March 13, 2016

India: The ‘enemy’ within - RSS targets dissenters in universities (Editorial, The Tribune)

The Tribune, March 14, 2016


The ‘enemy’ within
RSS targets dissenters in universities

While the unrest stoked by JNU Student Union president Kanhaiya’s incarceration on sedition charges is yet to die down, two more public figures, Nivedita Menon and Gauhar Raza, have now been tarred with the anti-nationalist brush. The right wing is hauling Prof Menon over the coals following the airing of selective quotes from one of her lectures. Raza is in the cross-hairs for participating in an Indo-Pak mushaira. In both cases a TV channel, indicted for featuring doctored clips to fix Kanhaiya, led the field in raising mass frenzy against the two. The channel’s high-pitched call was quickly lapped up by the right wing social media contingent.

The RSS’ annual stock taking session has now revealed the primary reason for the serial framing of secularists. Under the guise of demanding strict action in universities against “anti-national” forces and “slogans calling for destruction of the nation”, it wishes to close down the primary channel of creative and reasoned opposition against its saffron agenda. The RSS has laid down its agenda in plain view: A team committed to the “Bharatiya philosophy” is at the centre of decision making and it should not lose time in its time-bound implementation. But Raza and Hashmi have not been singled out randomly. Raza’s wife has been part of the campaign to hold Narendra Modi accountable for the Gujarat riots. Prof Menon is also cut from the same ideological cloth.

The targeting of dissenters and secularists also serves the cause of real politics after Western pressure forced Narendra Modi to engage with Pakistan. This has necessitated the replacement of the external enemy with an internal substitute. Sardar Patel, one of Narendra Modi’s most favoured icons, had once forced the RSS to fly the national flag in return for lifting the ban imposed on it after Mahatma Gandhi’s murder. Patel had counselled RSS supremo Golwalkar: “If anyone thinks of having an alternative to the National Flag, there must be a fight. But that fight must be open and constitutional.” Now that it is on the ruling side and no longer the underdog, the RSS does not seem to be heeding the Iron Man’s advice.