Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Split and Stuck

The two fundamental divisions of Indian politics have lost their substance and stalled the country’s progress by deeply damaging the process of building political consensus.

Secular-Communal and Dalit-Upper Caste are the two great divides of Indian politics.
Hardly any national-level programme or policy can pass muster or an important social issue can be discussed without being made the subject of the political theatre  which often turns into vicious battles – staged around these two great divides.
Ever wonder what is behind this increasingly acrimonious politics and what has it yielded to the Indian society?

The disputants
The right sides of the two rifts –  labelled 'communal', ‘upper cast’ and 'casteist' – are generally taken to mean 'Hindutva' or 'caste Hindu' or 'Brahmanical' or just 'Hindu'.
The epithets, 'communal' and 'casteist', are often used together  i.e. those who are characterized as 'communal' are also deemed 'casteist' and vice versa.
The left sides – labelled 'secular', 'pro-Dalit' and 'Dalit' – are represented by people who see themselves as 'progressives' fighting the 'communal' and 'casteist' forces in the interest of India's 'oppressed communities', which are taken primarily to mean Muslims, Dalits, Scheduled Tribes and OBCs.

Hanging matter
Woe betide anyone who is accused of, or even whispered as, being a 'Hindutva sympathiser' or promoting a hidden 'Hindutva agenda' or being ‘Brahmanical’ or a 'caste Hindu'.
The use of supposedly 'Hindu' art and other associations  such as Bharat Mata, Vande Mataram, saffron robes  can also make one a 'suspect'.
The burden of proving otherwise often lies with the accused and the suspect.
Anyone with some claim to prominence, who believe they and their cause have nothing to do with any of the two great divides, may still have to demonstrate to the 'progressives' that they are not 'communal' and/or 'anti-Dalit'.

My way or the highway
Most of the 'progressives' take a one-way street.
"The very same folks who egged you on to write about their problems and to take the Hindutva beast by its horns would shrilly denounce you as an 'agent' of this or the other 'power' if, in your quest to be honest and balanced, you pointed out even some of the mildest of their faults. It was as if by definition the 'oppressed' were spotless angels who could do no wrong and their 'oppressors' wholly and incorrigibly demonic," writes Yoginder Sikand, who recently decided to give up his handsomely paid, 20 years' career in 'progressive social activism' after realising the “truly astounding hatred that often passed for progressivism”. 
Read Sikand's extraordinary confession describing the intolerance of 'progressives' who, he says, believe they are championing the ultimate "Cause" against not just communalism and casteism, but also “class oppression, gender injustice and imperialism” on http://www.countercurrents.org/sikand190412.htm. The article[1] is titled ‘Why I Gave Up On 'Social Activism’.
After opposing the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) for many years, Namdeo Dhasal, the critically acclaimed poet, Dalit activist and the founder of Dalit Panther, joined hands in 2006 with the Nagpur-headquartered organisation to promote national unity and social harmony. This is what he had to say on the reconciliation[2].
"Leftist friends would pounce upon me with abuses and accusations that I have shifted camp, but I don't care, because I have only one mission  to strengthen national unity and social integrity. This cannot be achieved if we remain divided in thousands of castes and sub-castes and keep pouring venom against each other. Neither can politics help eradicate castes, which rather thrive on casteist divisions."

What sets them off?
Here is the opening paragraph of ‘Dalits in Hindu Rashtra: Time for another Sadbhavna fast Modiji’, an article[3] written by ‘progressive’ writer Subhash Gatade and published on Kafila.org on 24 May 2012.

“Justice Balakrishnan (ex-CJI, now chair of the NHRC), who has remained in news since his retirement altogether for wrong reasons, provided further ammunition to his critics with his recent visit to Gujarat. The manner in which he lauded the state government for its “innovative schemes for the upliftment of Dalits” and claims that “..future of the SC community seems to be fairly good in Gujarat as compared to many other states” is being seen as an attempt to clean chit and whitewash acts of omission and commission of a government which is still mired in the controversies surrounding the carnage in 2002.”

Here Gatade is suggesting that the approbation[4] of some of the governmental work for the welfare of the Dalit communities in Gujarat by NHRC Chairman Justice KG Balakrishnan (who himself was born in a Dalit family) in his official capacity is tantamount to an effort to “whitewash acts of omission and commission” of the Modi government  with allusion to the 2002 riots.
So this approbation  rather than the alleged failure of the Modi government to help the Dalits  is the primary provocation for Gatade to write the 3500-word article in which he argues that the state has performed poorly in protecting the rights of the Dalit communities. 

Blame it on Brahmins
Gatade’s description of Gujarat as “Hindu Rashtra” (in the headline of his article) does not seem to be intended to be just a figure of speech consisting in an exaggeration.
That’s because a lot of ‘progressive’ writers like Gatade believe that ‘Hindutva’ of which, they allege, Gujarat is a laboratory is not just equal to fascism, but it was the Hindu Brahmins who passed this dangerous ideology on to European fascists.
The following is what Dr. Rai Mohan Pal, another ‘progressive’ who has edited the Bulletin of the People's Union for Civil Liberties and the monthly Radical Humanist, has to say in an interview[5] published on PUCL website on 09 January 2004.
“Hindutva, as I see it, is the modern form of Brahminism. I believe that Brahminism and fascism share much in common, and just as the philosophy of fascism is based on the negation of human rights, so, too, is the philosophy of Brahminism.
In fact, Brahminism is a philosophy based on the gross violation of the fundamental rights of entire social groups — women, Shudras, Dalits and tribals, as well as groups such as Muslims, Christians, Buddhists and Sikhs, who, when added up, form the vast majority of the Indian population…
MN Roy, the founder of the Radical Humanist movement, was the first to point out the fact that the roots of fascism lie in the ancient Brahminical religion, and he showed how European, particularly German, fascist philosophers borrowed concepts from Brahminical scholars and scriptures, concepts such as the Aryan race theory, the supremacy of the strong over the weak, the concept of the tyrannical superman and so on.”

