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19095Sixteenth Lok Sabha Poll in India: Through the Eyes of a Section of the Indian Far Left

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  • Sukla Sen
    Apr 7, 2014
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      [Never mind the self-avowedly "impractical", and patently self-contradictory - in so far as it utterly refuses to fight in any meaningful way whatsoever in the immediate term to halt the menacing onward march of the monster it so vividly analyses and depicts, stance advocated as regards the sixteenth Lok Sabha poll that has already commenced today, the following is undoubtedly a pretty much well informed, even if somewhat lengthy, document offering a fair idea of the shape of the things to come if the predictions of "professional" psephologists, this time, turn out to be accurate and Narendra Modi eventually manages to occupy the keenly coveted seat of the Prime Minister.]

      From: Sushovan Dhar <dhar.sushovan@...>
      Date: 7 April 2014 10:01

      Radical Socialist Statement and Call for the elections of 2014


      As India moves to the general elections of 2014, we are facing an apparently unstoppable march to the extreme Right. The bourgeoisie has clearly made up its mind to push the BJP led NDA to power, with Narendra Modi as Prime Minister, so that they can provide a “stable government” with “good governance” in accordance with the Gujarat Model. And so, they are busy predicting and insisting that the triumph of the BJP is a foregone conclusion.


      The Fascism of the Sangh Parivar:

      We call the Sangh Parivar fascist for serious reasons and not just as a term of abuse, and we argue that certain definite tasks follow from this analysis. They are an ideologically based formation, for whom an ultra-chauvinist Indian nationalism is to be built by presenting Muslims (and people of other religions) as enemies of the nation. They have created hostility to democracy within their cadres and followers as well, pushing a casteist, hierarchical social order as the best form, and creating an autocratic system within their own organisations. At the same time, they have consistently held out to the ruling class the offer of support for breaking down all working class powers, and the creation of a powerful bourgeois India. None of this is mere rhetoric. The consistency with which the Sangh Parivar has treated minorities needs to be understood and always remembered. In 1947-8, after having stood aside from the freedom struggle, the RSS launched a bid to turn the newly independent India into a sectarian Hindu state to parallel the sectarian Islamic state of Pakistan. It was only the backlash of the murder of Gandhi that stopped them. In 1989, Advani’s campaign over the Babri Masjid led to riots in 43 cities and towns. In 1992-3, the destruction of the Babri Masjid, in flagrant violation of laws saying ancient historical/archaeological monuments are to be protected, was followed by frenzied rioting in many parts of India, attacks on minorities. In 2002, there was a massive pogrom in Gujarat, which was a key to the consolidation of the BJP electorally in certain parts of Gujarat.

      And these are not aberrations but the tip of the iceberg. The BJP, wherever in power, has sought to marginalise all minorities. In Gujarat, where it has had a sustained stint, it has communalised education, it has extended deep roots in different levels of society over a very long period.


      For example, it is well known by now that Gujarat has provided the greatest number of kar sevaks over the years. It is well known that the VHP network is possibly the strongest component of all the arms of the Sangh Parivar in Gujarat. VHP activists are no longer in the category of “lumpens” or extreme fringes of the petty bourgeoisie. Rather, they include considerable numbers of people all the way to the upper middle ages. It is of course a case that communalism is a wider phenomenon and the RSS one organisation. The Gujarat riots of 1969, an entire generation back, had led to the deaths of some 2500 people, and it had been the proud boast then that more Muslims than Hindus had been killed. But the RSS has used riots in a consistent way, to mobilise people as Hindus, and to define the Hindu in a right wing militant manner, for a goal that involves the fascist seizure of power. This sets it apart from any other reactionary organisation, be it a party, a social organisation, which uses communalism as a possible tactic for short term gains.


