Book Review by Ram Puniyani
(Book under Review: The Saffron Condition, Politics of Repression and Exclusion in Neo Liberal India by Subhash Gatade, Three Essays Collective, New Delhi, Pages475, Rs 500)
The phenomenon of rise of Hindutva politics, the politics of RSS and its affiliates, has posed a severe threat to the democratic polity of India, to the rights of Minorities and dalits. This politics becomes grossly visible in the form of outbursts of violence. But that’s just the superficial part of the phenomenon of Hindutva or for that matter of any politics in the name of religion. Its invisible part is creeping communalization of our system, bureaucratic, judicial, media and education. There is an onslaught on our liberal plural values and cultural ethos as they emerged through the freedom movement. Subhash Gatade in this compilation of his articles, written over a period of time takes this threat head. He begins with the superficially visible phenomenon of a violence and then takes us deeper to the real politics which is the agenda of Hindu right. He warns us time and over again that Hindutva is a reaction of section of society to the rise of democratic values, to the rights of minorities and dalits in particular.
Popularly it is perceived that RSS came up to counter the Muslim communalism. The book tells us that its anti Muslim stance is just a face of RSS politics. When one digs deeper one sees that formation of RSS is a reaction to the rising dalit assertion against the Brahmin hegemony which in turn was the accompaniment of our feudal land relations. This is the point of crucial importance. To see RSS politics just as anti minority one, leaves out the core part of the deeper agenda of Hindutva formation. The core part of this agenda relates to suppress the rights of dalits, to suppress the concept of ‘rights’ as such. This point comes over and over again in the book as Gatade deals with contemporary issues related to the dalits on one hand to the issues like state harassing the Human rights activists like Dr. Binayak Sen. So unless the anti-communal, secular movement takes these points into consideration the struggle for a secular-democratic society will remain an impossible dream. The point that RSS-Hindutva politics is a Brahminic counter revolution needs to be kept in mind, while outlining the strategies for plural democratic society, is the major undercurrent of the book.
One can point out that while this analysis has its merit, we also need to explain as to why a large section of middle classes form the fulcrum of this counter revolution. The explanation of this lies in the neo liberal economic phase of the country. In this phase the middle classes suffer from an ‘existential anxiety’, making them embrace the Hindutva ideology as this ideology or of any political ideologies basing themselves on religious identity. Such politics stands for status quo at various levels. The books’ emphasis on the rise of Hindutva politics in the neo liberal era deserves appreciation, as unless we focus on deeper process of society and nation we will not succeed in deciphering the nature of divisive politics in the name of religion. The book also tells us the import of judgments like the ‘Hindutva as a way of life’ and the Ayodhya verdict going off tangents from legal angel and basing itself on the faith, assertively imposed on the society. The essays in the book elaborate that the ‘Right’ has become ‘center’ and that’s where the crux of the matters lies. So the issue just does not remain whether BJP, the political child of RSS, is occupying the seat of power at the center or not, the issue becomes the all round percolation of the right wing ideology becoming a part of communal common sense.
Gatade also takes up the Soft Hindutva of Congress, which has been a supporting factor for the rise of RSS politics. Congress supposedly secular, is hardly able to uphold the secular values, leading many to think that it is other side of the coin of communalism. While conceding that Congress, particularly after Gandhi-Nehru has committed blunders after blunder while dealing with threats posed by communal politics, its nature has to be properly understood. While theoretically a secular party, it has compromised time and over again when the crunch come. Still, no party in India can be equated or compared to the BJP, the poltical child of RSS. BJP as the upholder of Hindutva agenda has been proatviely promoting Hindutva, while Congress has not been able to protect the secular ethos in a forthright manner. It is a matter of conjecture whether it will be able to gather strength to stand up more strongly against the communal forces. The themes relate to Saffronization of Neo Liberal state, Logic of caste and state of Human rights, The book is a compilation of the prolific writings of the author who seems to have been burning the mid night oil to keep our consciousness alive to the threats and challenges faced by our republic. It is a must for the scholars and concerned citizens.