Wednesday, June 27, 2018

The Monks Who Spew Hate

Why Jailing of Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara Did Not Become A News In This Part of Asia
Subhash Gatade  

“Ordered disorder, planned caprice, And dehumanised humanity…”
- Brecht (The Exception and the Rule)
(Quoted in )
“I have done my duty towards the country,”
Gnanasara told reporters as he boarded the bus taking him to prison. “Why should I regret?”

Image Courtesy-

Rarely does Sri Lanka convicts Buddhist monks.
But few days back the courts in Sri Lanka made a history when it convicted Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara, the controversial leader of Bodu Bala Sena ( Buddhist Power Force) - who is referred to as 'Thero'- the venerable - and sent him to jail. Scores of his followers - mainly Buddhist monks - were reciting Buddhist prayers when he was being arrested and packed in the police vehicle.
Reports tell us that Sri Lanka is still facing mini-turmoil over this conviction.
Marches were organised in different cities of Sri Lanka demanding that President pardons him using his special powers. Protesters have also asked that this revered monk should not be forced to wear jail uniform and be allowed to wear Saffron robes only.
For people outside Sri Lanka, it would be rather difficult to understand why a Buddhist monk has suddenly become such a polarising figure in the society there.
Remember the courts found him guilty of intimidating the wife of a missing journalist Sandhya Eknaligoda inside the courts itself when he had interrupted a court hearing over the abduction of the journalist, Prageeth Eknaligoda, in which military intelligence officials were accused. He had shouted at the judge and lawyers because the military officials involved in the disappearance had not been allowed bail. 
Public memory is rather very short but the abduction followed by disappearance of Prageeth had made international headlines then who was investigating the alleged use of chemical weapons against civilians by Sri Lankan army in the fight against the Tamil rebels. (24 January 2010) It was perhaps a dark period as far as journalism inside Sri Lanka was concerned when journalists were intimidated, disappeared or even killed just for being critical of the then Rajapkshe led government's heavyhandedness. Around a year before Prageeth's disappearance the murder of Lasantha Wickrematunge, a senior journalist, by Army Intelligence people had also caused tremendous uproar. 
"This is a government created by Sinhala Buddhists and it must remain Sinhala Buddhist. This is a Sinhala country, Sinhala government. Democratic and pluralistic values are killing the Sinhala race".[ Al Maeena, Tariq A. (23 February 2013). 

"Neo-fascism on the rise in Sri Lanka". Gulf News] He also told the crowd at the rally that they "must become an unofficial civilian police force against Muslim extremism. These so-called democrats are destroying the Sinhala race" ["Bodu Bala Sena gives ultimatum to Ban Halal certification". 18 February 2013. Archived from the original on 22 February 2013]
No doubt Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara or Theo Gnanasara is no ordinary monk.
With his latest smartphone, designer glasses and a chauffeur driven car, his look may be at variance with the time honoured image of a Buddhist monk who survives himself in a meager way, but by his intervention in the already fraught polity in the multireligious, multi-ethnic country he has emerged as an influential voice of Sinhala-Buddhist nationalism, which has always been an undercurrent in the trajectory of Sri Lanka.  With suppression of Tamil militancy it has discovered 'new enemies' - the religious minorities - as its fresh targets. For it Muslims (7.5%) are target number one but Hindus (15%), who are mainly Tamil speaking as well as the Christians (7.5%) are not far behind.
The surge in violence targetting Muslims, their properties and places of worship in March 2018, in district Kandy and adjoining areas, over a minor incident, which prompted President Maithripala Sirisena to declare an island-wide state of emergency was a fresh indication of the simmering tension.
For the likes of Gnanasara and his followers 'democratic and pluralistic values are killing the Sinhala race' and the minorities there  should stick to the 'global principle that minorities must reside in a country in a manner that does not threaten the majority race and its identity.” 
The demolition of a mosque near the Golden Temple of Dambulla - a Buddhist cave temple, famous since 3 rd century, part of UNESCO world heritage site - with petrol bombs by a mob led by radical Buddhist monks in the year 2012, claiming that for them it was a 'sacred area' had rather signalled how things would unfold in a post Tamil militancy Sri Lanka. It was then rather disturbing to note that the government had also bowed to the mob’s demand and ordered the mosque’s demolition and relocation.  It did not matter to the ramapaging mob that not only the mosque but the temple as well as church there were decades old and had been constructed on the land by taking valid permission from the concerned authorities.
It was only last year that Amnesty International had issued a strong statement  asking
"Sri Lankan authorities to act immediately to end attacks on Muslims in the country, and to rein in violent groups that target religious minorities, and take action against perpetrators." 

and its focus was on Bodu Bala Sena only.
Providing details of violence and intimidation against Muslims, including petrol bomb and mob attacks on mosques, businesses and homes that have resulted in extensive property damage and the failure of the police to prevent these attacks it had specifically mentioned role of Buddhist monks associated with Bodu Bala Sena who "..[a]ttempted forcible land grabs in eastern Sri Lanka, and the media has reported a series of provocative and religiously charged speeches by BBS leader Gnanasara Thero."
It has said how Gnanasara Thero's hate speech vis-a-vis Muslim Rohingya refugees had created tension and how petrol bombs were thrown at a mosque when a BBS procession was stopped by police which was fourth attack on a mosque since mid-April."According to it, anti-Muslim violence in the town of Aluthgama claimed four lives and substantial property damage after speech by a BBS leader ( June 2014).
