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HVK Archives: BJP bares its fangs

BJP bares its fangs - Sunday

Kuldip Nayar ()
February 16, 1998, Karachi

Title: BJP bares its fangs
Author: Kuldip Nayar
Date: February 16, 1998, Karachi

So the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has decided to blaze it out.
Its ideologues make no pretence, its rhetoric is categorical. And
its election manifesto does not show a bit of accommodation,
which its alliance with some 12 parties was expected to reflect.
Probably, the party has come to realize that even the semblance
of liberalism has destabilized its support among the faithful. Or
probably, it wanted to bare its fangs for all to see.

The manifesto expresses 'unflinching' faith in Hindutva so as to
'reorganize' and 'discipline' the nation. Whatever else it may
mean, it does not convey any dilution of the ideology of Hindu
Rashtra, the anti-thesis of a liberal, secular polity. The party
says it is convinced that Hindutva has 'immense potential' for
the task of nation-building. In other words, the BJP finds that
the concept of composite culture, which the nation has sustained
for centuries, has run its course. It has found it deficient in
strength and stamina to hammer the different religious and
regional identities into 'one people', 'one nation.' This was
precisely the approach of certain people in the countries which
have gone authoritarian. They too had argued that where large
numbers of individuals lacked the kind of integration the nation
required, some 'discipline', some way to maintain 'a civilized
way' of life was necessary. In the midst of such rhetoric, it
does not take long to lose personal conscience and ethics and
become a mechanical instrument that can only play back the
slogans that have been fed into it. Strange, the BJP should
propagate the philosophy which it opposed relentlessly during the
emergency - the philosophy to effect conformity and eliminate
dissent in the name of duty and discipline.

The party should not beat about the bush any more. Nor should the
cooing by Atal Behari Vajpayee lessen the strident tone of L.K.
Advani. The allies like George Fernandes, Ramakrishna Hegde and
Prakash Singh Badal should listen to what the two say distinctly
and recognize the reality unmasked. Atal says that the RSS is his
spirit and Advani includes the body as well. In fact, while
releasing the election manifesto, Advani was not apologetic about
the BJP's stand. "I want to be fair to others as well as to my
party." What he wanted to make clear was that there was no
compromise.

What the BJP's allies do is their business. And they will do very
little because power is more important to them than principles.
Their eyes are fixed on some vague, ephemeral electoral gains.
But the people who have lived together for centuries, retaining
their ethnic and religious entities, have a challenge to meet.
The largest political party in the dissolved Lok Sabha finds
futility in following the traditional path of pluralism and puts
its faith in Hindutva. The Supreme Court's judgement in the
Bommai case has made it clear that religion cannot be invoked for
the purpose of getting votes. This has not distracted the BJP in
any way. Its manifesto - and its campaign - talks blatantly in
terms of Hindu religion and appeals in the name of Hindutva.
Strange, the Election Commission should prefer to stay quiet.

To allay any ambiguity about its ideology, the BJP has reiterated
its resolve to build a temple at the disputed site in Ayodhya.
Whether the law is on its side or not is of little consequence;
Hindutva justifies all that the BJP decides to do. The matter is
pending before the court. Yet it does not bother the party. In
fact, it never did. In his earlier stint, Uttar Pradesh BJP Chief
Minister Kalyan Singh connived at the destruction of Babri
Masjid, despite the solemn assurance lie gave to the Supreme
Court to protect it. That the Congress government at the centre
failed to act does not absolve the BJP of its responsibility.

The demand for abrogation of Article 370, which gives special
status to Jammu and Kashmir, is a corollary to the dictum of
conformism. The thesis of 'one people' does not brook the oddity
of regional aspirations. In the case of Jammu and Kashmir, the
crime is more heinous. People of the state joined the Indian
Union on the understanding that they would have autonomy in all
subjects except defence, foreign affairs and communications. An
agreement to that effect was signed in 1952 between Jawaharlal
Nehru and Sheikh Abdullah. The J&K Constituent Assembly endorsed
it. Therefore, the right to dilute or delete Article 370 vests in
the people who joined the Union, not vice-versa. It is not for
the Union even if the BJP comes to head it, to say that it will
abrogate that right. It does not have it in the first instance.
However, the redeeming factor is that the BJP's allies have taken
exception to the deletion of Article 370.

The manifesto, if not the campaign, talks about a ban on cow
slaughter. This is not a new demand. It was first discussed in
the Constituent Assembly and later in Parliament. New Delhi was
the scene of agitation by the Sadhus when the late Gulzari Lal
Nanda was the Union Home Minister. The consensus for some years
has been that the milching cows and their offspring will be
protected. By reviving old controversies, the BJP is only
stoking fires of prejudice. Since the ban fits into the
philosophy of Hindutva, the party does not want to leave any
point which may appeal to some Hindus somewhere. Imagine the
country where no cow is killed. How does it accommodate all those
cows which become old and outlive their utility. This is the main
problem even if the economic part is kept apart. And then in
India there are communities which eat cow. Should religious
beliefs of one community be imposed on other communities in a
democratic society?

True to the Hindutva spirit, the BJP wants a uniform civil code
in the country. No doubt, this is one of the 10 Directive
Principles of state policy enlisted in the Constitution. It may
be desirable to do away with all personal laws as the, US has
done. But an electoral announcement is no way to go about it.
For centuries people have followed certain practices to guide
them on marriage, divorce, adoption and inheritance if at all,
they have to be persuaded to give them up. To the minorities in
India, their personal law gives them confidence and a sense of
security. It has been observed that whenever the cry of Hindutva
has grown louder, the minorities have raised the walls around
them higher. The moment they feel confident, they may themselves
demolish the walls. They have to be won over and shown that they
will continue to live according to their religious beliefs even
when there is common civil code. It should be their decision,
not forced on them.

And what should Muslims make out from Atal's reported contention
in an article in the Organiser, the RSS weekly, that "if you
(Muslims) have to choose between India and Makkah, you must
choose India"? The two represent different entities, which have
no conflict. The first is the place of nationality and the other
of pilgrimage. An Indian Hindu born in America, if asked to
choose between the US and Hardwar or Varanasi, will give a
similar reply; both are equally important to him. The sentiments
that a religious place evoke are different from those that a
country of birth does. Such questions when posed doubt the very
patriotism of a community. Why the majority has the right to make
these formulations, not the minority?

India's asset is its composite society - the society where the
rulers and the subjects, the foreigners and the locals, the
Hindus and the Muslims have become warp and woof of the same
tapestry, drawing strength from the different threads that has
got interwoven over the years, resulting in a texture which
reflects diverse shades in a smooth, sturdy fashion. And as the
Ganges has taken into her lap a multitude of different streams,
whether stormy, placid or dirty, so has India assimilated the
strange and the strong from several climes. Both the river and
the country have remained undefiled, pure.

Diversity is our strength and composite culture is our heritage.
We want consensus, neither conflict nor conformism. Despite the
claim that it represents Hinduism and speaks in its name, the
BJP, has not understood its ethos: tolerance, spirit of
accommodation and respect for all religions. The sooner it does
the better it will be for the country.


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