Atal Bihari Vajpayee (1924-2018)

 

 

A Brilliant Leader Who Understood Moderation

My Personal Tribute
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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.

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Sincerely,

Partha Banerjee

Brooklyn, New York

Visiting France and Italy…and Comparing Them with USA and India — An Analysis

2018-05-26 12.46.42The Roman Forum — Relics of the ancient city. Julius Caesar was assassinated here.
(Photo by author)

[Blogs can sometimes work better than Facebook. At least, that’s the hope I have here. Or, maybe, in this Era of Post Reason, nobody cares. Maybe, nobody wants to read anymore about history, politics, economics, or such “boring” subjects. We gathering most of our knowledge from corporate media, and imagine the rest of it.]

I just returned from a short vacation in France and Italy, and planned to write a series of articles on what I saw there, comparing their situation with that in USA and India. I write them on this blog, segment by segment.

Here is part one: a historical narrative, sort of.

The Poor Immigrants Today: Politically Exploited and Socially Excluded

When Hitler rose to power in 1930’s Germany, he tricked his country’s men and women into believing that he was the true and honest voice of the ordinary Germans, who can rescue the country from “economic misery” and “social anarchy.” He created an environment of ultra-patriotism that made people believe that (1) Germany’s economy is unraveling because of a post-WWI “punishing” Versailles Treaty, and also because of Jews that he said were living as parasites with no allegiance for the nation of Germany and its supremacy, and (2) in order to get out of the mess and re-establish “Old Glory,” Germany must withdraw from global economic agreements, drive out its Jewish aliens, and assume military power by secretly building an incredibly huge arsenal.

We know the rest of the history.

In 2016, Donald Trump came to power in USA — once a laughable proposition — by championing an “America First” slogan that almost exactly copied from Hitler’s book of propaganda. He threatened to withdraw from global economic treaties, impose trade embargo on China and Europe, and through his far right media outlets, blamed Muslim and Mexican immigrants for the economic “ills” of America. In his many speeches, he openly called immigrants as “murderers and rapists.” His Republican Party that over the years became a far right-wing party with fascistic trends, sided along with him, and a weak and corrupt Democratic Party with its inefficient leadership failed to stop him from becoming the president of America. Hitler also had exploited a weak, corrupt and inefficient Weimar Republic for Germany’s “miserable” situation.

History is repeating itself today in other parts of the world. We have seen it in today’s India, where a far right, fringe grassroots organization called the RSS and its political front BJP have assumed an once-unthinkable majority in the parliament, with Narendra Modi as the prime minister of India, whose visa the U.S. government revoked after his alleged mastermind role in the 2002 anti-Muslim riot in the state of Gujarat where he was the chief minister. A man affiliated with the RSS had once killed Mahatma Gandhi. In 1992, these Hindu supremacist groups were responsible for a massive, bloody carnage across India.

History repeats, but people forget the history very quickly. Mainstream media and politicians make them forget.

In Europe today, we see the same scenario unfolding. In France and Italy, two countries I visited last week, see this trend. In the recent presidential election, far right wing candidate Marie Le Pen received an unprecedented high percentage of votes, and became the biggest opposition to liberal Emmanuel Macron, who eventually won the election. In Paris, we have seen many “Frexit” signs on lamp posts — following the “Brexit” (British economy out of the Euro Zone) fallout. Far right lives even among the free Parisians.

As we all know, the British powers have always colluded with American powers, to create war (Iraq war on a fake WMD pretext being the most recent example), violence and havoc across the world — going against the wishes of the rest of the human civilization. Brexit consequences helped Trump to consolidate his “America First” propaganda even further.

In Italy, the newly elected president Sergio Mattarella won against a powerful anti-EuroZone, far right coalition led by a heir of WWII dictator Mussolini. Chances are, Mattarella, a weak president, will not survive his presidency long. We just came back from Rome and Naples. People are not happy with the way the new government is running.

Anti-immigrant sentiments are high, and poor immigrants we spoke with look grim, scared, isolated, excluded, and sad.

In all of the countries above — during the present and past — poor, hapless immigrants are bearing the brunt of the economic chaos and social unrest that they are not responsible for. The 1% is now 0.0001% in USA, and the so-called “American Dream” is long lost — for most people. Northern Europe and Scandinavian countries practicing social democracy and with a strong labor union are doing a little better. The American situation is potentially catastrophic. The Indian situation is explosive.

America’s wars across the world and their aftermath have created a new generation of destitute, and millions have fled Bangladesh, India, Pakistan (former British colonies), Mali, Algeria, Senegal, Morocco (former French colonies), Tunisia, Albania, Libya, Ethiopia (former Italian colonies) — places which were even further ravaged by a global war-waging American military industry. Vietnam was also a French colony, before USA inflicted the historic genocide and barbarism.

Poverty, illiteracy, and health crises are dangerously high in the undocumented immigrant and refugee communities. They are trapped, with nowhere to go.

History repeats itself, but people do not remember history. Those who do, an ignorant, violent, or complacent populist culture excludes them from their association and awareness.

(To be continued).

Sincerely,

Partha Banerjee

Brooklyn, New York

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