The observations of a reporter who interviewed him in May 2018 were no different who  wrote :
Bodu Bala Sena leader Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara is a man whose words lead to action. When he threatens Muslims in a speech, mobs ransack Muslim neighbourhoods. And people die.

It would be important to watch how the whole issue of Thero Gnanasara's arrest unfolds : whether the present President Sirisena would succumb to the pressures being exerted by Sinhala-Buddhist Supremacists to release him or would allow the law to take its own course.
For him it is rather a difficult choice to make looking at the fact that the earlier President Mahinda Rajapakshe and his brother Gotobhaya had facilitated emergence of Bodu Bala Sena. When Mahinda Rajapakshe was still holding reins of power the country, Gotobhaya was the chief guest at the opening of the Buddhist Leadership Academy floated by Bodu Bala Sena and heaped praise on them for their "nationally important task".
Any such principled stand by President Sirisena can definitely damage him at political level and benefit Rajapakshe  whose party won big in the local elections  held few months back.
And it would not be an exaggeration to say that it would have regional implications because the import of Gnanasara and his brand of politics is not limited to the island nation alone.
Words and actions of Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara can remind people of saffron robed monks/priests/Babas on this side of the border belching out similar hate speeches  and calling for violence against the minorities here.
One can discover an eerie of similarity between how the Sinhala-Buddhists militants and the Hindutva Supremacists talk, act and think on similar lines. And much like them there is hardly any action against them here. 
If the Sinhala-Buddhists believe that they are part of the "Aryan Sinhala race" and Sri Lanka is their home land,  the mission of protecting Buddhism has been entrusted to them by Buddha himself and Sri Lanka is the home for Sinhala language whereas their Hindutva counterparts talk of making India a Hindu Rashtra and pushing the non-Hindus to a secondary status of citizenship. An ideologue of this vintage even writes in his book that they are the 'internal enemies' of independent India. 

As one writer has put it:
An important feature of the Sinhalese that has influenced their attitude to minorities is that they are, as noted Sri Lankan anthropologist Stanley Tambiah described in his book Sri Lanka: Ethnic Fratricide and the Dismantling of Democracy, “a majority with a minority complex.” Thus although Sinhalese vastly exceed Tamils and Muslims in terms of numbers, they feel outnumbered by them. They see the island’s Tamils, for instance, as part of the larger Tamil community in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu and the Sri Lankan Muslims as part of the Muslim ummah.
This “minority complex” has resulted in Sinhalese viewing themselves as victims, who have to act, even violently, to defend the island and Sinhalese-Buddhist culture from being taken over by the asinhala (un-Sinhala) and abaudha (un-Buddhist). These groups are viewed as essentially “foreigners,” who are staying on the island due to Sinhalese-Buddhist sufferance.

If the Sinhala-Buddhists demand that the minorities in Sri Lanka should follow the 'global principle that minorities must reside in a country in a manner that does not threaten the majority race and its identity.” the proponents of Hindu Rashtra think on similar lines wherein they want to ensure that the minorities here should remain at the mercy of the majority or should adopt to Indian (read Hindu) ways.
While Sri Lanks celebrates its pluralism and India has formally adopted secularism as a core principle of the Constitution, what one observes on ground that the response of the respective states to the overt and covert violence against the minorities, leaves much to be desired. There are reports galore which show how the state has looked the other way when religious minorities of various dispensation have come under attack or has even connived with the majoritarians and denied the minorities justice. 
While world at large could easily look through what BBS stands for and how it's increasing clout would impact negatively in a multi-ethnic, multi-religious, multi-lingual country which was trying to establish peace and reconciliation after culmination of a long drawn civil war against Tamil militants, the reaction of Ram Madhav, then a RSS leader, who is now a key leader of the BJP, was baffling :
"Bodu Bala Sena - a Buddhist organisation many wish to call as Right or Ultra Right – is a new phenomenon in Sri Lanka. One may prefer to brand them in any manner one would like to. But the fact remains that this new outfit is slowly growing in stature and popular support in the country’s Buddhist-dominated areas."
..."the issues raked up by the BBS are worthy of active and sympathetic consideration. BBS is able to capture the attention of the Buddhist population of Sri Lanka. "  
It is possible that the way BBS had framed its world view - about 'growing Islamisation and Christianisation of the Island nation' - had stuck a chord with the then Akhil Bharatiya Sah Sampark Pramukh of RSS then who has since shifted to BJP.
It was no mere quid pro quo that when BJP assumed reins of power on its own in 2014, Dilantha Withanage, chief executive of Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) and close associate of Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara, had supposedly returned the compliments. Claiming that Bodu Bala Sena " is inspired by what the RSS and BJP do in India” and had also underlined the similarities  in the situation existing in both the countries "“There are lots of similarities between India and Sri Lanka,” Withanage said. “Both of us face threats from Muslims and minorities who are actively engaged in conversions. When Sinhalese families have a child or two, minorities have half a dozen or more. When foreign money plays behind such activities, we need to resist. So Modi and his party is a great inspiration for us,” 
The reporter who had filed this report had rightly commented "This is one overseas fan base that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his party BJP would not wish to flaunt."(Written by Arun Janardhanan | Chennai | Published: January 20, 2015 4:12:42 am)
The rise of Sinhala-Buddhist Supremacism in our neighbouring country and the ascent of Hindutva here around same time cannot be considered an exception at least in this part of South Asia where majoritarian voices/forces owing allegiance to a particular religion or ethnicity are either gaining strength or consolidating themselves.
