When the BJP Tries to Manufacture Heroes
The latest example is the shameful controversy on the naming of the new airport terminal in Chandigarh in which a new low has been established because it involves India's most beloved national hero, Bhagat Singh. His name is being dragged into petty politics by those who have never contributed a drop of sweat, leave alone blood, for the freedom of the country.
The controversy has been created by the ruling regimes at the Centre and in two states in which BJP is in government, namely, Haryana and Punjab. The facts are as follows:
In 2009, the Punjab Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution to name the proposed airport in Chandigarh after Bhagat Singh. This was conveyed to the Centre. A year later, the Haryana government also unanimously adopted a resolution endorsing the proposal of the Punjab government for naming the airport after Bhagat Singh.
The airport is a joint venture with the Punjab and Haryana governments holding 24.5 per cent of equity each, and the Airports Authority of India, a government undertaking under the Civil Aviation Ministry, holding the remaining 51 per cent. The Prime Minister inaugurated the new terminal in September of this year. However, there was no name to the airport.
A week ago, the reason for this unprecedented situation was revealed in the official written response by Minister of State for Civil Aviation Mahesh Sharma to a question raised in the Lok Sabha by Congress MP Ravneet Bittu. The reply stated that "...In a subsequent letter, the Chief Minister of Haryana has requested naming the international terminal as Dr. Mangal Sein International Airport Chandigarh. The proposal was examined in consultation with the ministries concerned and the Governments of Haryana and Punjab. However due to non-consensus between Haryana and Punjab, the airport terminal could not be renamed."
This is a totally deceptive explanation. The so-called non-consensus is between two minority shareholders. The majority shareholder is the Airports Authority of India which is under the Central Government. What does this organization have to say about this unseemly controversy? When Mahesh Sharma replies that all concerned ministries have been "consulted", what was his own ministry's position in the course of these consultations? Why is he silent on this issue, misleading Parliament? Clearly, Punjab is for renaming the terminal after Bhagat Singh as per their earlier resolution; if the Civil Aviation Ministry also agrees, then the majority opinion would be against the Haryana Chief Minister's objectionable intervention. But the central government under Modi itself is unwilling to displease the RSS-backed Chief Minister. There lies the problem.
Who is Mangal Sein? A long-time RSS ideologue who became Deputy Chief Minister of Haryana for a short stint between 1977-1979; he was also the BJP state President. If Khattar wanted to name his party bhavan after Sein, that would have been his right. But who is this Chief Minister who can, behind the back of the Haryana Assembly, overturn its earlier resolution about naming the airport after Bhagat Singh? It is only an RSS pracharak who can think of replacing the name of Bhagat Singh with one of their own.
This is what is called manufacturing heroes, and this is what the BJP-RSS combine is adept at doing, given the slightest opportunity.
In its earlier stint in power under the Vajpayee Government, the then NDA insulted the freedom fighters by naming the airport at Port Blair after VD Savarkar, the author of the Hindutva concept. It was from the cells of the Andaman Jail that Savarkar wrote his now infamous letter of apology to the British Government literally begging for mercy calling himself the "prodigal son" offering " I am ready to serve the Government in any capacity they like" in shameful surrender before the British empire. It is not the early Savarkar that the Sangh celebrates..the Savarkar as a freedom fighter, was a rationalist, an atheist, who considered cow worship as superstitious and irrational, but the Savarkar who during his incarceration of two years turned to a virulent form of communal and divisive thinking which weakened his will to fight the British and ultimately led him to Hindutva, the concept which is at the core of the RSS agenda of Hindu Rashtra.
The plaque reads "Vinayak Damodar Savarkar Indian patriot, philosopher lived here." A "patriot" who surrendered to the imperial power. There were real heroes who spent years locked up in the cellular jail, facing the most terrible torture at the hands of the British, including the youngest of them, teenager Subodh Roy, but none of them were considered fit by the then government to have the Port Blair airport named after them. History had to be manufactured by insulting true patriots.
Recently on December 6, the death anniversary of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar, the chief of the RSS, Mohan Bhagwat, made a speech in which he compared the Sangh's founder chief KB Hedgewar with Ambedkar. The former founded an organization - the RSS - which worked against the very idea of India for the establishment of a Hindustan only for the Hindus. The latter was one who chose to renounce Hinduism and its caste-based inequalities. That is the most obvious dissimilarity, which in fact stretched to all spheres of their thinking and their practice. Hedgewar is not known outside the circle of the Sangh Parivar. Bhagwat's comparison is not just an insult to Ambedkar, but another example of how the Sangh Parivar wants to latch on to the heroism of acknowledged national icons, and, through false comparisons, squeeze in a place for themselves.
They are welcome to their attempts which will find little resonance. But when they start misusing public money and Government institutions to manufacture heroes and rewrite history by insulting martyrs like Bhagat Singh, there has to be a full stop put to such attempts, if not by the Government, then by public opinion.
(Brinda Karat is a Politburo member of the CPI(M) and a former Member of the Rajya Sabha.)
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