Lok Sabha Elections 2004
The BJP-led Government:
A Threat to National Unity
In 1999 the BJP formed the Government with much fanfare, after an election fought and won on a common programme with its NDA partners. It was a programme tailored to garner the support of the regional parties who formed a part of the Alliance, and to enable these parties to gather votes on an agenda that did not include the BJP's core issues: the Ram Temple, Article 370, and the uniform Civil Code. Six years into BJP rule it is clear to everyone that the BJP led government has been implementing what is essentially the RSS agenda for this country.
Attacks on minorities
Given the magnitude of the Gujarat genocide we seem forget that there have been a series of pogroms and hate campaigns against the minorities throughout the tenure of the Vajpayee Govt. These have been intrinsic to the BJP’s strategy of mobilisation for a right wing fascist concept of the State, signified in the idea of the Hindu Rashtra.
The BJP rule at the Centre began with a series of attacks all over the country on Muslims and Christians. Throughout 1998 and 1999 local land issues, an inter-religious marriage, an old religious structure -- anything was transformed into a hate filled campaign. In Gujarat, the ‘Model State’ of the proposed Hindu Rashtra, Muslims were driven out of their villages by the VHP and the Bajrang Dal and placards proclaimed: “You have now entered Hindu Rashtra”. There were organised killings in many villages and living in Gujarat state became a virtual encounter with death for many families even before the genocide of 2002.
In the run up to December 6, 2000, there were door to door campaigns and people were witness to a heightened rhetoric on the Ram temple and on the rights of Hindus in this country. Minorities were forced to hear speeches of hatred and to hear humiliating sermons of how they must adopt the Indian culture. The door-to-door campaign was timed with Ramzan and Christmas, and culminated in Vajpayee announcing that the temple was a matter of national sentiment and an unfinished task that must be completed. Violence against Muslims and Christians followed in almost all the states on the pretext that people of these religions had ‘foreign affiliations’.
In 2001 the attacks on the minorities peaked in the run up to the state elections in UP. There were attacks on Christians in Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Orissa, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. A 500-year old Kalandari mosque at Asind near Bhilwara in Rajasthan was destroyed and ‘converted’ into a 'temple' by placing a statue of Hanuman. Again in Rajasthan, in Pander town, the Sunni Jama Masjid was attacked and the cupboard containing copies of the Quran Sharif deliberately set on fire. On July 19 two mazaars were damaged in Jahazpur. There was tension in many districts of Rajasthan as a result of the sangh parivar's aggressive propaganda, including in Ajmer town, where the dargah has served to retain amity.
Year 2002 saw organised killings of Muslims in Gujarat with the active connivance of the BJP state machinery and the state's Chief Minister. More than two thousand people were killed and more than 2 lakhs rendered homeless. Even today, thousands remain without means of livelihood while the guilty roam about free and fearless. The VHP and Bajrang Dal continue to threaten and intimidate the Muslims.
On a small scale such violence has continued through out the country in 2003.
In 2004 as we begin the new year, there have been attempts by the BJP Govts. to instigate violence in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. After a church was vandalised and Christian tribals attacked in Jhabua, the Uma Bharti provided wrong information to the press, and virtually sanctioned the violence there. In Ujjain, two police officers who tried to prevent violence from spreading were transferred on a complaint from the VHP.
These are not isolated incidents, and the above is by no means a complete account of such incidents. intimidation, threats and curtaillment of minority rights has been routine and no festival goes by without the Bajrang Dal goons creating an atmosphere of violence and terror for the minorities. In not a single incident have the guilty been brought to book.
Arms training being given to thousands of Bajrang Dal ‘volunteers’ all over North India and the poisonous propaganda being unleashed through them are illegal and unconstitutional acts. Creation of private armies is unconstitutional. The Bajrang Dal openly declares that it has made it its business to deal with ‘internal’ enemies; to identify them at its own initiative and to mete out its own private vendetta as ‘punishment’. Never in the history of independent India has a government and the Home Minister behaved with such open partisanship and such open political cynicism. The Home Ministrty has declared a virtual war against the minorities in the name of fighting the ISI and given full freedom to the Sangh Parivar storm troopers to decide who these ISI linked individuals or groups are.
