COMMUNALISM

Hindutva Lab 2.0

BJP-ruled Karnataka is on a dangerous path of radicalisation. Rana Ayyub traces the scary distortion of an entire society

Long march RSS members take part in the Hindu Shakti Sangama in Hubli

IS KARNATAKA the new Gujarat, the second “laboratory of Hindutva” for the BJP and the broader Sangh Parivar? As the BJP government in the state enters the final year of its first term in power — it had earlier ruled in alliance with the JD(S) — that disturbing question comes up again and again. Behind the morality and hypocrisy, the humbug and corruption that the BJP establishment in Bengaluru has been charged with is a harder, harsher truth: the scary distortion of an entire society.

Two weeks ago, the so-called ‘porngate’ controversy rattled the country, when three BJP ministers were caught in the Assembly watching a pornographic clip — later explained as the recording of a woman being raped — while the House was in session and discussing poverty. While that controversy claimed the headlines, it also forced the RSS and its affiliates in the state to hurriedly cancel plans of the extended session of the Hindu Shakti Sangama. A Hindu show of strength, as the name implies, the Sangama was supposed to be held across the state after the opening convention in Hubli. Chief Minister DV Sadananda Gowda turned up in Hubli, wearing the RSS trademark khaki shorts — perhaps the first time a chief minister has been seen thus clad at a public event. If pictures tell a story, this one spoke volumes of the saffronisation of Karnataka.

The Sangama may have been interrupted by the Sangh Parivar, embarrassed and still recovering from the shame of porngate. Nevertheless, as TEHELKA travelled through Karnataka, spending a week journeying from urbane Bengaluru to northern and coastal Karnataka, what became apparent was that right-wing Hindu attacks on Muslims and Christians were now a regular feature. This reporter came back with accounts, incidents and testimonies that were so brazen, it was shocking.

Take a small example. On 22 January, there was uproar in Uppanangadi, a hamlet near Mangalore. Kalladka Prabhakar Bhatt, a senior RSS leader known for his proximity to Sadananda Gowda and his predecessor BS Yeddyurappa, was addressing a crowd and resorted to extreme and undignified imagery. “Lift the veils of Muslim women,” Bhatt told the throng, “and glimpse what they have to offer.” His listeners cheered; policemen listened too, but strolled casually, as if nothing were happening.

Soon after, the local minorities — a mix of Muslim and Catholic organisations — approached the police, which reluctantly filed an FIR against Bhatt. Yet it refused to arrest him, arguing there was no basis for taking him into custody. Rather, as if to compensate, the local police then filed an FIR against the president of the Muslim Central Committee, Mohammad Masood, under Section 153(a) of the Indian Penal Code — “Promoting communal enmity between classes” — as well as Section 505(2) — “Making statements that create or promote communal enmity”.

Two senior police officers have asked to be moved to Central government postings because they cannot take what is happening in the state

What was Masood’s fault? He had called a press conference to condemn Bhatt’s despicable one-liner. When contacted, Mangalore SP Abhishek Goyal suggested that there were “grey areas” and the police would certainly “study” the case. While the police was still studying the footage of Bhatt’s public meeting, the man himself inaugurated the new building of the Mangalore Police Commissionerate! Sitting with him in the VIP row was none other than the chief minister.

It was the sort of moment and photo-op the media just waits for. Yet the presence of Bhatt so soon after the unseemly incident found no mention in the media coverage of the inauguration of the new building. It was almost as if there was a conspiracy of silence. Only one plucky local newspaper broke the Omerta: Karavali Ale.

At one time, Karavali Ale was Karnataka’s most popular newspaper. Part of the reason it is not any longer may have to do with the stance of its editor, BV Sitaram, who has been one of the few voices in the state warning against the rising tide of religious bigotry. For two decades, he has documented each and every communal incident, big and small, in the state — and has suffered for it.

RSS leader Prabhakar Bhatt (left) and Home Minister R Ashok

Caught in a bind RSS leader Prabhakar Bhatt (left) and Home Minister R Ashok Photo: GK Hegde

In 2009, Sitaram was arrested when a case was filed against him for defamation. Twenty-five policemen turned up and surrounded him. “It seemed like they had come to arrest a terrorist,” he exclaims. His fault was he had written about the exploits of a local Bajrang Dal leader.

Sitaram points to the newspapers stacked in his office. Picking up some of them at random, from the previous month’s pile, almost every day one finds mention of an attack on Muslims and Christians, on churches and mosques. Sitaram is distraught: “They go around shouting ‘Pehle qasaai, phir Isaai’ — First butchers (Muslims), then Christians.” According to official figures, a church has been attacked almost once every 10 days in the past three years. In some cases, the very presence of a Muslim boy with a Hindu girl has caused a riot.

The opposition to Hindu girl-Muslim boy romance is part of a peculiar phenomenon that the Sangh Parivar labels “love jihad”. This paranoia began in Kerala and alleges that Muslim men are being trained to woo and then indoctrinate Hindu girls, to win converts to Islam.

Bhatt is an exponent of theories of love jihad. In December 2011, the Hindu Nagarika Samiti held a massive protest meeting in Sullia, where Bhatt attacked the police for its supposed anti-Hindu sentiment and spoke of how love jihad, terrorism and cow slaughter were rampant in the state.

He was joined by others, notably Satyajit Suratkal, regional convener of the Hindu Jagran Vedike, who said: “Whenever the Muslims provoked us, we have given a suitable response. If they want more, then there might be a recurrence of earlier happenings. If the police join hands with traitors we will teach them a lesson too.”

‘The larger threat to the nation is posed by the RSS’

MAHENDRA KUMAR, who was state unit president of the Bajrang Dal, is famous for his role in the spate of church attacks in 2008. The Justice Somashekara Commission had passed strictures against him relating to his role in that incident. Currently, an active worker of Janata Dal (Secular), Kumar tells Imran Khan that he’s a reformed man.

Kumar spent 42 days in jail after the 2008 church attacks

Time for pennace Kumar spent 42 days in jail after the 2008 church attacks

EDITED EXCERPTS FROM AN INTERVIEW

Why did you leave the Sangh Parivar?
I was with the Bajrang Dal for 16 years and served as the state president for four years until my resignation in 2009. During the 2008 church attacks, the state government faced a lot of flak. In order to save the government, they emotionally blackmailed me by saying they would put me behind bars for two days just to show the world that action has been taken. However, I ended up spending 42 days in prison. That was the turning point of my life as prison provided me a space to contemplate and reflect on my life. Even after my release, I took another year to come out of the Parivar during which time I was not involved in any organisational activities.

