While the optimists think that combustible and volatile Haryana can control its Atalis fast, the fact of the matter is that from Mohan Bhagwat to Sakshi Maharaj, the trenchant nature of the polemic has only increased. There is a provocative statement being added to the communal cauldron on a daily basis, and Hindutva zealots have prompted the Owaisis and their ilk to respond in kind. Khap panchayats, honour killings and the so-called instances of ‘love jihad’ are all chips of the same block. Kangaroo courts that impose themselves, particularly on women, vary their absurdities from dress code decrees to determining romantic or sexual choices. With regressive mindsets dominant all over, the hiatus between town and country is narrowing, with disturbing consequences as far as social tensions are concerned.
The infiltration of RSS ‘shakhas’ at the micro level has become the rule now, with its sibling controlling the levers of power at the Centre and in many of the states as well. The manner of assertion is no longer couched in charming ambiguity —from beef-eating to the so-called demographic shift, nothing is being left to the imagination. Mindsets that control crucial ministries like Human Resource Development (HRD) are increasingly of the Dinanath Batra and YS Rao kind. The culture warriors are constantly rewriting history and belief systems to suit certain favourite myths. In the prevailing ethos, riots which were thought to be primarily urban in character are now increasingly gripping the hinterland as well. Agriculture, which contributed 6o percent of the GDP at the time of India’s Independence, now contributes just 14 percent or thereabouts, says Dipanker Gupta, and that reflects in all manifestations of life. Those who were part of the secularist project are a targeted lot with their names being erased from review committees and other such forums.
The year that has gone by (Atali coincidentally ‘happened’ on the eve of the Modi anniversary) has been eventful, most of it for the wrong reasons. If the urban landscape is marked by institutionalised ghettoisation, the countryside presents a picture of increasing economic distress and social tensions. The so-called secular brigade is conspicuously absent from the aimless discourse. The Samajwadi Party has completely lost its moorings midway through its ongoing term in Uttar Pradesh, and the Congress and the Left have been virtually decimated. In the bargain, what we are witnessing is full play being given to a not-so-hidden agenda. While Narendra Modi has asserted that no community can be targeted during his stewardship, Sangh Parivar footsoldiers are clearly not heeding such calls and there is little impact on the ground.
Meanwhile, even as independent investigations suggest that Atali was a case of pre-planned violence, the role of the former RSS apparatchik who is Haryana’s chief minister is coming into focus. While for BJP chief Amit Shah, politics is all about winning even at the cost of social cohesion, those at the lower level thrive because of their loyalty to individuals and the Parivar and not necessarily for their administrative acumen. The establishment will have to really reinvent itself if the image that it is getting saddled with is not to become an albatross around its neck. Every small or big violation is an indicator of the temper of the times.