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Caste, Hindutva stantly kept ignited.

Statues of Shivaji and


Rana Pratap have been installed in all
cities during the last three decades incul-

and Hideousness cating poison of Hindutva against ‘others’


[Togadiya 2000].
Rioting is an act of mob. Pogrom and
genocide are not. But they cannot be carried
The Hindutva movement has made serious attempts to forge a unity out without mob support. The strength of
among Hindus, without disturbing the relative power relations the mob varies from hundred to five thou-
sands and few cases number is larger. All
among the castes. The Sangh parivar, for all its rhetoric on participants of the mobs do not indulge
upliftment of the dalits, hardly ever raises a voice against caste- in looting, destroying and burning prop-
based discrimination or atrocities against dalits. This ambivalent erty and killing. On the basis of my ob-
attitude has led to considerable disenchantment and confusion servations of 1969, 1973 and 1992 in
among the dalits which is exacerbated during times of tension. Gujarat I submit that mobs in such situ-
ation are of four types of actors. The
organisers who meticulously prepare plans
GHANSHYAM SHAH that they are apostles (‘upasak’) of ‘shakti’ and evolve strategies. Many of them are
– the worshippers of Maha-Shakti with not on the site. They also chart out route

D
alits and shudras, particularly other trisul in the hands of Shiva, sudarshan in for the attacks in different localities. VHP
backward castes (OBCs) consti- the hands of Krishna, bow and arrow in leaders had admitted that the list identi-
tute the overwhelming majority of the hands of Ram. Hindus are cajoled to fying Muslims was prepared on the 28th
the population in Gujarat. Nearly 70 per take arms against the enemies [Atmanand morning. The organisers are primarily the
cent of the workforce of these social groups 1982]. They are reminded that weakness, top rank leaders. The majority of them
are casual labourers and ‘self-employed’; timidity, unmanliness are great sins and happen to be brahmins. And more impor-
and 20 per cent are white collar employees bravery and masculinity are great punya, tant, they subscribe to the brahminical
in cities. This essay attempts to probe and i e, virtues. Such interpretation of Hindu- ideology of varna system. The second set
contextualise their role in the present ism have been systematically spread of actors are the skilled and experienced
communal carnage and a response to press through informal conversation, rumours, personnel constituting brigade. They have
coverage and observations of some scholar public lectures, children’s comic books, mastered the craft of breaking shutters and
activists regarding ‘large scale’ participa- printed and audio-visual media by all units doors, pulling down ceilings and walls,
tion of dalits and OBCs in rioting, looting of the parivar. Newspapers and journals, using electrical devices for setting fire and
and killing. ‘kathas’ of the religious saints, booklets burning people, using swords and other
Soon after the ghastly communal car- and other forms of popular literature weapons. In the present riots gas cylinders
nage in Surat in 1992, a proportion of the orchestrated the same message. Violence and other chemicals were used to destroy
Hindus expressed intense ‘communal con- in the present riots has been publicly property. They function in a group of 10
sciousness’. They took positions of ‘we’ applauded by VHP leaders [Bhatt 2002]. to 20 with all the necessary equipment.
vs ‘they’ and considered their community The testing of nuclear bombs by India and The leaders of the group (more than one)
to be superior to others. But the majority Pakistan, the Kargil war, the September are committed ‘Hindutvavadis’ believing
of them were not active participants in the 11 holocaust in the US, and the December that they are performing their dharma and
riots [Shah 1994]. attack on Indian Parliament, frequent are trained like all terrorists, be they Mus-
Inter caste and community stereotypes terrorist acts in Jammu and Kashmir and lim or Christian fundamentalists. For them,
are widely prevalent in all societies. Gujarat constant live bomb of Ram Janmabhoomi their caste or other identity is not impor-
is no exception. The process of hardening add fuel to fire. A carnage like the Godhra tant, though it would seem that the ma-
of stereotypes began with discourse on one inflames passions. During the last jority of them belong to upper and middle
religion-centred nationalism. What we are seven years the state has patronised and castes. The rest are the professional goons
witnessing now is its ugly face. This has institutionalised anti minority activities routinely involved in criminal activities.
been intelligently built up and in Gujarat, by Sangh parivar. They are called and mobilised by the
since the 1965 Indo-Pak war on the Kutch On the other hand, overall traditional organisers who provide patronage and
border. It was coupled with the gau-raksha, ethical values of honesty, harmony, political protection. H who actively par-
i e, anti-cow slaughter campaign. The first tolerance and mutual dialogue in public ticipated in the 1969 and 1973 riots in
major planned large-scale communal riots domain are getting eroded with rising Ahmedabad told us, “By now I have done
followed. Since then the fear psychosis corruption in all fields of life and all sorts of business. There is no red-light
and sense of injustice among the majority criminalisation of politics. The proponents area between Bombay and Ahmedabad
community has been constantly whipped of Hindutva were jubilant in 1969 riots which I have not visited…I use to gamble
up. The myth that Muslims were favoured that it was their ‘victory over Muslims’. and live on it…I believe there is nothing
by the state has been systematically articu- They felt that the riots offered them an wrong in killing people.” At that time he
lated and spread. Time and again, Mus- opportunity to teach Muslims a lesson and was 25 years of old and had passed his MA
lims have been branded as anti-national, avenge the historical defeat of Prithviraj with psychology. He was bania by caste
fundamentalist, conservative and back- at the hands of Mohamad Gauri [Shah and son of stockbroker. He was closed to
ward, and so on. The Hindus are reminded 1970]. The past real or imaginary is con- Jan Sangh [Shah 1974]. The number of

