Aggressive Fascist Agenda
- India has witnessed a massive political shift in the last four years with the BJP decisively replacing the Congress as the dominant political representative of the ruling classes. For the first time in India’s parliamentary history, the BJP has not only secured absolute majority on its own at the Centre but it has also emerged as the ruling party, whether singly or in coalition with other parties, in all but a few states. With its recent victory in Tripura, where the Left had been in power uninterruptedly for 25 years, the BJP has managed to tighten its grip over the entire North-Eastern region. The rise of the BJP as the predominant ruling party of India at both central and provincial levels has enabled the entire Sangh Parivar to unleash its fascist agenda with unprecedented speed and aggression.
- The aggression has been evident ever since Narendra Modi was projected as the BJP’s PM candidate in the 2014 elections. The BJP ran the 2014 parliamentary election campaign like the Presidential campaign in the US, creating a veritable mythology around Modi and his so-called Gujarat model. The slogans issued by Modi like ‘Congress-mukt Bharat’ and the name of his rallies as ‘Bharat Vijay’ (the conquest of India) conveyed this aggression in no uncertain terms. Ever since, the BJP is treating its 2014 electoral victory (won with a vote share of only 31%) as though it has indeed conquered India and acquired a veritable licence to reshape everything according to the Sangh-BJP ideology and agenda. The BJP has unleashed an open assault on the Constitution and Modi ministers like Anant Hegde have openly emphasised the BJP’s mission to change the Constitution.
- The fascist offensive in India is being unleashed both by the State as well as a whole range of non-State actors, both often working in tandem and in close collusion with each other. The State has become increasingly authoritarian and intrusive, even as it overtly or covertly patronises the Sangh brigade in enforcing the communal-casteist-patriarchal code through mob lynchings, targeted killings of dissenting intellectuals and activists, and a relentless campaign of virulent hate-mongering. From the terms of citizenship to the nature of the republic, the Modi government is trying to subvert the very foundation of constitutional democracy in India.
Undermining Parliamentary Democracy
- In utter violation of the cabinet system of functioning in a parliamentary democratic system, Modi has been running his government on the American presidential pattern. Whether we look at his frequent foreign trips virtually making the office of the external affairs minister redundant, the sudden announcement of demonetization on the eve of the crucial UP elections, the announcement of the Rafale aircraft deal during his visit to France on terms far more adverse than had been negotiated by the previous government, the launch of the GST through a midnight joint session of Parliament as though it were another moment of India winning freedom, or the massive advertisement spree costing the exchequer roughly Rs 3 crore per day – the Modi government is all about absolute concentration of power and the unabashed promotion of an unmitigated personality cult.
- Since day one, the Modi government has been systematically bypassing and undermining parliamentary institutions, procedures and conventions. The abolition of the Planning Commission and its replacement by a dubious NITI Aayog which does not even bother to pay lip-service to concerns for people’s welfare while pushing for digitisation of the economy and even advising the Election Commission on simultaneous holding of Lok Sabha and Assembly elections and the fraudulent passage of the Aadhaar and a host of other controversial measures in the guise of Money Bill are just a couple of glaring examples.
- The growing BJP clamour for ‘one nation, one election’ is an attempt to undermine the principles of federalism and political diversity, and use simultaneous elections to enforce greater political homogeneity by restricting the political choices of the people and subordinating the political discourse on every level to the narrative scripted by the ruling party and the big media.
- Most of the Governors appointed by the new regime have been functioning like RSS propagandists, openly promoting the RSS agenda and fomenting communal polarisation by misusing the Governor’s office even in opposition-ruled states. The office of the Governor which is constitutionally designed to give an upper hand to the Centre over the states is now being brazenly misused by the BJP to promote its partisan interest of power grabbing and turn India into a completely unitary polity by undermining the rights of the states and every aspect of federal balance in our constitutional framework.
Crony Capitalism, Corruption, Economic Devastation
- The concentration of powers in the Prime Minister’s hands and the undermining of the parliamentary conventions and procedures have facilitated a ruthless pursuit of the economic agenda of liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation. Soon after coming to power, Narendra Modi tried to undo the safeguards and improved terms of compensation and rehabilitation won by land- and livelihood-losers in the 2013 Land Acquisition Act. In the face of stiff resistance, his government could not however convert the Land Acquisition Ordinance into law. But that has not stopped the government from brazenly pursuing its agenda and promoting corporate interests by all means. Opening up the entire Indian economy to foreign capital and wooing foreign investment in the name of ‘Make in India’ and systematic promotion of privatisation through joint venture and PPP mode and even outright sale of public sector assets and companies have been the key thrust of the Modi government’s economic agenda, resulting in increasing mass dispossession and displacement in the name of development.
