Hindustan Times - Mar 25, 2017
Saraswati, Akbar, yoga and cow: UP in focus but Hindutva already at play in most BJP-ruled states
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Uttar Pradesh is bustling with activity as the new BJP government has started a crackdown on illegal slaughterhouses and so-called Romeos, leading to jubilation among fringe Hindu groups.
Chief minister Yogi Adityanath has announced zero-tolerance towards communal violence but many say the appointment of the Goraknath temple chief in the top job might boost the Hindutva agenda in India’s biggest state with 18% Muslim population.
But in a number of other BJP-ruled states, such a push is already visible. These states have brought changes in the policy that they claim are to “correct distortion” of the Congress but the opposition term them as pushing the RSS agenda.
In Haryana, public funds have been allocated for finding the mythological river Saraswati with a central institution asked to conduct research on the river that found a mention in the Rigveda.
In Rajasthan, history books are being rewritten to teach students that Mughal king Akbar was not the victor, but was defeated by local icon Maharana Pratap in the Battle of Haldighati . The state has witnessed a spurt in attack by fringe Hindu groups against Christians in recent months.
“What is happening in Uttar Pradesh or any other BJP-ruled state is not surprising for me. This is what one can expect from the RSS. They will like to change everything rational and modern that has been created in the last 65 years,” said former Delhi University history professor DN Jha.
But, the biggest binding force for pro-Hindu groups in the BJP ruled states had been vigilantism in the name of cow protection. As most of the cow trade is run either by Muslims or Dalits, they are the targets. And the BJP-ruled states have provided them the necessary legal help by enhancing penalties, with Gujarat now proposing 10 years of jail for killing cattle.
Although it is too early to say whether something similar will happen in Uttar Pradesh, here is a low down on the growing saffron stamp in some other BJP-ruled states.
Textbook change: Termed as cultural reform, the BJP government has revised text books to remove chapters on Jawaharlal Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination and introduce chapters on the Emergency, on RSS ideologues Shyama Prasad Mukherjee and Deen Dayal Upadhyay.
New school uniform: From the next academic year, students in government schools will have to wear brown trousers in place of khaki — the change resembling the new dress code of the RSS.
Surya namaskar: The ritual of Hindus, surya namaskar, is now part of morning prayers in all government schools. The government terms it as an exercise which has nothing to do with religion. Education minister Vasudev Devnani said a community (read Muslims) which follows the moon cannot disrespect the sun.
Cow vigilantism: The only state to have a department for cow protection has seen a spurt in cases of bovine vigilantes. The so-called protectors stripped alleged smugglers and thrashed them in Pratapgarh district in June 2016. This week, vigilantes led by Sadhvi Kamal, forced the Jaipur municipal corporation to seal a Muslim-owned hotel even before any forensic report on whether the meat served at the establishment was beef .
Attack on Christians:Christians in tribal districts of Rajasthan have come under attack by members of the Vanvasi Kalyan, an affiliate of the RSS, and Vishwa Hindu Parishad in recent past.
Cow slaughter: The government amended the law on cow slaughter in 2010, enhancing the jail term for killing of cows and cow progeny from three to seven years. The accused will have to prove himself innocent in a court of law rather than the prosecution proving him guilty .
RSS shakhas: The government lifted a ban on state employees by a previous Congress government on participation in RSS shakhas. The government’s view is that the RSS is an apolitical organisation, and hence, employees could freely take part in it.
College dress code: The state government has prescribed salwar and kurta as dress for girls in all colleges from the next academic year. The institutes will have to display the pictures of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Swami Vivekananda, Mahatma Gandhi and BR Ambedkar among others.
Pilgrimage, paid by state: One of most ambitious schemes introduced by chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan offers pilgrimage to people on state government’s expenses. Though members of non-Hindu communities too can avail the benefit of the scheme, the Opposition sees it as the BJP government’s Hindutva agenda.
Yoga, surya namaskar: Yoga is now a subject in all schools with a teacher for the same in every school now. The state government organises surya namaskar every year in January to mark the birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda. Muslims have opposed it.
Cashing in on cows: Chief minister Monahar Lal Khattar has enforced a ban on cow slaughter and sale of beef with renewed vigour. A special wing has been created under a senior Indian Police Service (IPS) officer. In addition, a permit is needed to export a cow from outside the state for rearing.
Searching for Saraswati: Rejuvenating the mythological river Saraswati, which finds a mention in the Rigveda, is high on the government’s agenda. The first attempt to revive the river by digging a canal in Kurukshetra was done in 2016 and Dehradun-based Wadia Institute of Himalayan Ecology has been given the job of tracking the non-existent river.
Banking on babas: Khattar, a former RSS pracharak, had appointed Baba Ramdev as brand ambassador of Haryana with a cabinet minister rank, a position the yoga guru declined. Later, the government invited Jain monk Tarun Sagar to address the Vidhan Sabha, who caused a controversy by addressing the House nude.
Name change: Gurgaon was renamed Gurugram, because mythology states Dronacharya in the Mahabharata used to train Pandavas and Kauravas at the same site. Also, Mustafabad town of Yamunanagar district was rechristened as Saraswati Nagar on the grounds that it was linked to the mythological Saraswati river.
Curriculum curve: Initially, the Haryana government floated the idea of introducing Bhagavad Gita for students of all classes in its schools across the state. As the move was severely opposed, it tweaked the idea and introduced a book on moral education with Gita and text from other religions also part of it.
Textbook change: In 2014, the Gujarat government mandated Tejomay Bharat as supplementary reading in all government primary and secondary schools. The book, written by RSS education wing member Deenanath Batra, credits ancient India for many scientific discoveries, including space missions.
Punishment for cow slaughter: In 2011, the state government made cow and progeny slaughter and transportation illegal by amending the Gujarat Animal Preservation Act 1954. It introduced three to seven year imprisonment for offenders. The government proposes to enhance the punishment to 10 years and a law is likely to be introduced in ongoing budget session.
Cow vigilantes: It is the only state that gives cash incentives to cow protectors. Between 2011 and 2014, the state has disbursed Rs 75 lakh to 1,394 vigilantes for raiding illegal cattle transporters. The top performer got Rs 3.75 lakh including biennial best cow protector award.
Cow Slaughter Act:The previous BJP government of Arjun Munda enacted the Prevention of Cow Slaughter Act that provides for a penalty of Rs 5,000 and imprisonment of up to five years or both for offenders, and was strictly enforced by the present government. The incumbent BJP government is planning to make cow slaughter a non-bailable offence.
Name change: Ranchi University had recently mooted a proposal to rename the famous Ranchi College after Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyay, a strong votary of the Hindutva movement. The proposal has been stalled for the moment following resistance by anti-saffron students’ wings.
Forceful conversion: Chief minister Raghubar Das had recently said that penalty provision for alleged forceful conversion by Christian missionaries will be enacted and had started a helpline for people to register complaints. No change in law has been introduced in the assembly so far.
New scheme for cow sheds: The Jharkhand government has made a rule for disbursing Rs 50 for each rescued cows to gaushalas (cow sheds). Hundreds of cows are rescued every month across the state, especially on national high ways. These cows were brought to Gausalas for their upkeep. However, Gausala owners feel that the amount is still less.
(With inputs from correspondents in Bhopal, Ranchi, Chandigarh, Ahmedabad and Jaipur)