(Editorial, The Hindu, February 7, 2009)


The California-based late IK Shukla had the foresight to introduce the term “Hindu Talibans” to describe hooligans of Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Bajrang Dal, Shiv Sena and other outfits of the Sangh Parivar.  Now the mainstream media too is recognizing that the Sangh Parivar is on war path against what people cherish about India.


The impunity with which the leader of the Sri Ram Sene, Pramod Muthalik – Hindutva’s latest self-appointed standard-bearer – is  issuing public threats to disrupt Valentine’s Day celebrations on February 14 is a disturbing indication of the resurgence of the challenge of sectarian fundamentalism. Mr. Muthalik’s intimidating  remarks in Bangalore on Thursday featured explicit threats of violence directed at young couples. His “action plan; for Valentine’s Day was a public declaration loaded with criminal intent. Sene activists would assault young couples who chose to enjoy the day together in public by dragging them to temples and forcing them to marry. If they resisted, the girls would be forced to tie “Rakhis” (a Hindu ritual requiring sisters to tie a thread on brother’s wrist)  on the boys they were with, thereby culturally outlawing the possibility of taking their relationships in the directions they desired. This sort of cultural policing has fascist overtones and translates into vandalism and violence against women and minorities. It is also typical of both Hindutva and Islamist fundamentalism.


The Sangh Parivar has long peddled the stereotype of the backward-looking and antediluvian Islamist fundamentalist exercising a stranglehold over an entire community. Yet it has no compunctions in allowing its offshoots, the Bajrang Dal and now the Sri Ram Sene, to implement a version of Hindu culture that is the spitting image of Islamist fundamentalism. What is there to distinguish these Hindutva outfits

from the fundamentalist Dukhtaran-e-Millat in Kashmir, which has frequently threatened to disrupt such events as Valentine’s Day and has been issuing Taliban-style edicts to coerce Muslim women into wearing burqas?


Mr. Muthalik is now out on bail in two cases, one relating to a similar incendiary speech in 2003 and the other relating to the Mangalore pub attack on January 24. That the Ram Sene leader continues to roam freely in the public arena and make inflammatory anti-social utterances indicates the sense of immunity fringe elements of the parivar appear to have under the aegis of tolerant if not friendly and complicit regimes. Both Chief Minister B.S Yeddyurappa and Home Minister V.S Acharya seem disinclined to take firm punitive action against these saboteurs. These leaders seemed to rationalise if not endorse such deviant behaviour by arguing in the wake of the attacks that “pub culture” was a phenomenon that needed to be discouraged. Providing such rationalisations of criminal acts is a familiar aspect of fundamentalist, and specifically the Sangh Parivar’s, practice. For now, the Bangalore police are said to be taking Mr. Muthalik’s threat seriously and considering pre-emptive action. The Karnataka government and the BJP must immediately take credible steps to enforce the rule of law – and dispel the notion that Hindutva chauvinists enjoy a free ride in BJP-run States.

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