The growing Saudisation of Pakistan  or the rise of Islamist forces/organisations in neighbouring Bangladesh underlines how such voices have taken shape there basing themselves on the constructed 'anxieties of the majority community' there. Pakistan seems to be bursting at its seams where various fanatic groups with their violenct acts against the ‘others’ – ranging from the Ahmadiyas, Shias, Hazaras, Hindus etc – have created a situation of implosion.
The killing of Shahzahan Bachchu, owner of Bishaka Prokashoni, a publishing house, who was gunned down in his home town in Munshiganj once again brought to the fore the clout Islamists hold in formally secular Bangladesh. (11 th June 2018) It is true that because of a strong tradition of secular movement, situation is seems to be still under formal control of such forces in B’desh ( of course, it is not a great consolation) but that has not stopped it from penetrating deep into the pores of society there.
Few years back when a mass movement had arisen in Bangladesh demanding punishment for the War Crimes committed during the liberation war (1971) - where the focus was on the Islamists led by Jamaat-e-Islami there who had colloborated with the Pakistani army - a study was published which had elaborated upon the political economy of fundamentalism there. (Mainstream, Mar 22-28, ’13). It is an issue about which not much material is available also. According to Prof Abdul Barkat’s unique study - who was then with Dept of economics, Dhaka University and President of Bangladesh Economic Association  :
..[f]undamentalists have created an “economy within the economy” and “a state within the state” They have adequate economic strength (from micro to macro levels) to sustain their political organisations. The economics of fundamentalism, in the narrow sense of the term, can be explained in terms of enterprises ranging from large financial institutions to household level micro credit, from mosques and madrassas to news media and IT, from nationwide trading enterprises to local level NGOs. The estimated amount of annual net profit generated by these enterprises would be US $ 250 million. All these economic enterprises are run by ideologically motivated and professionally competent persons. At least 10 per cent of their net profits are being used to finance the political organisation, which is sufficient to fund the salary of 500,000 full-timers in Islamic fundamentalist politics.. The relative strength of the economics of fundamentalism in B’desh can be traced to the fact that its annual net profit is equivalent to six per cent of the government’s annual development budget and the annual growth rate of the economy controlled by the fundamentalists is higher(7.5 per cent to nine per cent) than that of the national economy ( five per cent to six per cent)..
Discussing how fundamentalism was experimenting the effectiveness of various politico-economic models with the help of cadre based politics, he had discussed how the following twelve, constitute the key sectoral elements of the model : “financial institutions, educational institutions, pharmaceutical-diagnostic and health related institutions, religious organisations, transport related organisations, real estate, news media and IT, local government, NGOs, Bangla Bhai or JMB, Jamaetul Muzahideen Bangladesh, Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (Bangladesh HuJi-B) (and such programme based organisations0, and occupational/professional activity based organisations including of farmers and industrial workers.”
According to him
The estimated annual net profit of economic fundamentalism in B’desh would be about US $250 million. The highest share of such profit, 27 per cent (of the total net profit), comes from financial institutions (banks, insurance companies, leasing companies, etc.
The second highest, 18.8 per cent of the total net profit, comes from NGOs, trusts and foundations, 10.8 per cent comes from trading concerns, 10.4 per cent profit comes from the pharmaceutical industry and health institutions including diagnostic centres, 9.2 per cent comes from educational institutions, 8.5 per cent comes from real estate business, 7.8 per cent comes from the media and IT business, and 7.5 per cent comes from the transport sector
Explaining the methodology of estimation, Prof Barkat had made it clear that it is largely based on heuristic estimates, but the pattern was indicative of the direction.
It can be observed that the rise of the politics and economics of fundamentalism in B’desh has led to institutionalisation of fundamentalism which implies organised penetration of Islamist fundamentalist forces in all key spheres of life and state operation.In fact, the relative strength of this institutionalised fundamentalism is also evident in formation and operation of Islamic Sharia Council against the usual norm of the Central Bank. Prof Barkat adds that this
“Islamic Sharia Council - the central policy making body of all Islamic financial institutions - is a body fully controlled by the mainstream Islamist Party (Jamaat-e-Islami in this case) and headed by the Pesh Imam (the head) of the National Mosque, who is a government servant, who preaches in favour of implementation of Sharia rule through the mosque based administration and judiciary. This Islamic Shariah Council is an illegal entity according to the Company Act and Banking Act operating in B’desh. The Central Bank’s attempts to ban this Islamic Shariah Council and even the move to institute a “guideline for Islamic Banking” in B’esh could not be materialised in the past.And finally, an attempt to pass a law in the parliament “against religious extremism” ended up in gross failure.”
There was a period in the first part of the 20 th Century when the people in this part of South Asia then under colonial subjugation had fought against the Britishers in their own way and gained political independence.It has been more than 70 years that they achieved freedom but today they are confronted with an altogether different challenge.
If one digs further one can as well trace the roots of this situation in the way the anti-colonial struggle was fought or how the tensions arising from the internal asymmetries and fissures in the respective societies could not be properly addressed.  No doubt, it is a very precarious situation and if it is not handled properly, the whole region can become a tinderbox of sorts.
