Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Exposing the Saffron Scheme: A Popular outline-V

In lieu of conclusion

Comrade Vinod Mishra

In the month of March, a comrade handed me a questionnaire issued by the ABVP during the Benares Hindu University Students’ Union elections, with the request to write a ‘befitting’ reply. The questions were a mere rehash of oft-repeated allegations against communists, their foreign roots, their role in the Quit India movement, during partition and even during Emergency and so on and so forth. ABVP wondered what relevance Marxism had in India after the Soviet collapse. Wonder of wonders! ABVP was soon to get a befitting reply in Benares Hindu University itself!

The battle in BHU campus had clearly assumed ideological proportions and ABVP had to suffer a stunning defeat at the hands of AISA. The victory was an exclusive AISA victory as the student wings of CPI and CPI(M), Janata Dal, Mulayam, and even ex-Naxalites, were all working to ensure AISA’s defeat. The BHU victory came in succession to AISA victories in Nainital and Allahabad and attracted a lot of media attention.

Ideologues of the Sangh Parivar, who till the other day relished the ‘death’ of Marxism and boasted their expanding influence in West Bengal and Kerala as the corroboration of this fact were hard put to explain the resurgence of Marxism in the intellectual centres of Uttar Pradesh. Time was ripe for going over to a counter-offensive and thus the idea of this popular series was born.

Unfortunately, most of the writings against the Sangh Parivar’s communal philosophy were enmeshed in a liberal Hindu framework: extolling the virtues of Ram, invoking the themes of Hindu tolerance and Sarva Dharma Sambhav, and correspondingly, the liberal Hindu image of Gandhi and Vivekanand; and appealing to the conscience of communalists formed the mainstream of secular defence. Left leaders too joined in under the pretext of a new-found realisation of the role of religion. Even Nehru — so dear to CPI and CPI(M)-wallahs — became taboo and was silently replaced by Gandhi in secular left literature. Pseudo-secularism indeed!

True, the fascist connotation of Hindu Rashtra was as correctly identified as the need to build a broader unity of secular forces. But in the absence of a renewed thrust on the consolidation of a left core, this opened the floodgates of ideological and political opportunism as well. It goes without saying, that bereft of the cutting edge a counter-offensive, the whole secular propaganda may fall flat in face of a heightened communal onslaught. Who will then take up this challenge? The responsibility invariably falls on the Marxist-Leninists.

In course of our popular propaganda against communalism we questioned:

(A) The Gandhian methodology of invoking Hindu symbols, particularly Ram Rajya in the freedom struggle and held that it was the prime cause for Muslim alienation.

(B) Radhakrishnan’s definition of secularism as sarva dharma sambhava — which also became the official credo — and held that a modem state’s policy towards religion can only be sarva dharma varjite.

(C) The rationality of projecting Ram, a religious figure, as a national hero, and held that this status can only be attributed to the people’s hero Bhagat Singh.

(D) The validity of Hindu Rashtra as the unifying force for the country, and held that, if history is any guide, a Hindu Rashtra will surely disintegrate into multitudes of kingdoms. Symptoms of Maratha Rashtra of Shiv Sena developing side by side is an indicator of this.

(E) The role of the RSS in the entire course of the freedom struggle, including in 1942, in precipitating and supporting partition with the demand that entire Muslim population should be deported to Pakistan, in hobnobbing with Indira Congress during the days of Emergency, and held that RSS openly derived inspiration from Nazism, a foreign ideology.

(F) The RSS style of diffusing the target against the colonial masters during the freedom struggle by raising the Muslim bogey, and held that history was being repeated once again exactly when India was facing the serious threat of neo-colonisation.

(G) The anti-Pakistan axis of Indian foreign policy and held that a friendly approach towards Pakistan and a positive resolution of the bilateral dispute of Jammu and Kashmir are crucial to the improvement of the communal situation in India. We even proposed a commonwealth of independent states of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

In our build up of a counter-offensive we had pointed out that the most conservative bourgeois and landlord class and upper caste social composition of BJP, the increasing intervention of sadhus and mahants in civic and political life, the militant organisation of dregs of society in the garb of kar sevaks and hordes of upstart intellectuals bent upon falsifying history, organising hate mail and forcibly shutting down all dissident voices in academic circles combine to form a perfect mix for fascism.


The Babri Masjid has been demolished. Democrats of all hues have rightly demanded that for the sake of historic justice the Babri Masjid should be rebuilt there itself. The doubt, however, lingers on whether this will be possible or practical at this stage.

A makeshift Ram temple is already there and the way the Rao government is proceeding – in the typical Congress style of ‘delinking religion from politics’— and acting from behind only through Chandraswami and Shankaracharyas, the case of a Ram temple is getting strengthened. Who will take the credit — Congress or BJP — remains the only issue to be settled.

Ideologues of the Sangh Parivar had been repeatedly saying that Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi dispute is not merely a religious one. As Babri Masjid, according to them, was the symbol of national humiliation, of Muslim invasion and rule over Hindu India, it is instead a question of national dignity.

Come on, for the sake of nationalism and patriotism why not build a national monument at the site? Neither the Babri Masjid, nor a Ram Mandir, a national monument in memory of the heroes of the first war of independence of 1857. After all, Awadh was the epicentre of this rebellion and building a national monument at Ayodhya can be a befitting honour to that history.

If Hinduism is just not a religion but a culture embracing all those who live in India, if Hinduism is equivalent to Indianness and if the Babri Masjid was demolished because it was a symbol of national humiliation, the Sangh Parivar should have no objection to raising a monument of national honour. Let the super nationalists and super patriots of Sangh Parivar accept this proposal and see how Muslims — the ‘anti-nationals’ — react to it. Messers Malkani and Govindacharya, are you listening to me?

Well, whether they listen or not, it is high time the secular and patriotic forces mooted this proposal, so as to prevent the building of a Ram Mandir there. A Ram Mandir will be a perpetual source of humiliation and alienation to Indian Muslims, and in this sense, a symbol of national disintegration. A national monument seems to be the only principled and practical demand at this stage and the nation must act, if necessary over the heads of all hues of die-hards, to avert a national catastrophe.

