Madhu Purnima Kishwar
The Congress Party may think that by dividing the anti corruption movement and by tabling its own watered down version of the Lokpal Bill in parliament, it has successfully defanged the anti corruption movement. But the unholy tactics it has used to divide and derail the anti corruption movement is likely to boomerang in the long run. Its strategy to undermine the credentials of those leading the anti corruption movement has been as follows:
1. Challenge the legitimacy of Team Anna on the ground that self appointed representatives of civil society are arrogating far more power that they deserve and that they are undermining the role of elected representatives.( I have dealt with the duplicity of this charge in an article published in The Times of India August 16, 2011)
2. Challenge the personal credibility of Anna Hazare and the prominent leaders of the anti corruption movement Prashant Bhushan, his father Shanti Bhushan, Arvind Kejriwal and the softest of all targets–Baba Ramdev on the basis of half truths and exaggerations. This is to create a sub chor hain syndrome–an atmosphere in which everyone appears a cheat or a thief. It is done with the expectation that people will then say, “Well if everyone is a thief then let us stick it out with the tried and tested thieves in the Congress party.”
3. Challenge the political credibility of the anti corruption movement by projecting it as a BJP/RSS inspired communal conspiracy against the supposedly secular Congress and by implication against the “nation“. Congress party stalwarts Digvijay Singh, Jayanti Natarajan and Manish Tiwari have led the chorus in alleging that both Ramdev and Anna Hazare are political tools of the RSS and BJP. Shabnam Hashmi, a leftist supporter of the Congress party, went a step further to polarize the situation by justifying the vengeful crackdown on Baba Ramdev’s followers saying the police had definite information that the RSS and VHP intended to set the pandaal on fire with a view to roasting alive the gathered protesters and create mayhem in order to provoke a post Godhra like communal riots all over India.
Since this is not the first time a ruling party has unleashed terror to quell popular protest against its misrule, one may dismiss the police crackdown on Ramdev’s Ramlila rally as the paranoid response of a rudderless and frightened party. But the systematic attempt to communalize the issue and vitiate Hindu-Muslim relations is truly sinister. Even if for arguments sake one were to accept this bizarre justification, the question arises: Why on earth was the police ordered to attack the potential victims of RSS. Instead, why did the police not come and publicly warn Ramdev and his followers of this heinous conspiracy? The thousands gathered there could easily have organized their own vigilance and security against the alleged attempts at sabotage. Do responsible governments ever beat up people who are facing life threats? Is this Congress party’s idea of protecting innocent and vulnerable citizens?
Today, on August 15, India’s Independence Day Congress spokespersons have denied Anna Hazare the permission to start his indefinite fast starting August 16 using the specious plea that “dangerous” forces, such as the BJP and RSS are behind his movement. Even those of us who may not wholly agree with each and every aspect of the Jan Lokpal Bill and Anna’s penchant for fixing unrealistic deadlines for its enactment, are getting deeply perturbed by the sinister game being played by Congress leaders. They are acting on the mistaken assumption that by alleging that the RSS/BJP are supporting the movement, all “secular” and decent citizens will condemn and treat Anna Hazare and Ramdev as closet fascists and, therefore, stop lending support to the anti corruption movement. The truth is BJP leaders are even more nervous than the Congress Party by the threat posed by a strong anti corruption legislation because their track record in this regard is no better than that of Congress leaders.
It is noteworthy that neither Anna nor Baba Ramdev ever used communal appeals in mobilizing support for the Lokpal Bill. Both at Jantar Mantar and Ramlila Maidan, the gatherings were multi caste, multi religious and cut across regional and caste divides. Even when Ramdev’s followers were attacked on the night of June 4, and Baba himself fled like a coward, he never called it an attack on Hindus or attack on Sadhu Sants. But the supposedly “secular “Congress has continued to inject communal poison in the movement. Their conduct is not very different from what Indira Gandhi did to the farmers’ movement in Punjab during the 1980’s—propped up Bhindranwale to crush the farmers movement and destroy the moderate leadership of Akali Dal. The 1984 massacre of the Sikhs was likewise presented by Congress leaders as an inevitable manifestation of “Hindu” anger at the assassination of Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards when it was a clear cut case of Congress leaders using hired mobs to carry out the pogroms..
The entire nation paid a heavy political price for the devious way in which Congress converted a secular movement of farmers into a communal, terrorist movement, Congress leaders are playing with the same fire once again by injecting communal poison into the anti-corruption movement in the hope that this will mobilize the Muslim vote bank and the leftist constituency behind it.
One of the most ludicrous arguments used by Digvijay Singh to Team Anna as RSS instigated group was that the stage on which Anna Hazare set on his fast had a portrait of Bharat Mata (Mother India) in the backdrop and that slogans such as Bharat Mata ki Jai and Vande Matram were repeatedly used in the Jantar Mantar protest rally. Mother India was the popularly accepted presiding deity of the freedom movement. Almost every Congress leader, including Nehru and Gandhi, used the image of Mother India to convey the message that just as a mother loves all her children equally and does not discriminate between her children, so also Mother India bestows equal love and care on all her children–be they Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, higher or lower caste. Mother India or Bharat Ma thus became a symbol of inclusive nationalism, of equality and brotherhood. As per this worldview, each community is supposed to have the same claim on Mother India thus striking a deep emotional chord and providing cultural sanctity to the Fundamental Right to Equality promised in the Indian constitution.
Similarly, Vande Matram was as much a slogan of the freedom movement as Jai Hind. A.R. Rehman was inspired by that historic legacy, when he composed his inspirational song: Maa Tujhe Salaam — an Urdu version of Vande Matram. In its desperate attempt to cover up its role in numerous communal riots, the Congress Party is handing over many of the positive cultural symbols of the freedom movement to the BJP on a silver platter. The color saffron for instance is associated with sacrifice, martyrdom for noble causes. It symbolizes Hindu and Sikh spiritual heritage. Bhagat Singh went to the gallows singing of his “Basanti Chola (saffron robe).” Now Congress has made it synonymous with BJP’s communal tirades. Likewise, study of India’s culture, ancient literature, Vedic studies classical languages have all been treated by the phobic secularists in the Congress as part of BJP’s partisan Hindutva agenda. And now even the presiding deity of India’s freedom struggle, Mother India, has been condemned as a partisan symbol of Hindu chauvinism!
One may forgive the Congress Party its devious shenanigans to weaken and sabotage the anti-corruption movement. But history will not forgive the Party’s attempt to inject yet another doze of communal poison into the body politic of India