What is your understanding of Hindutva now?
Hindutva is a political strategy and it has nothing to do with Hinduism or the welfare or benefit of Hindu society. Playing on emotions, projecting wrong history and some negative points of the minority community, hatred is sown among the Hindu youth. It has been the strategy of the RSS to target minorities to consolidate Hindu votes for the BJP. When it was in the Opposition, the BJP raked up the issue of hoisting the tricolour at Hubli’s Idgah Maidan. By arousing sentiments, it created a statewide struggle, which led to communal clashes and lives were lost. But the same BJP government is in power and it is least bothered about this issue now. All these issues were raked for gaining political mileage. There is also a caste and class angle to it.

What is the caste angle?
Most of the top leaders of the Sangh Parivar come from the forward caste. None of their children are into active Sangh activities. Mostly, they are software engineers and well-settled. It is the youth from the backward and lower castes who fill the rank and file. And it is they who finally pay the price. Look at Gujarat, most of the youth languishing in jail for the 2002 riots are Dalits and people from the backward castes.

How much control does the RSS have on Bajrang Dal?
The VHP is a wing of the RSS and it is its job to keep a check on Bajrang Dal. And the RSS keeps a check on the VHP.

Can you give us some idea about how much of their politics is influenced by local/national issues?
It’s mostly national. Earlier, the Ram temple issue was a turning point. It has been replaced now by issues like terrorism and conversions. These have become the rallying point to influence the youth. State issues play a factor but not that much. The major issue in Karnataka was of Datta Peetha. It was made out to be the Ayodhya of the south.

Recently, there have been several cases of Sangh activists getting caught for their role in bomb blasts that were earlier ascribed to Muslims. What is your take?
The tragedy is that the greater role played by the RSS hasn’t been exposed completely. It is fringe organisations like Sri Ram Sene and others who are accused or caught. Whereas in fact, the main brain behind all these is the RSS. I have been campaigning and telling people that due to the few instances and actions of fringe elements in the Muslim community, you cannot hold the entire community responsible. And my understanding says that the Muslims of this country are largely peaceful, except a few fringe elements. But, the larger threat to this nation is posed by RSS and organisations like them who want to control the Hindu society through their divisive politics.

Recently the Sangh Parivar held a Hindu Samajotsava in Hubli and Dakshin Kannada, in which many ministers took part. What purpose do these events serve?
The BJP has lost its face due to internal bickerings and the exposure of several ministers involved in corruption scandals. BS Yeddyurappa is also threatening to break away from the party if he is not suitably rehabilitated. There is a fear among the BJP that if this happens they might lose the vote of two strong communities. Hence they are in a process of consolidating the Hindu vote bank as they will have to face polls in 2013. The recent incident of a Pakistani flag being hoisted in Sindhagi was meant to polarise the Hindu vote bank.

Is there any discontentment within the Sangh Parivar?
The middle- and lower-rank members are angry with the top leadership for siding with the government on issues like corruption. Their constant shielding and defence of top BJP leaders has brought discontentment among the workers. But since there is no place for dissent and questioning in the RSS, nothing much is coming out.

Imran Khan is a Senior Correspondent with Tehelka.com.
imran@tehelka.com

Other speakers were equally inflammatory. Some wanted cases booked against Sub-Inspector Ravi Kumar and action to be taken against the SP and the ASP because of alleged bias against Hindus. Soon all three officers were transferred. Ravi Kumar was “shifted back” to his earlier posting in Puttur town a day after his suspension was formally sought by the BJP district unit.

WHICH DIRECTION is Karnataka taking? In many senses, it seems to be a replay of Gujarat, with a shorter time-span. Like in the western state, there is a manipulation of class and commerce for religious ends. In Gujarat it took religious riots beginning with the bloody killings of 1969 — and extending from the 1970s to the 1990s — for the Sangh Parivar experiment to mature. Karnataka saw a similar surge with the Ayodhya movement in the late 1980s, and escalation with the Suratkal riots of 1998, which killed 18 people. In the process, relatively peaceful Mangalore, Suratkal, Bhatkal and Ullal became the fulcrum of the Hindutva movement.

‘At this point, it won’t be right to call Karnataka the next Gujarat. But give it five years, it will prove to be worse than Gujarat,’ says analyst Sunder

The rise of the Sri Ram Sene, Hindu Jagran Vedike, Hindu Janajagruti Samiti, Sanathan Sanstha and Bajrang Dal were part of this radicalisation project. So was exploitation of socio-economic conditions, says Suresh Bhatt of the PUCL. The current communal tensions in Dakshina Kannada and Mangalore have their roots in the region’s rapid development since the 1970s.

Land reforms created new spaces for different castes and communities to operate in and compete with each other. Dominant social groups like Konkani Brahmins, Bunts and Christians found opportunities in new ventures like banking, education, tile manufacture and cashewnut trade. Many Bunts moved to Mumbai to establish Udupi eateries.

As studies done by fact-finding missions show, traditional backward castes like Mogaveeras and Billavas, who were freed from dependent tenancy, moved into small businesses like fishing. Here they had to contend with the Bearys, a Muslim community with a sizeable (15 percent) presence in Dakshina Kannada, and a heavy concentration in districts like Mangalore, Bantwal, Belthangady and Surathkal. All these areas are today communally sensitive.

The Gulf boom of the 1970s and the new industrialisation enabled the Beary community to prosper in petty business (textiles and groceries) as well as mid-level ones such as hotels and the spice trade. All this led to disgruntlement among the newly-empowered backward castes. It created room for religious mobilisation.

Minority Report

Ever since the BJP came to power, attacks on minorities have only multiplied

2008
19 AUGUST Farmer Sadananda Poojary, who is also a part-time cattle trader, is murdered by ‘Hindutva’ activists in Udupi.

7 SEPTEMBER Roopashree and Vikhar Ahmed are assaulted and paraded in public by ‘Hindutva’ activists in Vittla. A group of ‘Hindutva’ activists drag Deepa and her fiancé Abdul Wahid out of a bus in Mangalore and assault them.

15 DECEMBER A group of 24 Muslim youth from Bhatkal go on a picnic to Nethrani island. Hundreds of ‘Hindutva’ activists land there and attack them. One person is killed and two sustain serious injuries.

2009
24 JANUARY ‘Hindutva’ activists attack Hindu girls for hanging out with Muslim boys at a Mangalore pub.

16 AUGUST Right-wing activists throw pork into the compound of the Badriya Darussalam Madrassa at Madhva near Bantwal.

3 NOVEMBER Clashes break out between Hindu and Muslim students at Uppinangady First Grade Government College.

19 NOVEMBER ‘Hindutva’ activists attack two Muslim men in Mangalore alleging that they had written love letters to a Hindu girl.

2010
25 JANUARY
 Two churches are vandalised and a statue of Mary is damaged in Mysore and Uttara Kannada district.

2011
5 JANUARY Malpe sub-inspector Santosh Shetty is suspended for allegedly assaulting Bajrang Dal member Kishor after Hindutva outfits lay siege to the police station.

