Understanding BJP’s politics vis a vis Sri Lanka
Despite MDMK leader Vaiko’s protests against the invitation of Mahinda Rajapaksa to inaugurate a Buddhist university in BJP ruled Madhya Pradesh alleging that the Sri Lankan government was responsible for the destruction and desecration of hundreds of Hindu temples in the course of its genocidal war and the military occupation of the Eezham Tamils’ homeland, no senior leader of India’s biggest Hindu nationalist party condemned Rajapaksa’s presence at the event. On the contrary, the Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister has appealed for stronger cultural ties with Sri Lanka. In a hard-talk show on Win TV’s Urimaik-kural hosted by C.R. Baskaran earlier this month, Tamil Nadu activists Srinivasa Rao and P. Abdul Samad, general secretary of the TMMK, argued that when it came to the Eezham Tamils, there was no difference in the policies of the opposition BJP or the ruling Congress.
Shivraj Singh Chouhan, the BJP CM of the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, has appealed to Sri Lanka to facilitate the construction of a temple for Sita at Divurumpola, which is near Colombo. Some myths created around the Hindu epic Ramayana believe that Sita, the wife of the Hindu god Rama, had undergone the ‘fire test’ to prove her chastity at this location. Mr. Chouhan further promised that the funds for the construction of this temple would be collected by the government of Madhya Pradesh.
Likewise, the BJP leader has also promised that Madhya Pradesh would provide subsidies to those pilgrims from the state who wanted to travel to sites in the island associated with the Ramayana.
Most of the claimed Ramayana sites in the island that are now ‘marketed‘ to guillible Indian and Malaysian tourists are based on recently created myths and false etymology. One such example is Sita-eliya in Nuwara Eliya, told to be the place where Sita was kept imprisoned. The name of the place actually stands for the cold stream that flows in the locality.
Interestingly, renowned Indian archaeologists like the late Professor H. D. Sankalia has said that the Lanka of the Ramayana epic was not today’s island of Sri Lanka, but a river islet in Madhya Pradesh.
BJP’s ideology, Hindu nationalism, is derived from the ideology of ‘Hindutva’ that was first expounded by Vinayak Damodar Savarkar in the 1920s. This was adopted as the political philosophy of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), a militant Hindu nationalist organization, which is also the parent organization of the BJP.
In short, Hindutva believes that Hindus in the subcontinent are a nation and that the Indian government should privilege Hindus in its structure and function. However, quite some Indian academics allege that the Hindutva project only privileges the image of the fair-skinned, Hindi speaking, north Indian male as the ideal prototype. Hindutva parties have also been accused of organizing riots against Muslims and other minorities in the past decades.
BJP gained political ascendancy after the demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya by Hindutva outfits in December 1992. The argument behind the demolition was that the Masjid was built over a Ram temple that had been razed to the ground in the past.
In the interview to Needhiyin Kural, Mr. Samad referred to the hypocritical attitude of the BJP that bases its politics on temples demolished in the past, but remained silent over the destruction of the Eezham Tamils’ temples by successive Sinhala chauvinist regimes.
One of the historical personalities greatly venerated by the Hindu nationalists is Chatrapati Shivaji, a chieftain in 17th century Maharashtra who rebelled against the oppressive Delhi-centric regime of Aurangazeb, and rose to the status of sovereign by carving a separate kingdom. His military tactics included, but not restricted to, guerrilla warfare. Chatrapati Shivaji is considered my many scholars to be one of the historical pioneers of armed struggle through guerrilla warfare in the subcontinent. The RSS, and by extension, the BJP lay claim his legacy.
Neither the RSS nor the BJP recognize the achievements of the armed struggle of the Eezham Tamils, led by the LTTE, choosing instead to side with the oppressive Sinhala nationalist forces in the island, giving legitimacy to the latter and dubbing the former as ‘terrorism’.
Even after the Eezham Tamils’ armed struggle for a sovereign state of Tamil Eelam was crushed through an internationally abetted genocidal war, in which Congress ruled India played no small a role, the opposition BJP is also united with the Congress party in denying the Eezham Tamils a just political solution, while providing red-carpet treatment to the genocide-accused Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Activist circles in Tamil Nadu also claim that RSS backed Hindutva forces in the state are trying to work to dilute popular sentiments among the Tamils there so as to make the support for Tamil Eelam blunt in the state. While Subramaniam Swamy and Cho Ramasamy are the most obvious examples of this, the other ‘soft’ types are equally malicious, they claim.
It is also alleged that the BJP, much like the Congress, is no different when it comes to India’s foreign policy in that they place short-term economic gains over long-term strategic interests. The excessive dependence of both the parties on Indian and foreign corporates is cited as the reason for their compromise on both the moral and strategic fronts.
The other accusation of Saiva scholars in Tamil Nadu is that the destruction by Sri Lankan forces of Saivite temples and local places of worship in the Tamil homeland correspond to the RSS’s desire to eliminate or assimilate all those forms of native religion that do not conform to its version of Hinduism.
Tamil Nadu activists further question whether the Hindu nationalist BJP giving legitimacy to the Sinhala-Buddhist chauvinist regime is a matter of convenience or the natural coming together of ideological bedfellows.