As Jammu and Kashmir completes one year of the official abrogation of Article 370 and 35(A), BJP General Secretary Ram Madhav says the occasion calls for a new kind politics in the union territory. In an interview to CNN-News18, Madhav talks about why politicians accustomed to selling the separatist rhetoric in J&K would find this new politics difficult, the delay in abolishment of Triple Talaq and why 200 invitations were sent for the upcoming Ram Mandir bhoomi puran ceremony. Edited excerpts:
Let me start the interview with Jammu and Kashmir. What is the road ahead and what do you think are the problems? Where do you think is the opportunity?
One year after the abrogation of Article 370 and 35, Jammu and Kashmir calls for a new politics. When I say ‘new politics’, the idea was laid out long back by former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The three words he used were insaniyat, jamuriyat and kashmiriyat. These should form the basis for the new politics in J&K. I see the regional parties issuing a lot of statements these days. They would still want to return to their old rhetoric, but it’s not going to work. People want to move on, they do not want any violent rhetoric, any violence per say and have no appetite for it. They want new politics focused on development, employment and material development of the state. This is what we are looking at.
In the last one year, we tried to bring in investment and MOUs worth Rs 13,500 crore were signed. There are many areas where development activity has kick started. About 10,000 people have been recruited in J&K already. This should be the direction now. Those who are used to the separatist rhetoric will find the new politics difficult and uncomfortable and say that there is no place for us. There is ample space for those who play development politics in Kashmir.
There are 40-50 lakh youngsters in Jammu and Kashmir and there has to be a certain level of engagement. Going forward, do you see that happening? Because a lot of exercises such as the delimitation exercise, setting up and working towards conducting elections all of these aspects suffered a little setback and delay due to Covid-19.
Very true. Initially, after the final act was promulgated on the October 31 last year, winters had set in and it is a difficult period for any kind of developmental activity in J&K. So we lost that period. As we came out of the winters came Covid-19. So certain impediments have occurred in the last one year for us to take it forward in a big way. But as you've rightly said, the youth of this state today is looking for a lot of development centric acts in the state. That is where state parties have to reorient themselves. I get really saddened when regional leaders talk in terms of resistance. Resistance will continue is one statement issued by a leader I saw. Those who want resistance politics better join Hurriyat. Those who want development politics, the time for them has come. The youth of the state are looking for more jobs, development and progress at par with the developed states of the country. People want to compete with the rest of India. Leaders are stuck in their old rhetoric.
You mentioned Hurriyat so my next question is this: From Nishan-e-Pakistan to Syed Ali Shah Geelani,does it put bare Pakistan's machinations. Do you think this so called idea of independence and indigenous movement was nothing but a narrative pushed by Pakistan?
First of all, it confirms what everyone has been all along alleging, that Geelani was actually a puppet in the hands of the Pakistani establishment. Today that puppet has been removed from the leadership position and probably to placate him some award has been given (to him) in Islamabad. That is between them but we have always said that Hurriyat never represented the real voices of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. They've always represented their master's voice from across the border. So I don’t think there needs to be too much discussion about issues like Nishan-e-Pakistan, etc.
One important landmark of BJP is the abolition of the Triple Talaq law and one year down the line numbers are showing there is an 82 per cent reduction in the total number such cases. What has been your understanding of it?
In fact, I would say it was such a tragedy it took us so long to abolish it. The Supreme Court had been saying it since the mid nineties. There were at least three big judgments asking the government to take steps towards bringing in some kind of balance or equality among the women of different religions. It took so long whereas all other Islamic countries, be it the world's biggest Islamic country Indonesia or those in our neighbourhood such as Pakistan, Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia — nowhere was this kind of verbal talaq acceptable. In India we continued with this great injustice to women. In that sense, it’s a great step in terms of gender equality, gender dignity and gender respect and also in terms of bringing in a much delayed and much needed reform in the Islamic Civic Law.
The entire Triple Talaq issue is also related to Ram Mandir because of the Shah Bano case and what happened thereafter in 1985 and 1989. It’s been a long struggle and now we have a Bhumi Pujan at Ram Lalla Virajman. What are your thoughts on this?
As far as the BJP and RSS are concerned, we have had a long association with the movement. For us, it (construction of Ram Mandir) was never a political issue. We have sacrificed our government for this issue because we have seen it as an issue of national honour and unity. Ram is the greatest unifier of this country and it is not BJP or RSS but Ram Manohar Lohiya, a socialist himself, who had written that Lord Rama and Krishna were greatest unifiers. One united the north with south and one united the west with east. For us, Ayodhya always signified a unifying value or symbol. From that perspective, we see a gradual progress in the construction of Ram temple as a very heartening thing…not just for us but crores of Indians across, of course, party lines. I saw today Congress leaders telling their leadership, ‘don’t utter a single word against the temple because heart of hearts are aligned with that sentiment’.
