jowl, from last many centuries. Bhakti-Sufi Saints and then the freedom movement cemented the bonds between diverse communities living here. But last few decades in general and last few years in particular have seen an assault on this syncretism and intercommunity relations. A couple of days ago in Mathura. A dosa stall, Srinath Dosa outfit in Vikas market was vandalized by the followers of sectarian ideology. They threatened the owner, Irfan, as to how dare he keep the Hindu name for his eatery and asked him to move out of the Vikas market where he is located. Other more frightening acts against Muslims have been proliferating recently. In Rajasthan, Sikar a 52 year old rickashw driver was thrashed, asked to shout Jai Shri Ram and warned that he will not be spared till he leaves for Pakistan. In Indore, Taslim Ali, a bangle seller was beaten black and blue and questioned as to why he has come in a Hindu area to sell his bangles. Another E Rickshaw driver was beaten by the Hindutva mob as his young daughter kept crying, clinging to him, and pleading to the mob to spare her father. In Ajmer a Muslim beggar sitting with his two sons was confronted and asked to leave to Pakistan as he was beaten. To add salt to the injury these inhuman incidents are videotaped and circulated as acts of bravery to be emulated by others. These random acts of hate may be some from the list which have come to surface. They just indicate that communal violence against hapless minorities is becoming a new normal. They are spontaneous and scattered over different areas. The Hate manufacturing machines are working overtime and this ‘social common sense’ is undoing the intercommunity bonding cultivated over centuries, particularly during freedom struggle. This Hate is outcome of the communal narrative constructed over last two centuries. True, the equal and opposite hate was constructed by communal forces, Muslim Communalists against Hindus and Hindu communalism against Muslims. While Muslim communalism did get deflated after the partition, the Hindu communalism is on the ascendant and more aggressive from last few years. The narration which creates Hate against Muslims began with Muslims being foreigners, Muslim kings being cruel and what have you. Muslims kings, have been the kernel around the Hate is constructed and currently selectively acts of cruelty by them are being highlighted through various mechanisms. With its fertile imagination the large section of media, during last decade has become more partisan; as it is owned by the masters who stand to benefit a great deal from the Government with sectarian goals. It has unleashed itself aggressively against the Muslim community. One can give innumerable examples of the same. But this downhill journey of social perceptions over decades can also be seen from the change in reception to films like Mughal-E-Azam in yesteryears to Jodha Akbar in recent times. ‘Tablighi Jamat being the core spreader of Covid 19’ will go down as a classic case as to how large section of media controlled, indoctrinated and blinded by sectarian ideology targeted Muslims for the spread of Corona. Now the communal forces are making a transition of hate manufacture from medieval period to the period during freedom movement. They any way had no role anti-colonial struggle are another matter. It was the British Policy assisted by Muslim and Hindu communal forces which led to the partition tragedy. Father of Nation, Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru are being presented as the appeasers of Muslims, due to which the partition took place, as per them. To add another brick to the foundation of the construct of ‘hate other’, now Mr. Modi has declared that 14th August, the Pakistan was founded, will be observed as Partition horror remembrance day. He uses convoluted statement, ‘sacrifices of those who lost lives during the partition tragedy’ etc. His minions bring forward the real import of the same. In various articles the BJP spokespersons are reminding us of the Calcutta killings and the horror which Hindu refugees had to face. Incidentally my own family was also one of the victims of this horrific tragedy. The attempt is to give a total ‘Hindus killed by Muslims’ presentation. The reality is far more complex. It was not just Hindus and Sikhs who suffered; it was Muslims also who suffered in substantial measure. It was the whole subcontinent immersed in the misery irrespective of religion. When this point was elaborated by Karan Thapar in his column in The Asian Age, his article was withheld. In his interview to Satya Hindu’s Neelu Vyas he tells us that the article dealt with massive anti Muslim pogrom in Jammu, the intensity of which is not less than anti Hindu violence. The point is not which community suffered more; point is the whole subcontinent was writhing with pain and anguish. The sectarian agenda wants to observe this day as partition horror day just to infuse one more ground of Hate against the Muslim community. Jammu massacre does not find much mention in many a books on partition, the state sponsorship of the same, the collaboration with Hindu communal outfit and all that, but it’s very much available with little search. The other spokespersons of BJP are now hinting that it was Congress which appeased the Muslims due to which the partition horror took place. They forget that it was Sardar Patel, who they are trying to iconize for their narrow political gains, who was Home Minster at that time. As far as appeasement of Muslims is concerned that has been the complaint of Hindu communalists right from end 19th century, when they stated that INC having Muslims as members is their appeasement. And this ‘charge’ has been continuing in various forms right till the day. We need to rise above the sectarian considerations and try to integrate communities and remember our composite culture as a learning point to build our future. To combat the hate bricks should be topmost on our program!

