Role of the BJP and Allied Organisations:RSS/VHP/BD
The role played by the BJP and organisations like the RSS, VHP and BD in threatening internal peace and security in many parts of India is clear. There is an urgent need to put a complete stop to these activities, which are subversive of the Indian Constitution.
The Tribunal would like to record here, the ample evidence placed before it by expert witnesses, newspaper reports and fact–finding team reports, documenting the aggressive tone and posturing of organisations like the RSS, VHP and BD, especially since the BJP–dominated National Democratic Alliance came to power at the centre. These activities and such public posturing indicate several things:
- The intimate connection and the hold that these organisations have on the BJP, a party which heads the central government today;
- The avowedly anti–constitutional thrust of their intent and activities, whether in the matter of the construction of a temple on the site of a demolished mosque, in the absence of a court verdict on the matter, or on other issues;
- The series of arms training camps held all over the country, by the VHP and the Bajrang Dal, both off–shoots of the RSS, with close links to the BJP, since, at least, the year 2000. The Indian Arms Act, 1959, expressly prohibits the possession of arms by private parties without licence (the only exception being security agencies). The possession of a licence before a firearm is owned is a legal requirement. The Bombay Police Act, which applies to Gujarat, is similarly stringent on the question of possession of arms by citizens. The police are empowered to demand production of a licence. (Section 19 of the Arms Act).
The exemption of the trishul (which in fact is a sharp, three-pronged weapon, which can cause fatal injury), from the provisions of the Arms Act, through a GR issued by the central government, is a clever ploy to encourage the militarisation and arming of a section of civil society by such groups. The swords that are also freely sold at the arms training camps, along with the air guns and rifles that are used for shooting practice, are clear pointers to the intent of these organisations. Yet, the police in BJP–ruled states and the BJP–led central government have turned a blind eye to such ominous developments.
l In the specific case of the Gujarat carnage, whether on the issue of the removal or resignation of Shri Modi from the chief minister’s post or others, it is evident that the BJP–led ruling NDA’s demeanour and actions have been strongly influenced by the utterings of the RSS and its siblings, the VHP and the BD.
The intelligence departments of three states in India — Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan — have asked for a ban on the Bajrang Dal, on the grounds that it is generating “terror” and spawning home–bred terrorists. The testimony of many witnesses, from both communities, who appeared before the Tribunal, reinforces the assessment of the state police in Gujarat’s neighbouring states.Training
The Tribunal has led specific and detailed evidence on the method of mobilisation and training adopted by the VHP and Bajrang Dal from four recruits/former recruits. This explains the phenomenon whereby huge mobs surfaced so promptly all over the state during the carnage. It also explains the ability of these organisations to collect youngsters, indoctrinated with misconceptions and with hatred in their hearts, who were available at a signal from their leaders to commit murder, loot, arson and rape, and defy all laws, secure in the conviction that with the BJP in power, they would have full protection and need have no fear of the law and order machinery.
Reproduced here is the gist of the testimony of the four recruits/former recruits mentioned above, which provides a clear picture of the BD’s and the VHP’s mobilisation techniques:
The enrolment fee for a new entrant to a BD shakha (cell) is Rs. 55. Once admitted, you are expected to attend meetings held every night, mostly on private premises, sometimes in small temples. Secret meetings for the more select are held once a week. late at night.At the weekly meetings, members are told, more explicitly, that the trishuls are to be used against Muslims whenever there was a riot or a fight. If you killed Muslims, the organisation was there to protect you from penal consequences.
Enrolment to the shakha entitles the volunteer to a card identifying him as a Bajrang Dal karyakarta (activist). If you help recruit 10 more youth, you are made a ‘VHP Mantri’. You are given a trishul the moment you enrol. You are told that trishuls were not meant to be kept inside a temple and worshipped but to be used to protect the Hindu faith. You are also told that the trishul should not be used to kill one’s ‘brothers’, but to save ‘our’ religion.
At the weekly meetings, members are told, more explicitly, that the trishuls are to be used against Muslims whenever there was a riot or a fight. If you killed Muslims, the organisation was there to protect you from penal consequences. If something happened to you, the organisation was there to take care of your family. If you did get arrested during the riots, all you had to do was to show your Bajrang Dal membership card and the police was sure to let you go.
