Atal Bihari Vajpayee (1924-2018)

 

 

A Brilliant Leader Who Understood Moderation

My Personal Tribute
__________________________

Atal Bihari Vajpayee was born in 1924. So was my father Jitendranath. They were both lifelong RSS and BJP’s political preachers — Vajpayee as a top leader, and my father as a totally un-ambitious foot soldier. They knew each other closely for many years. My father, until his death last year, always spoke affectionately about their years together.

He fondly told his life’s story. “We were walking together, and I said to the other swayamsevaks (volunteers) with us: ‘Look, we’re now walking with the future prime minister of India.’ And the humble man would retort, ‘Come on, Jitendra-ji, what are you talking about?’ In Hindi, आरे भाई जीतेन्द्रजी, यह आप क्या बात कर रहें हैं? And we would laugh together.”

That was a day when it was unthinkable that far right RSS, its first political offshoot Jan Sangh (later renamed as BJP), and their men would ever become the thumping-majority ruling party in India. That the mighty Gandhi-Nehru Dynasty would nearly disappear. But Nostradamus (or Varāhamihira) he was not, my father’s prediction came true. In late 90’s, Vajpayee became India’s prime minister. And far right RSS and BJP were accepted as a normalized voice. People forgot about their dark, dangerous, KKK-like past. And it had a lot to do with Vajpayee, and his reasoned voice of moderation.

Leaders like Vajpayee knew that in India, you can’t run the country, and hold it together, unless you are inclusive and respectful to all religions, castes, and genders. Truly, like my father I’ve seen evolving into a mellowed, moderated voice, Atal Bihari Vajpayee became a sane, kind face — whom the Indian people, regardless of their politics, loved.

The present-day RSS, BJP, and their many powerful, well-funded organizations around India and overseas would not learn from Vajpayee’s moderation, or his personal integrity and sacrifice. Today’s right wing in India is rather strikingly similar to Trump’s right wing here in America. They thrive on violence, bigotry, fear-mongering, and hate. This BJP and its leaders cannot imagine, and would not imagine, how men like Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Jitendranath Banerjee lived their lives — totally free of greed, lies, and corruption.

Yes, they were both lifelong believers of Hindu fundamentalism, if not in Hindu supremacy. They were strong, ardent followers of RSS ideologue Guru Golwalkar, who once championed Hitler. Over my 15+ intimate years with RSS, I have seen them very closely: they were fiercely anti-Islam, anti-Christianity, and anti-socialism. In my book “In the Belly of the Beast: Hindu Supremacist RSS and BJP of India — An Insider’s Story” (1998), I have detailed and analyzed their social, political, and economic theories.

Islam, Christianity, and socialism — these have always been the Sangh Family’s (RSS’) three worst evils.

Vajpayee and Jitendranath were both militants in their early years: Vajpayee’s speeches were fiery, extremely eloquent, and often incendiary. He allegedly incited communal riots — in Assam and other places.

My father in his early years was also a top-notch speaker, a grassroots organizer who left his brilliant student career, and left home to preach his socio-political doctrine. He suffered greatly because of his non-completion of education, coupled with wrath he earned from the Gandhi Dynasty and their Congress government. My father was a diehard Hindu KKK, before he came to Bengal, knew my mother, and married into a family that was a symbol of love, kindness, inclusion, and secularism. He slowly but surely, steadily changed.

His early years, in his own words, were full of animosity against personalities like Gandhi and Tagore. His later years were love and respect for the great poet. Bengal’s soil, rain, and love converted him into a moderate man…well, sort of.

And I am being totally open and honest here. This has a lot to do with my tribute for Vajpayee today.

My mother, I, and our family never knew what economic stability was. But, as with most of the former RSS activists who lived for their patriotism, my father never complained about his hardship. Money was never a reason for him to live.

Both spent a few years in jail and exile, after RSS volunteer Nathuram Godse killed Mahatma Gandhi, and the organization was banned. Both lived up to their deep faith and ideology, built around their personal integrity, sacrifice, and honesty.

