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RSS affiliated journalist killing sparks fear of social discord in India

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A journalist was shot dead by three gunmen in northern India on Saturday (Oct 21), police said. Rajesh Mishra, a 40-year-old reporter at the Hindi-language daily Dainik Jagran – one of India’s largest newspapers – was shot in the head by three gunmen on a motorcycle in Uttar Pradesh state, additional director general of police Anand Kumar said.

Mishra was a member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), an influential right-wing Hindu organization seen as the ideological fountainhead of the national ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Saturday’s killing comes a month after a reporter covering political unrest in India’s northeast was beaten to death during violent clashes.

The danger faced by Indian journalists cannot be discounted. While on one hand, they face threats from those in power, they are also under siege from elements in the society who perceive them to be following the agenda of their oppressors

The latest attack on media in one of Asia’s deadliest countries for reporters follows two journalists who were murdered within 15 days for doing their job. Forty-one journalists have been killed in India since the early 1990s, according to the latest figures from the Committee to Protect Journalists. Journalists in the world’s largest democracy often face harassment and intimidation by police, politicians, bureaucrats and criminal gangs, while scores work in hostile conditions in conflict-ridden pockets of the country.

Read more: Are Hindu women being radicalized by RSS?

However, these latest assaults come in the backdrop of the rise of Hindutva fundamentalist Narendra Modi to Prime Minister. His ascension has been followed by the rise of various Hindutva hardliners throughout India such as Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath. The rise of Hindutva has exacerbated ethnic, religious and social fault lines across the nation.

The most significant event was the murder of Gauri Lankesh, a newspaper editor and outspoken critic of the BJP. Her murder prompted rallies and panel discussions across the country with many commenting on the threats faced by journalists in the country. While no arrests have been made as yet, the police have shifted their focus on a Hindutva cult called the Sanatan Sanstha as the prime suspect. The Sanatan Sanstha is already considered the main culprit in the murders of prominent rational intellectuals and several bomb blasts.

The list also includes minority leaders like pastor Sultan Masih and Sikh preacher Ranjit Singh Dhadrianwale who escaped an assassination attempt.

However, in this case, the victim was a Hindutva fundamentalist. While police have yet to rule a motive but the victim’s ideological affiliations cannot be ignored. The RSS and its cohorts, collectively called the Sangh Parivar, have been embroiled in wars and feuds with other political and social groups throughout India. In Kerala, for example, fighting between the RSS and the ruling communist CPI (M) has led to the loss of life spanning decades.

Read more: RSS leader calls for death of Kerala’s chief minister

Mishra’s killing comes 6 days after the murder of senior RSS leader Ravinder Gosai. Two unidentified assailants gunned down Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) leader Ravinder Gosai (58) near his house in Ludhiana at 7.20am on Tuesday morning. The RSS leader is the 8th to be murdered since 2016.

These latest assaults come in the backdrop of the rise of Hindutva fundamentalist Narendra Modi to Prime Minister. His ascension has been followed by the rise of various Hindutva hardliners throughout India such as Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath

The other leaders include RSS Punjab leader Brig Jagdish Gagneja (Retd), Shiv Sena leader Durga Prasad Gupta among others. The list also includes minority leaders like pastor Sultan Masih and Sikh preacher Ranjit Singh Dhadrianwale who escaped an assassination attempt.

It can be assumed that the rise of an extremist thought like Hindutva, which seeks to subjugate all other faiths and political ideologies, has led to a violent backlash. The RSS attempts to stifle opposition in Indian universities like the JNU were often coupled with violent attacks against leaders of the opposition. Now it seems that violence, like a boomerang, has come back to strike its originator with small groups opting for violent means to raise their voice in a hostile environment.

Read more: Why is BJP storing weapons in Southern India?

However, the danger faced by Indian journalists cannot be discounted. While on one hand, they face threats from those in power, they are also under siege from elements in the society who perceive them to be following the agenda of their oppressors.


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