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Mainstream, VOL LIII No 43 New Delhi October 17, 2015

Unmasking Hindutva, Modi and Majoritarian Offensive

Monday 19 October 2015

BOOK REVIEW

by Reena Cherian

India Since 2002 by Mukul Dube (Foreword by Professor D.N. Jha); AlterNotes Press, New Delhi; 2015; pages: xii + 198; Price: Rs 380.

India Since 2002 is a collection of articles published by Mukul Dube in the weekly Mainstream. The earliest were written in the aftermath of the Gujarat pogrom of 2002. The fiftythree articles are reflective of developments since then in the socio-political climate of the country. Some capture the emergence, origin and political positions adopted by leaders, such as “Maun Mustanda: The Strong Silent Man”and “Having One’s Mahaprasad and Eating it Too”, while articles such as “A Fair Unfair to Books”and On the Ramayanas Affair”deal with state control and Rightwing influence over literary expression and censorship. A wide spectrum of issues, debates, deliberations and political positions of politicians are at play in this anthology.

The wording of the article headings shows a precise and concise style of presenting the irony and solemnity of the issues, while the alliteration in article headings such as “The Path of the Parivar”, “One Voices and Two Noises”, “Haunted by History”, “Siddhartha Shankar Sibal” and “Memory and Modi” are indicative of the unique style of writing along with a tinge of cynicism and an apparent play with satire and humour.

The author has captured how conceptuali-sation and perception and meanings of words have changed post-2002. In “Black, White, No Grey” he illustrates this situation with the changed meaning of the word secularism. He describes what political dynamics led to the change in the meanings of these terminologies, and asserts that “the secular state must be nothing other than the secular”. (p. 10)

Speaking further on the selection and use of words, he says how words like sabhyata,asmita and apaharan were manipulated and bellowed by the Right-wing to form an impression of their being the forerunners of culture. Writing of the debate between tolerance and secularism, he points to the inherent nature of religions to compete and struggle with one another, each seeking to establish that it is the absolute truth.

There are vignettes. There is a detailed sketch of the image of the old hand Vinayak Damodar Savarkar as the face of Hindutva in the first part of “Heroic Hindutva” and of the neoteric Uma Bharti in the second part. “Maun Mustanda”, about Lal Krishna Advani, is about the veteran leader of Hindutva while Dubeji’s “Siddhartha Sankar Sibal” is a an amalgamated vignette of two Cabinet Ministers in Congress governments serving at different times but responding in the same manner to analogous circumstances.

Two articles deal with capital punishment for Afzal Guru. One is a critique of reliance on and adherence to circumstantial evidence, while the other is an appeal to the President on Mohammad Afzal Guru’s mercy petition. The article, “Some Observations on the Mohd. Afzal Case”, builds the context of the appeal made by him, N.D Pancholi and Harsh Kapoor. In 2012, he revisited Afzal Guru’s case after the hanging of Ajmal Kasab and disparaged the majoritarian response in both cases.

Mukul Dube criticises public response and opinion in the context of the Delhi Rape case by attributing it to the romanticism associated with the protest, which attracts people who are not truly committed to the fight. The July 2013 article, “The Importance of Being Ishrat”, vehe-mently opposes the “encounter” and the concerted campaign by the BJP, the Central Bureau of Investigation, and a section of the media to paint Ishrat Jahan as a terrorist.

The articles at the end of the anthology, written between March 2014 and April 2015, focus on the coming to power of N. Damodardas Modi and the sequence of events on the canvas of secularism after that. “The Experiment”, written in October 2014, introduces the strategies used to manufacture the Muzaffarnagar violence. Dubeji says that to speak of “an uncanny similarity” is wrong, because the violence was structured and planned as a part of the programmatic communalism of the Right-wing. A similar view is presented by Tanweer Fazal in “Lineages of Riot: Muzaffarnagar Retold” which appeared in TheHindu in October 2014.

“Memory and Modi” points to the massive failure of memory which causes people to over-look the communal violence in Gujarat and the skewed nature of its vaunted “development”. Further on Modi is “Notes on the Leader”, from October 2014, which sketches a portrait of the man when in power.

The writing style of Dubeji is distinctive, and the anthology can be read for understanding about marginalised communities, exclusion, several measures of social control and, not the least, the propaganda and programme of Hindutva.

The reviewer is on the faculty, Department of Social Work, University of Delhi.