The last few months has seen open threats by Karni sena towards release of the movie ‘Padmavati’. They indulged in destroying film equipments, torching the movie, burning the poster sets at the time of making of the movie and announcing gifts for physically injuring Bhansali and Deepika Padukone. Recently violence was also seen in five states – Gujarat, Rajasthan, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. Following release, theaters were set upon and hundreds of vehicles were damaged. In the whole drama, two things which strike is a) absence of arrests of those indulging in violence, threats and b) absence of denouncing of terror acts of Karni sena by political parties – the principal ruling party and the opposition.
The inaction on the part of the government and lack of critic by opposition in critiquing acts of Karni sena brings out the loopholes of the electoral politics. While critical voices from civil society, media, intellectuals, social activists could be heard, political parties – both the ruling party and opposition have been mute spectators to acts of Karni sena. This is even towards cowardly acts such as attack on school bus carrying children. The state governments instead of providing protection from the ‘terror group’ for running the movie rather decided to ban movie in their states.
For long the rightwing political parties tried to propagate that a policy of ‘minority appeasement’ is practiced in the country. The truth that ‘majoritarian appeasement’ of religious and caste nature is more than equally practiced is not conveyed. The silence on the part of both BJP and the opposition Congress to violent acts by Karni sena show its fear of losing votes of a traditionally powerful community with potential implications on electoral results. Power politics acquires the primacy for political parties in taking firm political stand.
The government while it has been very alert when it came to crushing resistance to oppression by subaltern voices such as that of ‘Bhim army’ in Uttar Pradesh, ‘Adivasi protests’ in parts of the country, farmer protests regarding prices and neglect of sector – at the same time has gone to hibernate mode when it came to terror acts of Karni sena. While even a peaceful resistance by subaltern voices are enough for them to earn the tag of ‘terrorism’, ‘anti-development’ the same
when it comes to acts of Karni sena, open threats and physical indulgence in violence still makes them to go scot free.
The question arises as to whether these neo-terrorists (Karni sena, Hindu sena, Hindu yuva vahini, Vishwa hindu parishad, Gau rakshaks, Akhil Bhartiya Vidhyarthi Parishad, Abhinav Bharat) to become the shapers of a ‘New India’. Will these groups despite their acts of terror still going to earn the tag of ‘Nationalists’, while all those opposed to them the tag of ‘Anti-nationals’. Will the terms of the debate going to be set by these neo-terror groups? In this process, both the ruling party and key opposition party compromise their political stand and appease the majoritarian community in the name of hurting ‘hindu sentiments’, ‘caste sentiments’, when these aren’t politically right.
Absence of open critic by political parties only shows its tacit support for such groups. Fear of electoral implications of losing a vote bank seems to drive the inaction by political parties.
The recent events only suggest that electoral politics by itself has limitations when it comes to preventing the increasing occupation of spaces by these ‘neo-terror groups’. It is perhaps only the social movements around more people centric issues which can wean away people from the influence of such terror groups. Rather than letting these neo-terror groups to influence the agenda of the political parties, it is the social movements which should influence the agenda of the political parties.
While India is at a political crossroads, the shape of the ‘New India’ will be dependent on social action by its citizens.
T Navin works with an NGO as a Researcher