Communal politics

Does Yogi Adityanath's appointment as UP chief minister herald the coming of a Hindu Rashtra?

As Muslims fear this is true, Scroll.in speaks with Hindus in the state for their thoughts.

The appointment of Bharatiya Janata Party leader Adityanath as chief minister of Uttar Pradesh has stoked conflicting emotions. It is easy to comprehend the fears of Muslims, who feel Adityanath’s rise to power is incontrovertible evidence of India gradually turning into a Hindu Rashtra in which their status will be that of second-class citizens.

By contrast, it is assumed that a Hindu Rashtra will not scare Hindus, who, at worse, will remain indifferent to it. To test this assumption, I spoke with Hindus, whose ideological inclination was not known to me in every case, in Uttar Pradesh.

Broadly, I posed four questions to them:

  1. Why did the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections become communally polarised?
  2. Are Muslims to be blamed for it?
  3. Do Hindus hate or are antipathetic to Muslims?
  4. Would Hindus wish to live in a Hindu Rashtra?

But before you read their responses, here is a story in which a respondent’s family was the principal protagonist.

Way back on March 10, 1995, Hindus and Muslims took to the streets in Aligarh to battle against each other, as they periodically did through most of the 20th century. Oblivious to violence having erupted, a marriage party of 50 Muslims threaded its way through the city on the return journey to Lucknow. Among them was the couple who had been married the evening before. Their bus was stopped in the Achal Tank area, near Dharam Samaj Mahavidyala, and attacked.

“It was 1 pm,” recalled Surendra Mohan Yadav, whose wife Mithilesh Yadav nee Upadhyaya was on her way home after meeting a friend. At the sight of the violence that soon turned horrific with women being dragged out of the bus, Mithilesh Yadav gathered a handful of people from her colony and rushed to the spot, her daughter and son in tow. They beat back the assailants and her son drove the bus to the family’s residence.

Among the 50, one was already dead.

The mob regrouped to attack Yadav’s residence. But Mithilesh Yadav had already inspired the colony residents to stand guard. They were on rooftops, armed with stones, a few even having taken out their rusty rifles. The mob retreated.

“We fed the Muslims, we nursed their wounds,” said Surendra Mohan Yadav, who is an advocate in Aligarh. In the evening, the district authority had the marriage party sent to Lucknow by bus, where its first port of call was Mulayam Singh Yadav, who was then the chief minister.

Mithilesh Yadav became the toast of Aligarh and beyond. She was publicly felicitated and bestowed with numerous awards. Referring to her role in the incident, political scientist Paul S Brass wrote in his book The Production of Hindu-Muslim Violence in Contemporary India, “… We have here a documented case, for which I have no similar reports in the post-Independence rioting in Aligarh, of civic action at the local level that prevented imminent death and destruction.”

‘Two eyes of India’

When the Bharatiya Janata Party swept the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections on March 11, I decided to reach out to Mithilesh Yadav, wondering whether the Hindutva storm could have yanked out the anchor that tethered her to secular politics, now rubbished as pseudo-secularism. It took me days to secure the mobile number of her husband.

“Mithilesh died in July 2013, after battling illness for 13 months,” Surendra Mohan Yadav said. He went on to list the names of mosques and Muslims who had organised special prayer meetings for her recovery. “Ours was a love marriage,” he added.

A day before this conversation, it had been announced that Adityanath was to be Uttar Pradesh’s new chief minister. What did Surendra Mohan Yadav – the husband of Mother Courage, so to speak – think of the BJP’s decision? Yadav said, “It is a ghaatak [grievous] attack on the idea of India. Hindus and Muslims are the two eyes of India. You blind one and the vision is bound to be impaired.”

He said religious polarisation has always been the BJP’s agenda, but it clicked stupendously this time round because of the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Samajwadi-Congress alliance. For one, Mayawati kept speaking of the 100 tickets she had given to Muslims. For the other, the Samajwadi Party and the Congress failed to counter the perception that their coming together had been aimed at consolidating Muslim votes.

The Samajwadi Party-Congress alliance failed to counter the perception that they had come together only to consolidate Muslim votes.
The Samajwadi Party-Congress alliance failed to counter the perception that they had come together only to consolidate Muslim votes.

