Wednesday, 14 September 2016

RIGHT OR NOT RIGHT? THE CURIOUS GAMES OF THE POLITICAL CLASS



The apparent fissure between the RSS and its Goa leadership, and the tension between the Goa RSS and the BJP was projected in the media as an important development in the country. The sacking of Subhash Velingkar from his duties as the head of the Goa RSS unit, and his subsequent forming of an RSS unit in Goa, independent of Nagpur, were events of importance for the upcoming elections in 2017 and 2019, according to many political commentators. While Velingkar was sacked by the Nagpur leadership which led to mass resignation of hundreds of RSS members in Goa, one is at a loss to understand how is it that the rebel-organization still claims to maintain administrative and official links with the Nagpur headquarters. Indeed, there was never any talk of disowning the ideology of the RSS. As such one needs to ask if this apparent revolt in the RSS is really significant or not.

The context in which we understand the so-called RSS revolt in Goa will determine the political future of Goa for the next five or ten years. Presently, this so-called revolt has been understood as one erupting due to the upcoming elections. If anything, elections are only a small part of the causes that provoked the so-called revolt. One needs to instead focus on how the interventions of the RSS and other political parties have created, or sustained, conditions in which Hindutva and marginalization persists.

Let us try to see how the apparent fissures can or will impact some of the burning issues of policy- and legislation-making in Goa. If we take the issue of Medium of Instruction (MoI), nothing appears to be so radical vis-à-vis the fissures in the RSS. The ostensible reason for the sacking and revolt of Velingkar is his refusal to accept the decision of government grants to Diocesan-run schools. Velingkar feels that such grants should be completely stopped. While the BJP government, under the then chief ministership of Manohar Parrikar, had cleverly skirted the issue of allowing government funding for all English medium schools, by only allowing grants to “minority institutions”, the hardcore RSS members and the equally Hindutvavadi Bharitya Bhasha Suraksha Manch (BBSM) saw even this as a betrayal of the Hindutva or majoritarian cause. Thus, the issue now got projected as one driven by apparent Christian interests, whereas in reality it was a legitimate demand made by a number of Goan communities. The manner in which the MoI issue has been handled thus far has jeopardized the education and futures of all Goan children. And as I have pointed out in the past on several occasions, the lack of government funding to English will further affect low-income and bahujan families by depriving them of the tools of social mobility.

This politics of casteism embedded in the mobilization of Velingkar and his BBSM was acknowledged by the Forum for Rights of Children’s Education (FORCE) as being “anti-Bahujan Samaj”.  Denying social mobility to the bahujan classes is very much within the RSS’s vision of maintaining the four-fold Indian hierarchy of varnas and thousands of jatis for keeping intact the dominance and superiority of the upper caste Hindu. In the case of Velingkar and the BBSM this is done in the guise of protecting Indian culture and languages, while making sure that no steps are taken to ensure that various bahujan and minoritized communities would get social and economic mobility.

In many ways, Velingkar’s silence over the casinos exposes his hypocrisy. Velingkar claims that his opposition to English is because English is equivalent to ‘Western culture’ which compromises the fundamental ideology of the RSS. However, the numerous volte faces by this government on the issue of casinos did not lead to any protests by Velingkar. The casinos surely check all the boxes of promoting Western culture, apart from being harmful to the riverine environment of the Mandovi and the livelihoods related to this ecology. But only English education leads to the destruction of Indian culture, going by Velingkar’s revolt.

While on the topic of Indian culture and how the RSS polices anything outside this narrowly defined Indian culture, one needs to see how Hindutva operates in marginalizing communities. Immediately after Velingkar’s apparent split became public, right-wing think tanks started analyzing the event as one that was created because the Church and the Church-run institutions were given favorable treatment by the BJP government. In other words, the apparent appeasement of minoritized communities and their institutions are responsible for the failure of the BJP to uphold their own ideology. In fact, days after the apparent revolt when the breakaway faction lead by Velingkar clarified that they would go back to the RSS proper once they successfully oust the BJP in the coming elections, Velingkar also revealed that he would like to oppose moves demanding dual citizenship, and the promotion of Portuguese culture through cultural fests. One need not be a rocket scientist to realize that Velingkar is effectively targeting not Portuguese or Western culture but the Christian communities who are associated with these cultures.

While it is true that elections are around the corner, one needs to be wary of how such political revolts and bickering can divert our attention away from important policies and legislations. Velingkar was always clear that the principles of the RSS cannot be ever sacrificed, even if it means working against the BJP in Goa. Even if it might appear to be a game-changer, the core of what really drives organizations like the RSS and the BBSM has not changed one bit.

(First published in O Heraldo, dt: 14 September, 2016)

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