Special Report

Interpreting saffron conspiracy theories

Interpreting saffron conspiracy theories

The RSS top brass is expected to meet in Pune this week for a five-day brainstorming session to discuss, inter alia, the “divisive forces that are creating a divide in the society”. That the powerful RSS that controls the BJP and Modi government has decided to deliberate this issue at its chintan baithak betrays a certain level of edginess in the pariwar hierarchy ahead of the 2019 general election. If some BJP leaders’ claims are to be believed, inimical and mysterious forces are roaming around in India trying to destabilise the country and tarnish the image of Modi government. Who are those divisive forces and who are the conspirators? Are they the Opposition? The lynch mob, the rapists, statue busters, embedded media, fake news peddlers…who? How come the BJP enjoying brute majority in Parliament and controlling 20 states is not able to book them?

Last week, Madhya Pradesh BJP president Nandkumr Singh Chouhan went public alleging a “Pakistan hand” in the Kathua incident. “It was Pakistan-backed militants who raped and murdered the girl…” he told Times Of India from Indore (He was removed as party chief on Wednesday). Strangely, the daily played up the story with an eight-column heading. That, sitting 1494 km away from Jammu, he divined the identity of the rapists is a bewildering feat indeed. The demonstration by Hindu Ekta Manch in support of the rapists and the two BJP ministers taking part in it nailed his falsehood. While BJP general secretary Ram Madhav denounced the campaign defending the rapists, his party colleague Meenakshi Lekhi defended the two ministers saying they were “misled and misguided”; poor nitwits. Nandkumar Singh’s Pak theory was exposed by the police charge sheet that said the crime was “part of a carefully planned strategy to scare away the nomadic Bakherwal community”.

A Bharat bandh early this month sponsored by Dalit groups protesting atrocities against the community resulted in the death of eleven persons in police action. Soon a poster appeared in the social media with two frames — activists of Bhim Sena and Karni Sena (protesting Padmavati movie) — with a caption: “Look like Breaking India. Forces are sponsoring every protest to create unrest and destabilise Modi government.” The RSS, incidentally, is discussing the same topic. Last two years have witnessed several incidents of rape, public flogging of Dalit youths in Gujarat for skinning a dead cow, suicide of Dalit scholar Rohit Vemula and vandalisation of Ambedkar statues triggering widespread unrest in the community. Recently, in UP’s Badaun district, an Ambedkar statue was damaged, then repaired and reinstalled after painting it saffron. It was repainted blue after howls of protests from Dalits. Why were the statue painted saffron? It certainly does not look like an innocent act.

Two days later, another statue was locked in an iron cage by the local administration to keep the vandals at bay. Photographs of home-guard jawans guarding the iconic cage went viral and following protests from the locals, the iron grilles were removed. That the administration was forced to build an iron cage to protect the statute of the man who was the principal architect of the Indian Constitution speaks volumes of the climate of intolerance and prevailing lawlessness in a state helmed by a muscular chief minister. If not a simple law and order problem, is it not the fallout of the divisive narrative built around to effect socio-cultural cleansing?

Now, another conspiracy; Christian missionaries behind desecration of Ambedkar statues; this discovery was made by BJP MP Ballia Bharat Singh, who, addressing a public function said: ”It is at the behest of the Christian missionaries that the statues of Babasaheb Ambedkar are being damaged and vandalised…They want to break the country on caste lines.” It is astonishing that the missionaries have acquired so much muscle in the state having 356448 Christians (0.18 per cent) among the 16 crore Hindus that they can get statues smashed and get away, or is it a sub plot to drive a wedge between Dalits and Christians?

In 2015, the BJP president had exhorted Bihar electorate not to vote for the Grand Alliance led by Nitish Kumar saying that Pakistan will burst crackers if the GA wins. Modi himself, addressing an election rally in Gujart last year, had declared that a  “conspiracy” is being hatched from Pakistan to make Congress leader Ahmed Patel the chief minister. Is Pakistan so powerful to make a Muslim as CM of a state with 89 per cent Hindus?

On Tuesday, another “conspiracy” was uncovered by Madhya Pradesh CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan. Reacting to reports of hundreds of ATMs going dry in several states, he alleged there was a “conspiracy” behind it… “Where these notes of Rs 2,000 denomination are going, who are keeping them out of circulation? Who are the persons creating shortfall of cash? This is a conspiracy to create problems…” The finance ministry soon busted the conspiracy theory saying there is an imbalance of currency available in various states at the moment, and the government and the RBI are looking into the matter. It is mystifying as to why no cash shortage was felt during harvest/festival seasons earlier or is it that Indians have become richer this year?

In 2015, 35 top artists, writers and filmmakers had returned their national awards protesting the growing “intolerance” in the wake of murders of writers/rationalists like Kalburgi and Pansare. The BJP hit back. In an interview to India Today, union minister Maneka Gandhi termed it as “an international conspiracy to defame the Modi government”. V K Singh also saw a “conspiracy” behind it. Last Sunday, aghast at the Kathua and Unnano rapes and murders, 49 retired civil servants wrote a strongly-worded letter to the PM expressing concern over the “terrifying state of affairs” saying “in post-independent India, this is our darkest hour…” Is there a “conspiracy” behind their angst? Inventing enemies, imaginary or otherwise, for electoral gain is a vile strategy that will not fetch dividends in the long run.

Kay Benedict is an independent journalist.


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