‘THE time has come,’ the Walrus said, ‘to talk of many things; of cabbages and kings...’ Lewis Carroll would surely have been aghast at seeing the wonderland of his Alice serving as a reference point for discussing contemporary India.
Indeed, such a time has come. However, as we shall see later, mere talking will not do. One look around and all that we can see are striking scenes of degeneration and destruction. Every facet of our country’s life appears to be in a state of disarray. The economic situation continues to look grim with the country fast moving towards bankruptcy. The inadequate monsoon after a long span of 12 successful years will further compound the misery of the people. Already reports are pouring in of starvation deaths and distress suicides stalking rural India.
India’s social fabric, tenuous as it is, is undergoing serious convulsions. The state-sponsored communal carnage in Gujarat has torn asunder India’s secular fabric. Casteist tensions and parochial divisiveness continue to wreak havoc. Political and corporate corruption have risen to scandalous levels and political morality has touched a new nadir. India’s time-tested foreign policy, whose hallmarks were nonalignment and fraternity with the developing world, has been replaced by a servile submissiveness to the USA. Preoccupied with a Pakistan-centric Kashmir policy, the government has been unable to prevent a string of terrorist attacks in the state. Internal security has sharply deteriorated. Furious attempts are afoot to rewrite Indian history and to communalise the education system. In short, in every sphere we see a comprehensive degeneration.
Is this state of atrophy and decay the product of wrong policies and incompetent governance? Or, is there a pattern to this present political and social cacophony? Unfortunately, it is the latter. And, this pattern is to be found in the serious assault being mounted for the conversion of a secular democratic republic of India into a rabidly intolerant fascistic ‘Hindu Rashtra’.
This objective was articulated by none less than the former long serving RSS supremo M.S. Golwalkar way back in 1939. His chilling fascist articulation of the RSS agenda continues to serve as the inspiration for the saffron brigade today. He says: ‘There are only two courses open to the foreign elements, either to merge themselves in the national race and adopt its culture, or to live at its mercy so long as the national race may allow them to do so and to quit the country at the sweet will of the national race….’
‘From this standpoint, sanctioned by the experience of shrewd old nations, the foreign races in Hindusthan must either adopt the Hindu culture and language, must learn to respect and hold in reverence Hindu religion, must entertain no idea but those of the glorification of the Hindu race and culture, i.e., of the Hindu nation and must lose their separate existence to merge in the Hindu race, or may stay in the country, wholly subordinated to the Hindu Nation, claiming nothing, deserving no privileges, far less any preferential treatment – not even citizen’s rights. There is, at least should be, no other course for them to adopt. We are an old nation; let us deal, as old nations ought to and do deal, with the foreign races who have chosen to live in our country.’
And how should ‘old nations’ deal? ‘To keep up the purity of the Race and its culture, Germany shocked the world by her purging the country of the Semitic Races – the Jews. Race pride at its highest has been manifested here. Germany has also shown how well-nigh impossible it is for Races and cultures, having differences going to the root, to be assimilated into one united whole, a good lesson for us in Hindusthan to learn and profit by.’
Over a decade ago, when we had exposed in detail the dangerous fascist ideology propounded by Golwalkar, in his book We or our Nationhood Defined, written in 1939, an embarrassed RSS and the BJP initially denied the authorship. However, when the authorship was established beyond doubt, they tried their best to wriggle out of their embarrassment by advancing various excuses. In the recent debate in the Parliament on the Gujarat carnage, when some of these quotations were read out by an MP, the prime minister was prompt to reply that the RSS had since withdrawn this book. There has never been any official confirmation to this effect during the last six decades by the RSS. Even if this was true, the point remains, as proven by the ghastly communal pogroms in Gujarat, that this book lays the ideological foundations of the fascist vision of the RSS’s ‘Hindu Rashtra’. It is this vision that is unfolding today in grotesque proportions.
It is the same Golwalkar who, while making many deceitful compromises seeking the removal of the ban on the RSS following Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination, had assured the Home Minister Sardar Patel that the RSS would refrain from taking part in politics and confine itself as a ‘cultural organisation’. In search of a political outfit, Golwalkar had sent some pracharaks to assist Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, who fell out with Nehru and resigned from the union cabinet, to found a political party in 1951. Among those sent were the late Deen Dayal Upadhyaya, the present Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister and the Governor of Gujarat to found the Jana Sangh, the earlier incarnate of the present BJP. One would be living in a fool’s paradise if one were to consider the BJP as anything else but the political arm of the RSS.