The VHP Mantris are assigned the responsibility of training 60–70 boys each day. What did the training involve? The training primarily involved compiling an exhaustive list of all Muslims living in the area. Members had to collect information about Muslim places of residence, property, businesses, family, etc. in the locality: Who lived where, how much they were worth, how many children they had, etc. All the information so gathered was to be passed on in the form of a written report that was maintained by the Mantri.The Tribunal notes with horror, the level of impunity that such unlawful, armed organisations have come to enjoy in BJP–ruled Gujarat.
Apart from the detailed account of the four recruits/former recruits to the Bajrang Dal, other witnesses from Naroda, near Ahmedabad, and from Kheda, Bharuch and Panchmahal districts also gave evidence before the Tribunal about training camps being organised in their neighbourhoods. In all these cases, an intensive training of the BD/VHP volunteers began after September 2001. An advertisement encouraging youngsters to join the Bajrang Dal in large numbers had appeared in the Gujarat daily, Sandesh in August last year.
This suggests sinister preparation and planning for the Gujarat carnage long before the Godhra tragedy, by the Sangh Parivar affiliates, their leaders confident of impunity from the long arm of the law since they enjoyed the patronage of the ruling party.
Notwithstanding the in themselves startling and brazen revelations made by professor Keshavram Kashiram Shastri, the 96–year–old chairman of the Gujarat unit of the VHP, in an interview to rediff.com, there is evidently an attempt to deny past preparation and planning, intensively so in Gujarat since last year. In the interview, Shri Shastri said that the list of shops owned by Muslims in Ahmedabad was prepared on the morning of February 28 itself. This was in response to the allegation that shops in Ahmedabad were looted on the basis of a list prepared by the VHP in advance, and that the violence was not a spontaneous outburst against the Godhra outrage.
Asked why they did it, he responded, “’Karvunj pade, karvunj pade’ (‘It had to be done, it had to be done’). We don’t like it, but we were terribly angry. Lust and anger are blind.” He said the rioters were “kelvayela Hindu chokra” (“well–bred Hindu boys”). The impunity with which Shri Shastri could speak with the candour that he did in his interview on March 12, and again on March 29, when he told the same journalist that the organisation (VHP) had been asked to pull back, is shocking, to say the least. That the Gujarat government has taken no action whatsoever against Shri Shastri speaks volumes about the BJP–VHP nexus.
At the advanced stage of training, the more seasoned members were told they would have to participate in fights or riots (ladhai–jhagda, danga–fasaad) whenever necessary. They said that, as Bajrang Dal leaders, they would, necessarily, be the most active, but young men, too, should always be prepared. They might be woken up in the middle of the night and should be ready to participate. The recruits were promised that when they participated in a riot, the organisation would pay them double the money that they lost in regular wages. Young men were also assured that if ever they were injured or killed during a riot, their families would receive adequate compensation.
The speeches at these meetings followed a basic pattern. Leaders would be brought in to brainwash the young members against Muslims. The single point agenda, evidence before the Tribunal has recorded, indicates that the desire was to demonise the Muslim community as also to create an armed cadre of young men, indoctrinated, full of hatred in their hearts, and sufficiently trained to perpetrate the grossest forms of physical abuse on their victims.
The Tribunal collected concrete information about the kind of mental training and brainwashing imparted to young men at the secret, weekly meetings: “We were told that until now it is the Muslims who have been harassing Hindus. ‘They have molested Hindu sisters and Hindu daughters. In Hindi films today, all the top heroes are Muslims, but there are no Muslim heroines. It is Muslims who are forging ahead in our country. They don’t let their daughters out in public but they spoil our Hindu daughters. Muslims are the ones who always use force. Our country was once a Hindu nation. The Muslims invaded us by force, married our mothers and our daughters and converted us to Islam.’”
According to the witnesses, in the Bajrang Dal camps, young men are told: “Under the pretext of prayers [namaaz], Muslims gather at 2 p.m. every day and maulvis instruct them in several activities. They specially employ young men, pay them a salary and send them to college to spoil Hindu girls. Muslims are involved in several such nefarious activities.” They said that they wanted to start a similar practice amongst Hindus. That was what the secret 10 p.m. meetings were meant for. Here the members would all band together, worship/invoke Hanuman and prepare “to give Muslims a fitting reply.” The secret meetings — gupt shakhas — also gave special training in the use of arms.
The Tribunal records that in Gujarat, quite apart from the political patronage and impunity from the law accorded to these outfits, there is enough money to finance the mobilisation. The source of such funds, used increasingly for blatantly unlawful and unconstitutional activities, needs to be investigated.Only a sick and degenerate leadership can want the whole of Indian society to descend to such demeaning levels of hatred whereby any excuse is good enough to unleash bloodshed and mass violence.