The End...

Exposing the Saffron Scheme: A Popular outline-lV

The myth of ‘secular’ Hinduism

Comrade Vinod Mishra

Another oft-repeated argument of the Sangh Parivar is that India is secular because Hindus constitute the overwhelming majority of the Indian population. Incidentally, this idea of equating the supposedly inherent tolerance of Hinduism with secularism also informs the official ‘secular’ opinion in India and hence the Hindu ethos is constantly invoked in all preachings of secularism in India.

Now, the present rise of Hindutva is marked by an alarming escalation of religious fanaticism in the Hindu masses, the growing clout of sadhus and mahants in the nation’s political life, a dangerous consolidation of all the dregs and scum of society in outfits like Bajrang Dal and Shiv Sena, a heightened spate of anti-Muslim pogroms, the open exhibition of communal bias by various wings of the state and increasing intolerance of every kind of dissenting idea in the academic world. This convincingly shows that a pure Hindu state can only mean the negation of democracy and secularism.

Secondly, several developed countries, where Christianity and Buddhism are dominant religions, are far more secular than India. Christianity in particular was quite an orthodox and intolerant religion — if one remembers the Inquisition — and in many European countries the church was a very powerful institution. In course of time, however, various trends emerged within Christianity and successful bourgeois revolutions led to the separation of the church from the state. In fact, the very concept of secularism, based on separation of religion and the state, arose from the successful bourgeois revolutions of the West.

Proponents of the supposedly inherent secular character of Hinduism, however, contrast it only with the supposedly inherent intolerance of Islam. This perception of Islam is shared by a vast majority of Hindu masses and therefore it is necessary to delve deep into the evolution of Islam.

In the sixth century, various tribes inhabiting Arabia were engaged in internecine clashes. The decline of the caravan trade and the consequent need for land was the major factor behind this. Islam as the movement for unification among warring tribes arose out of this socio-economic condition. Muhammad’s preaching advocating the merger of tribal cults and submission to the single supreme god — Allah — began in this historical situation. Chiefs of his own Koerish tribe as well as the merchant nobility were initially hostile to his ideas and he had to flee Mecca. People in the agricultural oasis of Medina, who were in conflict with the Mecca aristocracy provided a strong support base to Muhammad and with their help he eventually seized Mecca. With the emergence of Mecca as an important religious and national centre the Koerish nobility too not only accepted Islam, but even became its leaders.

Engels wrote that Islam was a religion intended, on the one hand, for city-dwellers engaged in commerce and craft and, on the other hand, for nomadic Bedouins.

Islam which had emerged as a national religion for Arabs soon turned into a world religion. By eighth and ninth century, Islam became the exclusive religion in the vast territory from Spain to Central Asia stretching to the borders of India. In the latter centuries, it spread on a larger scale to Northern India. Still later, it expanded to Indonesia, Caucasia and among certain peoples in the Balkan states.

Conquests recorded as holy wars for faith (Jihad) and arising out of the Arab need to unify and seize new lands did play a major role in the spread of Islam. But if people in many states like Byzantine and Sissamid empires did not offer any resistance, the reason being the terrible oppression suffered by them at the hands of local feudal lords. In the countries conquered by the Arabs, the obligations of the peasant populations — particularly those adopting Islam — was lessened considerably. In India the spread of Islam was facilitated by inhuman Brahminical caste oppression. The spread of Islam also has much to do with its simplicity, which made it attractive for the peasant masses in the patriarchal feudal states of the East.

Subsequently, the Muslim theologians and secular scholars have reinterpreted the commandments of Jihad. There have been attempts to reinterpret Hinduism as the religion with a holy book and Ram and Krishna as prophets of their times. Readers may recall in this context a recent debate in Muslim theological circles in Bihar where a certain Muslim scholar gave a call to withdraw the label of Kafirs on Hindus.

Islam has codified civil and criminal laws based on religious laws known as Shariat. Patriarchal tribal attitudes did influence the family ethics in Islam where women are subordinate to men. This is perhaps common to all religions. However, in the concrete social conditions prevailing in Arabia then, the Koran by condemning the cruel conduct of a husband towards his wife — and by specifying the woman’s property rights — the right to dowry and inheritance — did elevate the status of women somewhat.

Though Islam united people on a large scale under the banner of religion, the national and class contradictions went on intensifying in Muslim countries. This was reflected through the emergence of various trends and sects in Islam.

One of the earliest and largest among such trends has been Shiaism. It began as an internal struggle among the Arabs, as a struggle for power between Muhammad’s successors, but soon it developed into an expression of discontent of the Persians against their Arab conquerors. Shiaism till date remains the state religion of Iran. Most of the Muslims of the world, however, follow Sunnism. In the eighth and ninth centuries, Mutzilites — a sect among Sunnis — tried to interpret the Muslim doctrine in a rational spirit, maintaining that the Koran was a book written by the people and not created by god, and that man has free will. As against schools of thought based on literal interpretation of religions dogmas, certain schools of thought arose within Islam, which allowed for a more liberal interpretation of the doctrine and enjoyed support in more developed regions of the Muslim world.

Sufism grew within Shiaism but was also adopted among Sunnis. Adherents of Sufism did not pay much attention to superficial rituals and sought a mystical union with the divine. In the strict sense, they deviated from the Koran in their pantheistc perception of god. Initially they were persecuted by orthodox Muslims but later on a compromise was brought about.

In keeping with the era of democratic revolutions and anti-imperialist movements, radical changes occurred in Muslim traditions during the 19th and 20th centuries. In a number of Muslim countries the sphere of influence of the Shariat has been limited, legal norms have been secularised and the state separated from the hold of the Muslim clergy. In Turkey, in 1920s, democratic revolution occurred under the leadership of Kemal Pasha and after the establishment of republic radical reforms were introduced.

