In the third week of February 2019 – during Kulbhushan Jadhav trial at the International Court of Justice – QC Barrister Khawar Qureshi, Pakistan’s counsel, taunted his Indian counterpart, Harish Salve, by saying, “I have had the honor and privilege to represent, amongst many states, India in the past…(but) the incarnation of India that is before this Court is not one that I recognize.”
The statement was rhetorical and was meant to condemn the obfuscation by the Indian team in the World Court. However, in the last week of February 2019, this word “reincarnation” assumed a new meaning. Our March issue had already reached the press when South Asia experienced something unthinkable.
A transformation of epic proportions is taking place within a political order of 1.3 billion people where ideas of Hindutva are indispensable for uniting 80 percent of Hindus on one platform.
Two nuclear states – India and Pakistan – almost came close to a full-fledged war – when the right wing, RSS-led, BJP government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi ordered the Indian Air Force to launch strikes inside Pakistan, and Pakistan retaliated. The situation became very uncertain; it could have escalated, but it did not – and this was not because of the usual explanation of U.S. intervention.
After the capture of Indian pilot, Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, it was under the pressure of the Indian opposition parties and Indian civil society that suspected that PM Modi and his saffron party were using the Pulwama attack for electoral gain before the April polls. Despite all the Indian media’s right-wing rhetoric, the idea of even a limited war became so unpopular that PM Modi – badly wounded after Pakistan’s retaliation – had to climb down.
But this is not over…
In this issue, we examine how India and Pakistan are following different political trajectories – and how this “reincarnation of India” – in the form of PM Narendra Modi and his coterie of associates – represents a clear and present threat to peace. In the current Pakistan that is now emerging from a challenging situation (created post 9/11) that combined Islamist terrorism with ethnic insurgencies and urban violence, there is a palpable desire to engage with India on all issues – Kashmir and terrorism included.
PM Imran Khan expressed this desire in his widely-praised victory speech of 26th July 2018, when he offered India, “[if] you will take one step, and you will find us taking two steps forward.” However, his request for a meeting between the foreign ministers of the two countries on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly – and his invitation to PM Modi for visiting Pakistan during the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation summit – was met with an insulting rebuke from the BJP government.
The situation became very uncertain; it could have escalated, but it did not – and this was not because of the usual explanation of U.S. intervention.
Later his “Kartarpur Initiative” offering visa-free entry to Indian citizens to visit the burial place of Baba Guru Nanak Sahib that excited the Sikh community – received at best a “cold and calculated” response from New Delhi. India is not a political issue within Pakistan – it has not been for quite some time; perhaps since the 1998 nuclear tests that produced a sense of security in the country. Within Pakistan, there is a deeply felt realization that the country has suffered severely due to its entanglement in regional conflicts, first after the 1979 Soviet invasion, and later in the US-led war in Afghanistan.
Pakistan has paid an enormous human toll – around 70,000 deaths and estimated financial losses of $250 billion to the economy. With the arrival of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, there is a feeling that the future lies with economic growth. Pakistan has new opportunities, and it has to make up for the lost time.
Read more: Why Jadhav became so important for India?
Though most in India will find it unbelievable but in off-the-record briefings in Pakistan’s power corridors it is often emphasized; that normalization of relations with India will add to Pakistan’s “strategic depth,” and that economies do not grow inside “national boundaries” but in regional clusters, trade with India is important, and it will help make India part of CPEC, Indian trade with Central Asia will be good for both countries, and so on.
Though there is a question on many minds that what will be the quid-pro-quo; what will India offer Pakistan in return? However, the Indian political trajectory is totally different. Pakistanis generally do not know much about India, most media and political commentators discussing Indo-Pakistan conflict would not be able to name more than few of India’s 29 states.
With the arrival of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, there is a feeling that the future lies with economic growth.
Most will not know of political parties other than the BJP, the Congress and Arvind Kejriwal’s AAP – forget about knowing anything about the internal political dynamics, schisms and fault lines of India, and how these dynamics are redefining the very “idea of India” – and how Pakistan has, unfortunately, become a domestic political issue in India’s electoral politics.
We believe that what’s happening in today’s India cannot be understood without VD Savarkar’s concept of Hindutva first presented in 1923. In less than 100 years, followers of Savarkar that kept changing names, forms and slogans have transformed Indian politics to such an extent that today extreme Hindu identity has moved from the fringe to become the norm, the mainstream.
Today someone like Rahul Gandhi, grandson of Indira Gandhi and great-grandson of Pundit Nehru is being described as pro-Pakistan or appeaser of Muslims and has to say he is a ”katar” Hindu. Savarkar’s follower Dr Hedgewar formed the RSS in 1925; under Golwalker’s inspiration (Hedgewar’s successor) RSS member Godse murdered Gandhi in 1948.
An unforgivable act which blighted RSS’s fortunes for the next 23 years till Indira Gandhi’s emergency provided the Jana Sangh party – RSS’s progeny – the opportunity to become mainstream. In the 1977 elections, Jana Sangh constituted the largest block of seats for the newly-formed alliance of Janata Party, of Jayaprakash Narayan, that ruled from 1977 till 1980 under PM Morarji Desai.
India is not a political issue within Pakistan – it has not been for quite some time; perhaps since the 1998 nuclear tests that produced a sense of security in the country.
Alliance partners demanded Jana Sangh members reduce their extremist rhetoric against Muslims and other minorities and wanted them to delink from the parent RSS. This led to the breakup of the ruling alliance, fall of Desai government and demise of Janata Party. The breakaway faction of Jana Sangh ended up creating BJP, and Atal Bihari Vajpayee became its first president.