Guruji’s Lie - The RSS and MS Golwalkar’s undeniable links to Nazism Dhirendra K Jha - Cover story in August 2021 issue of The Caravan


August 25, 2021

Hindutva Warrior's Wishlist - Cartoon

Kalyan Singh, RSS and OBC politics

Kalyan Singh, RSS and OBC Politics Ram Puniyani Mr. Kalyan Singh the twice ex Chief Minister of UP and later Governor of Rajasthan breathed his last on Saturday 21st August 2021. Since then rich tributes have been paid to him by BJP cabal. He was its OBC face. He will be remembered for his tenure when under his watch Babri mosque was demolished. He was the chief minister of UP and in a meeting of ‘National Integration Council’; (incidentally this body is not revived during BJP rule), promised that the mosque will be protected. He also gave a written affidavit to the Courts that all will be done by the state to protect the mosque. When the demolition began, he instructed the police forces to take it easy when the Kar Sevaks were on rampage and from stage Advani, Joshi and Uma bharati were giving speeches. Later he was sentenced to one day jail for contempt of the Court and he wore it as a badge of honor and many coined the word “Hindu Hriday Samrat” for him. He proudly said that in the cause of Lord Ram he is willing to do anything and he has no regrets. While BJP for long time had an upper caste image, it was the likes of Kalyan Singh, Uma Bharati and Vinay Katiyar who brought in OBC component within it. Kalyan Singh was the major leader who had contacts not only with Lodh community but other non-Yadav OBCs like Bind, Mallah, Kumbhars, Kashyaps and Kurmis to name a few. While he was in BJP most of the time; at the crucial time of 2014 General elections he played a crucial role and evolved ‘Kalyan Singh formula’ of incorporating the Non Yadav OBCs in BJP-RSS scheme of things, giving rich dividends to the electoral results in favor of BJP. He was trained in RSS shakhas and was picked up by Nanaji Deshmukh and later Lal Krishna Advani for bigger political role. His major journey began with Ram Rath Yatras, which became more intense after the Mandal Commission report was implemented. As RSS worker he was opposed to this report. For electoral reasons RSS Combine did not want to appear to be opposing it. He met RSS Sah Sarkaryavah Bhaurao deoras and Mr. Deoras told him the RSS thinking on the matter. Deoras told him ‘The more intense Ram Temple movement gets the lesser would be the implications of Mandal Report implementation.” The same was famously articulated by the Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who said, ‘They brought Mandal: so we had to bring Kamandal’. That was the first response of RSS combine to give a message to its upper caste voter base that yes, we are opposed to reservations, but we are doing it subtly and more effectively through Ram Rath yatras and Ram Temple campaign. The agenda of RSS is visible as anti minority one, but surely that is just the superficial part of the whole. Its core is also to retain the birth based hierarchies of caste and gender. Its birth was also in the backdrop of education for women on one hand and beginning of dalit movement on