Newsclick interviewed Brinda Karat regarding the current political scenario in the country, and the continuous incidents leading to increasing communalisaton of the Indian society. Karat explained that the current regime is dictated by the ideology of RSS which is bent on spreading communal tension in the nation. Their entire campaign on beef ban and cow slaughter is nothing but a tool to attack the minorities. Their mere hypocrisy is exposed by the fact that a large number of stray cattle roam around in the city and nobody seems to pay attention towards it. Karat also criticised the Modi government for their pro-corporate, neo-liberal economic policies which is worsening the plight of the common masses
Pranjal - Hello and welcome to our program. Today we have with us Brinda Karat, Polit Bureau Member of CPI(M).
Recently, these incidents have been taking place around Delhi if you look; the entire issue of beef ban and cow slaughter. Now, two days back you visited Faridabad. What is the reason for raising intolerance, not only to minorities but also Dalits, Adivasis?
Brinda Karat - The whole changed political situation with advent of Pracharak, an RSS Pracharak as Prime Minister and the direct hold of the RSS in government now. It is a qualitative change from the time of Vajpayee government in two ways. One is simple majority in Parliament and two, RSS is very much more predominant; which is not something because Prime Minister himself would like that way. So these incidents you are talking about is very much linked to the political context and the direct empowerment of RSS and it's organisation. Mr Modi has come with own understanding of Gujarat and Gujarat model and we know that the Gujarat model that he is committed to and impose has been proved to be 1. Based on communal polarisation after 2002 and 2. It is very pro-corporate set of policies. It is very much that trickle down theory being implemented efficiently, except even the trickle down to the poor is negligible. So I think to that extend, there is a difference because here you have a direct model and also now with neo-liberal policies, aggressive push on the neo-liberal policies, these things are there but the social aspect; the anti-minority also the Hindutva agenda, the Brahminical approach; I think that is very evident now.
PP - Yeah but if you look at the beef ban only and the cow slaughter, the issue which they have been pushing, it also traces back history from the entire agenda of RSS which has been trying to put hegemony of upper caste Brahmin and there is also an economic aspect attached to it. Can you throw some light on that?
BK - You are absolutely right. This is not an issue suddenly come-up now but you will see that the issue of cow slaughter has been an issue widest section of the Hindu community or those who believe in Hinduism or those who are practising Hindus, do tend to get very moved by that, that is what is been shown. So there is a sort of wider section that the RSS seeks to mobilise. Now the difference very clear is, that is not so much protection of cow but an anti-Muslim agenda. See now there are two-three things; I may very quickly, OK?
PP - Sure.
BK - 1. There is a legal aspect. What they are trying to say now is Khattar said, and what in fact very disturbing is the very Himachal Pradesh recent court judgment, the second week of October, which said it is time to have a national cow slaughter ban. So this is a narrative, which they try to put forward, that is because there is no legal frame work that, this is happening. Now if you look at the constitution of India, Article 48; at that time, Article 48 was actually a compromise reached. Under the leadership of Dr. Baba Saheb Ambedkar with the advocates of cow slaughter ban at all India level and they wanted that to be put as part of the 'fundamental rights chapter' of the constitution of India and they had a quite support in the constitute assembly. At that time, Dr Ambedkar and many of other more sensible members of the constitute assembly said, we can have it in Directive Principles but we link into scientific agriculture practises and we link to the protect of cow as a milch animal for animal husbandry and also as a drought as to pull the plough. But it did give a special status to the cow over the buffalo and every other animal which may also give milk. So that was the compromise. But that compromise today was reflected in all the laws. So you have a ban on cow slaughter in every state except the North Eastern states. So you have the ban already, legal framework is already there but what are they trying to do? At the present, the legal framework reflecting Article 48 is limited to the productive life of cattle, as long as cow is giving milk, as long as bull can pull a plough...So after a particular age, they are called fit for slaughter. So this phrase (fit for slaughter) allows the slaughter or the killing or the culling - scientist call that culling - of useless animals. This phrase 'useless animals' is the use of Supreme Court of India. Supreme Court has said in a very important judgment that we cannot have a blanket ban so it has to be graded so 'fit for slaughter'. Now today what they are talking about ban, they are trying to reverse that compromise. They are trying to change Article 48. They are trying to bring-in a religious basis instead of agriculture based basis and that reflects in new laws which brought by Maharashtra under Fadnavis and Haryana under Khattar and the Rajasthan government to say 'no fit for slaughter' anymore, there is a blanket ban. So this is how they are trying to reverse it. Along with that, and this is what a great concern, they are linking it with consumption of beef. Now, nowhere in India has ever been an issue, legally I mean. But now they have introduced legal clauses in which beef consumption is ban, keeping beef is ban and basically they are saying "you know you can't eat beef in this country". That is is absolutely, utterly absurd. It is like say, "you can't wear jeans" I mean you have dress code, you have diet code now...
