Bhagwat, Modi and their saffron revolution

Narendra Modi’s saffron revolution remark may not have been a slip of tongue, nor intended to talk about the exotic herb that comes from Crocus flower. Saffron is neither grown in Ladakh, where this remark was made; nor is it widely grown across rest of the state; only in two small pockets of Pampore and Kishtwar – the latter already saffronised in the strict Hindutva sense of the word. Saffron is not the mainstay of the economy of Jammu and Kashmir. So, it was indeed an intended signal of what Modi’s ambitions in Jammu and Kashmir are, as is already evident from the increased focus on Hindu pilgrimages and bids to make inroads through what is being innocently called pilgrimage tourism. Nothing reveals this better than the Kausarnag pilgrimage controversy, where a lesser known religious ritual is being used to build the edifice of the myth of a traditional pilgrimage and a case for a full scale organised pilgrimage. The Sangh Parivar has already cashed in on the obsession with Amarnath pilgrimage and to some extent Sindhu darshan yatra from Ladakh and Buddha Amarnath yatra from Poonch by providing it base for enlarging the footprints of Hindutva. The Hindutva agenda has already allowed the Sangh Parivar to reap the harvest in electoral battles in Jammu and Kashmir – 2008 assembly polls and recent parliamentary polls are indications. With another assembly election in the offing, any statement that could ignite the fire of divisiveness should not quite come as a surprise but an endorsement of the real motive of the Sangh Parivar. 

The daggers are already well out with RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat invoking Gowalkar’s definition of India as a Hindu country. Bhagwat may have used his remark as a twin edged sword to both propel his Hindutva agenda as well as to blunt the popularity of Narendra Modi by stating that the victory was not the magic of one man, as opposed to the latter’s assertion, baring out the fissures within the Sangh Parivar. However, inability of Modi or any of the BJP top brass in responding to or countering Bhagwat’s seriously flawed definition of Hindustan reveals that beyond the power dynamics within the Sangh Parivar, there is a unanimity on the idea of India – whether one calls it a country of Hindus or another sketches the dream of saffron revolution. Bhagwat’s statement has got the support from Shiv Sena which has endorsed in unequivocal terms the idea of India being a country solely of Hindus and nobody else. Bhagwat’s assertion that there is need to saffronise every sphere of Indian life and all public sectors – from education and social structures to polity and defence forces is winning him friends across the spectrum within the Sangh Parivar, whether they evince this by open adulation for his remarks or their abject cryptic silence. 

Modi’s choice of venue in giving vent to his much intended faux pas adds to this flavour of Hinduising the country. Kargil, especially for the Sangh Parivar has been a metaphor of military might. Bhagwat has a larger saffronisation plan for the army and recent statements of the paramilitaries including army, operating in the Valley, in connection with the Hindu pilgrimages already painfully gives a whiff of saffron. The education policy is already geared up to rewrite history, a job that likes of Dinanath Batra have already ably performed in Gujarat and the entire focus is on Hindu consolidation across the country, which by nature is bigoted and exclusivist, unlike the more subtly spelt development agenda of Narendra Modi after he took over as prime minister to use as a façade for his real motive.

There is little difference on what Bhagwat and Modi say; it is only a matter of how they say things. Whether Bhagwat calls for a Hindutva agenda in a brazen way and Modi sugar-coats his saffron revolution with development and his dream of India becoming the Jagat Guru with inclusive economic growth, there is little distinction that can be made between the two streams of thought. Both stem from treating India as a plural entity as a utopian myth – one by glorifying Hindu assertion and superiority with alarcity, the other by appropriating secular icons like Gandhi and Sardar Patel and redefining them in a new avtar. 

No doubts about it, the Hindutva project is in the making and there are no major differences within the Sangh Parivar on the design to whip up the Hindu superiority myth for greater Hindu consolidation – something that can be lethal for the very idea of India as a secular entity and the well-being of its minorities. The goal is one; only the journeys embarked may be straight or crooked.