Mainstream, VOL LIV No 14 New Delhi March 26, 2016
Urgent Need to Halt Onward March of Fascism
Monday 28 March 2016, by
In my article “Videshi and Swadeshi Fascism” published in Mainstream of August 7, 2004, I had delineated in some detail incidents of a fascist mode occurring in our country. Even after more than eleven-and-a-half years the scourge of fascism stares us in the face. Before updating this gruesome phenomenon, it may be useful to recapitulate some of the more important points made in that piece. These are as follows:
1. The European fascism and its Indian version came into being around the same time in early twentieth century. Interestingly, B.S. Moonje, Hedgewar’s mentor, adopted Musso-loni’s ideas for application and replication in India through the RSS. During his Europian tour he had met Mussolini at 3 pm on March 19, 1931.1
2. After the inhuman carnage of Godhra, what followed in Gujarat was the ugliest demons-tration of majoritarian attacks on Muslims. It was, in the words of Praveen Swami, “A fascist pogrom conducted by organised death squads of the Hindu Right with the entire State apparatus at their disposal.” (Frontline, March 19, 2002)
3. Randhir Singh, Professor Emeritus, Delhi University, opined that with the deepening socio-economic and moral crises afflicting Indian society and politics, communalism might come to contribute to the rise of a specifically Indian form of fascism. (Mainstream,Annual 1992)
4. One could not also forget physical attacks on M.F. Hussain’s paintings, Deepa Mehta’s films, Habib Tanvir’s play Ponga Pandit and Jamadarin, Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute at Pune, and Praful Shah’s Garden Art Gallery at Surat. (The Hindu, April 12, 2004)
5. Professor Aijaz Ahmad, Visiting Professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University, has commented that Hindutva communalism in general, and organisations of the RSS and Shiv Sena in particular, are not expressions of the familiar kind of Rightwing politics, but the specifically Indian forms of fascism.2
6. Demolition of the Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992 was the deadliest attack so far the Indian fascists mounted on the minority community. (Hindustan Times, October 17, 2003)
7. The noted historian, K.N. Panikkar, asserting that fascism has arrived, has said that it is only “waiting to cross the doorsteps”.3
8. Christians were one of the traditional enemies of Hindu fundamentalists and were being attacked regularly. The most gruesome incident was the burning alive of a Christian missionary, Graham Stains, and his minor sons in a jeep on January 23, 1999. Then followed Brother George being beaten to death in Mathura. (The Statesman, June 2000)
9. But the alarming aspect of this Hindu communal fascism is that it had the support, tacit or otherwise, of the highest in the land, who covertly and occasionally overtly, encouraged fascist actions of the hotheads of the Sangh Parivar. Professor Badri Raina of the Delhi University very aptly said: “Every respectable theory of fascist politics tells us that the beast flourishes best when in State power.” (HT, April 15, 2004)
10.Last but not the least, one shudders to confront the Togadia factor. A few samples of his most virulent statements: (i) He thundered: “We will repeat Gujarat all over the country, making the whole country a laboratory of establishing its ‘supremacy’ in India. This is our promise and our resolve”. (ii) Muslims alone were not the target of his ire. All those who opposed Hindutva, and they certainly included secularists, would get the “death sentence”. The eminent social scientist, Rajni Kothari, saw it as a “phenomenon triggering an onslaught on the full panaroma of democratic institutions and party politics, replacing it by clearly fascist restructuring of the polity and the nation”.4
The fascistic trend has continued to rule the roost even after that. We may enumerate a few incidents to prove the point. For example, on July 16, 2010, an unruly mob of the RSS members started protesting against a Headlines Today sting exposing links between RSS leaders and the bomb blasts at Ajmer Sharif and Malegaon. They attacked the Videocon Tower in Delhi’s Jhandewalan area, pelted stones, smashed glass doors, broke into the building and manhandled people.7
