‘Supreme leader’ is fascist
Ram Puniyani on how the projecting of Modi as PM is part of an insidious political agenda
IN THE last few months, Narendra Modi has been much in news for his spectacular rise in BJP hierarchy and his projection as the BJP nominee for the future prime minister. On many a political debate on TV or other forum, when such charges are labelled, pat comes the reply: What about the Congress - the anti Sikh pogrom of 1984?
It’s at the level of political process that these carnages, Gujarat and Delhi cannot be equated and have totally different politics behind them. There are carnages which are a part of deeper political processes, and there are other carnages which are accidental, revengeful and ‘one-off’ affairs. The Delhi massacre falls in the second category.
On 30 January 1984, Indira Gandhi was walking in her compound when, right there, her Sikh bodyguards gunned her down. Indira Gandhi had been advised to remove Sikh guards in the wake of operation Blue Star. Mrs Gandhi refused, rhetorically asking: Are we not secular? After her murder, the atmosphere in Delhi got charged, the newly-sworn-in Prime Minister was glum, while the massacre started outside. Rajiv Gandhi at this point said that infamous sentence, ‘When a big tree falls, the earth shakes’. This was signal enough for the rioters, elements from the Congress, those shaken by Indira’s murder, and lumpens to carry on with the job. Rajiv Gandhi visited the riot-hit areas on the third day, the military was called and peace came in.
There was no political agenda. Sikh politics, Akali politics kept going on its own steam. It was a sort of political insanity, momentary and tragic, painful and horrifying, which tormented the Sikh community. A political accident, so to say.
Gujarat is a different cup of tea. From the decade of 1990s, with a BJP government coming to power, all the wings of RSS combine, VHP, Bajrang Dal and their patriarch RSS came to full-scale unrestrained activity. RSS chief Rajendra Singh declared that Gujarat is the ‘Laboratory of Hindu Rashtra’. Different villages of Gujarat started putting up hoardings outside their villages. ‘Welcome to so-and-so village of Hindu Rashtra’. Adivasi areas started seeing the intimidation of Christians; Muslim youth were attacked for inter-religious marriages. BJP gradually started losing their grip on the electoral arena and in the forthcoming 2002 assembly elections; the fear was that the BJP may lose. Here came the Godhra, Sabarmati train burning: 58 kar sevaks, innocents, burnt alive.
The local administration said it is not a pre-planned act. Modi had his own calculations; he instantly declared that it was a premeditated act by local Muslims in collaboration with the Pakistan’s ISI and international terrorists. The burnt bodies of kar sevaks were taken in a procession on Modi’s instructions. VHP called for a bandh and as per Citizens Tribunal report and the affidavit of Sanjiv Bhatt, Modi instructed the state administration to sit back and to let the Hindus vent their anger. Modi did not visit the riotaffected areas for weeks, till Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, gathered courage to visit the victims in Shah Alam camp and Modi accompanied him. The mayhem went on and on for months. Refugee camps run by the state were wound up. There was no rehabilitation, relief and remorse from the state machinery.
The polarisation process in the state, the ghettoisation of Muslims, is more or less complete by now and Muslims have been relegated to second-class citizenship in the state. While a few affluent Muslim businessmen are turning to Modi for their survival, the average Muslims are living the life of all round neglect. Those who were alleged to be part of leading the mobs, got rewarded, re-elected, though some of them are cooling their heels in the jails under different charges. The Gujarat carnage was one more — and most horrifying — in the chain of anti-Muslim violence which began from Jabalpur in 1961 and passing through the other horrific riots of Meerut Malyana, Bhagalpur, Bhivandi, Mumbai. Ninety percent of victims have been Muslims. In many of these, the inquiry commissions have showed the role of organisations affiliated to RSS or its ideology of Hindu Rashtra.
THE CARNAGE of Gujarat is part of the series of anti-Muslim violence being spearheaded by the divisive ideology of religion-based nationalism. The same ‘ideological violence’ has manifested itself against Christians, peaking in Kandhmal in August 2008.
The issue of anti-Sikh violence, equally condemnable has also to be seen in a different light. While the anti-Muslim and anti-Christian violence is guided by the ideological agenda, the anti-Sikh violence was a political accident taken advantage of by the Congress. It left behind bitter social realities. The anti-Muslim anti-Christian violence is part of the slowly developing agenda of Hindu Rashtra, the goal of RSS in this country. This RSS agenda has an authoritarian streak. Social scientists look for analogies for analysing social-political phenomenon.
In the case of Modi, who is part of the RSS agenda at political level, their inner differences notwithstanding, the carnage of Gujarat is an expression of fascism, as politics of religion-based nationalism. Like fascism, it targets minorities (Jews in case of Germany). It asserts its supremacy as a race or religion and harps on the glorious past where the caste and gender hierarchies were the norms. Translated in contemporary times, it means abolition of democracy, abolition of liberal space, looking down upon the plural ethos of the nation and turning to the social stratification of earlier times.
While the word fascism is used very often, what is it exactly? Dictatorship and massacre of minorities are the key ingredients. The other major pillar is intimidation of weaker sections through street violence, abolition of democracy and the creation of hysteria around the infallible leader. Hitler was one such, who wanted a nation of Aryans. He persecuted the Jews and then communists. He was glorified as the infallible leader, he usurped all the powers in his hands and did have an aggressive stance towards not only the ‘others’ in the country but also the ‘other nations. Hitler was also the favourite of big capitalists. Does it ring a bell about somebody gaining respectability in the Indian political scene?
Ram Puniyani is a communal harmony activist based in Mumbai.