National Situation

Hindutva,Fascism and the Politics of Gender (2002)

Published on Tuesday, 13 October 2009 05:05
Written by Radical Socialist

Soma Marik

The Game Plan of Fascism


“It started at 9 am on February 28th. That’s when the mobs arrived, shouting - Mian Bhai nikalo (Bring out the Muslims). Many of them were wearing kesari chaddis (saffron shorts or underwear) The mob included boys from the neighbouring buildings – Gopinath Society and Gangotri Society. I ran out of my house with the entire family – mother, father, sister, sister’s daughter, my wife Zarina, my brother, my sister-in-law, and my niece…there were 11 of us. We all ran towards the Police chowki. The Police said, ‘Go towards Gopinath and Gangotri’. In the melee, I was separated from my wife. What happened to her, she told me later. She tried to escape the mobs by leaping over a wall. But found herself in a cul-de-sac. They gang-raped her, and cut one arm. She was found naked. She was kept in the civil hospital for many days.” This report of the gang rape of Zarina is one of several testimonies reproduced by a six member fact-finding team, whose full report is reproduced I this volume. Reading these reports, any decent human being would react by asking, “how could they do such things?”

Unfortunately, too often we will then go on to argue that this was the work of a few days of madness, this was the handiwork of gangs of lumpens who do not represent the real face of our society, or at most that this was a work of a small fringe far right, connected, no doubt, to the RSS, but not representing the real voice of the RSS. It is the argument of this introductory essay, that such perceptions are superficial and self-deluding. For months, what has been happening in Gujarat is a state-aided, Sangh Parivar organised, public mass murder and attempted annihilation of the Muslim community. The politics of communalism has always had gender at its very centre.  The creation of a sense of community, the creation of the Other, are intimately connected to notions of gender and control over women. We propose to show that the construction of Hindu community, the development of communal hatred against Muslims, incorporated and foregrounded from the beginning women and issues relating to women. Women’s honour and chastity had to be preserved, as they are the repositories of the honour of the community. At the same time, women themselves had to be “empowered”, actually in such ways that did not threaten patriarchal control, yet brought out hundreds and thousands of women in common action against the “real enemy’ (the Muslims). Conversely, it was eventually to be argued, especially by the more extremist elements, that attacks on Muslims needed to encompass attacks on Muslim women.

 

However, all this can only be fully understood if we examine the overall project of the forces who are calling themselves Hindu nationalists, and whom we are calling fascists. Let these explicit statements from the internet, from the site www.hinduforce.4t.com be the entry point to their views.
1.“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. The day will come when Hinduism obliterates this cruel excuse for a religion off the face of India. The righteous will prevail. Jai Hindutva.” (emphasis added – S.M.)
2. “SHOULD HINDUS EVER TOLERATE ISLAM IN INDIA?
Never! It has been proved that Pakistan is the mortal enemy of India. It is an Islamic nation and the reason that they want to annihilate India is because India is the uncrowned Hindu country. Indian Muslims are more "Muslim" than "Indian". They are champions of the Islamic cause.
Thus, I state that the biggest enemy of Hindu India is not just Pakistan but the very religion of Islam.” (Emphasis added – S. M.)
3. “Its time to stop the RSS-Shiv Sena bashing and hail them as the harbinger of the Hindu revolution in secular India. They are two of the few Hindu organizations that have taken a stand for the protection of Hinduism. It is only the non-Hindus and traitorous Hindu secularists who are opposed to the RSS and its dream of a Hindu rashtra. Anybody seen supporting the RSS or Shiv Sena is labelled as a "racist'' or a fascist. One needs to look beyond the stereotypical portrayal of these groups as 'communal minded'. The Ayodhya issue is the best and most powerful example one can give to brand the Shiv Sena and the RSS as a hate group. But it is false. Hindus have their holy place in India in the form of Ramjanmabhoomi in Ayodhya. It is quite simple that Hindus wish to establish a central religious place of pilgrimage for all Hindus. These organizations are the last hope for Hinduism in India. Anybody who feels that their ideologies and propagandas are anti-national are people who are either non-Hindus or secularists who want to see Hinduism fester in humiliation and shame in its own country. All Hindus must support their activities to protect and restore Hinduism. It is time to support their dream of a 'Hindu rashtra' ruled by a theocracy ... that is the next best option we have after the unsatisfactory performance of democracy.” (Emphasis added – S.M.)

4. “Muslims deserve the ‘savagery’ and ‘torture’ that they claim Hindus are putting them through! If Muslims have died at the hands of “barbaric” Hindus, then their deaths are justified. Let their deaths be the price Islam pays for all the centuries of torture they put Hinduism through, it shall be remembered as the avenging of the murders of the lakhs of Hindus at the hands of Muslim invaders during the 1500 years of Hindu persecution. Did the Muslims really think they could get away with the centuries of murder that they committed onto Hindus? IT’S PAYBACK TIME NOW!!”

5. The expanding target: “I repeat once again...India and Pakistan were created for the sole purpose of forever separating Hindus and Muslims. While Pakistan was declared a Muslim state, making India a Hindu rashtra would have been a perfect answer  [to] assert the Hindus’ power and pride during a time when Hindus were faced with the worst kind of humiliation. Secularism was the weakest possible answer anyone could have given, after all the Hindu-Muslim riots that gripped the country during partition. Our leaders of that time couldn’t care less about the pride of Hinduism that had to be salvaged after 1500 years of suppression and abuse. So here we are now-- 80% Hindus left voiceless and faceless in our own country. … Secularism is the worst insult to Hinduism. While it is a privilege to Muslims, it is a knife in our backs. In the land of a Hindu majority, nothing less than a Hindu rashtra should satisfy the Hindu. Secularism in India is cheap, second-class and above all, anti-Hindu. … Judging by the way he stood up for Muslims I had my own suspicions that Gandhi was either a closet Muslim or had secretly converted to Islam! Why did Gandhi compromise over his own birth religion and lose his life trying to fight for a people who...
1)....were the antithesis of the fabric of Hinduism 2).....couldn’t care less for India and Hinduism. 3).....were ready to leave India for Pakistan? Why did he insist that Hindus and Muslims live together in India?… Gandhi’s teachings also stand in the way of Hindutva ideology. That’s why it makes the Hindutva way of thinking seem "bigoted". …Gandhi, in his bizarre madness to somehow stay as the Muslims’ friend, made enemies with every Hindu, the strongest of whom was Nathuram Godhse, who ultimately killed Gandhi for his crimes against Hinduism! Well done Godhse ,old chap! Today ,Gandhism lies in the scrap heap long forgotten and unworthy of remembering.”

Each of these arguments is standard argument. The grand narrative of 1400 years of Muslim oppression and the need for Hindu resistance taking the form of murder and rape is not special to a supposedly lunatic running this website. The more virulent forms, like the pat on the back for Nathuram Godse, are made secretly. In the free cyberspace, this is done openly. But all these, far from being the ravings of a lunatic fringe, are mainstream Hindutva discourse. Let us briefly provide a few instances. Let us look at M. S. Golwalkar, the Second Sarsanghchalak of the RSS. In his We, or Our Nationhood Defined, he wrote: “The foreign races in Hindusthan 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 lose 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.”

That the RSS and its propagandists viewed this clearly as a form of fascism is best brought out by a book now suppressed by the RSS. In the late 1940s, the RSS was totally unabashed, and one of its propagandists, the Christian covert to the RSS viewpoint, Anthony Elenjimittan, wrote the following: “The RSS from the very inception of the movement hoisted Bhagva flag, Dharma Chakra and Satya Meva Jayte as their symbols, and have grown around these patriotic ideals… If discipline, organised centralism and organic collective consciousness means fascism, then the RSS is not ashamed to be called fascist. The silly idea that fascism and totalitarianism are evils and parliamentarism and Anglo-Indian types of democracy are holy, should be got rid of from our minds ….”