- Reconstruction of the banking sector and digitisation of economic transactions have emerged as another key area of the Modi government’s economic programme. It is well known that the root cause of the crisis of the banking sector in India is the huge burden of non-performing assets which is essentially a technical term for massive unpaid corporate loans. Instead of penalising the defaulters, the government is going for periodic write-offs and bail-outs, and after the coercive withdrawal of 86% of the currency in circulation through demonetization, the government is now even contemplating diversion of depositors’ money to bail the banks by converting deposits into bank shares. It should be noted that from digitization and Aadhaar to the draconian provisions of the FRDI bill, all proposals of restructuring the financial sector conform to the blueprint prescribed by the bosses of international finance and on most of these issues Modi and his party have taken a U turn after coming to power. The relative insulation from – or lack of integration with – global finance, had significantly saved the Indian financial sector from the devastation of the global financial crisis. By undermining the sovereign safeguards and barriers protecting the Indian financial sector from the turbulence and fierce aggression of international finance, the Modi government has already rendered the Indian economy alarmingly more vulnerable in the face of external pressures and shocks.
- Modi had come to power attacking the UPA government for the multiple scams amidst growing mass anger against corruption and crony capitalism. But no government in the past has been so closely identified with corporate interests and that too just a handful of big houses as the Modi government. From spearheading an all-out corporate grab of natural resources, public sector assets and bank finance within the country to promoting Adani-Ambani interests abroad, this government has emerged in such a short span of time as the epitome of crony capitalism. The government’s complicity in allowing mega economic offenders like Vijay Mallya and now Nirav Modi flee the country, the threats issued to the media whenever it exposed cases like the stunning rise in the fortunes of Jay Amit Shah and the refusal to disclose the prices paid in the Rafale fighter jet deal to the Parliament in the name of commercial secrecy and national security reveal its utter hypocrisy on the question of corruption. Every major economic decision of the government has inflicted tremendous hardship on the common people while yielding massive benefits to a handful of capitalists.
Deepening Agrarian Crisis, Massive Unemployment and Rising Inequality
- Alongside the disruption and destruction of small-scale production and trade, there has been an intensified assault on the farm sector. Farmers and rural workers demanding loan waiver and fair prices have been sought to be silenced by brutal repression. Repeated instances of police firing on farmers and adivasis to enforce land acquisition in Jharkhand, the killing of protesting farmers in Mandsaur, Madhya Pradesh, the mockery meted out to farmers in the name of loan waivers in UP, Maharashtra and Rajasthan, large-scale eviction of labouring peasants in UP, Bihar and Assam and arrest of peasant leaders under the draconian NSA – all these examples clearly testify to a veritable war that BJP-ruled state governments are waging on the peasantry. The vicious communal campaign unleashed by the BJP in the name of cow protection has also caused huge disruption and damage to the agrarian economy affecting the entire chain of activities from cattle trade and dairy farming to meat business and the hotel industry. The rural economy and various welfare schemes have additionally been badly hit because of declining budgetary allocation and the disruption created by the linking of every scheme with Aadhhar.
- The agrarian crisis and the increasingly adverse conditions for small enterprises, both manufacturing and trading, have slowed down the overall economic growth and most alarmingly the growth of employment. Indian economy is actually making an ominous transition from jobless growth to job-loss growth with a net decline in absolute employment figures. Apart from the continuing downsizing of the organised sector including the government and the public sector, employment in sectors like IT and other export-oriented industries which had been generating sizable employment opportunities in the last couple of decades has taken a serious beating in the face of the global economic crisis and the arbitrary and adverse measures of the Modi government, especially in the wake of demonetization and GST. Having come to power with the promise of adding 2 crore jobs every year, the Modi government is now asking job-seekers to become job-givers and projecting the MUDRA scheme of small loans (average loan size being less than 50,000 rupees) as the biggest job-generation measure of all times.
- Prime Minister Modi has boasted of providing ‘ease of doing business’ for global and local corporations: eroding and destroying labour and environmental protection laws in the process. To camouflage the pro-corporate image of the regime, Modi and his ministers have of late begun to talk about ‘ease of living’ alongside the much touted ‘ease of doing business’. But this deceptive discourse stands shattered by shocking reports of starvation deaths and farmer suicides. Modi’s ‘Skill India’ scheme stands exposed as a sham when instead of providing any fresh training and avenues for salaried jobs, the unemployed are left to eke out survival somehow by informal self-employment like street-vending and the government seeks to claim credit for avenues of self-employment such as selling pakodas (fritters) in the name of providing jobs. Indeed, street vendors have poignantly pointed out that their own ‘ease of living’ and ‘ease of doing business’ are both under attack when they are evicted from urban streets. The World Development Indicators (International Labour Organization, ILOSTAT database, March 2017) shows that wage and salaried jobs as percentage of total employment stood at 21.2 in India – shamefully behind the South Asia average (26), Bangladesh (44.5), Pakistan (39.6), and even behind the average for Heavily Indebted Poor Countries – HIDCs (28.9) and Least Developed Countries – LDCs (33.3). A recent draft Systematic Country Diagnostic (SCD) report by the World Bank has emphasised that India needs to create regular, salaried jobs with growing earnings rather than pushing the majority of the people in precarious and low-income survival activities.
- Amidst declining growth and falling real income for vast majority of Indians, inequality has been growing sharply. The process has been steadily gathering momentum for the last three decades, and especially in the Modi era of unmitigated corporate aggression amidst growing economic disaster for the common people. Since 2014, the wealth share of the top 1% has begun to grow by leaps and bounds, from 49% in 2014 to 53% in 2015 and 58.4% in 2016. And the recent Oxfam study tells us that the richest 1 per cent pocketed as much as 73% of the wealth generated in 2017. At the same time, India continues to remain one of the hungriest countries in the world, ranking 100 among 119 countries in terms of the Global Hunger Index in 2017!
