India: Court Allows Right-Wing Group to Rally in Kolkata

Jhumur Deb
Guwahati, India
2017-01-13
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170113-IN-RSS-1000 Members of Hindu nationalist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh mark the organization’s foundation day in 1925, in Amritsar, Nov. 13, 2016.
AFP

Political leaders in India’s West Bengal state said Friday they feared communal unrest after a Kolkata court allowed popular right-wing group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) to mark the start of the harvest season with a rally in the city.

The Kolkata High Court granted permission while ruling on a public interest case filed by the RSS after city police had denied the group permission to rally Saturday at its iconic Parade Ground.

RSS is the ideological mentor of India’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), an arch-political rival of West Bengal’s left-wing Trinamool Congress (TMC), which alleged that the rally aimed to stoke tensions between Hindu and Muslims living in the state.

“RSS and BJP want to give a communal turn to every law-and-order incident in the country. [But] They won’t be successful in West Bengal,” TMC spokesman Derek O’Brien told BenarNews.

The RSS, meanwhile, minced no words, saying its rally aimed at putting to rest the minds of some 64.4 million Hindus living in the state, which recently witnessed violence on the outskirts of its capital. About 24.6 million Muslims live in West Bengal.

“It [the court’s verdict] is a victory for Hindus in West Bengal, where they are oppressed and maimed by the state machinery. Hindus in West Bengal are living in fear. The recent Dhulagarh [incident] is an example where Hindus were openly attacked and looted by Muslims,” RSS spokesman Jishnu Basu told BenarNews.

‘Creative secularism’

Last month, members of the Hindu and Muslim communities clashed in Dhulagarh, about 25 km (15.5 miles) west of Kolkata, over overlapping religious processions. Although no casualties were reported, local media said the two groups hurled petrol bombs at each other and several victims complained that their houses were destroyed or looted.

More than 60 people have been arrested so far for the violence, Director General of Police Surajit Kar Purakayashta said.

RSS spokesman Basu assured that Saturday’s rally, which will be addressed by the group’s chief Mohan Bhagwat, will not disturb the peace.

“We respect the order of the honorable court and will abide by every word to maintain peace and harmony,” Basu said.

The court’s conditions for the rally include that the crowd must not exceed 4,000 people and only invitees should be allowed inside the venue. The High Court also stipulated a time between 2 and 6 p.m. for the rally to be held to enable “adequate police deployment.”

RSS, whose membership is restricted to Hindu males, describes itself as a “cultural organization dedicated to restoring and revitalizing the moral and spiritual traditions” of India.

Its critics, however, describe it as a Hindu fundamentalist group with communal tendencies. And although RSS and BJP have never admitted to a formal link, the two groups are believed to work on the same ideologies.

“RSS has been banned thrice by previous Indian governments for spreading communal tension. This very fact says a lot about its actual motive, that is to further divide India communally,” Monirul Hussain, a Guwahati-based political commentator, told BenarNews.

But RSS ideologue Rakesh Sinha differed, saying the “left liberals are creating a false image of the organization.

“A section of intellectuals has formed a habit of blaming RSS for everything. It’s a form of creative secularism, which has taken shape following the advent of the BJP coming to power. They are hell bent on creating an anti-government environment,” Sinha told BenarNews.

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