BJP and the Rohingya issue

Amulya Ganguli

There was always an element of unreality in Narendra Modi’s “sab ka saath, sab ka vikas” slogan since the call for all-round development meant the inclusion of Muslims. Given the Sangh Parivar’s decades-old antipathy towards the Muslims and Christians, it was difficult to believe that there had been a change of heart in the saffron camp.
Besides, any interaction with the BJP’s supporters at the grassroots level would reveal the intense animus which they harbour against the minorities. The slogan was generally seen, therefore, as a political ploy to widen the party’s support base by putting on a kinder, gentler face not unlike the mukhota or mask, which Atal Bihari Vajpayee was supposed to wear during his days in power to beguile the masses.
The BJP’s stance against the Rohingyas tends to confirm, therefore, that the party’s worldview remains as virulently anti-Muslim as always. True, the party and its government at the centre have tried to camouflage this antagonism against what has been described as the most unfortunate group of people in the world by emphasizing their terrorist linkages.
But to claim that the thousands who have fled from their homes in Myanmar because of army atrocities are all terrorists strains credulity. What is more likely is that the  BJP and the Modi government are trying use the slur of Islamic terror to paint not only the Rohingyas, but  the Muslims everywhere with the same black brush to boost the electoral position of the saffron dispensation.
The disingenuous effort is understandable at a time when the BJP’s fortunes have suffered a marginal decline because of the economic slowdown and the middle class discontent expressed in the open letters to the PMO written in recent weeks by retired bureaucrats and army veterans.
However, the BJP’s communal agenda has again run into the road-block of an open society because the judiciary has poured cold water on the government’s plans to deport the refugees.
The BJP’s warped view of the people seeking shelter because of the dire exigencies in their home province of Rakhine – previously Arakan – in Myanmar has been clarified by none other than Y Sudarshan Rao, chairman of the Indian Council of Historical Research, an RSS appointee, who has said that only those denizens of “eternal India” who have been displaced, viz Hindus, can be accommodated in India.
Another saffron apparatchik, BB Kumar, chairman of the Indian Council of Social Science Research, was more explicit. Giving his version of Myanmar’s history, he said that the Rohingyas had used the arms given to them by the British against the Burmese although they were meant to fight the Japanese.
“How can the Burmese forget such enemies?” he asked. “They are not fools like Indians. The Burmese remember their enemies”. The saffron lesson for Indians is clear – the Muslims are “enemies”.
A secular polity, however, does not regard anyone as an enemy unless the person has been proved guilty of an offence. In the case of the Rohingyas, none of the 40,000 of them who are in India has been accused of a serious crime yet, which is quite extraordinary.
But the BJP is unlikely to let such statistics which hinder its purpose dissuade it from pursuing a hardline policy, which has been endorsed by its mentor, the RSS. Its avowed tactics include the use of chilli powder and stun grenades against the refugees who have women, children and elderly persons among them.
The Modi government does not appear to be bothered about the opprobrium it will face worldwide because of such gross violation of human rights, presumably because it regards the idea as an “elitist concept”, the phrase which the government’s lawyers used to describe the right to privacy in the Supreme Court. There may also be lawyers and others in the government and the BJP who will dub human rights as a Western obsession, another term which the saffron lobby is fond of using.
Mercifully, the Supreme Court is of a different view, which is why it has asked the government to balance the proposal for deportation with humanitarian considerations. The country will have to wait and see how the government squares the hole by curbing its aggressive instincts and adopting what most people will regard as a normal compassionate outlook.
As is known, the Supreme Court has had to intervene on several occasions to curb the Hindutva fundamentalists. One of these was to call upon the state governments to nab the gaurakshaks (cow vigilantes) since the prime minister’s admonitions have had little effect on them.
It is not surprising, therefore, that the patience of some of the saffronites with the apex court is running out, as can be seen from the Tripura governor, Tathagata Roy’s objections to the ban on fire crackers during the Diwali celebrations.
While he has expressed the fear that the court may ban Hindu cremations next, an RSS functionary has wondered whether diyas (earthen lamps) will be put on the prohibited list in course of time. Evidently, the votaries of Hindu rashtra are not pleased with the judiciary. (IPA)

Tuesday, 24 October, 2017