By Priyasmita on behalf of PDSF:
After the Babri demolition, Gujarat riot, Dadri case, Muzaffarnagar riot, what I am seeing in India is that communal politics is taking a more and more assertive stand. The atrocities of RSS on the student and youth activists in Kolkata on 2nd December, of which I was a part, and the program in which the incident took place, proved to me that West Bengal is not out of the list.
On 2nd December 2015, the RSS had organised a program in Science City, Kolkata. It was to commemorate the martyrdom of karsevaks Ram and Sharad Kothari, who died in LK Advani’s rath yatra during the ‘Ram Mandir movement’ in 1990. Mohan Bhagwat, the current chief of the RSS was quoted in the meeting saying that, “The grand goal (of building the Ram Janmabhoomi Mandir) may be realised in our own lifetime. Maybe we can see it with our own eyes. None can say when and how the temple will be constructed, but we need to be prepared and ready.”
From what I understand, Bhagwat has been readying his forces for bigger goals in the RSS’s upcoming plans, and the heightened rate of killing and prosecution of members of minority communities and dissenting voices across the country is not a new thing anymore. The normalisation of such violence is precisely the build-up that he desires for his stated dream of building the Ram Janmabhoomi temple, which I believe is little more than a euphemism for the establishment of complete dominance of militant Hindutva politics over the Indian political and social scene.
Even in places such as West Bengal which mostly has had left-leaning parties, with a non-BJP state government, the RSS has managed to flourish rapidly. From what I understand, it has been feeding on the insecurities of the majority Hindu community.
The number of RSS shakhas in the state has increased from numbering 650 in 2013 to being projected to reach 1,200 by next year. Communal clashes have been on the rise in the state as well as in the country, with a recent flare-up being witnessed in Medinipur district of the state.
With Legislative Assembly elections coming up in West Bengal in 2016, I can see that the plans for the state are abundantly clear and already afoot. In such a context, Bhagwat’s visit to Kolkata in relation to the Ram Janmabhoomi Movement and his emphasis on another drive to establish the same could not and ought not to have gone unchallenged, for which I decided to protest at Science City.
I decided that it was our political and moral responsibility to cast a voice against Bhagwat’s coming to Kolkata. He came to the city I lived in, he gave a call for a Ram Mandir construction (“Maarenge, mar jaayenge, mandir wohi banayenge”), and on my part, to say nothing, to do nothing, was unjust, politically and morally. So, 25 of us, student and youth activists, went to Science City where near about 5,000 RSS workers were present.
In a program which I felt was organised to deliberately spread communal tension, showing a black flag to Bhagwat there was a political statement on behalf of us, who were protesting. An assertion was very much needed to put up the democratic space to protest, to raise a different opinion. But we were never anticipating what would happen next.RSS workers ruthlessly attacked us when we assembled to register our peaceful protest . Many of us were injured, as we were some 25 odd in numbers against a gathering of around 5,000 RSS workers.
They attacked us with lathis, abused us (“Tum log to saale bhagwan ko kaat ke khaate ho, Hindu rashtra to hum banayenge, tum log kuch nahi kar paoge, desh se nikal denge saale tum logon ko.”) while we were writing posters and shouting slogans, then summoned many more saffron hoodlums to the venue who gathered in buses and motorbikes, threatened the media representatives present in the hall of breaking their cameras if they go outside, and finally after hours of preparation, again a mob of 400-500 workers chased us again.When I still think of that mob, I feel the shades of riot.
The rath yatra of 1990 whose ‘martyrs’ Bhagwat was commemorating was a prelude to the horror of communal riots that visited the country in the wake of the demolition of the Babri Masjid on 6th December, 1992. Today, we must ask ourselves, what is this recent brutality a prelude to, and we must prepare ourselves for fighting back the onslaught in every town, city and village where such workers go.
Tolerance to this intolerance is not what we should seek now. The attack on us simply showed us how intolerant the workers were to our sign of protest. I personally think, to this much intolerance, be intolerant. That can give rise to the alternate assertion, the alternate strength, that is very much needed to challenge elements that do not wish to listen to voices of dissent.
Below is a video of the attack:
UPDATE: Further changes were made to this article after publishing.