1 FEBRUARY Puttur ASP Amit Singh earns the ire of Hindutva groups for allegedly insulting Bantwal City Development Authority Chairman Govinda Prabhu, against whom there are police cases. Around 200 persons led by MP Nalin Kumar Kateel and MLA Mallika Prasad lay siege to Singh’s house. The cop is later transferred out.

16 MARCH Car mechanic Badruddin, 21, is murdered for falling in love with a Hindu girl in Bantwal. Ganesh, the girl’s father, is later arrested for the murder.

23 MARCH Ullal resident Mymoona appeals for a CBI probe into the arrest and jailing of her husband Muhammed Ali and son Javed Ali. She claims they were arrested on trumped-up charges of terrorism and that the Dakshina Kannada police, under the influence of the Sangh, is targeting Muslims.

26 FEBRUARY Bajrang Dal activists trash a Muslim boy and Hindu girl at a juice shop in Kadaba. The couple is handed over to the police, who let them off after a warning.

8 JULY Nityananda of Peral is attacked by Yuva Morcha activists, who accuse him of taking cattle to an abattoir.

18 JULY Mangalore resident Bushra, a mother of four, alleges that Bajrang Dal activists threatened her and forcibly converted her to Hinduism.

13 AUGUST Bajrang Dal activists raid a farmhouse in Ullal, alleging it was hosting a rave party and attack the youth gathered for a birthday bash.

22 AUGUST Some Hindu youth in Sullia were in the habit of teasing Muslim girls. When Mohammed Riyaz confronted them, they beat him.

30 OCTOBER Hosa Diganta, a newspaper brought out by the RSS has received undue favours from the state government. It has been given the status of a state-level paper.

26 DECEMBER Asif of Sakleshpur and a Hindu girl elope to Bengaluru and stay at a rented house. ‘Hindutva’ activists got wind of this and tried to convert Asif to Hinduism. Asif is arrested and charged with kidnap and rape, along with his two friends.

28 DECEMBER A 20-member mob attack a prayer hall of the Hebron Assembly of God in Mangalore. The attackers allege that conversions were taking place and vandalise the building.

The Sangh Parivar began by consolidating unemployed youth in the Billava and Mogaveera groups. Neither have strong community organisations, and the Bajrang Dal and Sri Ram Sene filled the gap. Billavas form a majority of Sri Ram Sene cadre and have moved from being followers of Sri Narayana Guru to champions of Hindutva. Mogaveeras have found a niche in the Bajrang Dal.

Using various frontal organisations, the Sangh network infiltrated virtually every village in these parts of Karnataka. All this preceded the actual coming to power of the BJP by a good decade and speaks for the assiduous cadre-based skills of the Sangh Parivar. In February 2006, the BJP entered the government as a junior partner of the JD(S). In May 2008, it was in power on its own, having won the mid-term polls.

IT WAS now time for the great leap. The year 2008 was a take-off point for the Hindu right in Karnataka. Once the BJP government was installed, it had a choice between broad-based development of the state and consolidation of the Sangh structure. Four years on, it’s obvious which path was chosen. In its first year itself, the government had given evidence of its agenda. Bajrang Dal activists attacked churches, with the administration scarcely taking stern action. The question of whether the government would rein in extremist elements was answered in the negative.

Then CM Yeddyurappa and his home minister VS Acharya — who passed away earlier this week — made a series of statements that sought to discount the extent and intensity of the attacks. There were repeated references to “spontaneous anger” of ordinary people allegedly due to conversions.

‘The BJP knows why it is in power here. It is because of us, the RSS and the VHP. Whatever we do, we have their support,’ says Shenava

The other action of the BJP — and this was seen even when it was in coalition with the JD(S) — was to withdraw cases filed against Sangh Parivar activists for inciting religious hatred, under Section 153(a). One beneficiary of this was Pramod Muthalik of the Sri Ram Sene. He shot to infamy shortly afterwards, following the pub attack in Mangalore.

Many believe the Sri Ram Sene went into decline after the pub attack. The BJP disowned Muthalik even though the larger Parivar backed him. The TEHELKA sting operation (Rent a Riot by Pushp Sharma and Sanjana, 22 May 2010) proved that far from an army of committed ideologues, the Sene comprised hoodlums for hire. As a senior IB official posted in Karnataka puts it, “The Sri Ram Sene, Bajrang Dal and other fringe outfits are all offshoots of the RSS. But it conveniently dissociates itself from them when it wants to.”

A glaring example was the January incident in which five Sri Ram Sene miscreants sought to hoist the Pakistani flag and implicate Muslims. The police caught them, but there was a twist to the story. Investigating officials reveal that the RSS put pressure on the state government to protect itself. The blame was put on the Sri Ram Sene, but those arrested were apparently RSS cadre. This was hushed up.

Shiv Sunder, a political analyst with Lankesh and one of the most clear-headed observers in the state, says the police in Karnataka is not communalised, unlike Gujarat, but is forced to look the other way. “But yes,” he says, “the situation is similar. The Home Department has its own set of officers, mostly from the OBC communities; the Brahmins, of course, don’t do the dirty job. At this point of time, it won’t be right to call Karnataka the next Gujarat. But give it five years, it will prove to be worse than Gujarat.”

It’s a chilling thought.

Already neutral and professional officers are feeling the heat. Two senior police officers have asked to be moved to Central government postings because they cannot take what is happening. DG (CID) Roopkumar Dutta is one of them. Sources close to him say he has had run-ins with the chief minister and home minister. At one stage, Governor HR Bhardwaj had to step in and ask the home minister how the government could let an officer of Dutta’s stature feel compelled to want to leave. Dutta’s hands are tied because he has been refused permission to act against Sangh affiliates.

Video grabs show how police chat with Sangh activists during a church attackVideo grabs show how police chat with Sangh activists during a church attack

Free for all Video grabs show how police chat with Sangh activists during a church attack

WHO ARE the lumpen Sangh activists being given protection? Rubina would know their type. Only 22, Rubina is a convert to Islam from Bantwal, near Mangalore. In her own city and her own state, she is a refugee, running from place to place to find a secure home. She was born into a Brahmin family but turned to Islam of her own volition, and married a Muslim man. Her idyll never lasted.

Rubina came to meet this reporter covered from head to toe, scared of being recognised. Soon after the wedding, her husband was picked up on charges of terrorism. While he was in custody, the Mangalore Police barged into her house late at night. Inspector Venkatesh Prasanna enquired about her husband, abused her for converting to Islam.

With a child to take care of, Rubina shifted to the city. She pleaded with TEHELKA that if her case comes to light, she will be in trouble with the cops. “I can’t live in peace,” she cried, “they ransacked my house, twisted my arm. I stay with a friend. I’m worried about my child.” As Rubina said this, she wept copiously — her tragedy as wrenching as it was obvious.