Attacks on Minorities, Dalits and All Forms of Dissent
- Accompanying this aggressive pursuit of pro-corporate economic agenda is a shrill rhetoric of hyper-nationalism. Every dissenting voice, every inconvenient question is sought to be silenced by dubbing it anti-national and pitting it against the sacrifices made by the soldiers guarding the borders of the country. And this hyper-nationalism is just a thin veil for virulent anti-Muslim hate and violence. From consumption of beef and cattle-trade to inter-community marriage termed ‘love jihad’ by the Sangh Parivar, any rumour or wild allegation can trigger lynching of Muslims anywhere anytime. We have seen Mohammad Akhlaq being dragged out of his home and killed in the middle of the night, Imtiyaz and Majlum being killed and strung on a tree in Jharkhand, Pehlu Khan pulled out of his truck and killed in broad daylight on a Rajasthan road, young Junaid stabbed to death right inside a crowded train compartment, Comrade Zafar Hussein Khan killed for resisting humiliation and violence against women in the name of Swacch Bharat campaign, and Mohammad Afrazul hacked to death, the hacking videographed and posted on social media with a sermon against ‘love jihad’. Even the Supreme Court judgement invalidating the arbitrary practice of instant triple talaq, which came about in the wake of a protracted social and legal battle waged by Muslim women’s organisations themselves, is now being sought to be transformed into a tool of vilification and persecution of Muslim men.
- While Muslims are being targeted as a community, the aggression of the Sangh brigade is equally directed against Dalits. The rise of the Sangh brigade to various positions and institutions of power has quite characteristically resulted in a widespread intensification of oppression on Dalits. The intimate links of the Sangh Parivar with the private armies of the landed gentry in Bihar, especially with the most notorious Ranveer Sena which perpetrated serial massacres during the late 1990s and early 2000s, have been well known, and now we see a generalised campaign of violence against Dalits in various spheres from remote rural areas to university campuses in metropolitan cities. From the institutional murder of the young Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula in Hyderabad Central University to the videographed flogging of Dalit youth in Una, Gujarat to attacks on Dalits in Saharanpur and the persecution of the Bhim Army leader Chandrashekhar Azad ‘Ravan’, jailed with draconian NSA charges against him, and the thuggery of aggressive upper caste youth under the banner of Hindu Yuva Vahini in Yogi Adityanath’s UP and now also in Bihar, and increasing attacks on Dalits in BJP-ruled Maharashtra, the pattern is quite clear. The communal and the casteist are indeed two sides of the same coin in the RSS ideology even as the Sangh brigade is desperate to recruit Dalits as foot soldiers in the campaign of communal aggression against religious minorities, whether Muslims or Christians.
- The intensification of communal and casteist aggression has meant heightened regimentation, moral policing and violence faced by women enforced not just by traditional khap panchayats but also by newly formed vigilante groups who roam the streets as self-styled anti-Romeo squads with the tacit approval or even open patronage of the law and order machinery. The Modi government seeks to present itself as a pro-women dispensation with deceptive slogans like ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ or measures like the Teen Talaq Bill, but the cries for justice rending the air whether in a university campus like BHU or inside the court room of the highest judiciary testify to the intensification and extension of patriarchal attacks on women. And let us not forget that this misogynistic culture is rooted in the tenets and tradition of Manusmriti, that manual of caste oppression and patriarchal domination which the RSS holds as the ultimate and original constitution of India.
- The hate and violence directed against Muslims, Dalits (and sections of Adivasis targeted as alleged Maoists or as Christians) and women, also extends in the Sangh ideological framework to the communists and the entire range of Left/Liberal intelligentsia or activists. From perpetration and celebration of the serial killings of rationalists and social justice campaigners like Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare, MM Kalburgi and Gauri Lankesh to the slapping of sedition charges or National Security Act on student leaders or youth activists, hounding out of journalists seeking to expose the truth and ask inconvenient questions of accountability and the veritable raising of a troll army to abuse and intimidate every dissenting voice on the social media as well as mainstream electronic and print media and increasing attacks on offices, activists and icons/symbols of the communist movement in different parts of the country – examples of cases of brutal suppression of dissent through systematic propagation of hateful lies and a combination of state repression and state-sanctioned privatised violence are galore in every corner of Modi’s India.
- And in a state like Kashmir, where the people are fighting a long-running battle for their right to self-determination in the face of acute state repression, the BJP, now also sharing power right in Srinagar, has shed all pretence of constitutional governance, treating common Kashmiris as virtual prisoners of war. For the past two years, with the relentless Indian State’s repression against Kashmiri people, the Kashmiri people’s resistance too has intensified, with vast sections of civilians including women and schoolchildren participating in everyday confrontations with the military and police in the Valley. The BJP Governments in the Centre as well as in J&K, abandoning even a pretence of attempting to address or resolve the issue, instead uses Kashmir to fuel its Islamophobic and hyper-nationalist agenda all over India.