      Gujarat’s transformation has had an effect on how the elite have manipulated and mobilised the lower caste and class Hindus. The nature of agrarian change in Gujarat after independence had led to the steady rise of the Patel category. These were the people who benefited most by the Green Revolution and the White Revolution. The Patel-dominated rich peasantry developed close links with the Gujarati diaspora beyond India. A new axis, between politicians, bureaucrats and businesspersons, with no seeming stake in the preservation of civil society, increasingly became dominant. Also, a very narrow layer of dalit and adivasi middle class, the sole result of over half a century of reservations, seems to have been enfolded by the embrace of this nexus. At the same time, the nature of industrialisation and its limits also needs clearer examination. In Ahmedabad, the rise of new production firms have meant the closing down of 50 and more mills employing some 100,000 workers. To this we should add the fact that much of Gujarat’s industrialisation in recent years has been through sectors with no social security, such as the chemicals industry, where radical trade unions had to wage a two-pronged fight (agitation and court battle) just to get a formal declaration of minimum wages. Ankleswar, one of the fast growing areas, has very little civic rights. These frustrations, irregular jobs, lack of social solidarity among people surviving in the informal sector, all made those lower down also turn to alternative for solace. For different reasons, the new elite which was emerging also had no integral world view, and it, too, was seeking alternative moorings. In both cases, the Sangh Parivar provided alternatives. One could cite a Gujarati leaflet of 2002 calling for a boycott of Muslim owned shops and establishments, which claimed that if Muslim shops were boycotted  4 crore rupees would be saved in Kalol town alone, with which Hindu schools could provide free education. Of course, the reality would have been simply a boycott of Muslim shops, as people would have bought the same goods from other shops, owned presumably by Hindus. But the RSS agenda could also be seen in the list, which included mutton shops, and carts selling omelettes.


      Violence against the minority, portrayed as enemies, represents the core agenda of the Sangh Parivar. This core agenda has been pursued systematically in Gujarat for many years. At one level it has been pursued by government action aimed at putting minorities to jeopardy. At another level it has been pursued by intensifying hate campaigns within common people. And this long term planning puts paid to all claims, whether by hidden advocates of the Sangh Parivar, or by intellectuals who try to do a balancing act, to the effect that it was Godhra that sparked off the violence, or that without Godhra it would not have happened. The fact that leaflets in tens of thousands, printed in old fashioned treadle machines, were distributed calling on Hindus to kill Muslims within 24 hours, suggests that such leaflets had been printed in advance. The fact that vast stocks of liquefied petroleum gas cylinders had been hoarded and were used for the carnage, or that voter’s lists and other official documents were used to identify Muslim houses, Muslim owned shops, and so on, likewise indicates long planning, not a sudden anger due to the Godhra incident.


      Another aspect that has been remarked upon in connection with the Gujarat pogrom of 2002 is the adivasi-dalit involvement. There are several ramifications of the dalit-adivasi involvement, and we need to begin by stressing the need to avoid wishful thinking. To stress the troublesome side first: several reports pointed out that dalits, including dalit women, were aligned with the upper castes in the 2002 violence. The, chapter on women’s perspective of the PUCL report, says: “Dalit women have, more or less, allied with the upper castes during the violence. This has been seen in areas like Baranpura, Navidharti, Navayard and Fatehpura. This has resulted in the Hinduization of Dalit women on a scale never before witnessed in Vadodara.” Since the formation of the RSS was as much a reaction to dalit assertion as it was due to anti-Muslim views. So when in Gujarat, dalits and adivasis do the dirty work for upper caste, upper class political agenda, it is certainly a gain for the RSS.

      But there is the other side.  The PUCL report quotes a dalit woman as saying how she has been coerced into not helping Muslims, because the police called her a traitor. Money was also used. But apart from money, there have been other issues. The Baxi Commission recommendations of the 1980s resulted in massive violence targeting not only OBCs but also dalits. Through these agitations, the Brahmin-Bania-Patidar combine came to have a distinct Savarna identity. But the VHP and the RSS were then able to penetrate this bloc and put forward the message that the Savarna identity was inadequate. With rising dalit assertiveness – expressed in many ways, including the revival of the Republican Party, the spread of the BSP through much of India, etc, there was a social threat which had to be neutralised. This was done through an apparently inclusionist, but in fact actually aggressively exclusivist strategy. At one level, as reservations created a small dalit and adivasi middle class, this stratum could be sought to be integrated into the Hindutva fold, made easier by a relatively similar lifestyle in the cities. For the dalit and adivasi middle class, indeed, Hindutva seemed to offer a route to cast off their inferior identity and appear as the equals of the Savarnas. Meanwhile, however, the collapse of Ahmedabad’s older industries, commented upon earlier, meant the collapse of local class solidarities between dalits and Muslims even at lower levels. The result was, that even if half-hearted, there was dalit participation.