Rubina’s case is typical of what the state authorities call “love jihad”. While the Karnataka Police had told the high court in November 2009 that there was no case of love jihad in the state, this was not enough for the BJP and the Sangh Parivar. Despite absence of evidence, the love jihad paranoia continues to be whipped up. Recently, Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister S Suresh Kumar called love jihad a grave issue, and Home Minister R Ashok promised a new investigation. No wonder, in the past three months alone, 18 Muslim men have been attacked, presumably as love jihad suspects.

It is all so blatant that Sangh Parivar functionaries take responsibility for such attacks and insist they have government backing. Just a day after Bhatt’s vulgar speech, this reporter met the Karnataka unit chief of the VHP, Jagadish Shenava, and discussed his own hate statements against Muslims and Christians. He was dismissive: “See, the BJP knows why it is in power here. It is because of us, the RSS and the VHP. Whatever we do, we have their support. Do you think we will let these jihadis run away with our daughters and sisters? We know how to deal with them.” As Shenava spoke, a gun-toting security officer kept him company. Asked about it, he laughed: “Oh, this is just to take care of the jihadis, the state has given it to me.”

‘Be it BS Yeddyurappa or Sadananda Gowda, both are first Sangh members and then state administrators,’ says Ahmed, a lawyer

People like Shenava have every reason to laugh. While we were speaking in Udupi, a church was attacked in the nearby hamlet of Hallangadi. In his complaint submitted to the police, the pastor — who provided TEHELKA with video footage of the event, showing Bajrang Dal members entering the church premises on 28 December 2011 — detailed the attack but to no avail. The footage shows men in orange headscarves invading the church premises, and abusing and hitting the pastor. “If this is the police,” rues Pastor Prasanna, “where do we get help from?” He has now written to the prime minister and the UPA chairperson for justice. Local Christians went on a protest march on 22 January.

Why blame the police? After the 2008 Mangalore church attacks, Yeddyurappa had called it a “natural reaction to forced conversions”. Sadananda Gowda, the favoured child of the Sangh Parivar, merely termed the incident “hearsay”.

“The problem is beyond damage control,” says lawyer Nooruddin Ahmed, who has appeared for Muslims accused in love jihad cases. “What do you expect of a state where the chief minister has given a free hand to miscreants. Be it Yeddyurappa or Sadananda Gowda, both are first Sangh members and then state administrators. The Congress too has no interest in our issues. M Veerappa Moily, SM Krishna, aren’t they aware of what’s happening?

State favours and funds are being directed towards Sangh affiliates. In November 2011, Yeddyurappa gave land in Bengaluru worth Rs 50 crore to six frontal bodies of the Sangh Parivar. Next, the Karnataka government released several lakhs of rupees by way of advertisements to a 2012 calendar published by Hindutva organisation Sanatan Sanstha.

Expectedly, the indoctrination project has reached the education system. Changes have been sought in the curriculum. Social sciences textbooks of Classes V to VIII are being rewritten with history retold to suit old prejudices. The state government has allocated Rs 14 crore to publish these new textbooks for the coming academic year.

Divisive Legacy

By getting the Religious Bill passed, VS Acharya opened another avenue for the Hindutva cause

VS Acharya

JUST 10 days before he died on 14 February, state higher education and Muzrai minister VS Acharya, 72, got the Karnataka Hindu Religious Institutions and Charitable Endowments (Second Amendment) Bill passed. It provides for the setting up of state and district-level quasi-judicial bodies called Dharmika Parishats with the power to decide whether a religious institution is a Hindu place of worship or a composite one shared with other faiths. The parishats will also have power over composite shrines.

The Bill has been roundly criticised, with Janata Dal (Secular) leader MC Nanaiah saying management committees of prominent temples would be infiltrated by politicians from the BJP and used to further the Hindutva agenda. Voicing similar views, KL Ashok, secretary of the Komu Souhrida Vedike, an anticommunal organisation said, “From 2002, when BJP MP Ananth Kumar declared Baba Budan Giri or Datta Peetha as the Ayodhya of the south, the Shiv Sena, Bajrang Dal and other Hindu groups have tried actively to take over the shrine. They demanded that the sufi samadhi should be removed and a Hindu priest be appointed. After four years of litigation, the Supreme Court ordered that the status quo be maintained.”

But Acharya proclaimed, “Baba Budan Giri is not a dargah. It is Dattatreya Peetha and comes under the Hindu religious tradition. In the case of shrines like Mulki Bappa, where there is an Islamic tradition also, and Muslim priests have been traditionally appointed, the management committee will include Muslims.”

During his earlier stint as home minister, Acharya came under severe attack for his subtle support to Sri Ram Sene activists in the infamous Mangalore pub attack case. It was this and his inability to stop attacks on churches that made Governor HR Bhardwaj recommend his shifting. Acharya was also one of former chief minister BS Yeddyurappa’s most vocal supporters and was opposed to Ananth Kumar’s chief ministerial ambitions. He was also accused of favouring Gopal Hosur, the state intelligence chief who activists claim has been complicit in running the Sangh agenda.

One of Acharya’s last acts etched in public memory is his defence of the practice of the annual ‘made snana’ at the Kukkre Subramanya temple near Mangalore, the practice of Dalits rolling on plantain leaves containing leftover meals of Brahmins. An unmoved Acharya defended it as a tradition that had voluntary participation.

Imran Khan is a Senior Correspondent with Tehelka.com.
imran@tehelka.com

What do they contain? The Class V textbook (Veda Kalada Bharata) says cow slaughter was forbidden in the early Vedic period. The historical record, however, suggests otherwise. Historians such as DN Jha have shown how the Rig veda has references to beef eating.

The textbook narrative runs parallel to the controversial Karnataka Prevention of Slaughter and Preservation of Cattle Bill, 2010. The Bill, passed by the Assembly and adopted by the Legislative Council, seeks a blanket ban on the slaughter of milch animals and draught cattle. It is awaiting presidential assent.

With elections in 2013, the RSS and BJP plan to renew their agitation for a presidential approval for the Bill. It is even more draconian than the controversial Madhya Pradesh law because it extends the prevention of slaughter provision to not just cows but also bulls, bullocks and buffaloes. “What do you expect the animal owner to do?” asks political analyst Shiv Sunder, “in an ordinary situation, the farmer would sell it, make money and buy younger cattle. Here he is not allowed to sell his cattle. You are attacking his means of livelihood.”

A GREATER cause for concern for Karnataka’s liberals is the attempt to inject communal polarisation even in the cosmopolitan environs of Bengaluru, India’s IT hub. A casual visit to the Satyam and Infosys complexes makes for some disturbing observations.