I have forever quit RSS and their extremist, supremacist, bigoted doctrine (my old friends admonish me that I am the worst-possible fool: had I not quit, I would now have become an elected parliament member in India).

My tribute to Atal Bihari Vajpayee today is about the man, his mission, and his unflinching faith for what he had believed in. In a way, it’s also a personal tribute to my father. Unlike the hard left and elite center, who would automatically reject the conservatives, I have a lot of respect and acceptance for them.

But my acceptance is only for the moderates like Vajpayee and his school. I would never have anything positive about today’s extremely hateful and violent RSS and BJP leaders and followers who are destroying the social fabric of India.

I truly wish there were more conservative leaders like Vajpayee. Today’s India cries out for them.

I deeply mourn the loss of Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

___________________

Sincerely,

Partha Banerjee

Brooklyn, New York

Old RSS: Anti-Gandhi, Anti-Tagore. New BJP: Corrupt, Violent, and Dangerous.

RSS Kolkata

This is what I have seen in my long, personal association, and study, of India’s Hindu chauvinist forces. RSS — the mentor, umbrella organization. BJP — its political wing now in the seat of power. ABVP, VHP, etc. — other powerful RSS outfits.

Pratik Ghosh translated the following from my Bengali article I posted in Facebook.

I have always found RSS, BJP and ABVP supporters to be of lower aptitude. Not much to talk home about their knowledge, thinking ability or analytical skills. They can be aptly called headstrong.

Like, my father used to say, they were not just anti-Gandhi but also anti-Tagore. My father despite having a golden opportunity refused to meet Rabindranath Tagore in Benaras. Now he regrets. What can be done regretting now – it is too late. At his young age, my father was just like that. In the fifties he moved to Kolkata and started reading Tagore.

But his Tagore was confined to Shivaji Utsab (Celebrating Shivaji – a Maratha icon), Bandi Vir (An Imprisoned Hero – a Sikh guru) and songs from the poet’s Devotion and Patriotic bouquets. Like the way hardliner Muslims from Bangladesh and Pakistan abuse Tagore without reading his works. They haven’t read Tagore’s Wife’s Letter, The Laboratory, The Crisis of the Civilization, or The Petrified Place. They have not heard his speeches, read his essays, letters, or his missive from Russia. They know a tiny sliver, a fragmented Tagore. And with that utterly limited knowledge they judge the Master Poet.

Yet during my intense association of some sixteen years with RSS-Jan Sangh-BJP-ABVP I always noticed that despite not being very clever, they were genuine human beings. I saw my father Jitendranath. How selflessly he spent his entire life with the Sangh family! In return he asked for nothing. Had he asked, he could have gotten a lot. Since 1939 he had been with national RSS/BJP leaders like Advani and Vajpayee. He too was jailed at the aftermath of assassination of Gandhi [when a Hindu zealot Nathuram Godse killed Gandhi, and the organization was banned]. Subsequently, being on the Congress blacklist he couldn’t get a proper job and spent his life in poverty.

I have written about these in my Bengali memoir, “Ghoti-kahini”. I have seen with amazement how for years the RSS proselytizers worked half fed from their third floor office at 26 Bidhan Sarani. They were racists, anti-Islam, anti-Christian. They depicted a laughable history of India. They knew hardly anything about the world history. They were awfully anti-socialism. Yet, they were nice guys. Like affectionate elder brothers. Even after I left RSS, I could never forget these men.

But now I see with the smell of power, BJP is filled with evil degraded men. Blood in their eyes. Poison at their tongues. Killing machines at their hands. I feel sad seeing them because they haven’t seen people like my father. They haven’t seen how to sacrifice life at the altar of idealism.

I have also seen at the other end how for the sake of idealism the followers of Communist Party of India (Marxist) or Marxism sacrificing their lives. I remember how my CPIM following in-laws’ family didn’t get on with my father. There was never any political discussions between them but there was a mutual respect. The Bengali characteristic of respect, civility, modesty and love is no longer found among the BJP supporters in Bengal. A few good ones keep shut for the fear of the obscene mayhem the rest can unleash upon them. They don’t have the backbones to withstand it.

