Vinod Mubayi


Last month, Insaf Bulletin published the first installment of The Republic of Fear, the attempt of the Modi-Shah regime to instill a climate of fear in the public to forestall opposition in advance of the 2019 national elections. This was to ensure that the mounting protests against the failed policies of the regime, especially by the marginalized sections of society like the Dalits, would be met by intimidation including false arrests on fake grounds of those who articulated the causes of the Dalits most clearly, such as lawyers, academics, and activists.


A degraded vocabulary characteristic of the BJP trolls controlling the regime’s propaganda has been taking root in the aftermath of these arrests where anyone fighting for the rights of Adivasis, Dalits, and tribals is now called an “anti-national” or, going further, “Urban Naxal.” This is clearly meant as a term of abuse. In private, BJP politicians acknowledge the hypocrisy and cynicism underlying the creation of the list of those they term anti-national; however, they are proud of it. Columnist Apoorvanand writing in the Wire of September 24 referred to a BJP spokesman telling him: “the slogan of anti-national is our creation and it has taken hold.”


As described in last month’s issue of IB, the wave of intimidation and repression began in June with the arrests of the activists Mahesh Raut and Rona Wilson, the lawyers Surendra Gadling, and Sudhir Dhawale, and the academic Shoma Sen on the grounds of their involvement in the events of Bhima-Koregaon in Maharashtra on January 1. Initially, the violence on that day was clearly identified as being manufactured and caused by upper caste Hindutva leaders, angry at what the event represented – Dalit pride symbolized by the defeat in 1818 of the Brahmin-dominated Peshwa army by Dalit Mahar soldiers fighting in a British-led force. Hindutva leaders Milind Ekbote and Sambhaji Bhide were first charged with instigating the violence. Six months later in justifying the arrests of Dalit sympathizers by linking them to Bhima-Koregaon the police twisted the narrative to suit their own version.


In late August/early September, the repression intensified when more arrests were attempted including the writer and journalist Gautam Navlakha, the trade union lawyer Sudha Bharadwaj, and the artist Varavara Rao while the activists Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreira were jailed and the home and office of the well-known academic Anand Teltumbde was raided. Again Bhima-Koregaon was trotted out as the proximate reason while more sensational charges, such as secret plots to assassinate Modi, were added by the professional police fabricators. The orchestration of these police actions by the top BJP leadership became clear when the President of the BJP Amit Shah commended the Pune police for their efforts.


The falsity and incoherence of some of the charges laid by the police was partly revealed in the Supreme Court hearing of the case; several justices expressed considerable skepticism at the revelations offered by the government’s lawyers. In particular, retired High Court judges Justice Sawant and Justice Suresh challenged the police version by saying if anyone is to be arrested it should be us since we were on the organizing committee for Bhima-Koregaon, while most of those arrested or sought to be arrested had no involvement with or connection to that event.


So the question arises as to why these respected lawyers and academics are being arrested and harassed for representing the cause of the Dalits (incidentally, Modi’s regime is trying to ban the use of the word Dalit itself in the media and replace it with the older term Scheduled Castes). One reason clearly is to intimidate political opposition into silence before the election. The other is tied to the Sangh Parivar strategy to split the Dalits into fragments – some of whom can even be bought over to the Hindutva cause such as the Dalit leaders like Ram Vilas Paswan and others made into its foot soldiers to attack minorities as happened in the anti-Muslim pogrom of Gujarat 2002. This strategy is threatened by the consolidation of Dalits under leaders such as Chandrasekhar Azad Ravan in UP, recently released from prison, and Jignesh Mewani in Gujarat whose efforts pose a stiff challenge to the devious moves of the Sangh Parivar.


  1. Sampath writing in the Hindu of September: 24, explains: “The singular contradiction that is steadily unravelling the Hindutva project even as it seems to be making progress is the same element that is fueling Dalit assertion in India today: caste society. Ironically, it was the demon of caste that necessitated the ideology of Hindutva in the first place. It is an ideology that seeks to bury this demon by propping up another in its place: the demon of hatred towards the Other. While the default Other of Hindutva is the Muslim, the communal demon is broad-minded enough to consider other minorities as well on a need-to-hate basis.


Rendering the fault lines of caste invisible in a fog of communal paranoia has only one objective: the creation of a nation of Hindus. This brings us to the second contradiction in the Hindutva project: a nation, by definition, is a community of (notional) equals. But a community whose nationhood is predicated solely on the religious and cultural identity of being Hindu can never be a community of equals, for as Ambedkar elucidates with breathtaking clarity in Annihilation of Caste, Hindu religious belief and cultural practice are marked by the graded inequality of caste at their very core.”


This analysis elucidates clearly the basis of the RSS and the Modi-Shah duo’s anxiety at Dalit assertion and why they are attempting to sow fear in the minds of the public and terrorize the activists and intellectuals struggling for Dalit rights.

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