People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 37

September 13, 2009



RSS/BJP: Back to Their Basics



THROUGH these columns, we had repeatedly raised in the recent past apprehensions concerning greater dangers to communal harmony and peace in the light of the growing control of the RSS over the BJP. Plagued with internal dissensions and organisational problems that appeared to run out of control, with the expulsion of Jaswant Singh, the RSS stepped in to restore some semblance   of organisational functioning.  Though the BJP functions as the political arm of the RSS, the RSS appears to have assumed the reins of direct control.  This, we had apprehended, would bring the aggressive hardcore Hindutva agenda to the fore which cannot but sharpen communal passions disturbing peace and harmony.  This is because the RSS/BJP appear to have come to the conclusion that it is only through an aggressive display  of hardcore communalism, can it succeed in polarising  the society in its effort to mobilise the `Hindu vote bank'. 


Unfortunately, these apprehensions are turning out to be true. For a week now, communal tensions continue to simmer threatening to burst into flames in the districts of Sangli and Kolhapur in western Maharashtra.  Violence broke out on the last day of the Ganesh festival in the Miraj town of Sangli district.  It soon spread to adjoining districts in the country�s sugar bowl.


As always, there is a deliberate design stoking such violence.  The trouble started in the district after the police seized a decorative poster in one of the Ganesh mandals which depicted Shivaji Maharaja's killing of Afzal Khan.  Such a depiction was designed to provoke a confrontation.  As a mark of protest against the police, the Ganesh mandals in Miraj refused to conduct immersion of the idols.  As tension escalated, riots spread to neighbouring pockets in the state.


There is a historical background which is being exploited to the hilt by the BJP-Shiv Sena combine.  In 1659, in a battle between Shivaji and Bijapur's Adil Shah,  Shivaji kills Adil Shah's general Afzal Khan at the Pratapgad Fort  near Satara town.  Afzal Khan�s tomb was built near the Fort after this battle.  The Afzal Khan Trust at Pratapgad has been in constant battle with Hindutva organisations over disputes and allegations of encroachment.


While Satara, Sangli and Kolhapur were part of Shivaji's kingdom, who is revered, the Muslims conduct community worship at Afzal Khan's tomb in Pratapgad.   This is a classic recipe for the RSS/BJP to thrive.  In 2002, the communal forces tried to damage the tomb which led to riots and large-scale communal clashes in Satara. In this background, the depiction of Shivaji slaying Afzal Khan, in a mandal of Ganesh festival,   was, as stated above, a designed provocation. 


This resulted in the continuing week long violence and communal clashes in these districts. Curfew has been imposed in various places. As we go to press, Ichalkaranji, a powerloom town in Kolhapur district which the CPI(M) represented in the state assembly on occasions in the past,  is under curfew, following large-scale violence and the killing of a labourer in a stabbing incident.  The town SP told the media, �The mob desecrated religious places and indulged in looting.  They even attacked the police station�.  Media reports that properties worth crores of rupees was gutted in Sangli, Kolhapur and Satara districts. 


Such incendiary rousing of communal passions is directly aimed at reaping political benefit through communal polarisation in the forthcoming elections to the Maharashtra state assembly.  Media reports, �A week after communal riots broke out in western Maharashtra's Sangli and Kolhapur districts, the saffron combine derived much wanted political mileage out of it ahead of the assembly polls.� On the other hand, the Congress-NCP state government needs to explain how it allowed these tensions to continue for over a week. The chief minister takes refuge behind the enforcement of the Election Commission's code of conduct as preventing effective and immediate action. Surely, effective maintenance of law and order can never be subjected to the EC's code of conduct. 


Finally,  on September 8, the chief minister convened an all party meeting at which a consensus was reached  that  the Ganesh mandals will begin the immersion of the idols from the next day. This, according to the original schedule, had to be completed on September 3.  However, as we go to press, the tensions have not yet begun to ease and the completion of the immersion is yet to happen. 


All this is a chilling pointer to the fact that in the days to come, aggressive pursuit of hardcore Hindutva agenda and the consequent sharpening of communal polarisation  will be the staple diet of the RSS/BJP to overcome its internal problems and try and regain some political space.  For this to succeed, however, the country and the people need to pay a very heavy price.  For the sake of India's integrity, social harmony and prosperity, such a roadmap needs to be politically defeated. 


(September 9, 2009)