One can even discern a pattern in the rise of Sinhala-Buddhist nationalism in Sri Lanka, ascent of Hindutva Supremacism in India or Political Islam taking its strides in Pakistan as well as Bangladesh. 
What is noticeable in this picture is that
- perpetrator community changes as you cross the national borders. In fact, one finds a reversal of roles. Perpetrator community on this side of the border metamorphoses into victim community on the other side of the border
- One type of fanaticism feeds on the other. And there are reports that different types of alliances are coming up between them
Situation unfolding in neighbouring Mynamar, explains how this alliance building of sorts between various exclucivist/sectarian ideologies/formation is taking shape.
Mynamar, as everybody knows is making headlines the world over because of the plight of Rohingya Muslims, which is developing since last few years.  Many reports  have appeared detailing the role played by the army in the ethnic cleansing of the hapless citizens, burning down of their villages and the silence maintained by the likes of Aung San Su Kyi .
And here also the role of saffron robed Buddhist monks has come under scanner, who have been accused of making hatespeeches targetting Muslims, instigating riots etc. e.g Thitagu, a prominent abbot, (head of monks) had in an interview said that “In ethnically diverse Burma, members of different religions should live together like water flowing together”and in the  same interview  Thitagu warned that “just like the Buddhist host has warmly welcomed other faiths into the country, the guests should strive to get along with the host. They should not trespass on the host’s goodwill and take over the home”. Of course, the most controversial among them is Wirathu . ‘Guardian’ had done a special story on him few years back who with his 2,500 follower monks has become a dreaded name in the country., instigating Buddhist fanatics to attack Muslims. 
Attempts to coordinate activities against a ‘common enemy’  had received a boost when the infamous Wirathu visited Sri Lanka and a proposal was put forward by Wirathu and BBS jointly seeking Hindutva Supremacists nod to form what they called a “Peace Zone”.
..The time has come to ally internationally,” Galagodaththe Gnanasara, the leader of the radical Sri Lankan Buddhist group Bodu Bala Sena, announced at a convention held in Colombo last month. The guest of honor was Ashin Wirathu, a Buddhist radical whose picture Time magazine put on its July 1 cover as “The Face of Buddhist Terror.” The government of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa ignored pleas by Sri Lankan Muslim and Christian civil groups, fearful of more anti-Muslim violence in their country, to deny Mr. Wirathu a visa. Granting Mr. Wirathu a visa can only reinforce the fears of many Muslims that the government — and perhaps more powerful regional allies — back Bodu Bala Sena, which translates as Buddhist Power Force.
Last week, Mr. Gnanasara claimed he was in discussions “at a high level” with the right-wing Indian Hindu group Rashtriya Swayam Sevak to form what he called a “Hindu-Buddhist peace zone” in South Asia. A Rashtriya Swayam Sevak spokesman, Ram Madhav, promptly denied that there were any such discussions. But Mr. Madhav, now general secretary of India’s governing Bharatiya Janata Party, has written comments sympathetic to Bodu Bala Sena and Mr. Wirathu’s group 969 in Myanmar on his Facebook and Twitter accounts.
The plight of Rohingya Muslims has become a cause of international concern. The military in Mynamar has provided tacit support to their ethnic cleansing of the hapless minority.
What is rather disturbing to note that when PM Modi visited Myanamar last year the joint statement he and Myanmar’s State Counsellor and de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi issued remained silent on the mass cleansing of the Rohingyas but expressed grave concern on the ‘terrorist’ activities of a section of Rohingyas in self-defence. It read :
“It is important to maintain security and stability along the long land and maritime borders of India and Myanmar...India stands with Myanmar over the issue of violence in the Rakhine state which has led to loss of innocent lives.” 
In his article "Genocide of Rohingyas in Myanmar: the Hindutva Imprints" (–do-) commenting on this trip Prof Shamsul Islam underlined
"This statement remained silent on the mass cleansing of the Rohingyas but expressed grave concern on the ‘terrorist’ activities of a section of Rohingyas in self-defence. In a more shocking development the RSS/BJP Indian Government has issued instructions to deport nearly 40,000 Rohingyas, who escaped to India while under attack, for being a security threat.
How does one understand this silence?
As the dictum goes : Silence speaks and in this case also should we say that the silence of  the Indian rulers over the mass cleansing of Rohingyas spoke a lot.
Forget Rohingyas. And the Indian rulers for a moment.
Why did the conviction of Thero Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara could not become a news here?
Rarely does Sri Lanka convicts monks but when judicial history of sorts was made in the neighbouring country why did the media here kept mum ?


Wednesday, June 13, 2018


Time to Militarise Hindus, Hinduise the Nation!
How advent of Hindutva Supremacism has accelerated arming of Hindus for sectarian violence
Subhash Gatade
( Note : To be published in a report by ‘Ánhad’ on four years of Modi government)
Like every exclucivist ideology/organisation/formation which claims to be centered around a particular religion - may it be Islamism, Zionism, fanatic Buddhism - Hindutva has always entertained a dream of preparing/arming its followers to fight the 'others' and slowly albeit not so silently moving closer to usher into its dreamland of Hindu Rashtra. Its ideologues/leaders have been candid enough to point out to the faithfuls the 'internal enemies'' and ways to deal with them or exterminate them. All these preparations dotted by regular drills, games and other militant exercises serves as a counter to the the much publicised notion by the same people that 'Hindus are Cowards' 1 or "Islam was spread through the sword" which has been an item of belief for the Hindutva fundamentalists.
