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Year 1999, No 5
Stability for Whom?
The theme mainstream Indian parties, political pundits and media are obsessed with
By Utsa Patnaik
Women raise critical issues before political parties in India
The roots of violence in Pakistani society
By Eqbal Ahmad
How Mahajan and his spin-doctors dissect day's news
By Kaveree Bamzai
Conflict and Violence in the Educational Process in Pakistan
By Khurshid Hasanain and A. H. Nayyar
The Concerned Indian's Guide to Communalism
Review of the new book edited by KN Panikkar
By A. G. Noorani
Do we want this Government back?

General Elections in India

The Sangh Parivar-controlled, BJP-led government in India has used the six month period as a care-taker government to full advantage. It has gifted the people of India a war (or--to use its own description of Kargil tragedy--a 'war like situation'), the great telecom scam, and scores of hastily concluded deals. In violation of all norms it has taken major decisions that will have far reaching consequences for the economy and polity of this country in the coming years. What is at stake in the current elections is the very future of India as a civilized, pluralistic society with a syncretic culture and a secular ethos.

The thirteen months and more of the BJP rule have been one unending communal offensive against the minorities. Even as the BJP has ostensibly put aside its sectarian demands for a templeon the site of the demolished mosque at Ayodhya, abrogation of article 370, imposition of 'Uniform' civil code and so on to put together an interesting 'National Democratic Alliance'--all the three claims, i.e., its being national, democratic or even an alliance have been disputed--in actual practice the Sangh Parivar is violating all election norms to mobilize votes on a communal basis. Raksha Bandhan and Janmashtami festivals have been made into occasions for reminding people of their religious obligations and national duty defined as electoral preferences for ‘the religious party’.

Some 20,000 rakhis were taken to the office of the Military Intelligence with due invitation to the press to have the occasion photographed. A series of yagnas have been organised by the VHP-backed Rashtriya Suraksha Maha Yagna Samiti to create awareness about the ‘nefarious activities of the Pakistan intelligence agencies (ISI).’ In this 'battle against the ISI' Lord Krishna is being projected as the role model to be followed to destroy elements which harbour the foreign agents. The VHP will perform 1,400 such yagnas in West Bengal alone. Songs, plays, seminars and mass meetings, including discussions are being organised around these yagnas, and many of these will be presided over by sadhus. The VHP has also embarked on a Rashtra Raksha Yagna, with an ambitious plan to cover every block of the country. Among the stars on the campaign trek are five sadhvis--including the notorious Ritambhara whose hysteric and hate filled speeches and audio cassettes were responsible for a number of savage and murderous attacks on the Muslims in 1990.

Already Raksha Bandhan day saw the brutal killing of a Muslim shopkeeper in a village in Orissa, according to all available evidence reportedly by the same Bajrang Dal member Dara Singh responsible for the murder of Graham Staines, and on the eve of Janmashtami he or his associates have dared to yet again lynch another Christian priest Arul Doss. As the VHP has declared it is preparing the soil through creating support among the Hindus by its ‘religious’ campaigns, the Bajrang Dal presumably will terrorise and intimidate the minorities, and “it is for the political wing of the Sangh Parivar to sow the seeds (of the Hindu Rashtra).” All this while the official radio and television channels are being strictly controlled and other channels and the press being strictly monitored--to the extent that even news of demonstrations of protest against this on Doordarshan Kendras at all state capitals and Delhi were totally blacked out.

NRI to challenge Sonia in Bellary!

The absurdity of the Sangh Parivar knows no bounds

A large number of people of Indian origin have expressed their willingness to campaign in Bellary for BJP’s Sushma Swaraj--claims BJP general Secretary, Venkaiah Naidu.

As if all the people campaigning for other candidates in Bellary and other parts of the country are foreigners! The ‘swadeshi’ vs ‘videshi’ campaign of the Sangh Parivar, now adopted lock stock and barrel by a large spectrum of political groupings in the country is extremely dangerous, and has the frightening overtones of amendments to the constitution which may debar a whole range of Indian citizens from governance, apart from rendering the minorities second class citizens in their own country.

