All myths are not based on ancient scriptures, folklore, stories or fantasies coming down from earlier generations. After the advent of modern communication and information technology, a new industry has come into mainstream socio-political life. This industry does not require much capital, land or vast ranks of labour.
This industry, in its impact, is more dangerous than chemical pollutants or even nuclear weapons. This may sound as highly exaggerated statement. But just look at some of the “manufactured events” which took some lives, disturbed life, mainly in cities and spread hate-based mayhem. A few months ago, the state of Haryana was rocked by the scandals of Baba Ram Rahim. Politicians, senior bureaucrats, even top police officials, media personnel, so-called social celebrities were involved in the obscene bonanza of money, jewelry and of course sexual escapades.
Last week, along with Haryana, five other states were affected by riots, arson, and disruption of life. The issue was the film “Padmaavat” (originally Padmavati). It was believed that by removing “i” from the name of the film, everything will be settled. The honour of Padmini, of Rajputs and their women, will be saved. But as the time came close for the launch of the film, the hell broke loose. Even school buses were targeted.
Two questions before we proceed. Imagine, such riots in the Srinagar Valley and there would have been cries, “shoot them on site”, or use pellets, or even bullets to disperse the mob or tie someone to the police jeep on the bonnet and show to the world that law and order will be maintained at any cost. No such action was voiced, no firm police ‘bandobust’ was organised and the very state governments encouraged the mayhem by openly committing contempt of court. The court had ordered that the film will be screened with the changes made and the state governments will keep law and order. Nothing was done. Was it because the myth was about “Hindu” icon? Or was it because these governments going to some by-polls soon and assembly polls ten months from now? The hidden agenda of the governments, all of the BJP ruled states is to consolidate the Hindu and Rajput vote banks. It does not matter to them if the nation is held at ransom to influence the votes!
Even the identitarian rebellion of the Dalits that rocked Maharashtra on the issue of Bhima Koregaon was a kind of politically motivated. The self-styled “Guruji” Manohar Kulkarni, alias Sambhaji Bhide, and his associate in the cabal, Milind Ekbote, were spreading poisonous hatred in the name of militant Hindutva. So the stage was set for riot at least two weeks before. But the government prefers riots and chaos instead of organised discontent of farmers. This episode effectively put the genuine issues on the shelf.
So let us not be influenced or impressed by the presumed “spontaneity” of the people or the religious, caste or community pride. All this spontaneity and issues of pride can be manipulated. The biggest help to all this chaos comes from the media-mainly electronic media and social media. The media, some sections of it for sure, is either controlled, bought by offering advertisements to the channel owners or by luring senior (and even junior) journalists either by directly paying them or giving them flats, foreign tours or positions of power in some state-supported institutions.
The media then merrily joins the anarchy on streets. Provocative and explosive interviews or fake “intellectual” panel debates, with the leaders of the Karni Sena or some such organisation, or Bajarang Dal or Sanatan Sanstha or some extremist Muslim outfit are arranged. This serves two purposes. One, it obfuscates the basic issues of price rise, particularly of essential commodities including diesel and petrol and cooking gas or even onions or vegetables in general. And such programmes on TV give legitimacy to the anarchy that is rampant. This creates a kind of vacuum in the political space which is then filled by the ruling party and its organisations. In the last five years, the real menace is the social media. The social media can do all the things that mainstream media cannot. It destroys not only mind but also body and social fabric.
A few years ago, the renowned thinker and philosopher Noam Chomsky wrote a book titled, “Manufactured Consent” where he explains how media has become not the Fourth Estate” which challenges the state power, which fights injustice and generates awareness among the people. It becomes the arm of the State, the ruling class, the ruling party and the corporate interests. We are witnessing this on an hourly basis.
There was another book, written more than two decades ago, titled, “Controlling the Human Mind: The Technology of Political Control”, by Nicholas Begich, which gives examples of social institutions, including the police, judiciary, election commission, intelligence outfits and police are deployed as a sort of parallel army. Not to protect people, but to terrorise, to generate fear psychosis and then manipulate mass mind to achieve a certain end.
All these moves played by the intelligence agencies, under the instructions of the government (or foreign agencies)are distorting, destabilising and destroying the democracies and bring about electoral victories and impose a kind of Authoritarian rule. Bertram Gross, the American political sociologist wrote the book titled “Friendly Fascism”, way back in the late seventies. He states that elections do not necessarily bring democratic parties and institutions to power.
Unfortunately, holding elections are regarded as the final expression of democracy. Elections are necessary of course but are not end in themselves. But the mind manipulators have understood how the media and votes can be manipulated. So elections, as well as institutions, are being used for nefarious designs. The global powers have been conspiring “regime changes” in countries they want under their control. India was on their target list for a long time. All the indications in our country today give enough evidence to suspect that the “regime change” that took place in this country is more manipulated than evolved as a political process. With just 31 percent of the votes having secured in 2014 Loksabha elections, Prime Minister Narendra Modi goes all over the world saying that he has received mandate of all people ( and therefore it is not necessary to take the minuscule opposition seriously). One after another institution is coming under attack— from Planning Commission to Jawaharlal Nehru University and from Film and TV institute to Non-Aligned Movement. From school textbooks (mainly history books) to science research. A huge effort is on to delink modern India from the legacy of the freedom movement. All this clearly appears as a part of a grand design.