Economic and Political Weekly April 13, 2002 1391


such hooligans has increased manyfold in and his younger brother went to the tar- Hindus should now become alert and not
Gujarat with the rise of unemployment, geted Muslim locality to see Karim Chacha widen the gap between the castes. They
casualisation of labour and criminalisation for of whom they were very fond. A number must compromise with the dalits…”
of politics. They are from all social groups: of persons told us that their Muslim friends The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh,
upper and middle castes, dalits and OBCs were nice and kind “but Muslims are bad (RSS) emphasises unity and harmony
including Gujaratis and non-Gujaratis. and cannot be trusted”. On the onslaught among all Hindus irrespective of castes.
The third component comprises agent of the propaganda, they are unable to Accordingly to them the caste system is
provocateurs engaged in spreading differentiate their personal experiences with based on ‘scientific’ principles. The pre-
rumours, shouting slogans, instigating and the rumours. vailing discriminations are distortion.
directing mobs. They are activists of the Deendayal Upadhya argued in his widely
various outfits of the Sangh parivar. They Dalits, OBCs and Hinduism read book among the Sangh volunteers,
are not more than five in the crowd of 50. Integral Humanism, “In our concept of
Their number multiplies with the size of The major challenge for the proponents four castes (Varna), they are thought of as
the mob. In many places they are accom- of Hindutva is to build unity among all analogous to the different limbs of Virat-
panied with professionals like doctors and Hindus without disturbing dominance of Purush [the primeval man] […]. These
advocates, social activists active members the upper castes and class. The Bharat limbs are not only complementary to one
of the parivar. The fourth segment consists Sevashram and Hindu Milan Mandir, outfit another, but even further, there is individu-
of ‘other’ participants who, in the charged of Hindu Mahasabha launched in 1920s ality, unity. There is complete identity of
atmosphere loose individual identity and have been more active in Gujarat since interests, identity of belonging […]”
submerge with mob. Their number increase 1970s. Besides undertaking activities to [Jaffrelot 1998].
and their fear disappears when they find unite various sects and organising reli- RSS has floated the organisation
that they were not prevented by law and gious festivals, they carry out welfare and ‘Samajik Samrasata Manch’ (SSM), i e,
order machinery. During the present riots relief measures for the poor. The main Social Assimilation Platform, to attract
they were encouraged by police for looting thrust of these organisations is to build Ambedkarists and other dalits for the
at several places. They belong to all castes unity and harmony among the upper and purpose of developing Hindu unity.
depending upon locality. In the posh and lower castes. They reject the notion that Hedgewar, SSM quotes did not support
middle class neighbourhood they are from Sudras occupy an inferior and degraded caste and class divisions. The prevailing
upper and middle castes, local as well as position, though they do not reject the divisions should be ignored. ‘We are one’.
outsiders. The composition is different in caste system. Cooperation and unity of He emphasised: “We are all Hindus, Where
working class localities. Persons belong- upper and lower castes for the protection is untouchability? Today we have only one
ing to OBCs, dalits and non-Gujarati of the Hindu dharma and Hindu samaj is varna and jati that is Hindu.” According