Golwalkar’s attack on Gandhi in his book Bunch of Thoughts is explicit. “But here, we had leaders who were, as if, pledged to sap all manliness from their own people. However, this is not a mere accident of history. This leadership only came as a bitter climax of the despicable tribe of so many of our ancestors who during the past twelve hundred years sold their national honour and freedom to foreigners, and joined hands with the inveterate enemies of our country [read Muslims – S.M.] and our religion in cutting the throats of their own kith and kin to gratify their personal egoism, selfishness and rivalry. No wonder nemesis overtook such a people in the form of such a self-destructive leadership.”

Thus, one can already trace the lineage of these ideas back for over half a century. And it is here that we must explain very briefly our understanding of the nature of fascism. When one reads much of the writings on fascism by mainstream leftist leaders and theorists, one feels they are claiming that it is an artificial creation, mostly at the behest of imperialism, and that its hate Muslims campaign is just a ploy to divert public gaze from its “real” agenda of pushing through neoliberalism. This is a totally false way of looking at fascism. Fascism is not, and has never been, a simple tool of capitalists to be created and discarded by them at will. In fact, the history of fascism shows that it originated as a distinct petty bourgeois movement which aimed at capturing power. In the long run, any such movement, in order to come to power, must compromise with big capital. In power, it must serve the capitalist mode of production and its conditions of reproduction. But an analysis which confines itself to this truism fails to realise the concrete ways in which the fascist organisation and the fascist movement are built up. What was the nature of Nazi ideology? Central to fascism as a mass phenomenon is the development of a powerful and extendable enemy image through appropriating stray elements from past prejudices, combining them with new ones skilfully dressed up as old verities, and broadcasting the resultant compound through the most up-to-date media techniques. In Germany this was how the Jews were represented in Nazi propaganda. There are two sides to this, which must be remembered. In power, the Nazis did not (could not) simply give up their anti-Jewish slogans. Beginning with restrictive laws on Jews, ejection of Jews from academic and administrative positions, curbs on Jewish small business, attacks on Jewish property by fascist thugs (Krystallnacht) etc, they went on to commit the worst genocide in modern history. However irrational this might seem from a purely economic logic of capitalism, the German capitalist class had to acquiesce to this. The other side of the story was, that while the Nazis politically expropriated the bourgeoisie and all their traditional retainers, in return, they did render yeoman service to the German bourgeoisie. On the eve of 30th January 1933, when Hitler became the Chancellor, the Social Democratic party published no fewer than 196 daily newspapers, 18 weeklies and one monthly theoretical journal. The German Trade Union Federation, allied with the Social Democrats, also published numerous journals. With a membership of 5 million, they commanded an entire parallel apparatus alongside the party. Then there was the Communist party, whose membership of 350,000 was about a third of the 1 million strong Social Democracy. They too had a trade union wing – much smaller, but still claiming 320,000 members. A year later, all this was smashed, in utter ruins. Between 1932 and 1937, the bosses’ share of the GNP went up by close to 11%. Despite a growth in employment figures due to the end of the Depression and the beginning of rearmament by Germany, the total wage bill went down. The Nazis had kept their side of the bargain. To overlook the Nazi agenda, the way Hitler mobilize vast numbers of German petty bourgeoisie, to concentrate only on the benefits conferred to the capitalist class without looking either at how they captured power and did their work, or at what sort of autonomous agenda they had, is to impose our doctrinaire and dogmatic views on history. In the same way, instead of imagining the RSS as a creation of imperialism or local big capital, we need to see exactly how its discourse has been created, how this has over time extended its hold over the minds of so many Indians, and why the pogrom this time was therefore unique in the history of India.

So does the Indian bourgeoisie need fascism? Why? Certainly, there is no imminent threat of a possible communist revolution in India. In that sense we cannot compare India today with Italy in 1921-2 or Germany in the early 1930s. That is why, the capitalist class as a whole is not excessively enthusiastic. The CII did raise some cautious criticisms after Gujarat. Two things are significant in that context. First, the instant and sharp reaction by Prime Minister Vajpayee against business people. This shows how strong he and his mentors of the RSS are feeling. Hitler in 1931-33 was unfailingly courteous to the big bourgeoisie. The second significant thing is that when there was a move to organise some sort of official objection by the CII, a large Gujarati capitalist chunk opposed this, threatening to walk out of the CII.  This highlights the fact that the newly emerging Gujarati capitalist class including its NRI component is much more amenable to the RSS. The nature of land reforms in Gujarat meant that mainly the village heads or Patels benefited. This class, benefiting from the Green and the White Revolutions, started investing in industry. Gradually becoming delinked from traditional community culture, and in good measure having strong NRI moorings, this class was to find an alternative ethos of a terrible kind in the preaching of the RSS, the VHP and the Bajrang Dal. At the same time, the threat posed by much more powerful U.S., European and Japanese capital is compelling Indian big capital to seek ways of destroying trade unionism and driving down wages and eliminating all job security. This is what the RSS is willing to promise in exchange for power.

To resist the RSS, to counter its mobilisation, we must begin by understanding how it has been progressing. As already indicated, central to Hindutva as a mass phenomenon is the development of a powerful and image of the Muslims as a perpetual Other. The Muslim here becomes the almost exactly what the Jew was in Nazi propaganda. The Muslim in India is supposedly unduly privileged -- a charge even more absurd here than it was in Germany, where the Jews at least been somewhat prominent in intellectual, professional and business circles. In post-Independence India, Muslims in contrast are grossly underrepresented at elite levels, however the term “elite” is defined. The alleged privileges, in the second place, are the product of  ‘appeasement’ of Muslims by 'pseudo-secularists', and so very quickly the communal target starts broadening itself. In the pages of the Organiser, the RSS organ, one reads regularly about the Red-Green alliance, meaning a combination of Muslims and communists. Remember, Hitler had likewise denounced communism as a Jewish conspiracy. The left, and all secular forces including liberal secularists, are accused of constant Muslim appeasement.

 

The Muslim as the Eternal Other : Gender and Hate-Campaigns in 20th Century Hindutva


It is by examining at some depth the process of the transformation of the Muslims as the permanent Other that we can see how the RSS created a core constituency and gradually broadened it. Strictly speaking, the process began before the creation of the RSS. In the 19th Century, there had been the growth of what has been called Hindu cultural nationalism. In course of the 19th Century, a common all-India Hindu identity was shaped, and eventually, the political Hindu community was sought to be created. From the ban on sati to the age of consent controversy the colonial state portrayed itself as the protector of women from obscurantist Indian males.  In reaction, older elites tried to reassert their hegemony by repositioning and redefining themselves. However there was a clear break between a cultural nationalism, tinged with Hinduism on the one hand and militant Hindu chauvinism on the other hand. The rise of this militant Hindu chauvinism was caused by challenges to the upper caste and class power from peasants, from activists of the non-Brahmin movements, and other communities, especially the newly emerging non-Hindus. In the early twentieth century angst about a further decline of the hegemony was heightened by the prospect that untouchables might secede from the fold of Hindu community. The struggle against these threats to their power led to the creation of a reformed fundamentalism with a Hindu supremacist agenda in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It is at this point that the Hindu Mahasabha, and then the RSS make their entrance. Creation of the Muslim as an enemy also meant creation of a common Hindu identity that would bring back into the “Hindu” fold, under Savarna hegemony, the dalits. And, it is necessary to highlight the fact that gender was central to the redefinition of the Hindu as envisioned by the Hindutva forces. Since the colonial rulers made gender a stick to beat the subjects with, the Hindutva assertion likewise took up gender in a big way.