Reports in credible national dailies and periodicals show that the VHP and the Bajrang Dal have been regularly conducting arms training camps in different parts of the country, for the last two years at least. From the statements on record, the objective behind these camps is evident, as are the objectives of their organisers and the instructors who conduct them: to spread venom against the minorities, especially Muslims and Christians, and to prepare a band of heavily indoctrinated, well–trained youth ready at a moment’s notice to pounce on the minorities. “We are preparing these able–bodied persons to fight any eventuality. With the ISI spreading its tentacles, these people are being trained to challenge the anti–Hindu forces... It is not the gun that matters, but self–confidence.” (Ved Prakash Sachchan, joint convenor of the UP unit of the Bajrang Dal, in an interview to The Times of India, June 13, 2001.) Such are the declared activities at these camps. The Tribunal has on its record, details of such arms training by these outfits in different states all over the country.
Given this background and the detailed evidence gathered by the Tribunal in the course of its investigations for a fortnight in Gujarat in May 2002, on the objectives and the kind of training given in the course of these camps, it is clear that they are a means to poison minds and generate hatred among Hindu youth towards other faiths and their followers. For Indian society, the consequences of such systematic and large–scale indoctrination and training, which is blatantly unconstitutional and seriously threatens internal peace, cannot be overemphasised.
Testimonies recorded by the Tribunal from Vadodara showed that about two months prior to the Godhra incident, a big meeting (sabha) was held at Tarsali bus stand near Vijaynagar colony. About 2–3,000 people attended. It was a meeting for people from the Bajrang Dal and was attended by the international general secretary of the VHP, Shri Praveen Togadia as well a religious leader whose speech was telecast on the local television channel.
The Tribunal recorded evidence that showed objectionable and criminal statements were made and telecast. Witnesses testified before the Tribunal saying that Hindus should not interact with Muslims on a normal basis but should only maintain good relations with those Muslims who have good looking wives, so that when the time came they could do what they had to do.
In August 2001, the VHP and the Bajrang Dal had organised a VHP Bharti (Join VHP) programme. Nearly one lakh people marched through the streets of Ahmedabad even though curfew was declared. This went on until September. One of the main programmes was held at the VHP’s Vanikar Bhavan, Paldi. Their main avahan (call) was, “Muslim ko nasht kar do!” (“Destroy the Muslims!”).Hate Speech and Hate Writing
Since the BJP came to power in Gujarat in 1998, the parent RSS and its progeny have been conducting a relentless hate campaign against the minorities, which goes against the laws of the land and violates international covenants, many of which India is a signatory to. After the Godhra tragedy, where, in an unpardonable act, 58 passengers aboard a train were burnt alive on February 27, the hate speeches and hate literature has been geared to both incite and justify the gross violence against Muslims.
At the Akhil Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha of the RSS, held at Chennenahalli, near Bangalore, from March 16–19, the RSS gave a clean chit to Shri Modi’s role during the Gujarat carnage. Describing the violence after the Godhra incident as a “natural reaction of Hindus”, the RSS asserted that no government could have controlled the “upsurge”.
At the conclusion of the conference, two days later, with over 2,000 innocent Muslims having been brutally killed, not to mention the other indignities heaped on the community in Gujarat, the RSS thought it fit to lecture to Indian Muslims on their “extremist leaders” and “Hindu–baiters”. A resolution adopted at the three–day conference of the Sangh, said: “Let Muslims understand that their real safety lies in the goodwill of the majority.”
The attitude of the top leadership of the VHP to the post–Godhra carnage embodied not just open support and celebration of the mass crimes, but also the threat to repeat Gujarat’s example all over India. On March 6, The Hindustan Times quoted the all–India vice–president of the VHP, Shri Hareshbhai Bhatt as saying that he was proud that Hindus have finally stirred: “What happened at Godhra was an offence. What happened after Godhra was a reaction... The VHP has taken a long–term decision that all Hindus will boycott Muslims economically, financially and socially. Muslims have to change their mindsets if they have to live here.”
Since the Gujarat carnage, the working president of the VHP, Shri Ashok Singhal, its international general secretary, Shri Praveen Togadia, and other prominent leaders have revelled in repeated public utterances gloating over the violence against Muslims, instigating further hatred against them and threatening to force all Indian Muslims into refugee camps, as in Gujarat.
