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    The BJP and HINDU fundamentalism

    The BJP and Hindu fundamentalism
    By Richard Phillips and Waruna Alahakoon
    12 February 2000

    The World Socialist Website


    The BJP is a Hindu chauvinist party, which rests on various extreme right wing fundamentalist formations, in particular the fascistic RSS. The RSS was responsible for the murder of Mahatma Gandhi in 1948, claiming that he was too conciliatory towards Indian Muslims.

    [b]Vajpayee and Home Minister L.K. Advani are life-long members of the RSS, while Heavy Industry Minister Manohar Joshi is a leader of Shiv Sena, a quasi-fascist organisation that attempts to outdo other fundamentalist groupings affiliated to BJP. Bal Thackery, Shiv Sena's leader, is an open admirer of Adolf Hitler.[b]

    Joshi publicly endorsed the shutdown of Water. Advani said the protests against the film had to be given “due consideration” and the film could only go ahead if it was based on a consensus between Mehta and her opponents. Advani and Joshi led the campaign that resulted in the destruction of Babri Masijid mosque in Ayodhya in 1992 and unleashed the worst communalist violence since the 1947 partition of India. Advani still faces charges over his defiance of a Supreme Court ruling opposing any attack on the mosque.

    The BJP and the Sangh Parivar insist that India must become an exclusivist Hindu state with strictly observed religious traditions, blaming all the ills of society on foreign influences and other religions, particularly Islam, for the breakdown of Hindu norms. Like the extreme rightwing and fascistic movements that have appeared elsewhere around the world, the Hindu communalist organisations seek to exploit the discontent and disorientation produced by economic change and deepening poverty, social inequality and dislocation, and turn it in a reactionary direction by dividing the Indian masses along religious and caste lines.

    The BJP extended its influence in the early 1990s as the Indian government began to scrap national economic regulation and open up the economy to foreign investors. Backed by powerful business interests the BJP in government is committed to further economic restructuring, privatisation and cuts to social spending—processes which will inevitably produce widespread opposition.

    The attack on Mehta's film is a danger sign of what the BJP and its allies have in store for anyone who challenges any aspect of its ideology and actions. Because it is about Hindu widows and involves an “inter-caste” relationship, Water touches on issues at the core of the Hindu fundamentalist ideology.

    In the past, Hindu widows were encouraged to perform sati (a ritual suicide in which they burnt to death on their husband's funeral pyre) or were thrown out of the family home and forced to eke out a miserable life as beggars in and around temples in the holy cities. While sati was officially abolished in the first half of the 19th century, strict religious custom dictated that widows shaved their heads, wore rags, ate one meal a day and slept on a grass mat.

    Today the oppressed position of widows remains. Many are forced to leave their families and lead a precarious existence living on the margins of society. According to a recent report, an estimated 16,000 West Bengali widows live as beggars in the city of Vrindavan.

    According to the fundamentalists, the establishment of Hindu norms would lead to a peaceful and harmonious society. But the lot of widows in India is just a particularly repulsive example of the way in which religious traditions are exploited to defend existing forms of oppression. Defence of the caste system, which bars sexual relations or any direct physical contact between the higher castes and “untouchables,” meets up with the requirements of the ruling class to justify the country's yawning social divide between rich and poor and to keep the “lower castes” in their place. Far from being a recipe for a harmonious society, Hindu fundamentalism fuels caste-related violence, which is endemic in India with countless acts of violence and murder against the “untouchables”.

    Through her works, Mehta, who is a thoughtful filmmaker, expresses her concerns about religious divisions and social relations. In 1998, the organisations that are now demanding Water be stopped organised riots in New Delhi and Bombay outside cinemas showing Fire, the first of her trilogy. Films by other Indian-based directors have also come into conflict with Hindu fundamentalists and the authorities, including Bombay by Mani Ratnam, Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love by Mira Nair and Bandit Queen by Shekhar Kapur.

    On Tuesday the Madhya Pradesh government offered shooting locations for the film in that state. While it is not clear whether Mehta will take up this offer, the campaign against the film will continue. Straight after the Madhya Pradesh offer, Uma Bharti, a central government MP and a former minister, told the press that Mehta and her crew “would be stoned” if they attempted to make the film. Mahant Shankara Bharti, president of the Akhil Bharatiya Akhara Parishad (ABAP), another Hindu chauvinist grouping, declared: “We can go to any extent, even sacrifice our lives and take others' lives to stop this film.”

    The ongoing attempts to intimidate Deepa Mehta and her cast and crew, makes clear that the BJP and its communalist allies are planning deeper assaults on the democratic rights and social conditions of all working people. When they dictate in advance what filmmakers, artists and writers produce they are attempting to control what everybody should think and do. The historic parallel that immediately springs to mind is the burning of books carried out by Hitler's brownshirts in the 1930s.

    #2
    im sure rani doesnt have any input on this. o wait a second its about hindu women...... maybe they dont count for much.

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