Core Features of Modi Regime: Unmistakable Rise of Fascism
- It is this combination of heightened corporate plunder, unmitigated communal aggression and caste oppression, systematic suppression of dissent and communist-bashing that has emerged as the defining core of the Modi regime. Much of the mainstream Indian media, sections of which are functioning virtually as a propaganda machinery of the Sangh-BJP establishment or spokespersons of the Modi regime, worked overtime to market Modi as a dynamic leader, as a development man and no-nonsense administrator, consigning the memories of Gujarat 2002 to the oblivion. Victory in the 2014 elections was seen as a vindication of this new development avatar of Modi. But after keeping India initially busy with the rhetoric of achchhe din, repatriation of black money and Swachh Bharat, the Modi rule has now effectively exposed its true colours for the whole world to see.
- The choice of Yogi Adityanath as the CM of UP and his subsequent projection as an all-India face of the BJP next only to Modi and Shah and the complicity and even open patronage of the Sangh-BJP establishment in almost every act of communal violence and mob lynching have clearly exposed the liberal illusion which believed that the BJP had evolved into just a mainstream rightwing party, with the rabid communal streak simply marking a ‘fringe element’. The election campaigns of the BJP spearheaded by Modi himself as witnessed in crucial states like Bihar, UP and Gujarat have time and again exposed the absolute centrality of the politics of majoritarian communalism to Brand Modi. While Modi and his senior colleagues from the BJP and RSS maintain a deafening silence in the face of ghastly crimes committed and instigated by the Sangh brigade, others extend open justification and even indulge in gleeful celebration as witnessed after the murder of journalist Gauri Lankesh and most recently in the videographed hacking of Mohammad Afrazul in Rajsamand of Rajasthan, which quite strikingly marked the 25th anniversary of the demolition of the Babri Masjid.
- Considering these essential features of the current regime in conjunction with the core ideology and history of the RSS, what we are experiencing in India today is an undeniable rise of fascism. In several respects, the Modi regime often attracts comparison to the Emergency era of Indira Gandhi. The two periods certainly present some striking similarities in terms of personality cult, regimented propaganda, systematic curtailment of freedom and subversion of various institutions of democracy. In fact, the Emergency era had witnessed a wholesale suspension of many fundamental rights, press censorship, mass arrest of leaders and activists of opposition parties and even indefinite deferment of elections and extension of the tenure of legislatures, features that are yet to become explicit under the present regime. But if we look beyond this comparison of traits revolving around the state and governance, we will see the crucial distinction between the Emergency era of Indira Gandhi and the current Modi regime. The Emergency revolved primarily around a repressive state, whereas the Modi regime is all about the convergence of a state-led corporate assault and the campaign of majoritarian tyranny of the Hindu supremacist RSS. The Sangh brigade getting a free hand to unleash its fascist agenda, often with recourse to frenzied mass violence, is what essentially distinguishes the Modi model of autocratic rule from the Emergency era experience of authoritarianism.
Communalisation of State Machinery, Regimentation of Education and Thought
- The methods of governance of BJP Governments today also bear the hallmarks of fascism. Elected representatives of the BJP speak openly of amending the Constitution. What distinguishes fascism from authoritarianism is its ability to legitimise state repression and mobilise a section of society in violence against minorities. Mohan Bhagwat’s by now infamous comparison of the RSS with the Indian Army reveals the RSS agenda of militarising Hindu society and communalising/politicising the Indian Army. This agenda has been underway for a long time: the Bhonsala Military Academy set up in Nagpur in 1937 by Hindu Mahasabha leader BS Moonje (who met and was inspired by Italian fascist leader Mussolini) serves both aspects of the agenda. Bhagwat himself said in 2012 that the Bhonsala Academy serves as a ‘feeder institute to fulfill backlog of military officials’; a serving Army officer accused in the Malegaon blasts also received coaching at the Academy; retired and serving army officers and retired senior IB officers have served as trainers at the Academy, and the Academy also gives arms training to Bajrang Dal cadre, who indulge in organised communal violence against Muslims. The Sangh project of militarising Hindu youth designates Muslims as ‘Pakistanis’ so as to disguise communal violence as ‘nationalism’ against an ‘internal enemy.’
- Another fascist feature of governance in BJP states is the celebration of staged ‘encounters’ and war crimes as state policy – the open celebration by the Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Chauhan of the Bhopal staged encounter of 8 Muslim men and the spate of staged encounters being brazenly defended by UP CM Yogi Adityanath, the Government’s approval for the Army Major who paraded a Kashmiri man tied to a jeep, and the Hindu Ekta Manch rally in defence of Special Police Operations personnel men arrested for rape and murder of an 8-year-old Gujjar Muslim girl in Jammu are prominent instances. Such crimes happened in non-BJP regimes as well, but the official policy would usually be to deny rather than openly celebrate the crimes by men in uniform.
- The agenda of subversion and saffronisation of education is also a key part of the Sangh’s fascist project facilitated by BJP Governments. Schools in BJP-run states are saffronising curricula, rewriting history books, and even making Sangh-run camps compulsory for schoolchildren, in a bid to poison the minds of the young. At the same time, institutions of higher education are also in their line of fire – with BJP-appointed heads of such institutions wreaking wholesale destruction on free speech, campus democracy, social justice, and research, and ABVP acting as Sangh storm-troopers to attack all dissenting and progressive voices.
