Opinion: Integrate the parts, don't hegemonise

The BJP ecosystem believes that India is an ancient civilisation, whose antiquity is thousands of years old, but it is also true that it is a banyan tree which has hundreds of branches, each one with an identity of its own

AshutoshUpdated: Tuesday, July 19, 2022, 04:49 PM IST
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With due apologies to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, may I modify his statement on “revadi culture” and say that statecraft is not only about distribution of freebies but a lot more. Statecraft is not only building roads, highways, airports, hospitals and other matters of infrastructure. One can understand that the prime minister was indirectly taunting Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal who started a new process of distributing freebies like free electricity, water and other items of public consumption. His formula had worked and got him governments in two states and now other political parties including the BJP are trying to copy him to either win elections or remain in power.

Before the 2019 parliamentary elections, even the prime minister had indulged in revadi culture to lure farmers and others. Statecraft is much more than creating a “laabhaarthi” class, a word which became popular during the UP assembly elections. In the Indian context, it is about improving the state apparatus for the betterment of the larger good, strengthening the elements of democracy for a vibrant polity, cementing social forces into an organic unity while keeping diversity intact and creating a future society which carries forward civilisational ethos, constantly enriching itself with evolving modern values and scientific thinking. Unfortunately, when we look at today’s India as a whole, it is a disappointing picture.

In recent months three developments in three distant corners of the country should worry us all, as it is an indication that political tension between the centre and the state is reaching a tipping point and sooner than later it will reflect in a bigger disaster. These developments are indicative of the fact that an excessively powerful centre aided and supported by an equally centralising ideology, is putting undue pressure over the federal structure of the country. Other than the social tension between the majority and minority communities, new fault lines are rearing their heads. Now a new tension is building up within the Hindu community which can be defined as is not one integrated whole but a creative togetherness of many identities, merging into a meta-identity without losing its original sheen.

The statement of the Trinamool Congress MP, Mahua Moitra about Kali became a national headline and the subject of hyper active TV debates for many days. But her interview to a Bengali TV channel went unnoticed or was deliberately ignored in the shenanigans of modern media. As a follow-up to her Kali statement she said, “For long, we had avoided the issue of BJP imposing its own version of Hinduism, which is based on established norms of North India. The party should desist from imposing it on other parts of the country such as West Bengal where Hindus follow their well established rituals for centuries. Who is the BJP to teach us how to conduct puja of Goddess Kali in a particular way.” Her party TMC, distanced itself from Mahua’s original statement but kept quiet about the latter. Mahua has categorically said don’t impose ‘North Indian Hindutva’ on us. What she meant is simple – we are also Hindus but not of the same cloth. So BJP should not fit its brand of Hindutva on us, within the Hindu fold we are different, our rituals are different, our tradition and culture are different and so are our deities. We are Hindus but our way of worship is different and we are proud upholders of that culture.

Even during the West Bengal assembly elections, the TMC articulated its resentment about the BJP trying to impose its way of cultural thinking on Bengal. Mamata Banerjee very cleverly raised and nourished Bengali “Asmita”, put it in opposition to BJP’s brand of “nationalistic” Hindutva and emerged victorious with a thumping margin. She is not the first chief chief minister and nor is Bengal the first state which has resented BJP’s cultural hegemony and its attempt to impose its brand of cultural meta-identity over the sub-national identities.

Tamil Nadu has been at the forefront of the opposition to the concept of RSS’s “Hindu, Hindi and Hindustan”. When home minister Amit Shah talked about Hindi as a national language then Tamil Nadu was the first state to oppose. Very recently A Raja, the DMK leader, in the presence of chief minister M K Stalin said from a public platform, “Though we follow the path of Periyar, we kept aside the demand for separate Tamil Nadu for national integrity and democracy. I request Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah not to force us to revive the demand. Please give us state autonomy.”

Like Tamil Nadu, the North Indian state of Punjab is very possessive about its regional identity. Punjab was created in the name of Sikhism. It has a turbulent history of secessionist movement in 1980s and 1990s. For more than two decades Punjab bled, hundreds of people were killed, the former prime minster Indra Gandhi, chief minister of the state Beant Singh and Akali leader Harchand Singh Longowal and many more leaders were assassinated by terrorists. Separatist supporters have been lying low for the last two decades and were rejected by mainstream politics, but the victory of known separatist supporter Simranjit Singh Mann in Sangrur can’t be simply dubbed an aberration. In Sangrur the mainstream parties of Punjab were relegated to the margins. AAP lost its chief minister’s seat within three months of forming the government with a massive majority in the state. If recent events in Punjab are to be believed then the separatists have increased their activities across the state and in neighbouring states too. The attempt by the central government and the BJP to paint the farmers' movement – which was led overwhelmingly by Punjab leaders – with the “Khalistani” brush, and its magnification by mainstream TV channels, was a strategic blunder.

The BJP ecosystem believes that India is an ancient civilisation, whose antiquity is thousands of years old, but it is also true that it is a banyan tree which has hundreds of branches, each one with an identity of its own. It’s a vibrant organic living being as long as each one branch has the freedom to define its soul and breathe without any hindrance, but if attempts are made to convert them into an artificially constructed whole, then resistance, rejection and revolt is inevitable. Delhi can’t rule from the centre, it has to combine and compromise with the periphery.

(The writer is editor of SatyaHindi.Com and author of Hindu Rashtra. He tweets at @ashutosh83B)

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