May 06, 2017

India: Cow protection units and other tenets of the RSS faith are transforming BJP states into major law and order problems (S Nihal Singh)

The Tribune, May 6, 2017

Killings disfigure BJP states
S Nihal Singh
Prime Minister Modi must act

Thin line: How much state control is acceptable?
COW protection units and other tenets of the RSS faith are transforming BJP states into major law and order problems. And PM Narendra Modi does not seem to have an answer.

The problem has many strands. Among them is the puffed-up psyche of the paramilitary organisations of the Sangh Parivar and their belief that there will be no consequences if they take the law into their own hands. The very casualness with which they kill people is frightening — the most recent incident being the killing of a Muslim man who allegedly helped an inter-faith couple to elope, laid at the door of UP CM Yogi Adityanath’s paramilitary Vahini organisation.

The country has been familiar with the infamous case of the Muslim dairy farmer lynched in Rajasthan. In Assam, two Muslim men were lynched for allegedly stealing cows. And so it goes on in BJP-ruled states. State leaders preach tolerance, even RSS functionaries are beginning to call for restrain. Nothing changes. The grim reaper of death takes its toll nearly every day.

Mr Modi is silent. When he did speak out some time ago to suggest that a majority of cow protection units consisted of goons, he was made to eat his words in less than 24 hours by declaring that the goon-staffed protection units were few. Obviously, the RSS leadership had persuaded him to change the script. Given his early upbringing in the RSS, he is a disciplined soldier of the organisation.

However, as Prime Minister, Mr Modi has to think of the larger consequences of the Sangh Parivar-inspired actions on the country. The new top cop of Uttar Pradesh says the guilty will be punished. Yes, alleged perpetrators are usually arrested, but the guilty know nothing will happen to them in the end.

The basic problem is that in an effort to speed up the process of Hinduising the country after Mr Modi’s victory in the 2014 general election, the Sangh Parivar is anxious to bring about the Hindu rashtra of its dreams here and now. The resulting euphoria in the RSS and allied ranks is more powerful than the gentle admonitions of leaders.

This does not change the basic nature of Indian society and its myriad faiths. If what happened in Gujarat in 2002 under Mr Modi’s chief ministership were to be repeated on a nationwide scale, it would destroy India. True, we have a secular Constitution but the manner in which it is being nibbled at is an early warning sign that the country’s citizens need to be watchful.

There are obvious contradictions in what the BJP and, more broadly, the Sangh Parivar are trying to achieve. While on the one hand they are introducing Hindu forms of worship and invocations at state functions in the first stage of the fusion of the two, their chief aim is to convert India into a Hindu nation, with the substantial minority of Muslims, Christians, Sikhs and members of other diverse faiths living at the mercy of the majority. The inadvertent statement of the Law Minister saying that his dispensation had given Muslims the right to live expressed the real feelings of the Sangh Parivar.

In essence, the philosophy of the RSS is to revive the ancient glories of India of its conception, generously leavened with myths, entirely leaving out the centuries Muslim rulers conquered and ruled India. Ironically, one of the greatest monuments of the world built by Mughal rulers, the Taj Mahal, is situated in Uttar Pradesh.

At one level, Mr Modi’s government is acquiring the tools of controlling Indian citizens — Adhaar is only one of the weapons. Intrusion into individual lives is increasing by the day. What you should eat, how to dress are sought to be determined by persons in authority. In other words, like in a police state or old Communist countries, individual choices will be restricted to the minimum.

Given India’s ethos and diversity, the Sangh Parivar and Mr Modi’s government have taken on a formidable task. Thanks to centuries of British colonial and Mughal rule, there is a distinctive streak of subservience in the Indian character. We see every day how many secularists have found shelter in the ranks of the BJP, even allowing for the fact that power exercises a pull and BJP’s minorities are converted into ruling coalitions.

Morality plays little role in these manoeuvrings. Equally, for the ruling BJP, ends justify means. Gains are readily pocketed without demur. After all, we did have Chanakya preaching to one and all the art of statecraft. And the BJP is at the moment on the winning side.

For many of the citizenry, the crucial question is whether Mr Modi’s government and its mentors in the Sangh Parivar can take a step back to reconsider their schedule to bring about a Hindu rashtra. Even for an organisation obsessed by its dream, it must be apparent that the credibility of governments in the states it rules cannot survive the almost daily toll of killings of humans for saving the cow or drawing a line at a Muslim taking a Hindu bride.

It is a larger psychological problem for Mr Modi and the Sangh Parivar. The edifice of myths the RSS has created and propagated has been so ingrained in the ranks of its office-bearers and followers that it is difficult to bring them into the real world. Human lives are less important than the sanctity of the cow (there is now an ambulance service for the cow in parts of UP) or practitioners of the Hindu faith. How the government can reconcile the acts of Parivar followers to running the country for all its citizens hangs in the air.

BJP president Amit Shah is wooing non-BJP states to join the party. In the process, he is painting a picture of peace and prosperity if they move over to the national ruling party. If the BJP-ruled states are increasingly presented as a picture of murder and mayhem, with cow protection units and upholders of Hindu purity the masters, who will bite?