To conclude, the mythologies are not innocent, entertaining or revealing social psyche, but have emerged as a new “Post Truth” phenomenon. We must try to see beyond headlines, beyond organised social media, and beyond simplistic or naive political understanding. We must liberate our minds and our societies from this new weapon of mass destruction.
Who could replace Modi in 2019?
I don’t like the expression, “dark horse” because it sounds demeaning and even racist. But to use that conventional terminology, there indeed are several “ dark horses” who are being brought into drawing room discussions. Everybody agrees only on one point. And that is: no Party will get its own simple or even thin majority.The coalition then would be inevitable, either led by the BJP or some Opposition Party. So it could be another NDA or yet another UPA or Third Front and well, perhaps even the Federal Front! There are some self-proclaimed PM candidates, and some quietly working on the possible election outcome. One such permanent “Future PM” is Sharad Pawar. But he is a straight-faced poker player. He will neither reveal sentiment nor strategy!
The other (dark horses) in the race are Sam Pitroda and Ram Madhav. And also Rajnath Singh and Mamata Banerjee. While Prakash Karat lobby in the CPM describes Mamata as “fascist”, the Congress thinks the real “fascist” force in India is led by Narendra Modi. The Mamata backers argue that she would “punish” the “Modi-Shah gang” if the BJP loses power. The Congress, given its moderate nature, would never take such hard line!
A section in the CPM believes that the RSS is a fascist organisation, but BJP is only communal! However, conflicts in the CPM were sorted out by their politbureau, by some semantic skulduggery. At one point, Nitish Kumar had emerged as a front-runner in the race for PM. But it appears, he committed political “Harakiri” by suddenly changing loyalties and joining the NDA. Now again he is trying to distance himself from the “communal” BJP! Then there are some creative political crystal ball gazers who would not rule out even Pranab Mukherjee!
Ram Madhav could be the candidate of the RSS and Sam Pitroda of Rahul Gandhi. A famous Hindi TV anchor in fact recommended Sam Pitroda ’s name. Pranab Mukherjee’s name could come as a compromise of the Opposition parties when they fail to arrive at a consensus. After all, most parties had supported him as a President.
All this speculation is of course completely wild kite flying and image building by ambitious politicians. But then who would have thought that the offer would go to Jyoti Basu in 1996 and his party would refuse him the “NOC” to take charge as PM and take the plunge. Basu himself described later that refusal as the “Himalayan Blunder” of the Party. There was also some lobbying to rope in VP Singh as Prime Minister again. But he categorically refused. Nobody ever thought then that eventually, Deve Gowda would become the PM followed by Inder Kumar Gujral. Similarly, the name of Dr Manmohan Singh was also a startling surprise in 2004.
Such questions were never raised in the fifties and even in the sixties. There were no speculations and no “dark horses” in the race! As long as Pandit Nehru was alive, it was considered natural that he would be the PM after general elections—in 1952, 1957 and 1962. The question did get posed in 1967, but not too seriously.
That was (1967) the first election after Panditji’s death. There was an interregnum of about 20 months during which Lal Bahadur Shastri was the Prime Minister. He had to face war with Pakistan in 1965, which ended in a kind of stalemate, though India could retain its image and pride. But Shastri’s death in Tashkent (former the Soviet Union) forced an internal election in the Congress party.
The Old Guard chose Indira Gandhi but another section of the party thought Morarji Desai would be a better choice. Desai was a well known Right Winger and also stubborn orthodox Gandhian in personal lifestyle. But the Old Guard (which came to be known as Syndicate), thought Indira could be manipulated to take the country Rightwards. It was clear that though they swore by the name and legacy of Nehru, they wanted a break from his political philosophy. To them, Indira was a “dumb doll”.
Moreover, they also calculated that to win general elections in 1967, daughter of Nehru would provide a perfect foil. Though the party had lost Pandit Nehru, the towering leader, there was no Opposition worth the name to challenge the Congress. The Jan Sangh, a political party floated in 1950, by the RSS was slowly spreading its tentacles it never thought that it had potential to come to power on its own. Congress was like a colossus.
The parties that were getting popular appeal were the Communist Party and the upfront Right Wing outfit known as Swatantra Party. The Communist Party had come to power in Kerala in 1957. (that was the first ever democratic victory of the communists in the world). There were socialists, mainly breakaway factions of the Congress but they were in the political wilderness, constantly splitting and repositioning.