Advani and Vajpayee were among the earliest members of Jana Sangh, and all Jan Sanghis were members of RSS too. Vajpayee, a poet at heart, tried – between 1980 to 1984 – to lead BJP with a human face emphasizing upon Gandhian principles and philosophy. It did not work, and in the 1984 elections, BJP won only two seats in a Lok Sabha of 533.
Forced to abandon the poet king’s humanism, the party returned to its violent narrative and initiated the “Ram Janmabhoomi” movement; it worked, and BJP won 86 seats in 1989 elections – a gain of 84 seats. Impressed by its formula, LK Advani launched Ram Rath Yatra in 1990; ensuing violence and clash with PM VP Singh and other parties led to a collapse of the central government, and in the 1991 elections it yielded BJP the chief ministership of Uttar Pradesh – India’s largest state.
So when Kar Sevaks returned to demolish Babri Masjid in 1992, they were facilitated by the local administration, of Kalyan Singh, controlled by BJP and its parent – RSS.
Hindutva has defeated its challengers – through real “rivers of blood”
What is frightening about all this is that Hindutva, RSS and its progeny BJP have now reached the present zenith of power – where they now control 341 seats under the strong alliance of the NDA – not without being challenged. This fascist brigade overcame the stigma of Gandhi’s murder, survived secular politics of Nehru, resisted the moderation pressures of Janata Party in 1977-1980, of Vajpayee himself in 1980-1984 and later again the mantras of “Shining India” did not help.
At every step and stage, Hindutva brigade outsmarted its secular opponents and progressed by conceiving and erecting a new wave of violence. MP Enoch Powell, in Britain, earned notoriety for his 1968 “rivers of blood speech” but he was humbled, and turned into a pariah by the social and political order around him.
Savarkar’s follower Dr Hedgewar formed the RSS in 1925; under Golwalker’s inspiration (Hedgewar’s successor) RSS member Godse murdered Gandhi in 1948.
Jacinda Arden, PM of New Zealand has refused to name the terrorist who killed 50 Muslims in mosques; because she and her political order refuse to give him the notoriety he wanted. However, in India, which admittedly possesses the finest and most sophisticated intelligentsia anywhere in the developing world, all efforts to moderate the ghost of Hindutva have failed. This “reincarnated genie” marches ahead not with rhetorical but real “rivers of blood.”
Hundreds died during Advani’s first Ram Rath Yatra, in the violence that was sparked all across India (1990); this allowed BJP to increase its seats from 86 to 121. Thousands died across India after Jan Sanghis finally demolished the Babri mosque in December 1992; secular, liberal and rational part of India told itself and the world that BJP tide is broken under guilt, will be tamed by India’s myriad democracy. But in the 1996 elections it progressed to 161 seats, and in 1998 BJP was able to lead the alliance that formed the government till 2004.
Musharraf’s Kargil misadventure: A gift to BJP
General Musharraf’s misadventure in Kargil sector again nourished a troubled BJP in 1999; the only time BJP and RSS suffer are when they try moderation and leave aside their extremist agendas as happened with “Shining India” phase. The persona of Narendra Modi pales Advani, Golwalker, Hedgewar, and Savarkar into insignificance.
Advani’s predecessors toyed with ideas and theories, they wrote books and pamphlets, they inspired and exhorted; Modi, the man of action, believes in experimentation, in implementation. Pogroms of Gujarat in 2002 were his laboratory, and now he has promoted a saffron robe-wearing Yogi Adityanath as leader of UP – the 220 million strong, largest state of India.
Islamists in Pakistan: Unable to become mainstream
In Pakistan, Islamists crept into corridors of power by piggybacking onto General Zia’s military regime, after 1979, but were never able to consolidate themselves into electoral politics. The more successful of these like Maulana Fazlur Rehman are restricted to some of the most underdeveloped tribal areas of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. Characters like Hafiz Saeed and Maulana Masood Azhar (appearing big under Indian lens) are Kashmir-specific fringe elements and are destined to become history soon.
Pogroms of Gujarat in 2002 were his laboratory, and now he has promoted a saffron robe-wearing Yogi Adityanath as leader of UP – the 220 million strong, largest state of India.
Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan of Khadim Hussain Rizvi – is facing the iron fist of state these days. Although perhaps significant in terms of potential political support but it appears highly unlikely for the TLP to mature into anything of consequence.
Hindutva, the RSS, and the BJP in India, on the other hand, present something genuinely big; an incredible phenomenon that has evolved with a deep sense of historical tragedy, and feelings of victimhood at the hands of centuries-long rule of Muslim rulers (which is now projected onto Pakistan and Indian Muslims) and so far, the levers and ropes of Indian democracy have not been able to contain this political shift.
If BJP wins the April-May election which looks increasingly likely – as the deliberately created confrontation with Pakistan has apparently helped Modi in northern Hindi belt – then the tensions between India and Pakistan may not subside even after the elections as most hoped. Pakistan has become an internal political issue within India.
A transformation of epic proportions is taking place within a political order of 1.3 billion people where ideas of Hindutva are indispensable for uniting 80 percent of Hindus on one platform. Political movements can find events – like Pulwama – or invent them if needed for the greater cause. Coming times in South Asia thus look very uncertain – the following pages may clarify this troubling thought.
This appeared as preamble to April issue of GVS print Magazine; this edition focuses on how rise of Hindutva, in the form of RSS and BJP, has transformed Indian politics to the extent that right-wing fundamentalism has become the norm threatening Nehru’s “Idea of India” and creating huge risks for future of South Asia – Editors