Abdul Shakeel Basha, known popularly as Shakeel to his friends, was arrested on various charges on June 17. The major charge is that he, along with his other friends, was planning to start a Maoist revolution in Gujarat, India. Shakeel is thirteenth amongst the activists who have been arrested on similar charges. Activists who have been arrested on the charge of being Naxalites include Avinash Kulkarni, Bharat Pawar, Makabhai Chowdhary, Jayaram Goswami, and others who have been working with tribal communities and workers in different parts of Gujarat to advocate for their economic rights. There has been no news of any violence in the areas where they have been working. One knows Shakeel has a long record of working for communal harmony, justice for Gujarat violence victims, and housing for street children.
Apart from Shakeel, the work of most of the activists arrested by Gujarat police has been within the confines of the Indian Constitution, in struggles based on the rights as citizens as weaker sections of society. The major violence witnessed by Gujarat has been the sectarian type, directed first against Muslim minorities and then at Christian minorities. In contrast, the work of some of these activists has been to promote communal harmony, which hindered the spread of the divisiveness promoted by the likes of Swami Aseemanand of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) – an affiliate of the right-wing Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) – who is currently absconding for his linkages with the perpetrators of the Ajmer terror attack.
With the nationwide beginning of operation ‘green hunt’ (the targeting of Naxalites/Maoists), the Gujarat police, not to be left behind, have targeted the activists working within constitutional limits. Gujarat has never been known to be the work area of Naxalites/Maoists. Followers of RSS have been calling the shots there for the last two decades as they try to convert it into an “ideal Hindu state.” Gujarat has already been boasted of as the ideal Hindu state, particularly since the violence against minorities became intense. The anti-Muslim offensive culminated in the Gujarat carnage of 2002. After 2002, there was a sustained attack on Christians. This violence is the marker of Gujarat.
One never heard of any Naxalite violence, and there are no criminal cases against most of the activists who have been arrested. It has only been through intense media propaganda that social activists have been defamed to the extent that Medha Patkar was attacked physically for her campaigns to protect the rights of tribal people. Strong propaganda against activists in general is part of the norms prevalent in Gujarat.
The sequence of the political events in Gujarat is very revealing. First, the sectarianism comes up; various factors promote this communal divide. This leads to the massive anti- Muslim pogrom on the pretext of the Godhra train burning. Then on the plea that Christian missionaries are converting the gullible Adivasis, anti-Christian violence is unleashed. This runs parallel with the aggressive conversion of Adivasis into Hinduism under the guise of “Ghar vapasi.” Through Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram, through swamis and associates, identity issues are projected in the Adivasi areas. The result of all this is the overall suspension of the concept of human rights and the demonization of social activists. As such, whatever little is there in the name of social activism has been dwarfed under the shadow of communal violence and the communalization of social space.
Due to these anti-minority attacks, minorities have been relegated to the status of second-class citizens. The culmination of this subjugation is the formation of Muslim ghettoes in urban areas and intimidation of Christians in Adivasi areas. At the same time, the concept of “Swarnim Gujarat” (Golden Gujarat), a haven for investors, is advertised through media. In tandem with this two-part attack, the rights of workers and tribal people are being suppressed to ensure that the industrialists can have their sway to make big money. As Ratan Tata put it, industrialists have to be in Gujarat. And so Anil Ambani and others of their ilk project Narendra Modi as the ideal Chief Minister, the future Prime Minister of India. The inference is emerging that an anti-minority pogrom has effectively been undertaken to create a smooth atmosphere for the industrialists. By subjugating minorities and democratic values, the illusion of “development” has been manufactured.
Narnedra Modi has been compared to Hitler time and time again. Through his anti-Jewish, anti-Communist tirades, Hitler created the “ideal” atmosphere for the big industrialists. It seems Modi has taken Gujarat on the same path. First he has ensured the suspension of human rights through anti-minority pogroms, then he demonized the social activists, and now any activity agitating for democratic rights of the marginalized is being done away with. Human rights workers working within the constitutional framework are being dubbed Naxalites and are being put behind bars. The idea is to smooth the path for big industrialists. Arrests of advocates for human rights is laying the red carpet for the reckless growth of industries and trampling on the interests of the deprived sections of society. What is hidden below the red carpet is the very concept of a welfare state, a secular state, a state that embraces the concept of human rights for all. One is also reminded of the RSS ideologue M.S. Golwalkar writing in his book “Bunch of Thoughts” that Muslims, Christians, and Communists are the internal threat to a Hindu nation. It seems that following his advice, first the Muslims, then the Christians, and now the social activists (communist substitutes) are being targeted as Naxalites.
The happenings in Gujarat show us the deeper designs of the political class of the country, who are executing industrialization without a human face, industrialization on the bodies of the marginalized sections. Hitler did precisely the same. In the short term it seems very rewarding, but surely one knows from history that once the violation of the concepts of democracy goes too far, the results are not very pleasing. Hitler refused to learn it in his life; that’s why he had to put a bullet in his head. Germany kept toeing his line; that’s why it faced the ruin after the temporary graphs showing economic prosperity.
Reaffirming that those believing in violence as a means for social change have no place in the democratic system, one must also learn that democracy is doomed in a state which does not allow peaceful social movements to exist.