The German philosopher, Kant, gave to the world two highly consequential orders of epistemology.
In a throwback to Plato, he stipulated that it is within the intuitive powers of the human mind that it can have a priori knowledge of the totality of relations among entities. Further, inorder to give a meaningful ground for experience or to make ethical conduct possible, it can postulate things unknowable to itself (god, soul, immortality), and, on that basis, lay down universal principles that can be construed “categorical imperatives.”
Remarkably, however, Kant wedded these idealist propositions to a caution that 18c Empiricism and Newtonian science made compelling.
This caution was to the effect that the mind, because of its own nature, cannot know the-thing-in-itself, but rather interprets the data presented to it as spatio-temporal phenomena.
Within some forty years of Kant’s death (1804), Marx—like Hegel before him—would locate within the Kantian duality the seeds and promise of a dialectical epistemology.
Briefly, Marx would point out to both Kant and Hegel that the realm of the intuitive was as much material as the rest of the phenomenal world. Indeed that ontological/ethical constructs could, in their changing courses, be understood as projections of specific class interests.
Only thus could the universe of contradictions in human praxis be made sense of, since everywhere in history the supposedly universalist postulates were vitiated/remade by productive human agents.
How else could one explain the fact that gems of “received wisdom” should so embarrassingly be at loggerheads with their conceptual opposites. Here is a sample:
Wise men think alike/ Fools seldom differ.
Slow and steady wins the race/Time waits for no man.
Doubt is the beginning of wisdom/Faith will move mountains.
You are never too old to learn/You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.
Absence makes the heart grow fonder/Out of sight out of mind.
Too many cooks spoil the broth/Many hands make light work.
And so on!
In theory you could postulate a supposedly self-evident truth—that all men have certain “unalienable rights” but vitiate its operation among the bulk of mankind.
You could designate “democracy” as “government of the people, for the people, by the people” but phenomenally institute government of the endowed, for the endowed, by the endowed.
You could postulate a supra-human intelligence (god), but in practice fight bloody crusades on behalf of particular versions and particular gods.
You could propogate such texts and a priori injunctions as “thou shalt not kill,” if slapped, “thou shalt turn the other cheek,” “thou shall love thy neighbour as thyself,” “thou shalt love thine enemy,” “thou shall not lay thy treasure upon the earth,” “thou shalt do to others as you would have others do unto you,” or, “whoever receives one of these (children) in my name, receives me,” but in practice kill left, right, and centre, and justify the killings one way or another; point the gun rather than turn the other cheek; gobble up your neighbour (individual/family/nation) rather than love him/it; seek your enemy, real or imagined, or, indeed, constructed, for retribution in the far corners of the earth and lay your treasure very much upon it, ad nauseum; do precisely that to the other as you would never want the other to do to you, and maim, starve, annihilate children if the “national interest” so dictated (500,000 in Iraq).
And offer justification for all these that you would deny to the other. Sauce for the goose not being sauce for the gander; rather, one man’s meat another man’s poison—to cite but one further set of opposites.
Take the matter of killing others, for example. Were you to look into the a priori injunctions of any denominational archive and you will find therein a universal abhorrence of the taking of life.
Yet in practice the injunction is obviated by laying down a graded ethics of killing, all subject to a varying spectrum of evaluation, justification, or
At one end of the scale, you may without qualm of conscience kill in “self-defence.” Expanding that allowance to a larger consideration, you may kill in defence of family, community, faith, nation and be lauded for the same. Indeed, a Hiroshima may also be justified as having been necessary to winning that final victory for world peace. Especially since, happily, those that die no longer have an opinion that you need to worry about.
Among the non-endorsable killings consider first “murder.” You will find that not all “murders” fall into one universal category, or into an undifferentiated Kantian “judgement.”
A life taken unintendedly in a fit of passion, or out of outrage at some proven great wrong may draw but light chastisement of the law. Remember that there still are among us cultures wherein “revenge or honour killings” do not only receive community endorsement but are, indeed, mandated, rendering “categorical imperatives” a site of great colour and variety.
