New on my other blogs

"Gandhi is dead, Who is now Mahatmaji?"
Solar scam reveals decadent polity and sociery
A Dalit poet writing in English, based in Kerala
Foreword to Media Tides on Kerala Coast
Teacher seeks V.S. Achuthanandan's intervention to end harassment by partymen


20 November, 2018

Countering divisive politics

BRP Bhaskar
Gulf Today

Delhi Chief Minister, Arwind Kejriwal, took the Hindutva establishment head on last weekend when he arranged a concert by well-known exponent of Carnatic music TM Krishna at the national capital after a Central government outfit,  yielding to social media pressure, cancelled an event in which he was to participate.

Krishna has raised his voice against caste prejudices in the world of art and culture and endeavoured to broaden the base of classical music by introducing non-Hindu themes.  He received the prestigious Magsayay Award in 2016 for his “forceful commitment as artist and advocate of art’s power to heal India’s deep social divisions”.

The Hindutva school was enraged by Krishna’s criticism of its intolerant ways.  When the Airports Authority of India announced a programme, which included a concert by him, trolls dubbed him an anti-national and mounted a campaign against him. The AAI then dropped the programme.

Kejriwal, whose Aam Admi Party seized power in the National Capital Territory of Delhi after pulverising both the BJP and the Congress party in the 2016 elections, immediately offered him an alternative venue.

Krishna made the event a celebration of India’s diversity. From his vast repertoire, he chose for the occasion a Malayalam song on Jesus, a Tamil song on Allah, some Kannada verses of reformer Basava and Hindi bhajans, besides popular classical items.

It was a more powerful statement against hate politics than what one hears at party rallies.

Even as Kejriwal set the stage for a cultural drive against hate politics, the BJP was building up a campaign, in the southern State of Kerala, against a recent Supreme Court ruling that the ancient Sabarimala temple’s practice of barring women of menstruating age violates the Constitutional principle of gender equality.

Both the BJP and its ideological parent, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, had welcomed the court ruling but quickly changed their stance, sensing an opportunity to strengthen their foothold in Kerala.  

The BJP has not been able to win a single parliamentary seat from Kerala so far. It hopes to make a breakthrough by alleging interference in Hindu religious practices.

The State’s government, led by the Communist Party of India (Marxist), has said it has a Constitutional obligation to enforce the court verdict. However, as of now, it remains unimplemented as the police is either unable or unwilling to provide safe passage to women devotees along the hill path lined by Hindutva protesters. 

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has been striving to counter the Hindutva challenge with calls to recapture the mood of the Kerala renaissance which had helped create a secular atmosphere and enabled the State to achieve social progress, which, the United Nations noted five decades back, was comparable to that of the industrialised West.

Both Kejrival and Vijayan are seeking, in disparate ways, to counter the Hindutva agenda of polarising the country to make electoral gains. 

Since the BJP came to power at the Centre four and a half years ago, there has been a two-pronged drive to promote the Hindutva ideology.

At the highest level, there has been a campaign, led by Narendra Modi himself, to denigrate the first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, who had held Hindutva forces at bay during the Partition riots and laid the foundations of a secular state. Modi views the Nehru legacy as a stumbling block in the way of realising the BJP’s goal of a Hindu nation in which non-Hindus will be relegated to second position.

In several States, Hindutva vigilante groups have indulged in violence against Muslims and Dalits in the name of cow protection. Police were slow to respond, and when they did they generally sought to pin the blame on the victims and save the culprits.

The demand for a Ram temple at Ayodhya, which has been on the BJP’s election manifesto since 1989, and the destruction of the Babri Masjid by RSS volunteers in 2002 to clear the ground for its construction were milestones in Hindutva’s march to power. Modi’s slogan of development did not lead to a change in the political agenda.

Tendayi Achiume, UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, has in a recent report noted that BJP leaders have been making inflammatory remarks against minorities and contributing to vigilantism targeted against Muslims and Dalits.  

With parliamentary elections only six months away and the economic outlook not as rosy as the government makes out, the BJP is becoming increasingly reliant on divisive politics. --Gulf Today, November 20, 2018.

No comments: