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Saffron Dollar May-July 2004
Campaign To Stop Funding Hate
July 20, 2004

Dear friends,

This edition of Saffron Dollar, May-July 2004 covers the period following the shocking electoral defeat of the BJP led NDA government in Mays general elections. Doubtless, this is a postive development for all peace-loving people dedicated to a secular, and harmonious India. We examine the results and their implications in four important states: Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. However we start this edition with a personal account of an important initiative organized by ANHAD, called the Youth Aman Karwan (Youth for Peace), which took dozens of students throughout India promoting secularism and decrying the divisive violent agendas of the Sangh Parivar. We welcome your feedback on this and other related issues, as well as similar short contributions. Do write us at news@stopfundinghate.org

Contents:

1) Youth Aman Karwan - a personal account.
2) Election Verdict 2004 – To what extent was it a vote against Hindutva? A
brief summary of implications for four important states.

YOUTH AMAN KARWAN – personal account from a young reader [We welcome your
contributions – please send them to us at news@stopfundinghate.org]

The trip started on the 7th of April with 27 students from all over the country. It was organized by Youth for Peace, a group started under the banner of Anhad. The students were accompanied by the well-known social activist Shabnam Hashmi. About 40 cities all over the country were visited. The agenda of the trip was to voice our views and spread the word against the Sangh parivaar ideology as far and wide as possible. The trip was organized by various local organizations. There were people joining and leaving the Karwan as their schedules permitted and by the end of the trip there were 35 students. The programme began with an intensive two day workshop about the politics of India and the politics of Youth 4 Peace.There were many problems and many enriching experiences.

My "15 days of political training" was not political training alone- I learnt a lot more than that. There were both good and not so good things. One learnt about ones own's limitations and other's shortcomings. The most significant lesson in the whole trip was the dynamics of the workings of peoples minds. Two things that came out during all the public meetings and press conferences were that it is very difficult for most people to accept young students talking sense. Either they don't take you seriously or they try and put the blame on some grown up around you. During the trip there were instances of people saying to Shabnam Hashmi 'why are you "polluting" these young minds?!' I wondered and questioned the lady as to why young people cannot have sensible things to say - she obviously did not have an answer. So I ask you is experience in age is all that counts? I have always found this problematic and have always been amazed at the way youngsters thoughts and feelings are always disregarded or dismissed. and this too after people constantly claim that the younger generations are the future and they are the ones who are going to take the country/world forward.

The other problem was the media expecting us to make similar statements. They seem to completely over rule the essential point i.e. young people voicing their opinions against something they find wrong and not necessarily having all the answers. Though one might see these as contradictory statements I see them as a part of the original statement about knowing ones own and others' limitations. We are students who have for various reasons taken a political stand against a specific ideology which is propagated and enforced by a political party. We see that as the greatest threat to our identity and freedom and thus choose to oppose it.

We are still in the process of being formed as individuals and do not know the answers to all the questions or the perfect solution to all the problems (though I doubt that is ever possible). Why can our thoughts not be taken seriously for their own worth, instead of trying to distort them into a propaganda of one party against another?! I see it as having two evils to choose from and we choose to oppose the greater evil and support the lesser evil. I don't know how 'right' or 'wrong' this is, but I believe it is definitely a step towards removing the larger evil of fascism which is threatening to take over our individual spaces, our freedom of expression. The Baroda incident is an entire chapter in itself and since I was not personally present I choose not to add that though I saw the footage of that incident and just watching it was harrowing enough. The attack strengthened the belief and the urgency for the need of our trip.

On the whole the entire trip was extremely educational, we gained confidence, political clarity and a lot of exposure and we definitely made many friends. By the end of it everyone was very keen about starting Youth 4 Peace branches in their own cities and do similar work. But for administrative and other reasons that is not necessarily a very feasible option that is why every one who was part of the trip has decided to go back to their cities and work against communalism in the organizations and institutes that they are attached to.

 

2) Is the electoral defeat of the NDA a new beginning for secularism? We take a brief look at the outcomes in four states, Gujarat, Kerala, Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.

a.Gujarat

The recovery of the Congress in Gujarat is indeed welcome news. In a State where
just a little more than a year ago, the BJP had won a landslide Assembly poll, news that the Congress had won 12 of the 26 seats, conceding only 14 to the BJP
was indeed big news. The crucial question however is as to whether this reversal in electoral fortunes can be seen as a victory for secularism -- a new beginning for the anti-communal forces in the State.