In a way, what is happening today is the continuation of the struggle between the three main ideological trends that emerged during India’s long struggle for freedom. These related to a vision of what should constitute the character of independent India. The majoritarian stream represented and led by the Congress reflected the vision of a secular democratic republic whose foundational pillars were to be secular democracy, federalism, social justice and economic self-reliance.
Distinctly opposed to such a vision was the one articulated above, spearheaded by the RSS. Its twin was to be found in the Muslim League which, from the opposite point of view, articulated the vision of an Islamic state. In fact, it is none other than Vinayak Damodar Savarkar who first raised the issue of British India consisting of two nations – Hindu and Muslim. This he did a full three years before the Muslim League and Jinnah articulated the two-nation theory.
Savarkar in his presidential address to the Hindu Mahasabha said: ‘We Hindus are a nation by ourselves ... we Hindus are marked out as an abiding Nation by ourselves’ (see Indian Annual Register, 1939, Vol. II). Again later he reiterated, ‘I have no quarrel with Mr. Jinnah’s two-nation theory. We, Hindus, are a nation by ourselves and it is a historical fact that Hindus and Muslims are two nations’ (Indian Annual Register, 1943, Vol. II). Later, he completely agreed with Jinnah and his demand for a separate Muslim state. It is precisely this vision that kept the RSS away from the freedom movement, at times collaborating with the British.
The third vision to emerge during the freedom struggle was articulated by the Left which sought to build on the foundations of a modern secular democratic republic and move further towards an egalitarian socioeconomic order, i.e., socialism.
With the achievement of independence and the adoption of the Constitution, many felt that the fascistic vision of a ‘Hindu Rashtra’ had been defeated, never to resurface. For, after all, it was the majority of the Indian people, whose majority, in turn, were part of the Hindu faith, who had rejected the RSS vision. While the majority of those belonging to the Hindu faith may be opposed to the RSS vision even today, to have expected the RSS to abandon its fascist vision was, however, misplaced confidence.
Just like the US atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki did not end the Second World War (as the fascist armies had surrendered by then) but signalled the beginning of the Cold War, the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi signalled the beginning of a new offensive by the RSS. After nearly four decades of patient work, exploiting the growing discontent of the people against the Congress rule, communal forces mounted the current phase of the aggression during the decade of the 1990s.
What we are witnessing today is the unmistakable march of the communal forces who are leaving no stone unturned to achieve their objective. This requires, in the first place, the weakening and the eventual dismantling of all institutions of a modern secular democratic republic. And, in the midst of the consequent anarchy that would follow, the saffron brigade seeks to establish its ‘Hindu Rashtra’.
In order to do this, it is imperative for them to continue to hold the reins of state power. By hook or crook, by cajoling, bargaining, threatening and blackmailing, they have to keep this coalition of the NDA going in order to remain in power. To achieve this, there is no deceitful compromise or deal that they have not entered into. They are willing to support the BSP government in Uttar Pradesh (after having contested against them in elections) in return for the latter’s support at the Centre. In such sordid political bargaining and manoeuvring they have shown absolutely no scruple.
Of late, however, having come to the conclusion that its popular support base has rapidly shrunk because of its disastrous performance and policies, the Vajpayee government has taken recourse to rousing every conceivable divisive passion among the people in order to divert their attention away from malgovernance.
Overheating the already boiling communal cauldron is, of course, their staple diet to achieve this objective and further their agenda of converting the secular and democratic republic of India into a fascistic Hindu Rashtra. Their eagerness to reap electoral profit over the mutilated corpses of thousands of innocent people in Gujarat chillingly reveals their sinister methodology. If they succeed in Gujarat, this is the pattern that will be emulated for the rest of the country. This will be the Modification of India.
Simultaneously, the saffron brigade is whipping up tensions on other issues as well. In a span of one week, the state of Jharkhand saw four bandhs and the death of over ten people. The issue was a totally unprovoked circular issued by the BJP state government on the question of reservation of jobs for domicile people. The BJP in the state has shed all pretenses in publicly declaring that this issue has been raked up with the sole objective of exploiting it for electoral benefit.
