Violence in one form or another has been an aspect of living, not just of change and evolution, in all societies, including our own.
Betraying innocence of situational awareness, CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury has found himself in a needless — and pointless — controversy. Speaking last week in Bhopal, where terror accused Pragya Singh Thakur, who calls herself a “sadhvi”, or female hermit, is the BJP's candidate for the Lok Sabha poll, he appears to have overlooked the terrorism aspect in Ms Thakur's candidature and got diverted into talking about violence and Hinduism, giving grist to the mill of his ideological opponents.
Violence in one form or another has been an aspect of living, not just of change and evolution, in all societies, including our own. And violence everywhere has taken many forms and has had multiple causes. When winners write the accounts, they glorify their own violence as just and necessary, and this has been the case everywhere.
Therefore, it was not just careless but also impolitic of Mr Yechury to point to famous Hindu epics like the Ramayana and the Mahabharata as also depicting violence. This was in response to Ms Thakur's reported observation that Hindus are not violent people. The unwritten subtext of this is that Hindus have only engaged in violence to put down evil and injustice, and other such convenient theorising the RSS-affiliates indulge in to further their political ends.
Instead of getting sucked into a meaningless discussion on whether people of particular religious groups are violent, the CPI(M) general secretary may have served his own politics better if he had pointed out that terrorism — the charge that the BJP's Bhopal candidate has to answer in court — is linked to ideological moorings, not religious affiliation. Thus, Al Qaeda has promoted terrorism but all Muslims are not terrorists. Similarly, the fact that a Hindutva votary like Nathuram Godse performed an act of terrorism in shooting Mahatma Gandhi dead does not make Hindus terrorists. Indeed, there is no link between Hindutva and Hinduism, although the RSS-BJP cynically overlooks this when they appeal to all Hindus for votes in the name of religion. Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, the progenitor of Hindutva philosophy who gave assurances of cooperation to British colonial rulers to secure his freedom from Cellular Jail in the Andamans, was a self-proclaimed atheist. He had no hesitation in saying that his interest was ideological and political, not religious.
For ulterior political reasons that have to do with defaming members of a particular faith, Hindutva votaries have long propagated the self-serving falsehood that a person who is Hindu by birth cannot, by definition, be a terrorist. This is plain nonsense, of course, as the assassination of Gandhi shows. But under the present government too, there have been some 40 cases of cow-related lynchings against dalits and Muslims. These too are overt examples of terrorism. Terrorism doesn't have to involve Kalashnikovs and suicide vests. Mr Yechury failed to point this out.