A number of scholars, notably Indira Chowdhury Sengupta and Charu Gupta, have demonstrated the creation of an image of effete Hindu manhood, and its reversal, i.e., the affirmation or reawakening of virility.  The Hindus, according to this imagery, were, though the majority of India, always oppressed by the minority Muslims because of the effete character of so many Hindus. The success of the Moplah and the Khilafat movements and the colonial census data producing the fear of a dying Hindu race again raised the spectre of a Muslim tide swamping over the Hindus. As the Hindu Mahasabha secretary Devratan Sharma once asked rhetorically, “What could be expected of the nation composed of such weaklings?”  So women were called upon to restore the manhood of the Hindus. They had to produce strong sons. Interestingly, the attempt to construct a full-bodied masculine Hindu man was not chiefly motivated by the desire to fight British colonialism. The counter position was between Hindus and Muslims. The dying Hindu stereotype conflated political impotence and supposed physical impotence. The Muslim with his alleged hyper fertility and tendency to violence came to occupy the position of the Other. From the 1920s, the creation of the Muslim Other involves attacks on Allah, the Prophet, and their sexual life and tastes, as an assertion that it is not merely this or that Muslim, but the essence of Islam, that represents sexual perversion and a threat to all Hindus.  At the same time, the Muslim was viewed as being violent towards Hindu women. Women as the bearers of the children were the guardians of the boundaries of the Hindu “nation” or “race”. Otherness was invoked in many ways here, very often involving gender. There was the fear of the women of the other race/community producing more children.  There was the aggressive male of the other race, daily raping and abducting “Our” women. Hindu owned newspapers from the 1920s started giving a lot of space to supposed abduction stories. Tracts with provocative titles like Hindu Auraton ki Loot, Hindu Streeon ki Loot ke Karan, etc appeared. In 1923 Madan Mohan Malaviya in a speech delivered as the President of the Hindu Mahasabha in Benaras made an attempt to create a systematic narrative or a history of abductions or victimisations of Hindu women. An article entitled ‘Kidnapping’, in Patriot (October 1924) said “hardly a day passes without our noticing a case or two of kidnapping of Hindu women and children by not only Muslim badmashes and goondas, but also by men of standing and means….”  Three consequences flowed from this supposed history of abductions and violations. First, women were to become active agents, not merely passive victims, to protect their chastity, and therewith the honour of the community. Second, Hindu virility was to be manifested by restricting women’s mobility and by imposing controls on women. Third, to defend the honour of women and community, the Hindu male was urged to become aggressive and to kill the enemy. This would ultimately take the form of open advocacy of rape and torture of Muslim women, along with so-called retributional violence on the Muslim males.

Both faces of women were important – victims and agents. The victimhood of women reinforced the image of a fearful common enemy. The depiction of Hindu women as victims could provide a way to control them by restricting their movements in various public places which were supposedly unsafe. Multiplication of stories of victimhood led to a metamorphosis into victimisation of the entire Hindu community. Hence the need for community aggression could be easily advocated. So the Hindu men should kill those responsible for abductions. This was the self-image of a community at war.

The other side was the creation of an image of ‘sisters in arms’. Women were exhorted to get rid of their eternal weak, suffering, vulnerable victim image. They would not only serve as boundary markers of the community. They were also to be empowered for self-defence by manifesting valour. During the Shuddhi and Sangathan campaigns, it was explained among other things that the prime religious duty was for every sister to have a sharp knife to protect her chastity and honour. This provided a safe form of empowerment for self-defence that did not provide real independence for women yet created a stronger sense of community and gave women a public space, not merely the identity of wife and mother. This did not mean that she would henceforth abandon her image as mother and wife. But the Hindu mother and wife were no longer to be trained only into domesticity. They would be simultaneously brave women capable of striking  terror into the enemy, and of shaming Hindu men. They would prompt husbands, brothers, sons to action.
The multifarious ways of constructing a virangana image of Hindu women in the early twentieth century ultimately culminated in the foundation of Rashtra Sevika Samity, mainly at the initiative of Lakshmibai Kelkar.Originally in Gandhian movement, she felt the need to organise women independently, not only to dedicate themselves to the cause of the nation but as an exemplary attempt at self-defence from male sexual overtures. It is interesting to mention that the early Hindu women’s agential discourses did not always automatically depict Muslim as the sole aggressor.  The component of self, as institutionalised in atmaraksha, is identified with the womb rather than a comprehensive individual. So her body became the appropriate site for the formation of hostile community identities, which cater to the needs of the Hindu supremacist agenda. However, when the focus is on the male voice, the stress on control over the woman becomes much stronger. Extracts from Stri Shiksha, an Arya Samajist tract (published in 1927) will illustrate the form of control on women’s mobility and sexuality as well as some of the earliest ways of communal mobilisation through social and economic boycotting: “…(4) Do not go to Muslim priests who read prayers in mosques. (5) At marriage and other times, do not do embroidery of the Muslim kind. (6) Do not get assessments and measurements done from the Muslims. (11) Never sit alone on a Muslim’s vehicle. (12) Never have your children taught by Muslims. (13) Do not let your children sit with Muslims alone. (15) Do not buy or wear bangles from the Muslim bangle-sellers. (16) Do not buy household items from Muslim homes or shops.  (24) Leave your home with a sharp dagger….”

On one hand, these detailed instructions were aimed at creating community exclusiveness through social and economic separation. On the other hand, they served to reinforce the image of the Muslim as a person to be feared and hated. Out of these devices, there also emerged the rhetoric on “resistance”.

Coming to the third aspect discussed earlier, retributional violence, including violence on Muslim women, was advocated in a particularly frenzied tone by V. D. Savarkar in his Six Glorious Epochs of Indian History. We can sum up the following crucial lessons that Savarkar tried to draw and the discourse of violence and retribution which he developed.
1). Creation of an internal enemy -- though elsewhere Savarkar claimed Buddhists to be Hindus, here, in his exegesis of ancient India, he claimed that the Buddhists were internal enemies. It was however with the arrival of Muslims that his concept of the internal enemy got full play. They were treated as eternal enemies and traitors. “According to the sequence of events our history is divided into two ages – ancient and modern. … The modern age begins with the 8th Century and continues till the present….In the past Greeks, Sakas, Hunas and other marauders have come and have spread across the Punjab plains. But their sole aim was the establishment of political mastery. They had no aim or will to establish and religious or cultural mastery outside of political goals. By contrast, the later new Islamic invasions had behind them the goal of destroying utterly the political essence of the Hindu Rashtra, and to establish Muslim dominion throughout Hindustan. … They exerted all force to try to destroy the Hindu religion, the life force of the Hindu race.” 
2) The definition of a community was made purely political. It was treated as a political entity based on race and the joining of religious dogma, so as to mobilise the majority of Hindus while streamlining all differences, creating a monolithic entity.
3) Race theory was the normal basis of his creation of Others. The exception was concerning the Muslims. Here, he lumped together all the Islamic peoples. He therefore talks about the invasions of the Greeks, the Sakas, etc, but not about the Turkish, the Afghan etc. invasions. This was essential to validate the construction of Muslims as the principal enemy to the Hindu nation. The quotation given above shows this quite clearly.
4) Savarkar's narrative consistently projected Muslim males as rapists who could be stopped only if Hindu men gave up their misplaced sense of chivalry. Interestingly, Savarkar showed himelf willing to quote any kind of “authority” to prove his point. Thus, in § 442-3, he wrote that Ravana, the King of the Rakshashas, had told his advisers that “Abducting the women of other religions and raping them was a religious duty of the Rakshasa society”. 
5) In his analysis of sexuality woman is a medium whose role is to produce progress for the community and to be a symbol of honour. He asserted that Muslim women played a role in the molestation and rape of Hindu women  (“Thus, despite hundreds of years of torture on Hindu women, helping to destroy their chastity, and many other types of repression, Muslim women did not have to face any penalty”).  Thereby he exhorted the Hindu men to plunge into a "tit for tat" policy.

