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Home > Communalism Repository > India: The Communal Character of Anna Hazare’s Movement

India: The Communal Character of Anna Hazare’s Movement

by Bhanwar Megwanshi, 5 September 2011

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(Translated from Hindi by Yoginder Sikand)

It has now been confirmed that the Anna Hazare-led so-called ‘second freedom struggle’—as some sections of the media have mistakenly chosen to call it—has close links with the RSS. From conceptualizing this media-propelled movement to successfully organizing it, the RSS, it appears, played a key role in it. This being the case, it is imperative to analyse the specific communal character of this self-styled Gandhian movement against corruption.

No movement can be properly understood without taking into account the forces behind it and their underlying objectives. Anna Hazare’s movement has been analysed from several perspectives by both its critics as well as supporters. Thus, it has been asked if the movement was truly a Gandhian one. Was it really politically impartial? Was it democratic? Was it orchestrated by the media? Was it funded by the corporate world? Was it an NGO stunt? Was it all-India in its scope? On all these points there has been heated debate. Yet, lamentably little has been said about whether or not this movement was truly based on the Constitutional principle of secularism and what, in particular, its position has been on the issue of Hindutva.

The men behind Anna Hazare’s movement bluntly deny that their movement has any direct link with Hindutva forces. Some people have accepted this claim at face-value. Yet, the reality seems quite the opposite. It would be amply clear to a perceptive analyst that the movement was heavily based on the support and assistance of the RSS. Members of the so-called ‘Team Anna’ may or may not concede this but the RSS has itself officially acknowledged this fact. After all, ‘India Against Corruption’ has no cadre of its own—all it has are leaders. The massive crowds that poured out onto the streets to participate in the movement could not have been mobilized simply by ‘Team Anna’ and a handful of NGOs. Rather, this was, to very a large extent, the handiwork of Hindutva organizations.

It is now evident that not only did the RSS mobilize crowds in support of Anna Hazare’s movement but that it even prepared the movement’s very roadmap. The decision to launch a campaign against corruption was taken by the RSS at its All-India leaders meeting in Karnataka in March 2011, and it was only after that, in April and then in August, that Anna Hazare sat on a fast against corruption.

It has recently come to light that both the father and uncle of one of the key men in ‘Team Anna’, the Marwari Arvind Kejriwal, have been office-bearers of the RSS and allied groups in Haryana. Kejriwal is not known to have openly condemned the Hindutva forces. On the contrary, he has consistently been soft on them. His close relations with top BJP leader LK Advani are well-known. And the manner in which he maintained close links with top BJP leaders in the course of the recent agitation, including Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj and Nitin Gadkari, raise several questions about the actual nature of the relationship between Kejriwal and the RSS. Is it that Kejriwal, the RSS and the BJP were seeking to work together to bring the present government down?

Whatever be the case, it is obvious from all this that there is no truth at all in the assertion of key members of ‘Team Anna’ that their movement has no direct link with Hindutva forces. The fact of the matter is that Anna Hazare has for long been a favourite of the RSS. Interestingly, a top RSS leader, the late HV Seshadri, even wrote a book on Anna Hazare’s so-called ‘model village of Ralegan Shiddi, which he hailed as supposedly heralding the arrival of Ram Rajya! This was possibly the first book of its sort on Anna Hazare’s activism. Another leading RSS activist, BM Datte, organized a number of programmes in and around Pune in support of Hazare. According to top RSS ideologue Govindacharya, a number of RSS activists have toured Hazare’s village.

For his part, Anna Hazare has never spoken against the Hindutva ideology. He is said to have had very close relations with the RSS till 1995, when he targeted two ministers of the then BJP-Shiv Sena ministry in Maharashtra, Mahadev Shivankar of the BJP and Shashikant Suthar of the Shiv Sena—for corruption, after which his relations with the RSS were somewhat shaken. But, despite this, the RSS consistently supported him for spending his life based in a temple and for seeking to revive India’s ‘ancient’ culture through village self-government. He has been praised as a great Indian leader in the RSS’s Hindi periodical Panchjanya, even featuring on its cover page.

When the BJP recently failed in its attempt to topple the government, it suddenly remembered its favourite hero Anna Hazare, and, accordingly, so it seems, Hindutva forces decided to achieve their objective by creating this movement ostensibly against corruption. For this purpose, activists of the RSS’s students’ wing, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, floated an outfit called ‘Youth Against Corruption’. At the same time, Arvind Kejriwal, who was running an organization called Parivartan, got together with flag-bearers of ‘soft Hindutva’, men like Baba Ramdev, Shri Shri Ravi Shankar and other such religious leaders, and established a group that called itself ‘India Against Corruption’. It seems that both these organizations, with very similar-sounding names, were established in accordance with the RSS’s plan of unleashing a countrywide agitation ostensibly against corruption.

Accordingly, the RSS instructed its volunteers, a huge number of people spread all across India, to wholeheartedly participate in this movement. This explains why the overall ethos of Anna Hazare’s agitation at Jantar Mantar was no different from that of the RSS shahkhas—the same image of Akhand Bharat being displayed in the form of ‘Bharat Mata’! The only difference was that she held the Indian tricolor in her hand instead of the Hindutva bhagwa-dhwaj. RSS supremo Mohan Bhagwat’s call to the youth of India to join the people’s movement against corruption and the presence of top RSS leader Ram Madhav at Anna’s dais at Jantar Mantar raise the very real possibility that the entire movement was engineered and directed in accordance with the agenda of the RSS. When some people raised questions about this, the men behind the movement became alert and felt it imperative to be a little less indiscreet. And so, at Hazare’s dais at the Ram Leela Grounds instead of well-known Hindutva leaders Ram Madhav and Uma Bharti, another RSS activist, Kumar Vishwas, was present throughout the thirteen-day fast, and even handled the task of managing the dais.