On September 3, describing Gujarat as a “successful experiment,” Shri Singhal said, “Godhra happened on February 27 and the next day, 50 lakh Hindus were on the streets. We were successful in our experiment of raising Hindu consciousness, which will be repeated all over the country now.” The very next day, he expounded on his proposition. Shri Singhal spoke in glowing terms of the fact that in the state of his dreams, entire villages had been “emptied of Islam” and large numbers of Muslims had been forced to seek the shelter of refugee camps. “People say I praise Gujarat. Yes, I do.”Courtesy: Amit Dave, Reuters
On August 9, the VHP leader Acharya Giriraj Kishore demanded that Muslims should amend certain verses (Ayaat) in the Koran.
On September 9, the chief minister of Gujarat, Shri Narendra Modi, addressing a rally in Mehsana district during his Gaurav Yatra, said: “Relief camps are actually child-making factories. Those who keep on multiplying the population (read Muslims) should be taught a lesson.” (The Hindu, September 10)
Shri Modi’s very offensive remarks created a national uproar. When, following news reports, the National Human Rights Commission demanded a copy of the taped speech of the chief minister, the Gujarat government pretended that no such tape existed, until Star News telecast the same. Undeterred by all this, Shri Togadia announced at a press conference, “The VHP will distribute all over the country one lakh copies of the cassette of Modi’s speech delivered on September 9, to make the people aware of the double standards of the so-called secularist parties including the Congress.” (The Deccan Herald, September 24).
Shri Togadia added, “The time was ripe for forming a separate army of Hindu youths who would protect the religion from attacks by jehadis.” (The Times of India, October 18, 2002)
Quite apart from the public statements and utterances that have been widely publicised in the national media after the Gujarat carnage, the plethora of hate pamphlets in circulation in Gujarat before, during and since the carnage are testimony to the calculated use of demonising tactics, by these outfits, to spur their cadres into action.
Evidence in the form of the originals and translations of these pamphlets were placed on record before the tribunal. Many of these have been in circulation, intermittently, over the past four years. But the period between February and April, 2002 saw the proliferation of such literature, some identifying the author, others anonymous, but all a foul testimony to the debasing levels of hatred that the ideologues of a ‘Hindu State’ can reduce ordinary people to. The Tribunal records with horror, the deep–rooted conspiracy and design that is evident from a perusal of all these pamphlets.
From openly asking for a blatantly anti–constitutional boycott of Muslim shops and establishments, there are also exhortations to violence against Muslim women and children that are too shocking and painful to detail here. They reveal a depth of hatred that can be no good for the people it grips and takes hold of. Only a sick and degenerate leadership can want the whole of Indian society to descend to such demeaning levels of hatred whereby any excuse is good enough to unleash bloodshed and mass violence.
The Tribunal has recorded dozens of testimonies from different parts of Gujarat that show how in the past four years, 3–4 times a year, tens of thousands of such pamphlets would flood Gujarati homes, thrust upon even those Hindus who are repulsed by their contents. From February–April 2002, the circulation of these pamphlets intensified considerably. It is astounding that no action was initiated by any wing of the Gujarat state intelligence or police against such hateful and incendiary writing; nor did the judiciary take suo motu action, which it is empowered to do.
While most of the hate pamphlets are anonymous, there were at least four for which both the VHP and BD claimed proud authorship. It is a matter of profound shame that even in these cases no action was initiated against the errant outfits and their office bearers.
One such pamphlet which bears special mention here, is one that mentions, with name and full address, a VHP office bearer as the author and publisher of this VHP/BD pamphlet: Chinubhai N Patel, Vishwa Hindu Parishad Office; Vanikar Smarak Bhavan, 11 Mahalakshmi Society, Mahalakshmi Cross Roads, Paldi, Karnavati. Tel. 6604015, 6631365 Tel. (res.) 7454699. This pamphlet, which was in wide circulation, openly propagated hatred against Indian Muslims:
“The terrorist and traitorous Muslims of this country get weapons from more than 50 Muslim nations to carry out their religious wars. They are supplied with AK–56 and AK–47 rifles, automatic machine guns, small canons, rocket launchers and several kilos of RDX… The entire country is sitting on a heap of weapons and heading towards civil war and internal strife... When Pakistan attacks India, the Muslims living here will revolt... In 1947, they only had sticks, swords and spears but now they have modern weapons... They are plotting to kill crores of Hindus and we will be fighting these traitorous Muslims in every lane and by-lane of the country... If the Parliament and the Kashmir assembly can be attacked then what safety is there for the citizens of the country?…”
Provocative statements by VHP office bearers and by elected representatives in Gujarat in the immediate aftermath of the reprehensible killing of 59 Hindus on a train in Godhra, are widely believed to have been interpreted by VHP cadres, sympathisers and other individuals in Gujarat as a call to violence, which led to widespread killings throughout the state, earlier this year.Communalisation of the State and Civil Society in Gujarat
Undeterred by the country–wide condemnation and outrage at the Gujarat carnage, the VHP’s office bearers, especially Shri Singhal and Shri Togadia, have been touring the country and making newspaper headlines each day, pouring fresh vitriol against the minorities and undermining the constitutional scheme itself. The fact that they continue to do so, unchecked by the political executive, the law and order machinery, or by suo motu action by the judiciary, is a sorry comment on the state of the rule of law, or the lack of it, now prevalent in this country.
