by Subhash Gatade13/03/2024

How BJP dreams to Usher In Hindu Rashtra Democratically ?

manusmriti

Anantkumar Hegde, BJP MP from Uttari Karnataka, is again in the news.

Close on the heels of his controversial statement about demolition of a mosque and his invoking of Hindu community who would not rest ‘until more mosques are reclaimed ‘ (1) he has delivered another explosive statement.

This time the whole edifice of Constitution is under his attack, which according to him has ‘distortions introduced by the Congress to suppress Hindu society’. (2)

Solution offered by him in his public meetings is simple, people ensure that BJP gets 400 plus seats, then all such ‘distortions’ could be removed ; Constitution will be changed. Period.

Whereas his hatespeech calling for demolition of places of worship and spreading disaffection in society has invited FIRs under different sections of IPC, his call for changing the Constitution has received widespread condemnation.

Critics have rightly said how this suggestion exhibits real intentions of the saffron regime which wants to usher us into Hindu Rashtra, end reservation for scheduled and backward communities, reinforce caste system and also replace Constitution drafted by Dr Ambedkar with a worldview inspired by Manusmriti. The main opposition party Congress has expressed fear that all such statements, steps just go to vindicate how a ‘cloud of dictatorship’ now hovers over India. (3)

It is a different matter that neither BJP top guns nor PM Modi – who had famously declared way back in 2014 that for him ‘Constitution is the most sacred book’ deemed it important to condemn Hegde’s statements or ordered him to seek apology for his claim.

One learns that it has merely distanced itself from Hegde’s controversial statement to convey an impression that what he said was his ‘Mann ki Baat’ and not BJP’s Dil ki Baat’ .

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This ‘formal distancing’ of the parent organisation was similar to Narendra Modi’s failure to condemn terror accused turned Member of Parliament Sadhvi Pragya for insulting Mahatma Gandhi and calling his assassin Godse a true patriot. He meekly said that he will never forgive  her. (4)

Of course, neither the spokesperson or nor other leaders of the BJP remembered that their ‘distancing themselves from  Hegde’ was just a rehash, repetition of their old statement, issued seven years back when Hegde – then a Skill Development Minister in PM Modi’s cabinet – had made similar controversial statement.

The vacuousness or duplicity of the ruling dispensation was very much on display this time again when the day BJP spokesperson declared that it was a personal view of the honourable member. It was on the same day that the ruling dispensation released CAA rules which essentially make a mockery of the august document called Constitution – which upturns the basic premise behind its making that India will not discriminate anyone on the basis of her /his faith, her / his religion.

A committment which founding fathers ( or one can call parents) of the Constitution made to the rest of humanity, a committment which was made in the backdrop of the violence at the time of Independence, when partition riots had taken place and officially more than 10 to 15 lakh people belonging to different faiths were mainly massacred by people.

The CAA rules introduce religion as a criterion for citizenship for the first time in this 75 th year journey of the Republic as they violate article 14 of the Constitution, which says that “the State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of law within the territory of India.”

The formulation of these rules is a continuation of the more than five years efforts of the BJP to introduce changes in the citizenship bill. Plans have been envisaged to grant citizenship rights to Hindu refugees and turning India into a “a natural home for persecuted Hindus” One could see that provisions in the bill (Citizenship amendment bill, 2016) blatantly ignored Muslims in the protection clauses and mentioned only religious minorities in Muslim-dominated countries. (5)

As of now when the BJP intends to use every tactic in its armour to polarise people and win elections, when it is finding itself on a weak wicket and a historical challenge awaits all those people, formations and parties to defend the essence of Constitution, such claims that Constitution needs to be dumped, need to be taken as warning signals.

It would be height of innocence to conceive that it is a personal view of the ‘repeat offender’ M.P. and has nothing to do with the thinking within the larger Parivar. We should emphasise that it is no Hegde’s Maan ki Baat but BJP’s Dil ki Baat.

With ascent of BJP – the Hindutva Supremacist formation at the centre – there have been instances where Parivaar Supremo and his acolytes have made similar controversial statements, utterances where the Indian Constitution has been derided for ‘Western influence’and neglecting ‘Indian (read Hindu) values’ by it

During Modi’s 1 st reign as PM, RSS Supremo Mohan Bhagwat  had “[p]itched for changes in the Constitution and jurisprudence in line with the value systems of the country” while addressing Akhil Bharatiya Adhivakta (Advocates) Parishad in Hyderabad. (6).

Definitely merely statements do not provide a complete picture of the surreptious manner in which the powers that be are engaged in hollowing our constitutional principles or trying to subvert it by imposing upon the whole country their ideology of majoritarian tyranny.

The manner in which right to life of the bovine has gained precedence over right to life of human beings ( article 21 which is for protection of life and personal liberty.) is before our eyes.Thanks to the laws enacted and measures taken by various BJP led governments and the support they have received at the hands of rightwing goons – leading to killing of innocents is a case in point, so much so that lynching today stands normalised.

A cursory glance at BJP’s own trajectory down the years reveals the systematic manner in which it has unfolded before us.