      Finally, however, we need to point to yet another aspect – insecurity faced by dalits and adivasis, and support given by them to Muslims. That dalits and adivasis were not major gainers in the looting that accompanied the attacks has been confirmed by various people. In The Survivors Speak, it is recorded that: “The fact-finding team spoke on the phone with Anil Joshiara, an Adivasi leader (mentioned in Samad’s testimony above). He confirmed that he had demanded police combing operations to prove that Adivasis have gained little from the looting except a bad name. He claimed that the Adivasis who were involved in the violence were only misguided youth.” The picture that emerges is thus one where the RSS has made inroads, communalised sections of the dalits and the adivasis, but where the battle is far from lost.


      With all its complexities, therefore, a picture can be seen, of the systematic communalisation of both state and civil society by the BJP-RSS-VHP-BD for several years. At the level of the state apparatus, there has been gross and blatant interference and a profound communalisation of the apparatus. RSS and VHP figures dominate the entire administration. Police Officers of Muslim origin have been given the type of posting that moves them awaty from law and order maintenance. Many Muslim police officers are so insecure that they do not wear their nametags. When criminals are Muslims, they are asked specific questions, such as their attitude to Pakistan, their position during partition, etc. And tens of thousands of VHP cadres have been recruited into the Home Guard.


      Penetration of civil society has been even more insidious. Since 1998, there has been a systematic development of hate literature. Using the print media as well as the electronic, including massive use of the Internet, cadres of the Sangh Parivar have been whipping up anti-Minority hatred. Circulars sent out by the DG intelligence asked the police to gather information about Christians and Muslims. It was later issued pertaining to Muslims only. This kind of state support emboldened the activists. One year before the mob violence, the Gujarati newspaper Sandesh prepared and published a list of names of Muslim hotel and shop-owners. There has been a considerable communalisation of health professionals. Issues in Medical Ethics, a journal concerned with ethical medical practice, wrote in its editorial : “The fact that the medical associations did not galvanise  themselves for relief work indicates how deeply the medical profession has been affected by the sharp communal divides being promoted by political interests….Indeed, the medical community is becoming polarised, both in Gujarat and  elsewhere in the country. We hear doctors confide that the minorities "needed to be taught a lesson".


      At the same time, Gujarat also shows the Sangh and its underlying gender vision. This requires atressing, because the BJP has not been averse to using rhetoric that makes it seem  modern and progressive. It has talked about a Uniform Civil Code, and it has talked about supporting the demand for one-third representation of women in Parliament.  But behind this polish lies a highly retrograde politics. The Gujarat pogroms of 2002 showed brutally that for the Sanghis, women who are Muslims are fit to be abused and then killed. The conviction of Maya Kodnanai shows that women cadres were also trained in the same kind of politics.


      The image of women created, and the politics behind it, needs to be understood clearly. Hindu women are shown, first, as victims of Muslim lust and eternal projects of rape. Even in Gujarat 2002, this was clearly present, when communal and totally false reports were published, to the effect that Hindu women had been taken off the train at Godhra and raped inside a Madrasa. This became the false plea for a so-called tit for tat attack, whereby women in numerous cases were raped, and then , in many cases, mutilated or murdered.

      This gendered politics went back to the pre-2002 period. In July 1998, the Gujarat government set up a Police Cell for Monitoring Inter-Religious Marriages. Haren Pandya, then the minister of state for home, announced this in the assembly, and justified it on the ground that such marriages were not made of free choice but were forced on Hindu women for ulterior motives. Communalism Combat published a confidential document circulated by the Hindutva forces in February 2000. It said, among other things: “The main attack on Hindu Samaj is that our sisters of tender age are being abducted by offering them inducements and allurements and then they are made to sign the marriage register after getting converted by force. Hundreds of Hindu girls are being (converted to Islam) made Muslims like this in Gujarat state.”


