In January this year, at the height of the controversy over the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), as the BJP attempted to hold meetings to explain the new law, several districts in Kerala, especially the Muslim dominated northern ones, witnessed a unique pushback: traders downed their shutters, and towns and junctions where the BJP planned these meetings wore a deserted look.
Stung by that tactic, the Sangh Parivar has now responded by scaling up its supermarkets under the Akshayasree Mission, a network of self-help groups established by the Sangh Parivar’s co-operative movement, Sahakar Bharati.
Started six years ago, the Akshyasree Mission had only 24 outlets, branded Samrudhi, until the CAA protests. But in the seven months since then, 10 more supermarkets have been opened and registration for another 40 stores has been completed.
Admitting that more Samrudhi supermarkets are being launched as a reaction to the boycott in January, R V Babu, state general secretary of the Hindu Aikya Vedi, a Sangh Parivar outfit in the state, said, “There were already a few stores under the Akshayasree Mission; the new ones have been opened as a response to the boycott of the BJP’s pro-CAA campaign. These outlets have been launched spontaneously by workers wherever they were boycotted.”
Recalling the alleged boycott, an RSS source said, “Because of their boycott, in certain towns, we had to plan the meeting over more than one day. The fringe elements that forced the shops to shut didn’t want people to hear the BJP. There were campaigns, instigating people not to buy from shops owned by Hindus. The new supermarkets are meant to counter these boycotts.’’
Sahakar Bharati state general secretary Aji Kumar said that while the stores now primarily sell groceries and vegetables, the RSS is keen to scale up operations. “Several self-help-group units under the Mission are engaged in food processing, and those items will be sold in our stores. Our units have also started making incense sticks,’’ he said, adding that the Mission plans to venture into textiles and restaurants next.
P K Madhusudhanan, chairman of the Grameen Samrudhi Society under the Akshayasree Mission, said, “We ventured into establishing Akshayasree shops six years ago to promote swadeshi products. But the boycott of the CAA campaign has given us a fresh momentum. Had it not been for Covid, we would have launched 100 supermarkets by the end of the year.’’
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