The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Militant Hindutva has given rise to an unprecedented phenomenon: a competition among keepers of the faith. At the moment, it is the Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader, Mr Praveen Togadia, who is running away with the laurels. Nothing can keep this faithful down, being locked up in Rajasthan has only added a sheen to his heroic martyr image. He held another rally, in Delhi this time, to distribute tridents to VHP activists, in spite of having been hauled up in Rajasthan for doing exactly that. The concept of trishul diksha is both absurd and deliberately provocative, in line with the new myths being originated in the service of a militant, politicized Hindutva, like reconversion. Distributing tridents symbolizes an incitement to aggression, and it is no coincidence that in Mr Togadia’s rhetoric Bharat and Hinduism collapse into each other repeatedly and with ease.

The occasion for Mr Togadia’s present excitement is the prime minister’s declared willingness to restart a relationship with Pakistan. In his criticism, Mr Togadia has not spared either the prime minister or the leader of the opposition, Ms Sonia Gandhi, who has this time been accused of loving only Rajiv Gandhi and not India. Mr Togadia has as his soulmate the Shiv Sena chief, Mr Bal Thackeray, who has, with great politeness, requested the prime minister not to gift away the state of Kashmir to Pakistan. It is amazing that Mr Togadia and leaders of his odour are allowed to get away with inflammatory actions and speeches in a communally charged sphere and pretend that this is what politics is about. His vision of tanks in Rawalpindi and missiles in Lahore is exactly the kind of bloodthirstiness that needs to be restrained. What is even more amazing is the fact that this time the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and the Bharatiya Janata Party have both decided not to speak in different voices. Mr Togadia apparently needs to show his undaunted love for his religion. It could be argued that Mr Togadia’s aggressiveness, provocation and crass rudeness are being ignored because he is so obviously a figure from the loony fringe. But such an argument does not hold water. The VHP, Bajrang Dal and a number of other violent groups under the umbrella of the RSS have been repeatedly allowed to get away with not only the most outrageous statements but also the most serious crimes. The BJP has had a long time to put such people in their places. Mr Togadia does not belong to the loony fringe, he is merely articulating what a political party in a professedly secular country cannot. Perhaps he is hoping to become the next Mr Narendra Modi.

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