by Julio Ribeiro
It was only 20 years after my meeting with K.S. Sudarshan, the then-sarsanghchalak of the RSS, that I finally realised what he meant by the figure “85”. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s spectacular victory in the UP Vidhan Sabha elections opened my mind’s eye to the significance of that number.
Let me elucidate. A couple of years after my return from Romania, I was invited by my IPS batchmate, D.S. “Vasant” Soman, to meet Sudarshan, who was visiting Mumbai. Sudarshan, the predecessor of Mohan Bhagwat, was staying at the home of my batchmate’s friend. It was a meeting over dinner and there were a few other invited guests.
After acknowledging my presence in the gathering, Sudarshan dwelt on just one point — justice for 85 per cent of the population, which he felt was being treated like second-class citizens. When he repeated this accusation more than half a dozen times, I realised that the sarsanghchalak felt that the Muslim and Christian minorities, that, 20 years ago, added up to about 15 per cent of the populace, were being appeased by the ruling dispensation.
My thoughts, I remember, were on the figure “85”. How did the RSS chief arrive at that number? He obviously counted the Sikhs in that 85 per cent, though the Sikhs themselves would not be happy to be categorised as such. Secondly, I was not able to figure out at that time how Sudarshan or the RSS had come to the conclusion that the 85 per cent were not being given their due.
All our prime ministers, except one, who was a Sikh, have been Hindus. Real power resides in the prime minister and his council of ministers. More than 85 per cent of ministers have been Hindus. Most civil and defence service officers have been Hindus. From where, then, did Sudarshan and his organisation get this peculiar persecution mentality of the 85 per cent being eclipsed by the 15 per cent?
The only grouse that the majority or, rather, sections of the majority owing allegiance to the philosophy of M.S. Golwalkar, could have against the Christians was that they indulged in converting poor Dalits and tribals, thereby disturbing the established social order. More than that, perhaps, was the fact that Sonia Gandhi, born a Christian and an Italian, had been accepted by millions of Hindus as their leader.
The grouses against the country’s largest minority, the Muslims, were many. But all the charges were now whittled down to just one — of being pampered in pursuit of votebank politics. In actual fact, all concessions made to Muslims were made to their religious leaders on matters that the latter arbitrarily interpreted as affronts to their personal laws. The community, as such, continued to live in poverty, no attention being paid to the education or health of its members, particularly women, because of which the community continued to remain backward.
On the other hand, only the Dalits and the tribals, from among the “85”, could be counted among the poor and the dispossessed. The RSS is keen to include them in the Hindu fold, despite reservations from the orthodox elements of the chaturvarnya who have been known to use the whip against Dalits skinning dead cattle for a living.
When I joined the IPS in 1953, I did not think of myself as a Christian in a Hindu land. My colleagues, my seniors and my juniors never showed any sign of differentiating between one policeman and another on the basis of religion. One of my first bosses was Vasant Vinayak Nagarkar, a Pune Brahmin, who invited me, then a bachelor, to stay with him, his wife and children, in his official residence. He died years ago but I remember him with great affection.
Well, the “15” need not complain because this does happen in other parts of the world too. In Pakistan, for example, Hindus and Christians are often accused of “blasphemy” by fringe Islamic elements, just as in UP and other parts of our country, the gau rakshaks and anti-Romeo enthusiasts run amok with impunity. The police, eager as always to remain on the right side of might, arrest the victims first, lest they be labeled as anti-national (read anti-BJP).
The prime minister speaks convincingly of “sabka saath, sabka vikas”, but Muslims still live in ghettos in Ahmedabad in the most unhygienic and animal-like conditions. The “15” should reconcile themselves to live as children of lesser gods in their own country, but how will the “85” enjoy a “better” quality of life if the rule of law is routinely given a slip by those who need to uphold it?
Taking the law into their own hands will become customary with usage. But vigilante rule is not something a progressive and civilised nation should encourage or even tolerate. It will soon be used against chunks of the “85”, like Dalits and tribals, and the contagion could spread to other less privileged sections. Human beings are adept at finding whipping boys after one set of such boys are successfully marginalised.
“Sabka saath, sabka vikas” will not work for just the “85”, as Sudarshan would have it.
The writer, a retired IPS officer, was Mumbai police commissioner, DGP Gujarat and DGP Punjab