      So if Hindu women were weak victims, what was to be done? On one hand, Hindu men were exhorted to avenge the women. They were told that raping and killing Muslim women was nothing more than what Muslism deserved. And on the other hand, Hindu women were exhorted to train themselves, to become warriors in defence of community –cum-nation. This had led, already in the past, to the formation of the Rashtra Sevika samiti, and in more recent times, to other organisations like the Durga Vahini etc, and role models like Uma Bharati, Saddhvi Rithambhara etc. Women have been massively inducted in the Hindu Right and pushed towards violence from the period of the Ram mandir agitation. But it was only this time, in Gujarat, that this bore fruit fully. The fullest report on the role of Hindu women has come from the PUCL, reporting on Baroda. The final version mentions a number of points, summarised below.


      The years of hate campaign and propaganda about Muslims overtaking Hindus numerically, have resulted in women sanctioning and taking part in violence. They defended the violence saying that "they had it coming" etc.   “They have 4 wives and 20 children, they will overrun us, they don't use contraception etc. They are taking away all our business, we are becoming poor.”  Taught from birth that Muslim men are all rapists and that Muslim women are their collaborators, they turned in increasing numbers to violent, with ample social sanctions. The line between hating Muslims to condoning their killing and encouraging it has been crossed, at least partly on account of the fear psychosis that centres around the notion of the ‘dangerous Other.’ Violence had targeted the Muslim female body in ways not seen previously. There was also terrible and sadistic violence directed towards children, including unborn children, in front of their mothers, before the mothers themselves were abused, tortured and killed and burnt. This says something about the Sangh’s world view. It would be foolish to ignore this as acts of barbarism by a lunatic fringe, just as it would be generally self-defeating to reduce the politics of the Sangh to mere economic forces and their hidden pressure. The rape and destruction of the Muslim female body, the orgy of violence on the children, show that the Sangh is serious in implementing Golwalkar’s utterance about how the “foreign races” must entertain no idea but those of the glorification of the Hindu race and culture,  “and must lose their separate existence”, or may stay in the country, wholly subordinated to the Hindu Nation, claiming nothing, deserving …not even citizen's rights.” In the outlook of the Sangh and its cothinkers, women are breeders. The destruction of an “alien” race/religion/community is best brought about by destroying its breeders and its future – the women and the children. So it is silly to display any chivalry in times of war. And of course, in the Sangh world-view, the “Hindu Nation” is perpetually at war with the enemy.


      Moving beyond the Gujarat 2002 pogroms, too, the Sanghi view on gender is retrograde. Their call for a Uniform Civil code is a play on words. For them, the key issue is uniformity, and gender justice. These forces had opposed tooth and nail the Hindu Code Bill when it had been pushed. So when the demand the UCC, what they mean is the imposition of a Hindu code on Muslims, not a gender just code for all, regardless of religion.


