Here is what you may not have heard: Since May 2014, there has been a surge in killings of RSS and BJP workers across the country. Not just in Kannur in Kerala, where this violence has been prevalent for decades and has been assigned its own enclave, removed from civilised conscious living, but even in states like Punjab, Bihar, and increasingly Karnataka. But here is what you must have heard, more so from the lips of “influencers” — not social media trolls with anonymous profiles and vicious tongues, but from leaders of political parties that drive thousands to manufactured frenzy, and from eminent columnists in newspapers that have circulation figures in the lakhs. These articles are printed, translated, and widely shared online. A common refrain of these articles is “RSS the fascists”. A claim that even JP Narayan, a guiding force for some of these interest groups, dismissed by saying, “If the RSS is fascist, then I am a fascist too.” But then they haven’t remembered his ideals in so many matters, so why bother with one as politically inconvenient as this. For it is about politics, and those in the know are quick to point out that the disciplined RSS cadre is the difference between the BJP and other political parties. Hence the bumbling attempts and suggestions by the RJD and the Congress in Bihar and Madhya Pradesh, to build parallel organisations. They have no idea that the RSS is much more than a campaign team for the BJP.
Anyway, returning to the ‘fascist’ tag, what must be done with them in a free democratic country? Not in my name, but then in whose name? This is the cleverness: build up the hate, the anxiety, and then turn a blind eye to the murders. No outrage, no comment, no condemnation. The cycle has repeated itself over and over again.
Last week, a 28-year-old young man, Sharath, an RSS volunteer, was killed in Bantwal, Karnataka, as he closed his Laundromat and headed home to his elderly parents. He was mercilessly hacked to death by a group of unidentified men. No arrests have been made so far, neither has there been a protest rally demanding justice for him. Or a media debate centred around his murder though he isn’t the first in this series.
For those besieged by the anti-RSS rhetoric (and who can blame the well meaning, it has been going on for decades), Sharath was a popular young man who got along well with the other shopkeepers in the area and worked hard and supported his family. He had no personal enmity, according to the police. Maybe, it is alright to speak about him now?
In death, he joins Rudresh from his state, who was murdered in October, 2016, in Bangalore’s Shivaji Nagar when he was returning home in his RSS ganavesh/uniform. People were arrested for his murder. Eventually, a couple of communally sensitive names, a diabolical and well-thought-out plan, and the site for training the killers in neighbouring Kerala, were revealed. Needless to mention, had this been a situation in reverse, nationwide outrage would have erupted and crossed the borders to the newsroom of the New York Times. The system that picks up issues selectively is well entrenched and controls channels of mass dissemination. The silence following his murder is unsurprising.
But will it happen with Sharath? Not on my watch. I have been tracking this pattern of murders from Punjab to Kerala, each one of them, and the count has gone into double digits since it began in May 2014. Each murder has been well thought out and executed; there have been no random acts of violence or mob fury. Planned, calibrated, directed and executed. This has been the pattern. But in whose name?
I have been personally threatened with violence, smear campaigns have been launched, avenues for me to be published have been closed or discouraged, and most recently an article that attacks my character and signals violence against me has been written. There are places in this country that I can no longer visit, and as a freelance writer I have no buffer — no political party or media organisation is looking out for me. It was to be anticipated; I refuse to be a cause celebre. I write this to enunciate that I have been introduced to this systematic attack at all levels (from the crude to the sophisticated) for merely stating facts. It can get a lot worse, how the silent system operates; while the outrage is directed elsewhere, the bodies of RSS workers are piling up.
No one needs to dive in, but my only request is that the next time someone speaks of the RSS in hyperbolic terms (even hate speech), ask them why so many of them are being killed? That conversation may lead to some startling insights discovered on your own if my voice doesn’t resonate.
By Advaita Kala
The author is an established writer and screenwriter