India provides a classical case of Islam’s coexistence with Hinduism, a religion with idol worship and many gods, for centuries. At the level of religious beliefs, there could hardly be any meeting point between the two, but at the grassroots, people from both religions share a common life, common aspirations, and many common beliefs. As the country was divided on Hindu-Muslim lines, obviously Muslims who remained in India would have a sympathetic attitudes towards Pakistan quite similar to the attitude of a Pakistani or Bangladeshi Hindu towards India. However, after Partition, the politics of Indian Muslims has generally veered around the Congress. To preserve its vote bank, the Congress went into political and social deals with Muslim fundamentalist forces often to offset the concessions it made to Hindu fundamentalism. This game had its obvious limits, and recent events have caused disillusionment of the Muslim community in relation to the Congress. Parties like Janata Dal have now jumped in to cash in on the Congress’ predicament, aligning, however, with the same fundamentalist forces.

The BJP’s advocacy of a Hindu state and its religious fanaticism is only, albeit negatively, strengthening fundamentalist forces among Muslims. Opposing bigamy or polygamy as part of progressive social reforms is one thing, but linking it with the growth of Muslim population is highly absurd. Having more children is an attribute of the feudal society and has nothing to do with religion. Polygamy is practised by a miniscule section of Muslims in India, and moreover, a little common sense can explain that given the ratio of male and female population, neither can this be the general phenomenon in a society, nor can it in any way account for population growth. The BJP’s concern for a uniform civil code and the rights of Muslim women is a big fraud and is only part of an overall attack on Muslim identity. Its jumping into the fray in the Shah Bano case only led to an orthodox Muslim backlash and caused a setback to a progressive social reform which otherwise had good support among Muslims too.

By advocating second-grade citizenship for Muslims in Hindu India, the BJP is only strengthening pro-Pakistan feelings among Muslims. Similarly, the demand for merging the Muslim identity with the Hindu ‘cultural’ identity is a direct negation of a composite Indian identity, notwithstanding the BJP’s trickery of equating Hindu identity with Indian identity. The Sangh Parivar’s ideological offensive shall only perpetuate and strengthen the myth of Pakistan among Indian Muslims.

Pakistan and the Pakistani myth among Indian Muslims was created because of the pronounced Hindu bias of India’s freedom struggle. And it continues to exist and draw fresh sustenance from the Sangh Parivar’s Hindutva hysteria. True to their treacherous role in freedom struggle, they are repeating the same for the sake of splitting and weakening the Indian people’s resistance to the neo-colonial danger. The Sangh Parivar is once again at His Master’s Service, exactly when it is needed most.

However, the BJP is not going to have the last word on the future of Indian Muslims. New generations of Muslim youth no longer have any deep emotional attachment with Pakistan and are eager to carve out their space in India as Indian Muslims. They are quite receptive to the ideas of a secular state and recent events have brought them closer to the Left. Progressive and democratic intelligentsia among Muslims are raising their voice for democratic reforms within the Muslim society, stressing modern education and, particularly, elevation of the status of women. All secular forces must strengthen this developing current among Indian Muslims, which will lead to their becoming equal partners in deciding the destiny of India. Only a genuinely secular Indian state will destroy the very rationale of Pakistan, and if Pakistan still exists, be sure that the Indian Muslim youth will celebrate India’s victory over Pakistan in a cricket match with the same fervour as his Hindu brother.


Exposing the Saffron Scheme: A Popular outline-lll

The myth of Hindu pride

Comrade Vinod Mishra

One of the popular slogans of the Sangh Parivar is Garv se kaho hum Hindu hain (Proudly say we are Hindus), exhorting Hindus to proudly proclaim their Hindu identity. According to the Sangh ideologues, the loss of Hindu pride was mainly responsible for the Hindus’ meek submission to successive foreign invaders. Therefore in order to retrieve Hindu pride it is all the more necessary to demolish the monuments of Hindu humiliation. The Hindu crusade, at the fag end of the 20th century, has thus begun with the demolition of the Babri Masjid and obviously the list runs longer to include masjids at Kashi and Mathura to the Jama Masjid and even the Taj Mahal.

Let us recount the history of evolution of Hinduism to unearth the essence of this so-called Hindu pride. Ironically, the first known invaders of India were none other than the Aryans themselves, who came from the Iranian highlands around the middle of the second millennium B.C. To buttress its claim of Hindu India, the Sangh Parivar is engaged in a grand design of falsifying history and disproving all known historical tendencies in dishing out new theories of Aryans being the original inhabitants of this country. This is utterly false. The original inhabitants of India were people of the Mohenjodaro and Harappan civilisation in the Indus valley — a civilisation higher than that of the Aryans. India’s pre-Aryan population was most probably Dravidian. The Aryan tribes were semi-nomadic pastoral tribes with a developed patriarchal clan system and military democracy. In other words, they were at a transitional stage from a pre-class to class society. From the Indus basin and Northwest, they gradually spread out to the Gangetic basin and Northeast. This advance, however, involved innumerable battles with the local population. This whole transitional phase is reflected in the Rig Veda and other Vedas.

The religion of the Aryans at this stage is termed as Vedic religion. In the early stages, Devas and Asuras were both Vedic gods, albeit belonging to two hostile camps. Later on, Asuras became evil spirits, the opposite of what happened to other Iranians. The local hostile tribes of Dravidians were personified as Rakshasas.

Vedic Aryans practised polytheism where gods representing forces of nature, particularly Indra, occupied the central position. There were no temples, no professional priesthood, and no concept of retribution after death. The idea of the soul’s separation from the body too had not developed by then. A varna system had come into being reflecting the emerging pattern of social division of labour. In short, Vedic religion was reflective of the transitional stage of Aryan society and it was more concerned with life on earth than after-life.

As Aryan tribes evolved into settled agricultural communities, a number of despotic, early slave-owning kingdoms emerged in the beginning of the first millennium B.C. At this stage, Vedic religion gave way to what is known as Brahmanism.

The Varna structure acquired a social rigidity and there emerged a separate social group of Brahmans — specialists in the Vedas — with a good deal of authority. The laws of Manu, in 5th century B.C., gave divine sanction to the varna and caste system and the Brahman caste was virtually deified. Vedic gods were relegated to secondary positions and new deities came to the forefront, Brahma being the foremost among them. As the local population gradually merged with the Aryan conquerors, their deities too entered the Brahmanic pantheon. With the development of a rigid caste system, gods too became caste gods. With the arrival of Upanishads, the idea of immigration of soul became dominant and the idea of karma became the theoretical foundation of reincarnation.

