Ever since the Hindutva right-wing, led by the top leadership of the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), demolished the Babri mosque in Ayodhya on Dec.,6,1992 in brazen defiance of the Constitution and the rule of Law, the question has been asked whether, after all, the BJP can be regarded a legitimate participant in India’s parliamentary democracy.
A litany of subsequent pogroms since then have, if anything, lent force and urgency to that poser.
These have included violent vigilante attacks on artists, art products, films, text books, institutions, minority religious establishments, and the unforgettable carnage of muslims in Gujarat in 2002.
That this party has no more than a scant and expedient relationship with parliament is borne out again by the fact that eversince the defeat of the BJP-led NDA coalition in 2004, the BJP has done one of two things as the leading opposition in the house of the people—either disrupt or boycott its proceedings.
And if it has raised its voice there, nothing has been farther from its intentions than to underscore issues that touch the vast pauperized mass of Indians.
These circumstances have yielded a rather unique consequence—that of obliging the Left parties which support the UPA government from the outside to function in crucial ways as the most credible opposition within the House.
The overarching fact that it is within the Left that the chief antagonist of the BJP resides has thus tended to be sharply emphasized.
The axes of that antagonism become apparent if one were to encapsulate the major planks of the right-wing BJP agenda for the nation:
–Hinduisation of culture in toto;
–Privatisation of national wealth;
–Militarisation of the state;
–“strategic partnership” with neo-imperialism of which Zionism is seen as crucial part;
to name just the principle coordinates.
Of these, the “centrist” Congress—or, at any rate, those within it who for now run the government– supports fully the last three. As to the first three, the attitude of the Congress has been riven with ambivalence, often upright in public pronouncements but fatally prevaricating on the ground.
The Left it is that has, much carping notwithstanding, stood firmly against the aforesaid agenda, however effectually or not.
It is not a surprise, therefore, that the Hindu right-wing has been venting its fascist ire against the Left.
The culminating event in that project has been the naked, broad daylight attack on the central office of the CPI(M) in the heart of the Capital city.
Led and organized by some of the top leaders of the Delhi BJP, trucks carrying stones and other missiles were to arrive at the party office, and within a jiffy not only was glass from windows and cars flying all over the place, but five members of the CPI(M) Central Committee which was in session inside were to receive bloody injuries. Incidentally, some of the trucks belonged to the local municipality which is controlled by the BJP whose mayor was among the attackers.
Those that remember may recall the Battle of Cable Street (London,1936) that involved the communists and Mosley’s supporters; or indeed the street fights of Berlin prior to Hitler’s coming to power.
Nor have they been thwarted by the public and media outcry; more such attacks continue to take place in other cities (Dehradun being one such).
This fascist attack on the office of one of India’s recognized National Parties must then be seen as veritably an attack on the Democratic system per se, since it is a system which grounds itself in the concept of democratic political organizations.
The BJP needs to answer why this attack may be regarded any differently from the attack on the Indian parliament during the regime that it led.
These vignettes from contemporary Indian history ought to help remind us that, far from being one and the same as centrist elites never tire of propagating, fascists and communists have been mortal enemies from the first.
Let it be recalled that Italian fascism (from whence the RSS in India imbibed all its major ideological predilections as Mussolini met Munje, and Munje passed on to Hedgewar) was infact forged as a countering response to the forces unleashed by the October Revolution of 1917.
Such are the facts that have come down to us from the horse’s mouth, as it were.
Here are some snippets from an article that Giovanni Gentile wrote and Mussolini signed in Encyclopaedia Italiana (1923):
–fascism is a “rightist movement to attack the organizations of the working class, parties of the Left and Trade Unions”;
–that fascism must seek to “partner with big business leaders” and “seek to unite Labour and Capital, to the Labour’s ultimate detriment”;
–that Unions be replaced by Guilds “which were heavily weighted in favour of the corporation and the owners”;
–that “fascism negates the doctrine of scientific Marxian socialism and historical materialism”;
–that a Corporative organization would eliminate “the clash of economic interests” and thereby neutralize “the germ of class warfare”;
–that “fascism is the complete opposite of Marxian socialism”;
–that “fascism now and always believes in holiness and heroism; that is to say in actions uninfluenced by economic motive, direct or indirect”;
–that, “above all, fascism denies that class war can be the preponderant force in the transformation of society”;
Hardly a surprise then that Marxists and Trade Unionists were the first targets of attack of both Mussolini and Hitler once they came to power.
How closely majoritarian religious organization has from the first favoured the fascists both in their social emphases and in their idea of the totalitarian state is suggested by the stipulations of the Encyclical, Rerum Novarum, that was issued by Pope Leo XIII in 1892.
The Encyclical criticized the socialist conception of class struggle and the elimination of private property.
It urged solidarity between upper and lower classes.
It endorsed nationalism as a way of preserving traditional morality, customs, folkways.
It proposed Corporatism—a term that came to encapsulate the whole ideological/class package of fascist organization.
Any surprise then that a treaty could be signed between the State and the Holy See (The Lateran Treaty) in 1929 whereby the Papacy was granted temporal sovereignty over Vatican city, Catholicism was recognized as sole state religion, in return for acceptance of Italian sovereignty over the Pope’s former dominions.
The first anti-semitic laws were passed in 1938.
How uncanny the resemblance of all that to the phenomenon we now call Hindutva.
It must be added that similar trends have sought to surface and take hold among the muslims lately, as the Salafi/Wahabi sects have taken to propagating against those strains in sub-continental Islam which have always upheld secular and syncretic community and the role of Sufis, saints and other intercessors between god and man. The attack on the shrine at Ajmer Sharief and Chrar-e-Sharief, to name but two instances, fall into this pattern. As does the Hindu right-wing- like animus of the Islamists to socialist ideas.
Which is not to say that healthy democratic initiatives from within conservative and dogmatic Islamic organizations are not in the offing. The fatwa recently issued on these matters by no less than the Darul Uloom of Deoband is a major positive event—one that deserves to be followed up more generally, if a further assimilation of the muslim polity into democratic and progressive India is to happen more rapidly. Even as the communalist opposition of the Hindu right-wing to state-driven programmes aimed at aiding the muslim community in a far-reaching way in education and employment must be defeated at all cost.
To return to where we began: as the electoral prospects of the right-wing recede further (the frustration of the RSS in Kannur in Kerala has after all had everything to do with their inability to succeed at the hustings there), more fascist mayhem and disruption of constitutional and democratic life and governance ought to be anticipated.
Given that context, the Congress will need to rethink the axes of its equation with the BJP and the Left. On one side is a class base and class interest that makes it see in the BJP something of a kin. On the other, the Congress will want to evaluate without blinkers the role of the Left in preserving the nation-state itself –somewhat in the tradition which its own past has bequeathed to India.
Immediately of course, till so long as it runs the government, the Indian police and other state-apparatus will deserve to be given some very unambiguous directions as to how to deal with fascist and vigilante violence on the bedrock institutions of democracy, among which must also be counted secularism and the freedom of expression. Indeed heartening that the honorable supreme court has only the other day pronounced at unusual length on the alarming negative trends in these areas, and advised that such attacks on freedom must be put down with “an iron hand.” The Congress must know that its credibility has been the most damaged precisely in that area.