“There was a reaction against it,” said Surendra Mohan Yadav, who is a member of the Samajwadi Party’s lawyers’ wing.

He paused and said, in an apologetic tone, “Please don’t mind it, but don’t you think Muslims should do away with triple talaq?” (The practice allows Muslim men to divorce their wives simply by uttering talaq thrice in one sitting.) I said, sure, they should, telling him of a story I had written last year – that the Muslims of India should abolish triple talaq as 24 Muslim countries, including Pakistan, have abolished it.

Confident my feelings wouldn’t be hurt, Surendra Mohan Yadav spoke of a 45-year-old father of three who had divorced his wife, married a 20-year-old girl from a poor family, and divorced her too after a couple of months. “I filed a case against him,” he said. “He was arrested.” Chastened, the 45-year-old man wanted a compromise. “I had him annul the divorce and gave the girl a share in his property,” Yadav added.

Given that his own family members had risked their lives to protect 50 Muslims from a blood-thirsty mob, and that he still thinks Hindus and Muslims are India’s two eyes, nobody can possibly accuse him of putting on the Hindutva glasses for critiquing triple talaq.

Indeed, every Hindu I spoke with, whether admirers of Hindu Rashtra or its vehement opponents, or to even those not committed to any ideology, the brazen wooing of Muslims by rival political parties surfaced as an explanation for the BJP’s astonishing victory. In the responses of most, triple talaq too crept in. Yet, their answers differed in nuances.

Onus on Muslims

Take Rakesh Sharma, an advocate in Shamli, West Uttar Pradesh, who owns a sprawling 125 bighas of agriculture land. He voted for the BJP, claims to have very good relations with Muslims, and wants them to think over the kind of leaders they have. “Look at Azam Khan [Samajwadi party] and Asaduddin Owaisi [All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen], the language they use,” he said.

You would think he would also fulminate against Adityanath’s rhetoric. “Oh, there is a lot of substance in what Yogiji speaks,” Sharma said. “Take it from me, Muslims will have a great time under his rule.” As to why they would, he had no explanation to offer.

In narratives such as Sharma’s, the onus for restoring communal harmony is on Muslims – they must reform their political outlook, their personal laws, and curb their inclination to rally behind leaders who are full of fire and brimstone.

“The discourse on communalism mimics that of patriarchy,” said Roop Rekha Verma, former vice-chancellor of Lucknow University. The deeply embedded notion of patriarchy is why women are asked to adhere to a dress code, not venture out after a certain hour, and learn martial arts for self-defence. It is not their male tormenters who are to blame.

“Similar is the case with Muslims,” she said. “It is they who must change themselves, but not the ambassadors of hatred, not those who seek to Hinduize our psyche. How do you fight the unreason of children of [Hindutva ideologue Veer] Savarkar?” Verma said she had slipped into a state of “intellectual paralysis” at the Uttar Pradesh election results.

One has only to go through data on caste-community voting to see that Muslim consolidation is a myth, spawned by the media. Until 2017, Muslim votes in Uttar Pradesh were always split three ways – the Samajwadi Party, Congress and Bahujan Samaj Party. Every social group in India has a favourite among political parties. The degree of upper-caste consolidation behind the BJP has been far more in comparison to that of Muslims for the Samajwadi Party.

From this perspective, Verma is right in claiming that to solely accuse the Muslims of triggering the polarisation is to forget that the Sangh Parivar’s Hindutva philosophy is ideologically designed to consolidate Hindus and widen the gulf between them and Muslims. Thus, the role of Muslim political behaviour can be cited as a factor only when you ask the question: Why did Hindutva succeed in winning nearly 40% of Hindus of Uttar Pradesh in 2017, as it did in 2014 as well?

“Uttar Pradesh was where the politics of Partition played out. Uttar Pradesh remains partitioned,” said Ramesh Dixit, a former professor who was the sole spokesperson of the Congress for years before he joined the Nationalist Congress Party, only to quit it in 2014.

“On top of it, Uttar Pradesh has several symbols of Hinduism that the Sangh can easily appropriate,” he said. “If you resolve, say, the Ram Janmabhoomi controversy, it will raise the Krishna temple issue in Mathura; if you solve that, it will move to Kashi. The Sangh has traction because the burden of memory of Partition still weighs on Uttar Pradesh.”

