ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846
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Conspiracy Mongering

The plot-to-kill-Modi bogey surfaces at politically convenient moments for the Bharatiya Janata Party.

After dilly-dallying for five months, on 6 June 2018 the Pune police made multiple arrests in Mumbai, Nagpur  and Delhi relating to the Bhima Koregaon case. The five accused—Sudhir Dhawale, Surendra Gadling, Shoma Sen, Mahesh Raut, and Rona Wilson, all human rights activists—were arrested for their association with the Elgar Parishad, which the police claim was responsible for inciting the violence at the bicentenary celebrations of Bhima Koregaon. The police also went on to claim that these “urban Maoists” were allegedly part of a “plot to kill” Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The timing of the arrests, the targets, and the discursive tropes invoked in this political move suggest that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is seeking to kill multiple birds with one stone.

It would appear that this high-voltage political drama has been timed to tide over one of the first sustained lows in the incumbent National Democratic Alliance government’s stint both in Maharashtra and at the centre. This pre-poll year started out on a sombre note for the ruling party with the violence at Bhima Koregaon triggering widespread Dalit protests and outrage across Maharashtra. Followed by nationwide protests against the Supreme Court judgment in March instituting procedural safeguards to check “the misuse” of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities [PoA]) Act, 2005, it seemed like Dalit alienation from the BJP was complete.

The targets in the latest salvo fired by the BJP include civil rights activists, rival political parties, and the Dalit outrage building against the government. After seeking to discredit left-wing student politics, the BJP’s next target seems to be left-wing civil society outfits—another powerful source of anti-BJP critique. That Bhima Koregaon is nothing more than an excuse is obvious from the fact that of the five accused, four had no links with the above-mentioned event whatsoever. The blatant manner in which “evidence” (the letters detailing the purported assassination plot) has been raked up (riddled as it is with inconsistencies) is deplorable. If this was not enough, the BJP went a step ahead and implicated the opposition parties, whose united front has contributed to the BJP’s current predicament, for using the “Maoists” as instruments against the government. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, in fact, has conceptualised a whole new category of “half Maoists,” the over ground face of the underground movement who “masquerade as activists,” espousing democracy but apparently simultaneously undermining it. These unjustified arrests under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 are also aimed at frightening Dalit/Ambedkarite intellectuals and leaders from leading campaigns against the government.

The BJP’s current strategy is nothing new. The characterisation of Dalit dissent and demands for justice as a Maoist conspiracy has been in vogue since the 2006 killing and rape of members of a Dalit family in Khairlanji, Maharashtra. The tactic of delegitimising Dalit resistance and assertion is a betrayal of the faith Dalits have repeatedly reposed in democratic and constitutional means in the face of the gravest of injustices. Coupled with the apex court’s judgment on the PoA Act, one can only draw the conclusion that Dalits are not going to get justice through judicial means or through public protest. In that case, more than Dalits turning anti-national, we are staring at the spectre of an anti-Dalit nation as it were.

Bhima Koregaon was a watershed moment for the BJP. The branding of the BJP’s rule as “Navi Peshwai” by left progressive forces at the Elgar Parishad preceding the Bhima Koregaon anniversary in Pune (EPW, 6 January 2018) was a potent political metaphor that could be used to rally the lower castes against Hindutva forces. In a state like Maharashtra, with its long history of anti-caste movements and counterculture, this metaphor could have an impact on the fortunes of the Sangh Parivar irreparably and, worse, spread to other parts of the country. Much as the government sought to douse the flames of fury after Bhima Koregaon, it actually resurrected Ambedkarite groups and parties and placed them at the centre stage of Maharashtra politics. Furthermore, in seeking to implicate Dalits in a case of mob violence against themselves, what the ruling dispensation is seeking to hide is the role of Hindutva groups in spurring that violence in the first place. The last two months have seen major rallies and counter-rallies in Mumbai and Kolhapur for and against the arrests of Sambhaji Bhide and Milind Ekbote, the alleged masterminds of the violence at Bhima Koregaon. Thus, this attempt to shift the narrative beyond Bhima Koregaon by branding the movement behind it as extremist and anti-state must be read as a concerted attempt at seeking to puncture Dalit anger by creating internal tensions.

Notwithstanding the trumped-up hysteria in mainstream media, the “plot to kill Modi” has not received the kind of sympathy the BJP had hoped for. Far from cowing under the links drawn with the Maoists, opposition parties, including Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party, have gone on the offensive against these arrests and supposed threats. After all, this bogey has been raised every time Modi was in a tight spot, going back to his chief ministerial days in Gujarat. That the BJP has been reduced to such conspiracy mongering and chronicling of the Prime Minister’s exercise regimen on social media, reveals the desperation that has crept into the party’s minders to deflect the criticism coming its way. It also exposes the present-day BJP’s collapse into a one-man party, in whose physical preservation lies the preservation of the party itself.

Updated On : 21st Jun, 2018

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