Indeed it is true that it is a new beginning for the anti-communal forces in Gujarat. However, we should also interpret this reversal with some caution. Some of the important aspects of the 2004 Gujarat elections are as follows:

1. If in the 2002 elections the Congress had been routed in its old stronghold of Central Gujarat, this election has seen a remarkable recovery with the Congress winning half of the seats in its lost stronghold of Central Gujarat.

2. The 2002 BJP landslide victory was enabled in large part because they won in Central Gujarat which incidentally was also the core carnage-affected area.

If one looks carefully at Gujarat electoral fortunes prior to the 2002 elections, you find a gradual decline in fortunes, especially in local elections. Within a long term trend, thus the carnage and the 2002 election can be seen as a swing away from a trend -- a mandate induced by fear rather than hate in large part because of the intense polarization caused by the carnage. Thus Modi did win in the short term but even the intense polarization was not enough to keep other issues such as the economy at bay. Thus, we can say that the Gujarat election result is a recovery of a non-communal space in Gujarat that had been lost to the polarization. However, in as much as the polarization did happen, the question is how complete and how effective is this recovery. For the non-communal forces in Gujarat then, this is a space that has been recovered and whether we are able to consolidate the space or not is a matter of the work that is done under the new regime.

b.Kerala

Although the Left parties recorded a historic victory in Kerala by winning 19 out of the 20 Lok Sabha seats, the dramatic figures conceal equally dramatic political shifts. The clue to this lies in the fact that for the first time in the history of the Lok Sabha, there is no Congress representative from Kerala. And for the first time since independence, the BJP-led NDA candidate won a Lok Sabha seat from Kerala. The Congress defeat and the BJP gain in voteshare from 6.56% to 10.09%, it appears, are related phenomena. Former chief minister A.K. Anthony’s soft Hindutva line has clearly strengthened the rightwing forces while the state’s vacillation on issues ranging from the Asian Development Bank loan, the Muthanga adivasi struggle, and the Marad communal issue have all benefited the LDF.

Political analysts point out that the NDA candidate’s victory at Muvattupuzha by 529 votes did not necessarily indicate the growth of the BJP because the candidate, P. C. Thomas, was nurtured earlier by the veteran Kerala Congress leader, K. M. Mani. However, the Hindutva gain certainly reflects how the BJP has built upon Congress ideology (soft Hindutva), Congress party organization (splintered but holding local pockets that the BJP can capture) and neoliberal conservatism (so evident in the Christian belt, where communal polarization makes sense since Christian denominations are battling each other anyway).

c.Uttar Pradesh

In a significant result, the BJP lost the election in the populous state of Uttar Pradesh. Compared to the election results in1999, the BJP lost 19 seats. The BJP lost in the temple towns of Ayodhya (Faizabad constituency), Mathura (where it came a distant fourth) and Varanasi. The loss of the Varanasi seat is particularly significant since the BJP has held the seat since 1991. For a party that captured power solely on the basis of the Ram temple issue, this indeed was a big slap from the electorate. In the 1999 election, the BJP suffered a 'shock' defeat and captured only about 27% of the votes. It now has a less than 20% voteshare and less than 15% seats in Uttar Pradesh.

In addition, prominent right-wing BJP ideologues that lost in UP are saffron minister Murli Manohar Joshi (Allahabad), former Union Minister Minister of State for Home Swami Chinmayanad (came fourth in Jaunpur) and Bajrang Dal heavyweight and state BJP president Vinay Katiyar (came third in Lakhimpur).

Is this the beginning of the end of the BJP? It seems that the hindutva agenda is losing its appeal given the loss of very prominent ideologues and consituencies.

d.Tamil Nadu

Jayalalitha's AIADMK and its ally the BJP were completely swept out of power in Tamil Nadu in the 2004 elections. Right after the debacle, Jayalalitha reversed a number of policies made by her government, such as anti-conversion law, the withdrawals of defamation cases against the media and tesma (Tamil Nadu Essential Services Maintenance Act) cases against political rivals, dropping of disciplinary action against government employees and removing the income ceiling in the ration card system. These policy reversals seemed to have slightly turned the tide against her. After being aligned with the congress and subsequently with the BJP, perhaps it is time for 'amma' to rethink her alliance building and anti-people politics. Either way, the unmistakable message is from the electorate has been: "Keep religion off politics."

 

 

 

 
©2002 THE CAMPAIGN TO STOP FUNDING HATE.