I have been in politics for long. Politics of getting thrashed on the road. Politics of putting my own life at risk. I have done that in India. In the U.S. as well. Those who know me, know it. Those who don’t, can check it out on my Wikipedia page. The perpetrators of these atrocities are that foolish that they don’t even realize that they are only revealing their true self to the society. People with brains know that civility, gentleness are humane quality. Possessors of a sub-human brain have no understanding of that. Ironically, those without a brain, don’t realize that they don’t have brains because they need brains to understand it.

Anyway, there is no place for communal violence and slander in Bengal. Not for the Hindus. Not for the Muslims. Neither for CPIM, nor for the Trinamool Congress, now in power of West Bengal. And I shall carry on with my mission. My mission of making people think differently. To teach how to think. I am trying to steer away people from the brainwashing by the media. Steering my students in the US, people in India, in Bengal.

I have always been by the side of the oppressed. By the side of women, men, and children. I will always write against injustice, dishonesty, corruption and thuggery. I will protest — BJP or whoever the perpetrators might be.

Violence, intimidation, coercion or dirty abuses cannot bottle me up.

Sincerely,

Partha Banerjee

Brooklyn, New York

###

gandhi-indian-express

From: Indian Express.

My Fifteen Years with Hindu Fanatic RSS

PB RSS book cover

This is a personal confession that might shock some of you, those who have known me for my many years of progressive, pro-equality activism.

I spent a very precious fifteen years of my life with Hindu militant RSS, and also their now-famous political wing BJP and student organization ABVP. As you know, BJP is now the powerful ruling party in India, and they support Trump. I left RSS and BJP before I moved from India as an international student to America.

When I came out, I was a rising star: top RSS leaders in India personally knew me, and put me in charge of West Bengal state of ABVP. They also sent me to New Delhi to attend the first-ever conference of Janata Party, a conglomerate of anti-Indira Gandhi opposition. I was also deeply involved with the grassroots peoples’ movement led by Jay Prakash Narayan, a movement that successfully unseated mighty Indira Gandhi and her Congress Party for the first time in Indian history.

Fifteen precious years of my life — I spent with a militant, male chauvinist, anti-Muslim, anti-Christian, anti-socialism, anti-union, feudal Hindu supremacist organization that is strikingly similar in its social, economic and political doctrine with Christian or Islamic fanatic groups across the world. An organization that at one point eulogized Hitler and Nazis. An organization that masterminded — directly or indirectly — many Hindu-Muslim violence, and was once implicated in the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi.

Godse killed Gandhi

I deeply mourn those lost fifteen years. In fact, it was more than fifteen years. I joined them when I was only a six-year-old boy, and quit them once and for all, when I was doing my M.Sc. in the University of Calcutta. My old Calcutta friends know how passionately I had worked for the Hindu militants.

God! I was thick and thin, with religious and race bigotry!

Slowly but surely, I realized that I must write about them. In 1998, my book called In the Belly of the Beast: Hindu Supremacist RSS and BJP of India — An Insider’s Story was published from Ajanta Books International Delhi. It was somewhat of an autobiography: I talked about my long, personal, and deep association with those groups. I talked about my hundreds of peers, leaders, and friends. I wrote about my countless activities.

In the book, I highlighted the similarities across the fanatic, fundamentalist, and supremacist groups from various parts of the world. I also showed the hypocrisy of RSS and its offshoot organizations such as BJP, ABVP and Viswa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council), when it comes to preaching Hinduism and and its peace, and practicing hate and violence.

The book also has my translation of an article written by my father Jitendra Nath Banerjee, who has been a lifelong activist with RSS. He is a highly respected man among their circles, for his uprightness, honesty, and personal sacrifice for his ideology.

I respect my father’s lifelong sacrifice for his cause. But I do not support the cause.

I will post excerpts from my book here slowly. Hope you have time to read.

Sincerely,

Partha Banerjee

Brooklyn, New York

###

Related blog I posted before on this subject. — A Candid Confession.
Modi at RSS prayer
India’s prime minister Modi at RSS prayer.