Many would have thought building a Ram mandir at the site where the Babri Masjid had stood till Dec.1992 would be one of the priorities of a parivar regime. But no, they are kicking off with Art.370, purporting to initiate a debate on the issue, but evidently hoping they can obliterate the constitutional provision and thus end what little autonomy the benighted province is enjoying. The parivar is yet to reconcile itself to partition and darkly hints all the time of finishing the unfinished agenda. Rolling back, erasing the past inconvenient to them, is a key part of their insidious programmes after all. In a recent article by MitulBaruah, a doctoral Candidate, Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University, NY, titled, “Gujarat: Politics of “Development” or Politics of “Erasures?” (http://www.countercurrents.org/baruah290514.htm), he concluded his excellent piece stating, “In a nutshell, what is being popularized as a politics of “development” by the Modi supporters can be instead read as a politics of “erasures.” If there is a “Gujarat model”, it is about erasing ecologies, traditional livelihoods, social fabric, and, above all, certain histories. Finally, with the Sangh Parivar’s well-known stand on the questions of ‘Uniform Civil Code,’ ‘Article 370,’ and ‘Hindu Rashtra,’ there is enough reason to fear that the very defining characteristic of India – its “diversity” – may soon be a thing of the past.”
In the circumstances, it would be hazardous to be dragged into the legal and constitutional questions around Article 370 alone. Dr.Karan Singh, has put out a very reasoned and informative statement, appealing for a cooling of temperatures on the issue. The parivar is of course unlikely to oblige, it will keep going back to the issue till the ‘critical mass’ is attained, when it can strike with ferocity as it did on Dec.6, 1992.
While the constitutional issues and legal questions are indeed important and we should remember other special provisions such as Art. 371 for Nagaland, we should also be wary and better focus on the reasons why the RSS and its front organizations including the BJP keep raising such contentious issues. First of all it is by raising these issues it can keep harping back to the fact that nation- building at the time of Independence was flawed, whisper in the ears of the naïve that the “unjust history” has to be disowned, goad them to shape a Hindu majoritarian future that denies lower castes and tribals their identities and their aspirations and eventually erase our history. Doing away with Art. 370, kicking out Bangladeshi refugees, ending the Uniform Civil Code and removing pluralist interpretations of our culture, history and civilizations are all part of that same fascist project. It works like a hydra-headed monster with each head engaging those who disagree with their multi-layered anti-civilizational project. But fighting back is not going to be easy.
As in the Greek myths, each head that is cut off will grow two more heads with poisonous breath and animated by virulent blood. Heracles had to resort to a lot of ingenuity and required lot of help to finally overcome the nine-headed serpent of Lerna.
So also the secular and progressive sections should be very careful in fighting this manifest social evil. The first rule is do not engage in the terms of their debate. No debate on Art. 370, but only educating people what it is along with other similar provisions in the constitution and thus educate people about the deeper values embedded in our constitution.
People must be told that the debate about Art. 370 is not so much about that specific proviso itself, but aimed at creating conditions conducive enough to attack all the provisions for affirmative action and social justice enshrined in our constitutional scheme of things. Always expose the self-serving hypocrisy of their arguments. Discussion on Art. 370, but not 371 while supporting special provisions in the Sri Lankan Constitution for the Tamil areas.
Don’t rush to debate every controversy that the Sangh manipulators put up for debate, avoid it and go on to construct positive discourses around deeper values and perspectives drawing from our history and constitution. We should hark back to nation-builders like Rabindranath Tagore whom they abhor and are scared of like Dracula in the movies, running away at the sight of a Christian Cross.
Place limits and do not glorify the politics of identity, especially in places like Tamil Nadu with its excessive Tamil identity politics to the detriment of other important issues of justice and equality. Such identity politics, like the other extremes in Maharashtra only help in advancing the fascist politics of the RSS and its parivar and their attempts to destroy the idea of India, if not India itself.
(Mr Rendra is a Mysore-based analyst.)