Umesh Hegde (name changed to protect identity) talks about the infiltration of the Hindutva groups into the IT sector: “Initially, we were asked to come to the shakha to rejuvenate ourselves and learn yoga. Within a month, my colleagues and me were shown a map of Akhand Bharat, and told how Bharat needs to be cleansed of Muslims. And believe me they have managed to find sympathisers.” In five years, the number of RSS shakhas in Karnataka has gone up by 50 percent, helped by public funds and facilities.

Attacks on churches by right-wing activists have risen since 2008

Stoking the fire Attacks on churches by right-wing activists have risen since 2008 Photo: KPN

In his article, Hindu Taliban Assaulting Freedom, Militarising Society, commentator Praful Bidwai was prescient: “One can only marvel — if that’s the word — at the breathtaking speed with which the Sangh Parivar has vitiated the social climate in state after state. Within months of taking power in Karnataka, it has unleashed savage repression and turned Mangalore into a Hindu Taliban bulwark, where women are attacked if they go to a bar, where Hindus must not mix with Muslims, and where there is no media freedom and free interaction among young men and women. Karnataka has become the Gujarat of the South.”

The unfortunate part in the process of communalisation of Karnataka has been the concurrence of the media. Newspapers in Karnataka have encouraged the polarisation for pecuniary benefits. For example, the Mangalore-based daily Hosa Digantha has been accorded “state newspaper” status although its circulation does not meet the required criteria. Its editor, Chudamani Aiyyar, is an RSS activist.

While Gujarat newspapers played up the supposed threat to Narendra Modi from Lashkar-e-Toiba terrorists, Karnataka too witnessed such attempts. Rashid Malbari, an underworld figure and regarded a foil to Hindutva gangsters like Ravi Pujari (also from Karnataka), was put behind bars for allegedly plotting to assassinate Modi and senior RSS men in Karnataka. Local dailies played up the story just like they did in 2005 when Udayavani reported that madrassas were hoisting Pakistan flags. It had to issue a retraction when the police gave a clean chit to the madrassa. Other newspapers like Vijaya Karnataka too sedulously promote the idea of Muslims and Christians as “members of other religions”.

Come to think of it, in Karnataka, so does the government.

Rana Ayyub is an Assistant Editor with Tehelka


Hindutva: The Growth of Violent Hindu Nationalism

This appendix provides detailed support and elaboration of the descriptions and arguments in Part 1 of this report. Accordingly, it follows in large part, the same structure as Part 1 of this report. We cover the following ground in this appendix:

1. Hindutva, the RSS and the Sangh Parivar
2. The Sangh Parivar: The Institutional Infrastructure of Hindutva
3. The Effects of Hindutva: Violent Pogroms and the Destruction of the National Fabric

A.1 Hindutva, the RSS and the Sangh Parivar

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS, or the ‘Sangh,’– literally ‘National Volunteer Corps’), was started in 1925 for ‘propagating Hindu culture.’ As an organization, the RSS is elusive and shadowy—it is only open to Hindu males – primarily upper caste, it maintains no membership records; it has resisted being registered with the government of India as a public/charitable trust; it has no bank accounts and pays no income tax.

The RSS advocates a form of Hindu nationalism, which seeks to establish India as a Hindu Rashtra (Hindu Nation), and rejects the notion of a composite Indian identity brought about by a synthesis of different cultures and faiths. This particular ideology is variously called an ideology of Hindu pride, Hindu patriotism, Hindu fundamentalism, Hindu revivalism, Hindu chauvinism, Hindu fascism or Hindutva. What is beyond doubt is the exclusionary and discriminatory nature of the ideology. The last mentioned – Hindutva (Hinduness/Hinduhood) – is the term most popularly attached to this ideology and will be term of choice in this appendix.

This exclusionary and discriminatory ideology is built around a complex and ingenious definition of “who belongs” or “does not belong” to the Indian nation. Probably the most explicit characterization of the question of “belonging” is outlined by the second sarsanghchalak (supreme leader) of the RSS, M. S. Golwalkar. He writes:
The foreign races in Hindusthan [India] must either adopt the Hindu culture and language, must learn to respect and hold in reverence Hindu religion, must entertain no idea but those of the glorification of the Hindu race and culture, i.e., of the Hindu nation and must loose (sic) their separate existence to merge in the Hindu race, or may stay in the country, wholly subordinated to the Hindu Nation, claiming nothing, deserving no privileges, far less any preferential treatment — not even citizen’s rights. There is, at least, should be, no other course for them to adopt. We are an old nation; let us deal, as old nations ought to and do deal, with the foreign races, who have chosen to live in our country.”[53]

Golwalkar’s commentary on who belongs to the Hindu Nation, apart from its open fascist overtones, is peculiar because it contradicts the popular understanding of Hinduism as a religion. Instead, it frames Hinduism as a culture and Hindus as a race who adhere to a Hindu culture. In this peculiar but brilliant redefinition lies the specificity of Hindu fascism. It is unlike most of Euro-American fascism – whether it be Nazi Germany and its notion of Aryan purity or neo-fascist movements such as the KKK or BNP – which are all biologically defined ideas of racial purity. Hindutva’s cultural basis seems to remove it from such standard forms of fascism. However, the equation of race with culture – as in Golwalkar’s “Hindu race and culture” – introduces a notion of purity through the back door. Lochtefeld (1996), analyzing Savarkar, the man who preceded Golwalkar and the first Supreme Leader of the RSS, unpacks this redefinition as follows:

Savarkar [who first expounded on the Hindu Nation] defined a Hindu as anyone regarding India as a fatherland and holy land, and to this day these remain the litmus test. This defines the Hindu nation on cultural criteria—as a people united by a common cultural heritage—and from the start Hindutva proponents have insisted that the word ‘Hindu’ refers to a cultural rather than a religious community…. One must look at who this definition excludes. Savarkar’s definition of a Hindu is plastic enough to include everyone in a notoriously polyform tradition, but the condition that one regard India as the Holy Land largely excludes both Muslims and Christians. This definition equates Hindu identity and Indian nationalism, meaning that religious minorities are not only ‘aliens’, but because of their ‘extraterritorial loyalties’ (to holy lands in Arabia and Israel), they are also potential traitors.”[54]

The ingenuity of tying culture and race together is that it makes possible a definition of a “pure” nation where none is otherwise possible. India, per se, is a fascinating melting pot of races and cultures. Even distinctions such as white and black as available in the US (though those are also mostly spurious) are entirely impossible in India. By defining belonging through a territorially contained notion of culture, it becomes possible to denote some minorities as within the ambit of “the Hindu” and others as outside it. A large number of minorities – Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains, for instance are objects of integration. So also, Dalits and tribals (adivasis) though historically oppressed by upper caste Hindus are in this definition not excluded from the nation. The idea here is to redefine these minorities as “Hindu” – where a certain specific upper caste Hinduism (Sanatan Dharma), is the hegemonic pure form and all others are at varying distance from this purity. In contrast, Muslims, Christians, Parsis and Jews, are clearly defined as outside the fold of the Nation, not because they have not been part of India for centuries but because their cultural signifiers are seen as lying external to the territorial nation.