The Brahmanical period is also described as the Upanishadic period where six classical schools of thought developed. Vedanta, advocating the merger of Atma with Bramha, a profoundly mystical philosophy, was the mainstay of Brahmans. The kshatriyas, who had been competing with the Brahmans, sided with Sankhya, a philosophy closer to materialism.

Beyond the sphere of classical philosophy, there emerged materialistic philosophies of Charvaka and Lokayata which rejected even the existence of god. They were reflective of the common people’s rejection of Brahmanic domination.

Brahmanism was collapsing under its own weight and the broad masses of people in the form of unconscious protest against oppressive caste system started rallying behind the rival religious trends of Buddhism and to an extent Jainism by 6th and 5th century B.C.

Both these trends rejected the caste system as well as the organised priesthood. Buddhism, in the main, replaced Brahmanism and between 3rd century B.C. and 1st and 2nd century A.D. it even became the state religion under Maurya and Kushan dynasties. With its complex rituals, alienated from the masses, the Brahminic aristocracy was no match for the Buddhists’ populism.

In the course of its struggle with Buddhism, Brahmanism drastically reshaped itself under the leadership of Adi Shankaracharya. Thus began the phase of what is known as Hinduism. The Buddhists were the first to introduce the concept of temples. To overwhelm the masses, grand Hindu temples were built with huge idols of gods. Pilgrimage sites were introduced, and to ensure mass mobilisation, public ceremonies and religious processions were initiated. To bring gods closer to the masses, there came into being the concept of Avatars. Mythical heroes like Ram and Krishna were elevated to the status of avatars of god and thus were treated as saviours. Buddha too was incorporated as one of Vishnu’s avatars. Strange enough, while Buddhism spread far and wide and became a world religion, in the country of its origin it was virtually wiped out.

Hinduism essentially came to mean the preservation of the old caste system supplemented by new methods of influencing and controlling the masses. With the growth of social stratification, caste, ethnic and racial diversification and complexities of class relations, Hindus went on splintering into various sects, marked by unending mutual schisms.

While futile attempts for sarva panth sambhav — later translated as sarva dharma sambhav and proclaimed as the basis of Indian secularism — were made by some, in later periods there emerged religious reform movements, first under the impact of Islam, and then Christianity. Kabir, Nanak, Chaitanya and a host of other reformers — making up what is known as the Bhakti Andolan in the Middle Ages — attacked the caste system and the complicated rituals of Hinduism. Kabir stands out as the most outstanding among all these reformers, who, on behalf of the common masses launched scathing attacks against the superstition and hypocrisy of the Brahmans.

In the British period, Raja Rammohan Roy, Dayanand Saraswati and Vivekanand were the major advocates of reform. They all championed the pantheistic philosophy of the Vedanta school and tried to get rid of the rigid caste system. However, each one of these trends ended up only adding another sect to Hinduism and nothing more. Hinduism, with its rigid caste system, supposedly with divine sanction, closed its doors forever and remained essentially a national religion. Buddhism, Christianity and then Islam grew into world religions. Vishwa Hindu Parishad therefore is a misnomer, a pretence, to project Hinduism as a world religion.

More than upholding a false Hindu pride, all progressive reform movements in Hinduism have tried to give Hinduism a liberal, modern outlook with particular emphasis on doing away with the rigidity of its caste structure. Hindu orthodoxy has all along resisted it more or less successfully on the strength of traditions and traditional institutions. Now for the first time, there has emerged a counter-movement under the auspices of the Sangh Parivar, which aims at annulling whatever effect the reforms have had. Those who are expecting a social reform in Hinduism out of the current upsurge of Hindutva are living in a fool’s paradise. This movement has so far offered us only wilful distortion of history, consolidation of the social and political clout of the sadhus and mahants, renewed aggressiveness of upper caste Hindus and of course a lumpen army of Bajrang Dal and Shiv Sainiks. This is what is being hailed by the ideologues of the Sangh Parivar as the upsurge of Hindutva, the rise of a Kshatriya cult in Hinduism on the lines of Khalsa, and, of course, as the assertion of Hindu pride.

Religion, as has been rightly said, is the expression of man’s powerlessness vis-a-vis his environment. Religious fantasies do provide illusions of breaking through the limits imposed by the environment and people, therefore, have always flocked to religion, particularly in times of distress. But illusions are only illusions, they can never replace reality. Invoking the Hindu pride and the super-human role of a monkey god, it is possible to demolish a dilapidated structure, kill and maim thousands of unarmed innocent people but not to resist the invasion of neo-colonial powers which is going on unabated, ironically with the complicity of the forces of Hindu pride.


Exposing the Saffron Scheme: A Popular outline-ll

BJP’s gameplan behind turning Ram, the mythical hero, into a national hero

Comrade Vinod Mishra

The popular epics, Valmiki’s Ramayana and Tulsidas’ Ram Charit Manas symbolise the victory of good over evil in a typical fashion, elevating Ram, the popular mythical figure, to the rank of an incarnation of God. Thus Ram belongs to the spiritual and religious domain for Hindu masses. Integrity of his character, Maryada Purushottam, and the standards of his rule, the Ram Rajya, are often invoked in popular parlance to emphasize moral virtues and social justice. None has ever thought of turning Ram into a national hero till the advent of modern Hinduism.

Savarkar, the founding father of the ideology of Hindutva, in his desperate search for a symbol of Hindu India, wrote, "Some of us worship Ram as an incarnation, some admire him as a hero and a warrior, all love him as the most illustrious representative monarch of our race." Since then, advocates of Hindutva have been harping on the theme of this ‘most illustrious representative monarch of our race’. Vijaya Dashami was chosen as the day for launching of RSS in 1927. The saffron flag, supposed to be the flag of Ram, was chosen as the flag of RSS.

Finally, Babri Masjid, supposedly built after demolishing a Ram temple, provided the Sangh Parivar with the perfect mix where Ram was pitted against Babar. The transformation of Ram from a cultural, religious-mythical figure to a national hero with arrows targeted against Muslim ‘invaders’ was thus complete.