A cursory glance at history - preindependence as well as later - is witness to the way in which it had been engaged in doing it surreptiously/not so surreptiously in very many ways. To fulfill its long cherished dream, pioneers of the movement had felt no qualms even in keeping themselves aloof from the anti-colonial struggle and focussing themselves on strengthening unity of 'their' people. It was the same period when a proper military school was established by Dr B S Munje, mentor of Dr Hedgewar and one of the founders of RSS which was aimed 2" bring about military regeneration of the Hindus" much on the lines of the The Balilla institutions an idea conceived by Mussolini for the ‘military regeneration of Italy’3
Perhaps it is one of the most inglorious chapters in their own history that Savarkar, leader of the Hindu Mahasabha, had gone to the extent of mobilising Hindus to join the British military - when the broad masses of the people in this part of the subcontinent had risen in unison over the historic Quit India movement. The Hindutva supremacists  were thus engaged in strengthening British efforts to suppress the rising tide of people’s movement. Savarkar, the pioneer theoretician of the project of Hindu Rashtra preferred to tour India then asking Hindu youth to join the military with a call to ‘Militarise the Hindus, Hinduise the nation’.
The logic was simple. Whenever the Britishers would leave then this 'militarised Hindus' would be able to take over the destiny of the nation.
Partition and the accompanying riots/pogroms provided these forces - much like their Islamist counterparts across the border- enough opportunity to flex their muscles and engage proactively in the mayhem that followed after that. The same modus operandi continued in post-independence times as well.
Commissions appointed by governments to look into riots in post-independence India have been consistent in underlying the alleged role of the local level cadres of the Hindutva Brigade. Scholars of communal conflicts who have observed /studied Hindu-Muslim riots in post-Independent India have also talked about emergence of “institutionalised riot systems” in which the organizations of militant Hindu nationalism are deeply implicated.4 e.g. The demolition of Babri Mosque by hordes of Hindutva Supremacist forces - which completed twenty five years - was also a very organised affair - which was cloaked under ‘spontaneity of the masses’ by interested quarters. e.g. The video magazine ‘Newstrack’ had then sent a team of reporters on the infamous day.
The recordings captured Hindu leaders, including .., exhorting the crowd that the masjid must be destroyed and a temple built. ..
Rehearsals of demolition teams practising with ropes, pick-axes and boulders were recorded by Newstrack. The images included Bajrang Dal leader .. in khaki shorts ‘directing’ with a whistle...5
The idea of discipline and penchant for military type action is even visible in co-travellers on the Hindutva path. Remember what Justice Srikrishna commission - which was formed to look into Mumbai riots in Dec 1992 and Jan 2013 - had said about Bal Thackeray. It had unambiguously stated that Thackeray “like a veteran general commanded his loyal Shiv Sainiks to retaliate with organised attacks against Muslims”. 6
Interestingly relative newcomers on this path - who want to turn India into Hindu Rashtra - seem more explicit. Organisations like Sanatan Sanstha and Hindu Janjagruti Samity (SS and HJS) - where destruction of evildoers’ is an integral part of ‘spiritual practice’ and where this‘destruction’ is to be done at ‘physical and psychological level’,  seekers ( called ‘Sadhaks) are also provided with training in arms – rifles, trishuls, lathis and other weapons’ to facilitate this ‘Dharm Kranti’ (religious revolution) .7 A very important text in the training of the seekers/ Sadhaks is ‘Texts on Defence’ where seekers of divine kingdom are also imparted training with air rifles ( Vol 3 H – Self Defence Training, Chapter 6, Page 108-109)8
In fact, 'Shadow Armies' a recent book by veteran political journalist Dhirendra K Jha, 9 takes a close look at burgeoning of such fringe organizations such as the Sri Ram Sene, the Hindu Yuva Vahini, the Sanatan Sanstha and the Hindu Aikya Vedi apart from few affiliated organisations of the RSS itself which according to the author 'stir up trouble, polarize communities, incite violence in the name of Hindutva.' It is common knowledge that there is a very symbiotic relationship between the BJP and these 'Shadow Armies'.  They have accompanied BJP's steady advance over the last three decades from two Lok Sabha seats in 1984 to 282 in 2014.
With the ascent of Hindutva Supremacism at the centre all these efforts have received a tremendous boost and they have further developed ways to put the faithfuls further on a militant/radical/violent path.
The advent of the vigilante mobs has been an outcome of this changed/charged ambience only.
Lynch India or Normalisation of Vigilante Violence
A mob of 200 to 250 people in Panijuri village beat to death Nilotpal Das, 29, and Abhijit Nath, 30, who had arrived from Guwahati to see a nearby waterfall, on Friday night.
Officers have blamed the killings on "fake news" circulating across social media for the past few days about child kidnappers from outside Assam being on the prowl across the state.10
As we go to the press, Assam and one of its districts Karbi Anglong is in the news for the killing of Nilotpal Basu and Abhijit Nath by a mob of 200 to 250 people in a village Panijuri, Karbi Anglong. Reports are also coming in which tell that retaliatory violence has also occurred where people from Karbi Anglong have come under attack elsewhere.