Uttar Pradesh has several symbols of Hinduism in the Ram Janmabhoomi movement, the Krishna temple in Mathura, and Kashi. Photo credit: REUTERS / Rupak De Chowdhuri
Uttar Pradesh has several symbols of Hinduism in the Ram Janmabhoomi movement, the Krishna temple in Mathura, and Kashi. Photo credit: REUTERS / Rupak De Chowdhuri

This is why triple talaq has had resonance in the state, as will the minority status of Aligarh Muslim University – the BJP-led government at the Centre has opposed minority status for the university and the case is in the Supreme Court – as will any issue with the word Muslim inscribed on it. Muslims have been demonised for producing terror specialists, for still striving to vivisect India 70 years later. And if they can’t achieve their mission through violence, it is widely held that they will devilishly boost their fertility rate to alter the country’s demography. In other words, it is easy to persuade Uttar Pradesh of a Muslim takeover.

“Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh activists work in villages and towns to spread these dubious notions,” Dixit said. “No party has cared to fight the ideological battle against the Sangh at the grassroots. Ninety per cent of the Congress in the state has a Hindutva mindset. They didn’t even vote for the Samajwadi Party in their constituencies.”

Caste play

Not only have so-called secular parties failed to engage the Sangh in an ideological battle, this problem has been compounded because of the degeneration of the social justice movement, suggested Dipak Malik, director emeritus, Gandhian Institute of Studies, Varanasi. This has been deftly exploited by the insecure upper castes.

The insecurity of the upper castes dates back to the Green Revolution [a period of increased agricultural productivity in the 1960s on the back of technological improvements], which gave a fillip to the emergence of Other Backward Castes. Numerous, now they also became upwardly mobile and sought to capture power. It triggered among them a desire to unite and consolidate, which was an idea socialist leader Ram Manohar Lohia expounded, and which peasant leader Charan Singh executed after exiting the Congress.

In response, the upper castes began to search for parties that could represent and protect their interests. The 1990 decision to introduce reservations in jobs to redress caste discrimination was a watershed – the upper castes moved to the BJP, which was leading the Ram Janmabhoomi movement that was suffused with Brahminical cultural symbols.

But as long as parties representing social justice retained their vibrancy, upper caste-sponsored Hindutva enjoyed limited success. “But Mulayam Singh Yadav turned social justice into casteism,” Malik said. “He Yadavised the administration, and did not give tickets in numbers sufficient to satisfy several non-Yadav Other Backward Castes, for instance the Kurmis.”

These castes, said Malik, felt alienated, as did non-Jatav Dalits from the Bahujan Samaj Party, whose leader Mayawati turned the party into a nucleus of Jatavs. “The 2017 result is because the upper castes have very intelligently brought these alienated castes into the BJP fold,” Malik added.

Substitute “intelligently” in Malik’s formulation with “communally” and you get the picture – a medley of diverse social groups was cemented together by resorting to communal polarisation. “Even the 2014 Lok Sabha elections were won by communal polarisation. Only a gullible media thought the 2014 verdict mandate was for development,” said Malik.

He said Hindutva can be fought only through a popular movement. “Muslims will have to emerge out of isolationism,” he said. “They need to come out to participate in movements such as, say, price rise,” not just take to the streets only on religious issues pertaining to them.

Lies and advertising

For sure, it won’t be easy to fight the Sangh because, as Ajay Bisaria, who teaches Hindi at Aligarh Muslim University, said: How do you counter lies in which people have abiding faith? How do you dispel fear that has struck deep roots in people?

Bisaria recalled that day (September 21) in 1995 when Hindus across India and in several other countries flocked to see statues of Lord Ganesha drink milk. Or when people stopped buying and eating tori (ridge gourd) after rumours that it had been cursed by a nagin (a mythological female snake that can take on human form).

“They [Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh] were always known to manufacture rumours and spread them,” he said. “Now they have the technology [Twitter, WhatsApp] at their command.”

