Stop the ‘private brigades’ from wrecking havoc!

Why should political characters in a democracy raise and nurture their own private brigades? For the last few years the who’s who in the Right –wing political parties are seen pampering their little armies, their ‘private senas’. And nobody dares to ask why they are raising these brigades, when the police and the paramilitary and, of course, the RSS cadres are at their beck and call!

Who gives them the sanction to maintain these brigades? Who pays for their upkeep? Who controls them? Who directs them? Who trains them to target the ‘enemy’? Who all are fitted into these brigades and what for? What’s the difference between them and the political mafia? Are these brigades an extension if not an integral part of the mafia causing havoc in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana and Rajasthan? Aren’t they responsible for the overnight displacements and sudden shifts of entire clans of the disadvantaged communities?
It is essential to know the role played by private brigades during rioting and pogroms and also during extortion and kidnapping bids. But who would dare raise questions, in the backdrop of the fact that they seem to be functioning downloadunder the control of the rulers of the day.

Last week, as the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh Yogi Adityanath campaigned in his constituency, Gorakhpur, I got in touch with local activists to know the role played by his own brigade — Hindu Yuva Vahini (HYV). I was told it yields total and absolute control in the area. A sense of fear prevails amongst the local population, who dare not veto dictates and commands of this Vahini.

Needless to add, the worst affected are the Dalits, Christians and Muslims of the region. It would be naïve to expect the disadvantaged communities of Uttar Pradesh rebelling against the Hindutva agenda unleashed on them. They told me that they have learnt to sit quiet and subdued at the build-ups, unprovoked by the provocative Hindutva slogans raised in their neighborhood. Several even recounted the aftermath of the Kasganj riots and the Hindutva brigades’ role in those riots. In fact, a large number of Muslims in Uttar Pradesh seem to have already accepted their second or third-class positioning for the sake of the so many sakes! And with this backgrounder, its downright silly for political commentators to come up with those typical utterances — ‘See, how Muslims are okay with Yogi Adityanath as chief minister. No revolt, no outcry, no rebellion!’

Do the hapless citizens have a choice? Wouldn’t they get gunned down and their children attacked if they dare snub Yogi Adityanath and his men. Fear of the political brigades is writ large to such an extent that even the who’s who avoid stepping out after sunset. And as the number of encounters are going up in Uttar Pradesh — as many as 1,142 encounters were recorded between March 2017 and January 2018, and 38 alleged criminals were killed. The vital question doing the rounds in the towns and cities of Uttar Pradesh is this: How many of these encounters are based on personal and political rivalries, to settle old disputes, to unsettle the ‘other’?

Reported cases of these goon brigades attacking individuals who dare to criticize or even question the political rulers are coming up, but who can help out. None! Even before the police force can act or not act, these brigades go about unleashing violence on just about anyone, on any given alibi or pretext. After all, mafia gangs need little sanction to attack.

It is becoming increasingly dangerous as these brigades or vahinis or senas are spreading out, spreading violence in the different regions of our country. Why do we overlook the fact that they are also holding training camps for recruits to attack the ‘enemies’ who are ultimately their own vulnerable countrymen. In fact, in 2016, even when news reports and photographs were splashed in national dailies focused on the VHP and Bajrang Dal holding arms training camps in and around Greater Noida, Varanasi, Ayodhya , there was no outcry. This, when the pictures were enough to show that young men and women were getting training to attack the ‘enemy’ – dummies of skull capped men!

No, it was no overnight development. It is spreading out right now in a blatantly stark and unstoppable manner. I wonder why we are sitting so very subdued and quiet on this when it seems nothing short of political mafia overtaking democratic norms. Fascism here, yet we prefer to look the other way; bypassing and overlooking the eerie build ups.

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Weeks before Khushwant Singh passed away, I had asked if he carried any regrets. “I wish I had taken on these fundoos/ sanghis much more aggressively, as they are hell bent on destroying this land. All these years I’ve been critical of them but should have exposed them much more in my columns and written more, much more on their activities …on the destructions they are wrecking.” He was also more than vocal about the Right-wing nurturing their private senas.

“What I find very disturbing and dangerous is that the communal parties have launched their own private armies. Any government which allows private armies affiliated to political parties is doing nothing short of making inroads for fascism! Fascism is here!”