Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh once observed that Left-wing extremism is the greatest internal security threat to India. After the growing perception about the spread of vigilantism and violence against Muslims and Dalits in the country over the past four years, Singh would be tempted to revisit his impression.
The unleashing of the latent far-right forces during the four years under the new dispensation – led by the BJP at Centre as well as in majority of the BJP-ruled states – should make everyone sit up, and take a serious look at the whole internal security scenario. Of course, the government won’t do that – they are from the same fraternity. So, the responsibility of reassessment rests entirely with the opposition parties, and civil society.
What we need to understand is the fundamental difference between the far-left and the far-right in terms of their approaches to their programs and agendas.
The far-left is relatively much younger in India compared to the far-right in terms of basic conceptualisation. The far-right was always a hidden force within the religious right, that took root in 1925 in the form of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). For around 50-60 years after its birth, the RSS preferred working silently on its agenda of “Hindu Rashtra” and “Akhand Bharat”, betraying no violent fringe. This despite its basic tenets, as enunciated in ‘Bunch of Thoughts’ by M S Golwalkar, the second Sarsanghchalak, were always packed with a potentially violent punch.
The reason for the silence wasn’t that the RSS had decided to stay away from violence as a tool to usher in the envisaged change. On the contrary, the RSS had always openly advocated the primacy of wielding arms through rituals like “shastrapuja” (obeisance to arms) on the day of its establishment, that is the Vijaya Dashmi. The various “self-defence” exercises performed as a precursor to any big RSS event, the regimented route marches et al are anything but a symbol of peaceful means to usher in change. Its leaders had openly exhorted swayamsevaks to be ready to perform “parakram” (valour) after centuries of subjugation by invaders. Behind the exhortation was the deep-seated sense of victimhood and inferiority complex caused by what V D Savarkar had described as “sadgun vikruti” (perverted goodness). It was obvious that such a sense would always the sow seeds of a violent reaction, euphemised in the term “parakram”.
But since the overwhelming population of Hindus followed the Gandhian model of secularism, that had no place for reprisal against “repressive Muslims” in principle and practice, the RSS found support only from a section of caste Hindus. The vast majority of Hindus continued to remain secular. Despite its dogged, and best efforts, the RSS couldn’t make decisive inroads into the Hindu swathes to be able to call the shots. However, its political wing, the BJP, had started making strides forward, riding the well-orchestrated Ram temple wave from the 1980s till the turn of the twenty-first century. The RSS’s dream of ruling the country came true after the Vajpayee-led NDA government came to power. That joy, however, was short-lived as Vajpayee, and even Advani, didn’t encourage the RSS and its fringes to have any say in the day-to-day governance. The divorce was written on the wall with then Sarsanghchalak K S Sudarshan openly rebuking the two leaders and asking them to step down.
The RSS had to then wait for 10 long years to see a revival in its fortunes, when Narendra Modi managed to upstage the Congress to win a full majority. With no compulsions of coalition politics, and a hardliner Hindutva leader at the helm, the RSS and its parivar sensed its first opportunity to assert itself. What we have witnessed over the past four years is the virulent expression of the suppressed frustration of Hindutva hardliners.
But this wouldn’t have been possible had the parivar not kept its foot soldiers ready for such an eventuality. It had given rise to organisations like the Bajrang Dal to outsource physical violence. The Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad had taken up the responsibility of “parakram” and “purusharth” (manly valour), even as the RSS remained the fountainhead of supportive thoughts and alibis.
Clearly, the RSS took every precaution not to be seen as being involved in any physical engagement anywhere. With its political wing coming to power, its far-right fringe has finally stepped on the gas, with the powers-that-be giving them a free run. Thus, India’s far-right nursed and nurtured by the RSS while serving as its democratic “mukhauta” has managed to finally ride roughshod over Constitutional mechanisms designed to usher in real democracy. It had the patience to wait for its turn to rule, coming to power through the perfectly legitimate means of electoral democracy, before forcing its agenda through a strident expression of its ideology. Thus, the use of Constitutional mechanisms preceded violent manifestations of the far-right.
And as we now discover, there is no such thing as a fringe here. With its ministers, Chief Ministers, Governors, MPs and MLAs on record espousing the far-right agenda, there is room to believe that the fringe is now the mainstream. The clinching fact about the self-styled “cultural” Right being, by its very conviction, fringe to the core is borne out by several instances of violence by its foot-soldiers and supporters, as also by the official machinery, like the several encounters in UP.
The far-left modus operandi has been the opposite. They started off with open violence as its main vehicle of change. It openly disregarded the representative form of democracy, thus inviting only general disdain from the masses, to whom its violent mainstream always appeared a detestable face. Though much more meaningful and relevant to genuine issues faced by the masses, their ideological core of thoughts always remained a deterrent to a majority, who wouldn’t accept violence for any cause, however noble. As a result, their sphere of influence remained much smaller than the one now occupied by the far-right.
One thing that was common to both the far-right and the far-left was their dislike of Mahatma Gandhi. The massive sway of Gandhain secularism and non-violence over Indian people of all castes and religions, for several decades even after his death, kept both the far-right and far-left at bay. But the far-right, which was earlier embedded inside and now openly rides on the back of its outwardly mild patriarch, has managed to use the Constitutional means to get to where it had always wanted to. The far-left, though it has used the Constitutional means to claim benefits it didn’t deserve, finds itself getting further marginalised due to its firm non-belief in the Constitution.
So has left-wing extremism remained the biggest internal security threat to India? Or its place has been taken by the far-right or, should we say right-wing extremism? If yes, then who takes care of that, with the current dispensation positioning itself in a supportive role? Left-wing extremism forces have a government to deal with. The same can’t be said of right-wing extremism in the current circumstances.
This is borne out by the fact that in the Bhima-Koregaon incident, the Maharashtra police arrested alleged Naxal supporters, who they say instigated the programme to commemorate 200 years of Dalit soldiers’ valour against the Peshwas, while fighting as part of British forces. But they haven’t yet acted against Bhide Guruji, allegedly behind the violence that followed. The support from Hindu Ekta Manch to the accused in Kathua rape and murder, voices of support and justification for shameful incidents like killing of Muslims by vigilantes, and the perpetrators going scot-free, only shows that far-right enjoys impunity in the prevailing socio-political scenario, which the far-left never could and never probably will .