Soon after assuming power, the BJP declared that the temple issue is very much alive. For the BJP, it is important to keep the issue of the Ram temple alive, in order keep the religious people of both communities preoccupied with the idea of Ram mandir.
Three key accused in the conspiracy leading to the demolition of the Babri Masjid -- Vinay Katiyar, Kalyan Singh and Uma Bharati have been rewareded with plum posts. Clearly, if the BJP is voted back to power we shall have Modis heading the BJP in each state. VHP leaders keep on denying that they would abide by the court’s verdict.
Attacks on Democratic and Secular Cultural Expression
The attacks on secular intellectuals and secular-democratic cultural expression have paralleled the attacks on minorities. Film personalities like Deepa Mehta, artists like MF Hussain, theatre persons like Habib Tanvir, and historians like Irfan Habib, Romila Thapar, KN Panikkar and DN Jha have been continuously the targets of vilification campaigns. Performances have been routinely disrupted; cultural organisations have been taken over by placing RSS linked persons incharge of them.
The BJP-led government has played havoc with the educational system. It has converted almost every educational and academic body at the national level into an instrument for implementing the communal agenda of the Sangh Parivar. A sustained attack has been mounted on reason and rationality as the basis of knowledge in educational institutions. This is evident from the academic schedules, the subject matter of seminars and syposiums, the research projects initiated, and the output in terms of publications and reports. Courses on astrology and karmakand have been introduced at the university level.
At the school level, science textbooks for government schools have been rewritten in the states ruled by the BJP to suit their long-term design of undermining the secular state and the pluralistic traditions of the country. More than 20,000 Vidya Bharti schools and shishu mandirs -- where inculcation of hatred against the minorities is a declared policy, and textbooks poison young minds with regard to religion and caste differences -- today receive not merely approval but state patronage. The texts intoduced by the schools in BJP ruled states devalue women's role in society, and only represent them as homemakers and upholders of "family values"
The BJP led government has encouraged attacks on women’s movements for emancipation. Storm troopers of the Saffron Brigade are forcing women in Gujarat and Jharkhand to use the mangal sutra and the sindoor as symbols of marriage. Backward values like untouchability, suppression of property rights and access to family income, sati pratha, gunghat, are being forced on women.
During the Gujarat genocide in 2002, hundreds of women were raped and burnt alive, with the connivance of the women’s fronts of the Sangh Parivar. Recently, under the leadership of the woman BJP Chief Minister of Rajasthan, those accused of the burning of Roop Kanwar in the famous sati case have been let off.
Announcing its Real Agenda
In the run up to the elections, the BJP has virtually announced its real agenda. It is putting its signature on one document as part of the NDA’s common programme, and at the same time is issuing another document which it calls its “vision” document. Notwithstanding the NDA's common programme, through the vision document the BJP reserves for itself the right to subvert its own election manifesto! It has one document to give to the people of India, and another to the RSS, which incorporates the uniform civil code, the Ram mandir in Ayodhya, the abrogation of Article 370 that protects the rights of the Kashmiris, and so on.
Threat to National Unity
India is a multi-lingual, multi-religious nation with a pluralistic cultural fabric -- a nation that thrives as much on diversity as it does on unity. The people of this country are distinct from one another at one level, but also united at another level. They are united on the basis of an acceptance of diversity and on the basis of a constitutional guarantee of their diverse languages, cultures and religions. It will break up if the BJP is allowed to have its way.
It must be understood that a BJP government in power with a clear majority can virtually result in the transformation of the secular republic of India into a Hindu Rashtra. What does a victory for the BJP in the coming elections portend for the future? It can result in large sections of minorities and members of the lower castes becoming second class citizens with no citizenship rights. It can mean a country where artists and intellectuals are constantly under siege, where the rights of the working people are eliminated, where women’s equality is no longer a right.
The BJP talks in the name of the nation and in the language of nationalism but virtually excludes the majority of Indians from its concept of the nation. It talks of majorities while its policies benefit a miniscule minority. It today holds to ransom the entire nation. If we do not want such forces to make further headway in India, the time has come to issue them a challenge. They must be defeated in these elections by the people of India.