Any close watcher of the unfolding situation knows that such incidents are no exception these days. Some time back Tamil Nadu was in the news for killing of innocents by agitated mob over a fake whatsapp messages about child kidnappers. Vigilantism has become a new marker of the 'new India' which is much talked about by the present rulers.
An idea about the spurt in vigilante violence could be had from these figures which show how 'cow related crimes' - which form the most important constituent of such violence - that led to deaths have shot up''. Remember 97 per cent of these attacks occurred after 2014 and 84 % of those killed in these attacks were Muslims.
                        Year    Killed11
                        2010    0
                        2011    0
                        2012    1
                        2013    1
                        2014    3
                        2015    12
                        2016    24
                        2017    37

The characteristic features of this unfolding violence are evident to even laypersons.
The violence is such that victims can be easily turned into ‘real perpetrators’ and the perpetrators are projected as ‘martyrs’.  Remember killing of five dalits in Dulina, Jhajjar supposedly for skinning a dead cow in the year 2003 when a thousand strong mob had thrashed the hapless group in front of police station and in the presence of senior officers of the administration and the police had ‘lodged’ a case against the dead persons for ‘provoking the people.’ 
Another important thing to remember is that there is nothing spontaneous about it. Despite outward packaging of a sudden outrage, all such actions are well organised affairs, where the perpetrators know it very well that their public display of violence or even its recording or sharing it with a larger audience via social media etc is not going to have any impact on them. If anyone has any doubts about the planning which goes into it one can have a look at the a judgement of Punjab Haryana high court regarding the self-proclaimed ‘cow protector’ vigilante groups which it delivered two years back or report of Director General of Police, Gujarat during Una movement wherein the officer had castigated network of such cow vigilante groups in no uncertain terms and called for action against them. 12
Laxity of the police and the administrative machinery has rather become a common feature of such violence. While the mob attacks the victims under whatever pretext it can think of, the police - the most visible of the state’s arm - normally turns a mute spectator or at times even prods the attackers. One can have a cursory glance at the spate of such killing incidents which were reported across India in the initial years of this regime to understand the dynamic and also comprehend the growing ‘normalisation of brutality
To name a few, lynching of two young men near Latehar after their brutal torture near Latehar, Jharkhand by cow vigilantes ; killing an adolescent near Udhampur who was sleeping in truck by throwing petrol bomb under the suspicion that the truck was carrying beef ; near riot like situation which emerged in Palwal, Haryana because of cow vigilantes attack on a truck carrying meat or the way two transporters were fed cow dung laced with urine when they were found transporting cattles for sale near Gurgaon. Scan the internet to watch the ‘valour’ of these fanatics and you will find scores of such criminal attacks on innocents. ..and how there has been no action against them from the law and order people. 13
Normally religious minorities, dalits along with dissenting voices of various kinds happen to be the usual targets of such violence. It is a different matter that with the spiralling of such violence people from majority community are also coming under attack as witnessed in the latest killings in Karbi Anglong.
Media, which is called as ‘watchdog of democracy’ seems to have largely abandoned its critical role and barring exceptions it thus either maintains silence over such incidents of organised violence or remains content in presenting a majoritarian viewpoint or even at times provokes people to join the ‘outrage’.
Judiciary, which is reported to be custodian of the constitution, is also found to be wanting on this front.
Even if it is not possible immediately to comprehend the whole dynamic but it is worth noting how a vigilante mob slowly merges into the state and vice versa and how the much cherished rule of law is put on its head or how the state ‘outsources’ work of silencing dissident voices to such mobsters.
Analysing the reasons for vigilantism, scholar Christophe Jaffrelot dissects the vision and role of the RSS which has always intended to 'transform society from within, by instilling its own sense of discipline into it, which it thought was required for defending Hindus more effectively'. For him as the Hindu Nationalists, 'do not want the state to prevail over society and want the society to regulate itself, as per the emphasis on social order and “harmony” or hierarchy, that is suggested in the Hindutva ideology', the fact that the vigilantes “do the job” is very convenient for them. 14
Vigilante violence - aided, abetted by leaders/organisations - or emerging on its own could be just considered tip of the iceberg where the larger question to address is how this preparation/arming of people is on or how today propagators/peddlers of this exclucivist ideology feel emboldened with change in regime at the centre.
Time to Militarise Hindus ?
Would it be possible to imagine that leader of any organisation openly declaring that her/his people/activists have the ability to prepare an “army” in three days , can be deployed on the front within three days, questions the ability of the security forces for quick operations, and does not face any legal hassles ?
A lesser mortal would have been definitely hauled up for such ‘’ánti-national” act.
Well, nothing of that sort happened when the numero uno of RSS Mohan Bhagwat made similar claims in a speech in Muzaffarpur, Bihar which caused tremendous uproar in the country. 15 Forget any hassles what one witnessed was unbelievable. A minister of the government rushed to Bhagwat’s defence. 16
The clarification of sorts provided by the Akhil Bharatiya Prachaar Pramukh of the RSS, Manmohan Vaidya, about this controversial statement added further insult to injury :
“..[B]hagwat ji had said that if a situation arises and the Constitution permits, Indian Army would take six months to prepare society, whereas swayamsevaks can be trained in three days as swayamsevaks practise discipline regularly. ..”17
While debate continued around the ‘ínsult’ heaped by the RSS Supremo on the army, one was bit surprised over the candidness with which Mohan Bhagwat spoke , frankly admitting what goes on within this ‘biggest cultural organisation in the world’. In fact there are rare occasions when you get to hear such clear cut statements from people associated with it.  e.g. Not very many people would remember today that when involvement of Hindutva fanatics in terror acts had made headlines, and RSS had found itself on the defensive,  Mohan Bhagwat had made this significant statement talking to RSS members in Surat
..of the majority of the people whom the government has accused (in various blast cases), a few had left voluntarily and a few were told by the Sangh that this extremism will not work here so you go away...18
No doubt a combination of strict discipline, military type of training and action against the óther’ pervades the broad universe of Hindutva organisations.