Earlier on January 17, 2010, a case of moral policing happened in Bhopal when ‘culture cops’ belonging to the Sanskriti Bachao Manch, an affiliate of the Bajrang Dal and RSS, went on the rampage threatening local shopkeepers not to display inner wear outside their shops and tearing down hoardings etc.5
It was reported that in late January 2010, the Karnataka Governor sought stringent action against persons responsible for desecreting churches near Mysore and Bhatkal in Uttar Karnataka district. The Chief Minister, B.S. Yeddyuruppa, termed the attack ”a pre-planned conspiracy to disturb peace on the eve of the Republic Day celebrations”.6
In retaliation for his statement on Jammu and Kashmir inter alia purportedly supporting demands for withdrawal of security forces from there, the senior lawyer Prashant Bhushan was attacked in his chamber by activists of the Shri Ram Sena and Bhagat Singh Kranti Sena on October 12, 2011. Bhushan was being interviewed by a Times Now news channel crew. Even as the television camera kept rolling, he was slapped by the miscreants, hurling blows on him, tearing his shirt and kicking him till he fell down.8
Tehelka of March 9, 2013, captured about a dozen incidents in which members of the different outfits of the Sangh Parivar attacked persons, vandalised offices of newspapers, and manhandled young boys and girls participating in parties in pubs or in private homestays.
In recent times, certain statements and actions on the part of the Sangh Parivar also smack of fascist manners. For example, on February 8, 2015, Mohan Bhagwat, the RSS chief, said in an address in Meerut that “Hindustan is our nation, a rashtra of Hindus”.9
On October 22, a 23-year-old Dalit journalism student at Davenagere University, Huchangi Prasad, was attacked and injured apparently by Rightwing men for having written a book containing his writings against the caste system.10
Fascism is a hydra-headed monster. Otherwise, why should an innocuous statement by Aamir Khan be attacked fiercely? During a conversation at the Ramnath Goenka Award function, he, referring to the atmosphere of intolerance, said that his wife, Kiran Rao, once wondered whether the family should consider moving out of the country to a place where their children would be safe. A virulent attack against him followed with a BJP politician charging him with committing a ‘moral offence’, and ‘defaming the entire country’. An apt answer to this malicious statement was given by a former Premier of British Columbia and former Canadian Minister of Helath, Ujjal Dosanjh, who had left India in 1964, taking up foreign citizenship. He said that “critics are wrong... I should be the one charged with treason for being a fugitive...”.11
Interestingly, the BJP patriarch, L.K. Advani, made an opaque reference to the authoritarian style of governance of Modi. He told “Aaj Tak” in June 2015, that forces that can crush demo-cracy are stronger now and another Emergency is possible. He added that he was against a “one-man show” and that “arrogance breeds authoritarians. It is very sad.” Strangely, this BJP stalwart made an anti-fascist remark.12 Is Modi listening?
We may conclude by quoting from Ayaz Ahmad, an Assistant Professor, Global Law School, Global University, Saharanpur: “Never before (except during the Emergency) in the history of our country, members of the ‘Ruling Party’ were inolved in fascist activities at such a large scale. Killers of rationalists, writers, lynchers of innocent on stupid suspicion, rioters, hate-mongers, prophets of violence all belong to the ‘One Ruling Party’. This creates apprehension of fascism taking over our motherland in an organised manner.”13
1. Economic and Political Weekly, January 22, 2000, p. 220.
2. Ibid., June 1, 1996, p. 1335.
3. Before the Night Falls by K.N. Panikkar, Books for Change, Bangalore, 2003, p. 142.
4. The Hindu, January 10, 2003.
5. The Hindu, January 18, 2010.
6. The Hindu, January 28, 2010.
7. Mail Today, July 17, 2010.
8. The Hindu, October 13, 2011.
9. Mail Today, February 9, 2015.
10. The Hindu, October 23, 2015.
11. Frontline, December 25, 2015.
12. The Hindu, June 19, 2015.
13. Mainstream, December 12, 2015.
The author is a former Under Secretary (now retired) of the Union Public Service Commission.