If, Ravana of Ram Katha imprisoned Sita, the Ravanas of Sangh Parivar have imprisoned Ram himself for their political manipulation. Ram has to be freed from their clutches to restore him to the spiritual-religious domain of his worshippers.

The RSS repeatedly exhorts Muslims to look upon Ram as their hero and assures them that all problems would then be over. But this demand is not only highly arrogant and ridiculous in that it asks Muslims to renounce their faith and revert to idol worship — because in no other way can Muslims look upon Ram as their hero — it is also a retrogressive demand, particularly when several Hindu trends have advanced towards monotheism, looking at God in abstraction.

While, in contrast to other mythical figures, the epic of a dispossessed Ram sharing his life with otherwise inferior castes and defeating Ravana, the Brahmin king, with their help evokes a popular identification with him among the common masses, his appeal is still not uniform even among Hindus of different sects and regions. Some segments of Hindus, particularly from among dalits, are even critical of some of his actions which they feel smack of an upper caste syndrome.

Hindus and Muslims quite rightly look upon the heroes of first independence war in 1857 as well as the martyrs of anti-British struggles as their national heroes. The demand should be made upon the Sangh Parivar to exhibit the same spirit because despite Golwalkar Indian nationalism had its origins only in anti-British struggles.


Exposing the Saffron Scheme: A Popular outline

Sangh Parivar - Traitors to the cause of freedom

Comrade Vinod Mishra

The role of the Communist Party in 1942 is a much maligned one and a few years back Mr.Arun Shourie searched through the archives to expose the socalled treachery of the CPI in that period, albeit with a few insertions of his own here and there. Admittedly, the Communist Party did make a tactical blunder in that period and almost all the communist formations of India accept that. Except this brief episode, communists remained an important segment of the freedom movement. Militant fighters for the cause of freedom were either inspired by the successful October Revolution in Soviet Union and the communist ideology or by leaders like Bhagat Singh and they graduated to communism in large numbers.

Savarkar, the first proponent of modern Hindutva, did play a heroic role in the early days of anti-British struggle. But since mid-20s, after becoming the leader of Hindu Mahasabha, he followed a clear line of compromise with the British, so much so that during the 1942 movement he asked the Mahasabha members in local bodies, legislatures and services to "stick to their posts and continue to perform their regular duties". The virulent anti-Muslim propaganda and the call to "Hinduize politics and militarize Hinduism" resorted to by Savarkar and his Mahasabha effectively meant full wartime collaboration with the British. (V.D. Savarkar, Historic Statements, 1957) Hedgewar, the founder of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, worked within the Congress fold but his espousal of Hindutva only led to his and his organisation’s growing drift from the mainstream freedom movement.

The non-cooperation movement of the early 1920s — which represented the highest point of anti-British unity in the entire history of freedom movement and which was betrayed by Gandhi and the Congress leadership, who called it off in l922 — only drew a derogatory remark from Hedgewar: "As a result of the non-cooperation movement of Mahatma Gandhi, the enthusiasm (for nationalism) in the country was cooling down and the evils in social life which that movement generated menacingly raised their head…The Yavan snakes reared on the milk of non-cooperation were provoking riots in the nation with their poisonous hissing". (Bhishikar, 1979, p.7)

In 1927, when the freedom movement showed fresh signs of revival and a powerful agitation developed against the arrival of the Simon Commission, the RSS kept itself strictly aloof and was rather busy organising its first training camp in Nagpur. September 1927 witnessed a communal riot in Nagpur and RSS was found deeply involved in the same.

In the Civil Disobedience Movement of 1930, in the background of Congress adopting Purna Swaraj as the national goal in the Lahore Congress, once again the RSS was nowhere to be found. Hedgewar asked RSS shakhas to celebrate independence day -- 26 January 1930 as decided by the Congress -- through worship of the bhagwa jhanda (saffron flag). But in sharp contrast to the pattern prevailing generally all over the country, lathi-wielding RSS cadres were nowhere engaged in confrontation with the colonial police while observing the day.

Golwalkar took over as Sarsanghchalak after Hedgewar in 1940 and further perfected the anti-Muslim, pro-British thrust of Hinduism. Says Golwalkar, "The theories of territorial nationalism and of common danger, which formed the basis for our concept of nation, had deprived us of the positive and inspiring content of our real Hindu nationhood and made many of the freedom movements virtually anti-British movements. Being anti-British was equated with patriotism and nationalism. This reactionary view has had disastrous effects upon the entire course of the independence struggle, its leaders and the common people". (Golwalkar, 1966, pp. 142-43)

This, perhaps, is the most revealing exposition of the RSS’ definition of patriotism and nationalism. Strange as it may appear, this ideologue of Hinduism decries anti-British nationalism right amidst the rising tide of freedom movement to overthrow the colonial yoke. All the ‘nationalist, patriotic’ outcries and fervor of RSS were essentially directed against past memories of Muslim domination. For it, history had ceased to exist after Shivaji’s forays against the last great Moghul emperor, Aurangzeb. The British interlude only helped demolish the last remnants of Mughal rule and hence was an ally. Shivaji’s battle was to be continued till it culminated in Hindu Rashtra. The RSS emerged from Maharashtra with unmistakable Maratha overtones and it willingly played into the hands of British colonialists who always tried to sabotage the freedom movement by encouraging the Hindu-Muslim divide.

No wonder then that the RSS was nowhere to be found in the Civil Disobedience Movement of 1940-41, the Quit India Movement of 1942, the Azad Hind Fauz, the 1945-46 upsurges centering around the INA trials and the Bombay naval mutiny.

Today, the same history continues in changed circumstances. Once again when the country is facing a serious threat of neo-colonialism from the same old imperialist powers, the Sangh Parivar is ready at the masters’ service. Their nationalism and patriotism has nothing to do with opposing American supremacy and the IMF-WB’s and MNCs’ domination over India. All their fervour is directed against the symbols of Muslim rule which have receded well past into history. This not only serves to sabotage India’s struggle for a second freedom from economic subjugation and chronic threats to political independence as well as from the authoritarian establishment for a people’s democratic society, but also serves their imperialist masters, with their newly perceived Islamic threat after the collapse of the communist challenge.