PP - Means, basically the entire core idea of breaching the Fundamental Rights of an individual of the country?
BK - Exactly. That is exactly what it is...And they are trying to impose the Hindutva agenda and they are trying to tamper with the law. They are trying to tamper even with the Directive Principles and we see the direct results in that. In that horrific barbaric attack when they went into a house on the basis of rumour, which they themselves manufactured. It was not just rumor in the air, they themselves manufactured the rumour.
PP - Later it was proved, it was not even beef but it was mutton.
BK - It meant for them, that was immaterial. They did what they had to do, which was suppose to polarise the community in a village, which was an island of communal harmony. In which, the women of the household told me that, our men used to go outside work, we never for a minute felt insecure; those who are living in a Hindu dominated area. So it was a shocking...You know that was actually reflective and a terrible symbol of what these people can do...The way they destroyed that by a toxic campaign and when the MP there; who is a minister in Modi government, Mahesh Sharma; He said, 'yeh to accident hey'(this is an accident). How this can be an accident? This was a planned thing, which now minority commission has upheld.
PP - We have also been looking at various stray cows which are roaming around the city and blocking roads, traffic jams, the RSS and BJP doesn't seem to pay any attention to them?
BK - Absolutely correct. You know, I was looking at the 'Cattle Census 2012 report'. According to that census, there are 53 lakh stray cows in India; Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh; all the BJP ruled states have really high numbers. Now why this stray? because they are useless cattles for the peasant, for the farmer. The farmer to look after that one animal per head, per day have calculated it is about 100 rupees per day. Now that is a warping twenty thousand crore rupees a year. Now with that amount, who is going to give that? who is going to force the farmer to look after that cattle, which is have no use to him? For them, expense is low so they just let them go. And the RSS and BJP when they put them in 'Goushala', I mean who they are kidding? have you got the land to do it? do you know, how much land you are going to require? Your entire supplant, for the tribal supplant budget cut down drastically. Twenty thousand crores is more than the whole annual tribal supplant.
PP - Also if you look at the current regime, it is not only the minority which are under threat; it has been continuously trying to push it's agenda over the Dalits also. And they also been trying to push anti-reservation agenda. Would you like to comment something on that?