      How far state organs, including the judiciary, too, could fall under the spell of this force was borught out by the Gujarat High Court stance during the Best Bakery Case. Best Bakery in Hanuman Tekri area of Vadodara had been one of the worst sites of violence, where, on 1st March 2002, a mob had looted and burnt the bakery and had killed fourteen people in a period of twelve hours. But this was also one case that was well-documented. When the occupants of the attacked building called the police for help a police van arrived about an hour and a half later, drive past the bakery without trying to stop the mob, and then a policeman got off and even incited the mob. The attack intensified thereafter.  On 2nd March, Zahira Sheikh, then aged 18, recorded a statement at the site of the incident. She filed an FIR before the police thereafter. But when the trial began, in court witnesses, including Zahira, the star witness, turned hostile. On the day of Zahira’s court appearance the local BJP Member of Legislative Assembly, Madhu Shrivastava, accompanied her to court in a clear gesture of intimidation. The accused were found not guilty. Then came the drama, as Zahira alleged that her testimony had been consciously falsified because she felt threatened. The matter went to the Supreme Court, where the revelations about the nefarious role of the police and the state apparatus came out. A day before the Supreme Court was to hear the matter through a petition filed by the National Human Rights Commission, the Gujarat state government, prodded by the Supreme Court, filed an appeal before the Gujarat High Court challenging the acquittal of the accused, but without asking for a retrial. On 26th December 2003 the Gujarat High Court dismissed the appeal, and a 90 page judgement justifying the acquittal showed that retrial could not be ordered because the prosecution had failed to produce proper evidence.  The judges also passed remarks against anti-communal and human rights activists like Mihir Desai and Teesta Setalvad, and against progressive social movements. Thus, the court stated “This very witness [i.e., Zahira] when examined before the court seems to have stated the truth before the court, but unfortunately, it seems that for some reasons, after the pronouncement of the judgement, they fell in the hands of some, who prefer to remain behind the curtain.”  And again, the radical activists who had been fighting since the beginning of 2002 to halt the fascists were attacked in no uncertain terms by bringing in a reference to their past roles: “Certain elements failed everywhere, at all levels, and to obstruct the development and progress of the state and trying to misuse the process of law, so far they have not fully succeeded. Sometime back in the name of environment, (a) matter was filed before the apex court in (the) Narmada matter, which was dismissed by the apex court. However, because of the ex parte ad interim order, they were successful in causing huge loss, running into thousands of crores of rupees to the state…. Once again, almost similar attempt is made not only to cause indirect financial loss to the state, but to create rift between the two communities and spread hatred in the people of the state.”  Going beyond the specific case in hand, the judge also stated that: “It is most unfortunate that attempt is made to create a false impression not only in the other states but also in the world that Gujarat is a terrorist state, which is factually wrong.” Eventually, on April 12, 2004, the Supreme Court ordered the re-trial of the Best Bakery case in Maharashtra, outside the control of Gujarat, and also directed that remarks against Desai, Setalvad etc should be expunged. The language used by the Supreme Court, though restrained as it should be, makes it clear that the SC found the High Court observations to be thoroughly partisan in favour of the Hindutva forces. “Observations should not be made by courts against persons and authorities unless they are essential or necessary for decision of the case. … Courts are not expected to play to the gallery or for any applause from anyone or even need to take cudgels as well against any one, either to please their own or any one’s fantasies.” The main judgement was also a clear indiction of the Gujarat state. The Supreme Court held that “When a large number of witnesses have turned hostile it should have raised a reasonable suspicion that the witnesses were being threatened or coerced. The public prosecutor did not take any step to protect the star witness who was to be examined on 17.5.2003 especially when four out of seven injured witnesses had on 9.5.2003 resiled from the statements made during investigation…. The public prosecutor was not acting in a manner befitting the position held by him…. The trial court should have exercised power under Section 311 of the Code and recalled and re-examined witnesses as their evidence was essential to arrive at the truth and a just decision in the case.” This is enough to show that the judicial apparatus as well as the executive in Gujarat had become sufficiently soft on the Hindutva forces, to put it in an understatement.


      So the Gujarat Model that Modi boasts of contains in equal measure capitalist development unchecked by the least concern for the toilers, and a criminal degree of communalization of society and state. This pattern, to lesser extents, has also been followed in other provinces, as RSS instigated violence in Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, etc show.


      We have characterised the Sangh Parivar as a fascist force. However, this requires certain clarifications. Classical fascism arose in a period of revolutions and counter-revolutions. While the major ingredients of the Sangh Parivar have structural similarity, the fact that for over six decades, India has had a functioning bourgeois democracy has meant that the Sangh Parivar has functioned in ways distinct from the Nazis or the Italian fascists. Secondly, in Italy and in Germany, there was the very real threat of proletarian revolution. In India, the working class is not organised, and there is no significant revolutionary party capable of leading a proletarian revolution. This is a major reason why the ideology and organisation of the Sangh Parivar has not often been attractive to large sections of the Indian capitalist class. There have however been potentials for the RSS to use bourgeois democracy to force itself onto the bourgeoisie. Its long term strategy of penetrating civil society, and the fact that a good part of the Indian capitalist class has shared its upper caste and Hinudtva ideology to a certain extent, has meant that there have been points of contact. As a result, from the 1980s, when it was clear that the Congress was in decline and there was a need to look for an alternative, stable bourgeois force, it could project itself in opposition to the motley crew of the Janata Party and the Janata Dal. The drawback lay in the RSS insistence on aggressively carrying out its communal policies, much as for the Nazis anti-semitism was not mere rhetoric to garner votes but a core part of their agenda. But what has been called the “soft hindutva” of the Congress meant that there was no major resistance within the mainstream of bourgeois politics. And from the bourgeoisie, whose appetite has grown with the successes of globalisation, the balancing acts of the Congress, which, under pressure from allies, from its own many-hued constituency, temporises, draws back from the extreme measures demanded by the leaders of the capitalist class, the BJP, and the prospects of a clear cut victory of the BJP, appears a better bet.