While there is no doubt that the immediate target of the current campaign is Sonia Gandhi, the designated leader of the largest party opposing the Sangh Parivar’s design to win a majority for its sponsored NDA alliance, it needs to be remembered that the politics of hatred is intrinsic to Hindutva ideology. Unfortunately instead of meeting it head on with an uncompromisingly secular alternative that stands by citizenship rights, the Congress has decided to fight the BJP on the Sangh Parivar’s own ground by presenting Sonia as the Great Indian bahu . The Congress has also succumbed to fielding in Jagdish Tytler a candidate tainted in public imagination with his role in the 1984 anti-Sikh massacres, and has Seshan the ex-BJP and Shiv Sena sympathiser as candidate campaigner sounding no different from Advani whom he is fighting in the Gandhinagar constituency. Failing to evolve an independent and secular agenda can weaken the opposition to the BJP alliance. There is a lesson to be learnt in the fact that the seats BJP is actually contesting in for this Lok Sabha are less than they have ever been in the past. The BJP contested 468 seats in 1991, 471 in 1996 and 383 in 1998 lok Sabha elections. This time round it is around 330 seats-a steep fall of 53 seats from last year. If the Opposition is not up to taking an uncompromisingly independent stance now it may have nothing to offer to the people of India that the NDA does not promise, or stand for.

Writers against Communalism

Opposition to the communal and right wing agenda of the ‘National Democratic Alliance’ led by the BJP and sponsored by the Sangh Parivar has been voiced all over the country by the Left parties in their election campaigns and by left linked mass organisations of workers, peasants, women, teachers, students, and many middle class employees in public sector organisations. The communal offensive of the Sangh Parivar, its anti-people economic measures, its chauvinistic, aggressive and sectarian foreign policy stance, its pro American tilt, the compromise with multi nationals, and shady deals with regard to the telecom and power sector, its efforts to communalise the army have all been strongly opposed. A significant part of this campaign was a cultural convention organised in Delhi jointly by Janvadi Lekhak sangh, Progressive Writers’ Association, Jan Sanskriti Manch, Sahmat, Jan Natya Manch and other cultural organisations and writers, artists, journalists, academics and various intellectuals with a resolve to take the message of secularism and democratic mobilization through their state level and district based organisations and branches to all corners of the country.

Militarisation VHP Style

The Sangh Parivar has over the years tried to create the impression that the BJP is the armed forces’ own party-as if an aggressive foreign policy and an anti Pakistan sentiment are somehow intrinsic to the military’s interest! It has also always used the existence of Pakistan to advance its pet ideology of an umbilical linkage between nationalism and militarism. The Kargil episode has now been utilized to project the Sangh Parivar as the special guardian of the nation’s interest in much the same way as fascists have done before them in Europe. It also takes a leaf off the Nazi book by creating images and rituals that blur the distinction between the ‘nationalist’ party and the nation’s guardians. The dual images have been made to coalesce step by step. Public funerals of dead soldiers with the entire civilian public administration in attendance were stage managed to create an appropriate stage for the RSS and the BJP functionaries to act out their parts of the guardians of guardians and of India. The spontaneous public grief was imperceptibly led into embracing the entire package This was followed by the more formal command to the senior officers of the forces to actually brief the BJP leadership on the questions of victory and defeat in the day-to-day campaigns. From there it was but one step to the Sindhu Yatra-a party celebration of victory made to look like a national celebration in Ladakh- where entire battalions of soldiers along with their officers were made to create an event in which Hindu rituals mingled with military salutes and military men were made to become the masters of ceremony. Since then more vulgar and loud messages have been given by the dramatic entry of the RSS and VHP functionaries into the very hospital where soldiers lay injured and convalescing, by presenting them copies of the Ramayana, and then 20.000 rakhis smoothly carried to the Military Intelligence office for the soldiers-on both occasions with press cameramen in tow. Such rituals and messages are dangerous, smell too much of fascism and need to be strongly oppose.

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