Saturday, August 24, 2013

84-Kosi parikrama nothing but politics….

Everyone knows what happened in Ayodhya in 1992; a centuries old monument came down and a new, deep and permanent divide set foot into the country’s politics. That event led to several other related incidents in later years, the most infamous of which has to be what happened in Godhra and later in Gujarat in 2002. What’s the lesson we learnt from all this? That we should organize more divisive religious yatras? Or less?

Newspaper reports indicate that the traditional 84-kosi-parikrama is held in April-May during the month of “Chaitra”. This year’s yatra has already been completed in the same months. There is no religious excuse left for this new parikrama. Everyone knows what the real reason is, and what the likely result, and yet there is no way anyone can prevent it from happening. Irrespective of how the UP government handles the situation, the polarization of UP has begun yet again; not surprisingly, just a few months before election season starts in right earnest.

The BJP has expectedly “supported” its sister outfit, as if it had any other choice. Rather, as if it had any other plans. Everyone knows that the 2014 strategic plan of the BJP centers around religious polarization. Poster boy Narendra Modi has already declared his intentions by putting up provocative messages of “Hindu nationalism”. And with his “puppy” and “burqua” comments. He has also sent Amit Shah, an accused in the Sohrabuddin-fake-encounter case, as the campaign chief of the tinderbox state of UP. I had predicted then itself that the party will do something dramatic in UP. This could well be it.

On the face of it, no one can object to a religious yatra. After all, we have the freedom to practice our faith. So when Sushma Swaraj says “Yatra is a fundamental right of every citizen. We have our right to movement”, she knows no one can fault her. But who decides at which point a faith yatra becomes a political one? In 1992, when the Babri Masjid came crashing down, political leaders washed their hands off and said this was the people’s action, not their, even though they were right there giving fiery speeches and almost egging their followers on. They even forgot their commitment to the Supreme Court that the masjid would not be harmed. “It wasn’t us” became their chant. How do we know that this yatra won’t end up the same way? How do we know that thousands more won’t die?

The UP government has cited a 2011 SC order asking for status quo to be maintained at Ayodhya to deny permission to the VHP. A PIL on the yatra was also thrown out by the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court yesterday on the grounds that the yatra couldn’t be called a “custom”. And yet the yatra will be held in the six districts surrounding and including Ayodhya. All of this makes the present situation eerily similar to what prevailed in 1992.

That’s why the objective of the yatra looks political. It’s a highly “muscular” form of practice of religion. True believers in faith keep their eyes on the deeper meaning of religion – maintaining harmony at all times while practicing one’s own faith. They don’t get distracted with meaningless ego trips of the sort that appears to be going on. The whole idea of the yatra appears to be to provoke the Hindu into fearing that his religious freedom is under threat; when in reality there is no such thing at all. After all, Hindus are the majority community, with more than an 80% share. How can the freedom of such a large majority ever be throttled?

Here’s what is likely to happen now. There will be violence in UP; maybe even in Ayodhya. I hope it doesn’t happen, but a few innocents could die as well. The SP government will be shown to be the villain. TV channels will immaturely, irresponsibly and indecently amplify the violence. They will engage in SP bashing. It will make every Hindu in the country sit up and take note. Every Hindu will feel the only savior is the BJP. They will dissolve their differences and vote for the party. That’s what the plan is anyways. It happened that way following 1992. The only time the BJP/Shiv Sena formed a government in Maharashtra (between 1995-99) was in the aftermath of the Babri demolition. Those kinds of passions have never been raised again. The 84-kosi yatra attempts to do that now.

The yatra is tailor made to give political mileage to the BJP. For the SP, it’s a no-win situation. I do not agree that the SP is hand in glove with the VHP on this; that it will use the yatra to burnish its pro-minority credentials. I think it will lose face; as any violence and any loss of lives will be shown to be its “poor governance”. The Congress has already criticized the yatra. So its bound to be shown playing the minority appeasement card as well. All in all, this is a political masterstroke, one that is bound to succeed for the BJP.

The real truth is that nothing sounds correct about this VHP yatra. It seems like a political move by the right-wing, enacted by the VHP. We’ll know soon what happens, but my forecast is that this will spin out of control….

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