Weaponisation of Hindu festivals fueling culture of violence in India

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Bajrang Dal workers dance on Belagavi road. Part of Dasara celebrations

RSS’s nasty agenda was publicly exposed when the racket of illegal arms training at an RSS school was busted by the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) following bomb blasts in Nanded (2006) and Malegaon (2008)

By Hasan Akram

Of late, India has witnessed large scale weaponisation of people thanks to extremist Hindutva groups. The country has seen an unprecedented increase in the use of swords, tridents and other armaments during Hindu festivals and religious processions.

This worrying trend is one more reason to take the 2019 speech of Genocide Watch founder Dr Gregory Stanton seriously, in which he had pointed out that India is at the eighth stage of genocide.

Recently, several Hindutva groups were caught on camera while showing their love for swords and tridents during Dussehra festival. Bajrang Dal workers were seen dancing with swords in Karnataka’s Belagavi district. The district was recently in the limelight as a Muslim man identified as Arbaz Aftab Mulla was killed for having an affair with a Hindu girl by members of Shri Ram Sena, a Hindutva outfit.

Members of extremist Hindutva groups in Karnataka’s Mangalore district organised a “shastra pooja” event, on the occasion of Dussehra, at the local office of Vishva Hindu Parishad. With trishuls in their hand, they vowed to protect Hindus from so-called love jihad, land jihad and cow slaughter.

Glorification of violence through shastra pooja

Shastra pooja [worship of weapons] has been a part of Hindu festivals. This custom was adopted and mainstreamed by Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a Hindu nationalist group associated with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

RSS claims to be a cultural organisation but it is the only “cultural” organisation in the world that worships armaments.

Author and political analyst Shamsul Islam, in his book RSS as a Terrorist Outfit: Evidence from its Archives, writes, “The RSS was founded on Dussehra (Vijay Dashmi; festival celebrated as the day of victory of God Ram over Ravana). On this day the RSS holds its biggest programme of the year which is also celebration of its founding day. The most important part of the celebration is the ”shastr pooja” (worship of the arms) by the Supremo of the RSS. This ”shastr pooja” has never been skipped.”

This brazen ritual was borrowed by current Prime Minister Narendra Modi when he was Chief Minister of Gujarat. He began ”shastr pooja” as an official function of the state. “It was first time in the history of democratic-secular India that one of the highest constitutional functionaries of India was worshipping arms and not the Constitution of India,” Islam wrote.

Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) volunteers during foundation day celebrations and Dussehra festival, in Bhopal. | PTI Photo

In today’s time, the worship of armaments by RSS and BJP leaders has become a norm. They openly participate in such events and many of them have been seen glorifying possession of weapons despite the fact that this is an illegal act according to the Arms Act, 1959.

Arms training in RSS school

The extremist Hindutva organisation has recently set up an Army school in Uttar Pradesh’s Bulandshahar district. Reacting to the same, former UP Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav pointed out that the purpose is to create “mob lynchers”.

The RSS opens new channels such as schools on the pretext of educating and training people to serve the country but it always has some hidden purposes behind such initiatives.

The organisation’s nasty agenda was publicly exposed when the racket of illegal arms training at an RSS school was busted by the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) following bomb blasts in Nanded (2006) and Malegaon (2008).

Shadow Armies, a book by veteran political journalist Dhirendra K Jha, sheds light on the role of Bhonsala Military School (BMS), which is run by the RSS, in attacks targeting Muslims.

According to the book, the ATS found during its investigation of the 2008 Malegaon blasts that several of the accused had been trained at BMS.

ATS investigating the Nanded Bomb Blast Case (April 6, 2006), which had witnessed the deaths of two Hindutva activists while making bombs, had discovered that Himanshu, one of the deceased, had organised a training camp at the Bhonsala Military School in Nagpur, apart from other camps.

This culture of violence poses a big threat to the existence of minority communities in India. There is an urgent need to put a full stop on such activities. The international community must take some effective measures to prevent Hindutva terrorism in the country.

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