It was Ram Manohar Lohia, the socialist ideologue and a maverick politician who first conceived the idea of “Congress-Mukt” India. But for that idea of “anti-Congressism” fifty years ago, there would not have been the BJP or Narendra Modi today. Lohia forged the non-Congress alliances in 1967, to challenge the Congress led by Indira Gandhi. She returned to power, though with a small majority in Lok Sabha. In as many as eight states the Congress lost power giving hope to the Opposition.
No political pundit or even the party ever thought then that the Congress would be dethroned at the centre. The Grand Old Party was just too deeply entrenched in Politics and in the minds of the people. The question as to who would be a Prime Minister never really arose. The split in the party in 1969 raised the hopes and ambitions of the Opposition parties. But Indira Gandhi’s single-handed landslide victory in 1971 (the famous “Garibi Hatao” election) reinvigorated the Party and her leadership. But after the Emergency, Indian politics changed at the core.
It is from 1977 that the general elections acquired the “suspense dimension” and the question of who would be Prime Minister began to be discussed in the media. Actually, even the Janata Party could not agree on any name for quite a few days despite its historic victory. They differed with each other intensely on the names of Morarji Desai and Jag Jiva Ram and Charan Singh. Madhu Dandavate’s name also floated for some time.
In 2014, Narendra Modi’s name could not have been challenged. He as well as the party, the media and the pundits had all seen the aggressive campaign, the super confidence, his way of humiliating Party colleagues, eliminating all competition. From Day One, he gave the impression, and it was believed by the corporates as well as the middle classes that he is invincible. He used to say, loud and clear, that he would be the Prime Minister for 10 or even 15 years. The Congress would cease to exist! His dream was to make India “Congress-Mukt” forever. His weapon was massive hate campaign, mainly through social media. That proved to be successful for First three years. Modi-led BJP captured as many as 19 states! But then the tide began to turn.
In the last four years, his confidence has waned. His policies have failed. His dramatic and dubious decisions like demonetisation have boomeranged. His policies of “friendly neighbourhood” have fallen wayside. Nepal, Maldives, Sri Lanka do not even respect him or India. Neither terrorism has been brought under control, nor Pakistan has been tamed. His Kashmir policy has further alienated the people of Kashmir. His “blow hot, blow cold” relationship with Pakistan and China has exposed the thoughtless and visionless foreign policy. He has failed to get black money and miserably lost the war against corruption. The money that he and Amit Shah deploy in every election is a visible evidence of the power of black wealth they have generated for their party.
Time for the liberals to unite
Face of Fascism
Intellectuals and political sociologists have been arguing and interpreting for almost 70 years as to what we mean in India, by the terms-Fascism and Secularism. Even Nationalism! Influenced by the Western philosophical and political traditions, some argue that all these terms have roots in Europe’s history of the last nearly thousand years.
So to condemn the broadly accepted interpretations, they will question what Fascism means, what is the connotation of Secularism and of course what is the content of the term Nationalism. So let us begin with the controversy about the term Fascism. The great Marxist intellectual leader Prakash Karat famously said that it is the RSS is Fascist, but not the BJP which is communal. Everyone knows that the BJP is a political front of the RSS. Yet he dared to say this.
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, 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 an 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 an 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”, written in the late seventies, says even in America fascism can come to power through electoral politics. His fears have almost come true with the election of 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. So let us see the validity of the argument that our so-called “strong institutions” will not let fascism enter here!
Take the most prestigious and truly independent institution-the Reserve Bank of India. We saw how the RBI surrendered its autonomy to the executive led by Narendra Modi. The disruptive demonetisation which brought misery to a 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.
Even after 17 months of the demonetisation, we still do not know how many notes came back to the RBI. Now many people suspect that more notes came back than what was believed to be in actual circulation. Some others feel that the old notes are being clandestinely getting exchanged even now and the RBI is keeping eyes closed. The reason appears to be that the RBI is gripped by “fear psychosis”. The fear of the Modi-Shah duo and their massive and threatening organisational machine, partly of the RSS and partly be the Intelligence bureaucracy.
Take the Election Commission. It just repeats what the Prime Minister says. One Nation, One Election, was one such idea, announced by Narendra Modi. The obvious absurdity and impracticality of the idea became obvious soon. Suddenly it has gone off headlines. The non-cooperative approach of the Election Commission on the issue of EVMs and restarting the ballot papers method, is another example.
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 a 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 a view to erasing 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. Now according to the fresh diktats, all 15 lakh National Cadet Course (NCC) students are supposed to be the parallel armed force, with their cell phones and mail ids submitted to the PMO.
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 a 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 the 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 different 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.
The 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.
The educational institutions have lost the spine and autonomy. From textbooks to the courses and syllabus are now controlled by the State led by Modi. The upper caste families in particular, despite their higher education as well as exposure to the developed countries, have been supporting communal and fascistic organisations. The media, which is supposed be the watchdog of the people, and defender of freedoms and civil liberties have become lapdogs, barking at everyone else, but the Master!
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.
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