immigrant are found in large number. Some called for. Hindutva consciousness and to the proponents of the SSM, the central
also participate in looting, throwing stones, Hindu inspiration are the starting point for thrust of Ambedkar’s ideology is dharma.
burning property and sometimes assisting the realisation of power necessary for the He was a strong critic of brahmin caste
in physical assaults. Their involvement in self protection of Hindus. According to who exploited society in the name of
hideous act however is rare. All the par- these organisations, the low caste Hindus religion. But that was, according to a RSS
ticipants are not necessarily anti-Muslims. is the most hardworking, strong and able leader the fault of brahmins and not of
For instance, Sanjay 38 years old, from to bear much suffering. “Because of their religion. Ambedkar’s views on Pakistan
OBC joined the mob in Naroda Patia, numerical strength, they are truly the spinal are twisted to show that he was against
Ahmedabad on the 28th noon. He went code of Hindu ‘jati’ (race). Lakhs and Muslims. It has been argued that he adopted
there to see what was happening. People crores of these people are getting disas- Buddhism and not Islam or Christianity
were throwing stones on mosque and sociated from Hindu samaj because they because he feared those religions would
Muslim bastis and shouting anti-Muslim are humiliated and looked down upon. As make people anti-national [Dhengadi
slogans. He too was angry about the a result, Hindu jati is becoming weak and 1993]. The RSS has recently published a
Godhara incident that “our people were powerless” [Atmanand op cit]. They are book by a dalit swayamsevak who asserts
brutally burnt”. Out of anger he also joined the real kshatriyas who protected the Hindu that he had not experienced any discrimi-
the mob throwing stones on the mosque. samaj in the ancient period against all nation in the organisation. The foreword
The same person after three hours rescued calamities, aggressions and shocks. The of the book is written by another dalit who
15 Muslims and sheltered them for three Hindu jati can become strong only by is the editor of Sadhana, mouth-organ of
days under great risk. He was helped by uplifting them in moral, good behaviour, Gujarat RSS. He observes by citing his
his neighbours. Take another example. education and other fields. It is the respon- experiences, that Gandhians and Congress
Ramesh 18 years old, from an upper caste sibility of the upper caste members to leaders practice discrimination, but he had
in Baroda saw a crowd on the street. He ‘reform’ them for their own protection and no such experience within RSS in the last
went there out of curiosity. His friends protection of Hindu samaj. Vishawa Hindu 20 years [Patange undated].
were throwing patrol bombs (bottle filled Parishad (VHP) also subscribes the above After the 1969 riots, RSS ‘shakhas’ (units)
with patrol). He did not know who sup- theory. The Vishava Hindu Samachar, the increased from less than 30 to 45 in 1973.
plied the bombs. His neighbour gave him organ of VHP, edited by K K Shastry, Now they have reached to over 1,500 and
the bomb and asked him to throw it. He former president of Gujarati Sahitya Sabha are aiming at a target of 2000 in the next
did. He was upset when he came to know often exhorts its readers: “All Hindus three years. Besides shakhas, RSS organises
that they were trying to kill Muslims of should unite against ‘vidharmis’ (people health relief and income generation wel-
adjoining locality. During the curfew he of other religions)… ‘Savarna’ (upper castes) fare programmes on a regular basis in more

