BJP's claims over line of thought

Updated: Jul 06, 2020, 07:11 IST | Ajaz Ashraf | Mumbai

The ruling party's attempts at establishing Hindutva's sole monopoly over India's diverse ideological terrain is not unlike our superpower neighbour's display of arrogance to change the status quo on the LAC

Indian Army soldiers drive vehicles along mountainous roads during a military exercise at Thikse in Leh district, Ladakh. Pic/AFP
Indian Army soldiers drive vehicles along mountainous roads during a military exercise at Thikse in Leh district, Ladakh. Pic/AFP

Ajaz AshrafChina's unilateral decision to alter the status quo on the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh has distressed all Indians. Our distress arises from the realisation that China, displaying the arrogance typical of a superpower, believes it can prevail over India regarding its claim over the LAC.

Humans are distressed every time a superior power, whether at the village or the international level, refuses to adhere to the rules of the game. This it does because the superior power seeks to have its domination accepted, the proof of which is to refashion an existing order in accordance with its own imagination. Our distress over Ladakh is a subliminal recognition of this fact.

Our distress should, however, also have us introspect. In India, there has always existed a line of thought, a line marking the boundaries between different ideologies. However, over the last six years, the Bharatiya Janata Party has deployed state power to push the line of thought farther and farther, and claim as much of India's diverse ideological terrain as the sole monopoly of Hindutva. All other ideologies beyond the line of thought controlled by Hindutva are given the epithet 'anti-national'.

This trend is manifest in the state's hounding of those dubbed as Urban Naxals, a term coined by filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri in an essay he penned for Swarajya magazine in May 2017. "Urban naxals are the 'invisible enemies' of India," wrote Agnihotri. His reference was to the urban intelligentsia engaged in mounting pressure on the state to respect the rights of people and address their grievances. These activities, according to Agnihotri, are merely a façade for achieving the clandestine goal of establishing Maoist rule in India.

Agnihotri's imagination was turned into reality in just a year. Five human rights activists were arrested in June 2018 in connection with the caste violence in Bhima Koregaon, a village close to Pune, on January 1, 2018; another four a few months later. They have been accused of spreading the ideology of the Maoists, waging war against the nation, and for plotting to assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi to destabilise democracy.

India's line of thought was pushed even farther in April, when scholar Anand Teltumbde and human rights activist Gautam Navlakha, were taken into custody over their alleged role in the Bhima Koregaon violence. Navlakha's application in the Supreme Court for anticipatory bail vividly illustrates the superior power's tendency to turn claims into reality.

For instance, Navlakha was not questioned even once by the investigating agency in the two years between multiple charge sheets being filed in the Bhima Koregaon case and his eventual arrest. The application also cited a Maoist report describing Navlakha as a government collaborator, and that the state had requisitioned his services to secure the release of police officers abducted by Maoists. Could he be an Urban Naxal then?

The past of Navlakha and those of the other 10 incarcerated activists have been swept aside to establish the legitimacy of the BJP's claims, in much the same manner the Chinese alter the status quo on borders that they expect their neighbours to accept as fait accompli. As it is with China so is it with the BJP, the quest to foist manufactured reality on others is a function of power they have acquired.

Take the February riots in Delhi. The BJP will have us believe that the violence was fomented by Muslim and Left-liberal groups in the hope of building international opinion against the Modi government's citizenship policies, even at the expense of sullying India's image. This constitutes the substance of at least two charge sheets filed by the Delhi Police, which claim that youth leader Umar Khalid, United Against Hate founder Khalid Saifi and Aam Aadmi Party Councillor Tahir Hussain met on January 8 to orchestrate mass violence during American President Donald Trump's visit to India in February.

The Quint website has, however, shown that the news of Trump's visit became public only on January 13. Trump and Modi did have a telephonic chat on January 7, but the Ministry of External Affairs, in a press release, only said they had exchanged New Year's greetings and discussed the deepening of strategic relationship between their countries. The Quint's story raises the question: How could Khalid and company have come to know about Trump's visit five days before it became known to the nation — and just a day after the Trump-Modi conversation?

It seems the police have bungled in their enthusiasm to echo those BJP leaders who claim the riots were a Muslim conspiracy and the role of Hindus was merely retaliatory. This is an incredible assertion given that the losses Muslim suffered were infinitely higher than what the Hindus did.

The initial response to unilateral claims regarding the Line of Actual Control or the line of thought is incredulity, which is often followed by distress. Ultimately, though, the arrogance of the superior power is countered — through the pooling of resources by nations in the international arena, and by political parties at home.

The writer is a senior journalist

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