Militant route to Hindu Rashtra

7 Aug

Hindutva Terrorist Chief Pravin Togadia

Frustrated by the dilution of hardcore Hindutva ideology, fringe groups in the Sangh Parivar turn to militancy.

V. SREENIVASA MURTHY

Pravin Togadia, The Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s international general secretary. Hard-line Hindutva positions of leaders like him have encouraged the adventurism of those like Pragya Singh Thakur and Lt Col Shrikant Purohit.

THE recent revelations about Hindutva terror strikes in various parts of the country have added a new dimension to the political and organisationalcrisis faced currently by the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS)-led Sangh Parivar.

A senior Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader with a penchant for flaunting Marxian terminology in his individual interactions described the situation as follows: “For the past five years or so the RSS has tried to develop concrete organisational mechanisms to fight revisionism in the ranks of different Sangh Parivar organisations, particularly the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). But the revelations in these so-called Hindutva terror cases do indicate that the Sangh Parivar as a whole needs to keep a watch on sectarian tendencies too in a section of the rank and file. That has indeed added to the burden of our tasks in the short, medium and long term.”

The VHP leader’s assessment is at variance with the official statements of the Sangh Parivar leadership on the Hindutva terror cases ranging from the Malegaon blasts of 2006 to the Goa blasts of 2009. Leaders of the various outfits of the Hindutva combine, including RSS sarsanghchalak Mohan Madhukar Bhagwat and BJP spokesperson Ravishankar Prasad, have maintained that the Sangh Parivar has nothing do with any of the terror attacks. Both Bhagwatand Prasad went to the extent of stating that Congress governments at the Centre and in many States had falsely implicated Sangh Parivar activists in these cases as part of a “deliberate and malicious political ploy”to equate Hindutva organisations with jehadi outfits.

This difference in the public postures of the RSS and BJP top brass with the privately expressed assessment of the Sangh Parivar leadership comesas no surprise to observers of the Sangh Parivar’s political and organisational methods. The art of multi-speak is built into the very structure of the Sangh Parivar. The different outfits and their leadership have practised thisas an effective tool in their political and organisational strategy since the mid-1980s, the period when the Ram Janmabhoomi agitation in Ayodhya peaked.

The strategy was put to telling use during the lead-up to the demolition of the Babri Masjid in December 1992, when the then BJP government of Kalyan Singh in Uttar Pradesh promised to protect the structure and then feigned helplessness as armed kar sevaks of the Sangh Parivar demolished the masjid. The so-called extremist wings of the Sangh Parivar,such as the VHP, then claimed victory in the demolition while some BJP leaders, including Lal Krishna Advani, maintained that they were saddened by it.

Divergent opinions

Themulti-speak has generally been nuanced and orchestrated, but there have been occasions when the expression of divergent opinions has gone out of its structured parameters. Such “straying” has happened even on the question ofsectarian influences within the Hindutva combine. One striking example of this can be found in the letter written by B.L. Sharma alias Prem to Advani in 1997, when he resigned as the BJP’s Lok Sabha member from East Delhi. Sharma accused the BJP of forsaking the core principles of the Sangh Parivar and seeking power through unacceptable compromises, even with pro-Islamic elements. Sharma went on to visualise deliverance to the Hindu community through an insurrection in the armed forces.

Similarly, the VHP’s current international general secretary, Pravin Togadia, made bold in 2001 to criticise the internal security policies of then BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government at the Centre. In the wake of the attack on Parliament House in December 2001, Togadia announced at a VHP conclave in Mathura that the organisation would form groups of vigilantes across the country to keeptabs on suspiciousactivities and people on the lines of the civil society vigilantism Israel practises with the active collaboration of Mossad, its intelligence agency.

Sharma’s proposal of “army intervention” or Togadia’s Mossad-style civil society vigilantism was never formally followed up by the Sangh Parivar. However, these ideas find expression in the activities of the Hindutva terror groups. Investigations by national and State-level agencies into the activities of organisations such asAbhinav Bharat, the Rashtriya Jagran Manch and Sanatan Sanstha reveal that former or serving army officers, fascinated by the ideology of Hindutva, have played a major part in rearing and organising these outfits.

A. MAHESH KUMAR/AP

RSS sarsanghchalak Mohan Madhukar Bhagwat. He maintains that the Sangh Parivar has nothing to do with any of the terror attacks.

The organisations and their leaders, such as Major Ramesh Upadhyay (retd), Lt Col Shrikant Prasad Purohit and Swami Dayanand Pandey,have also tried to promote civil society vigilantism as propagated by Togadia. Investigation records show that they actually cultivated international organisations with Israeli and other connections.

A key piece of evidence in this regard came through the recordings in Swami Dayanand Pandey’s laptop. The recordings revealed not only the planning that went into the 2008 Malegaon blasts but also the fact that Abhinav Bharat’s leadership was in talks with groups based in Nepal and Israel to achieve the goal of establishing a “pure” Hindu Rashtra.

Obviously, none of this was sanctioned formally by the Sangh Parivar or its leadership. But the fact remains that these groups were inspired by and were literally following some of the ideas raised by some senior Sangh Parivar leaders.

The VHP leader who admitted to the presence of “sectarian tendencies” came up with some reasoning too. In his view, a number of“revisionist” ideological aberrations had contributed greatly to the rise of these tendencies. Hence, the Sangh Parivar’s primary battle in this regard should be against the root cause, he opined. For many VHP leaders, all the problems that have come to afflict the Sangh Parivar, especially the BJP, arose during the six-year stint in power from 1998 to 2004.