Can ‘Team Anna’ deny that the RSS had sent the same Kumar Vishwas to manage the dais in the very same Ram Leela Grounds during the recent agitation led by Baba Ramdev? The Hindutva hand behind the movement does not stop here, though. Top VHP leader Ashok Singhal is on record as having thanked the volunteers of the RSS for making Anna’s movement a success. He revealed that members of the Dharamyatra Mahasangh, a unit of the VHP, ran food stalls at the Ram Leela Grounds, where some 20, 000 people were fed every day.

In accordance with the RSS’s plans, vast numbers of people were mobilized to come out on the streets to support Anna Hazare. Top RSS leader Bhaiyyaji Joshi declared that RSS volunteers were fully active in Anna Hazare’s movement. The BJP youth leader Tejinder Pal took up the task of gherao-ing the residences of Congress MPs, while BJP MPs Anant Kumar, Gopinath Munde and Varun Gandhi made their appearance at the Ram Leela Grounds. One day before Anna went on his fast, MG Vaid, top RSS leader, issued a statement indicating that the RSS had given its full support to his movement. And that explains why and how RSS activists present at the Ram Leela Grounds as well as in other parts of India where Hazare supporters had gathered kept raising their favourite slogans of ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ and ‘Vande Mataram’, and in that same style and with the same sort of fervor as they are wont to in their shakhas. This is clear indication of the massive presence of RSS activists in the movement.

That Hindutva forces strongly backed Anna’s movement and participated in it in a big way across the country, even in remote parts, is clearly evident. To cite just one instance, a social activist called Gopal Rathi, a member of the Samajwadi Jan Parishad, wrote to Prashant Bhushan, a key member of the so-called ‘Team Anna’, from a small town called Pipariya in Madhya Pradesh, saying that in his town BJP activists had donned Anna-caps and launched a motor-cycle rally to protest against Hazare’s arrest. On the occasion of Janamashtami, VHP activists, he wrote, organized a recitation of the Sundar Kand, a section of the Ramayana, in support of Hazare. Volunteers of other Hindutva outfits, he write, such as the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, the Bajrang Dal, the Durga Vahini, and the Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, also organized a number of programmes to express their solidarity with Anna Hazare.

But this sort of overwhelming support for Anna Hazare from Hindutva forces was not limited just to this little-known town of Pipariya. The fact is that the same story was repeated across the country, in virtually every village, locality and city, where activists of the RSS and its associated outfits proved to be the backbone of the agitation.

For me the important question is not why the RSS participated in Anna Hazare’s movement. This was, after all, its own decision. As far as I am concerned, the key question is this: How did folks raising Gandhian slogans and who never tire hailing secularism become a part of an RSS-backed scheme? This is a very important question that must be asked and must also be answered. How did people like Medha Patkar, Swami Agnivesh, Prashant Bhushan and Sandeep Pandey, and many other such activists, who have all along opposed communalism and have themselves been targeted by communal forces, fall prey to this RSS conspiracy and get involved in an RSS-backed movement? Their stance has greatly troubled millions of Dalits, Adivasis and religious minorities of this country, who have not hesitated to express their distaste for Anna Hazare’s movement, not least because of its being so closely linked to Hindutva forces. Is it that these activists simply failed to understand the draconian nature of the Jan Lokpal that Anna Hazare and his Hindutva backers are demanding? Is it that they have failed to understand the nature of the forces at work behind the mob demonstrations that we recently witnessed? Is it that the secularism that they kept talking about earlier was a pretence? These are questions that they have to answer.

It goes to the credit of a number of leaders, activists, and intellectuals from the Dalit and OBC communities to have pointed out not only how the Anna Hazare-led movement and many of its demands militate heavily against the oppressed castes but also how it is heavily communal, being closely allied to the Hindutva agenda. The noted writer Mudra Rakshas, for one, plainly declared, ‘The Jan Lokpal represents the agenda of the Indian Savarna middle-class, which, while claiming to be modern, continues to cling to the communalism of the RSS’. SK Panjam, editor of ‘Dalit Today’, believes that Hazare’s Jan Lokpal is a new tool of Savarna Hindu revivalism. For his part, Rajvir Yadav of the Arjak Sangh insists that it is an assault on the Indian Constitution by the forces of Savarna Hindu chauvinism. Many other ideologues from the oppressed castes opine that Anna Hazare’s movement has been propped up as part of a conspiracy on the part of Hindutva forces to stop the caste-based census and stall the passing of the proposed bill against communal violence.

True to form, the dominant Indian media has deliberately ignored such voices, thus revealing, as Anna Hazare’s movement also does, its Savarna casteist and Hindu communal character.

Bhanwar Megwanshi is a noted social activist from Bhilwara, Rajasthan. He edits the Hindi monthly ‘Diamond India’, a journal that deals with grassroots’ social issues. Having for many years been associated with the RSS, he parted company with it and is now associated with the Rajasthan-based Mazdoor-Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS), working on issues related to Dalits, Adivasis and nomadic castes. He can be contacted on bhanwarmeghwanshi[AT]gmail.com / 09829646720