When the country’s chief election commissioner (CEC), Shri JM Lyngdoh decided that in the circumstances still prevailing in Gujarat, elections (free and fair) could not be held immediately as desired by Shri Modi and his party, both Shri Modi and Shri Togadia alleged that the CEC was a “Christian who was taking revenge for the attack on Christians in Dangs in 1999.” This is nothing short of the denigration of a constitutional authority on sectarian grounds.
The agenda of these outfits for Gujarat becomes clear when you see their unabashed proclamation of Gujarat as a “Hindu Rashtra” (“Hindu state”). During their tour of several areas of Gujarat in May, Tribunal members saw signboards all over the state, welcoming people to ‘Hindu Rashtra’. “Karnavati city of this Hindu Rashtra welcomes you,” proclaims a board painted in saffron, in the heart of Ahmedabad. (Karnavati is the VHP’s preferred name for Ahmedabad). In Chhotaudaipur, 200 km south of Ahmedabad, the signboard on the highway is more direct. It simply says: “Welcome to Hindu Rashtra’s Chhotaudaipur town.”
These signboards are just one part of the legacy of nearly five years of BJP rule in Gujarat. Whenever cornered, the BJP claims it has nothing to do with the ‘hidden agenda’ of the Sangh Parivar, but neither the party nor the government it runs has any difficulty with their fraternity’s open challenge to the constitutional idea of India by Hindutva’s long cherished dream of a ‘Hindu India’.
Even the Congress party, which returned to power in the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) two years ago, has been reluctant to pull down these boards, despite a directive to this effect issued recently by the new state Congress president, Shri Shankersinh Vaghela.
Indictment in Communal Crimes
Virtually every judicial commission of inquiry officially appointed to investigate communal riots since Independence and Partition, has indicted organisations affiliated with or allied to the RSS/VHP/BD/BJP combine, including the Maharashtra-based Shiv Sena, for their role in violent crimes against India’s minorities.
Yet, the Indian state has been reluctant to prosecute those guilty of these crimes. Such failure amounts to official complicity and shows reluctance on the part of governments to give justice to a section of its citizens. The Tribunal recommends that such crimes are dealt with seriously and swiftly and punishments accorded so that the demands of internal peace, justice and reconciliation are met.
Through their high-pitched, ‘Who casts the first stone?’ propaganda, Hindu majoritarian outfits seek to absolve themselves of any blame or responsibility for the violence and bloodshed, in the public eye. Expert evidence placed before the Tribunal shows that in conflict after conflict, these outfits defend their actions as “justifiable retaliatory acts by Hindus in self-defence” against attacks started by Muslims.
However, after detailed investigations, most judicial commissions of inquiry have concluded that Hindu communal organisations systematically inject the poison of communalism into the atmosphere and cause deliberate provocation to prompt a reaction from Muslims, a reaction which is then projected as proof of Muslims having thrown the first stone.
In their findings on the Jabalpur riots of 1967, Ahmedabad (1969), Kanyakumari (1982), Jamshedpur (1979), Ranchi (1969), Bhiwandi–Jalna, Mumbai (1970), Tellicheri (1971), the various judicial commissions of inquiry appointed by the appropriate state and central governments to probe into the violence have indicted one or other member of the Sangh Parivar and other votaries of Hindutva. That they have escaped subsequent action is, of course, another matter. A singular exception was the anti–Sikh riots in November 1984 where the Congress party and its then leadership must bear the blame for the massacre of 3,000 Sikhs in the nation’s capital. Archived from Communalism Combat, November-December 2002 Year 9 No. 81-82, Preparation for Violenc