Ever since the emergence of a broad-based united opposition, the Modi government and the entire Sangh-BJP brigade have been visibly rattled. The government is fully aware that even in 2019, against the backdrop of the hyper-nationalist wave triggered by the Pulwama massacre, the combined vote-share of the NDA did not exceed 45% while the BJP’s own vote-share remained less than 40%. Since then three major NDA allies – Akali Dal in Punjab, Shiv Sena in Maharashtra and JDU in Bihar – have parted ways with the BJP while the BJP’s own electoral strength is clearly on the wane as has been most clearly exposed in the Karnataka assembly elections. Any effective coming together of the broad spectrum of India’s non-BJP parties therefore is an obvious cause for concern for the BJP.
Beyond the electoral arithmetic, what has rattled the BJP is the growing public anger against the calamitous reign of the non-performing Modi government and the growing synergy between this public anger and the increasing dynamism of the evolving framework of opposition unity. The acronym INDIA gave the unity process a refreshing collective identity and a contrasting narrative that made it clear that the tired Modi regime would have to face a real battle in the forthcoming elections. Since then, the BJP has become desperate in its attempts to target the united opposition. From linking INDIA with the East India Company and the Indian Mujahideen to pitting it against Bharat, it has been trying every possible angle.
The Sangh-BJP camp seems to have zeroed in on two recent developments to launch a malicious campaign against the INDIA coalition. The first campaign is being led from the front by Narendra Modi almost with the same vigour as his desperate ‘Jai Bajrangbali’ election campaign in Karnataka. This time round, the Sangh brigade has pounced upon a statement made by Udhayanidhi Stalin, youth welfare minister of Tamil Nadu, at a conference in Tamil Nadu where he called for eradication of Sanatana to free the people from caste oppression and various forms of social discrimination and injustice.
Using the word Sanatana as an equivalent of Hinduism and removing it from the context, the BJP presents it as a genocidal call against Hindus and as an assault on Indian culture. The second issue concerns the INDIA coalition’s decision not to participate in the hate-spewing communally polarising debates hosted by a select group of anchors of certain TV channels. More than the anchors themseves, it is again the BJP which has pounced upon this issue calling it an attack on freedom of expression and media, equating it to the Emergency and even accusing the coalition of generating potential physical threats to these anchors. There is now an orchestrated campaign by the entire Sangh-BJP establishment and Godi Media propagandists to portray the INDIA coalition as being anti-Hindu and inimical to media freedom.
Let us look at the issue of naming the anchors whose shows will not be joined by INDIA leaders and spokespersons.Their freedom is not being curbed in any way. It is a decision by INDIA not to participate in their shows. It amounts to calling out a group of anchors who vitiate the environment everyday with constant dissemination of hate and lies wholesale serving the government as its loyal propaganda machine. When the Godi Media had taken it upon itself to portray the fighting farmers at the Delhi border as Khalistani terrorists, the farmers' movement had brilliantly fought back, delegitimising the Godi Media by making it one of the explicit targets alongside the Modi regime and the Adani-Ambani corporate power. The INDIA bloc has taken this forward by refusing to legitimise toxic propaganda as journalism.
As far as the Sanatana controversy is concerned, it is no secret that if the caste system has become so solidly institutionalised in India, religion has played a big role in sanctifying and legitimising it. The anti-caste movement has had to fight hard against this institutionalised system of injustice and inequality. Babasaheb Ambedkar launched his lifelong crusade for liberty, equality and fraternity by publicly burning the Manusmriti and in his last major act of protest, two months before his demise, he renounced Hinduism and embraced Buddhism. Instead of addressing this core issue of caste, the Modi government seeks to suppress it by playing the 'Hindus in danger' card.
The literal meaning of sanatan is timeless or eternal, and in our recent history more often than not this term has been invoked to stop attempts for religious and social reform. Incidentally, even as the Modi regime presses the Sanatana alarm button, Mohan Bhagwat has asked the RSS camp to remain prepared to accept reservation for the next two hundred years as an affirmative action to remedy two thousand years of injustice inflicted on the bahujan samaj. The Sangh brigade ideologues often present caste as a 'distortion' injected in the Mughal era and reinforced by British colonialists, but surely when Bhagwat talks about two thousand years of caste oppression, there can be no denying the organic association between Hinduism and caste.
The Sangh Parivar has a history of speaking simultaneously in multiple tongues. When Bhagwat talks about two thousand years of social injustice, the Sangh brigade is actually busy whipping up a countrywide frenzy by taking out Shaurya Jagaran Yatras and recruiting tens of thousands of Dharma Yoddhas or religious warriors to stop interfaith marriages, religious conversion and protect 'sanatana dharma'. Death threats are being issued against Udayanidhi Stalin. When the Indian people are determined to highlight the pressing issues of everyday life like prices, jobs, livelihood, education and healthcare and defend the constitutional foundation and composite culture of India, the Sangh brigade is desperate to derail India once again and whip up genocidal violence. This design must be foiled.