The definition of “pure” is what aligns Hindutva with classical fascism of the Nazi kind. Golwalkar is clearly inspired and convinced by the Nazi experiment of attempting to purge a land of all those who don’t fit into a definition of German-Aryan purity. He writes:

German national pride has now become the topic of the day. To keep up the purity of the nation and its culture, Germany shocked the world by her purging the country of the Semitic races — the Jews. National pride at its highest has been manifested here. Germany has also shown how well–nigh impossible it is for races and cultures, having differences going to the root, to be assimilated into one united whole, a good lesson for us in Hindustan to learn and profit by. [55]

Today, the political leadership of the Sangh spends some marginal effort at denying any relation to Nazi Germany but does little to explain the distinction between its ideology and that of Nazi Germany.

In terms of ideology then, the Sangh’s brand of fascism is simultaneously indigenous and imported. Clearly their broad ideas of purity and exclusion are not very different from Nazi Germany. However, the peculiar conflation of culture and race does make this brand of fascism unique.

A.2 The Sangh Parivar: The Institutional Infrastructure of Hindutva 

Institutionally, given that the RSS is itself an organization that is secretive and without specified membership, its visibility is low. It functions primarily through a broad range of organizations that exist in every aspect of sociopolitical life in India – what is referred to as the Sangh Parivar (Sangh family) of organizations. However, before we explicate this visible structure of the Sangh Parivar and its chief constituent organizations, we need to pay some attention to the minimal aspects of what is visible as the RSS.

A.2.1 The Role of the RSS Shakha

The core unit of the RSS is referred to as a shakha (cell). The shakha is a place for swayamsevaks (volunteers) to come together for physical and ideological training. These shakhas operate in large numbers of neighborhoods in India (and are now spreading across the US), and produce a constant stream of ‘volunteers’ who become the foot-soldiers for the Sangh’s projects and organizations. Here too, specific links can be drawn between European fascism and the RSS. B. S. Moonje, the mentor of the founding father of the RSS, Hegdewar, visited and met with Mussolini and was granted permission by Mussolini to observe and understand the nature of the fascist organizational structure[56]. Moonje played a crucial role in molding the RSS along Italian (fascist) lines. The deep impression left on Moonje by the vision of the fascist organizations is confirmed by his diary.

The idea of fascism vividly brings out the conception of unity amongst people… India and particularly Hindu Indians need some such institution for the military regeneration of the Hindus: so that the artificial distinction so much emphasised by the British of martial and non–martial classes amongst the Hindus may disappear… Our institution of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh of Nagpur under Dr. Hedgewar is of this kind, though quite independently conceived. I will spend the rest of my life in developing and extending this Institution of Dr. Hedgewar all throughout Maharashtra and other provinces. [57]

Moonje’s central concern while looking at Italian fascism was, as he says, with the aim of “developing and extending this Institution.” Thus the RSS cell structure of shakhas (cells) grew with some clear similarity to the cell structure of Mussolini’s National Socialists, also borrowing with it the core ideas of physical training of youth and militarism. Moonje’s diaries are very explicit in acknowledging the centrality of violent militarism to the RSS strategy.

This training is meant for qualifying and fitting our boys for the game of killing masses of men with the ambition of winning victory with the best possible causalities (sic) of dead and wounded while causing the utmost possible to the adversary. [58]

The swayamsevaks generated at the Shakhas are seamlessly tied into the Sangh Parivar infrastructure. Swayamsevaks go on to direct and run, projects of every size and shape – from Bal Vihars (Children’s centers) to opening up new shakhas, from student politics (through the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad) to paramilitary operations (through the Bajrang Dal). The Sangh permeates every aspect.

A.2.2 The Sangh Parivar and Its Constituents

At the national level, swayamsevaks emerge to direct and run its most important institutions – the BJP, the VHP, the BD and the Sewa Vibhag. Each of these institutions also have an equivalent organization in the US – the RSS has its image mirrored through the HSS, the BJP in the OFBJP, the VHP in the VHP of America and its student wing – the HSC, the BD in Hindu Unity and finally the Sewa Vibhag in IDRF. Below is a brief description of each – the Indian organization first, followed by its US equivalent as well as a summary chart.

