Beef politics & cow university: Hindutva juggernaut on a roll in Khattar's Haryana
Controversy and Haryana's Manohar Lal Khattar-led BJP government seem to march hand in hand as the latter continues with its attempt to give a Hindutva colour to various facets of social life in the state.
Things have come to a point that people have stopped reacting to 'saffron' things that come regularly as part of daily happenings. But, over the last few days, there have been developments that observers feel cannot be overlooked.
A degree in bovine studies?
It began with the reported attempt by the now infamous Haryana Gau Sewa Aayog proposing a 'cow university' to carry out extensive research on the bovine that seems to have caught the unending fancy of the Hindutva brigade in the state.
Reports say that the proposed university would conduct exhaustive research on the domestic animal, its milk, urine and dung. The proposed university is expected to come up at least 500 acres of land which the Aayog wants a village to donate.
The Aayog had recently grabbed headlines over the collection of biryani samples in the Muslim-dominated Mewat district to check whether beef was being used to cook the dish.
Next, came the logo to mark the 'golden anniversary' of Haryana which Khattar had revealed on Saturday in Gurgaon.
The 'Swarna Jayanti' celebrations are expected to be a mega show in the state and observers point out that the overtones of Hindutva will be prominently visible.
With the BJP government both at the Centre and in the state, and with former RSS Pracharaks leading them, it is predictably going to be a Hindutva show. Besides the golden jubilee, the Khattar government will also be celebrating its two years in office.
Logo it in
The logo released for the celebrations comprises of a white conch, set against a golden background, with an embossed image of Krishna, an arrow pointing to the right, and the number 50 - the zero encompassing the map of the state.
A booklet released by the state government reportedly explained that the "collage of images capture the essence of Haryana society, culture and ethos and symbolises the spirit of celebration on the occasion of the Swarna Jayanti celebrations."
Khattar said, "Haryana is considered the land of Krishna, the land of Kurukshetra...every state has a special feature which should be projected, and we have projected something about Haryana's special feature."
Celebrations on the cards
The year-long celebrations will be preceded by a Swarna Jayanti Rath Yatra that will comprise of five tableaus depicting art, culture, heritage, history, progress and development of the state.
The Rath Yatra would pass through all districts and villages or towns falling between one district headquarter to the other district headquarter. Apart from depicting various aspects of life and people of Haryana, about 100 to 200 artistes would also be engaged to perform on the tableaus and create a festive environment at places through where this Yatra passes.
And some schemes
Last month the state government announced the Swarna Jayanti Guru Darshan Yatra Scheme, 2016 to provide financial assistance to the pilgrims from the state aiming to visit the Sikh shrines of Hazoor Sahib Gurudwara (Nanded Sahib), Nankana Sahib, Hemkunt Sahib and Patna Sahib.
Tourism Minister Ram Bilas Sharma said that financial assistance up to Rs 6,000 or 50% of the actual expenditure per person, whichever is less, would be provided to 50 pilgrims who are residents of Haryana.
Saffroning up a state
Residents of Kurukshetra point out that the town is slowly becoming a symbol of Hindutva. "They say that they are painting the buildings, including schools, pink but it is actually saffron. Throughout the town one can come across slogans on cow protection preaching that the cow should be declared the national animal.
There are also slogans calling for vegetarianism that have appeared in very large numbers over the last few months.
There are slogans like 'Aage samey vinashkari hai, Rahega wahi jo Shakahari hai' (The times to come are doomed, Only vegetarians will survive)," Kavita Vidrohi, a social activist affiliated with Jan Sangharsh Manch (Haryana) told Catch.
She disclosed that the annual Gita Jayanti Samaroh, which has been a prominent annual event in the city, has already been given a saffron touch and this is expected to further intensify this year as Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to visit the state.
Observers pointed that it was surprising to see and hear slogans like 'Bharat Mata ki Jai' and those eulogising the cow this year on Janamashtmi as the festival got the tinge of nationalism practised by the Hindutva organisations.
And what is Khattar doing?
Khattar once again courted controversy a couple of days ago for being dismissive about a case of a double murder and gang-rape of two sisters in Mewat along with the Biryani raids.
He reportedly said that these were small issues and could have happened anywhere in the country. He instead was more keen on discussing the Swarna Jayanti celebrations.
Though criticisms keep coming from the Opposition Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) and the Congress a concerted effort in the form of a sustained campaign is not visible yet. This is giving ample space and time to the BJP regime to try new things regularly.
The INLD is busy with its preparations of celebrating the 103rd birth anniversary of its patriarch Chaudhary Devi Lal in Karnal on 25 September.
Its leader Dushyant Chautala said, "The BJP makes announcements for public consumption on public platforms and in the media, but its main ambitious plan is to divide the society and destroy the social fabric. This plan is being executed after elaborate deliberations in its war room."
He said that with its goal of vote politics, the BJP is just focused on pitting one community against the other.
Congress leader Krishnamurti Hooda said, "Our leaders, particularly former Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, are exposing the BJP regularly at the grass root levels. These are just diversionary tactics of the Khattar government to divert public attention from its failures on all fronts. The BJP government has failed to address the concerns of everyone - be it farmers, students, unemployed youth etc. They have not fulfilled even one of the 153 promises they made before the polls. I can assure that till the time we are alive, they will never return to power."
But for now, the Hindutva forces seem to be having a field day in Haryana.
Edited by Jhinuk Sen