The devastating impact of falsehoods can be discerned in Bisaria’s story of the grisly 1990-1991 riots in Aligarh. Three Hindi newspapers front-paged a story declaring that 72 Hindu patients had been slaughtered in Aligarh Muslim University’s Medical College Hospital. It fanned the communal conflagration that raged for days.

Bisaria then had a press card. He used it to reach Gyan Sarovar Colony in curfew-bound Aligarh. He found his friends, all doctors, preparing to defend themselves against an attack by students of the university. He asked them whether it was possible for the students to rush across the four kilometers that separated the colony from the university, past the police bandobast, to assault them.

But they pointed to Hindi newspaper stories about the hospital to say anything was possible. Bisaria told them it was a concocted story, and the district authorities had denied it, as had the hospital administration. His efforts were to no avail.

From this perspective, whether or not Hindu consolidation happened in response to that of Muslims, or how, for that matter, triple talaq transgresses the rights of Hindus are irrelevant. What matters is that the BJP has the capacity to convince Hindus that all parties pamper Muslims at their expense.

“In the age of consumerism, advertisement is treated as truth,” Bisaria said. “When I get a talcum powder, my daughter says it is meant for men. That is the power of advertising. Prime Minister [Narendra] Modi is the most successful advertiser of them all.”

But then, is it also possible for a Hindu Rashtra to emerge through advertisement? “No,” Bisaria said confidently, in contrast to other academicians. “What is this Hindu Rashtra? Apart from reducing Muslims to second-class citizens, they haven’t even told us how it will be organised and run.”

To this, you might say hate runs on its own steam, wreaking havoc as long as it lasts.

Fear of the future

The BJP’s sweep has already turned Muslims sullen and silent. For instance, former Indian Administrative Service officer SK Verma said, “I spoke to my Muslim friends in the bureaucracy. They feel cornered; they wouldn’t discuss the BJP’s victory.” He said it was impossible for him to imagine a society without Muslims.

Lawyer Brijendra Singh of Shamli said the number of Muslims coming to the collectorate has visibly reduced over the last week. “Some Muslim villagers asked me whether Modi would now disallow their women to wear burqas,” he said, insisting, “All governments have to operate within the secular framework of our Constitution.”

“Some Muslim villagers asked me whether Modi would now disallow their women to wear burqas,” a respondent told Scroll.in. Photo credit: IANS
“Some Muslim villagers asked me whether Modi would now disallow their women to wear burqas,” a respondent told Scroll.in. Photo credit: IANS

Colonel (retired) Subhash Deshwal, who now farms in Bulandshahr, testified to the silence of Muslims. “I observed the election campaign closely,” he said. “There was no Modi wave, there was in fact anger against demonetisation. But communal polarisation swept aside these issues… We just can’t have a religion-based Constitution.” In fact, what is the point of democracy in which religious passion inundates all issues?

If such is the pull of communalism, might not the idea of Hindutva galvanise the electorate even further? “It is an uncomfortable truth to face, but I think Hindutva will go to the extreme before its energy is exhausted,” Deshwal answered.

His are ominous words. The destructive energy Hindutva can release was glimpsed in around 15 communal incidents that were reported within 24 hours of the Uttar Pradesh election results, pointed out Dr Satish Prakash, who teaches at Meerut College and is a Dalit activist.

Prakash said it was mostly graveyards or mosques that were targeted. “Muslims have shown remarkable restraint in their response,” he added. “But there were two incidents in which Dalits clashed with those who wanted to know why they didn’t vote for the Bharatiya Janata Party.”

He said this was because the Dalits are aware that a rising Hindutva poses grave dangers to their movement and assertion. “Dalits won’t accept the idea of Hindu Rashtra because it implies altering the Constitution to deny them their rights,” Prakash said. “Hindutva’s anti-Muslim politics has only the limited purpose of polarising voters to get majority. Its real target is Dalits.”

In case Prakash is right, then Hindutva would appear keen on blinding India’s one eye, Muslims – to use Surendra Mohan Yadav’s evocative expression quoted earlier – to check subaltern assertion. In a land of extreme inequality and abject poverty, an eye might not seem such a price to pay for the powers that be.

