Many of us have watched and listened to the maiden speech by Trinamool Congress MP, Mahua Moitra in parliament on 25th June, either on television or in social media. In all likelihood you might have become her admirer. The first time lawmaker from Krishnanagar, West Bengal won much acclaims in the country and abroad for her speech, "Seven Early Signs of Fascism" that turned out to be a s cathing attack on the Modi 2.0 government, fresh from its ‘overwhelming and total’ victory. The banker-turned politician made numerous headlines and has now become a sensation, a superstar and a celebrity.
Her powerful message delivered amidst shouts of ‘professional hecklers’ is indeed well received. However, the wide applause itself, perhaps, befits a critique of her party, to which she belongs and the political system itself that we are in today. The 44 year old lawmaker was inspired by the ‘14 Early Signs of Fascism’ put up as a poster in the main lobby of Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. In January 2017, a Twitter user shared a photo of the poster with a simple message, “ In the US Holocaust Museum. I'm shook” The photo went viral instantly earning 145,000 shares in less than a day. Americans, of course, have been seeing signs of fascism in Donald Trump ever since he was elected president. In the Indian context, the person who shows the early signs of fascism, we all know.
Among Moitra’s forceful presentations was that the present government has Mamata Banerjee open to criticism? During the Lok Sabha election, a professor in West Bengal was arrested for posting a cartoon of Mamata Banerjee on a popular social networking site. A BJP’s youth wing leader who shared the morphed image of Chief Minister too was not spared. The Supreme Court had to knuckle her terming the arrest, “ prima facie arbitrary”. The incident led to netizens questioning freedom of speech in the home of “Where the Mind is without Fear”. In 2012, the Trinamool Congress Chief walked off a TV show, branding students who asked her questions, 'Maoists'. She was also caught being irked when media persons asked her uncomfortable questions.
On the other signs of fascism one has no bone to pick with Moitra. However, she did not pick “rampant cronyism & corruption” (from the 14 signs) as a sign of fascism. That she ignored this point is understandable because, except for questions on Rafale deal, the BJP government still has a clean image. However, one cannot say the same thing of the TMC. The party is accused of having close links with fraud makers of the estimated 4000 crore Saradha chitfunds scam. Many of its functionaries are suspected to be involved. To escape the CBI hunt, many Trinamool leaders have jumped in the BJP’s ship but conveniently, Moitra did not see corruption as dangerous. To be fair to her though, she did refer to the immense wealth the BJP possesses thus making it much easier to win elections and fulfil its ‘fascist agenda’.
Another sign, that is, fraudulent elections was left out by the ‘deemed successor’ of Mamata Banerjee. Elections in the country are not yet a sham but they are increasingly causing concerns. 2019 Lok Sabha elections were seen to be advantageously tilted to the ruling party and the Prime Minister. The independence of the Election Commission was questioned umpteen times and cases of partiality to the BJP were raised by competent citizens. Now it has come to light that a group of ex civil servants has written to ECI stating that 2019 Lok Sabha Polls were ‘the least free and fair in 3 decades'. In this regard certainly we see signs of fascism emerging and it is more than alarming to take note of.
The other signs that the dissenting MP missed, some of which also seems relevant in the Indian context, are Supremacy of the military, Rampant sexism, Corporate power protected, Labor [sic] power suppressed and Obsession with crime & punishment. Of course, one cannot fault her because she had limited time. Absolutely no issue with that!
One danger that we should add to the list of signs of fascism is ‘Criminalisation of politics’. The present Lok Sabha has nearly 50% of its MPs with criminal records, a jump of 26 and 44% since 2014 and 2009, respectively. Numerically, The BJP has 116 MPs (39%) winners with criminal cases, followed by the Congress with 29 MPs (57%), the JDU with 13 (81%), the DMK with 10 (43%) and the TMC with 9 (41%).
For me I consider Criminalisation of politics the biggest threat to democracy. Democracy is a rule of law but if criminals are elected rulers then the rule of law will disappear. Criminals will rule us. A great deal has already happened. 22 of the 58 ministers Modi Sarkar 2.0 have criminal cases. Amit Shah, the Home Minister has cases against him. In 2018 the chief investigating officer testified in court that the PM’s right hand man was a key conspirator in the 2006 Tulsiram Prajapati fake encounter case.
The democratic principal of ‘all are equal before law’ is already a mockery because the public representatives will escape the law. Terror accused, riot accused, murder accused, corruption accused are law makers. These representatives, with blood in their hands, will certainly use their power, position and influence to go scot free. Worst, many from the opposition, once branded as criminals or corrupt, have joined the ruling party to escape investigation. At the end, will we have fascists cum criminals as rulers of this country? The number one sign of fascism is talked by no political party, the reason for which is the data shown above.
The rise of fascism in Germany and Europe in the 20th century was a process. In Germany, the fascist Hitler established his cruel Nazi rule through a series of legislations. Ultimately even Holocaust itself, genocide of more than 1.3 million Jews, was made legal. Are some of the planned legislations of the ruling party leading to vesting supreme powers in the Centre government or in one man? Secondly, fascist activities in Germany and Europe were possible due to the participation of army officials, lawyers, doctors and civil officials. Do we see a parallel in India today, of ‘everyone’ being forced to toe the line of the government of the day? Do see a resemblance in the country where executing and legal officials are made to comply with the policies of the present government to carry out its agenda? Has the government appointed officials in all institutions and departments to facilitate saffronisation of the whole country? Is the latest draft on Education policy another step in this direction? Is sport/cricket the latest victim of saffronisaton?
The "Speech of the Year" will continue to make the rounds on social media. The seven early signs of fascism enumerated by Modi government critic will continue to win hearts. But it is beneficial to look beyond for the simple reason that the signs of fascism are not exhaustive. It is the duty of every citizens of this country to ensure that any sign of fascism does not take root in the ‘second largest democracy in the world’
(Published on 08th July 2019, Volume XXXI, Issue 28)