the other. We recall that Jyotirao Phule began his campaign for education of dalits, encouraging them to escape the land slavery and to go to cities to become workers. The Non Brahmin movement in Vidarbha area was inspired by the teachings of Phule and then Ambedkar. This movement was against the landlord Brahmin hegemony. This is where the likes of Hedgewar began this organization glorifying the past of pristine Hindu society. The second Sarsanghchalak Golwalkar upheld the teachings of Manu which are in short the manual for caste and gender hierarchy. RSS first consolidated itself through the vast network of Swayameevaks- Pracharaks indoctrinated in the ideology which upholds these hierarchies. There were many great things in the past, many writers are correctly highlighting that but they keep mum about the plight of women and dalits. For them the values of equality put forward by Lord Gautam Buddha or the teachings of Bhakti saints are a small footnote on the ‘great Hindu civilization’. RSS is very dynamic and the language of Golwalkar cannot be spoken today while retaining its core teaching of hierarchical society. The idea is to achieve Hindu unity while keeping internal inequality intact. So at theoretical level all castes are presented to be as equal and strength of Hindu society. While these castes do require affirmative action for marching for substantial equality, that is something which is an anathema for Hindu nationalist politics. So there are multiple strategies to co-opt these communities in the grand scheme of Hindu nationalist society. This is through social work, Seva and promoting Hindu-ness, Hindu sentiment. These communities’ dalits and OBCs have been the major arena where the swayamsevaks and pracharaks of RSS combine have been working. Many sociologists think that RSS is changing as its work in these communities is attracting them towards this organization. No doubt the type of work and strategies among these communities has yielded rich dividends at electoral level; in 2019 elections Congress could garner 15% of OBC votes while BJP bagged 44%. The core reason of the success of this Combine lies in appropriating marginalized and subaltern identities. This appropriation is given anti Muslim or anti Christian slant depending on the area of their work. Acts of abolition of reservations whenever the opportunity comes is very much there. While Ambedkar was talking of caste annihilation the organizations like Samajik Samrasta Manch are talking of harmony between castes, ‘as they are where they are’. Even Narnedra Modi has taken advantage of his birth in an OBC family while his politics is totally the one of Hindu nationalism. The likes of Kalyan Singh and Uma Bharati added the crucial aspect of giving a political space to some OBC communities within the umbrella of Hindu nationalism. Identifying these marginalized communities and working among them with their agenda is the dominant aspect of their work today. What Kalyan Singh began has been supplemented by the grass root work of giving them respectable identity (not rights or affirmative policies), and that is the strength of BJP and company.