Fascist Ideology and the Rise of RSS
- In many ways, the Modi regime lends itself to an unmistakable comparison with the example of Nazi Germany under Hitler. It is also instructive to note that since its inception in the 1920s, the RSS has historically sought to model itself on the ideology of militarist masculinist hypernationalism epitomised by Mussolini and Hitler. The centrality of hate and violence against the internal enemy (Jews and other minorities and communists in Nazi Germany, Muslims, Dalits and all shades of ideological opponents in Modi’s India), cynical exploitation of mass sentiment to promote a personality cult around a supreme leader, constant propaganda of falsehood and rumour – the similarities between Nazi Germany and today’s BJP-ruled India are all too striking and real.
- It will be absolutely short-sighted and suicidal to ignore this lesson of history by seeking false comfort from the fact that Indian capital has not yet reached the level of development of German capital in the 1930s and 1940s and that the Sangh brigade has not yet managed to run down the framework of parliamentary democracy or that a country and society as vast and diverse as India has many built-in safeguards against the homogenizing bulldozer of fascism. Fascism in 21st century India will obviously have its own distinct characteristics as compared to early 20th century Europe, but that does not make the threat of fascism any less real and its devastating potential any less lethal. The international economic and socio-political climate today is once again proving conducive to the rise of fascist tendencies as we can see in large parts of the world. The sustained economic depression, growing unemployment and economic insecurity, Islamophobia and anti-immigrant hysteria are all providing a fertile ground for the resurgence of fascist and racist politics in the US and many European countries. India’s growing integration with this crisis-ridden global capitalist order and especially the increasingly close strategic ties with US imperialism and Israel only reinforce the fascist trend in India.
- Communalism is a key factor in the rise and development of fascism in India. In this context, we must note that just as the rise of communal politics during India’s freedom movement, which eventually led to the partition of India amidst massive bloodbath and human migration, was very much aided by British colonialism, today the attempted transformation of India’s national identity from a secular pluralist framework to a Hindu supremacist majoritarian monolith is perfectly in sync with the American imperialist thesis of clash of civilizations wherein Hindu India is treated as a key ally in the US-led West’s battle with the Islamic Arab world and Confucian China!
- Caste as a marker of graded social inequality and a tool of exclusion and oppression is equally central to the fascist project in India. And more often than not, it is women who have to bear the brunt of this casteist order. Dr. Ambedkar was keenly aware of this social backdrop when he described constitutional democracy in India as a top dressing on an essentially undemocratic Indian soil. Indian fascism draws on, reinforces and extends the injustice and violence embedded in Indian society, with the RSS today epitomising all that is anti-democratic in Indian history and traditions.
- The fascist ideology of RSS had few takers during the first fifty years of its existence. It remained isolated from the freedom struggle and even advocated a general policy of collaboration with British colonialism in various spheres, especially to weaken the stature of Muslims as a major community in modern India. Following the assassination of Gandhi, the RSS not only suffered a legal ban but became thoroughly discredited in the eyes of the common people. The vacillation of the Congress on the question of communalism and its betrayal on the promises and aspirations of the freedom movement however enabled the RSS to regroup and accumulate strength and legitimacy. Most notably, the RSS was rehabilitated in the early 1960s as jingoistic nationalism gained currency during India’s decade of successive wars, first with China in 1962 and then with Pakistan in 1965 and 1971. The proclamation of the Emergency gave it the opportunity to further expand its network and influence through the popular movement for restoration of democracy. With the adoption of the policies of economic liberalisation and the shift towards pro-US foreign policy, as the Congress decisively moved away from the legacy of the freedom movement, the ideological and policy differences between the BJP and the Congress started getting blurred and the BJP did not find it difficult to expand its reach by making little pragmatic adjustments here and there to find new allies from various regions and social groups.
- The crisis caused by the aggressive pursuit of the policies of liberalization, privatization and globalization has coincided in India with a major political vacuum resulting from the discrediting of the Congress and a whole range of other regional ruling parties. While the BJP is aggressively seeking to capture this political vacuum, the RSS is seeking to use this juncture to replace India’s historic and political imagination with its own. At the time of India’s independence, the RSS tried but failed to push the Manusmriti as the basis for India’s Constitution: in spite of the fact of caste, patriarchy, and communal prejudices being a part of the widespread social ‘common sense’ in India, the dominant political consensus did not endorse these prejudices and instead embraced – at least nominally – the goal of political and social equality. Leaders like Nehru and Patel too did not endorse Golwalkar’s vision of India. Now, with the Modi Government in power, the RSS is in a hurry to try and establish its own hitherto defeated vision of nationalism, history, and society as the only acceptable ‘Indian’ view. In the process, they try to vilify Nehru, cleanse Gandhi, distort Ambedkar and Bhagat Singh, and demonise all Muslim figures and monuments in history including Akbar and the Taj Mahal as ‘anti-national’, and project caste and gender hierarchies, obscurantist and abhorrent social practices, and communal prejudices as the ‘essence of Indian culture’!
