Aryaman Arora, Class of 2021 This is a weekly column summarizing the 10 best questions from the
Shashank Mattoo, Class of 2020
Engaging with the RSS/BJP combine allowed me to understand why decent, hardworking people buy into an ideology that is so plainly bad for the country.
Yeah, you read that right. A “fascist” saved my people. That man was Jagmohan Malhotra: Lieutenant Governor of Kashmir during the worst days of militancy and perhaps one of the most controversial Indian politicians alive. Opinions could not be more starkly divided about Jagmohan among Kashmiris: Kashmiri Pandits (my community) hail him as a hero. My grandmother gets teary eyed even as I write this article about how Jagmohan organised the escape of the Pandits from the valley. “Nobody fought for us” she recalls. “Only Jagmohan was there. He commandeered every vehicle he could lay his hands on and got us to safety”. My grandfather, a retired IAS officer, has often told me that in his view, the Kashmiri Pandit community would not have survived. On the other hand, I’ve gotten to see the other side of Jagmohan from stories resident Kashmiris from the valley have recounted about his tenure. These concern the dark side of his tenure: extrajudicial operations and carte-blanche killings that have earned him the moniker “laash watul”.
Until a few years ago, I could never understand how my family could vote for the BJP. Like many organising the protest against the RSS Pracharak Shivkumar, I looked upon the BJP/RSS combine as one that propagated hate and threatened to destroy the secular fabric of this country. I still do. But I listened to my family as they recounted what Jagmohan had done for their people. My people. In their view, Jagmohan had joined the party that stood for Hindus and the Kashmiri Pandits. I took the opportunity to engage with Jagmohan’s ideas by reading his autobiography and watching his interviews. That gave way to a larger interest into what the RSS/BJP combine was all about, what made it tick and what gave it power. In doing so, I went to a number of in-person sessions with RSS/BJP functionaries and tried to understand what made them tick. Engaging with those ideas gave me two things: first, it made me more resolute in my opposition to the BJP’s ideology. Having engaged with it, entertained it and discarded it, I saw why it was the wrong one for India. Second, and perhaps more importantly, I got to understand my family and country better. I understood why decent, hardworking people buy into an ideology that is so plainly bad for the country. In one corner of India, Jagmohan saved lives. In another, Modi promised to build them a temple. In yet another, the RSS provided free healthcare and education when the government couldn’t.
Understanding and engaging the BJP and the RSS is as important as peacefully protesting them. To close your eyes to it is to close your eyes to modern India and why these organisations gained power. To those who fear a fascist ascendancy in India, taking this opportunity to interact with a member of these organisations in-person is imperative because it helps you get closer to identifying the cause of their success. Books and TV interviews are one thing and debating an articulate pracharak or politician in-person is quite another. And if telling a pracharak and his ideology to take a hike is what you want, then doing it in person is the way to go. Trust me, if I could do that to Jagmohan, I would.
Shashank Mattoo is second year student majoring in Political Science who takes great pride in his Kashmiri roots and Bangalore origins. This piece is a part of a series Engage started by The Edict to gauge student opinions on a recent controversy regarding a talk on campus by an RSS member.