Apart from the obvious political manoeuvre employed by the Railway Minister, Nitish Kumar, to safeguard his portfolio in the Cabinet reshuffle, the decision to create new railway zones is also being exploited to rouse parochial passions. The Indian Railways is one of the few institutions and networks which plays a significant role in uniting and integrating our vast country. Its pan-Indian national character is one of India’s biggest assets. To compartmentalise this institution within various states is fraught with grave consequences.
It is India’s tragedy that we have a government that, while advancing the RSS’s fascistic communal agenda, resorts to whipping up divisive passions for the sake of continuing to remain in office. In the process, it is the people and the country who continue to suffer.
This can be seen, as noted earlier, in all spheres of the country’s political, economic and social life. The more dangerous tendency is the attempt to try to channelise the patriotic nationalism of the Indian people into jingoism. Beginning with the nuclear tests in Pokhran, such belligerent jingoism has become the order of the day. The thunderous speeches declaring that henceforth there shall be peace since no one would dare to touch India because of the nuclear weapons soon evaporated with Kargil. Far from reducing tensions, the so-called nuclear deterrence has produced a period of continuous tensions and conflict. Currently, close to half a million soldiers are standing at full alert guarding the LoC with Pakistan making it the largest peacetime mobilisation anywhere in the world.
The last few years have seen some of the worst terrorist attacks on the already beleaguered people of Jammu and Kashmir. The policies and approach adopted by this government have virtually given the de facto role of a mediator to the USA. Concentrating only on cross-border terrorism sponsored by Pakistan, this government has virtually ignored the all important political processes required to reverse alienation of the people of the state. Holding elections without seriously addressing this issue, unfortunately, may only fester the wounds of alienation. While the democratic process can never be underemphasised, the circumstances in which it takes place is all important.
Such alienation can be addressed only if the government sincerely discusses the issue of autonomy under Article 370 of our Constitution with the political forces in Jammu and Kashmir. But then, the RSS and BJP seek the abrogation of this Article. Hence, any motions of a dialogue that they may undertake on this issue, under the compulsions of the NDA coalition, are only likely to be cosmetic and meant for public consumption. In other words, with this government in office, a meaningful political process to restore normalcy in this strife-driven state cannot be expected.
Worse is the fact that the RSS is publicly campaigning for a communal trifurcation of the state. This dovetails with the devious Dixon plan advanced by US imperialism four decades ago. Its strategy was to separate the Jammu and Ladakh regions from the Kashmir Valley. Then, along with Pakistan-occupied territories, to establish an independent country of Kashmir under US tutelage. The tremendous geopolitical strategic advantage this tiny country would have, bordering Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, China and providing a gateway to the Central Asian Republics will immensely further USA’s global hegemonic drive. If the RSS’s plan succeeds, the very unity and integrity of India would be perilously jeopardised.
What we have today is the lethal combination of a fascistic ideology and propaganda methodology in the hands of unscrupulous elements who control state power and are willing to trample upon every known value and norm of modern civilization.
If all aspects of the present situation are clubbed together, what emerges is a grave and a grim scenario for the future. The economy is continuously being mortgaged. All sectors have been thrown open to foreign capital, public assets built by the sweat and labour of the Indian people over half a century are being sold off literally for a song. By unhesitatingly adopting the economic agenda dictated by foreign capital, this present government, in turn, receives the political support of imperialism and foreign capital. By adopting domestic economic policies which over these few years granted heavy subsidies for the rich while mounting burdens on the common people, this government seeks, in turn, the political patronage of domestic capital.
Meanwhile, the government relentlessly pursues the RSS’s fascistic communal agenda which is not only anti-secular, but inherently anti-democratic. We thus face a situation where a metamorphosis of India is likely to take place.
What may emerge out of this can be called the Saudi Arabianisation of India. Saudi Arabia, a religious fundamentalist feudal monarchy that practices archaic social laws under equally archaic political institutions, is a firm ally of US imperialism. As long as imperialist interests are served, no questions are asked about human rights, democracy, religious fundamentalism and so on. Under the present dispensation, India faces the danger of being converted into a modern Hindu variant of Saudi Arabia.