      Since the Sangh Parivar has been consigned by fate to operate within ‘bourgeois democracy’ for a far longer time than it had originally envisaged (in 1947-48 it had clearly planned for a fairly swift grab for power, creating a ‘Hindu Rashtra’ analogous to Jinnah’s plan for a ‘Islamic State’), it has been compelled to split its operations. The BJP, as the electoral arm, has to look “moderate”. Of course, it is “moderate” only if one argues that a hyena is moderate compared to a wolf-pack. One should remember that the Mr. L. K. Advani, hailed these days as a “Statesman”, was seen as aggressive as against the “moderate” Mr. Vajpayee back in 1989-1992.


      So the issue is not as if there is a “fascist tendency” in the Sangh Parivar, but also a “developmental discourse”. The issue is, how is the fascism of the Sangh Parivar going to be utilised for capital? This is where the ‘Modi model’ is crucial. It is Gujarat, a rapidly industrialising province that is showing, in a small way, what the Sangh Parivar is willing to do for capital.


      The Gujarat Model of “Development”:

      This is the point to understand. Indian capitalism wants Modi, because Modi has shown in a small scale what the fascists want to deliver. In exchange, they are willing to accept the communal violence, the curtailment of rights of minorities, the war on dalits, on women,   that may be generated. As for the destruction of democracy, that hardly bothers them, since their definition of democracy is one that does not involve people actually controlling governments. Over the years, the Congress, as well as various provincial governments, have reduced democracy. Now, they are willing to reduce it to even poorer levels, as shown by the entire orientation of bourgeois politics, which we need to also discuss.


      The so-called Gujarat Model is based on some myths and some realities.

      Myth I: Modi has made Gujarat such a hospitable place, that auto industries are rushing in.

      Reality: The Tata’s relocated from Singur, where agitation was going on, to Sanand, because Modi offered massive financing and sterner policing. The policing component should be understood easily from the fact that toiling people find it so muc more difficult to agitate in Gujarat. But the other component is equally important. The total sops to the Tatas have been estimated at around Rs. 30,000 crores. This included 1100 acres land, and against a Tata investment of 2000 crore rupees, an interest free loan from the Gujarat Government worth 9570 crore rupees. By contrast, the CPI(M) led government of West Bengal had offered to take away peasants’ land but give it to the Tatas at a subsidised rate, and give subsidy on power, tax paybacks, and some 200 crore rupees soft loan.


      Myth 2 – Gujarat under Modi has had exceptional growth.

      Reality – Gujarat has been an industrially growing state for a long time. A look at Gujarat’s growth over time, and a comparison with other industrial provinces over time, shows that this is not where Modi really shines. What makes Modi an attractive model is not simply Gujarat’s growth, but the blunt way in which Modi has been willing to violate laws. In fact, there are conflicting data, some of which show that the rate of Growth in Gujarat had been higher under Madhavsinh Solanki. But Modi has shown his resistance to the Lokayukta, his willingness to flout environment related laws, and his willingness to take on labour and peasant rights head on. Ever since the crisis of 2008, which hit the developed world so hard, the Indian capitalist class has seen its own growth get curtailed. While the slowdown in growth in India is not as huge as in the advanced countries (indeed India and China remain the hopes for the capitalist world, with their large markets), the capitalists are unhappy at the decline. What the capitalists want is a strong state,  which will ensure that there is a sharper shift of wealth from labour to capital, that it will be the relatively small siz

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