I was in Kerala, South India recently for a family wedding and some holiday time. Getting a grip on the local and national politics was fascinating, if also worrying.
The politics in Kerala are interesting as this week there are panchayat local elections (similar to parish, district and city council elections). There is a strong left wing tradition in Kerala and hopefully the left will do well. I hope to blog about the local elections soon.
But there are some worrying political developments nationally. A story that caught my eye was a row that was brewing nationally over the eating of beef. The biggest party in the Indian national parliament is the BJP who currently lead the government. The BJP are a very right wing party with very close links to both the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Shiv Sena both of whom are extreme right wing Hindu nationalist organisations with a propensity to violence, particularly towards Muslims.
More recently many senior BJP leaders at a national and state level have been declaring that Muslims and others living in India should stop eating beef. This has stirred up a lot of controversy with the Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah defiantly saying “I will eat beef now. Who are you to question me? Though I’ve not consumed beef till now, I will do it now. It’s my right”
This resulted in S N Channabasappa, a local BJP leader in Karnataka, yesterday threatening to behead the Chief Minister if he ate beef. He said:
“How dare you lay your hands on the neck of Gomata? You are openly saying with a dictatorial attitude that you will eat cow meat… If you have the guts, you come here and eat at Gopi Circle (in Shivamogga), then, let there be no doubt that on that day, you will be beheaded”
He has now been arrested.
The row over this is worrying as it is sowing division in communities and extreme right wing Hindu nationalist groups like the RSS and Shiv Sena are exploiting tensions and even encouraging violence. What makes things worse is the ruling BJP party that runs the government are mainly staying silent instead of condemning provocative statements by some of their members. The truth is, stirring up divisions suits their Hindu nationalism.
It’s all very worrying and it looks like things will get worse before they get better.