The bloody communal riots in the Indian states of West Bengal and Bihar during the Rama Navami processions are the outcomes of consistent efforts by right-wing groups led by Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) to stamp the hegemony of Hindutva over tolerant Hinduism through a blatant display of muscle power, a threatening posture and prosecution of a mindset to create terror among Muslims.
More than 15 districts of the two states have been hit by Hindu-Muslim conflicts, in which at least six people have been killed and more than hundred injured. Looting, arson and killings have not only propagated extremist Hindutva terror but have tarnished the image of Rama.
During the Rama Navami processions to mark the birth of Lord Rama, the icon of Hindu faith, Hindutva brigades carried such weapons as swords, tridents, lances and pistols even though the West Bengal government banned arms during the processions.
The Mahila Morcha, the Women’s Wing of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), also held processions as if they were going to war or were in search of an enemy who would confront them only to be defeated, not adhering to the sublime glory of Rama. Equipped with tridents, swords and lances and wearing headbands, the women marched to exhibit aggressive intentions.
In Bihar’s Samastipur district, Hindutva miscreants waved saffron flags at Madarsa Ziaul Islam mosque, burned part of the premises and desecrated the Koran. In Nawada, also in Bihar state, Muslim miscreants broke an idol of Hanuman. Truly, neither Rama nor the Prophet Muhammad would have approved of any of this.
The militant display of Hindutva power during the Rama Navami processions, the Ganesh Festival and the Shivaji Festival dates back to the call by Bal Gangadhar Tilak, an Indian nationalist of the early 20th century, for “consolidating Hindu consciousness and Hindu militancy.”
American religious-studies professor Ivan Strenski, in his paper “Legitimacy, Mythology and Irrational Violence in Hindu India,” argued that “the ethics of Gitarahasya took the form of militant Hinduism and political extremism and communal violence against Muslims increased rather than decrease with the rise of Tilak.”
Communal riots, with close collusion of the police and government, provide Hindutva forces an ample space to subjugate Muslims who suffered the fury of marauding crowd in countless riots in India.
In Bhagalpur district of Bihar, Arijit Shashwat, son of federal minister Ashwini Choubey, led a procession on March 17 without the government’s permission in which he ignited communal disturbance by his vituperative speech followed by objectionable slogans and songs. Interestingly, the father, in response to the First Information Report registered against his son, said it should be thrown in the trash. Shashwat was later arrested.
What is, in the first place, the significance of taking Rama Navami processions through Muslim areas? Why do Hindutva forces show so much rigidity in playing loud music and dancing before a mosque? What is the use of shouting anti-Muslim slogans during the processions?
The hysterical madness that some youths showed during the processions is not part of Hinduism. It echoes what V D Savarkar, the leader of the Hindu Mahasabha, said in 1938: “Hinduize politics and militarize Hinduism.” This slogan was used by Hindu Rashtra Sena members when they hacked a Muslim information-technology worker to death in Pune in June 2014.
The whole idea of Hindutva terror is based on anti-Muslim hatred, much as Nazi ideology was anti-Jewish. It has nothing to do with Hindu religion, and so far as Hinduism is concerned it is everywhere, in every sphere of Indian life, whether in politics or films or education in the forms of signs, symbols, deities, worships and inaugurations. Then why is there a need for militant Hindutva showbiz? It poses grave danger to India’s security, since Hindutva now thrives under the BJP government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.