Two policemen leading the mob which ultimately lynched a Muslim in Hapur is, of course, part of familiar communalism which has to be revved upon to a higher pitch in order to prepare the ground for the General Elections in 2019. The animal to be protected is not the cow, but power.
For this ultimate goal, incidents like the one in Hapur and the more ghoulish ones before it, hundreds of them, are all essential to maintain conditions of edgy, combustible intolerance. Nothing else seems to be working. Why not continue playing the game one knows best?
An accumulation of such incidents, even their simultaneous eruption on a large scale, amplified by the media, can whip up majoritarianism wherever Muslims are visible and where the majoritarian current has not been weakened by caste polarization. This applies much more to what the British called the “cow belt” but which is more accurately described as the “Hindi belt” – UP, Bihar, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh plus Maharashtra and Gujarat.
The 2019 Kurukshetra has to be organized, mobilized, galvanized, whipped up (with the media in tow) only by anchoring communalism to a higher purpose. In other words, “nationalism” has to be invoked. Cow and Love Jihad cannot be given the elevation of nationalism. Mere communalism results in finger pointing at the state apparatus; nationalism justifies the deployment of this apparatus. Whether this deployment is for a national or the nationalist’s cause is open to question.
Cow and Love Jihad cannot be posited as harbingers of national danger. They are not issues endangering national security.
This is where the new turn in Kashmir comes in. Polarization on a massive scale is the electoral requirement now that 2019 looms. This polarization would have been implausible with the BJP in chummy proximity to the PDP’s Mehbooba Mufti in Kashmir.
By sliding away from Mehbooba in the state Assembly, the BJP has turned its back on the Muslims of the Valley, of course. It has also, in effect, freed millions of Hindutva cadres across Bharat Varsha to blow conch shells heralding the great 2019 epic.
The tearing hurry in which the Partition of India was affected may have been one reason why our founding fathers were unable to visualize what we face today. Progressive intellectuals may dismiss “The Guilty Men of India’s Partition” by Ram Manohar Lohia and “The Tragic Story of India’s Partition” by the late H.V. Sheshadri, General Secretary of the RSS until 2000. But would they dismiss with equal contempt Maulana Abul Kalam Azad’s “India Wins Freedom”, particularly the crucial 30 pages which were kept in the custody of the National Archives until 1988? The Maulana is worthy of being read again today.
By the act of Partition and the sleight of hand in Kashmir, India trapped itself into a triangle. This truth has to be continuously repeated because the Indian mind is in the drill to chant a mantra faster than it is to understand a shloka. The three sides of this triangle are actually three axes which are New Delhi-Kashmir; India-Pakistan; Hindu-Muslim. These three axes are, in effect, one comprehensive complex of issues. As in a geometrical theorem, the triangle has to be addressed as a whole. It cannot be sorted out axis by axis, one side after another.
If Ram Madhav, the BJP’s point man for Kashmir, marches off to Srinagar with a carte blanche from the High Command to solve the problem at any cost, there is nothing he can achieve without bringing Pakistan into the bargain. Activation of these two axes will have an impact on the third, Hindu-Muslim axis. This would entail the communal temperature coming down considerably. Will that serve the electoral aims of the party in power in New Delhi?
Of course, it will not, and here, to complicate matters, another triangle comes into play. Since the 80s and 90s the primary triangle has become entangled with a very durable caste triangle. The caste pyramid or triangle instead of being left to social forces, time and attrition to equalize at its own pace was aggravated by the sudden eruption of caste politics in North India in the wake of the Mandal Commission. Communal politics is the upper caste strategy to manage the caste upheaval from below. The upper caste or the ruling class formations project Muslims and other minorities as the “other” to keep the Hindu flock together, the Pyramid in some state of repair. The lower castes, likewise, would like to co opt the Muslim as an enabler in their bid for power and equality.
The Hindu ruling class in its Hindutva Avatar is averse to vertical or horizontal fragmentation. A federal India, corresponding to its regional diversity is anathema to the votaries of Hindu Rashtra. The preservation of this unitary Bharat is an article of faith with those controlling the Delhi Durbar. To mobilize masses towards this end requires a constant harping on an external enemy in cahoots with the enemy within.
The enemy within can be manipulated along the two internal axes of the triangle: New Delhi-Kashmir and Hindu-Muslim. The India-Pakistan axis, essential to complete the triangle cannot be played according to New Delhi’s will alone. External stakeholders include China, Russia, Central Asia and the US. As Charlie Chaplin, having fallen into a drum, his feet and neck protruding in an awkward loop, takes his hat off in an attempted bow, and announces: “Ladies and gentlemen, we are stuck!”
(A senior commentator on political and diplomatic affairs, Saeed Naqvi can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org. The views expressed are personal.)