The Uniqueness of the Gujarat Pogroms : A Need to Oppose the abdication of Our Intellectual and Political Responsibilities


While the foregoing definitely shows a long genealogy for the savagery displayed in Gujarat, it is still necessary to emphasize the uniqueness of what happened in Gujarat. A number of commentators have virtually downplayed the horror and the new level of atrocity. The Gujarat events have been labelled just one more riot in a long series of riots. They have been viewed as communal tensions, one author calling them the first major communal riots of this millennium.  Basudeb Chattopadhyay, Ashutosh Professor of History in Calcutta University, wrote an essay in a leading Calcutta daily where he was at pains to deny any parallels between Gujarat and Nazi Germany. “Can this be called the return of the swastika? No, I am not yet comparing the mass murders in Gujarat with the Nazi Holocaust, moreover no two situations in history are identical. But there is at least an embryonic similarity between the two….Both have social backgrounds, the preparations for both began a long time back.” But Chattopadhyay does not much explain what these preparations are, so we are left with the empty aphorism that no two situations are identical, and the indubitable truth that as yet six million Muslims have not been gassed, shot, or otherwise done to death ( that is the meaning of the utterance Gujarat is not yet the Holocaust). And this numerical “truth” allows the distinguished Professor to come up with the obscene conclusion that all that has happened in India since independence is “need-based appeasement” of both communities, and “fundamentalists of both communities have taken full advantage of that.”  So we can sweep the reports contained in this book; the reports in Genocide, the special issue of Communalism Combat; or those in The Genocidal Pogrom in Gujarat: The Anatomy of Indian Fascism, all under the carpet and pretend to a perfect even-handed and empty condemnation of ultras of all communities. In this context, we need to remind ourselves that history answers only such questions as we ask from history. If we are concerned only with figures and Holocaust details, history will let us know that there is as yet no Auschwitz in Gujarat or U.P., that Zyklon B is not yet being manufactured for sale to the government in its annihilation drive, and so forth. But if that is all that history can teach, one did not need an “eminent” position holder to expound that. If we fail to recognise the agenda of the Sangh combine, we will be as blind as those intellectuals who ignored the Mein Kampf even after it was published. History of the recent past should teach us the following: the BJP MPs in India include people from all the so-called fringe ultras – like the VHP, the Bajrag Dal, etc. By contrast, Muslims have not been close to the corridors of power. Even during the Congress or the United Front days, Muslim communalist leaders never had the kind of authority to subvert the constitution as Hindu communal leaders and so-called community leaders have been given. Another author, historian of a Bengali work on the 1946 communal riots and the Bengal partition of 1947, has written that the Gujarat events are not new, but form one more chapter in continuous violence. He has argued that the anti-Sikh Riots after the death of Mrs. Indira Gandhi, the Bhagalpur butchery, all form a thick trail of blood from which Gujarat cannot be detached. Further, he has argued that by creating the Godhra incident, minority communalist mob frenzy further worsened the situation.  It is not our contention Sri Bandyopadhyay is speaking in any sense on behalf of the Hindutva forces. Covert and overt spokespersons of the Sangh Parivar have quite a different discourse. But an area of overlap has begun to occur between many of the authors mentioned in this paragraph and the “moderate’ versions peddled by the Sangh Parivar for the consumption of liberals willing to put on blinkers. All references to Godhra as the sparking incident for the Gujarat pogroms feed into the line of argument which says, Gujarat incidents would not have occurred but for Godhra, or that these are aberrations to a regime of stability and good governance and neoliberal consensus building.

There are other kinds of perceptions, with which we are in closer agreement. These are arguments about the deep transformation in the political situation as a consequence of Gujarat, as well as attempts to situate the Gujarat pogroms, not in an ever-flowing tale of riots, but in a history of how a definite political force has built up its cadres and has been pushing for the destruction of democracy and the last remnants of popular social aspirations through the creation of an artificial identity and the struggle for power on the basis of this identity.  We share with all these authors the view that despite a range of similarities with various events of the past, the violence in Gujarat, the extent of state involvement, the political character of the mass murders, the systematic use of rape and sexual assault, all add up to a distinctly new stage in the history of communal politics and its drive for power.

Sangh Parivar Hegemony in the “Laboratory of Hindutva”


Why have large masses in Gujarat gone over to the Sangh Parivar? Was there any objective basis? Were there distinct efforts over the last decade to bring about a transformation? What are the unique elements in Gujarat 2002 and what do they portend for the future?

Apparently, Gujarat is a tranquil, prosperous province. Typically, over the past years, it has been held up as one of India’s success stories in matters of industrialisation. At the same time, that the Narendra Modi claim about a 72 hour frenzy, or even modified claims about a couple of months long violence, have to be discarded is also evident from other information. For example, it is well known by now that Gujarat has provided the greatest number of kar sevaks over the years. It is well known that the VHP network is possibly the strongest component of all the arms of the Sangh Parivar in Gujarat. VHP activists are no longer in the category of “lumpens” or extreme fringes of the petty bourgeoisie. Rather, they include considerable numbers of people all the way to the 35-45 age group. The Gujarat riots of 1969, an entire generation back, had led to the deaths of some 2500 people, and it had been the proud boast then that more Muslims than Hindus had been killed. It is therefore necessary to recognise that on one hand, the Sangh Parivar has had a deep and sustained peneration in the province, and on the other hand, it is necessary to examine the social transformations in Gujarat. This last will enable us to understand various issues, like the complexity of dalit-adivasi participation, the communalisation of Hindu women, and so on.

