October 20, 2015

India: Rein in Shiv Sena (Editorial in The Tribune)

The Tribune: Oct 20 2015 12:23AM

Rein in Shiv Sena
Will BJP reprimand have any effect?

An atmosphere of communalism created by right-wing hardliners is spreading to more parts of the country with intended or unintended consequences. After the ink attack the Shiv Sena has disrupted the India-Pakistan cricket boards' talks. Kashmir saw a shutdown and clashes between protesters and security forces over the death of a trucker in a petrol bomb attack in Udhampur over cow slaughter rumours. Himachal Pradesh has witnessed the lynching of a cattle smuggler. An RSS publication, Panchjanya's cover story claims that even the “Vedas mandate the killing of those who slaughter cows.”

After a series of missteps — the Prime Minister's delayed and inadequate response to the Dadri incident and Finance Minister Jaitley's misplaced criticism of the writers returning their awards — BJP chief Amit Shah summoned some of the saffron hotheads, including Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, the latest addition to the hall of notoriety, for a supposed dressing-down. Prime Minister Modi has chosen to convey to them through his trusted lieutenant that he was “upset and distressed”. Their inflammatory comments, it was felt, shifted the focus from Modi’s development agenda and allowed the non-BJP governments in the trouble-torn states to go scot-free. Whether the well-deserved rap has the effect sought to be conveyed will be seen in the days to come. Two of those said to have been reprimanded — Sanjeev Balyan and Som Sangeet — have, however, claimed that it was a routine meeting and there was no rap. The Prime Minister's previous reticence or mild-mannered intervention on attacks on churches and right-wing outbursts over “ghar vapsi” and “love jihad” did not deter hardliners. The BJP had felicitated its MLAs accused in the Muzaffarnagar riots.

While the non-BJP governments in Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and Himachal Pradesh must take the blame for the communal and violent incidents, the BJP cannot sit quietly and watch its patron, RSS, and ally, Shiv Sena, carry on their hate campaigns. The Modi-Amit Shah sincerity in controlling the hardliners will be tested in the days to come as also the BJP’s ability to rein in the Shiv Sena's hate campaign.