The VHP leader said these years andthe run-up to them marked a phase of compromises on issues relating to ideology and political practice, such as the construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya, abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution, and advocacy of a uniform civil code.

He explained: “All these compromises were made as part of tactical electoral adjustments to win over allies, who were expected to be convinced about the Sangh Parivar’spositions over a period of time. Not only did nothing of that sort happen,but our cadre witnessed a substantial reduction in the moral and political authority of our leaders along with the toning down of Hindutva slogans. Many Sangh Parivar functionaries became attuned to the privileges and trappings of power. This departure from core Sangh Parivar values, in terms of both politics and organisational discipline, must have angered some of the rank and file and contributed to the strengthening of sectarian tendencies in them. That is why we want to keep the fight against the root cause at the centre of all political and organisational revival initiatives.”

PTI

Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur with then BJP president Rajnath Singh (extreme right), Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan (left) and others when they met to condole the death of Laxman Singh Gaud, a member of the State Assembly, in a car accident in February 2008.

In fact, the VHP has consistently highlighted the issue of corruption within other organisations, especially the BJP, in the Hindutva combine.. VHP leaders such as Togadia have been openly critical of even Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, who is widely considered to be an aggressive Hindutva leader on account of the 2002 genocide against Muslims in the State. Modi is rated by Togadia and his supporters as a person who has compromised with industrialists and big business houses.

Leaders such as Togadia and Ashok Singhal have stated repeatedly that the political philosophy of Hindutva is aimed at helping the “conventionally meek Hindu community to overcome this meekness and match it with the aggression of minority communities like Muslims”. Togadia holds the view that “when leaders of Hindutva organisations give up this historical position, we have no option but to oppose it”. Clearly, the hard-line Hindutva positions of leaders like Togadia, too, have encouraged the adventurism of those like Pragya Singh Thakur and Lt Col Shrikant Purohit.

“Tasks ahead”

Significantly, in 2004, a document aimed at correcting ideological aberrations was formulated under the direction of the RSS and presented at the Mumbai national executive of the BJP, held from June 22 to June 24, 2004. That 42-page document, titled “Tasks Ahead: Immediate and Long-Term”, claimed to have formulated “the main tasks before the party in fulfilment of its resolve to re-energise itself in a comprehensive manner, in order to be able to successfully deal with both the immediate and long-term challenges before the party”. The thrust of this document, too, was on correcting the so-called revisionist tendencies. There was no mention at all of possible extremist or sectarian deviations from the Hindutva cadre and leadership.

The document stated:“Quantitative expansion brings in its wake qualitative deficiencies, which, if unchecked and uncorrected, can hinder further growth and even cause decline. However, an organisation that is aware of its purpose of existence and continually reminds itself of the goal for which it was founded never fails to study these shortcomings and to overcome them by applying necessary correctives. During the period of the party’s phenomenal growth since the late 1980s many shortcomings have surfaced in the organisation. These are inconsistent with our party’s ideals and objectives, with our distinctive ideology, and also with our guiding organisational principles and canons.”

The document went on to state that there had been “an erosion of commitment” to the principles of collective leadership, cooperation and commitment at various levels of the party. “Individualism, lack of consultation and coordination, and absence of camaraderie are taking root, diluting the effectiveness of the party’s activities.” It also said that there was a “rapidly gathering impression that acts of indiscipline will be condoned and that even serious cases of anti-party activities will be overlooked” and that this“has done immense damage to the health of our organisation”.

The document pointed out that promoting individual commitments within the party at the cost of larger political and ideological interests had become widespread and that this had encouraged negative tendencies such as sycophancy, nepotism and corruption.

V. SUDERSHAN

Former BJP Presidents Rajnath Singh and L.K. Advani. “Rajnath Singh’s elevation [as president in 2005, replacing Advani] was seen as one of the most important rectification initiatives in the post-2004 period, but nothing came of it,” says a senior RSS leader.

According to a senior RSS leader from Uttar Pradesh, Rajnath Singh was asked to take over as BJP president from Advani in 2005 with the clear brief that he would implement the tasks listed in the document, and he was removed from the post in 2009 as he had failed to carry them out. “In fact, Rajnath Singh’s elevation was seen as one of the most important rectification initiatives in the post-2004 period, but nothing came of it,” said the Lucknow-based senior RSS leader.

Obviously, the current BJP president,Nitin Gadkari, too, has a brief from the RSS to carry out these tasks. While there is a general consensus within the higher echelons of the Sangh Parivar that it is too early to make an overall assessment of Gadkari’s performance, there is also the view that his stint so far – since December 2009 – has not been very inspiring in terms of correcting political and organisational deficiencies.

Gadkari’sdependence on established power and pressure groups in the organisational hierarchy to take decisions has been criticised widely within the Sangh Parivar. Still,he has the backing of the RSS leadership at this point of time, essentially on account of the argument that he needs more time to set things in order.

However, thewidespread impression within the rank and file of various Sangh Parivar organisations and among serious observers of the Parivar is that even top leaders of the RSS, including sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat, will not be able to give Gadkari too long a rope.

“The context created by the revelations about the so-called Hindutva terror attacks and the extremist tendencies they signify underscore this impression,” said Lucknow-based political analyst Indra Bhushan Singh.

He is of the view that the present context makes it imperative for Gadkari to act fast, at least to create the impression that he is taking steps to advance the interests of the saffron party politically and organisationally. This would essentially involve an assertion of Hindutva in one way or the other.

In actual terms, says Indra Bhushan Singh, this will be directed more against the so-called revisionist tendencies, highlighted both by the VHP leader and in the 2004 document, and less against the so-called sectarian tendencies, which in a way are only a continuation of the original thrust of Hindutva politics.

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