Teesta Setalvad, talks to Newsclick on communal politics of BJP in Uttar Pradesh. They have intensified the communalizing mode, it has been there in the past. There’s always a subtext to the BJP campaign. Teesta gives the example of last July when Amit Shah referred to the alleged migration of 100 families of a community from the Western UP town of Kairana and said that it is a matter of deep concern. Adding to that, she talks about Amit Shah’s speeches where there is always a subtext of communalism. Amit Shah as BJP’s President has been using the subtext of aggressive, intimidatory communalism since last July.
Pranjal: So we have seen that how after the second phase, BJP has gone in communalising mode. What do you have to say on that?
Teesta Setalvad: Actually you know they have intensified the communalising mode. But if you notice there's always subtext to the BJP campaign. Last July, July 2006 when the BJP’s national executive was meeting in Allahabad, the Kairana Palayn started. Newsclick had done that special report. All of Amit Shah’s speeches, even before this phase he talks about criminals, he names Muslim criminals; he doesn’t name the Hindu Bahubalis. Now Prime Minister is doing the same thing but earlier it was Amit Shah. Then you had this whole issue of “I’ll close every single slaughter house”. So I think the subtext of the BJP, he also mentions if you remember I can't remember the date but it was October-November I did a story on that, he suddenly said “hum Kalyan Singh a raj layenge”. Now Kalyan Singh’s raj, you are very young, but I have written about it as a journalist. It was marked by encounter killings and encounters were of Dalits and Muslims. So in the public discourse when you go back to that so Amit Shah as BJP president has been using the subtext of aggressive intermediately, communalism since last July.
Pranjal: So there is a clear contradiction. I mean earlier they used to pitch about only development politics but now even the Prime Minister is talking about shamshan, kabristhan. I don’t know. I mean, is it a language of a Prime minister?
Teesta: It’s Samshan, kabristhan what he said in Konda about terrorism and Pakistan - none of this is the language of a Prime Minister. Unfortunately we have a man at a very, very important constitutional post who does not understand - jaise hindi mai kehte hai na ‘Padh ki garima nahi samjhte’ - and that is very unfortunate for the country. I would like to pause it. The demonetisation is not working for them it has gone against them. Economic policies they have not delivered. Agricultural sector there is no delivery. Make in India is going down. So this is the aakhri and the ultimate card and unfortunately many times it has worked. Question is, will it work in UP?
Pranjal: So they also have leaders like Adityanath who are going and telling people that you say I am a Hindu, my ancestors were Hindu so we will pardon you. And he is also expecting to be a Chief Ministerial face for the BJP. So what’s their take on these kinds of people there?
Teesta: You see, that is the question that all of us need to ask even in the parliament. Adityanath I think is a three times parliamentarian and one thing that really used to bother me is that parliament even under UPA, neither the congress nor the left ever raised the question that how can a parliamentarian use such un-parliamentarian language. Somewhere our institutions of democracy; be it parliament, election commission, all these bodies that have been put in place to contain public discourse within the constitutional vision, those need to ask such hard questions. How come the RSS constantly crosses the boundaries? It’s not the BJP, it’s the RSS. How come the RSS and BJP constantly use incite-full speeches? This is not even hate speech; this is incite-full speech to create such divisions within the society.
Pranjal: So Teesta, is it just these big leaders who are speaking it or there’s some organisation which is working on the ground also?
Teesta: No. Anything that Modi does, anything that Amit Shah does, anything that Adityanath does - and that’s why he is more dangerous than trump - is because he has this huge organisation called the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh that actually has almost 50,000 schools which are actually insidiously perpetrating the same hate and ‘othering’ of our own population and that’s why it’s such a dangerous and proto-fascist project.
Pranjal: Recently we have seen what has happened in Ramjas College and Delhi University. Do you find link between the UP election and whatever is happening, this narrative of nationalism verses anti-nationalism being created again.
Teesta: It’s a very good question. Can you believe that in the national capital the police misbehave and AVBP misbehave with the young women, apart from the bashing generally, young women were physically and verbally abused and no minister - Prime Minister does not condemn it, Home Minster doesn't condemn it and the Minister of State for Home in fact starts a sparing with a very brave young girl 20 year old who actually said that she will not bow down to fear - Gurmehar kaur. I mean this is the level of the political discourse, I think we really reached very low ebb in Indian politics.
Pranjal: Teesta this is would be my last question. Is there any counter on the ground in Uttar Pradesh seeing the assembly elections and what do you think, what’s the way ahead?
Teesta: See in all the states where there are regional options, there has been a resistance to the RSS and BJP. Unfortunately in other states it’s not happened. You can't somehow find vocal resistance to communal discourse at the time of elections. I don't know why. I think because they manage to put everybody on the defensive. And that’s the real challenge for people like us. When are we going to have the moral courage that even if elections are on; if incite-full speech happens, 5,000 people come and say that this is not the constitutional discourse. That’s not happening but I'm reasonably hopeful that the people of UP will not bow completely to communal politics.
Pranjal: Thanks a lot Teesta for giving us your time.
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