  • RSS –Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh: The core fount of Hindutva Ideology.
    • HSS: The Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh is the US equivalent of the RSS. HSS is registered as a tax-exempt charity in the US, and like the RSS in India, is one of the main proponents of Hindutva in the US. According to one of its flyers, “HSS is started in the USA and other parts of the world to continue what RSS is doing in India.”[59] The RSS website states that the primary purpose of the HSS is to protect the children of Hindu parents from the “vicious propaganda and corrupt conversion techniques of Christians and Muslims”[60]. Note the central concern of diasporic life in this definition is the possible “impurity” of Christian or Isamic influence. Much like the RSS branches in India, HSS also holds physical training exercises and camps, where the Hindutva doctrine is expounded. The structure of the RSS is duplicated in the US, with the Sanghchalak being the highest office bearer in the US.
  • BJP: The Bharatiya Janata Party: This is a political party that participates in electoral politics. It is currently in power in the Indian state of Gujarat, which recently witnessed some of the most gruesome violence against Muslims. At the center in New Delhi, it is the leading member of a coalition that is currently in power.
    • OFBJP—Overseas Friends of BJP: This is the BJP support group in the US. While it cannot monetarily support the BJP directly from the US, many OFBJP functionaries work with other Sangh operations in the US to propagate Hindutva. In addition, it works to mobilize opinion in Washington D.C and invites BJP leadership from India to the US to meet with the Indian Diaspora.
  • VHP—Vishwa Hindu Parishad: It was formed in 1964 with the explicit purpose of forming an aggressive and an activist wing to promote Hindutva. The first general secretary of the VHP, S.S. Apte, made its goals clear as follows: “It is therefore necessary in this age of competition and conflict to think of, and organize, the Hindu world to save itself from the evil eyes of all three” [all three being Christianity, Islam and Communism]. [61] Since its formation, the VHP has played an aggressive and agitational role in India. It rose to prominence for spearheading from the early 1980s onwards the Ram Janmabhoomi movement that ultimately led to the violent take over and destruction of a 16th century Babri mosque in Ayodhya, India. This mobilization that lasted the better part of a decade was a watershed event in terms of creating new levels of polarization between Hindu and Muslim communities in India. More recently, its international working president, Mr. Ashok Singhal, called the carnage against Muslims in Gujarat a ‘successful experiment’ and warned that it would be repeated all over India [62]. In other words, the VHP, is the core political mobilization unit that is used to create and spread conditions of religious intolerance and violence.
    • VHP— America : This is the US counterpart of the VHP in India, and is active at two levels – as the VHP of America chapters in large parts of the North East and the South with the primary function of support work for the Sangh in India among the professional Indian diaspora and as a student organization called theHindu Student Council (HSC) with significant presence on prestigious American university campuses. Its work within the professional Indian diasporic community is essentially both ideological and fund raising. Though it claims to be independent of the VHP itself, this claim is at best a legal/technical claim. In real terms it works actively and in close cooperation with VHP, India. For instance, VHP America’s biggest event to date in the US was the World Vision 2000, a conference organized in Washington D.C. The guest list for that event included nearly every potential luminary in the VHP India hierarchy – from Ashok Singhal to Uma Bharati and Vijaye Raje Scindia. In addition, the VHPA promotes fund collection for a range of Sewa Vibhag activity in India. [63]The HSC in contrast works primarily with second generation Indian Americans with a project of bringing them under the influence of Hindutva. It does this through multiple levels of ideological work – by organizing mass meetings and readings on campuses on a narrow range of Hindu thought, that is ideologically a perfect fit for Hindutva, (such as Gita readings) and for those who wish to get more involved as a gateway to larger Hindutva operations in the US.
  • Bajrang Dal is the paramilitary wing of the VHP, and was started in 1984 to provide muscle and manpower to the VHP agitations. The Bajrang Dal regularly organizes arms training camps for its members, where it teaches them the use of firearms and trishuls (tridents). According to one of the participants, the training is imparted in order to teach them “how to beat those who do not respect Hinduism.”[64] Bajrang Dal has been at the forefront of recent communal attacks against Christians in the tribal regions, against artists and intellectuals and against Muslims in Gujarat.
    • HinduUnity.org, a website run from the US claims to be the official website of the Bajrang Dal. This site is a virulent hate-filled site that has already once been yanked by a web-hosting service Addr.com because of the spiteful vitriol that it publishes, and its frequent calls to violence against Muslims. A typical passage from the Website under the pop-up window called Hindu Force is given below as a sample:“Revenge on Islam must become the sole aim of the life of every Hindu today. Islam has been shedding Hindu blood for several centuries. This is something we should neither forget nor forgive. This sinister religion has been striking at Hinduism for just too long. It is time we resist this satanic force and kick it back into the same pit it crawled out of.”
  • Sewa Vibhag: The Service Wing of the Hindutva Movement is the RSS’s most incoherent structure. However, in its very incoherence lies its ingenuity. The service wing operates through hundreds of organizations spread across the country – many different names and functions – all presented as if they were entirely independent organizations. This proliferation of Sewa Vibhag projects as independent organizations gives an impression of seeming incoherence. However, it is also the most inconspicuous way of placing swayamsevaks distributed across the country and creating entry points for them to do their ideological work. Often it is difficult to place an organization as an RSS Sewa Vibhag operation. It takes systematic matching of organizational trustees with other known RSS operations to establish the links. However, while this is true for a large number of RSS Sewa Vibhag operations, the role of the Sewa Vibhag as an entry point to do the core ideological work of the Sangh creates some long term patterns and institutions. For instance, education offers an effective cover for ideological work and the remaking of identities. Thus many Sewa Vibhag operations are crafted as educational activities. Following such patterns it becomes possible to identify Vidya Bharati as an RSS operation. Similarly, it becomes possible to identify a whole range of organizations that work with tribals (adivasis) as RSS operations because the adivasis are an important target constituency for the RSS. As these multitude of projects are what is the object of funding from the US, in a sense, these organizations of the Sewa Vibhag that do the core work of spreading the ideology of the Sangh are an extremely critical part of this report. Thus two more appendices – F and G – attached to Part 3 of this report (Funding Hate?) are on the Sangh’s work in tribal (adivasi) areas and on the Sangh’s educational work.
    • India Development and Relief Fund (IDRF): IDRF is the US based funding arm of the Sangh and primarily funds the Sangh through its Sewa Vibhag operations. It is directly connected to Sewa International, the part of the Sewa Vibhag that coordinates international Sewa activity. Sewa International itself operates as the equivalent to IDRF in the UK.


A.3 The Effects of Hindutva: Violent Pogroms and the Destruction of a Multicultural Society

Violence is a core aspect of Hindutva. It has never been shy of advocating violence for the achievement of its goals of a Hindu Rashtra. It depicts ‘Hinduism’ as constantly under threat from external/foreign forces (of Islam, Christianity and ‘Secularism’), and hence, portrays violence against Muslims, Christians and advocates of pluralism in India as a form of ‘self-defense.’ This, self defense is further positioned as the process of regeneration of Hindu manhood. This twin trope of self-defense and a lost manhood that is in need of recovery are part of the daily rhetoric of Hindutva. This psychological justification of violence is under girded by a more open strategic and essential appreciation of it – some of which we have already recorded in this appendix – whether it be Golwalkar’s open appreciation for the efforts to “purge” the German nation of all Jews by the Nazis, or Moonje’s hope that the RSS would create conditions of a “military regeneration of Hindus”, and prepare “our boys in the game of killing masses of people.” Here violence is clearly both essential to purge the nation of all that it does not desire, and strategic in Golwalkar’s goal to ensure that the minorities live in fear and seek no privileges.

There is ample evidence that this essential and strategic understanding of violence is central to the Hindutva project. Numerous government reports have clearly indicted the Sangh for fomenting communal violence:

“If the Jaganmohan Reddy Commission on the Ahmedabad riots (1969) and the Madan Commission on the Bhiwandi riots (1970) exposed the Unified Front tactics of the RSS and its political wing, the Jan Sangh, ancestor of the BJP, Justice Vithayathil’s report on the Tellicherry riots (1971) censured the RSS for ‘rousing up’ communal feelings and for ’preparing the background for the disturbances’. Justice Jitendra Narain’s Report on the Jamshedpur riots (1979) censured the RSS supremo M.D Deoras personally for the communal propaganda that had caused the riots. The RSS had held a conference there ‘only four days before the Ram Navami festival (when the riots erupted) and the speech delivered by Balasaheb Deoras contributed their full share in fomenting these communal feelings’. The RSS had created ‘a climate for these disturbances’. The report of Justice P Venugopal of the Madras High Court, on the riots in Kanyakumari in March 1982, found the RSS guilty of fomenting anti-Christian feelings: ‘It has taken upon itself the task to teach the minority their place and if they are not willing to learn their place, teach them a lesson. The RSS has given respectability to communalism and communal riots and demoralise (sic) administration.’ ” [65]

With a history of inciting and conducting violent campaigns going back to the partition of India and Pakistan, for the RSS violence is part of a strategy of breaking the back of an integrated multi-religious society and creating polarized communities of Hindus, Muslims and Christians. In a recent film on the RSS – “Men in the Tree” – filmmaker Lalit Vachani records a series of critical interviews with former RSS members – D. R. Goyal and Purshottam Agrawal. Both men speak openly of how it was part of their work as RSS swayamsevaks to create and spread rumors that would produce conditions conducive for a communal riot. The gradual but continuos polarization of the religious communities through violence is a fundamental fact of the Sangh strategy.

