Destruction of a Small Nationality

national flag

Reports say some authority in central(union) government had rejected the tableaux from three states for the Republic Day parade.What does the republic stand for? Not a centralized state,but as CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury had insisted in Parliament during the first Modi government ‘a union of states’.He had invoked the Constitution.But leader of the Opposition Arun Jaitley had promptly retorted that it was ‘A Union of states’ intoning an emphasis on unity that a level tone in all the words would never express.This is how the republic is understood in ruling circles today.According to some votarists of that idea it could even mean extermination of a whole community on the basis of religion.It might,I fear,might also urge elimination of other languages in the interest of some linguistic communities or cultural identities too in the name of ‘Cultural Nationalism’ with trade-marks Hindi-Hindu.The Nation is held to be an indivisible whole,with such diversities only as passing accidents of history.The transcendence is divine,unchallengeable by any criteria of truth,justice or beauty.

Consider the case of Kerala.Narayana Guru was a powerful social reformer in line with Basavanna,Kabir and Nanak who defied discriminatory Brahminical Hindu orthodoxy.That the said authority had suggested replacing him by Shankaracharya,perhaps the founder of Brahminical Hindu orthodoxy is surely suggestive of the mindset at work.Of course Kerala rejected it at once.Mamta Banerjee’s Subhash Bose float had also been summarily sent back.My suspicion is that Ms Banerjee must have fluttered the dovecotes in the capital by insisting on Netajee’s faith in secular tolerance of Islam and Indian Muslims.The ruling circles would love to re-imagine him as a Hitler-type militarist dictator but such facts dismay them.Their loves and prejudices are familiar.What IS unfamiliar is their re-interpretation of the Constitution as a fundamental charter sanctioning obliteration of historical diversities.There were indubitable universal aims in the Constitution but also an honest accommodation of diversities.In fact as early as the last Vajpayee government the second man in the cabinet had already muttered hints about ‘a second republic’ or a ‘Presidential type of democracy.’An idea implicit in the founding fathers of
‘Cultural Nationalism’.

A cultured and polite Bengali journalist had approached me at my home for my views on the anti-CAA Movement.He had been shocked by the violent rhetoric of the Assamese chauvinists against potential influx of Bengali Hindu refugees from Bangladesh that may be triggered by the CAA,and prejudiced against Assamese fears of being swamped by a sudden increase in numbers of people better adapted to modern economic and social order.

He found it in credible that people like us who had been scarred by the hatred and violence dealt out to those who steadfastly opposed to atrocities on religious and linguistic minorities could also plead against the CAA on apparently similar grounds.It must be put on record that we strongly opposed the conspiracy to exclude immigrant Muslims in lakhs by saboteurs working within NRC authority and eventually exposed and vanquished by Co-ordinator Prateek Hajela.I believe our unremitting opposition to such discriminatory demonisation of citizens of migrant origin helped in maintaining some balance in public opinion.Yet there we were holding forth on protecting Assamese culture and identity! After half an hour of futile argument I cited the example of wholesale decimation of several millions of indigenous peoples of North America.(The century old scandal of seizing thousands of children of such parents for education and allowing them to die of anxiety,fear,depression and hunger,had then not come to light.)At this he seemed to be convinced almost at once.

An example nearer home is Tripura,,where the indigenous people who had formed 73p.c.of the population in 1951 had been reduced to a small fraction of that by sheer volume of migration by 1991.But it happened while most local Tripuris had no understanding of the phenomenon.

Now the plan in Assam seems to be part of a much bigger project,no longer in the form of a natural spontaneous phenomenon.BJP General Secretary J.P.Nedda had declared Assam to be a ‘laboratory’ of BJP’s national aims.Insiders seem to see in it a euphemism for Hindu Rashtra.The gullible public cheered on by intelligentsia and bands of musicians and personalities of the state and the screen seem delighted with this ‘honour’.It appears to be a quite disturbing project,in fact.

The agents of this political project had in fact infiltrated in large numbers the ‘Assam anti-foreigner movement’ in large numbers in 1980.At first apathetic,the common people were impressed by gathering crowds addressed by figures of all-India stature like Vajpayi who took an unusual interest in the movement.Senior RSS leaders like Rajinder Singh and Nanajee Deshmukh, allegedly Pracharaks like Modi made frequent rounds.The Consequences were seen in unpublished unprovoked attacks on minorities and the left.

The process of infiltration and proliferation within seem to have been so secretive and careful that euphoric leaders of what the ‘Time Magazine’ called ‘the largest mass movement of the world’ had no inkling of it.I had written an article “No bigger than a hand’ in The Telegraph in about 1984,in deep disquiet but without a clue to its working,until I came upon a well-researched article twenty years later by a young scholar in EPW on the planned, systematic and protracted RSS campaign in the Northeast,led in person by Golwalkar.The Congress government was well aware of it but apparently condoned it as a counterweight to the campaign of the Church.The movement had among some of its tallest leaders sympathizers of the RSS.The rest colluded in silence.

Already by 1985 the RSS voices in the movement had become assertive.They repeated in public:”No Hindu Videshi Bhavet’ as some mantra to a bemused public in the case of foreigners detected.The seed of CAA in fact. And they thought NRC would just serve as the instrument of their policy of Hindu consolidation.The draft version showing 40 Lakh in the category of those yet to prove their citizenship sent Muslims into jitters and the RSS camp into ecstasy,but when the final report came out ,the disappointment among RSS and its camp followers was huge,and they berated and cursed the once idolized Co-ordinator Hazela as a slimy traitor to the nation.The new BJP government took steps to banish him and replace him with a person once packed off by Hazela from NRC team when his acts of sabotage were exposed.

The appeals to the SC had come to grief.They now deliberately freeze the NRC.The Registrar General withholds his approval to the SC approved final document without any reason and they proceed to bulldoze CAA through.

It must be put on record that the initial protest against CAA had been fairly strong and solid.Long before ‘Not in my Name’ rallies in the country a big rally opposing CAA was followed by a long procession that swelled to some 1200 people with spontaneous participation from the streets.Various organizations and civil society groups continued to mount massive opposition and ultimately with Rajeev Gandhi’s help the first attempt to rush through CAA failed.But the second time with a formidable majority and divided opposition,as well as blatant defiance of parliamentary conventions it was rammed home.And now they are waiting for an opportune moment to frame loose rules and grant instant citizenship to millions of Hindu migrants.Though cut off date is 2014,not 1971,loose rules could let in lakhs more and eventually swamp the indigenous people under.

There are ominous signals everywhere.The so-called ‘national leaders’ of AGP,AASU and Sahitya Sabha were bought off or palmed off. They took calculated steps to douse the tinders of a militant mass-movement.After their success in that they began openly hob-nobbing with BJP on all platforms.

Now in a further oblique way the BJP is replacing Assamese language,the glue that holds this small nationality together,with Hindi from official positions in contravention of the Official Langage Act of 1960.For instance those in civil service who has to deal directly with people here in grassroots need no longer demonstrate a passable command of Assamese.A hint at imposing Hindi which might create a wall of misunderstanding between people and the administration.Hindi-speaking teachers from Haryana had been appointed to teach in rural Assamsmese schools.More must follow.

The CM Himanta Biswa Sharma says he is ‘sick and tired of Assamese airs’ and would any day prefer the ‘bigger and greater glory of being an Indian’,as though these two are in conflict. ‘Finito’ .

Hiren Gohain is a political commentator

The 1200 strong procession against CAA had taken place in Guwahati,not elsewhere in the country.
Hiren Gohain


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