Ajaz Ashraf is a journalist in Delhi. His novel, The Hour Before Dawn, has as its backdrop the demolition of the Babri Masjid.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Top picks, best deals and all that you need to know for the Amazon Great Indian Festival

We’ve done the hard work so you can get right to what you want amongst the 40,000+ offers across 4 days.

The Great Indian Festival (21st-24th September) by Amazon is back and it’s more tempting than ever. This edition will cater to everyone, with offers on a range of products from electronics, home appliances, apparel for men and women, personal care, toys, pet products, gourmet foods, gardening accessories and more. With such overwhelming choice of products and a dozen types of offers, it’s not the easiest to find the best deals in time to buy before your find gets sold out. You need a strategy to make sure you avail the best deals. Here’s your guide on how to make the most out of the Great Indian Festival:

Make use of the Amazon trio – Amazon Prime, Amazon Pay and Amazon app

Though the festival officially starts on 21st, Amazon Prime members will have early access starting at 12 noon on 20th September itself, enabling them to grab the best deals first. Sign up for an Amazon Prime account to not miss out on exclusive deals and products. Throughout the festival, Prime members will 30-minute early access to top deals before non-Prime members. At Rs 499/- a year, the Prime membership also brings unlimited Amazon Prime video streaming and quick delivery benefits.

Load your Amazon pay wallet; there’s assured 10% cashback (up to Rs 500). Amazon will also offer incremental cashbacks over and above bank cashbacks on select brands as a part of its Amazon Pay Offers. Shopping from the app would bring to you a whole world of benefits not available to non-app shoppers. App-only deals include flat Rs 1,250 off on hotels on shopping for more than Rs 500, and flat Rs 1,000 off on flights on a roundtrip booking of Rs 5,000 booking from Yatra. Ten lucky shoppers can also win one year of free travel worth Rs 1.5 lakhs.

Plan your shopping

The Great Indian Sale has a wide range of products, offers, flash sales and lightning deals. To make sure you don’t miss out on the best deals, or lose your mind, plan first. Make a list of things you really need or have been putting off buying. If you plan to buy electronics or appliances, do your research on the specs and shortlist the models or features you prefer. Even better, add them to your wishlist so you’re better able to track your preferred products.

Track the deals

There will be lightning deals and golden hour deals throughout the festival period. Keep track to avail the best of them. Golden-hour deals will be active on the Amazon app from 9.00pm-12.00am, while Prime users will have access to exclusive lightning deals. For example, Prime-only flash sales for Redmi 4 will start at 2.00pm and Redmi 4A at 6.00pm on 20th, while Nokia 6 will be available at Rs 1,000 off. There will be BOGO Offers (Buy One Get One free) and Bundle Offers (helping customers convert their TVs to Smart TVs at a fraction of the cost by using Fire TV Stick). Expect exclusive product launches from brands like Xiaomi (Mi Band 2 HRX 32 GB), HP (HP Sprocket Printer) and other launches from Samsung and Apple. The Half-Price Electronics Store (minimum 50% off) and stores offering minimum Rs 15,000 off will allow deal seekers to discover the top discounts.

Big discounts and top picks

The Great Indian Festival is especially a bonanza for those looking to buy electronics and home appliances. Consumers can enjoy a minimum of 25% off on washing machines, 20% off on refrigerators and 20% off on microwaves, besides deals on other appliances. Expect up to 40% off on TVs, along with No-Cost EMI and up to Rs 20,000 off on exchange.

Home Appliances

Our top picks for washing machines are Haier 5.8 Kg Fully Automatic Top Loading at 32% off, and Bosch Fully Automatic Front Loading 6 Kg and 7 Kg, both available at 27% discount. Morphy Richards 20 L Microwave Oven will be available at a discount of 38%.

Our favorite pick on refrigerators is the large-sized Samsung 545 L at 26% off so you can save Rs 22,710.

There are big savings to be made on UV water purifiers as well (up to 35% off), while several 5-star ACs from big brands will be available at greater than 30% discount. Our top pick is the Carrier 1.5 Ton 5-star split AC at 32% off.