Philosophy of Hindu Rashtra is borrowed from Nazism

RSS-BJP propagandists day in and day out accuse communists of borrowing a foreign ideology from a German named Marx while they themselves claim to be purely indigenous. However, it was none but a German (albeit of Austrian origin) again who deeply influenced Golwalkar in fashioning his ideology and organisation. The name of this German is Adolf Hitler.

Writes Golwalkar in his We or Our Nationhood Defined: "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."

Translation of this Nazism in India means that non-Hindu people must renounce every bit of their identity -- be it language, culture, religion…everything. In case they refuse to do so, Golwalkar may still allow them to stay in the country subject to the condition that they "wholly subordinate to the Hindu nation, claiming nothing, deserving no privileges, far less any preferential treatment, not even citizen’s rights".

The whole RSS philosophy of Hindu Rashtra, therefore, is nothing but a borrowed version of the German Nazi state.


Conscience and Cross-Voting in the Presidential Polls

Much as anticipated, the UPA nominee Pratibha Patil has made it to Raisina Hill. She polled nearly twice the number of votes as her NDA rival Bhairon Singh Shekhawat. In addition to the votes of the UPA constituents and the Left, the support of Mayawati also proved decisive.

The race was not closely fought and the winner was a foregone conclusion; yet this Presidential election, seen as a forerunner of the next Parliamentary polls in 2009, generated the heat and dust of a high-pitched political contest. For now, the Presidential poll outcome has served to highlight the disarray in the NDA and the isolation of the BJP. Having dishonestly projected Shekhawat (a life-long BJP and RSS leader) as an “independent” candidate, the BJP has found that it is in fact their own MLAs – in Gujarat , MP, Chhattisgarh who have proved to be “independent” of their party!

The ironies of “conscience” in our parliamentary and public life also played out dramatically in this election. The CPI (M) vouched for the secular conscience of the Congress nominee. The BJP leadership appealed to voters to heed the “voice of their conscience” to vote across party lines. And wonder of wonders, it was the communal conscience of that Shiv Sena, the closest ideological ally of the BJP in the NDA, which was moved to support the secular candidate selected from among various Congress possibles by the CPI-CPI(M)! Some BJP legislators in Madhya Pradesh apparently chose to display their particular brand of conscience and defiance by writing ‘ Om ' and ‘Jai Shri Ram' across the ballots to invalidate them.

Reacting to the UNPA's announcement of a decision to abstain, the BJP attempted to get the EC to exercise its authority. While the Election Commission recognized the democratic right to abstain, it declared that parties were not allowed to issue whips on such how their members to vote. According to the EC, in Presidential elections or elections to the Rajya Sabha, legislators get a certain licence: voting behaviour that in the House would be castigated and penalised as “floor-crossing” and horse-trading would now become a lofty exercise of conscience. Parties that issued a whip to abstain would risk inviting penalties for attempting “undue influence” on the election process. Former Chief Election Commissioner GVG Krishna Murthy put the same point across more baldly. He proclaimed that it was a “duty” to vote and for a party to call upon its members to abstain amounted to a “threat”. In other words, to invoke inner-party democracy and discipline is to go against the “duty” so dear to the ruling class: the duty of bending democracy to fit the two-party paradigm. Smaller players must either join the two teams or quit the game.

Before long we are going to have another UPA-Left consensus candidate for the Vice President's office, symbolising the growing political convergence between the two tiers of the ruling dispensation (the UPA and its supporters ‘from without'). A woman in the Rashtrapati Bhavan and a backward Muslim in the Vice President's chair will now be projected and celebrated as empowerment of the weaker and marginalized sections of society. The people of India , however, know better. Lived experience of the past 60 years have convinced them that such superficial symbols are poor substitutes for the real struggle for empowerment.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Corporate media outraged: Venezuela expands free speech

Stuart Munckton

On May 27, the 20-year concession to broadcast over the state-owned Channel 2 airwave, which had been granted to multi-millionaire Marcel Granier’s RCTV, expired. The Chavez government made the decision, in accordance with laws established by a pre-Chavez government, not to renew RCTV’s concession, but instead to use the channel to establish a new public TV station, Venezuelan Social Television (TVes).

The new channel, which began broadcasting just after midnight on May 27, has been set up via a loan from a state-run bank. However it will quickly be required to become self-funded. The government will have no say over the content of the new station, which will purchase programs made by independent producers.

RCTV will be able to continue broadcasting via satellite or cable, and station heads have indicated they intend to do so. In case the station uses the non-renewal of its concession as an excuse to lay off workers, the Venezuelan government has guaranteed all of RCTV’s work force jobs at the newly created station.

The government has explained that its decision is a direct result of RCTV’s repeated violations of the law. RCTV has been responsible for more than 600 violations of Venezuela’s broadcasting law, including regularly broadcasting pornography, and has refused to pay fines for such infractions. It has also been accused of non-payment of taxes. The station has been strongly criticised for rarely allowing on air Venezuelans of indigenous or African heritage, even though they are the majority of Venezuela’s population.

The government has singled out RCTV’s role in helping organise the April 2002 US-backed military coup that overthrew the elected Chavez government, which was subsequently restored by a popular uprising of the poor, as the key factor behind the non-renewal. During their time in power, the coup leaders publicly thanked RCTV for its assistance.

These facts have become twisted beyond recognition in a campaign by the corporate media that is part of a drive to paint the Chavez government as moving towards a dictatorship, even though pro-Chavez forces have won 11 straight national elections and Chavez was re-elected in December with the largest number of votes in Venezuelan history.

The corporate media have ignored the fact that 79 out of 81 TV stations, 706 out of 708 radio stations and all newspapers in Venezuela are privately owned, and that the majority of the private media are virulently anti-Chavez. Since Chavez was elected in 1998, only two TV stations have been closed: the state-run Channel 8 during the coup by the coup leaders, and community TV station Catia TV in July 2002 by then-Caracas mayor and coup leader Alfredo Pena.