India, under this Vajpayee government, has emerged as the most faithful accomplice and steadfast ally of the USA. This can be seen in all spheres – political, economic and military. India was prompt to declare its support to the USA’s unilateral abrogation of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty and its Nuclear Defence Missile (NMD) programme (a more dangerous variant of Ronald Reagan’s ‘star wars’ plan). This unsolicited support was extended even while USA’s staunchest European allies, like Britain, were hesitant and sceptical. India has today elevated its military cooperation with the USA to strategic levels, leading to joint military exercises. Such exercises are normally conducted by countries that perceive a common enemy. Who can the common enemy of both India and the USA be? That Pakistan continues to remain USA’s closest ally especially during its so called ‘war against terrorism’ only underscores this government’s servility.
One need not catalogue the series of policy measures implemented by this government in the economic sphere that perilously undermine India’s economic sovereignty. Suffice to note that even some RSS frontal organisations who cling on to the apron strings of ‘Swadeshi’ are patently appalled. But they dare not go beyond verbal denouncements lest they upset the apple cart. The conversion of modern India into a ‘Hindu Rashtra’ requires the control of state power and cannot brook opposition to USA. On the contrary, if required, India will be made prostrate as long as USA does not interfere in the saffron brigade’s domestic agenda.
The foreign policy capitulation can only be understood in this perspective. Many have detailed, more competently, this surrender to USA’s political objectives. Suffice to note one abject manifestation of such a shift: the virtual silence of India and its refusal to condemn Israeli atrocities against the Palestinians. India today has reneged on its commitment, which goes back to years before independence, to the inalienable right of the Palestinians to a homeland.
Therefore, on the one hand, we see servile subservience to US imperialism. On the other, we see domestically, an aggressive assault on everything that is modern and progressive. Thus, they negate the very Constitution that sanctifies the character of the modern Indian Republic. The VHP and Bajrang Dal with their motley crowd of sants, declaring themselves as sole custodians of the Hindu faith, thunder with arrogant impunity that they shall not accept the Supreme Court verdict on the Ayodhya dispute if it goes against their interests. Not to be left behind, Prime Minister Vajpayee himself declared in the Lok Sabha that the construction of the Ram temple at Ayodhya would be a reflection of the ‘national sentiment’. If any reconfirmation was needed to establish that Golwalkar’s fascistic analysis of equating Hindu as ‘national’ at the expense and exclusion of all others, this is it.
In the meanwhile, the country is forced to debate this government’s obsession with its communal interpretation of ancient Indian history. Indian history is being rewritten to establish that the Aryans originated in this land. This is crucial and central to their thesis. If the Aryans are seen as ‘outsiders’ to the land, then the argument against followers of other religions such as Islam and Christianity as ‘non-indigenous stands discredited. Refuting all available researched historical evidence, Indian history is sought to be rewritten to establish this. Even Hitler, who imposed the inhuman Nazi fascism in the name of Aryan superiority, the RSS would claim, had migrated from India! Likewise, the educational syllabus would have to be distorted to create a consciousness negating the strength of Indian civilization – the assimilation of various influences to give us the present strength of character – and in its place, create a fascistic intolerance of all influences other than the so called ‘Hindu’.
To achieve such a fascistic order, the polity will also have to be changed. Accordingly, the agenda of public discourse, what films can be seen (e.g., Water), what paintings viewed (e.g., M.F. Husain), what sport played and with whom (e.g., Pakistan cannot play cricket in India), is being set. Anyone daring to oppose this irrationality could be arrested under POTA!
Can India survive this? The unity and integrity of a country of such vast diversity – not only religious but linguistic, traditions, customs – can only be maintained by strengthening the bonds of commonality amongst this diversity. By imposing a uniformity, this unity will be shattered. This is precisely what the communal fascist forces seek.
Thus, if India, as we know it today, has to be saved from such a metamorphosis, this communal fascistic juggernaut has to be stopped in its tracks. This requires the unity of all left, secular and democratic forces who cherish India, i.e., Bharat. Given the fact that some regional political parties who succumb to both political opportunism and the enticement to share the spoils of office continue to prop up this fascistic project, only a popular people’s movement to defeat these forces politically can save the situation.
As was argued at the outset, merely talking about what is happening around us will not do. The time has come to act. Recollect the age-old wisdom which filters down to us: ‘For the evil to succeed, the good only has to be silent.’