Ayodhya is a very sacred place for Hindus because of its association with Ram and Ramayana, but not many know that it is also sacred place for Jains. At least five of the 24 tirthankars were born there. It’s important for Buddhists as well because lord Bhagwan Buddha visited the place and one of his teeth fell there. It’s a scared place for Sikhs too. It was a sacred place for those who never believed in temple worship such as Kabir who had great respect for lord Ram and used to refer to himself as the dog of bhagwan Ram. It’s a sacred place for crores of people because certain value systems are attached to it. That is what symbolises the renovation or rebuilding of the Ram temple today.
But at a time when COVID-19 is wreaking havoc in the country, do 200 people need to attend the Ram Mandir bhoomi poojan ceremony?
I know some people are trying to make it an issue. We are all taking precautions when it comes to tackling Covid-19 but buses, flights and trains are running. But temples should not run …that is not an argument. Having said that, let me assure people that all precautions are being taken. If it was a normal situation, I can imagine the kind of interest the Shilanyas would have generated…may be 10 million people or more. Today, hardly 200 to 250 people are going to attend with all necessary precautions in place. Chief Ministers who have been waiting for this since the 1980s and 90s are not being given an opportunity to go.
Is this about somebody trying to say that we have to be apologetic about being Hindus or being a majority religion in India or is there an anti-Hindu sentiment in this garb of secularism? How do you see this scenario?
This whole discourse of majoritarian, minoritarian is a very flawed one. We never believed in it. We believed in Indians and they are all equal irrespective of their religions. We are all one nation, one people. So somebody being a majority or minority is a very distorted discourse. Ram symbolises the nation’s ethos and that’s why I gave the examples of Kabir and Ras Khan who worshipped Lord Krishna. They are worshipped as heroes if not gods. But they represented this country's ethos, value system and soul and that is a universally accepted fact. Because of this faulty notion of secularism coupled with minority politics, they have really not helped minorites. The sachar committee report has itself is testimony to the fact that 40 years of minority politics has left minorities much more poorer and far more backward and underprivileged. That’s what needs to be corrected. As one nation, we need to rise to address the concerns of all religions. It’s not against any particular religion or group of people. It is a symbol of the entire nation and national self-respect and honour.
Another aspect is the Sangh’s agenda and the new education policy. After 34 years there is a vision document that lays the roadmap from 2020 to 2035. But one of the key issues is that you wanted to establish an Indian language as the link language. That is not there in the revised national education policy. Why?
First of all, stop blaming it as a Sangh agenda. I am not saying it's a sangh agenda, I am saying it was clearly a part of the Sangh’s ideology that we have to move out of the coat tails of the Raj, drop English and go back to our roots. I agree that we need to embrace our Indian languages. But there is the issue of the link language.
The full document of the national education policy has to come out. Certain details are available in the public domain but once it is all out we will get greater clarity on the issue. But immediately it addresses certain imp needs of the 21st century india which is ambitiously growing into a new india. Pm has been repeatedly talking about new india. New india will be self-reliant, new india will be economically, culturally and morally be a diff india than what we have seen in the last 50-60 years. It has to be different. And w eave a 10 year time before us in which we have to build this new india so that we will become one of the leaders of the world. So in that sense this education system has many things which will help in completely transforming the way we look at education. Structural changes have been announced like the 10+2+3 has been replaced by 5+3+3+4 which is there in many other countries. So our institutions can become on par with them. There is greater role and responsibility on private institutions and private charitable institutions to offer great quality education in this country. Most imp step i believe is to insist on mother tongue to be used during primary education because values cannot be taught in a foreign language.
How are you going to implement it on ground because you will have children speaking multiple languages in different states. Does that mean all students in Mumbai will be instructed in Marathi?
On the three-language issue, greater clarity will come once the document is released. But education in our country is a concurrent subject. States also have a big role to play. That's why I think it has been left on the state education departments to take the final call on the three-language formula. Obviously, one language should be the local language. As far as the other two languages are concerned, one could be English and the other could be another language of the country. The states will decide about it.
You're saying a north Indian student in Tamil Nadu should learn Tamil, a South Indian in Delhi should learn Hindi. But do you see that really happening? Secondly, in terms of spending, from 2014 to 2020, the spending on education has actually dropped in terms of the GDP and now this says we are going to spend 6 percent of the GDP. How is that going to happen?
The document also says we have to gradually move towards that kind of spending. We probably won't be doing it immediately, but we will be moving in that direction. That's what the document says. Today, you are right that we are spending much less than what we spend on other needs. For instance, defense calls for greater spending today. But moving forward, education area will require heavy funding and that's why the mention of 6.6 per cent of GDP being spent on education. That's a very important decision.
What are your thoughts on Sanskrit becoming mainstream?
It is one language that is invariably needed to link you to the cultural and moral values of this country. Had we attempted this at the time of independence — how the Jews did it in Israel and Japanese in Japan — even technology wise and science wise we would have returned to Sanskrit. But it requires a long journey. A big beginning where Sanskrit is going to become an important mainstream language of our education system will help build an integrated man through the education system and not a compartmentalised person. An integrated man who will really help build the nation.