When BJP national president Amit Shah descended on northern Kerala recently as part of his ‘save Kerala mission’, he brought along with him a gaggle of journalists to gauge the menace of “Red-Jihadi terror” in the state. The embedded journalists looked around with rubbernecking curiosity for mass graves of RSS men killed by CPM cadres. They, however, could not find any mass graves; what they instead saw was posters (put up by CPM) with the photos of CPM men killed by RSS cadres. The journalists were in for a tiny epiphany: that it was not a one-way street of political killings in the state.
Yes, in Kerala, Kannur in particular, the cadres of both RSS and CPM would kill each other with clinic-like precision for political supremacy. Just one figure would be suffice to buttress this daylight reality. During the 2000-2016 period, a total of 69 men belonging to both CPM and BJP lost their lives in Kannur district in the mutual killing spree. Of this, 31 belonged to the BJP/RSS fold and 30 were CPM men. Figures like this would dispel the BJP parable that their men are chased and annihilated systematically in Kerala.
Well, after its political potty training on patriotism, the central BJP leadership, under the wily Amit Shah, has set its eyes down south with the desperate effort to make political inroads in Kerala. In the apocalyptic Saffron imagination baked in BJP’s national lab, Kerala is a dystopian killing field where Muslims and Communists (the top two enemies as per the Holy Book of RSS) unleash a reign of terror. The Jan Raksha Yatra (Journey to save people), currently on its last leg, is part of this nation-wide vilification campaign of Kerala, ably assisted by a section of the pliant media, to ‘save’ the state from the clutches of Communists and Jihadists. The high-octane campaign – littered lavishly with misleading statistics, outright lies and half-boiled rhetoric – ultimately maligned the state, prompting both the CPM and the Congress to counter the rightwing rants. Indignant at the national-level bid to tarnish the state, Keralites took to the social media to demolish the pack of lies.
The Yatra further lost its sheen when Amit Shah supplanted his save-Kerala mission with his save-son mission! An impromptu shift in priority. Newspapers told us that he hurriedly went back to New Delhi to save his son from the impending damning expose by The Wire web portal that his fictitious company has fattened like a sumo warrior with so much of ill-gotten wealth under the Narendra Modi rule.
With the chief warrior having gone, Kummanon Rajasekharan, one of Shah’s Kerala-level minions, took extra care to keep the Yatra alive, by stating that the 1921 Mappila Rebellion was the first Jihadi attack in Kerala! Despite the sheer stupidity, despite the awful intellectual bankruptcy, despite the pathological ignorance of historical complexities, his irresponsible utterance reeks of unadulterated communal venom. Renowned historians have written how people of the Malabar region – Muslims and Hindus alike – rebelled against British rule and the yoke of feudal landlordism. Eminent historian KN Panickar in his book Against Lord and State has termed the 1921 Mappila rebellion as the culmination of years of pent-up frustration among the agrarian class against feudalism coupled with the uprising against the ruthless British rule. The right-wing elements have always singled out the stray instances where the feudal Hindus were targeted during the rebellion. The purveyors of such reductive remarks better read history and the incestuous relationship between the British and the feudal landlords in the region. But then, it is quite unsurprising that the BJP leader termed the anti-British uprising as a Jihadi plot. The British rulers those days also peddled the same narrative by playing down the rebellion as the handiwork of ‘Muslim fanatics’, the same thought shared by the Hindu rightwing! After all, birds of a feather flock together. We all know that there exists an umbilical cord between the Hindu nationalists and the British. And it’s been in existence for so long. From the day VD Savarkar wrote that feet-crawling apology letter seeking pardon from the British rulers. Or even before?
It was not that the BJP’s Yatra was full of habitual sloganeering minus the required fun element. Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath, who adorned the Yatra along with other national leaders, exhorted Kerala to learn from his state. He didn’t specify any specific area to learn the lessons from. Probably, he should have raised his state’s exalted public health sector that causes recurrent mass deaths of oxygen-deprived infants as a lesson for Kerala to emulate!
And buried not so deep in this diabolic bid by the Hindu rightwing for the non-existent Jihadi terror is its own shenanigans from the past. At the forefront have always been RSS and its blood-soaked, riot-happy past. From the Thalassery (Kannur) riot of 1971 to the recent murder of a young madrassa teacher inside a mosque in the border district of Kasargode, RSS has striven hard to sew communal discord and disharmony into Kerala’s secular fabric. In the Thalassery riot, it was the all-familiar plot of spreading venomous rumors that Muslims had stripped naked Hindu girls, and Muslim killers were attempting to attack temples and rape Hindu women. The government-appointed Justice Joseph Vithayathil Commission has documented the sinister role played by the rightwing elements in the riots.
Cut to now. In November 2016, eight RSS men were arrested for the brutal murder of Faizal, who’d converted from Hinduism to Islam. One of the accused brazenly told the police that he murdered Faizal. Months later, RSS men murdered a madrassa instructor, Riyaz Moulavi. RSS cadres barged into the room of the 34-year-old madrassa teacher and slit his throat in the early hours. The three RSS men, since arrested, didn’t even know Riyaz, let alone harbor any previous enmity. It was a clear attempt to create communal riots in the communally sensitive Kasargod. In both the instances, nothing untoward happened as people were sensible enough to exercise restraint.
In their insane alacrity to gain foothold in Kerala, BJP’s national leaders blithely airdropped into the state the same custom-made software of hatred and false propaganda which they have effectively deployed to their political advantage in north India. In this brainless bid to make political mileage in the state, the right-wing elements take Kerala for granted by ignoring the high-level literacy rate, sense of discernment of the people, communal harmony, and the superior social, political and economical advancements. The Hindu rightwing may need something else to win the hearts of the people of Kerala: something other than riots and lies.
(The writer is a Mumbai-based journalist)