Personal Electronics

There’s good news for Apple fans. The Apple MacBook Air 13.3-inch Laptop 2017 will be available at Rs 55,990, while the iPad will be available at 20% off. Laptops from Lenovo, Dell and HP will be available in the discount range of 20% to 26%. Top deals are Lenovo Tab3 and Yoga Tab at 41% to 38% off. Apple fans wishing to upgrade to the latest in wearable technology can enjoy Rs 8,000 off on the Apple Watch series 2 smartwatch.

If you’re looking for mobile phones, our top deal pick is the LG V20 at Rs 24,999, more than Rs 5000 off from its pre-sale price.

Power banks always come in handy. Check out the Lenovo 13000 mAh power bank at 30% off.

Home printers are a good investment for frequent flyers and those with kids at home. The discounted prices of home printers at the festival means you will never worry about boarding passes and ID documents again. The HP Deskjet basic printer will be available for Rs 1,579 at 40% off and multi-function (printer/ scanner/ Wi-Fi enabled) printers from HP Deskjet and Canon will also available at 33% off.

The sale is a great time to buy Amazon’s native products. Kindle E-readers and Fire TV Stick will be on sale with offers worth Rs 5,000 and Rs 1,000 respectively.

The Amazon Fire Stick
The Amazon Fire Stick

For those of you who have a bottomless collection of movies, music and photos, there is up to 60% off on hard drives and other storage devices. Our top picks are Rs 15,000 and Rs 12,000 off on Seagate Slim 5TB and 4TB hard drives respectively, available from 8.00am to 4.00pm on 21st September.

The sale will see great discounts of up to 60% off on headphones and speakers from the top brands. The 40% off on Bose QC 25 Headphones is our favourite. Top deals are on Logitech speakers with Logitech Z506 Surround Sound 5.1 multimedia Speakers at 60% off and Logitech X300 Bluetooth Speaker at 58% off!

Other noteworthy deals

Cameras (up to 55% off) and camera accessories such as tripods, flash lights etc. are available at a good discount. Home surveillance cameras too will be cheaper. These include bullet cameras, dome cameras, simulated cameras, spy cameras and trail and game cameras.

For home medical supplies and equipment, keep an eye on the grooming and personal care section. Weighing scales, blood pressure monitors, glucometers, body fat monitors etc. will be available at a cheaper price.

The sale is also a good time to invest in home and kitchen supplies. Mixer-grinders and juicers could see lightning deals. Don’t ignore essentials like floor mops with wheels, rotating mop replacements, utensils, crockery etc. Tupperware sets, for example, will be more affordable. There are attractive discounts on bags, especially laptop bags, backpacks, diaper bags and luggage carriers.

Interesting finds

While Amazon is extremely convenient for need-based shopping and daily essentials, it is also full of hidden treasures. During the festival, you can find deals on telescopes, polaroid cameras, smoothie makers, gym equipment, gaming consoles and more. So you’ll be able to allow yourself some indulgences!

Small shopping

If you have children, the festival is good time to stock up on gifts for Diwali, Christmas, return gifts etc. On offer are gaming gadgets such as Xbox, dough sets, Touching Tom Cat, Barbies, classic board games such as Life and more. There are also some products that you don’t really need, but kind of do too, such as smartphone and tablet holders, magnetic car mounts for smartphones and mobile charging station wall stands. If you’re looking for enhanced functionality in daily life, do take a look at the Amazon Basics page. On it you’ll find USB cables, kitchen shears, HDMI cables, notebooks, travel cases and other useful things you don’t realise you need.

Check-out process and payment options

Amazon is also offering an entire ecosystem to make shopping more convenient and hassle-free. For the festival duration, Amazon is offering No-Cost EMIs (zero interest EMIs) on consumer durables, appliances and smartphones, plus exchange schemes and easy installation services in 65 cities. HDFC card holders can avail additional 10% cashback on HDFC credit and debit cards. Customers will also get to “Buy Now and Pay in 2018” with HDFC Credit Cards, as the bank offers a 3 Month EMI Holiday during the days of the sale. Use Amazon Pay balance for fast and easy checkouts, quicker refunds and a secured shopping experience.

Sales are fun and with The Great Indian Festival offering big deals on big brands, it definitely calls for at least window shopping. There’s so much more than the above categories, like minimum 50% off on American Tourister luggage! To start the treasure hunt, click here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Amazon.in and not by the Scroll editorial team.