When the seventeenth century French king Louis XIV claimed “I am the state,” he had concentrated all authority in his hands. We seem to be returning to that era. It is reported that Xi Jinping has taken more power into his hands than any other Chinese leader since Mao. Rodrigo Duterte of Philippines is planning to declare a ‘Revolutionary Government’ that will give him unlimited powers. Vladimir Putin in Russia and Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey are far more advanced in this respect. The way that Donald Trump has been taking on the judiciary, the media, public opinion, civic bodies; treating accords with other nations, international agreements on issues like climate change, with international bodies like the UNESCO, he seems to claim a stature above global dimensions. Nobody else seems to count in the world.
Where does Indian leadership stand in this regard. Possibly, it is inching towards some of the East European models: a ‘populist leader’ making all decisions, made acceptable by a grand facade of democracy. Andrea Peto of Hungary describes the expansion of Far Right in East Europe: “The Far Right work on the political mobilisation of the young, focusing on creating a new language of emotions ,” especially mesmerising them with an ideology of hatred for “others.” Earlier, the “others” may have meant Jews; today it means immigrants, refugees, outsiders.
The younger generation that has not experienced the horrors of war, speak about confrontation, violence, and war as though that is where their self-worth can be best manifested. They little realise that this is a counter-evolutionary instinct in human beings: moving away from stimulating intellectual debates to boxing contests... and ultimately to the elimination of the debating partner; from brain-power to gun-power and muscle power...and then, you are back in the Stone Age. And in that age, what the volatile and unsettled youths are asking for is not a Philosopher-King, but a Warring-Chief. Both Trump and Narendra Modi know that a bit of sabre-rattling can distract or silence internal opposition for a while. A ‘strong-ruler rage’ is on the rise.
The Washington-based Pew Research Centre recently discovered that 55% Indians supported autocracy; in fact, 53% desired direct military rule. The fear of the rise of a “Feudal Republic of India,” then, is not unfounded, after all. It is very revealing what the former RSS pracharak Lalji Patel tells us. He resents that Gujarat is being ruled directly from Delhi, and that all leaders along the line have become ‘autocrats,’ and their decision is final. The waiving off of one lakh crore loans is for the industrial houses, not the farmers.
Mr Modi’s religion, says Mr Patel, is pseudo-Hindutva. It amounts to the autocracy of the Hindutva elite and the divinisation of the supreme leader. India had already produced some regional leaders who could say and do anything, who could continue to be corrupt and even eliminate opponents, as long as they served the interests of their community. Several dictatorships had flourished within our ‘puzzling’ democracy, a phenomenon that would bewilder a foreign observer.
Today, it has risen to the national level. The curious thing about the new situation is that those with power around the ‘great leader’ have no power; everything is one-man controlled. But they have the privilege of bossing over others. The reign of “brown sahibs,” that Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru feared, has begun in earnest. British imperialism is replaced by dominant-caste imperialism. Ancient horrors are fast returning. Ministers/MPs/MLAs are quickly getting used to genuflecting favour-seekers (feet-touching, shoe-cleaning, blessing-seeking), who lower themselves in ways more humiliating than in colonial times, and who make themselves “underlings,” clients, fans, hero-worshippers, idol-worshippers. So, ‘pseudo-Hindutva’ reveals its real face, giving a religious sanction to a hierarchical social order.
A warrior force has long been in formation to ensure the consolidation of this culture. Recently Pravin Togadia spoke enthusiastically about the training camps that have been regularly organized for Bajrang Dal (Yuva Shaurya Prashikshan) during the last 25 years, making of young people a ready force for action. A certain Acharya Yogendra Arya, a gau rakshak, was more frank, “When rulers fail, the public will have to step in.” So, India develops itself to be a lynch-nation, breaking skulls with the connivance of the police and society. It is no surprise that the crime-rate has gone up in the country. The undeclared programme of action seems to be “Divided We Stand.” The greatest anxiety is that a mob-psychology gets a grip into the collective inner being of India, and a psychic numbing takes place. What we have in hand, then, is a struggle for the ‘soul of India.’