As Hindutva has grown more and more powerful and gained State power over the years, its strategic use of riots to polarize religious communities has slowly began to transform into a process of fundamentally destroying and displacing minority communities. In other words, over the last decade religious violence in India is no longer cases of Hindutva cadre fighting a Muslim or Christian right wing forces cadre on the streets but has increasingly become organized pogroms to eliminate and reduce minority communities to rubble. The recent Gujarat riot is a case in point.

A.4.1 From Riots to Pogroms: Gujarat 2002

On February 27, 2002, a train carrying Hindu activists was set afire in Godhra, a city in the western Indian state of Gujarat, allegedly by a Muslim mob, resulting in the death of 58 people.

The following excerpt from the Human Rights Watch report describes what followed:

“Between February 28 and March 2, thousands of attackers descended on Muslim neighbourhoods, clad in saffron scarves and khaki shorts, the signature uniform of Hindu nationalist groups, and armed with swords, sophisticated explosives, and gas cylinders. They were guided by voter lists and printouts of addresses of Muslim-owned properties-information obtained from the local municipality… The groups most directly involved in the violence against Muslims include the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council, VHP), the Bajrang Dal, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) that heads the Gujarat state government” [66]

Over 2000 people were killed, and more than 100,000 were rendered homeless—around 90% of the victims were Muslims. In addition, reports from women’s groups state that hundreds of Muslim women were gang-raped by the Hindutva mobs and then burnt. [67]

The State government, headed by the BJP—the parliamentary arm of the Sangh Parivar, was strikingly ineffective in controlling the rioters, and has also been accused of complicity in the violence by several Human Rights groups [68]. Instances of direct support of the Hindu rioters by the police and the administration have also been documented. What gives much credence to the accusation that the Gujarat State government actively participated in the riots, is a well documented story in a leading news magazine – Outlook India – where a minister of the State cabinet informed the press of a meeting on the evening of February 28th at the residence of the chief minister Narendra Modi where State administration officials were instructed not to stop the Hindu backlash that was coming. [69]

Many independent fact-finding missions have verified the central role played by the different Sangh Parivar organizations in orchestrating the violence:

“In testimony after testimony, people identified by name members of the Bajrang Dal and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad involved in inciting and committing violence. The fact-finding team spoke with women activists and victims in the camps about their views on the growing polarization between the Hindu and Muslim communities. Both sets of people linked it to the aggressive agenda of the Sangh Parivar – particularly the Bajrang Dal, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and, in some cases, the Shiv Sena. In the rural context, women directly linked a rise in tension with the establishment of local units of the Bajrang Dal and the VHP. They spoke of meetings organized by these groups, and the arms they distributed at these meetings. Many believe that the tension has really escalated in the last six months.” [70]

Everything about Gujarat points in the direction of a pogrom. There is evidence that the distribution of arms was an on going activity. The material used in the violence, apart from the swords and trishuls was some variety of a chemical solvent which could not have been procured spontaneously. Voter lists and the specific targeting of Muslim businesses and homes is another clear indication of the organized nature of the violence. Even at the time of writing this report, eight months after the pogrom began, many Muslims remain homeless and are unable to return to their homes because of the fear that they will be killed.

A.4.2 The Confidence to Kill Without Cover

If Gujarat is a stark testimony that the Sangh’s violence has reached the fascist proportions that Moonje and Golwalkar had in mind, then the complete confidence of the Sangh that it can carry out violent campaigns without any fear is also indicated by its targeted violence against individuals. The best case to illustrate this would be the continuos targeting of Christian nuns, priests and Evangelists by the Sangh activists. Human Rights Watch, New York published a report on anti-Christian violence in India in September 1999 [71] and also indicted the Sangh Parivar for their role in fomenting ethnic hatred against Christians:

Attacks against Christians throughout the country have increased significantly since the BJP began its rule at the center in March 1998. They include the killings of priests, the raping of nuns, and the physical destruction of Christian institutions, schools, churches, colleges, and cemeteries. Thousands of Christians have also been forced to convert to Hinduism.

Frontline, a mainstream newsmagazine, recorded over 50 incidents of violence, targeted against a specific individual or institution, in an organized effort to push Christian missionaries out of India [72]. These specified and directed attacks against individuals and institutions are equally important to note as organized mass violence because they are indicative of the fact that the movement has reached a point where it feels the confidence to undertake such violent campaigns without even the cover of a presumed communal riot.

A.4.3 Hindutva’s First Indian Act: The Murder of Gandhi

Probably there is no more a poignant way to underscore the issue of Hindutva’s definition as a violent movement than the murder of Mahatma Gandhi by a prominent Hindutva activist Nathuram Godse. On January 30 1948 Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was shot dead by Nathuram Godse. Inspite of the fact that the RSS disassociated itself from Godse, the then government of India banned the organization.
That the RSS’s denial of any involvement with Gandhi’s murder is false, is clear from many associated facts.

  • Godse’s successful attempt to kill Gandhi was not the first but the sixth attempt on Gandhi’s life by the Hindutva movement [73]. The thesis that Godse was an exception and a misguided young man marginally associated with Hindutva, fades in light of this history of attempts from within the movement.
  • Further, the reaction to the murder of Gandhi within the RSS, was one of open elation – where RSS swayamsevaks were on streets celebrating. Clearly the sentiment was an openly available one within the Sangh. Sardar Patel, the first Home Minister of India, confirmed this in a letter to the RSS supreme, M.S. Golwalkar in a letter dated September 11, 1948, he wrote [74],“As a final result of the poison, the country had to suffer the sacrifice of the invaluable life of Gandhiji. Even an iota of the sympathy of the Government or of the people no more remained for the RSS. In fact, opposition grew. Opposition turned more severe when the RSS men expressed joy and distributed sweets after Gandhiji’s death.” 
  • Years later, Gopal Godse, one of the co-accused in the Gandhi murder case and Nathuram Godse’s brother, confirmed that both he and his brother were actively involved with the RSS at the time of the assassination. In an interview in 1994, he stated [75]:“All the brothers were in the RSS. Nathuram, Dattatreya, myself and Govind. You can say we grew up in the RSS rather than in our home. It was like a family to us. Nathuram had become a baudhik karyavah [intellectual worker] in the RSS. He has said in his statement that he had left the RSS. He said it because Golwalkar [the RSS Supremo] and the RSS were in a lot of trouble after the murder of Gandhi. But he did not leave the RSS.”

A movement, that began its work in a newly independent India, with the murder of an apostle of peace and respect for all communities, has today surfaced in its open and naked form – as a fundamentally fascist movement.

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