Less forgiveable are murders committed from greed of one kind or another (money, property, preferment, desired paramour). These draw far less consensus. And much may depend on how cleverly your lawyer can subvert the evidence.
Killings that draw the most opprobrium, except of course from those that commit them, are those that seem bereft of tangible motive, issuing rather from some grand principle of theory. Intellectual murders these may be called.
The killers here seem to say to their victims: “we kill you because you are not us, or that you are the not-we. And that the world may not be improved or rendered pure till you remain in it, sharing our earth, air, bread and butter.
To this category belong the genocides and the pogroms—ethnic, racial, religious (native Indians, slaves, Tutsies in Rwanda, muslims in Bosnia, Armenians in Turkey, the killing fields in Cambodia, and those six million odd Jews in Germany/Europe).
And to this last category indeed belong the 2002 massacres of muslims in Gujarat. How intimate the theoretical fountain-springs of those killings has been to European Fascism/Nazism—and lately to the actual workings of American Imperialism and Islamist Jehadism–may be garnered by sampling the following pronouncements:
“Only a member of the race can be a citizen. A member of the
race can only be one who is of German blood. . . .Consequently, no
Jew can be a member of the race. Whoever has no citizenship is to
be able to live in Germany only as a guest, and must be under the
the authority of legislation for foreigners. We demand that the
state be charged first with providing the opportunity of livelihood
and a way of life for citizens. If it is impossible to sustain the total
population of the State, then the members of foreign nations (non-
citizens) are to be expelled from the Reich.”
(The National Socialist twenty-five point programme of 1920, pt.
“The highest purpose of a folkish state is concern for the pre-
servation of those original racial elements which bestow culture. . . . We, as Aryans, can conceive of the state only as the living
organism of a nationality which not only assures the preservation
of this nationality, but by the development of its spiritual and ideal
abilities leads to the highest freedom. . . .
(Hitler, Mein Kampf, pp. 394)
“To keep up the purity of the Race and its culture, Germany
shocked the world by her purging the country of the Semitic
Races—the Jews. Race pride at its highest has been manifested
here. Germany has also shown how well nigh impossible it is for
Races and cultures, having differences going to the roots, to be
assimilated into one united whole, a good lesson for us in
Hindusthan to learn and profit by.”
“Ever since that evil day, when Muslims first landed in
Hindusthan, right upto the present moment, the Hindu nation
has been gallantly fighting on to shake off the despoilers. . . .The
Race Spirit has been awakening.”
“The foreign races in Hindusthan must either adopt the Hindu
culture and language, must learn to respect and hold in reverence
Hindu religion, must entertain no idea but those of the glorification
of the Hindu race and culture,i.e. of the Hindu nation and must
loose their separate existence to merge in the Hindu race, or may
stay in the country, wholly subordinated to the Hindu Nation,
claiming nothing, deserving no privileges,. . . not even citizens’s
(Golwalker, We, Our Nationhood Defined, 1938)
It must be hard to imagine that the five injunctions cited above are not made by one and the same author!
It is this historical vision that has inspired so much of what has gone on in Gujarat during the Modi years, and to which the massacres of 2002 have been a proud centre-piece.
The attempt now afresh underway, as elections in Gujarat draw near, to equate the killing of Sikhs in Delhi (1984),gruesome as those were, with those in Gujarat (2002), miss this one all-important difference: the Gujarat massacres were meant to serve an alternate thesis about “nationhood”, “citizenship,” and “culture”, the killing of Sikhs following the assassination of Indira Gandhi was the expression of frenzied communal madness.