- An important aspect of anti-fascist resistance must be to resist this process of appropriation and rewriting of history. While being historically isolated from, and even opposed to, the anti-colonial awakening of the Indian people and the actual struggles for freedom from British rule, the RSS has always created its own fictional narrative of what it calls civilizational or cultural nationalism. It indulges in constant invocation of mythology, even passing it off as history, and falsification and misappropriation of actual history to suit its false narrative of communal nationalism. History has thus emerged as an important arena of the ongoing struggle to define and develop India. While resisting the RSS attempt to distort, falsify and hijack history we must uphold the people’s history of India, the great historical legacy of the battle for democracy, social justice and human emancipation. All that is progressive and emancipatory in our historical traditions must be upheld, nurtured and harnessed to energise and strengthen the battle for a great democratic and socialist future for our country.
Economic And Foreign Policy Aspects
- The expectation that a nationalist RSS would make the BJP confront the policy of indiscriminate globalisation with a programme of economic nationalism has proved as unfounded as the fond hope that a BJP in power would rein in the so-called ‘fringe elements’ of the Sangh brigade. From the somewhat restrained days of the early Vajpayee period to the rise of the Gujarat model on the back of the 2002 genocide, a ruthlessly repressive and intrusive state and the loud corporate endorsement of a vibrant Gujarat we have entered the Modi era in 2014 with the promised replication of the Gujarat model on a countrywide scale. What we are witnessing is a maturing of the RSS-BJP combination where the so-called fringe enjoys complete impunity to go berserk as the RSS dictates the terms of social discourse and defines the contours of individual liberty while the government packages the most brazen wooing of foreign investment and promotion of Indian as well as foreign corporate interests as economic development, and India’s role as a most loyal junior partner to US imperialism is certified by the Trump Administration as that of a ‘leading global power’.
- The direction of the economic and foreign policies of the Modi government is more or less the same as the policy paradigm introduced by the Congress in the early 1990s. But the accelerated speed and the aggressive and arbitrary manner with which the present regime is proceeding in this direction sets it apart from the previous governments including the NDA governments headed by Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The focus on foreign investment, financial integration and digitisation, privatisation and regimentation of labour laws has never been as sharp and strong under the previous governments. The abdication of the welfare responsibilities of the government has never been as complete and unabashed what with the abolition of the planning commission, systematic violation of food security and rural employment guarantee legislations, the shift from the public health system to insurance-based private healthcare and trivialisation of the agenda of employment by shifting the focus to self-employment and now the projection of pakoda-selling, a symbol of precarious livelihood, as an example of gainful employment.
- In the arena of foreign policy, the Modi government has taken the policy of strategic subservience to the US to a new level, almost totally identifying with the Trump Presidency (but for voting against recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel) to the point of keeping quiet on the growing incidence of attacks on Indian immigrants in the US. Hindutva organisations in the US are openly endorsing the White supremacist agenda of Trump. At a time when Israel is facing increasing isolation and censure in the international community because of its continuing occupation of Palestine, Modi has chosen to embrace Netanyahu with so much fanfare. In the name of containing China, the Modi government is going all out to appease Japan and Australia and courting the ASEAN countries. But nearer home, Modi’s big brother attitude has isolated India from all her immediate neighbours. Instead of consistently engaging with Pakistan and China for a negotiated settlement of all outstanding issues, and raising India’s voice for peace, justice and development on international platforms, Modi’s flip-flop diplomacy which is aimed more at domestic propaganda and political consumption has weakened India’s position rendering the country more isolated than ever from all its close neighbours.
- The Modi Government is also seeking to amend the definition of Indian citizenship with its Citizenship Amendment Bill, which proposes that Hindus from Bangladesh, Pakistan, or Afghanistan can be granted Indian citizenship. This proposal, by discriminating between persecuted minorities from neighbouring countries on religious grounds and privileging non-Muslim citizenship-seekers, tacitly tries to project India as a Hindu nation much on the model of Israel as a “Jewish Homeland”. This move has also created unrest and protest in Assam, which anticipates an attempt by the BJP to use this amendment to negate the Assam Accord which would render the cutoff date of 24 March 1971 superfluous. Meanwhile there are concerns being voiced in Assam about the ongoing process of preparing a National Register of Citizens under the supervision of the Supreme Court. Statements by the Assam Government’s leaders suggesting a mass deportation of lakhs of people who are excluded from the NRC, if implemented, would result in a massive humanitarian crisis. In order to avert this crisis, the Central Government must explore an agreement with the Bangladesh Government as well as the possibility of work permits for those whose names are excluded by the NRC.
Key Factors Propelling The Sangh-BJP Offensive
- What has enabled the Sangh-BJP establishment to grab power and systematically unleash its total agenda? Four factors that have clearly worked in its favour in the present juncture merit close attention. In 2014 the BJP did not just win an election, it exploited a veritable political vacuum to the hilt. While the Congress was clearly reeling under its worst crisis of credibility and leadership, almost all non-BJP political currents – the regional parties, the so-called ‘social justice’ camp and the Left – also appeared to have simultaneously hit their lowest points in terms of electoral strength. With the emphatic 2014 victory of Modi, the political balance began to tilt increasingly in favour of the BJP, and it has since consolidated its grip by winning one Assembly election after another (with the exceptions of only Delhi, Bihar and Punjab) and appointing its handpicked persons as Governors in non-BJP states and in key positions in virtually every institution in the country.
