27, Nov 2017 | Kumar Ketkar
Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru had presciently warned us exactly seventy years ago, in precise words, of the dangers of fascism in India. But we, meaning all of us, the Leftists, Liberals, Media, Academics and Intellectuals were either complacent, indifferent or irresponsible. We took for granted that we as a nation, we as a civilisation, we as a culture (“and for some, we as Hindus!”) will never succumb to the forces of fascism.
In a letter to the chief ministers, on December 7, 1947, and just a month and a half before the murder of the Mahatma, he wrote, “ We have a great deal of evidence to show that the RSS is an organisation, which is proceeding on the strictest Nazi lines, even following the technique of organisation. The German youth drifted towards the Nazi Party because of their negative programmes which did not require active effort of mind. The Nazi Party brought Germany to ruin and I have little doubt that if these tendencies are allowed to spread and increase in India, they would do enormous injury to India. No doubt, India would survive, but she would be grievously wounded and would take a long time to recover”
There are some myths, believed even by liberals, that Hindu civilisation by definition is plural and multi-cultural and will resist the regressive and unicolour forces of fascism. Then there are some naive intellectuals who think that the various public institutions are so entrenched that they will defeat the fascistic design. This faith has been belied totally.
One of the most naive and too simplistic argument has been that the BJP led by Narendra Modi has been elected by the people and should be given undisturbed five years as it is the people’s will that he and his party (and their mentors, the RSS) represent. Indeed, Adolf Hitler too was elected and even Mussolini represented their people. But according to the well known political sociologist, Bertram Gross, even in the developed western democracies, fascism can come to power. His book, “Friendly Fascism” says even in America fascism can come to power through electoral politics. His fears have almost come true with election if Donald Trump as a president. He wrote the book, with the subtitle “The New Face of Power in America”! Similar winds are blowing in Western Europe, as the global capitalism faces deeper and deeper crisis. The Marxist dictum that Fascism is a manifestation of “final solution” of the capitalism with its anti-people policies and actions.
The state governments under the Modi regime are virtually at the feet of the Prime Minister. From their budgetary allocations to the so called smart city plans. And from loan waiving programmes to who should be included or dropped from the state ministries. The interference of the Prime Minister’s office is so sweeping that even the chief ministers cannot act on their own.
We saw how the Reserve Bank of India surrendered its autonomy to the executive led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The disruptive demonetisation which brought misery to vast number of people, was announced and implemented without proper scrutiny by the RBI. The Non Performing Assets of banks have been playing havoc with the system and the RBI would not even declare the names of the (crony) capitalists. Take the Election Commission. It has still not announced the schedule for several by-elections including the one which became vacant following the death of J Jaylalitha. She passed away exactly one year ago on December 5. On the one hand the Commission endorses the policy of combined elections ( for assembly and Loksabha ) and fails even to declare dates for Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat simultaneously.
The so called autonomous status of universities is so completely undermined that everything is dictated by the HRD ministry-from appointments of vice chancellors to even the syllabus and campus rules. Earlier, even the police could not enter these supposed temples of knowledge. Now the police enter the campuses without any compunction and the government wants to display military tanks at the gates as display of patriotic spirit. All grant-in-aid educational institutions have to follow the diktats of the government. The books on history and politics are being changed with view to erase the roles Pandit Nehru and other tall secular leaders. They want to erase or distort the very history of the freedom movement under the guidelines of the RSS.
The Intelligence agencies, the IB, the ED, the CBI and NIA have become tools of the government to blackmail and terrorise political leaders, writers, journalists and artists—filmmakers and painters and poets and cartoonists. The bureaucracy was always subservient but now it has become slave. The judiciary is cunningly circumvented by using all means—sam, dam, dand , bhed that is persuade, bribe, reprimand or terrorise and divide to rule. The judges are transferred at shortest notice, kicked upwards, bribed, jailed or even killed!
Some intellectuals obfuscate the issue of fascism by saying that the situations in India cannot be compared with those in Italy in the twenties and in Germany in the thirties. Of course, no situations in difference countries could be in a ditto format. There will be variation in different countries, different cultures and different peoples. But we have to identify and diagnose similar attributes and elements that define the fascistic rule. Those elements are : systematic creation and spread of fear psychosis, persecution of rival political parties and leaders, controlling the media and terrorising the opposition, blackmailing the critics and detractors, using violence as means of dividing the communities on religious and caste lines, and generating hyper-nationalistic and jingoistic, xenophobic mindsets. All this by actively promoting obscene personality cult and setting up a caucus that rules bypassing the Parliament, cabinet, parliamentary bodies etc.
Indian version of fascism is based on majoritarianism, Hindu communal consolidation, isolating minorities—mainly Muslims, threatening and terrorising them, destroying their places of worship, killing helpless and hapless Muslims, raping women and so on. Using tradition, religion, culture, language and superstition for establishing unidimensional and uniform power structure.
Fascism indeed has many faces. Indian fascism is no less anti-civilisational, no less brutal and no less authoritarian than that of Hitler, Mussolini or Franco. It is time for all those who believe in democracy, secularism and liberal values to stand up and fight.
(Kumar Ketkar is a senior Indian journalist and political commentator. He has been editor of Dainik Divya Marathi and the Loksatta newspapers)