Could it be said that Bhagwat’s claim was ‘a slip of toungue’ or was an empty boast made to boost the morale of its cadres or he was serious about it.
While one can debate the timing of the statement, but nobody can say that he did not mean what he said or is ignorant of what he meant.
Reports galore where affiliated organisations of RSS - namely Bajrang Dal, Durga Vahini - are seen imparting training supposedly for self-defence which also involves rifle training 19
Gone are the days when only lathi wielding Swayamsevaks of the Sangh use to march on streets on VijayaDashami /Dusshera as part of their route marches called 'Path Sanchalan' in their lexicon, reports keep appearing here and there how some of these volunteers or volunteers of other affiliated organisations join these programmes with swords, pistols and rifles as well these days 20and have no qualms even firing in air to communicate their message. 21
And of late, armed processions of Hindutva volunteers/supporters under the pretext of religious celebrations, have become quite common in large parts of north India - which have caused spurt in communal tensions at various places.
Such armed processions as part of religious celebrations remind one of the stock in trade trick of every type of fundamentalist where it tries to transplant religious symbols and rituals from the sphere of the sacred to the soil of the profane. This helps to create an illusion of religious legitimacy to what is is essentially a political use of the faith system in operation called religion. Burning crosses carried by the infamous Ku Klux Klan - a Christian terrorist organizations in the United States, which advocates extremist reactionary currents such as white supremacy, white nationalism, anti-immigration and anti-communism -, the use of the noble concept of Jihad by the Fassadi terrorist or the likes of Al Qaeda ; or the conscious use of the image of Ram via-a-vis the Ayodhya temple movement by the Hindutva brigade illustrates this exercise.
From 'Trishul Deekshas' to 'Armed Processions'
All societies have traditions, a set of myths, symbols and practices passed down from generation to generation, which provide a certain degree of comfort that comes from familiarity. Societies undergoing rapid change, however, do not have the luxury of enjoying the psychological comfort that real traditions can provide because the social patterns for which the tradition made sense no longer exist. These societies end up inventing ’traditions’, quite like museum shops ’manufacture’ antiques.’ 22
If Trishul Deekshas - the distribution of sharp edged tridents to people - under the guise of religious ceremonies  - was popularised in the early years of the millenium, when the Vajpayi led NDA government was at the centre, today these efforts have moved a step ahead and we have been witness to armed processions to celebrate 'religious festivals'.
For example, the manner in which the Hindu festivals of Ram Navmi and Hanuman Jayanti are being increasingly used by affiliates of the RSS to foment communal tension is for everyone to see.
This year it lead to conflagrations in Bhagalpur and Aurangabad, accompanied by tension in several other districts. Tension was also witnessed in many parts of UP, Rajasthan and Maharashtra although no large scale violence occurred. While in Bhagalpur - which was witness to one of the worst communal riots in 1989 - a procession led by son of a Union Minister, where provocative slogans were reportedly raised, culminated in rioting, in Aurangabad also a Ramnavmi rally which was taken out through a Muslim majority area culminated in rioting and curfew had to be imposed. Districts like Gaya, Siwan and Kiamur also reported communal tension as a result of provocative  processions on Ram Navmi.
As reported elsewhere lot of planning had gone in to make these religious sounding processions more effective.
- Distribution of swords, CDs and pen drives - containing Islamophobic songs - were already completed so that they could be played on loud speakers during the Rama Navami processions
-  Sample one of these provocative 'songs'which was already distributed and was to be played on loud speakers during the procession.
‘Pakistan mein bhejo ya qatleaam kar dalo, aasteen ke saanpon ko na dugdh pilakar palo’     
'Jis din jaag utha hindutva to yeh anjam bolega, topi wala bhi sar jhuka kar Jai Shri Ram Bolega’
‘Dur hato Allah walon, kyun janmabhoomi ko ghera hai, masjid kahin aur banao tum, yeh Ram Lalla ka dera hai’
‘Sun lo mullon Pakistani, ghusse men hain Baba Barfani’ 23
What was worth underlining that all these songs were uploaded on YouTube more than a year ago and had already fetched millions of views.
The author further adds that highly-placed officials in the state had told him that around 2 lakh sharp-edged weapons were consigned to the affected districts from outside the state. Sword sellers in Sonepur fair had run out of stock just two days after the fair was inaugurated, which could mean that preparations for the violence have been going on for a long time. If sources are to be believed, these were imported from outside and distributed across the districts for free. One businessman from Patna had alone placed an order for 50,000 swords from a supplier in Meerut, in Uttar Pradesh. 24
Few commonalities in all such processions could be easily deciphered :
- Armed Processions under the name of local Puja or celebration committee
- Insistence on taking rowdy processions
- Shouting anti-Muslim slogans
- trying to enter Muslim majority areas without permission
- clashing with police
Much like Bihar, West Bengal also witnessed flare up of communal tension in different districts in the aftermath of these 'religious processions.' Armed processions which were carried out in different parts of the state on the occasion resulted in communal tension in Purulia district, Raniganj, Burdwan district leading to few deaths. 24-Parganas district and Murshidbad district also witnessed communal tension where rioters carrying saffron flags and arms not only vandalised property on a large scale but also tore down freedom fighter and former education minister Maulana Abdul Kalam’s statue.
