Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Painful Patel Punch: A National Social Re-engineering Experiment! BY R.K.MISRA (August 25th 2015)

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Painful Patel Punch: A National Social Re-engineering Experiment!


Society is like a stew. If you don’t stir it scum floats to the top. But those who do so must bear the burden of the stink.
Both stirred and shaken, Gujarat is going through turmoil-filled days as it’s affluent and  numerically strong patidar (patel) community mounts a fierce assault for OBC reservation that is straining the fabric of inter-community harmony to it’s tensile limits.

Fearful of a Patidar led-Anandiben Patel- government caving in to their demands, a counter-movement against it is building up as well.Two days ahead of the Patel’s biggest ever show of  community strength on August 25, the Other Backward Classes(OBC) mobilized  members from the 146 communities in it’s fold  for a dharna  near the Sabarmati ashram in  Ahmedabad on August 23.The SCs and STs symbolically joined  it  and the tone and tenor were distinctly repudiatory of the  Patels.”Any move by the government or any community to snatch our rights will first ensure  this government’s pack up and thereafter  force us,  the laboring class to take to a naxalism style stir". warned their leaders. Within hours the first indicators of the  caste tensions building  up came to the fore  when Patels and Thakores(an OBC caste) clashed with lethal weapons in Ranosan village of Mehsana district in North Gujarat leaving 12 of them injured. This is the very village from where the Patidar agitation started over  45 days ago.

As Patel leaders demonstrating superb managerial prowess  and financial resource management  are making known their resolve to carry the agitation  beyond  the boundaries of the state, the contours of a larger design are slowly beginning to emerge. With the state government  now veeering round to state that it is neither feasible  nor possible to accede to their demand, the new slogan emerging is ‘either us reservation or no reservation’. This in effect means  that either the Patels should be given reservation in the OBC category or there should be no reservation for anybody.

As a further indication of their resolve to escalate the stir the patidar leadership has also reached out to retired Col. Kirori Singh Baisla who successfully led the Gujjar agitation in Rajasthan even blockading traffic  passing through  their state to the country’s capital for a day.

Gujarat has been the crucible for important political experiments since long. It was the Dandi march initiated from Sabarmati ashram in Ahmedabad  on March 12,1930 by  Mahatma Gandhi leading to the salt satyagraha, and  civil disobedience movement which triggered off massive public indignation taking India to freedom 17 years later. Again it was the student led Navnirman agitation  from Ahmedabad in 1975 which led to the fall of the first Chimanbhai Patel headed Congress government. This purely student led  stir  triggered a chain of events that ultimately led to the rise of Jayprakash Narayan, followed by clamping of Emergency  and ultimately the installation of the Morarji Desai headed, first non-Congress government at the centre in 1977. 

Ironically it was Chimanbhai Patel who had subsequently quit the Congress and lent covert support to a  Patidar led anti-reservation stir that  ensured the fall of yet another Congress government in Gujarat ,this time  headed by Madhavsinh Solanki. The government fell within four months of being elected in 1985 with a majority of 149 seats in a House of 182  seats , a record that remains unbeaten to this day, not even by Narendra  Modi.

Another major political experiment was  the one spearheaded by the Hindu Dharma Jagran Manch (HJM) an affiliate of the VHP and the Bajrang Dal carried out in December 1998 in the solely tribal Dangs district in South Gujarat bordering Maharashtra.This was after Swami Aseemanand- who  subsequently figured in cases of hindu terror and spent extended time behind bars-was posted in  Dangs in 1995 by the RSS to set up an ashram and undertake ‘tribal welfare’activities. It was thereafter that a ‘shabari mahakumbh’was held here in 2006.Raising the bogey of threats to the ‘hindu tribal  majority’ a string of Christian places of worship were attacked  beginning Christmas  in 1998.The violence targeting Christian tribals and missionaries spread to other areas of  South Gujarat. Such was the national and international outcry over the incidents that took place during BJP chief minister Keshubhai Patel’s rule that Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Congress leader Sonia Gandhi had to visit Dangs. The violence against the minority Christian community had a twofold objective. Firstly to prevent  tribal conversions  to Christianity through creation of a fear psychosis   and secondly to divide the  tribals who formed  the core of the Congress vote-bank.

There are reasons to believe that Gujarat is once again the subject of a pilot project on social engineering. There is not an iota of doubt that a spirited and energetic youth leadership is spear heading the  agitation with  dedication and drive. But  it is also clear from the  speed  and skill, finesse and financial acumen with which  it is spreading like wildfire  that there are  sharper watchful eyes, who, while allowing it to progress are monitoring it all the way. Political analysts see in it a larger game-plan.

Both the RSS and the present Prime Minister are known to be votaries of a single point reservation-only for the economically backward class. Thus, if Modi and the RSS could have their way they would want to do away with  caste-based reservation. Not even easier said, much less easier done. 

As has been the case on numerous other occasions, no better place to carry out  an experiment under controlled conditions than Gujarat. For one, the Sangh Parivar and the various  RSS organs have been able to strike deep roots over the almost 20 year old BJP rule post-1995. A case in point is the spread of the innocuous  ‘pag pada sangh’, which is VHP shaded,and  has struck deep roots right into homes. It is now almost a ritual that on sacred occasions people-men, women even children-walk to key places of worship, some as distant as 350 kms away with public spirited people and organizations making arrangements for their rest, recuperation and  food  enroute. Many such organizations exist in a variety of spheres ensuring  penetration and pursuance powers for the Parivar organs in the social fabric of the state.

In the case of the Patidar stir, intelligence agencies have already supplied to authorities the names of  BJP and other sister set up leaders involved in  behind-the scene-organisational affairs. The chief minister, Anandiben Patel  and other senior leaders also had a closed door meeting with RSS leaders at Modi’s  old  ‘Sanskardham’ office on the outskirts of Ahmedabad on August23. At the end of it a statement for public consumption said that social harmony in the state should not be disturbed and we are discussing what role we can play in easing  tensions.

It is common knowledge that Patels constitute one of the largest block of BJP supporters. They moved away from the Congress  in the aftermath of 1985.This tilt  followed the attempt to marginalize  them through  the KHAM (Kshatriya,harijan,adivasi,muslim)  configuration,  successfully implemented by former chief minister Madhavsinh Solanki.Modi also tightened his grip over Gujarat in the almost 13 years that he held sway in the state. Thus Gujarat is the ideal place for a controlled experiment of this nature which involves building public opinion for such a major  but  extremely sensitive political experiment. Why otherwise would the  BJP Patel MLA whose office was vandalized by the agitators refuse to file a police complaint? Why have 37 Patel legislators and seven ministers been virtually silent spectators? Why has the government been taking a soft as satin approach to the agitation? It is only now when voices are being raised by the OBCs and the SCs and STs that it has begun to make some bold paper announcements.The instructions to the cops, however is to exercise great caution.

If the RSS has an agenda, Narendra Modi has an unorthodox delivery mechanism stretching beyond the strangulating confines of the government .This enables  forward movement as well as withdrawal without being seen to be doing either. Have we not noticed it in the sudden rash of high profile ‘ghar  wapasi’ events  that started hogging media space after a series of rash public utterances by BJP-Sangh constituent leaders? It was deliberate and planned, mainly to  bring the issue into sharp focus for purposes of a national debate on an anti-conversion law, variants of which have already been implemented in Gujarat.The purpose served, a quiet withdrawal and it  died down soon after.For those who know the inner mechanics,’ ghar wapasi’ is a year round continuing programme of the parivar being pursued  quietly. As is said, the greatest and most powerful revolutions often start very quietly hidden in the shadows. So do disasters.

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