In the last four years, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has tasted phenomenal success. The party has been in news for a lot of reasons recently – for its aggressive politicisation of the illegal infiltration of Bangladeshis in Assam, for allegedly having a communal agenda which goes against the ethos of the Indian Constitution and for the unprecedented electoral success it has achieved in the north-east, especially in the states of Assam and Tripura.
We caught up with Shubhrastha, a strong and prominent supporter of the BJP, who was a poll strategist for the party in the 2016 Assam elections, to talk about the issue of illegal immigration in Assam, BJP’s success in the north-east and more. After her party’s success, she also co-authored a book along with Rajat Sethi, titled “The Last Battle of Saraighat”, that detailed BJP’s victory in the 2016 Assam state assembly elections.
In the interview, Shubhrastha told YKA just why she thinks it is justified to provide refuge to Bangladeshi Hindus but not Muslims, why those who think the BJP is ‘anti-women’ are lazy, why the word ‘secular’ should not be a part of the Indian Constitution and more.
I think they are lazy and do not want to get into the nuances of any debate. They don’t want to do their research well. It is the first government which has gotten so many women ministers.
It’s not rhetoric. Just google, you will find it on Wikipedia. You don’t even have to go to the constituent assembly debates, etc, etc.
Just look at the cabinet and you will get a touch and feel of what I’m trying to say. For a very long time, women were relegated to the Women and Child Development Ministry, Food Processing Ministry. This is the government which has really taken that whole idea of women leadership beyond the maternal, feminine bastions to defence. To something as serious as ‘corporate affairs’. So, finance, HRD. I don’t think people who ask these questions are people who genuinely want to question. These are people who are rabble-rousers. These are people who just want to create an issue out of nothing. And I would call them propagandists more than anything else…
I think this whole creation of a narrative around mob lynching is very very selective. If the Prime Minister speaks on an Akhlaq, he will also have to speak on what is going on in Kerala and Karnataka. Then, he must also speak about what happened in Tripura. Every day, there was a case of rape or violence being reported in Bihar when RJ(D) and JD(U) were in power together. These are facts. Some facts highlighted by the media, some wilfully suppressed by the media. And law and order is not a central issue, it’s a state issue… He did a fantastic job by keeping quiet and exposing the state governments for their own lacunae. Whoever rules the state government, whether it is the BJP or the Congress or any other regional party.
I’ve studied in Delhi University and have attended functions by Geelani. Anybody who has studied in DU and JNU would know that it is part of the liberal culture to abuse India and say ‘Bharat tere tukde honge’. So, it shouldn’t come as a shock to most of us. Most of us who have studied in DU and JNU know about it. People who have not studied in these universities, do not. This is a fact. You may have an ideological problem that can be debated, but at least agree to understand that there are sub-national theories that people believe in. And you can’t chastise people for believing in them, but of course you can question them…
I am not chastising anyone for the ideological belief that they have. What I am saying is: is there room for a dissent or a question? Because of the shrinking space for dissent in the left academic space, somehow, the purported right in this country has had to resort to things like spitting on Geelani… So, my point is if you are countering one propaganda with another, then either you treat both of them with the same lens or you don’t take a moral high ground. This is the point that I am trying to make.
Yes, we did polarise the election. But we did not communalise the election. There is a subtle difference between the two. With respect to ‘othering’ of the Muslims, no, it never happened…
It’s very simple. In Assam, the question is not about Hindus and Muslims. It’s a question of ethnic Muslims or Bangladeshi Muslims. And of course, people have problems with illegal migrants. And the election was polarised against illegal immigrants. And elections, even in the future, would be polarised along these lines. But anybody who is looking at a communal angle showcases the mentality of the party they represent and the politics they represent. 1946, when the elections were fought in Assam, the issue was the very same – illegal immigration. In 2016, when the elections are fought, the issue remains the same. And who ruled Assam for all these years? The Congress party. So, they should be the ones who should be subjected to more questions, than people like us.
Yes, because there is a difference between a ‘sharnaarthi’ (refugee) who has come to you after having suffered religious persecution from the other end. And again, this is nothing non-factual. You look at the population of Hindus in Pakistan when the Partition happened and look at the population of Hindus today in Pakistan. Similarly, you do that analysis for Bangladesh and you would know what one is talking about. So somebody, who crosses the border and says we have been persecuted because of our religion and we want to stay here, gain safety and shelter here. Should India not take care of the human rights…
What roots have they taken? The Rohingya question, I’m very very clear on that part. The Rohingya have gone and settled in Jammu. If Rohingya were only limited in and around the areas which surround the whole borders of Myanmar, it would have made sense. But I don’t understand the whole idea of Rohingya settling down in Jammu. And all these reports are there out in the public domain where they have been seen advocating for an ISIS kind of an ideology. So, clearly, there is a larger design at play, which is of Islamic terrorism. So, do we confront that reality or keep our mouths shut because it is politically incorrect to talk about it.
To say that the BJP came to power in a very short time would be an injustice to the kind of work the Sangh has been doing for a very long time in the north-east. The Sangh started its work way back in 1947 when the Partition had happened. That was the first footprint of the Sangh Parivar then. Now, why am I bringing the Sangh Parivar here? Because the BJP is an ideological party, it is not just a conglomerate of a couple of politicians who have come together to capture power by hook or by crook…
What I am trying to say is that this was a very slow process – the political conversion of the north-east. Yes, the effect of it came to prominence now because the BJP can now govern the north-eastern states. But if you look at Assam for instance and the past electoral data, you would see that there has been an upward trend with respect to the BJP, in the past couple of elections. Of course, people wanted to give BJP a chance. People started believing in what it stood for. The kind of democracy that we are in, ultimately it is a number game and you need a certain threshold to be able to claim your space as an MLA or an MP, the dispensation at large. I think it took time for that.
Because the way of an Indian life is very very religious. And it’s not to do with Hinduism, Islam, Christianity or Zoroastrianism. As a country, we are very religious. Even today, when our ministers and MLAs and MPs take oath, they take oath in the name of God. That is not the sign of a secular state. So, what was the need for this unnecessary word… We did not need this morality, this is not our culture!
The interview was edited for brevity and clarity.