Gujarat’s transformation has been explained in a number of recent essays. We will draw on them in providing our explanation. The nature of agrarian change in Gujarat after independence had led to the steady rise of the village headman (Patel) category. These were the people who benefited most by the Green Revolution and the White Revolution. At the same time, their rise put paid to the traditional culture of the Gujarati upper class. This had many ramifications. On one hand, the ethos of providing the best service for money gave way to a get rich quick attitude. The traditional Mahajan culture with its concern for the regeneration of civil society, steadily gave way before a new culture. The Patel-dominated rich peasantry developed close links with the Gujarati diaspora beyond India.  A new axis, between politicians, bureaucrats and businesspersons, with no seeming stake in the preservation of civil society, increasingly became dominant. Though we will turn to dalits and adivasis as such below, here it is worth mentioning that a narrow stratum of dalit and adivasi middle class, the sole result of over half a century of reservations, seems to have been enfolded by the embrace of this nexus. At the same time, the nature of industrialisation and its limits also needs clearer examination. Jan Bremen reports that in Ahmedabad, in two decades, over 50 mills employing some 1 lakh workers have shut down. Anuradha Kumar mentions the closure of 14 mills within one year, in 1984-85.   To this we should add the fact that much of Gujarat’s industrialisation in recent years has been through sectors with no social security, such as the chemicals industry, where the Vadodara Kamdar Union had to wage a two-pronged fight (agitation and court battle) just to get a declaration of minimum wages. Ankleswar, one of the fast growing areas, has very little civic rights. Attempts were made to build alternatives like the Ankleswar Bachao Andolan. But these frustrations, irregular jobs, lack of social solidarity among people surviving in the informal sector, all made those lower down also turn to alternative for solace. For different reasons, the new elite which was emerging also had no integral world view, and it, too, was seeking alternative moorings. In both cases, the Sangh Parivar provided alternatives. One could cite a Gujarati leaflet reproduced in the Report to the Nation.  It says that Muslim businessmen of all sorts (automobile workshops, a chain of tea stalls, mutton shops, liquor shops, hotels, carts selling omelettes, and so on) altogether earn 4 crore rupees in Kalol town alone. “If we could save the Rs. 4 crore… we could open a school or a college every year and we could give our children free education in our Hindu schools”.  Bremen highlights the positive role of Majoor Mahajan in 1969 and its failure today. We need to ask why this has happened? What seems positive to Bremen is the class collaborationism of Majoor Mahajan. Yet, today this trade union has withered away. New social movements, often (not always) guided by NGOs cannot stem the rise of communalism. The one positive movement on an all-Gujarat plane, the Narmada Bachao Andolan, has been consistently rejected by the middle classes both rural and urban. While large parts of the State’s arid and semi-arid belt remain without adequate drought-proofing and drought-alleviation strategies, the landed, dominant caste groups and the successful trading communities have successfully hijacked the agenda of development. The Narmada project has seen heavy investment, not only by traditional investors, but by rich peasants and the Gujarati urban middle class. The one significant case of resistance in fact indicates the alternative and its limitation. Vadodara, almost as important as Ahmedabad industrially, has suffered much less than the capital. Some credit certainly goes to the network PUCL-Shanti Abhiyan, formed quickly. And one of the core groups behind this network is the Vadodara Kamdar Union, a trade union with a class struggle orientation. As one of its activists related recently, “that things were not as bad in Vadodara is because we mobilised people against the violence in large numbers quickly.”  That this is still a localised union, that supposedly radical unions like CITU and AITUC could do absolutely nothing, is the limitation.
We also need to situate the Gujarat violence in the context of the fortunes of the Sangh Parivar all over India. The NDA had been cobbled together by the BJP swearing to a supposedly secular agenda. Of course, all that this secular agenda, so-called, promised was that for the duration of the NDA government the BJP would not talk about its version of a Uniform Civil Code (i.e., imposition of the Hindu personal laws on all women), and that it would not talk about abolishing Article 370 of the Indian constitution. At key ministries like Home (Advani) and Human Resource Development (Joshi) a deep and sustained Hindutva drive did begin. However, misgovernance, quarrels with partners, and other factors combined to produce dissatisfaction. The result was the collapse of the BJP at the hustings in 4 states as well as in the Delhi Municipal elections. Reviving the fortunes of the Sangh Parivar eventually came to be seen as more dependent on direct action by non-electoral, cadre-based wings of the combine, rather than on elections and concessions to diverse forces like Naidu, Nitish Kumar, and Mayawati etc. This belief was strengthened as a result of the failure to whip up anti-Muslim sentiments in spite of all the hype on terrorism. But it would be wrong to assume that had the BJP progressed a little more electorally, there would have been no mass violence in Gujarat, as Mahesh Rangarajan’s arguments seem to imply.  However, Rangarajan does acknowledge that the violence represents the core agenda of the Sangh Parivar. This core agenda has been pursued systematically in Gujarat for many years. At one level it has been pursued by government action aimed at putting minorities to jeopardy. At another level it has been pursued by intensifying hate campaigns within common people. B’s story, in the CPI(M)-AIDWA report, testifies to the years of grassroots hate campaign. And this long term planning puts paid to all claims, whether by hidden advocates of the Sangh Parivar, or by intellectuals who are trying to do a balancing act, to the effect that it was Godhra that sparked off the violence, or that without Godhra it would not have happened. In this connection we can go back to the arguments made by Sandip Bandyopadhyay, because he provides a seemingly persuasive case. The first part of his argument is in a sense true. But there are limits to this truth. The anti-Sikh riots were organised by the Congress leaders like HKL Bhagat, but they did not have behind them several decades of planed evolution, nor have they left the Sikhs so totally insecure all over India, as the Gujarat riots have done to Muslims. In addition, a very clear difference should be noted. Congress leaders, including the top leadership, have publicly apologised to the Sikhs for the events of 1984. By contrast, not one figure in the Sangh Combine has shown the least bit of remorse. Vajpayee at Goa went on to say that wherever Muslims go, there violence occurs, thus fully blaming the victims for the violence. However, Mr. Bandyopadhyay’s argument about Godhra worsening the situation is deeply flawed. In the first place, in such a situation, there should have been massive riots in Godhra. There were not. Secondly, the independent reports have all confirmed that preparations for a genocide had gone apace long before Godhra. Lakhs of treadle-machine printed hate leaflets were distributed within twenty-four hours of Godhra. Anyone who has any experience of printing in those ancient presses would know that weeks had gone into the production of so many leaflets. The CPI (M)- AIDWA report clearly mentions finding a hate leaflet dated 18th August, 2001, in the burnt bogie of the Sabarmati Express, and states further that violence was quickly brought under control in Godhra, while the Report to the Nation, issued by Dr. Kamal Mitra Chenoy, S.P.Shukla, K.S. Subramanian and Achin Vanaik categorically rules out the theory that the Gujarat violence is a reaction to Godhra.

Official and non-official reports on Godhra alike highlight certain factors. The National Commission for Women, whose questionable role will be taken up for discussion later, had this to say: “Visits to the various relief camps and the several meetings held with complainants and victims as also social activists and community leaders have confirmed earlier reports with the Committee that violence, arson and riots were on a large scale in Gujarat after the initial incident at Godhra on 27.2.2002. The visit to Godhra by the Committee and the site of the burnt bogie followed by various discussions with district authorities and the railway staff confirmed that there was a lack of adequate intelligence prior to the incident due to which the police could arrive at the site of the train fire after 35 to 40 minutes. This delay was responsible for 58 fatalities in the train fire - 40 of them being women and children.”  Thus the NCW does hold the view that the initial incident happened at Godhra, and that the months long mob frenzy is simply a follow up. However, even the Women’s Commission has been compelled to acknowledge that there was a major intelligence failure. As the Report to the Nation puts it: “ major conclusions can be arrived at: 1] The attack does not appear to be pre-planned in the sense in which it was claimed publicly by high authorities in the immediate aftermath of the incident of 27th Feb. Neither available information nor the circumstances then prevailing provide support to the theory of any deep-rooted conspiracy, with or without involvement of foreign agencies. 2] It was an instance of a ghastly communal riot, in a place that has a long history of communal riots. 3] The tragedy could have been averted or at least, minimised if strong preventive measures had been taken in the wake of the communal incidents/irritants that were taking place on the train route and which could have been anticipated once the kar sewaks started leaving/returning by train in large numbers for/from Ayodhya [This will be examined below in Section 3].” As they further put it: “In case the official version, that the tragedy was premeditated and ISI-inspired is given credence, then the intelligence lapse is much more serious. How could such a premeditated plot have escaped the notice of the intelligence agencies? If the fire bombs, petrol and weapons were collected and stored over time and other preparations made over a period, why was this not detected, particularly when tensions were known to be high over the VHP programme in Ayodhya?”  The National Human Rights Commission, unlike the NCW, has been much more sharp in its criticism of the state government. Concerning Godhra, this is what it says:” the Commission is constrained to observe that a serious failure of intelligence and action by the State Government marked the events leading to the Godhra tragedy and the subsequent deaths and destruction that occurred.  On the face of it, in the light of the history of communal violence in Gujarat, recalled in the Report of the State Government itself, the question must arise whether the principle of ‘res ipsa loquitur’ (‘the affair speaking for itself’) should not apply in this case in assessing the degree of State responsibility in the failure to protect the life, liberty, equality and dignity of the people of Gujarat.”  Further, the NHRC explodes the report submitted by the State Government on the issue of Godhra, by observing:   “The Commission has noted that while the Report states that the Godhra incident was “premeditated” (p. 5), the Report does not clarify as to who precisely was responsible for this incident”.  What needs to be added to the foregoing is that the gruesome events in Godhra, along with the previous provocations that led to them (a statement which does not imply that the Godhra event is acceptable or should not be condemned) constituted riots in the traditional sense. However, these riots were caused by primarily political factors. Though we are making available in this collection the CPI(M)-AIDWA Report, we need to point out an economistic fallacy in the report. Recording attacks on Muslim property, the report comments: “These are clearly a cynical manipulation of feelings generated not by communal but by economic concerns”. This kind of quick fix, looking for economic explanations, (which seem to make certain brands of Marxists very happy) is totally erroneous. Why did the manipulation of economic concerns of adivasis (to be taken up below) take an overtly communal form? Presumably, AIDWA and CPI(M) think that communalism is false consciousness, and that how this ideology hegemonises the oppressed is therefore not worth looking into.