Soibal Dasgupta, who was an RSS member for some years, summarizes its teaching in these few words: 1) the superiority of Hinduism; 2) victimhood at the hands of other communities; and 3) the importance of the caste system. In brief, it is a philosophy of hate and a strategy of ‘divide and rule.’ Prodyut Bordoloi of Assam is alarmed that the RSS is giving arms training to youths in schools and colleges, that they are celebrating the birthday of Nathuram Godse, and that they are taking young people to Nagpur for training. Of late the Bajrang Dal members have reportedly taken to swords and guns as well. It is difficult to see how this method differs from the ISIS’s terrorist-training. Youths from impoverished-illiterate background are recruited and indoctrinated for joining arms-bearing outfits to earn a living and give vent their anger. It is even more difficult to see how yoga-related peacefulness combines with lynching-exercises.
Of late, the BJP has enrolled 3.8 lakh volunteers and ‘vistaraks’ in view of the 2019 elections. Kerala has 4,500 RSS shakhas and 30,000 active cadres. Gujarat has only 1000 shakhas. Structures in West Bengal too have expanded. Jobless disoriented youth readily jump in. Arvind Kejriwal says, a sense of insecurity is deepening in the country. Everyone feels under surveillance; phones tapped; income-tax raids; Enforcement Directorate-CBI enquiry; and lakhs of tax-notices. Permit raj is giving way to raid-raj. Mr Kejriwal insists that the only manufacturing that has gone up during the BJP rule is the lie-manufacturing industry! If the BJP wins the coming elections, will its ‘unpredictable ruler’ assume unlimited power...and re-write the Constitution overnight? Will it be a modernized version of Manusmriti or Modismriti or Shariat?
On the election trail, BJP spokespersons seemed to have assured the Christians of Meghalaya that if they win the elections, churches would not be pulled down next day. It sounded a bit odd in a democracy that they felt the need of giving this assurance. But what remains unsaid is more important. If we have to go by what has been happening in the states that voted for BJP, we know that nightmares are ahead.
On the day that their government takes over, a Delhi team will be airlifted to the spot to begin making decisions on behalf of the local administration; they will have control of the natural resources in the state; unoccupied land will be allotted to the Patanjalis, Vedantas and Nirvanas; roads and bridges will be re-named; local heroes will be demoted to make place for Sarvakars and Gowalkars; history books would be re-written; Sanskrit would be given prominence. They will decide on what posture one should adopt while singing Vandemataram; with what devotion one should say ‘Jay Hanuman’ (invoking higher deities is the right only of higher castes!); what meat should find its way into your fridge and into your kitchen. It is interesting that most Indian labs have become ‘beef-detecting’ places.
Soon enough, indigenous land will go into the hands of outsiders who will promote BJP interests; some local deities will be found to be the incarnation of some forgotten epic deities; a village will be identified as the birthplace of a Mahabharata hero/heroine; some relic will be unearthed linked with a Ramayana story. Then, one fine day, it will dawn in your mind that in a previous incarnation you belonged to one of the lower rungs of the caste-hierarchy, but belong to the majority community!
What is the most alarming of all, the Party High Command will define who your enemies are. Debabrata Saikia, the leader of the Opposition in Assam, accused Assam Government of following RSS instructions and dividing communities along religious and ethnic lines: Hindus/Muslims, Assamese/Bengalis; in the tea gardens, Hindus/Christians. Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, recently asked pardon of humanity, as he sees many using the instrument he developed to bring people together, for dividing them. We will long for groups like ‘Citizens Against Hate NGO’ to come to our help.
International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde says Indian economy is on the right track. Mr Modi assures us of the same. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley echoes the message. But there is no performance, no motivation, no national will. Deloitte’s “Voice of Asia” proudly announces that half the emerging workforce of Asia during the next decade will be Indian. Over 12 million will be added to the workforce each year. “But where are the jobs?” asks Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi. The collective will is broken. Will they all end up as Bajrang Dals, Ranveer Senas, Gau Rakshak Vahinis, threatening the lives and livelihoods of each other? It was with deep feeling that the outgoing President Pranab Mukherjee pointed out to the nation that compassion and empathy are the core of our civilisation. Would we remember this truth?(Published on 30th October 2017, Volume XXIX, Issue 44)