- Secondly, over the last three decades we have seen a veritable consensus emerge among almost all the ruling class parties on issues of economic policy and domestic governance as well as foreign policy. In the face of lack of policy differences, the BJP manages to present itself as the most aggressive and determined champion of these policies.
- Third, around this policy consensus we can also see the manufacturing of a common sense reinforced daily by the mainstream corporate media that sees mass eviction as a necessary price for development, human rights as eminently dispensable and draconian laws as urgently necessary for national unity, privatisation as the panacea for economic efficiency and so on and so forth.
- Finally, along with this armoury of policy consensus and manufactured common sense, the BJP has the secretive organisation of RSS with its own ammunition of hate, lies and rumour and network of privatised terror.
People’s Resistance Against Fascist Onslaught
- As revolutionary communists, as the staunchest and most consistent champion of democracy, social transformation and human emancipation from all sorts of injustice and oppression, we must acknowledge the growing fascist offensive as the biggest ever political disaster in our national life since 1947. Defeating fascism therefore constitutes the central political challenge for us in this present phase and we must do all we can to meet this challenge.
- Fascism always grows in periods of acute economic crisis and insecurity. It was true during the classical era of rise of fascism in Europe during the first half of the twentieth century, it is equally true today in Europe and America where fascist trends are rearing their heads by redirecting the anger and anxiety caused by growing unemployment and austerity and stoking the fires of Islamophobia, racism and xenophobia. In India too, we can clearly see how the fascist forces are recruiting their foot soldiers from the ranks of the unemployed and those who have been hit hard by the economic disaster unleashed by the Modi government. The anti-fascist resistance must address this root cause of mass anger and anxiety and unite the people around their common class demands and shared issues of livelihood and economic security.
- Indeed, even as the fascist forces have gone on the offensive in the wake of the 2014 Modi victory, the people of India have continued to fight back undeterred. We have seen farmers and adivasis foil the Modi government’s attempt to amend the provisions of the 2013 Land Acquisition Act or amend the Chhotanagpur and Santhal Pargana Tenancy Acts of Jharkhand. More recently, peasant organisations across the country have forged a militant unity to fight for freedom from debt and for fair support prices for their agricultural produce. The institutional murder of Rohith Vemula triggered a countrywide awakening among students which has held its ground in the face of arbitrary administrative attacks, false cases and repressive measures of the state, malicious media trial and repeated assaults by Sanghi thugs. It is the RSS-affiliated ABVP which has actually been forced to bite the dust in successive campus elections across the country. We have seen powerful mobilisation of the working class leading to a 48-hour-long countrywide strike in 2016 and 3-day-long workers’ sit-in near Parliament in November 2017.
Left Unity and Cooperation Among All Fighting Forces
- From Gujarat to Uttar Pradesh, and Maharashtra to Bihar, we have seen inspiring instances of Dalit resistance and new potential of radical political mobilisation on the basic issues of land, education, jobs and dignity. In the face of the intensified RSS-backed offensive against Dalits, a new generation of Dalit movements led by young Dalit leaders has emerged. A welcome feature has been the determination of the Dalit movement to stand firm by the vulnerable Muslim community as well as resist attempts to co-opt Dalits to commit communal violence. The Dalit movement in the wake of Rohith Vemula’s institutional murder and the Una atrocity has started breaking the ‘Chinese wall’ between struggles for economic/material rights and struggles for dignity. The Una movement has not only offered a powerful Dalit challenge to the Sangh symbolism of ‘cow as mother’, but also championed Dalits’ struggles against demeaning and exploitative forms of labour and for allotment of land and a guarantee of dignified jobs. Such struggles have opened up welcome avenues for unity between Ambedkarite-led and Left-led struggles for the dignity and rights of Dalits and other oppressed sections around the core agenda of annihilation of caste and transformation of the society. Strengthening of each of these basic struggles and forging of closer links of unity, cooperation and solidarity among these diverse points of resistance holds the key to building a vibrant anti-fascist front of popular resistance.
- Fascism has so far encountered little resistance from most of India’s institutions, least of all from the bureaucracy which with its pronounced feudal and colonial trappings has always had an anti-people orientation, and the dominant media, which has emerged as more of an extension and manager cum organiser and propagandist of the ongoing neoliberal policies and even the fascist communal offensive than a democratic institution speaking truth to power and holding it accountable. However, of late we have seen some reassuring signs of courageous dissent from within the judiciary, bureaucracy and the mainstream media. And most encouragingly, we have been seeing a whole new wave of protest movement, with an army of young committed activists rising to the occasion, giving rise to new forms and spaces of dissent and resistance. Revolutionary communists must forge close links of cooperation and coordination with all these modes of activism to foil the fascist design and defend every quarter of democratic space in the country.
