Arms and the BJP

BJP’s armed rally at Ram Navmi is yet another step forward towards its Hindutva project.The armed Ram Navmi procession taken out by BJP and right wing groups in Purulia district of West Bengal, which turned unruly resulting in the death of one person and injuries to several besides creating communal tensions in the region, is a shocking indication of the manner in which hooliganism is being indulged in by some political groups in the name of observing religious rituals. Equally shocking are the remarks of some BJP leaders who chose to brandish not just weapons on the religious occasion but also shaped up a militaristic discourse as an expression of their communal venom. While the party’s national secretary Rahul Sinha called the massive celebration of Ram Navmi as a victory of their Hindutva agenda, West Bengal’s party president Dilip Ghosh sought to equate the sword brandishing rallies with ‘Ram Rajya’ and also invoked the Ayodhya temple politics. Any attempt to justify such rallies and dangerously polarizing discourse with words like ‘arms being mere symbols’ is misleading and a double entendre.

Arms are not symbols of religious piety but of militarism and this should be unacceptable in the social and public space. Barring some odd rallies across the country, there has been no tradition of any religious rallies being taken out with a chauvinistic display of arms. Ram Navmi processions are not even popular in Bengal, where Durga worship is far more widespread. Besides, in Hindu mythology, Ram is seen as a pacifist and not quite known for his military valour. Anticipating this new turn in militant brand of religiosity, West Bengal’s Mamta Banerjee government, which had been caught unawares last year when the BJP-RSS took out a 20,000 strong armed rally on Ram Navami at Siuri in Birbhum district, had banned the display of arms during Ram Navmi rallies, other than handful of rallies that have followed such a traditional practice. The mischief behind the organization of such rallies on large scale, in complete violation of the government ban, is unmistakable.

By invoking both Hindutva and Ayodhya temple issue at these rallies, the events smack of xenophobic politics and not festivity. The racial agenda behind the holding of such rallies that are mostly unknown in majority parts of the country is pretty much evident. This is not the first time that the right wing groups have begun brandishing swords and weapons in the name of festival celebration. Earlier, the arms were on display in Dusshera rallies in Jammu, Yogi Adityanath’s rally in Uttar Pradesh and some pockets in West Bengal and these were justified in the name of ‘shastra-puja’, even though there was no particular local history of such rituals on the occasion.

The armed rallies are yet another manifestation of the brazen ways in which BJP’s Hindutva agenda is now being unveiled. The rallies are in tune with some other signs of this militant form of politics that have emerged in the last few years, including ‘Love Jehad’ campaigns, the cow protection related lynchings and the obnoxious use of tricolor at marches including the one in support of rapists in Kathua. Coming events cast their shadows.

Such trends are a precursor to the likelihood of BJP-RSS unleashing a more vitriolic and lethal form of its communal politics. Having failed to live up to the high expectations of governance and development and instead being responsible for pushing the country into a deeper economic crisis and the rot of corruption, the Modi led BJP obviously has nothing in its next manifesto to sell to the electorate. The only way it thinks it can give a competition to its opponents is by consolidating its communally driven vote bank. Secondly, the RSS’ visible unease with the slow pace of its Hindutva agenda is further fuelling the party’s machinery towards fulfilling its hate soaked politics of divisiveness. This project is being accomplished by the twin strategy of homogenizing all Hindu spaces and by smothering cultural and regional diversity as well as by openly targeting the minorities including Muslims and Christians. Such politics goes against the very idea of India and its robust democratic constitution. It needs to be opposed tooth and nail.