Another aspect that has been remarked upon is the adivasi-dalit involvement. This requires considerable discussion. There are several ramifications of the dalit-adivasi involvement, and we need to begin by stressing the need to avoid wishful thinking. The CPI(M)-AIDWA report falls into the trap of one-sided reporting of a complex case. The eyewitness accounts recorded in The Survivors Speak provide, by contrast, both sides of the story. To stress the troublesome side first: The team records the false news about some ten Hindu women travelling by the Sabarmati Express being abducted and raped and murdered inside a Madrasa and then says, inter alia, “Because the madrasa is the site of learning, raping women there projects the perpetrators as truly bestial men to whom nothing is sacred. In another village, “Hindu women” had been replaced by “Adivasi women” and this was given as the justification for Adivasi participation in the attacks on Muslims.” In other words, there is a feeling that communal, anti-Muslim sentiments existed and had been whipped up. The as yet unpublished final version of the PUCL report, chapter on women’s perspective, says concerning dalit women in Vadodara: “Dalit women have, more or less, allied with the upper castes during the violence. This has been seen in areas like Baranpura, Navidharti, Navayard and Fatehpura. This has resulted in the Hinduization of Dalit women on a scale never before witnessed in Vadodara.”  Thus, before we try to resist the RSS, we need to acknowledge that there has been a significant defeat for the secular forces. The formation of the RSS was as much a reaction to dalit assertion as it was due to hostility to Muslims. As the biographer of K. B. Hegdewar had put it: “As a result of the Non-Cooperation Movement of Mahatma Gandhi the enthusiasm [for nationalism  -- i.e., Hindu chauvinism S.M.] in the country was cooling down and the evils in social life which that movement generated were menacingly raising their head. … Brahmin-non Brahmin conflict was nakedly on view….The yavana¬- snakes …were provoking riots….”  Thus, fear of the loss of Brahminical power was a considerable factor. This also explains the abiding concern and hostility of the RSS to conversions and its engagement in so-called reconversions. This, and B. R. Ambedkar’s lead in the conversion of many dalits to Buddhism, explains the fiercely anti-Buddhist attitude of Savarkar in Six Glorious Epochs, discussed earlier. So when in Gujarat, dalits and adivasis do the dirty work for upper caste, upper class political agenda, it is certainly a gain for the RSS.


This does not explain how dalits and adivasis were brought into the fold. And to stop here would also be one-sided, since testimonies do say much about the role of money and enticement in promoting dalit-adivasi violence. The PUCL report quotes a dalit woman as saying how she has been coerced into not helping Muslims, because the police called her a traitor. There have been combing operations in dalit bastis adjoining Muslim bastis. The report The Survivors Speak states, on the basis of testimonies from Vadali camp, for example, that “Several testimonies in Sabarkantha district named Kachi Patels as the community that instigated violence”. It goes on to record that: “. A few days ago some Adivasis leaders, Kalji Bhai Kataria and Anil Bhai Joshiara called a meeting to address this issue of Adivasi involvement. They demanded a police combing operation in the area. “Those Patels are using our name” they declared. “Search all the houses and see where the looted TVs and refrigerators are hidden - Adivasi houses or Patel houses? The Adivasis were simply given alcohol and told ‘go loot the Muslim houses. Kill them, burn everything’.” The PUCL interim report on women (reproduced in full in this volume) provides the account of Meherunissa Fakir Mohammad of Panvad, who said that caste Hindus had paid 1000-1200 rupees to he adivasis to build up a large mob of some 4000 adivasis who came and burnt down their houses.


But apart from money, there have been other issues. In the 1980s, Congress leaders like Madhav Singh Solanki built up a power bloc based on what was called KHAM (Kshatriya-Harijan-Adivasi-Muslim). The congress victory of 1980, based on this bloc, posed a threat to upper caste domination of Gujarat politics. The Baxi Commission recommendations then, (a forerunner of the Mandal Commission in advocating reservation for Backward Castes and Communities) became the occasion for much upper caste mobilisation and rioting. The real issue was a temporary transfer of power, at the social level, from the upper castes to the lower castes, in however limited a form. During the first anti-reservation riots of 1981 the dalits were the direct targets. During the anti-Baxi Commision riots, though the formal targets were OBCs, there were many dalit victims. Through these agitations, the Brahmin-Bania-Patidar combine came to have a distinct Savarna identity. But the VHP and the RSS were then able to penetrate this bloc and put forward the message that the Savarna identity was inadequate. With rising dalit assertiveness – expressed in many ways, including the revival of the Republican Party, the spread of the BSP through much of India, etc, there was a social threat which had to be neutralised. This was done through an apparently inclusionist, but in fact actually aggressively exclusivist strategy. At one level, as reservations created a small dalit and adivasi middle class, this stratum could be sought to be integrated into the Hindutva fold, made easier by a relatively similar lifestyle in the cities.  For the dalit and adivasi middle class, indeed, Hindutva seemed to offer a route to cast off their inferior identity and appear as the equals of the Savarnas. But this limited integration does not mean genuine social equality, and undercurrents of tension remain. Meanwhile, however, the collapse of Ahmedabad’s older industries, commented upon earlier, meant the collapse of local class solidarities between dalits and Muslims even at lower levels. The result was, that even if half-hearted, there was dalit participation.

Finally, however, we need to point to yet another aspect – insecurity faced by dalits and adivasis, and support given by them to Muslims. The PUCL final report says: “Dalit women, frequently working class, have been badly hit by the post-Godhra violence.  Continuous curfew as well as the atmosphere of fear has resulted in acute economic distress.  Many women who worked as daily wagers or domestic help could not reach their places of work, and many have lost employment.  Loss of earnings has resulted in a rising incidence of impoverishment and hunger.  PUCL teams observed greater anxieties among Dalit women regarding life and property as compared to upper caste women at least partly because Dalit bastis lie almost always alongside Muslim bastis.” In The Survivors Speak, A women’s organisation working in the Panchmahals reports VHP hostility to it “because we have been able to mobilize poor, tribal women and these women have not been drawn into their network”. In B’s story, in the CPI(M)-AIDWA report, Adivasi Naikas were reported to have shown sympathy and actual support to B and her relative Shameem under difficult circumstances. That dalits and adivasis were not major gainers in the looting that accompanied the attacks has been confirmed by various people. In The Survivors Speak, it is recorded that: “The fact-finding team spoke on the phone with Anil Joshiara, an Adivasi leader (mentioned in Samad’s testimony above). He confirmed that he had demanded police combing operations to prove that Adivasis have gained little from the looting except a bad name. He claimed that the Adivasis who were involved in the violence were only misguided youth.” The picture that emerges is thus one where the RSS has made inroads, communalised sections of the dalits and the adivasis, but where the battle is far from lost.

With all its complexities, therefore, a picture is emerging, of the systematic communalisation of both state and civil society by the BJP-RSS-VHP-BD for several years. At the level of the state apparatus, there has been gross and blatant interference and a profound communalisation of the apparatus. The Report to the Nation confirms this: “The most important role of the Sangh Parivar has been in suborning the administration to carry out its ideological and political agenda. The control of the Gujarat government was crucial for the Hindutva forces. Without it they could not have planned, instigated, mobilised, and implemented the communal pogrom, and then protected its activists who participated in these activities from legal and societal retribution.”   Right at the top, we have Governor S. S. Bhandari, an RSS man and reportedly a kar sevak of 1992 vintage, Chief Minister Modi, an RSS pracharak, and Home Minister Zadaphia, a VHP leader. Then there is the Health Minister, Ashok Bhatt, and the Revenue Minister Haren Pandya of the hardcore of the Sangh combine. The RSS also pushed through the appointment as a government pleader, one of its own people, in 1999-2000. IPS officers of Muslim origin have not been posted to the post of Dy SP, because then they would get direct charge of maintaining law and order. Instead they have been shunted off to intelligence and other posts. Many Muslim police officers are so insecure that they do not wear their name tags. When criminals are Muslims, they are asked specific questions, such as their attitude to Pakistan, their position during partition, etc. In the last five years, some 12,000 VHP cadres have been recruited into the Home Guard.

