February 16, 2016

India: “ultra-nationalism” and the issues swimming in its orbit

Via Facebook 15 Feb 2016

Radhika Ramaseshan

New Delhi, February 15:
The JNU donnybrook has brought the RSS fraternity together for the first time since the Narendra Modi government came into being, underscoring a past trend that eventually it is “ultra-nationalism” and the issues swimming in its orbit that fire the Sangh’s cadre and not development (or its lack), economic growth and governance.
“The pro-nationalist space has been ours since before Independence (when only the RSS existed) and to our credit, we have never let go of it,” a BJP source crowed, admitting that they nearly ceded turf to the Congress twice: once in 1917, when Pakistan was dismembered with Indira Gandhi’s support to the erstwhile East Pakistan and in the 1984 general election, held soon after Indira’s assassination that demonstrated near-total Hindu unity against the Khalistan movement.
On Sunday, the RSS’s joint general secretary Dattatreya Hosabale sought to link Yaqoob Memom and Afzal Guru’s hanging to the student unrest in Hyderabad and JNU and warned, “All universities must be purged of anti-national elements.”
Addressing a regional conclave of RSS workers at Meerut, the media quoted Hosabale, saying, “What is happening in Hyderabad University and then in JNU? When the entire country was praying for the Siachen soldier (rescued from the avalanche), some JNU students raised slogans against India.”
On Saturday, Surendra Jain, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s national secretary proposed in case the police failed to nab the “anti-national” elements, “it would be better to shut JNU in national interest”.
Today, BJP president Amit Shah demanded an apology to the nation from Sonia and Rahul Gandhi “on behalf of 1.2 billion Indians” for “supporting forces inimical to India’s interests”.
A blog titled “Is this how Congress party defines patriotism”, Shah asked Rahul if his backing for slogans such as “Pakistan zindabad”, “Bharat ki barbadi tak jang rahegi jari” (our war will continue until India gets destructed), allegedly raised by “Left-leaning” JNU students meant he had “joined hands with the separatists”.
He asked the Congress vice-president if the Centre should have remained a “mute spectator” to the “seditious” activities on the campus.
Shah’s third poser to Rahul was whether his “support” to the students was his manner of “offering tribute to the 10 soldiers who lost their lives while defending the nation at the icy heights of Siachen Glacier”.
A BJP official suggested that Rahul ought to take a cue from Indira, his grandmother, who “stood her ground” on the execution of JK Liberation Front co-founder, Maqbool Butt in 1984. “The court sanctioned his hanging to defend India’s sovereignty”, the official said, castigating Rahul for “behaving irresponsibly” by “meddling” in campus politics.
Asked if the Centre and the BJP had not done likewise from day one of the conflict, the official said, “When top leaders of the Opposition reach the campus and address the students, the BJP has to project its version too.”
Beneath the BJP and the “parivar’s” orchestrated endeavour to build up the “nationalist” plank on the back of the JNU events were several significant political imperatives:
*The Modi government had embarked on its innings on the promise of governance, development and economic revival. Nearly two years down the line, even BJP sources privately conceded there was “little to show” on the ground despite the announcement of grandiose social schemes.
Not only was the economy “sagging”, despite the fall in oil prices, sources were concerned about the government’s “anti-farmer” image. Which is why Prime Minister Modi is swirling around the country this month in a farmers’ outreach.
*The perception that the government had gained little or no traction had made the BJP cadre and those of the Sangh “restive”. “When in trouble, our best bet is HIndutva and nationalism,” a BJP official said.
*The “parivar”, sources said, could have pulled in different directions if things went adrift. “JNU will keep us together for some time,” a source said, adding that “parivar” unity was the BJP’s most handy weapon in an election, particularly those in Assam and Uttar Pradesh and the others that come in early 2017.
*Rohith Vemula’s suicide and the view it fuelled of the BJP being “anti-Dalit” worried the party. “JNU has pushed Hyderabad into the background,” a source claimed.
*Lastly, JNU, that the BJP sees as the Left’s only “surviving bastion”, has been on the “parivar’s” radar for several years. The Sangh’s student wing, ABVP, has had limited success in the campus elections. The RSS believes the time was ripe to try and consolidate its hold over the institution with the BJP in power.