Contrary to the texts adduced above,– and one may add to them a whole chapter in Golwalker’s other book, Bunch of Thoughts, which expounds on why and how Muslims are the country’s “Enemy Number One,”—there is no Congress Party document or any evidence in its recorded history which denounces the Sikhs (or indeed any other group of Indians) as the country’s enemies. No part of Congress ideology stipulates that nation-building in India requires the elimination or expulsion of the Sikhs. Indeed, the Party has remained and remains a political force among Sikhs in the Punjab, and with time after the Bluestar operation (firing on the golden temple in Amritsar to flush out Khalistani terrorists), and the Delhi killings the Sikhs have returned to the Congress in a way in which it is umimaginable that Muslims will ever go over to the Hindutva forces
It must be recalled that subsequent to the Bluestar action, Indira Gandhi refused to jettison her Sikh body guards despite counsel from her security agents, eventually losing her life to that assertion of secular faith. Hard to imagine Modi recruiting his body guards from among the Muslim community. Nor has the Congress shied away from offering repeated apologies for the killings in which some of its workers and local satraps were doubtless involved, just as also it has let all the law courts take their course. Accusations that the Party has subverted the operations of law have never been conclusively established, although it may well have happened. The fact also is that such of its workers/leaders whose names have appeared during the course of investigations have seen their political careers within the party dismantled; Modi, on the other hand, whose direct complicity in the pogrom of 2002 has been ringingly testified to by the very people who affected the pogrom on the ground remains the hope and the hero of the Hindutva forces.
Importantly also, whereas the Congress has, successfully in the main, made efforts to reinduct Sikhs into its social and political life, (no small matter that the first Sikh chief of army staff and the first Sikh prime minister should have been installed under a Congress dispensation) the Modi regime in Gujarat refuses obdurately to lift the littlest of fingers to do any such thing vis a vis Gujarat’s beleaguered Muslims, remaining content with their seemingly irretrievable ghettoisation, ostracism, and economic disenfranchisement. Nor is it conceivable that any future Hindutva-vadi government at the centre or in a state would foreground a Muslim for primeministership or chiefministership.
Satraps of the Hindutva brigade caught confessing their murderous crimes on tape (proudly recounting details of ripping out foetuses from out of pregnant women, cutting a Congress Member of Parliament limb by limb, all under the desperate eyes of near and dear ones) remain jaunty about having furthered the Hindutva agenda. Cities and towns in Gujarat openly designate “borders” between the two communities. Road signs still point the way either to “Hindu Rashtra” or “Pakistan.”
It has therefore been rightly understood that the Gujarat pogrom, carried out as a theoretical agenda, was nothing less than an experiment in pursuance of obtaining historical transformations of the kind enunciated by RSS ideologues inspired by European Fascism and Nazism, namely, to recast the Constitution, Citizenship, Nation, and State.
It would seem that those who have to this day never coherently condemned the holocaust, those who continue to find self-righteous justifications for the Gujarat pogrom of 2002, those who remain at heart content that Muslims the world-over are under siege have nothing more than a crass political interest in the Delhi killings of 1984.
We who caution Indians about the meaning of the Gujarat killings continue to condemn without reservation the Delhi killings; we also condemn those that may have been complicit in those beastly murders, and continue to demand that they be pursued and brought to justice, not excluding any Congress people or officers of state We recognize that like Indian Muslims, Indian Sikhs have made and continue to make extraordinary contributions to consolidating India’s secular plurality, and can claim heroic sacrifices in its defence and preservation.
As elections in Gujarat draw close, should the Congress and its allies heed the canny counsel it is now receiving from media pundits and other tactical whiz-kids, namely, to desist from raising the 2002 issue lest it helps Modi bring back into the Hindutva fold those that are now disaffected? Or, should it take a hint from the ringing course set by Sonia Gandhi at her hugely attended rally at Anand in central Gujarat—a Modi stronghold—namely, to take the fascist bull by the horns?
We believe the latter is the honourable course to follow; what will it gain India if an election is won but the fascist worm is allowed to hibernate? Muslims and other minorities in Gujarat, alongwith, one might add crucially, wide sections among Gujarat’s enlightened Hindus among urban workers,tribals and farmers whom Modi has betrayed are watching to see what option the Congress takes.
It is time the Congress acquired the oomph to operate as something more than an understudy to the BJP, not just in Gujarat but everywhere, and on a sustained and transparent basis.
Equally importantly, those industrial interests whom Modi has pampered must consider whether it behoves them to be to Modi as the Krupps were to Hitler, (and we know what happened there), or whether they have as much of an obligation to help recover Gujarat for the Republic as anybody else. Let us recall that Hitler, after all, was a bigger “developer” than Modi could ever hope to be. And yet; and yet.