AS the crucial election season draws closer, the contours of the Sangh-BJP game plan are becoming clearer with every passing day. We have four major pointers to the unfolding BJP agenda and campaign ahead of the great battle of 2019. The RSS insistence that the Modi government must enact a legislation to enable the construction of a Ram Mandir in the Ayodhya site where the Babri Masjid stood till 6 December 1992, the BJP’s U-turn on the Supreme Court verdict allowing the entry of women of all age groups in the Sabarimala temple and its violent campaign in Kerala to stop implementation of the Supreme Court verdict, the Adityanath government’s ‘Tughlaqi farmaan’ changing the name of Allahabad city and district to Prayagraj ahead of the forthcoming Kumbh Mela congregation, and Modi’s desperate attempt to hijack the legacy of Subhas Chandra Bose in the name of commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the declaration of the for-mation of the provisional Azad Hind Government are all aimed at creating a heady mix of mythology and history to legitimise the ag-gressive Sangh-BJP drive to reshape India according to the Sangh’s fascist ideology.
The Ram Mandir campaign of the Sangh brigade has never been just about building a grand temple for Ram, it was about replacing the Babri Masjid with a Ram temple. And this was not meant to settle scores with some presumed sixteenth century occurrence, but to defy the Supreme Court and Parliament of the day. If 1992 was about defiance, 2018 is about dictating terms to the Supreme Court and Parliament. The Sangh wants a Ram Mandir built through a parliamentary legislation – either Supreme Court should take the cue and decide accordingly or the government should make use of its majority in Parliament to bring about an enabling legislation to overrule the Supreme Court. It is all about setting the terms for the Supreme Court, Parliament and Constitution, about reshaping the Indian state as a Hindu Rashtra.
The RSS has openly expressed the same stand vis-a-vis the Supreme Court verdict allowing the entry of women in the Sabarimala temple. Bhagwat says the Supreme Court should have decided the case in keeping with the traditions as determined by the dominant voice of the community and not on the basis of constitutional principles of liberty and equality. These are the same people who welcomed the Supreme Court verdict invalidating the instantaneous triple talaq in the name of justice for Muslim women and have even gone to the extent of promulgating an ordinance criminalising triple talaq. It is also instructive to note in this context the contrasting attitudes displayed by the Sabarimala temple board and the Haji Ali Dargah Trust on the issue of entry of women. While the Haji Ali Dargah Trust bowed to the Supreme Court verdict, the Travancore Devaswom Board has been flouting the Supreme Court verdict, even calling it an incentive for ‘sex tourism’ while Union Minister Anantkumar Hegde accuses the Supreme Court ruling of playing with Hindu religious beliefs and sentiments. It is not difficult to imagine how the RSS, BJP and the Modi government would have reacted if the Muslim community had adopt-ed a similar stand of defiance and opposition on triple talaq and entry of women in the Haji Ali Dargah.
In Uttar Pradesh, where the rule of law has been replaced by the tyranny of an encounter raj, and governance has collapsed on all fronts, Chief Minister Adityanath has embarked on a name-changing spree. After renaming Mughalsarai after Deen Dayal Upadhyay, the UP government has rechristened the iconic city and district of Allahabad, which has a prominent place in the history of India’s struggle for in-dependence, as Prayagraj. If the renaming is extended to the Allahabad High Court and University, the cost of this exercise will run into thousands of crores of rupees. This is as wasteful and whimsical as was the demonetisation drive, with the added dimension of cultural bigotry and stupidity. The twin cities of Allahabad and Prayag have coexisted since centuries, but any tradition and history dating back to the Mughal period is anathema to the vandals who are wielding pow-er only to indulge in unbridled vandalism in every sphere of life and society. The renaming must be seen as part of a package with the renewed campaign for Ram Mandir and the forthcoming congregation of NRIs in Varanasi and Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, all of which will be sought to be used to the hilt to create a propaganda hype and emotional frenzy in the run-up to the 2019 elections.
Amidst this spectacle of cultural politics, the Modi government has also launched a desperate campaign to hijack the legacy of Subhas Chandra Bose in the name of commemorating the 75th anniversary of the proclamation of the provisional Azad Hind Government on the soil of Singapore. The government claims that all previous governments had ignored the role and contribution of Netaji and seeks to project Narendra Modi as the worthy successor of Subhas Bose who is at last extending the deserved honour to this great leader of India’s freedom movement. Just as this government has reduced Gandhi to an icon of the propaganda campaign dubbed as Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, a similar sanitisation of Subhas Chandra Bose is at work. His leftwing politics, his pioneering emphasis on economic planning, his inclusive approach and stern rejection of the communal bigotry and divisive politics of Savarkar’s Hindu Mahasabha are all being obliterated to project him only as a charismatic leader who joined hands with Ger-many and Japan during World War II to wage an armed war for India’s independence.
The Communists of course did not agree to Bose’s tactical tie-up with Hitler, Mussolini and Tojo and even criticised him in very harsh terms, but the communists and the Congress were in the forefront of the countrywide campaign for the release of the fighters of the Azad Hind Fauj (INA). The composition of both the Azad Hind Fauj and the provisional Azad Hind Government reflected the diversity and plurality of India and the demand for the release of the INA fighters be-came a battlecry of India’s final push for freedom. Many of the INA leaders joined the Communist movement, and the All India Forward Bloc, the political party formed by Subhas Chandra Bose before the foundation of the INA, became a constituent of the Left camp after In-dependence. Captain Lakshmi Sehgal, the chief of the Rani of Jhansi Regiment, the all-female combat regiment of the Azad Hind Fauj, went on to be a senior member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and emerge as the opposition candidate for President of India during the first NDA government. It should also be noted that while Subhas Chandra Bose actually fought for India’s independence, the RSS and the Hindu Mahasabha were busy collaborating with the British rulers of India, and Savarkar even asked Hindus to ‘flood’ the British Army for the purpose of military consolidation and development of Hindu nationalism which he termed as Hindutva. Before accusing others of neglecting the contribution of Subhas Chandra Bose, Modi and RSS-BJP leaders must first explain their own history of betrayal of the freedom movement and collaboration with the British rulers.
While the people of India are reeling under sky-rocketing prices, massive unemployment, and deepening agrarian and economic crisis, and the corruption of the crony capitalism promoted by the Modi government is becoming everyday news with even a top ranking CBI official handpicked by the PMO being investigated for bribery, Modi and his men have no answer for the mess they have created on every front in their four and a half years of rule. They are therefore desperately looking for ways to divide the people and divert their attention. The people must stand firm and united in their fight for resolution of this crisis. The divisive and diversionary game plan of the Sangh-BJP dispensation must be foiled and the rulers who have proved to be such an unmitigated disaster for the country must be voted out as emphatically as India had punished the Emergency regime in 1977.