Friday, January 13, 2012

Saffronisation in Madhya Pradesh: Isn't it BJP's appeasement of the majority community?

Towards a Saffron state!
We hear the BJP make so much noise about appeasement of minorities, particularly Muslims. But does anyone use the term 'Majority [or Hindu] appeasement' when the party goes all out to ensure Saffronisation in a state.

In Madhya Pradesh, BJP seems to have steadily taken the RSS agenda quite far without a whimper. As a commentator in a national newspaper recently remarked that by keeping a low-profile BJP leaders in MP have silently pushed the Hindutva plan ahead.

But in the last few months, people have begun to see the design. Either it is the stringent law against cow slaughter that will put onus on any cattle trader if he is 'caught' taking bovines to prove his innocence or the introduction of Gita in school syllabus, MP is clearly outpacing Gujarat as the Hindutva lab.

1. The 'Surya Namaskar' may seem to be a innocuous activity akin to Yoga but the seriousness of the government in implementing it, clearly shows that it wants majority community's style of worship to enter hitherto secular schools. Personally many people won't find it too disturbing.

2. The party had proposed renaming Bhopal as Bhojpal in an apparent move to get rid off its Muslim heritage. The founder of modern Bhopal was Dost Mohammad Khan, the first Nawab and ruler of the medieval dynasty. On the ramparts of his fort in the lake, the huge statue of Raja Bhoj was erected.

Was it not majority appeasement? It didn't work though as party understood the popular mood was against the proposed name, Bhojpal. There has been no end to such decisions during the last few years. You may find them innocuous at your own risk.

3. Even when Abhinav Bharat members were caught for acts of terrorism, no statewide hunt was launched by MP police. But when Kashmiri youths were caught, they were immediately dubbed as terrorists. They were later released when it was realised that there was no case against them.

Further a campaign was launched against Kashmiri students in Bhopal. It was alleged that if Kashmiris would be allowed to come in such large numbers, this would facilitate the entry of militants who could then sneak into the state.

4. Steps were taken to ensure that Kashmiri Muslims didn't come for studies in MP in large numbers. It became a national issue. Similar was the case of stringent law against conversion and the religious profiling of Christians that was stopped after it came in open. Isn't all this clear case of Hindu appeasement?

5. The issue is that there is clearly a larger design. When Gita lessons were about to be introduced, the leaders of Sikh, Christian and Muslim communities opposed it. They termed it a step to turn all state-run schools into Shishu Mandirs.

Then, the State government, said that it had no objection to add teachings from scriptures of other communities as well. It was cleverly aimed to mollify the protesters.

When the opposition died down, the BJP government silently introduced the Gita chapters in the curriculum in schools.

As long as it is a secular state bound by constitution, there has to be a limit to this form of appeasement. Muslims can teach Quran in Madarsas and Hindus can teach Gita or other scriptures at private run schools or Saraswati Shishu Mandirs.

6. Public memory is short. Sometime back the decision to ask students recite 'Bhojan mantra' was also taken in the state. The education department had then insisted that it was not 'objectionable'. It is not that everybody is a fool. They try, see the response, then either act or stop and reintroduce things slightly later.

7. It is not the state government is concerned about education or students. The state run schools are in a mess. There is little interest to save schools, let alone open new ones. The buildings are in poor state. Of the 1.3 lakh government schools, over 25,000 schools have no toilets.

8. Government teachers, students are used to swell crowds by all parties. They come free and can't question the decisions. So it's easy to force them to attend rallies or mass Surya Namaskar. Unlike party workers brought from far-flung areas at the cost of transportation, the children won't even ask for money or lunch.

9. Schoolteachers are forced into election duties, regular vaccination drives and all government functions. The truth is that there is no concern about schoolchildren's fitness or education standards in these schools. The interest is just to further the agenda.

10. In fact, MP is a classic case. Unlike Gujarat, where Chief Minister Narendra Modi was till a few years back quite vocal and often made crude statements about Muslim community, BJP leaders in Madhya Pradesh have been silent and have projected its image as an inclusive party.

In MP that has 50 lakh [five million] Muslims, the BJP has held conventions for Muslims. The CM's pet Kanya Daan scheme for Hindu couples has been extended to include 'mass nikaahs' that are held at the expense of the government.

When there was criticism that advertisements for 'Beti Bachao' scheme, the hoardings were quickly changed. The photographs of Muslim girls adorned them. The couplets like 'HadithoN [HadeesoN] ki zeenat haiN betiyaaN' were also introduced as slogans.

On the law-and-order front, the riots were controlled quickly and there were no major communal clashes. The activities of Bajrang Dal and other allied Hindutva groups were kept under control. No wonder, a section of Muslims felt comfortable with Chouhan as Chief Minister.

The down to earth approach of the Chief Minister has made him popular among Muslims also. Party is expecting Muslim votes in the upcoming Assembly elections. Many BJP leaders had got Muslim votes in the last election and this was a surprise for the party.
Then what prompts the State BJP to take decisions that are now leading to controversies. Everybody in the power corridors in MP knows that the top state leadership doesn't want any issue that will cause disharmony or unnecessary controversy.

10. Clearly, good governance and popularity are not enough. The RSS doesn't want the BJP to become a Congress' version 2.0, even if it outperforms the latter on various indicators. In the last two terms, all Sangh institutions in MP have got so strong that even if the party doesn't come to power for decades, they won't face any problem.

Huge chunks of prime land have been given to them. If a BJP leader wants to keep his chair safe, then the first thing he must do is to keep the RSS in good humour. Once he is done with that, he can be assured that there is no internal threat to his rule, and focus on politics and governance.

Unfortunately for the party, the President's nod for the bill came just now when Surya Namaskar was to be organised. The controversy over Gita lessons hadn't died. For years, BJP has raised the issue of 'alpasankhyak tushtikaran', now they are doing aggressive appeasement of the bahusankhyak [majority] and not many seems to notice!