Penetration of civil society has been even more insidious. Since 1998, there has been a systematic development of hate literature. Over the last few years, Communalism Combat has been systematically documenting this process. Using the print media as well as the electronic, including massive use of the Internet, cadres of the Sangh Parivar have been whipping up anti-Minority hatred. Circulars sent out by the DG intelligence asked the police to gather information about Christians and Muslims. It was later issued pertaining to Muslims only. This kind of state support emboldened the activists. One year before the mob violence, the Gujarati newspaper Sandesh  prepared and published a list of names of Muslim hotel and shop-owners. Multinationals were targeted at an earlier stage under the garb of nationalism. Evidently, having practised with a few MNCs, the cadres were ready to take on thouands of Muslims shops, hotels and other establishments. According to one estimate, some 1150 hotels have been destroyed.  There has been a considerable communalisation of health professionals. Issues in Medical Ethics, a journal concerned with ethical medical practice, wrote in its editorial : “The fact that the medical associations did not galvanise  themselves for relief work indicates how deeply the medical profession has been affected by the sharp communal divides being promoted by political interests….Indeed, the medical community is becoming polarised, both in Gujarat and  elsewhere in the country. We hear doctors confide that the minorities "needed to be taught a lesson". Some boast of how their friends participated in the violence. We also hear that VHP secretary Praveen Togadia was once a 'renowned' cancer surgeon. "It is his legacy that is bearing fruit in the state today," according to an analysis in the press.”  The state Health Minister, Ashok Bhatt, has been accused of leading mobs.   In the Ahmedabad Civil Hospital, two BJP corporators, Bhartibehn and Anitabehn moved around, telling doctors whom to treat and whom not to treat. What is shocking is not the behaviour of the BJP women, but that of the doctors. This has been further corroborated in a highly important report brought out by the Medico Friends Circle and reproduced in the present collection. At one point, the report says: “As members of the BJP and the VHP, some medical professionals have been responsible for propagating hatred and perpetrating injury to Muslims in Gujarat. They have played a role that contradicts their professional calling as providers of care. Medical associations have been partisan, and have made no attempts to mobilise relief.”

The steady communalisation of civil society was being followed by open calls for the annihilation of Muslims. In February 2000, the RSS held a sankalp shibir (oath taking camp) in the outskirts of Ahmedabad, fully funded by the state. Some 30,000 people participated. Again in August 2001 there was a joint VHP-BD programme, entitled VHP bharti, which saw 100,000 people participating in Ahmedabad, and where the central slogan was “Muslim ko nasht karo” (destroy the Muslims).

Sisters in Arms: Fighting for the Hindu Rashtra


We can also see that every theme relating to women that had come up in the past were to reappear with utmost viciousness in the last few years. In July 1998, the Gujarat government set up a Police Cell for Monitoring Inter-Religious Marriages. Haren Pandya, then the minister of state for home, announced this in the assembly, and justified it on the ground that such marriages were not made of free choice but were forced on Hindu women for ulterior motives.  The marriages of Hindu women with Muslim men sparked off well-planned riots, engineered by the VHP and the Bajrang Dal . The president of Bardoli VHP unit Kalaben Patel alleged that it was a conspiracy of Muslim fanatics to target Hindu girls. The RSS General Secretary claimed that Madrassas train Muslim youth in the art of seducing Hindu women.  Communalism Combat has published a confidential document circulated by the Hindutva forces in February 2000. It said, among other things: “The main attack on Hindu Samaj is that our sisters of tender age are being abducted by offering them inducements and allurements and then they are made to sign the marriage register after getting converted by force. Hundreds of Hindu girls are being (converted to Islam) made Muslims like this in Gujarat state.”  These, along with even more violent articles on the internet and in the “popular” print media, stirred up violent hatred in the name of protecting and preserving Hindu women, and with them Hindu society. One concrete development, reported by the CPI(M)-AIDWA team, comes from Randhikpur village where the VHP and the Bajrang Dal had attacked a whole village in early 1999 because they suspected that the village was sheltering intercommunity couples ( two Hindu girls and two Muslim boys) who had got married. 350 Muslims at that time had been forced to leave the village and had their property ransacked. The tragedy is that not only were sensibilities blunted in Gujarati civil society, but that most of  the rest of the country went on ignoring these as minor aberrations.

We have seen the formation of the Rashtra Sevika Samity. In more recent times there have been other organisations like the Durga Vahini etc, and role models like Uma Bharati, Saddhvi Rithambhara etc. Women have been massively inducted in the Hindu Right and pushed towards violence from the period of the Ram mandir agitation. But it was only this time, in Gujarat, that this bore fruit fully. The fullest report on the role of Hindu women has come from the PUCL, reporting on Baroda. The final version mentions a number of points, summarised below.
The years of hate campaign and propaganda about Muslims overtaking Hindus numerically, have resulted in women sanctioning and taking part in violence. They defended the violence saying that "they had it coming" etc.   “They have 4 wives and 20 children, they will overrun us, they don't use contraception etc. They are taking away all our business, we are becoming poor.”  Taught from birth that Muslim men are all rapists and that Muslim women are their collaborators, they turned in increasing numbers to violent, with ample social sanctions.The line between hating Muslims to condoning their killing and encouraging it has been crossed, at least partly on account of the fear psychosis that centres around the notion of the ‘dangerous Other.’  Some women have even taken part fully in the violence and the looting. Maya Kodnani, a woman MP, in her discussion with members of the women’s team who produced The Survivors Speak  claimed that she had heard of only one case of rape. Her casual attitude was to shock those who were interviewing her. The BJP spokesman V. K. Malhotra claimed there had been only two FIRs lodged by rape victims, so the story of mass rape was fabricated.  Vasudha Dhagamwar, in her two-part article justifying the report of The National Commission for Women also talked about only three rape cases.   Dhagamwar had been a member of the NCW team that went to Gujarat and submitted  a report, where the NCW had stated in Jaipur, that the "reports of sexual violence against women in Gujarat were highly exaggerated". This prompted women's organisations where the statement was made, to protest strongly. Leaving aside the claims of government and Sangh spokespersons, we need to look at what the participation in violence is supposed to do to Hindu women. The view of Anuradha M. Chenoy, is that through their participation in the violence, the Hindutva influenced women find themselves “empowered”.  What kind of empowerment is this? This is a discourse which utterly denies citizenship, sexuality and even basic humanity of Muslim women. Hindu women supposedly prove their ability to resist and to punish the centuries long aggressor. They adopt a controlled form of masculine norm. They are allowed to be violent; they are allowed to aid sexual violence, in the name of the virangana model. The advocacy of violence by Savarkar, one of the key initiators of the fascistic form of communalism, is now finally realised in practice. And this kind of training in violence continues unabated. On 27th March, 2002, The Asian Age carried an advertisement which stated: “The 49th All India Summer Training Camp organised by Ritambhara Vishva Vidyapeeth will be held at Satapura, district Dangs, Gujarat, from May 3 to May 22 for women and children. The camp will include lathi-training, rifle-shooting,…”  These and other types of organisations formed the subject matter of Tanika Sarkar’s paper in a recent seminar, as she focussed “upon the formal and informal networks and activities through which the womens’ wings of the Sangh Parivar mobilised Hindu female consent to violence”.

