Why should Praveen Togadia be arrested for some hate speech? I wish people would not be so narrow-minded and try listening carefully. In a democratic country, not only does he exercise his right to free speech but his words can prove to be valuable evidence. Yes. The brave man has just put his hand in the alligator’s mouth. Now it is upto the authorities to register his speech not on grounds of hate or that ridiculous “causing enmity between two communities”, but because he has accepted culpability, that minorities were killed.
Some people are saying he ought to be arrested just as MIM leader Akbaruddin Owaisi was for his incendiary speech in Hyderabad last month. Owaisi has a position; Togadia does not – he is the proverbial harlot with the privilege of power without responsibility. (It is also important to note that a few Muslims filed a case against Owaisi.)
Togadia’s arrested development needs to be examined rather than caged. I watched this part of the speech and, to be honest, had some bits not been about tragic events, it is pure pantomime. That the International Secretary of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad – I had earlier wondered whether his job profile meant trying to get funds from overseas to prop up our ancient heritage – should feel the need to respond to Owaisi reveals insecurity. Like all insecure people, he plays up others’ deficiencies to show that what he stands for is superior.
He talks about communal riots with glee:
“Woh Assam mein….Nelli…teen hazaar laashein thi unme, miyan, Hindu ki laash eik bhi nahin thi… Bhagalpur ke nazdeek Ganga behti hai, laashein hi laashein thi…gin nahin paaye…unme eik bhi laash Hindu ki nahin thi…Aisa hi UP mein…Meerut mein Moradabad mein hua, arre Gujarat mein police khadi thi, dekho kya hua…”
(In Nelli, Assam 3000 were killed, but Miyan, not one Hindu. Near Bhagalpur where the Ganga flows, there were bodies upon bodies, but not one was Hindu. The same in UP’s Meerut, Moradabad…and in Gujarat the cops were there and yet what happened…)
His organisation is closely associated with the BJP that rules in some states and is the largest Opposition Party in India. The VHP, like the RSS, has always provided tactical support as well as been an intrinsic part of the brainstorming sessions (more on that later). He is saying quite forcefully that these killings during riots were the handiwork of Hindutva groups. In Gujarat he has openly implicated the police. Will the BJP just call him a big mouth and continue to be in denial of its role in these riots?
The party has a master strategy of using its satellites as foot soldiers when it wants to put on its moderate face. However, it is time to use this as a record. Unless, of course, the BJP decides to push for the arrest of Praveen Togadia. This is unlikely, and as always it will use its ‘action-reaction’ argument.
We should go beyond politics and just as the majority of Muslims who were not at Owaisi’s rally did not find his speech rousing or amusing, only those Hindus who were at Togadia’s rally were laughing. Or, perhaps those in the web world using their anonymity to get a high they lack in real life.
There is, however, one serious issue here. Togadia may be a backroom boy, but the BJP has never distanced itself from him. This lends him legitimacy by default. Given the manner in which minorityism is being viewed almost everywhere, these words having some sort of subliminal impact on the reasonable and the rational cannot be ruled out. I have maintained that Syed Shahabuddin can be more dangerous than the Imam of Jama Masjid.
We have been watching how Subramaniam Swamy with all his Ivy League credentials has taken it upon himself to make Muslims admit to their Hindu ancestry. This has got a lot of mileage, although the late K. Sudarshan of the RSS had said this many years ago. Now, Togadia raised the same subject in his speech when he called Muslims cowards who left Hinduism: “Kaayaron Hindu dharm chhod ke chale gaye…”
Next time the saffron parties use this word, they will have to remember never to talk about Mahatma Gandhi again, for he had famously said, “The Hindu is a coward, the Muslim a bully.”
So, who is the coward and who is the bully? Do social interaction and the nation’s Constitution take cognisance of such terms? Is Togadia trying to possibly proselytise? How does one become a Hindu when they say Hinduism is a way of life? Every religion has scriptures and rituals and places of worship. If it were a way of life, people would not need those.
And Togadia forgets what he said a couple of years ago:
“SIT has called me because I am a Hindu. No Hindu in Gujarat is safe. In this country, Hindu saints, temples, organisations are targets of jihadis.”
So, is the coward on the rebound? The pugnacity of Togadia is seeking sanction from a wider variety. He is performing a soap opera. He is targeting the female population:
“Ma Durga bhavani ka dharm hai…humne apni maataon ke haath mein belan dekha hoga, aaina dekha hai, lipstick dekhi hai, pressure cooker dekha hai, washing machine dekha hai. Durga maa ke haath mein belan nahin…meri Durga Bhavani ke haath mein yadee talwar nahin tau Durga Bhavani nahin hai…”
(This is the faith of Goddess Durga. We have seen our mothers with rolling pin, mirror, lipstick, pressure cooker, washing machine. Durga does not have these. If there is no sword in her hand, then she is no Durga.)
It would be interesting to see what all these godmen who have been making expert comments on everything from women’s clothes to rape in the most sexist manner have to say to this ‘feminist’ tripe of Togadia. Indira Gandhi was called Durga; so is Mamata Bannerjee. No woman from the BJP or its acolytes has been given this honour.
Will we see homemakers internalising the war cry and imagining they have slaughtered the chapattis with the rolling pin?
More importantly, is the BJP going to distance itself from the Togadia? Impossible. For, on February 7, the BJP’s poster boy Narendra Modi is to attend a meeting organised by the VHP at the Allahabad Mahakumbh. Starting tomorrow, it is a two-day event of seers, who will decide whether they want to endorse NaMo as PM candidate for the BJP. The report says that it might not go all the way and the “sant samaj (the order of monks) might extend its blessings to Modi”.
Further, the report states:
If the seers support Modi’s candidature, there will be pressure on the BJP’s central leadership to declare him as their candidate. However, Sources said that even after the saints’ endorsement, BJP’s parliamentary board might stop short of announcing anyone as its candidate for now, keeping alliance partners in mind. But, the party expects that saints’ open support to Modi will help get Hindu votes.
Ergo, the BJP cannot move an inch without its major backers. This is where Praveen Togadia’s statements could prove to be Modi’s nemesis. But that would be in a world where justice prevailed and not where a supposedly brilliant politician who is changing the face of his state willingly opts to be at the mercy of sadhus and stunts.
(c) Farzana Versey
My open letter in 2010: Dear Praveen Bhai Togadia
(c) Farzana Versey
My open letter in 2010: Dear Praveen Bhai Togadia