Remember, when Atal Bihari Vajpayee was Prime Minister of India, it had immediately appointed a commission headed by Justice (retd) Venkatchalliah to review the constitution. Looking at the fact that the then NDA government led by Vajpayee did not have enough numbers it could not push for discussing the review on the floor of the house.(7) It is also worth underlining that the earlier three election manifestoes of the BJP had included a review of the Indian Constitution.

Their continued disapproval of the Constitution which questioned, challenged centuries old code of conduct furthered by Manusmriti – which denied human rights to the vast majority of women and the depressed castes – and put individual and her/his freedom and autonomy at the centre is just a reflection of their ongoing fascination for Manusmriti and its edicts and their strong refusal to have a new constitution at the time of independence.

When leaders of newly independent India were struggling to have a constitution which was premised on the inviolability of individual rights with special provisions of positive discrimination for millions of Indians who had been denied any human rights quoting religious scriptures, it was Golwalkar who espoused the same Manusmriti as independent India’s constitution.’Organiser’ ( November 30, 1949, p.3) the organ of RSS complained:

But in our constitution there is no mention of the unique constitutional developments in ancient Bharat. Manu’s laws were written long before Lycurgus of Sparta or Solon of Persia. To this day laws as enunciated in the Manusmriti excite the admiration of the world and elicit spontaneous obedience and conformity. But to our constitutional pundits that means nothing.

Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, a leading light of the Hindu Right, who is supposed to be the pioneer of the idea of Hindutva, has expressed his admiration for Manusmriti in no uncertain terms, questioning the need for a  new Constitution. According to him :

Manusmriti is that scripture which is most workshipable after Vedas for our Hindu nation and which from ancient  times has become the basis of our culture-customs, thought and practice. This book for centuries has codified the spiritual and divine march of our nation. Even today the rules which are followed by crores of Hindus in their lives and practice are based on Manusmriti. Today Manusmriti is Hindu law.

K.R. Malkani, a leading ideologue of the RSS admits in his book ‘The RSS Story’, that Golwalkar, the second supremo of the RSS, ‘saw no reason why Hindu law should break its ancient links with the Manusmriti’. Similarly, in his ‘Bunch of Thoughts,’ Golwalkar, quoting from the Rig Veda and echoing Manu, empathically declares,

‘Brahmin is the head, Kshatriya the hands, Vaisya the thighs, and Shudras the feet. This means that the people who have this four-fold arrangement, the Hindu people, is (sic) our God’.

It was not surprising that Golwalkar did not take kindly to the affirmative action programmes undertaken by the newly independent state for the welfare & empowerment of scheduled castes and scheduled tribes. He expressed his disapproval by saying that rulers were digging at the roots of Hindu social cohesion and destroying the spirit of identity that held various sects into a harmonious whole in the past. Denying that Hindu social system was responsible for the plight of the lower castes, he held constitutional safeguards for them as responsible for creating disharmony.

Dr Ambedkar had envisaged the special privileges for ‘Scheduled Castes’ for only 10 years from the day we became a republic in 1950. But it is going on, being extended. Continued special privileges on the basis of caste only, is bound to create vested interests in them in remaining as a separate entity. That would harm their integration with the rest of the society.

It was the same period when attempts were made to give limited rights to Hindu women in property and inheritance through the passage of the Hindu Code Bill., which were opposed by Golwalkar and his followers, with the contention that this step was inimical to Hindu traditions and culture. It is now history how the bill could not be passed when Ambedkar was the law minister and he resigned from the cabinet mainly on these grounds only.

Times have moved on.

Much water has passed the Ganges (and the Jamuna and the Kaveri as well as Godavaris), it cannot be said that there is any rethinking in the camp of Hindutva about Manusmriti or the social system sanctioned by it .The only difference which has occured is that the critique of the present constitution – which at least formally (to quote Dr Ambedkar) ‘ended the days of Manu’ – has become more sophisticated.

Anant Kumar Hegde’s claim that ‘distortions have been introduced in the Constitution’ which needs to be removed is just another of its rather sophisticated way to convey not his own Maan ki Baat but BJP’s Dil Ki Baat.

Subhash Gatade is a left  activist associated with New Socialist Initiative

Notes :

1. https://thewire.in/communalism/anantkumar-hegde-mosque-babri-fir-karnataka-bjp

2. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/bengaluru/400-seat-target-to-amend-constitution-karnataka-bjp-mp-anantkumar-hegde/articleshow/108374242.cms

3. https://www.indiatoday.in/india/video/mallikarjun-kharge-slams-bjp-mp-ananth-hegde-for-his-remarks-on-constitution-2513367-2024-03-11

4. https://www.indiatoday.in/elections/lok-sabha-2019/story/modi-sadhvi-pragya-godse-insult-gandhi-controversy-interview-1527293-2019-05-17

5. https://thewire.in/67272/citizenship-amendment-bill-2016/;  https://thediplomat.com/2017/03/the-trouble-with-indias-new-citizenship-bill/

6. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/amend-constitution-align-it-to-indian-value-system-rss-chief/articleshow/60471393.c

7. http://www.indowindow.com/akhbar/article.php?article=138&category=12&issue=19, https://thediplomat.com/2017/03/the-trouble-with-indias-new-citizenship-bill/