1392 Economic and Political Weekly April 13, 2002


than 200 locations in the state. It has adopted OBCs such as machchis, kharvas, kolis, victims of atrocities and blatant discrimi-
few villages for ‘total development’. vagharis, dalits and adivasis. Though in nation. Several dalit leaders have tried to
Though RSS claims that it does not en- their routine discourse these sects do not intervene in the present riots and provided
courage rituals various activities carried discuss Hindutva ideology and programmes protection to some Muslims. But this has
out by the organisation are not free from of the Sangh parivar, their reconstruction remained on a small scale with localised
them. VHP and other outfits also under- of history is not substantially different than impact in few localities. Valjibhai Patel,
take several welfare programmes involving the later [Shah 1994]. The Swaminarayan the leader of Dalit Panther who lead sev-
upper caste professionals like doctors and Sect which started in the early 19th century eral dalit struggles, in the mid-1960s feels
teachers for philanthropic work for the does not talk about nationalism and rastra. lonely and deserted. He laments that, “With
poor. They also often coordinate their func- All the above-mentioned sects keep a dis- this new generation it seems everything
tions with other sects like Swaminarayan, tance from electoral politics neither sup- has changed. They have forgotten resis-
Swadhayay, Gayatri Pariwar, Pustimargis porting nor opposing the BJP or Congress. tance against injustice and atrocities…In
and also occasionally caste organisations. They did not support Ram Janmabhoomi order to increase the capacity for assertion
Despite all efforts, in normal times Hindu campaign. However during the last 10 years Babasaheb taught us to get educated. But
identity has not superseded caste identity they have begun to praise and support the now its outcome is opposite. Education
[Shah 1974]. The BJP like the Congress activities of the RSS for raising Hindu has come and it has created huge battalions
distributes election tickets on caste lines consciousness (various issues of Sadhana). of armed-chair intellectuals. Their capac-
and reinforces caste-based divisions in the None of them expressed even grief for the ity for retaliation and assertion has de-
election campaign. The Sangh parivar hardly large-scale killing in the present riots. clined. Sensitivity is replaced by thick skin.
raises a voice against discrimination and Gujarat does not have significant number Careerist approach, selfishness and mindset
atrocities against OBCs and dalits in Gujarat. of radical groups – Hindu Left, Gandhians, for compromise and adjustment have
Their journals do not report such incidents. liberals, socialists, etc. It has not witnessed destroyed the dalit movement. So called
RSS believes that the true swayamsevak an anti-brahmin or backward caste move- dalit leaders and organisations have almost
refrains from finding fault with the samaj. ment. Some religious sects mobilised become captive of political leaders...” [Patel
He has to remember constantly that “We backward castes with a view to sanskritise 1999]. Many secular minded individuals
Hindus are one” [Shah 1974]. social customs. Since the early 20th century share this agony. -29
There are a number of sects or individual several OBCs have followed the path of
saints which try to build unity among castes sanskritisation for their upward mobility. Note
within Hinduism. They came into existence A section of the kolis of central and north 1 Caste Association and Political Process in
at different points of time. They are critical Gujarat claim for kshatriya status. In course Gujarat by Ghanshyam Shah, Popular
of superstitions and ‘irrational’ rituals of time they began to don the scared thread Prakashan, Bombay. Also, Gietel Steed, ‘Notes
To an Approach to a Study of Personality
practised by other sects. Though some of at the Vedic rite of Upanayana. Mytholo- Formation in Hindu Village in Gujarat’,
them favour the caste system, they are gies for honour and insult are created and American Anthropologist 57 (3) June 1955.
critical of untouchability. Sachchidanand, religious rituals of the rajput are imitated.1
one of the radical Hindu saints works for In the 1950s and 1960s the Gujarat References
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Vidhyanagar.
ated by Shri Krishna has no hierarchical Ambedkar’s ideology began to attract Sachchidanand, Swami (1988): Adhogatinu Mul
differences of low and high. It is materi- younger generation of dalits in the seven- Varna Vyavastha, Samanvay Pakashan,
alist arrangement for distribution of occu- ties. The movement of Dalit Panther grew. Ahmedabad.
Shah, Ghanshyam (1970): ‘Communal Riots in
pations so that people need not have to Though conversion to Buddhism has not Gujarat’, Economic and Political Weekly, 5
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Economic and Political Weekly April 13, 2002 1393