Freedom of speech has been extended under the Chavez government. Just after Chavez came to power, he passed a law that allowed the entire population the right to use the nation’s airwaves. This legalised a large number of previously illegal “pirate” radio stations, the type of stations that are still illegal in the US. The government has actively promoted community media, especially radio, which has blossomed in recent years. TVes aims to provide a space to the growing movement of independent media producers.

What none of the critics have been able to answer is: which other government in the world would renew the licence of a station that actively participated in a coup against the legitimate government? The tolerance of the Chavez government towards the private media involved in the coup is remarkable. The government has not attempted to shut down RCTV or jail its owners, or even cancel its licence, although it had a strong legal case to do so. Instead, it allowed the licence to run out its term, then chose to grant the concession to someone else.

The government says it is seeking to “democratise” the media, so that those who were previously excluded can have a voice. An article by George Ciccariello Maher posted on Venezuelanalysis.com on May 29 pointed out that 80% of all messages, information and media content produced in Venezuela are controlled by either Granier or billionaire Gustavo Cisneros, who owns Venevision. Both are married to granddaughters of William H. Phelps Jr. — the founder of 1BC corporation, which runs RCTV. Leading 1BC shareholders include direct descendants of Phelps. Cisneros is also one of the richest men in Latin America, owning a range of industries in Venezuela and across the region.

In light of these facts, the only possible justification for renewing RCTV’s concession is that Granier and his oligarchic mates who own 1BC have some sort of automatic right to use it forever, regardless of how they abuse the privilege. To renew the licence would have sent the message that the likes of Granier, by virtue of their extreme wealth, can break the law with impunity, work to overthrow elected governments and refuse to pay taxes, and they will be rewarded with a renewal of their concession. And by implication, that the majority of Venezuelans, whose access to media is being increased, do not have the same right.

At the heart of the campaign over the media in Venezuela is the Bolivarian revolution being led by the Chavez government, which is redistributing the nation’s wealth and breaking the economic and political power of the oligarchy. This revolutionary process is increasingly empowering the working people and the poor through participatory democracy. The democratisation of the media is a crucial part of this campaign. In keeping with its profoundly democratic nature, the revolution has sought to break the media monopoly — not by silencing the rich minority who exercise the monopoly, but by countering it with an explosion of new media run by the previously voiceless.

All attempts to stop this peaceful and democratic revolution have failed, and the opposition is growing desperate. Having failed to mobilise significant numbers, the opposition then resorted to violence, with some among the protesters on May 26 opening fire on police without provocation, injuring 11 officers. In the days following the May 27 deadline, students from the wealthy universities, which remain strongholds of the elite, took to the streets, burning tires and garbage in order to block traffic, while attacking police with rocks. Yet the corporate media ignored students from the Bolivarian University — created by the Chavez government to provide free education to the poor excluded from the old universities — who marched off campus on May 29 according to a Bolivarian News Agency report, in a show of support for the RCTV decision. On June 2, Aporrea.org reported that Avenida Bolivar in central Caracas was completely filled by a “red tide” of people from across the country who took part in a massive demonstration to reject opposition violence and support the govenrment’s stance.

The Venezuelan government believes that behind the RCTV campaign is a new plot to destablise the country in order to undermine the Chavez government, isolate it internationally, and lay the groundwork for its overthrow and for the reversal of the gains made by the revolution by whatever means possible.

The government is upset that a Spanish broadcast by CNN screened footage of a protest in Mexico while claiming it was a protest against the RCTV decision inside Venezuela, and that CNN recently showed an image of Chavez alongside an image of an assassinated al Qaeda leader. The government claims Globovision intended to potentially incite Chavez’s assassination when it followed an interview with Granier with the images of the failed assassination attempt of Pope John Paul II, while a song with the lyrics “Have faith, for it doesn’t end here” played over the top.

The much-vaunted “attack on freedom of expression” supposedly underway in Venezuela, in reality exists in the same places as Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction — inside the minds of the US State Department.

(From International News, Green Left Weekly issue #712 6 June 2007, slightly abridged.)

No More Street Food in Delhi!

Lalit Batra

Most cities and towns in the so called Global South are marked today by an overwhelming presence of the informal economy. Hawkers and street vendors are one of the most visible segments of the informal sector. When Keith Harth, an economic anthropologist, on a mission to study urban labour markets in Africa, coined the term ‘informal economy’ he was, to a large extent, referring to scores of hawkers and street vendors selling a bewildering array of goods on the streets in cities and towns of Africa. Till 1960s the dominant discourse viewed the presence of the informal sector of the economy, including hawkers and vendors, as a temporary phenomenon, a by-product of the transition from the ‘traditional’ to the ‘modern’ economy. It was assumed that as the process of modern capitalist development advances this sector would cease to exist soon enough with the extension of the legal, regulatory and administrative frameworks of the State to all aspects of economic activity.

However various studies subsequently conducted in many parts of the world proved beyond doubt that far from shrinking, the informal sector was in fact expanding. In almost all of Asia, Africa and Latin America, the majority of the workforce was found to be working in the informal or unorganised sector. Recent studies suggest that subsequent to the ascendance of neo-liberal economic policies in most parts of the world, its speed of expansion has increased substantially. In fact even in advanced industrialised countries of the West informalisation of the economy and the workforce is rising significantly.

Today about 93 per cent of India’s work force is in the unorganised sector, which accounts for 63 per cent of the country’s GDP. There is a dearth of reliable data on the prevalence of the informal sector in urban areas. There are studies which put these numbers at 65 percent in small towns to 46 percent in million plus cities. In any case, one can safely assume that over half the workforce in urban areas is earning its livelihood in informal sector. A large number of those within the urban informal sector- 15 percent according to one estimate- are street vendors.

Delhi has a workforce of roughly 40 lakhs, only about 22 per cent of which are employed in the organised sector. There is a paucity of official data on the number of hawkers and vendors operating in the city but reliable estimates put the figure between 3 to 4 lakhs making it one of the most important informal sector activities in Delhi. The problems faced by street vendors in the city are now too well known to need any elaboration. Studies conducted by several organisations recount the familiar tale of barely enough earnings to be able to survive, harassment and plundering by the police, municipal authorities and local musclemen, criminalisation by law, non recognition in official city plans, apathy or hostility of the middle and upper classes and so on.