If Trishul Deeksha was used as a 'religious symbol' in the early part of 21 st century, with growing strength at the political and social level, this symbol has been replaced with armed 'religious processions' by the same Hindutva right. Of course, nobody can miss the difference in the two. It is worth emphasising that the civil society groups in Rajasthan did not limit themselves in ’explaining’ the heightened communal mobilisation because of Trishul distribution but with organisations liked PUCL leading from the front even pressurised the then Gehlot government - thru petitions and public protests - not only to bring the VHP Trishul under the purview of the Arms Act but also prosecute VHP leaders like Togadia who had been making communal hate speeches in the Trishul distribution ceremonies and otherwise.
While 'Trishul Deekshas' in different parts of the country had prompted a strong secular response - which ultimately led to inclusion of trident distribution under arms act - and the arrest of Praveen Togadia, the then leading light of the Hindutva brigade,  we are yet to see any comparable response to this orchestred and planned attempts at communal polarisation via religious processions.
It is now history how slowly this campaign to distribute Trishul also lost steam n with exit of BJP from the centre not much was heard about it. Is not it time today to rally our voices so that the ongoing turmoil vis-a-vis armed religious procession could be controlled/reined in and all such forces of equality. progress and justice are  strengthened.

Notes/ References 
2 Apart from Dr Hedgewar, and Dr B S Munje, Dr L V Paranjpe, Dr B B Thalkar and Baburao Savarkar - V.D. Savarkar’s brother were present at the inaugural meeting of RSS on Vijaya Dashmi - Ref : Page 16, Khaki Shorts and Saffron Flags, Tapan Basu, Pradip Datta, Sumit Sarkar, Tanika Sarkar, Sambuddha Sen,
3. It is aimed
“ bring about military regeneration of the Hindus and to fit Hindu youths for undertaking the entire responsibility for the defence of their motherland. ... to educate them in the ‘Sanatan Dharma’, and to train them “in the science and art of personal and national defence” (‘Central Hindu Military Education Society,’ NMML, Munje Papers, subject files, n 24, 1932-36)
In one of the first exhaustive writeup “”Hindutva’s foreign tie-up in the 1930s: Archival evidence”  in Economic & Political Weekly, January 22, 2000 Marzia Casolari  ( had provided details of Dr Munje’s tour of Italy, his meeting with Mussolini and his impressions of The Balilla institutions an idea  conceived by Mussolini for the ‘military regeneration of Italy’ and his resolve to to develop similar institution with ‘’our institution Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh
India and particularly Hindu India need some such institution for the military regeneration of the Hindus: so that the artificial distinction so much emphasised by the British of martial and non-martial classes amongst the Hindus may disappear. Our institution of Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh of Nagpur under Dr Hedgewar is of this kind, though quite independently conceived. I will spend the rest of my life in developing and extending this Institution of Dr Hedgewar all throughout the Maharashtra and other province
( From Munje Diary,
This military school had come under scanner when investigations started to unearth the sprawling network of Hinduva terror when it was discovered that premises of this school were used for holding military style training camps for band of fanatics. Reports had appeared in a section of the press that ‘[t]here are leads of some Hindu leaders from Bangladesh having attended the training camps held at the Bhonsala Military School, “(outlook 23 Nov 2008).
4.  the_ production_ of_ hindu_ muslim_ violence _in _ contemporary _india_16681.htm
8. For further details see :
9. Juggernaut Books, 2017
11. (;
15. What Anand Sharma, spokesperson of the Congress said was more scathing. Demanding Bhagwat’s apology and a response from PM on this remarks, it said how the statement itself and the clarification provided smacked of a dangerous mindset.
“What the RSS chief has said is deeply disturbing and unacceptable. It amounts to insulting the Indian Army. Mohan Bhagwat’s statement about mobilising RSS supporters like an Army also means he talking about RSS running a private militia. We have already seen the dangerous consequences of such private militia in Afghanistan, in the form of IS in Syria and in many African countries such as Angola. We will not allow such a design in India,”
In India, all this takes place within a discourse of Hindu-Muslim hostility that denies the deliberate and purposive character of the violence by attributing it to the spontaneous reactions of ordinary Hindus and Muslims, locked in a web of mutual antagonisms said to have a long history. In the meantime, in post-Independence India, what are labelled Hindu-Muslim riots have more often than not been turned into pogroms and massacres of Muslims, in which few Hindus are killed. In fact, in sites of endemic rioting, there exist what I have called “institutionalized riot systems,” in which the organizations of militant Hindu nationalism are deeply implicated. ..
17. (
18. (‘No place for radicals in RSS, says Bhagwat’, The Indian Express, Delhi, 11-01-2011, p. 3 quoted in
19. ;
20. (;
21. (
22. Meera Nanda, The God Market, How Globalisation is Making India More Hindu