The recent violent event in Mathura has outraged many people. But more than anger, there is bewilderment. It is difficult for people to accept that right in the heart of a town like Mathura, part of the mainland, there existed and flourished a liberated zone. Liberated zones in our imagination are created only by Naxalites or Maoists in the jungles of Chhattisgarh or Jharkhand. And they are inspired by ‘alien’ ideologies like Marxism or Maoism. This makes it easy for us to label them as ‘anti-nationals, conspirators’ who are out to dismember our nation. They have ‘collaborators’ hiding in places like JNU, masquerading as students and teachers.
People and political parties are upset that a body, parallel to the one they form through the ‘legitimate’ process of elections, was running the show at Jawahar Bagh for more than two years. Some new reports have described it as a free nation. Government agencies are treating them as squatters who had illegally occupied a public property called Jawahar Bagh.
It is also metaphorical that a park named after Nehru was occupied by members of what is being called a ‘Bose Cult.’ The members of this cult believed that the Nehruvian Indian nation was a falsehood, which needed to be undone using the ideas of Subhash Chnadra Bose. It is said that their leader, Ram Vriksh Yadav was also a follower of the ‘Jai Gurudev’ cult, a Baba of repute from yesteryears. He led nearly three thousand people, from different parts of Uttar Pradesh and other states to Mathura and camped at Jawahar Bagh. He distributed plots to the people on which they built houses, a school used to operate there, armed training was imparted to the young and old.
The ‘Bose-Gurudev nation’ had also its own economic structure. There was a police force and an army, which used to protect the ‘nation.’ For all practical purposes, this was the base camp from where they wanted to spread further. That there was support outside this fortress is evident from the fact that the ‘nation’ used to get regular supply of food grain and other necessities from places not only in UP but also Madhya Pradesh. For the inhabitants of Jawahar Bagh, the idea of this nation was so real and serious that they were ready to die for it. It was interesting to see that most of the media described the clash between them and the Indian police as a ‘battle’.
More than 29 people have died. Two senior police officers had to sacrifice their lives to assert the sovereignty of India over Jawahar Bagh. We are yet to see them decorated as martyrs. Jawans of our armed forces are immediately called martyrs when they die in Chhattisgarh or Jharkhand or Jammu and Kashmir. It would be too much to confer martyrdom on the functionaries of the state who are merely engaged in the eviction of illegal squatters.
The whole incident, had it not been so bloody, looks amusing. There is a something quixotic about it. The foolhardiness or audacity of the ‘citizens’ of this ‘Bose-Gurudev’ nation beats one’s imagination. Did they seriously believe that they could survive the might of the Indian state?
Hypothetically speaking, if the idea of the ‘Bose-Gurudev’ nationhood could capture the imagination of three thousand people, what prevents it from bringing three lakh or three million people under its spell? We need to ask this question to understand how notions of belongingness are fashioned, which later evolve into the idea of nation and nationalism.
We must therefore ask ourselves, what is it that upsets us in the whole episode? Is it the bloodshed? Or, is it the fact of illegal occupation of public land? Was not it not done recently in the capital of India, on the bed of the Yamuna, against the orders of an institution, which sought to assert the sovereignty of the nation against a Godman quite similar to Jai Gurudev? Does the profile of his followers have something to do with the shyness of the organs of the Indian state in prosecuting the Godman, who openly challenged the might of the state by declaring that even after being declared illegal, he would carry on with his proposed event? Even the police and the army were employed to facilitate his illegal actions, while the Prime Minister of the country actively blessed the illegality.
We also read and again with outrage that the SP government was toying with the idea of giving the park to the cult on lease for 99 years. Why should it go against the UP government when we have precedents like granting of acres of land in the ecologically sensitive and protected ridge of Delhi to Asaram Bapu by a BJP-led government on the orders of the then home minister LK Advani or more recently to Baba Ramdev by the BJP government in Chhattisgarh? What makes Sri Sri or Asaram or Ramdev more deserving than Ram Vriksh Yadav? What public good do these worthies serve which Ram Vriksh was incapable of doing?
Be it the three-day event at Yamuna or the Ashrams of these Gurus, it is not the will of the Indian state which is supreme there. It is their own security, the private armies of these Gurus, which are in command.
It cannot be that we did not like the name of a person like Bose been turned into a stupid cult. For, this is what we have witnessed in these last seven decades. A cult around Bose, the myth of his immortality has been cultivated very carefully to compete with and delegitimize the idea of a Nehruvian India. It is a militarist notion of a nation, which has been propagated by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and its associates, The BJP being part of them. We have seen that It is quite possible to mobilise masses around this militant idea.
We find the idea of people following a half-educated man like Ram Vriksh Yadav very funny. Has it occurred to us that we have willingly elected an organisation as our ruler which believes that the first organ transplant was done by God Shiva and we had a fully developed science of aeronautics in the times of Lord Ram?
The fact of armed training at Jawahar Bagh is also being seen as unacceptable. We witness and many of us participate in the armed training camps run by the RSS and its allies. We are not only not offended by that but find the whole act patriotic. We conveniently ignore the fact that along with arms these people are also being trained into an idea of a nation which seeks to replace, if not overthrow the current idea of India, as enshrined in its Constitution.
There may be people willing to be fooled by ‘The-Constitution-as-my-Sacred-Book’ proclamation of their leader but his following fervently believes that a true nation is only one which has complete Hindu supremacy. The recent interview of a former ABVP national leader reveals this, when he makes a call to convert the present BJP dominated Lok Sabha into a new constituent assembly which would draft the ‘real and true constitution’ for the India they want to have.
In the aftermath of the bloodshed at Jawahar Bagh of Mathura, we need to remember that Ram Vriksh Yadav may be dead and his ‘nation’ vanquished but the ‘Gurudev-Bose’ notion of Indian nationhood is very much alive in many other forms and with our active participation in promoting it.
( A slightly edited version has appeared in The Tribune on 9 June, 2016)
- Kafila, June, 2016