You just can’t keep the doctor away from the media. If it isn’t communal filth that he’s spewing in various meetings, it’s this hugely amusing act he’s now put together with the trishul. It paid rich dividends; the ever gullible Ashok Gehlot fell for it and had him locked up, which gave Praveen Togadia all the media attention he wanted. Whether he actually wanted to be locked up or not is a moot point. He may well have wanted it, having sensed the media benefits.
Many years ago, when the Bharatiya Janata Party was still the Jan Sangh, one of its more erratic candidates who contested the Chandni Chowk seat in the Sixties was beside himself with joy and ecstasy when he won, and demanded that he be arrested immediately. I was secretary to the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi then, and when the police sent in this message, I was on the point of telling them that the man could go and jump into the Jamuna for all that we cared, but I thought I’d tell the Lt. Governor first, if only to amuse him; to my surprise the Lt. Governor, A.N. Jha, wise man that he was, told me to ensure that the man was indeed arrested. “He wants his supporters to see him as a fighter for freedom, you see,” he explained gently, “so why not give him that image' It costs us nothing, because the police can take him a little way down the road and let him go, and you have a deliriously happy legislator in the bargain.” (And that, just to complete the story, is what we did.)
But the chances are that Togadia would not have been quite as frenzied because the experience of being arrested and put in jail seemed — for a while, at any rate — to have chastened him. Not for long, of course. He’s back to his stand-up comedy act, waving trishuls all over the place and doing all he can to fan hatred, violence and evil in the crowds that listen to him. I suspect a large amount of them think he’s touched in the head; only a few would be idiotic enough to accept the shrewdly-thought-up abuse and violent rhetoric that Togadia has perfected.
Make no mistake, to quote that master of the English language, George W. Bush, he’s doing this basically to draw attention to himself. His primary and only obsession is to get the media to keep talking about him. If they stop doing so, he will probably drag himself into a corner and die, a broken man. Media attention is keeping this extraordinary creature alive. And the brilliance of his seizing on the trishul as a device to further his campaign of hatred and violence has left the bigwigs in the Vishwa Hindu Parishad with virtually no alternative except to acclaim it as a true campaign for the greater Hindu glory they foresee coming.
In a recent television news programme, Ashok Singhal worked himself into a lather trying to defend the trishul campaign, and ended up saying what he himself must have realized was so ridiculous as to be wildly funny. Hindus are second class citizens, he thundered, and have been so for the last fifty years. That is, as soon as we became independent, Hindus became second class citizens. Just as, presumably, Jews are second class citizens in Israel, and Christians second class citizens in France, Germany, Britain and in most of Europe.
In the same programme, Sheila Dixit patiently tried to explain that the trishul was an integral part of the accoutrements of Shiva, and had never been used as a symbol by itself in a religious sense, in the way Om or the swastika has been and is. But the redoubtable Mr Singhal was going to have none of that. Of course it has been used, he shouted into the mike, the VHP has used it in its logo. You see where senile dementia can take a person. The reference was to the use by Hindus generally as a sacred symbol or emblem, which Om and the swastika certainly are. But this gentleman equates that with the VHP logo, which is more akin to the spear being used in Shakespeare’s coat of arms.
Nor did Singhal stop there. He justified the use of the trishul as a symbol of unity, of bringing castes together, of creating a Hindu identity, among other things. What unity was he talking of' And what bringing together of castes' When young lovers from different castes are hanged by their own families, will the trishul serve as a magic wand to bring the lovers to life' And will it really make it possible for Dalits and Brahmins to live side by side and eat together in the same place in the villages of Rajasthan or Uttar Pradesh' When different political parties are basing themselves on specific castes and communities to gain access to power, is the trishul going to dissolve these parties and bring about the triumph of the VHP'
A rather curious dimension to this issue is the inexplicable attitude taken by the minorities commission. That body has said that the trishul campaign is perfectly in order and is part of religious activity; one member said, ludicrously enough, that if Sikhs could wear the kirpan then what was wrong with carrying a trishul' One had long suspected this particular commission of being a creature of political powers, and this sort of statement makes that suspicion very real. Sikhs carry the kirpan because their holy scriptures specifically enjoin all devout Sikhs to do so; what Hindu scripture enjoins Hindus to carry a trishul'
But then no one is really fooled by Togadia’s mendacious rantings; neither, one suspects, is Togadia. (Singhal may well be; he gives the appearance of being incapable of anything else.) What he is using the trishul for is pretty clear to most people; Togadia is using the trishul as a weapon, an instrument of death and destruction; he is desecrating what is and has for thousands of years been sacred to real Hindus all over the world, the trishul as a part of the image of Shiva, sacred to Hindus because of being that, not because of the loathsome connotations that creatures like Togadia are trying to give it.
Many years ago, because they considered themselves the true Aryans, the Nazis appropriated one of Hinduism’s sacred images, the swastika. As long as they were in power that image became synonymous with terror, death, torture and all manner of evil. Fortunately they got the form of the symbol wrong, and what they used was not the true swastika as we know it. But their reason for using it was no different from what Togadia is trying now, except that Togadia knows exactly what the trishul looks like. His campaign, carried out in the presence of the BJP powerbrokers who hear no evil, see no evil and speak no evil of this man, will be more insidious and dangerous since it will be done among those who know and revere the trishul as an attribute of Shiva himself.
The home minister is reported to have said the campaign was wrong, or misconceived or some such thing. If he really thinks that, what does he intend to do about it' The answer is too obvious for me even to set it down.