An anti-fascist Brahmin
One of the more frequent describers of Hindutva as ‘fascism’[6] and its followers as ‘Hitler’ and ‘Goebbels’ (minister of propaganda in Nazi Germany) is Mani Shankar Aiyar, the Congress MP and Nehruvian socialist and secularist.
Born in a Brahmin family, just like Nehru, his political inspiration, Aiyar does not betray any trace of embarrassment in flinging at others the word ‘fascism’ which was invented, allegedly, by his caste members and spread across the world.
Anyway, Nehru and a Nehruvian like Aiyar do not impress the more ardent ‘progressives’ like Kancha Ilaiah.
In an article[7] on the recent controversy over the publication of Nehru-Ambedkar cartoon in an NCERT textbook, Ilaiah wrote: “Gandhi and Nehru now remain upper-caste heroes and agents of the state, whereas Ambedkar is a prophet of the poorest of the poor – the Dalits.”
Ilaiah would, perhaps, next demand a blasphemy law. If he does, it would be interesting to see how a ‘progressive’ lawmaker like Aiyar would react.

Not to put too fine a point on it…
Aiyar’s description of Hindutva as fascism sounds hollow to many, including Swaminathan S. Anklesaria Aiyar, his younger brother and a well known columnist.
If Narendra Modi is a fascist for allegedly allowing the violence against Muslims to take place in 2002, so was Rajiv Gandhi – Mani Shankar Aiyar’s political patron and hero – who oversaw the slaughter of about 3000 Sikhs in Delhi in 1984, the younger brother argued in an article[8] titled ‘My murders are better than yours’ and published in The Times of India of 06 January 2008.
Rajiv Gandhi was neither tried for the pogrom in Delhi in 1984 nor did he ever apologize for it.
“The 1984 data are more suggestive of a pogrom than the 2002 data. The Hindu casualties in 2002 were a quarter of the total, suggesting two-way violence (even though Muslims suffered far more). But no Hindus died in Delhi, so it looks much more like a pogrom,” wrote Swaminathan Aiyar.
The Times of India also reported[9] on 09 August 2003 that “10 Janpath has maintained a deafening silence” over the involvement of Congress’ own cadre in the killings during the post-Godhra riots.
“We wrote letters to Congress president Sonia Gandhi, gave a list of Congress leaders involved in the riots, asked her to take action against them, but to no avail,” the paper quoted Mahmood As'ad Madani, general secretary of Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind, as saying.
The younger Aiyar has questioned the Left parties’ certifying themselves as ‘anti-fascists’ by citing the history of their own involvement in political violence in the states ruled by them and the violent record of the regimes they support in other countries[10].
He has also made a mention of the taint of violence in regional parties like DMK, which was tolerant of the militancy of the Tamil Tigers, and Akali Dal, which had links with the armed Sikh secessionists.

Stalling national progress
If the whole point of being ‘progressive’ is to be an antidote to hatred, divisiveness and social exclusion and to promote social harmony, why are ‘progressives’ always pointing fingers at others – shrilly, self-righteously and without making any demonstrable effort to enter into a dialogue with the other side?
Why are ‘progressives’ reluctant to admit their own failings, fearful of discovering anything good in those they decry, and attack those of their camp who wish to give dialogue and reconciliation a chance?
It is easy to see that the political theatre staged around the two great divides of Indian politics – Secular-Communal and Dalit-Upper Caste – has neither helped resolve differences nor benefited any community.
This is self-defeating and self-perpetuating politics in that it accentuates the existing fault lines, creates more fractures in the society, and allows politicians to play endless games.
It has stalled India’s progress on every issue of national interest by damaging the process of building political consensus.
Playing the two rifts is anything but ‘progressivism’.
(End of matter)

[1] ‘Why I Gave Up On 'Social Activism’ by Yoginder Sikand http://www.countercurrents.org/sikand190412.htm 

[3] Dalits in Hindu Rashtra by Subhash Gatade, http://kafila.org/2012/05/24/dalits-in-hindurashtra-time-for-another-sadbhavna-fast-modiji/

[4] http://www.expressindia.com/latest-news/nhrc-chief-in-state-lauds-modi-govt/949523/

[5] Dr. Rai Mohan Pal on Hindutva, http://www.pucl.org/Topics/Religion-communalism/2004/hindutva-pal.htm

[7] Outlook, The Ethereal Realist, by Kancha Ilaiah, http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?280966

[9] Congress cadres were involved in post-Godhra violence against Muslims, http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2003-08-09/india/27201201_1_congress-leaders-congress-mlas-gujarat-youth-congress

[10] The reports on the following links give some idea of the Left’s involvement in political violence.
(a) http://www.business-standard.com/india/news/political-violence-important-problem-needs-analysis-sen/418977/
(b) http://www.indianexpress.com/news/kerala-cpm-leader-says-party-will-continue-to-kill-enemies/954375/0

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