VHP’s ultimatum: My Way or the High Way!

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KO Analysis 

The state (Jammu) unit  of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad(VHP today threatened to launch a massive agitation and enforce an economic blockade in Jammu and Kashmir if the assembly allowed a discussion to revoke provisions criminalizing bovine slaughter and sale of beef in the state.Leela Karan Sharma, president of te state unit further said that “If the beef ban is revoked, VHP would enforce an economic blockade in Kashmir, forcing people to starve. The people of Jammu would not tolerate it…The government will have face consequences” . Drawing a parallel with the 2008 agitation, Sharma said “People will be forced to take to the streets and launch an agitation similar to the one in 2008 if slaughtering of bovines continued unabated in the region,”.

This is as clear as a threat can be. But it is a very odd threat. Its oddity accrues from the fact that the VHP is part of an umbrella group of far right parties which propound the ideology of Hindutva- an ideological construct that roots for the Hinduization of India’s polity and society. The BJP is part of this ‘parivar’. And it is the BJP in coalition with the PDP that rules the state currently. This raises a set of questions: why is the VHP raising the ante and making clear cut threats when its constituent is part of the J & K government? Second, what does the nature of the threat tell us?

The answer to the first question is speculative but is lent credence by the inference that can be drawn from the speculation. The VHP appears to be, either in cahoots with the BJP or without, attempting to carve out and consolidate the Hindu vote in the Jammu region. This may explain the in your face poke to Kashmiris in the form of the beef ban. The far right parties appear to want to polarize the state of Jammu and Kashmir by provoking a reaction in the Kashmir division – a Muslim majority entity- that, in turn, catalyzes a counter reaction in Jammu. The aim, in the schema, is to create, generate, and sustain tension and friction leading to deep polarization in the state. Another theory is that the far right may be wanting to generate this tension to either bifurcate or trifurcate the state. But this sounds a tad farfetched given that the idea of self determination propounded by separatists in Kashmir will have a sharpened focus and this argument may get stronger. By way of elimination then, the far right’s aim may be to generate tension , polarize the state along communal and religious lines to build and consolidate the Hindu vote. In this schema, they want to monopolize the politics of the Jammu region and from this vantage point attempt to bring to fruition their agendas even it means widening the rift within the BJP-PDP coalition or put the PDP on the back foot.

 This analysis, however, does not answer the question what the threat indicates?

The highest set of debate and discussion in a state of the Indian Union is the legislative Assembly.  In this hallowed forum, debate and discussion are at the heart of the legislative process and are held to be the epitome of democracy.  The VHP has clearly stated that it will choke Kashmir and take to the streets even if the beef ban is discussed in the Assembly. This is significant: it attacks the citadel of democracy and freedom of speech by threatening to make the street the theater of politics with violence as the arbiter. Alarming as it is intrinsically, it has long term implications and connotations. In the world view of the VHP and perhaps its Singh Parivar allies, debate, discussion has no room and the democratic nature of India is merely a means to an end for them to be employed for a larger goal and end: the goal of Hinduizing the country and making it conform to the ideology of Hindutva. Democracvy has no intrinsic and inherent appeal to them. But it has an instrumental appeal in terms of using it to advance their agendas. Barring this, it is akin to ‘ my way or the high way’ for the country’s far right- a theme that is as alarming as it is dangerous.

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