Unlike many other major cities the Master Plans of Delhi have repeatedly made provisions for accommodating and regularising hawkers and vendors but there has been little effort on the part of authorities to effectively implement these provisions. Thus till date less than 20,000 tehbazari licenses have been issued by municipal authorities rendering the existence and livelihoods of over 90 per cent street vendors illegal and making them easy preys to all kinds of harassment and exploitation. A study conducted by Manushi, an NGO, in 2001 puts the payments made by hawkers and street vendors in Delhi by way of bribes and extortion to police, municipal officials and local musclemen at Rs. 600 crores annually!

In this context the recent Supreme Court order banning cooked street food in the capital is like punishing the victim instead of the perpetrator. The order put a seal of approval on the scheme proposed by the MCD and the NDMC to ban cooked street food in order to regulate hawking and vending in Delhi with a view to beautify the city for the Commonwealth Games 2010. Citing reasons of health and hygiene, the court ordered that, except tea and coffee sellers, all other hawkers selling cooked food on streets will have to go. The court also rejected the petition filed by hawkers’ associations and NGOs like NASVI, SEWA and Manushi for conducting a comprehensive survey to ascertain the number of hawkers in the city and identify suitable hawking sites.

At a time when the economy has stopped creating jobs despite all the hullabaloo about 8 percent growth rate, the court order is bound to add a few lakh more to the list of the unemployed. Not only that it will kill the 500 year old great culinary tradition of street food of Dilli beside making the city further unsafe. Significantly, the order comes at a time when the government is considering allowing 100 percent FDI in retail. Sealing of commercial units, removal of hawkers... has the highest court of land put its weight firmly behind the Reliances, Walmarts and McDonalds of the world?

Red Salute to Comrade Jita Kaur

Comrade Jita Kaur came into the ML movement through her active participation in the student’s movement in Gorakhpur. She became an activist of the PSO, Gorakhpur at a time when the entire state of Uttar Pradesh was seething with student’s protests against academic anarchy and hold of anti-socials and criminals enjoying political patronage of bourgeois political parties, in the campuses. In her early days Jita was an idealist who had seen through the sham of religious ideas and it was for the greater cause of revolution that she decided to devote herself completely. Jita’s joining a revolutionary left organization had its impact on her personal life, her father Sardar Rattan Singh being a Congress leader as well as well known religious leader in Gorakhpur. As a woman, Jita continued to fight her battle in the conservative background of her home and the feudal-patriarchal milieu in this backward district of Purvanchal. After she finished her post-graduation, Jita began to take keen interest in the women’s movement, and formed the Jagrit Mahila Parishad in the District. She was an ardent activist who began to combine the aspirations of young middle class women with those of the most downtrodden sections of society. In the process she also became associated with the Indian People’s Front in Uttar Pradesh. As a leader of the UP IPF, Jita got involved in the struggle of people being displaced from Ramgarh Tal area in Gorakhpur. The Ramgarh Tal Pariyojana was posing a grave threat to the livelihood of the local inhabitants and to ward off their fear and insecurity, Jita left her home and began to live with the affected people. In the process she began to build a new mass-base for the I P F. Jita not only became popular as a mass leader fondly called ‘didi’, she became immensely loved by the women. She had played a major role in involving several intellectuals and women of the town in support of the people of the Tal. She also contested Assembly elections in Gorakhpur on IPF banner.

Comrade Jita gradually began to organize women activists in the state and in the process also met and involved Ajanta Lohit in IPF work. She later became a state committee member of the CPI (ML). When the founding conference of AIPWA was being held in Delhi, Jita came to Delhi to assist in the preparation work. Later she became associated with AIPWA work in Delhi and also became state committee member of the Party in the State of Delhi. In Delhi Jita organized Party work in East Delhi and North-West Delhi. When the need arose she left for Punjab and began to work in Mansa. She was a state committee member of the Party there and was also entrusted with the task of organising AIPWA. She helped streamlining the State Party Office in Mansa and played an important role along with the comrades in Punjab in organising the Party. She encouraged young activists and women to work as whole-timers in the Party. She contested Parliamentary elections in Ludhiana in 1998. She was the National Secretary of the AIPWA and in this capacity she visited Uttarakhand, Punjab, MP and Bihar for AIPWA programmes. She was also very active in the joint women’s movement and became popular with women’s activists from other streams. She was an active participant in the joint women’s conferences held in Patna and Calicut.

When she was in Delhi, the Central Office of AIPWA was entirely managed by her in the most creative, living and economic way. Many women comrades who stayed here still miss the cosy ‘room of one’s own’ where women’s issues, politics, personal problems of women were discussed and resolved. Battered women, women marrying against their parents’ wish, or going for inter-religious marriages, girls thrown out of home or those fighting against patriarchal attitude of in-laws or husbands came for help and AIPWA office was a place that provided strength and succour.

It was after the Burdhawan conference that she fell sick and was diagnosed having gall bladder cancer in November 2006. She was undergoing treatment in AIIMS. After 2 cycles of Chemotherapy and Radiotherapy, she had become very weak. Doctors opined that the tumour could not be removed by operation since it had spread to the liver and was resistant to the therapy. She was also put on Alternative treatments—Tibetan and Sino-Vedic. Jita was alternately staying in Comrade Srikant’s house and in the Party Office. On 14 June she was taken to Jalandhar by her elder sister and brothers for a few days, but she passed away there on 23 June morning. Her body was brought to Mansa on the same day where a large number of Party leaders, members, supporters and representatives of various fraternal organisations came to bid her farewell.

Comrade Jita dedicated her entire life, and everything she possessed, for the cause of the people and the Party. She was a very hard-working and energetic woman activist and all those who knew her will remember for her warm, loving and caring personality, for her political uprightness and honesty as well as for her relentless struggle in the face of odds.
Red Salute to Comrade Jita Kaur!