- The Constitution and the vote clearly remain two potent weapons in the hands of the people to resist and defeat the fascist forces. We can therefore see the desperate ongoing attempts to subvert these two weapons. During the Vajpayee era itself, the BJP had set up a committee to review the Constitution, today we often hear BJP ministers talking about changing the Constitution and the government contemplating several legislative measures that would fundamentally redefine and reshape the Constitution. The proposed amendment to the Citizenship Act smuggles in religion as a discriminatory criterion in determining Indian citizenship and deciding India’s official treatment of refugees. In the name of rationalisation of laws democratic rights are being sought to be heavily restricted and curtailed on all fronts especially in the arena of trade union rights, collective bargaining and workplace democracy. The federal framework is also being systematically overruled and subverted to subordinate the pluralism and diversity that is central to the unity of India to the Hindi-Hindu-Hindustan paradigm of the RSS.
- The electoral arena is also witnessing constant attempts to redefine the rules of the game. From the changing rules of electoral funding meant to promote anonymous corporate funding of big parties to the growing BJP clamour for simultaneous holding of Lok Sabha and Assembly elections so decentralised regional or social priorities and perspectives could be subordinated to the dominant central political narrative of the day thus compressing a diverse multi-party democracy into an increasingly bipolar framework, the conditions of electoral competition are being relentlessly sought to be redefined. Growing complaints of EVM malfunctioning and anomalies in booth-level vote counts have raised serious doubts about the transparency and credibility of the election process itself. The Modi government must not be allowed to get away with these attempts to subvert the Constitution and the electoral process.
- Indeed, the Gujarat elections have exposed the vulnerability of the Modi regime right in its own bastion. Even without the presence of a powerful opposition within the state, a series of successive agitations of various sections of the people created an environment that almost managed to vote the BJP out of power. In a state like Bihar where the BJP was not that well entrenched and popular struggles were much more sustained, it was indeed possible to deliver an emphatic electoral blow to the BJP despite a divisive communal campaign spearheaded by the Modi-Shah duo. While strengthening the unity and assertion of the Left and other fighting forces, revolutionary communists must devise a strategy of effective intervention in the electoral arena to challenge and defeat the fascist forces. Without in any way compromising the political independence of the communist movement, wherever necessary we must remain open to the idea of joining hands with forces of the non-Left opposition against the fascist BJP and its allies.
Onward to a People’s India!
- The challenge of defeating fascism cannot and must not however be reduced to an electoral challenge. The experience of Bihar shows the inherent fragility and hollowness of the so-called grand alliance which had managed to hand over a decisive defeat to the BJP only to subsequently crumble and let the BJP in through the backdoor. In Gujarat, a weak Congress came so close to defeating the BJP by attracting broader social and political support from various movements, but we already see the Congress trying to compete with the BJP on religio-cultural terms dictated by the latter. Recent history in India is replete with instances where the Congress attempt to take the wind out of the BJP’s Hindutva sail through competitive invocation of the BJP’s slogans and icons has only played into the BJP’s hand, strengthening and legitimising its aggressive majoritarianism. To take another example, the TMC in West Bengal, may appear to be offering a powerful opposition to the BJP but its reign of terror, corruption, and outright assault on democracy is actually helping the BJP grow in the state. We must therefore never lose sight of the basic task of building a powerful ideological-political counterpoint against fascism.
- While addressing the basic issues of the people, it is important to not let the fascists get away with their twin weapons of hate propaganda and hate crimes. Experience shows that potential communal violence can often be neutralised if local organisations of the people can stay alert and dare to take the fascist bull by its horns. Neighbourhood-based militant solidarity among the fighting people can nip many a fascist conspiracy in the bud. Alertness and preparedness to prevent communal/caste violence and prompt and bold resistance from local activists and community elders in the event of any such violent outbreak have been of proven value in many such cases. It is also equally important to expose and challenge the hate propaganda of the communal fascists by arming people with real facts and rational analysis. Class and mass organisations of various sections of the people must be motivated and mobilised in this direction in all our areas of work.
- We must actively support and champion people’s resistance of all vulnerable sections – workers; peasants; women; Dalits; adivasis; students and youth; LGBTQ people; inter-faith, inter-caste and same sex couples; Kashmiris – against anti-people economic and environmental policies, as well as attacks on their Constitutional rights, dignity, and lives. We must be especially alert to any attempt to use ‘nationalist’ slogans and symbols to disguise and cover-up communal bullying and violence. We must make every effort to rally people to understand and defend Constitutional, democratic and progressive values, as well as to intensify struggles to achieve a better, more egalitarian and democratic India.
- The vacuum that has enabled the fascist forces to present themselves as the ‘saviour’ in a chaotic and crisis-ridden present needs to be filled with the vision and struggle for a better tomorrow, a vision of a prosperous, pluralist and egalitarian India that can guarantee a better life and broader rights to the Indian people. If the momentum generated during the freedom movement and the formative years of post-Independence nation-building has worn itself out, we need the energy of a second freedom movement that can bolster our political independence by guaranteeing full social and economic freedom to the people. If growing social and economic inequality is making a mockery of the notion of political equality of ‘one person one vote’ then we need a social transformation to overcome the structures of inequality. If the undemocratic Indian soil is constantly undermining the top dressing of democracy, and fascism is threatening to completely subordinate our constitutional democracy to the undemocratic soil, we need to democratise that soil to achieve real power in the hands of the people. Fascism shall not be allowed to pass and crush the people. The people united will overcome the fascist offensive and secure a stronger and deeper democracy for themselves.