South Asians for Human Rights

Promoting Democracy, Upholding Human Rights

The communalism of various kinds are on rise. And, so fringe groups. These fringe groups are active in various states or districts under different names. The names of these groups differ but there is some understanding or coordination between them and with a bigger organisation with which they share ideology. Such fringe groups help communalism to spread. It leads to tensions and divide society. Once it is polarised it helps in electoral politics. In short term it may help a particular political party but in the long run, nation suffers.

The recent book Shadow Armies: Fringe organizations and Foot Soldiers of Hindutva by Dhirendra K. Jha throw light on such fringe groups. He investigated eight fringe Hindutva groups across India. These eight groups include organisations like Sanatan Sanstha, Bajrang Dal, Hindu Yuva Vahini, Sri Ram Sene, Hindu Aikya Vedi, Abhinav Bharat, Bhonsala Militry School and Rashtriya Sikh Sangat. He met activists connected with these organisations and few RSS leaders to understand the functioning of these fringe groups. He did extensive field work by touring various states. He writes, “Of the eight organisations I chose to research, four belongs to the Sangh Parivar and four operate independently.”

The author spent significant time in 2015 and 2016 to travel and meet leaders of these eight groups. The author notes that the RSS network, too, has multiplied steadily. At present, the Sangh has roughly three dozen affiliates across the country. Some of the ‘fringe organisations’ seem to exist outside the purview of the Sangh Parivar in so far as they are not technically created and controlled by the RSS. Prominent among them are the Sanatan Sanstha, the Hindu Yuva Vahini, the Sri Ram Sene and the Abhinav Bharat. He began this project after Karnataka government announ-ced in 2015 that there is a link in the murder of rationalists Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare and M M Kalburgi. The first two were murdered in Maharashtra and Kalburgi in Karnataka.

The activists of Sanatan Sanstha are accused of carrying these three murders. The organisation has headquartered in Goa, where the founder and organisation’s self-styled ‘God’, Dr. Jayant Balaji Athavale, lives. The organisation came to light in 2008 when Maharashtra Police arrested several Sanstha members for setting off bombs in Thane and Vashi.

In August 2011, a Mumbai court sentenced two members of the Sanstha – Vikram Bhave and Ramesh Gadkari – to ten years rigorous imprisonment for the Thane and Vashi blasts. The author says the Sanstha’s response in all these cases was to disown its members as soon as they were arrested and simply refuse to take any responsibility for their activities. The author says that the Sanstha got away despite Congress government at the Center and Congress led government in Maharashtra. Once out of power, former Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde and former CM Prithviraj Chavan blamed each other for them showing “a lack of seriousness on the matter”.

It was Yogi Adityanath who formed Hindu Yuva Vahini (HYV). He was a MP then and wanted to have his own organisation for his independent identity. The author says, “Communal riots became unusually frequent in Gorakhpur and its neighbourhood after the formation of the HYV in March 2002.” He got elected in the Lok Sabha for the first time in 1998. Now he is CM of Uttar Pradesh. Every time he contested elections on the BJP ticket and yet strive to retain complete hegemony within his fiefdom in eastern UP through the HYV. With the exception of 2007 when he was arrested, police forces remained soft to Yogi. He is a Mahant of Gorakhnath Math.

The case of Sri Ram Sene (SRS) is interesting. Pramod Muthalik founded this organisation in Karnataka. The organisation continued to remain in the news for its aggressive positions. It was also a reason that little before 2014 Lok Sabha elections Muthalik joined BJP in the presence of then Karnataka BJP chief and other top leaders. But, within five hours, central leadership of BJP forced the state party to cancel his membership. The SRS was formed by Muthalik  and his colleagues who were earlier part of Bajrang Dal.

The author says, “While Muthalik’s was a highly personalised fight within the Sangh Parivar, his henchmen in Karnataka were filled with indignation at the brahmanical dominance of the RSS and BJP.” The book take us to Maharashtra, Goa, UP, Karnataka, Kerala, Punjab etc and shows us how these fringe groups have become threat to democracy.

Shadow Armies

Author: Dhirendra K Jha

Publisher: Juggernaut

Pages: 240; Price: Rs 499

Source: Jatin Desai 

Updated On: Aug 27, 2017