BK - Well, Modi after all when the BJP was growing in Gujarat, they used anti-reservation movement in Gujarat to build their base in Gujarat and of course as it well known; starting from their Guruji, they have been consistently taking a position against reservation. Even at the time of Mandal movement for social justice, the BJP and RSS's position was very clear. They were totally opposed to it. So they are against it and Mohan Bhagwat statement that it needs "reconsideration", is nothing but try to bring back into the agenda and at a time in neo-liberal policies, when jobs have become scares, at a time when ban on government jobs, at a time young people regarding of their castes are desperately looking for their jobs. Now we know the reservation is not the magic one to deal with unemployment, it is an instrument to help to deal with social inequality. But certainly it is not going to deal with unemployment but this is an opportunity for that because jobs are scares. Now a young boy or young girl who has done well and does not belong to the reserved categories would obviously will have the social resentment; why I am not getting a job? this is very genuine grievance. Now, how do you deal with that grievance? You have to deal with that grievance by providing large number of jobs by changing your economic policies. At same time, it also requires a very strong commitment to social justice. To deal with historic injustices and historic inequalities which continue in the present; it is not something that happened a century ago. Today Dalits and section of OBCs are certainly still discriminated against, but we have supported the creamy layer among the OBCs because there is no doubt it. The section of OBCs have benefited from many of the policies and therefore the creamy layer argument for OBCs does work and it should irrelevant but that doesn't need reconsideration, thats already there. So whats need reconsideration? The only thing need reconsideration according to Bhagwat is SC-ST. So they want to tamper with basic fundamentals of the constitution as far as reservation is concerned and this is totally anti-Dalit agenda and very much linked to their social approach also.
PP - Also if you look at the current regime and the economic policies which they have been following and if you look around us these days, the prices of the pulses have gone up to 200 rupees but the government doesn't seem to be interested in that at all?
BK - Exactly. I mean somebody quite rightly said in Bihar when Bihar election campaign, they said " why you are talking about beef and not Dhaal? The beef is not an issue here ". Your import-export policies have so utterly failed the people and so utterly benefited the big traders who have been hoarding and now suddenly after the entire hoarding is lead to crores of rupees profits, the finance minister suddenly said, we had raids, this is thousands we got; it is ridiculous. So this is diversion in that sense, you are right about that.
PP - This would be my last question. Looking at the current scenario, where do you see this government heading towards in and what will be the approach of the left organisations especially yours which is working on the ground? How will you tackle the current regime which is in power?
BK - Well, I think the utter hypocrisy of the Prime Minister and his cabinet and not taking action against the repeated offenses committed by his ministers and his cabinet, that is the first issue. They are defending them so that approach means that, we can be pretty sure that the RSS has a free run to subvert institutions as we have seen what is happening with writers today. So you are subverting institutions, you are not allowing, you are intolerant totally to any type of dissent that is one aspect. You are filling these institutions with people who have only qualification of being RSS fiends or direct RSS appointees, without any academic qualifications so this agenda I think is very much part of the future, it may get worse. Along with that will be the corporate agenda. Now they really getting jittery, they are just putting their ridiculous things. Suddenly a poster in Delhi "Now India has been certified by such and such agencies has been favored place of investment and so on..." There is no money coming in, money is going out. TATAs, Birlas, Adanis; they are all investing outside, nobody is investing here. Forget about the foreign capital, your own big business is not investing, they are giving jobs to American, they are not giving jobs to Indian, so that failing too. There going more aggressive about pro-corporate agendas. What more they can do, how many more laws - workers and peasants - they can dilute to bring FDI and big business including domestic investment higher? So these two pillars I think but you know that also leads to resistance. I mean look at the resistance are seen today; Dalit organisations are getting together, Adivasi organisations are getting together, we saw the most successful September-2 All India industrial strike by all the trade unions; even though the BMS is betrayed going by what RSS is dictated. On the ground level, they couldn't stop their workers from joining the strike. So there is a momentum of resistance in struggle and Kisans and their unity, which forced Modi government to retract on it's bogus amendments to the 2013 act. So I think it is a combination of different social forces. Class forces which the left is looking to mobilise because our job is really cut out for us. Because you know unless we strengthen ourselves, our own movements, and left identity with a strong united move by all the left parties, I don't think we are going to able to take the alternative agenda forward so we are looking at an alternative agendas in different fields and I think the resistance is on. It is still in the early stages but I hope we are going to work towards, intensification of that and to give the people of India a credible alternative.
PP - We would like to end here on the positive notes that the struggle is the way ahead. Thanks a lot for giving us your time. Thank you.
BK - Thank you.
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