Listen to this article:
Speaking in his regular dog whistle mode, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has reinforced the hideous message of the Haridwar ‘Dharam Sansad’. People expressing their disappointment over the failure of BJP leaders and Union ministers – let alone the prime minister and the home minister – to condemn the genocidal calls against Muslims made by speakers there need to understand that there is no substantive difference between them.
After the prime minister’s recent speech, one should not be surprised over his silence; rather, one is better placed to understand the coherence in Modi and Yati Narsinghanand’s ideology. There should henceforth be no problem in understanding the relationship between the Dharam Sansad and the politics of the BJP.
While addressing the Lakhpat Gurdwara in Kutch on December 25 via a video link, Prime Minister Modi said that the dangers the Sikh Gurus had warned about are present in the same form today. Modi further said, “Guru Tegh Bahadur’s sacrifice and his heroic acts against Aurangzeb have taught us how the country should fight terrorism and religious extremism.”
Mindful of the fact that he was addressing a Sikh audience, Modi repeatedly referred to the atrocities of the Mughals and Muslim rulers and the struggle of the Sikh Gurus against them: “During their (Mughal) rule there were so many atrocities that the Sikh Gurus laid down their lives for the country…”
Prior to this, the unruly majoritarian mob whose job is to disrupt the prayers of Muslims and Christians on Fridays and Sundays tried to shame the Sikhs who had offered Gurgaon’s Muslims place to pray inside their gurudwaras using the same argument. How could they facilitate the prayer of Muslims when Guru Teg Bahadur was martyred by Aurangzeb? For a long time, the RSS has problematically glorified Sikhs as warriors, or rather bodyguards, who saved Hinduism. When Sikhs or Muslims do not carry the vicarious rage of medieval India, and remain friends today, why does Modi or the RSS want the Sikhs to be enemies of the Muslims?
According to newspaper reports of the speech, Modi talked about the Sikh Gurus as opponents of various Muslim rulers. He praised the Gurus as, according to him, they were giving their life fighting these rulers. They were doing this for the country. Guru Gobind Singh also fought Hindu kings, who saw the khalsa as a threat to the caste system. But Modi makes no mention of that.
“Guru Tegh Bahadur’s valour and his sacrifice against Aurangzeb teaches us how the country fights against terror and religious fanaticism,” he said. “The dangers against which the gurus warned us remain the same even today, so we have to be cautious and ensure the security of the country.”
Modi’s message was that what the Sikh Gurus did then has to be done even today because that danger exists even today. But where is that danger coming from? With whom are we to fight?
For years, Modi and the BJP have been pushing this message in different ways. During the anti-CAA protest in December 2019, Modi said the protesters could be recognised by their clothes. His audience easily decoded his message. This was when protesting Muslims were being attacked in Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka Delhi and elsewhere. The police either were the perpetrators or stood in support of those who were doing so. That was very well expressed in the slogans of “Delhi police lath chalao, hum tumhare saath hain” and “Modiji lath chalao, hum tumhare saath hain” (Delhi Police, use your lathis, we are with you).
What Modi said in a not so subtle but clever way on December 25 was said in the ‘Dharma Sansad’ without any cover. The theme of the event at Haridwar was “Sanatan’s Future in Islamic India: Problems and Solutions.’ Isn’t India supposed to be as much Islamic, or Christian, or Sikh as it is Hindu?
Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, Jain and Sikh rulers have ruled over different areas in India at different times. Can those areas and their times be called Jain, Buddhist, Hindu, Sikh India? Even if we accept the argument of calling the Mughal period ‘Islamic’, their ended centuries ago. Which Islamic India was being discussed in the event then? The ahistorical exercise was aimed at the intimidation of Hindus – to scare them that India is going to be Islamic and to ask them to prepare, buy weapons, train their children to use weapons so that Muslims can be killed.
The religious gurus present in the event were clear that only the genocide of Muslims can save India from becoming an Islamic nation. On the other hand, Modi, in Kutch and at Kashi earlier this month, warned Hindus ad Sikhs about the danger of Aurangzeb, Ahmed Shah Abdali, Nadir Shah, Syed Salar Masood. After taking their names, he says that the same threats exist in India today. He asks people t follow what Shivaji, Suhail Dev, Guru Tegh Bahadur or Banda Bahadur did.
Modi encodes the violence in the widely known explicitly anti-Muslim symbols and imagery of the Hindu reawakening. He talks about the historic Muslim aggressor and then the ones who should be identified by their clothes. He mentions Miyan Musharraf and Ramzan. His listeners respond as intended. In that sense, Modi has maintained a perfect balance of Vajpayee poetic dog whistles and Narsinghanand’s blatant call to arms without even mentioning the targets by their name.
‘Babur or Aurangzeb are long gone but their children remain here. They pose the same danger as Babur or Aurangzeb’. That is what we have been hearing for the last four decades. The people of India understand the meaning of Babar’s sons and also that of Aurangzeb’s symbolism in the PM’s address. During the Babri Masjid demolition movement, we had heard the chants of “Babar Ki Auladon ko…”. That movement was to deal with the children of Babar. What has changed? As long as they, the sons of Babur, are not eliminated, the threat of Babur and Aurangzeb taking over India remains alive.
We must make it clear in our heads that there is nothing organic or spontaneous about the events organised to call for genocide; it stems from great organisational work, planning and state impunity.
We must understand that there is a complete sentence of which Modi speaks a part, the blank space ahead is filled by Adityanath and the task of completing it is left to Yati Narasimhananda, Prabodhanand and the rest of the religious gurus. This completed sentence is an explanation of the ideology of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. That is, Muslims and Christians are the contaminants in the pure Ganga stream of India and the Ganga has to be cleansed. Its stream has to be kept uninterrupted and pure.
While people like Yati do not get owned by the RSS, we should not forget that from Nathuram Godse to Rambhakt Gopal, the ‘parivar’ has never owned its soldiers. It is an integral part of their modus operandi which operates with clear separation for the world to show. It never owns the violence it commits.
It has been made clear that now Muslims cannot escape by saying that they are not Babar’s children. Even if they condemn Babar and Aurangzeb, they won’t be trusted. The Quran itself is considered to be the root of violence and terror. Whoever believes in it is a terrorist and anti-India and whoever wants to survive has to leave the Qur’an behind. Purification (reconversion) will be key to keeping themselves alive, just like Wasim Rizvi. Whoever is not willing, will have to be eliminated.
The dangers posed by these calls for the massacre of Muslims cannot be fought without ousting the Bharatiya Janata Party from power and boycotting the RSS. You cannot clean the sludge by wiping it over and over again unless you close the source from which this poison is coming out. This has to be done through strong and difficult conversations with Hindu society. Poison is being spready daily in our society through shakhas, Saraswati Shishu Mandirs, Ekal Vidyalayas, the Bajrang Dal, VHP and BJP. This is also a religious issue, not just a political one. Hindus must decide whether they want the BJP to define their religion or whether they want to reclaim it from the dominant predefining feature being imposed on them – which is hatred and violence against Muslims and Christians.
In 2020, Narsinghanand’s Dharam Sansad preceded the pogrom in North East Delhi. This might be the last chance we have to stop pogroms following genocidal hate speech from becoming a regular feature of present-day India. The men and women who participated in the Dharam Sansad at Haridwar and their patrons should be held accountable. This country has to save itself from this poison.
Neel Madhav is an independent journalist, currently based in Khagaria, Bihar. He tweets as @NeelMadhav_.
Apoorvanand teaches Hindi at Delhi University.