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No Place for Street Veto in a Democracy Like India

By: Adarsh Pandit

Last Updated: July 02, 2022, 11:38 IST

Protestors throw stones towards police during a protest demanding the arrest of suspended BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma for her comments on Prophet Mohammed, in Prayagraj, on June 10, 2022. (REUTERS/Ritesh Shukla)

Protestors throw stones towards police during a protest demanding the arrest of suspended BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma for her comments on Prophet Mohammed, in Prayagraj, on June 10, 2022. (REUTERS/Ritesh Shukla)

If the state machinery is not equipped to tackle violent protests, our societies will permanently remain in a state of flux and tension

“In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity.”

– Sun Tzu, ‘The Art of War’

The Friday prayers and the violent protest in their aftermath have yet again exposed our fault lines. While the violence must be condemned unequivocally, we would be foolish to airbrush it as a one-off event. The recurring pattern of violence perpetrated on a specific day of the week cannot be ignored. A coordinated nationwide protest only proves that it is not only the ‘fringe’ elements doing it.

The last few episodes have, in fact, raised some serious questions on the very idea of unity in the nation. The democratic discourse within the nation became a global one. Trans-nationality of discourse is not a new phenomenon, but the international intervention in the day-to-day debate on domestic politics is a rarity. It raises pertinent questions that need answers. Any attempt to assemble the pieces and shape the remedial hermeneutics will only be a failure.

First, does the idea of Islamic brotherhood have the ability to bend the nationality of indigenous Muslims? The confrontation with this fact cannot be avoided. The reality is staring at us and it is only prudent to confront it and chalk out a tangible path. Indian nationality cannot be secondary to any transnational allegiance. The concept of ‘Ummah’ and the religious sanctity it enjoys in the Islamic worldview is a major impediment to any sort of unity within a nation.

Second, can Muslims coexist peacefully as the largest minority without conflict with the majority community? Do they have religious sanctions to do so?

Without answering both these questions, there cannot be any positive movement toward the solution. We can beat around the bush as we have been doing so for the last hundred years or more.

The Muslim community and their leaders will have to ponder on these two points first and come to terms with where they belong. There is no point celebrating or being a mute spectator of the intervention by Arabic nations in our daily politics no matter what the issue is. We must fight it out domestically. Allegiance with the Indian nationality is either complete or there is no allegiance at all (and this goes for all the community).

Being in the grey zone means inviting conflict within the nation. There should at least be one non-compromising identity where we all stand together. This must be settled once and for all. We cannot live in a permanent state of conflict. It will slowly wither the beautiful civilisation we are part of. It is our duty as the children of this civilisation to clear the chaos that is plaguing our society and sincerely seek a solution.

RSS, as one of the most powerful Hindu organisations, on its part, has been consistently making attempts on this front. Right from Hedgewar, Guruji Golwalkar, and Deendayal Upadhyay to Mohan Bhagwat, there is a certain continuum in their approach. The RSS approach is based on two distinct pillars.

First, RSS believes that there is a dire need of subtle unity which cannot be replaced by an artificially forged unity. The universal brotherhood of Islam and the concept of ‘Ummah’ have religious sanction and are manifested in the transnational identity of Muslims. It is subtle and strong. Do we have anything to offer in order to replace this? RSS looks back at history and proposes a solution that is carved through the idea of cultural heritage.

The fact that Hindus and Muslims have the same DNA, as said by Mohan Bhagwat, is not merely a scientific symbolism. It is the reflection of their long-standing view to somehow push Muslims to accept their Hindu/Indian roots. Accepting that they belong to this very culture and civilisation, which is actually a reality, goes hand in hand with questioning the transnational identity and concept of Ummah.

In RSS view, the global Ummah or Brotherhood has to be replaced by indigenous identity. Merely asking indigenous Muslims to give up their identity without a subtle yet powerful alternative will only remain as an intellectual exercise without any real significance. A strong cultural identity can only be replaced with another one.

Second, RSS, being a Hindu organisation, talks about strengthening the Hindu society. Why is it even necessary? I have personally struggled with this question for at least three years. Only when we slowly read history with a critical lens, do we realise the importance of strengthening the Hindu society.

Hindu is not only a religious term but also connotes the cultural and civilisation identity of this nation. RSS never lives in denial mode, it believes that deprivation of Hindu identity will deprive the nation of its basic identity (needless to say it is not against any caste or community). So to strengthen the Hindu society means not just mobilising Hindus on religious lines but it is a sacred goal to strengthen the broader contours of the cultural identity of this nation.

In RSS world view, Hindu strength which emanates from a strong unflinching Hindu unity is a necessity before sitting on any negotiating table. Intellectual arguments, although a pivotal aspect, won’t win you at the negotiating table; it is the strong backing that is a precursor to it (especially against forces like Abrahamic and communist).

To negotiate without strength is a proposition not worth considering. I am here reminded of BR Ambedkar’s book on Partition wherein he prophetically claimed that the Hindu side is bound to lose against the united Islamic force because Hindus were unclear and divided. There are other unsaid benefits of strengthening Hindu society, one of the most talked about benefits is of BJP getting Hindu votes.

RSS, with its worldview, has, therefore, enjoyed decent success. But no organisation can be complete in itself. With the BJP in power for the last eight years at the national level, RSS is also confronted with a very different reality. It is the reality to use the state apparatus to empower unity without compromising on tenets of our civilisation. A state apparatus that is completely antithetical to the Hindu way of thinking.

RSS for their part is a social organisation and, therefore, their worldview on state apparatus is actually very limited. This is reflected in the BJP government sometimes getting caught off-guard because its basic training is of a social Hindu. It is quite natural that when it is faced with handling a very alien state infrastructure, it seems to be lost (of course it learns and tries to do its best in the existing system).

‘Hinduness’ then remains only in the intellect of those who govern (or are tangentially associated with the state power) and cedes away from the living reality of life.

As of now, the state seems to surrender before miscreants, not once but multiple times. Leave international veto, but we have seen that our state is unable to check the domestic street veto. This goes without saying that law and order cannot be subject to implementation based on identity. If the state machinery is not equipped to tackle such violent advances, our societies will permanently remain in a state of flux and tension.

Need of the time is to cogitate and see how the state can be equipped in a manner that fosters all the above-mentioned points. It is, therefore, time to put our brains together and sketch out the opportunity within this ongoing chaos.

Adarsh Pandit is Researcher and Manager at Rashtram School of Public Leadership, Rishihood University. Views expressed are personal.

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first published:July 02, 2022, 11:38 IST
last updated:July 02, 2022, 11:38 IST