August 18, 2021

Remembering Partition Horror

Why Remember Partition Horror? Ram Puniyani India’s partition has been one of the major tragedies of the twentieth Century World. The loss of lives and the mass migrations have very few equivalent tragedies in the World. The wounds of the tragedy are not totally healed but people have engaged with the changed dynamics of nationalism. In the middle of all the gnawing problems which India is facing; Mr. Narendra Modi declared that 14th August, a day prior to Independence Day, will be observed as ‘Partition Horrors Remembrance Day’. We do observe 15th August as a day of liberation from the British colonial rule, as day when we did embark on our journey towards strengthening of fraternity, and equality with liberty and social justice as the base. No doubt many a families made herculean efforts to bear with new realities and the loss of their near and dear one’s. The hardships which they faced have been recounted in many a brilliant works, ‘Partition stories’, the memorable classic books on women’s suffering and so many other facets of the tragedy. Why suddenly the wounds of that tragedy are being rubbed? Is it with the feeling of remorse aimed at dumping of the ideologies and understanding the political games played by colonial powers which led to this horrific tragedy? One of the answers in initiating this game comes from a tweet from a BJP leader “BJP general secretary (organization) tweeted that it was a laudable attempt to remember the tragedy sought to be whitewashed by proponents of “Nehruvian legacy.” The other goal was embedded in statement from another BJP leader Hardeep Singh Puri who said, “Partition should serve as a lesson that we must not repeat the mistakes of the past & take India on path of ‘Sabka Sath (everybody together), Sabka Vikas (everybody’s development), Sabka Vishwas (Everybody’s trust)’ & not on that of appeasement, particularly when volatility in our neighborhood only seems to have escalated more than ever before.” The way social common understanding has been instilled the blame of partition has been put on the Nehruvian Legacy and appeasement (of Muslims) policy, meaning thereby the role of Muslims. Both these though made popular in societal thinking are far from true. The partition tragedy was primarily the outcome of British Policy of ‘divide and rule’, which they implemented with great intensity particularly after 1857. It is their policy which gave fillip to Muslim and Hindu communal forces. The main factor of partition was the British policy, while likes of Maulana Azad and Mahatma Gandhi opposed it to the hilt to the end, The added factor for Gandhi in particular to keep quiet when the partition planning was being hatched was the rise in communal violence due to the hate spread by communal forces from both the sides. This game of spreading hatred was mutual from both the sides and victims also came from both the sides. While hint of appeasement in Puri’s statement is directed to Muslims, let’s have a look at what Sardar Patel had to say about this Hate spread by Hindu communal organization RSS. This was in the wake of partition tragedy and Gandhi murder. “All their speeches were full of communal poison. It was not necessary to spread poison in order to enthuse the Hindus and organize for their protection. As a final result of the poison, the country had to suffer the sacrifice of the invaluable life of Gandhiji.” So far Gandhi was the main target of Hindu nationalist propaganda, now all this is being directed against Nehru. The yielding to plan of partition was not the choice for Congress leadership but was their helplessness in the face of communal djinns let out of the bottle by the colonial powers. For the matter of record lets understand the longest serving President of Congress Maulana Abul Kalam Azad stood against it all through. There were many in Congress central committee who yielded to the demand of partition much early, like Rajagopalachari and there were others who by and by realized that there is no other option to save the sub continent from the civil war like situation and to initiate building the nation on the modern lines. Interestingly when Lord Mountbatten put this proposal to the top leadership it was Sardar Patel who yielded before Nehru accepted this. This is excellently documented in Maulana Abul Kalam Azad’s ‘India wins Freedom” As far s appeasement is concerned the communal elements like Puri have been accusing Congress of this appeasement right from the beginning when INC was formed and the giants like Badruddin Tayaabji presided over this organization. While Godse held Gandhi as responsible for partition and Gandhi’s ‘Partition will take place on my dead body’ is hurled by communalists to mock him, it was Patel who could see the game of RSS, which on one side was spreading hatred against Muslims and contributing to the process of social division along religious lines and on the other sticking to ‘Akhand bharat’, which meant that Muslims should submit to Hindu supremacy for which they were not willing. Incidentally the progenitor of the concept of Hindu Rashtra, Savarkar, was the first one who stated that there are two nations in this country, Hindu nation and the Muslim Nation. Choudhary Rahmat Ali, studying in London articulated the word Pakistan in 1930 for Muslim majority nations. Many historians hold that Savakar’s two nation theory inspired Jinnah to formulate the demand of Pakistan and stick to it. So today what role does Modi’s decision to observe 14th August in such a negative light play? Clearly it is to worsen the Hate against the Muslim minority on one hand and to put the whole blame for partition on Nehru. The recent event where Hate is ruling the roost is frightening. A Muslim rickshaw puller is dragged, with his daughter clinging to his legs asking for pardon, and asked to shout jai Shri Ram while being beaten. The other facet is the type of intimidating slogans, inciting violence, (Goli maro (Shoot them), kate jayenge (They will be slaughtered)) within few Kilometers of the place from where the ruling elite lords over the country.

August 17, 2021

Dismantling Global Hindutva - Sept 1-12, 2021 - Conference Announcement

 This is an ideological challenge to the Hindutva politics of division and discrimination, cosponsored by 45+ centers at 40 universities. Honoured to speak alongside people I admire. More here bit.ly/dghconference