Dress Rehearsal for the Final Solution: The Subversion of Democratic Insitutions Begin with Targeting the Other Women


In this connection, while discussing the systematic way in which the Sangh Parivar has been using the state apparatus to legitimise the violence, protect the guilty and further victimise the innocent, we need to discuss two documents, both of watchdog bodies – namely the reports of the National Human Rights Commission and the National Commission for Women. The NCW report, and Dhagamwar’s justification, form a black case of collusion with the vilest deeds of state and the Sangh Parivar.  The NHRC in its first report expressed concern that even after three weeks violence had not stopped and stated that it could not delay sending its team any more. The NHRC condemned the role of the state government in no uncertain terms. It has even brought out a third statement at the end of May, passing strictures on the state government for its comprehensive failure to contain violence. The NCW sent its team only after 41 days. Where the NHRC stressed the ongoing communal tension, the NCW report took Godhra as the starting point, totally disregarding any possible pre-Godhra communalisation. Ms. Dhagamwar’s article stated: “We had also decided that the Chief Minister, Narendra Modi, was not our direct concern.”  In other words, the communalisation of Gujarat by an RSS pracharak is to be ignored, and taken as a given, and the NCW will only recommend a few poultices on the scarred body of the minority population. Taking the same casual attitude to the massive rapes, she simply wrote:  “ I have to say that only three women admitted to having been raped.” She justified the NCW’s act of ignoring the massive victimisation under three heads. First, she was evidently going by the police-government figures. Sceond , she claimed that lots of NGOs had already reported stories of atrocities so it was unnecessary to repeat that. But then her third assertion was that all these claims about rapes were false. By a trick, she turned the events of raping and burning into the following account: “That every woman who had been raped was also killed seemed a little difficult to accept.” Anybody would find such a claim difficult to accept. Only … no investigation, whether by Syeda Hamid et al (they seem to be the principal targets, since they have reported so many cases of rape followed by burning to death) or by anyone else, makes such a claim. In camp after camp the women are speaking, naming names. But forget the women who are willing to speak out, the NCW report does not even mention the identity of the criminals identified by the women as being responsible for the violence. This is a matter of identifying the perpetrators. Who? Perpetrators? Do they exist? Only in three cases, says Ms. Dhagamwar. Going by her insensitive statements it is clear that the silence of the NCW is because it prefers, and she personally prefers, to accept the official position of discounting the testimonies of the survivors, and then rubbing in the insult by accusing them of not wanting to speak about rape. As a matter of fact, the reports all point to certain important lessons. Violence had targeted the Muslim female body in ways not seen previously. There was also terrible and sadistic violence directed towards children, including unborn children, in front of their mothers, before the mothers themselves were abused, tortured and killed and burnt. This says something about the Sangh’s world view. It would be foolish to ignore this as acts of barbarism by a lunatic fringe, just as it would be generally self-defeating to reduce the politics of the Sangh to mere economic forces and their hidden pressure. The rape and destruction of the Muslim female body, the orgy of violence on the children, show that the Sangh is serious in implementing Golwalkar’s utterance about how the “foreign races” must entertain no idea but those of the glorification of the Hindu race and culture,  “and must lose their separate existence”, or may stay in the country, wholly subordinated to the Hindu Nation, claiming nothing, deserving …not even citizen's rights.” In the outlook of the Sangh and its cothinkers, women are breeders. The destruction of an “alien” race/religion/community is best brought about by destroying its breeders and its future – the children. So it is silly to display any chivalry in times of war. And of course, in the Sangh world-view, the “Hindu Nation” is perpetually at war with the enemy. The attack on reproductive organs with special savagery was one more way of saying that the womb of the Muslim woman, allegedly extra fertile (“woh panch, uske pachchis”) must be destroyed. And rape is not an evil deed. It is a positive, glorifying act. As a Gujarati leaflet entitled Jehad exults:

We have untied the penises which were tied till now
Without castor oil in the arse we have made them cry

Those who call religious war, violence, are all fuckers
We have widened the tight vaginas of the ‘bibis’

She was fucked standing while she kept shouting
She enjoyed the uncircumcised penis

 

Resistance Now: For Justice, For Citizenship, for Democracy


At the end we need to mention briefly a few points regarding security, compensation and rehabilitation. It has taken two months to arrest the murderer of Kausar Bano, the woman from whose womb a child was torn out and killed before she too was murdered. The large-scale burning took place, among other reasons, in order to destroy the evidence. And at the same time, reports show how forms were imposed in savage caricature of Hindu rites. In one case, a boy was made to walk round the burning bodies of his relatives before being pushed into the fire himself. And there is no guarantee of protection. In most cases of violence the police has refused to accept FIRs. They have written down FIRs where the individual attackers are not identified. Instead, unspecified “mobs” are held responsible, thereby rendering the FIRs useless. The Medico Friend Circle team´s report corroborates other investigations´ findings of large-scale and systematic sexual assault. There have also been many reports of women coming to hospitals in a condition which doctors would certainly suspect sexual assault. Yet doctors in hospitals visited by the team stated that no cases of sexual assault had been filed – in other words obvious signs of sexual assault have been disregarded. As a consequence, there is no medical evidence of sexual assault, on which basis women could seek justice. In addition, both this medical investigation report, and every other independent report, emphasizes a profound psychological trauma. People have lost all their kin within minutes. Mothers have seen daughters raped and butchered. Eleven-twelve year boys and girls have helplessly watched the rape of kin. Utmost violence, including attacks with swords, sticks, kerosene and petrol, acid, have been witnessed. So even those who suffered little or no physical injury are totally devastated. There has also been massive verbal abuse, which has often been underrated. Sexually explicit abuse and so on have had as much weight as physical abuse. In the isolated rural camps like the Kalol Relief Camp, people have not even had any chance to share their experience with anyone, to unburden themselves. An overriding fear and a failure to visualise any future beyond the camps keeps these people, notably the women, in a state of shell-shocked silence. While the Gujarat government tries to dismantle the camps, and while authors like Ms. Dhagamwar write how the camps cannot be a solution, these people, including particularly the women, cannot go back. The PUCL report cites women of Kisanwadi, now in the Qureshi Jamaat Khana Relief Camp, as saying that it is better to die once and for all, than to go back to Kisanwadi. And this violence and trauma has had gendered consequences on the minority community. Women’s voices are often being stifled. Where protection is such a burning issue, traditional norms are being reimposed to restrict the mobility of women. The destruction of infrastructures moreover mean that their educational opportunities are being restricted. But there is also another side of the picture. As the PUCL interim report says, “The unnatural and abnormal situation has also brought out leadership qualities in many, many women”.  Such women have organised relief, protested against police atrocities, and have shown tremendous courage all along. So there is no reason to think they will meekly succumb to the dictates of community patriarchs. Concerning compensation, the way everything is being destroyed, there is no way that people can prove what they had. Often they cannot even prove their identities as all papers are totally destroyed. So the compensation package becomes a farce. The PUCL report, final version, mentioned earlier, states that while losses range up to a few lakhs of rupees for middle class families, in Baroda they have received compensation worth a few thousands of rupees. In the CPI(M)-AIDWA report, we find that for the 8000 inhabitants of the Bapunagar camp, there were only 200 compensation forms. At the same time the shrinking avenues for employment faced by the women take on added significance in the face of the present recession coupled with systematic destruction of livelihood assets of the community as a whole during the March 2002 violence. For the rural victims, and for the urban poor, the losses are even more difficult to record. The total destruction of Muslim property in some rural areas suggests that these properties could subsequently be taken over smoothly by the Hindutva forces.

Given the lack of protection, women, while freely talking about rape to those who visit the camps, however painful it is to them, are reluctant to go and record the FIRs because the perpetrators and their protectors are the ones who record. The camps are often unprotected, and quite some distance from the police stations. In many cases, the condition for returning to the villages is twofold: the FIRs must be withdrawn, and Muslims must swear not to live in any distinctive Muslim way. Meanwhile, intellectuals and middle class Hindus far away from Gujarat take shelter under all kinds of argumentative shields. Even the fact that the Shah-e-Alam camp, with 9000 people when the CPI(M)-AIDWA team made a visit, (rising to 10,000 when the Women’s Panel made their visit) had only one mobile toilet with five seats and one temporary toilet with five seats has been airily waved away by those who believe that Muslims normally live in such dirty ways. The hardliners of the Sangh Parivar are getting away with their crimes because of this communalisation of the middle ground. And both the RSS and the supposedly neutral intellectuals constantly harp on a potential all-India Muslim backlash. The report The Survivors Speak debunks all such talk of backlash. Rizwana, a resident of Vatwa, responded to the Women’s Panel thus: “What was she feeling? Anger, helplessness and desire for badla (revenge)? She looked startled by the word badla. ‘Our people are laachaar (broken). They are not being able to do anything’. ‘Agar badla ka saval tha to kab ka le chuke hote.’ (If it was a question of revenge we would have taken it long ago).” It is possible that stray individuals would take the path of individual violence or terrorism, but the response of Muslims has been for justice, and for a restoration of peace.