Scribbling in Dark Times

 

“In the dark times 
Will there also be singing? 
Yes, there will also be singing.
About the dark times.”

-Bertolt Brecht

 I.

There are moments in one’s life when one really feels perplexed.

You find yourself in a situation which you had never envisaged before.

Most of your predictions about the unfolding situation have gone awry or have not proved upto the mark.

One wants to remain calm, to contemplate things around you, take a break, but I know that for people gathered here – activists, writers committed to a cause, political workers – there is no such luxury. As rightly put by Jose Maria Sison, Filipino poet and revolutionary in one of his short poems

“The Tree Wants to be Calm

But the wind will not stop”

I know that our ‘calm’, our ‘silence’ at this juncture can easily be construed as a sign of cowardice before the forces of darkness, our surrender to the enemies of humanity and despite the need for deep contemplation – which is very necessary for all of us at this point in our country’s – we will have to keep talking, keep interacting with each other, have some tentative conclusions about the world around , share it with other likeminded people so that the debate goes on and we are able to strategise ahead. To use a metaphor, (used by a senior comrade of mine in one of his beautiful write-ups) it is as if we who are riding on a ship, which is facing rough winds; have to repair it simultaneously, if we want to remain afloat.

Today, as I stand before you – all my very dear friends, comrades and fellow-travelers – I find myself in a similar situation, not knowing exactly how in a such a limited time available before us we can arrive at some consensus, some conclusion about the road that lies ahead which looks hazy.

Will it be OK if we decide to continue the journey in the same manner – supposedly after debating, discussing the ‘temporary setback’ we all have suffered?

Or there is a need and an urgency to take a radical rupture from the beaten track we have been following all these years, as it has led us to this pathetic situation we find ourselves in, where forces claiming to extend the ‘successful Gujarat experiment’ to the rest of the country are holding the reins of power without an iota of remorse in their eyes.

If we take 1992 – demolition of the Babri Mosque – as a benchmark, then we will have to admit that it has been more than two decades that the anti-communal/secular movement in this country, has suffered setbacks one after the other. One cannot deny that there were intermittent periods of revival where we could put them on the defensive but as we look back one gets a feeling that they were mere holding operations.

Neither the ‘anti-communal struggle’ could be taken beyond what can be called as the Sarva Dharma Sambhav discourse in this interregnum nor the communal and majoritarian construction of society and polity could be brought on the agenda then. It was rightly prophesised by a scholar then that without any perceptible change in the ‘majoritarian middle ground’ in Indian politics – which is marked by popularity of majoritarian viewpoint, high expression of religiosity, emphasis on maintaining group boundaries, lack of awareness about blatantly communal events, less approval of minority interests etc- the material basis for the emergence of communal forces with a new vengeance would always remain. Our predicament today rather vindicates this prophesy.

And thus despite the finest brains we have with us, despite the tremendous work done by individuals, groups, formations, with lot of risk to themselves at various levels or despite the fact that parties owing allegiance to secularism far outnumber parties which follow exclusivist politics or despite the presence of a vibrant left movement – albeit divided in many streams – at the national level, we will have to admit that all our efforts put together we could not stop the advance of the Hindutva right to the centre stage of Indian politics.

And as days pass on the gravity of the situation is becoming more evident.

One is reminded of American political scientist Donald Eugene Smith who wrote:

‘It is far too early to dismiss the possibility of a future Hindu State in India. However, the possibility does not appear a strong one. The secular state has far more than an even chance of survival in India’ (India as Secular State, Princeton, 1963, p.501)

Fifty years after this statement the secular state in India seems to be standing on very weak foundation and the possibility of a Hindu State is far stronger than it was in 1963.

II.

Undoubtedly it has been a comprehensive defeat for all of us.

We can console ourselves with the fact that merely 31 per cent people have voted them to power and they have not won but we have lost. We can also console ourselves with the fact that the presence of First Past Post System or the absence of a proportional system of government formation much prevalent in parts of Europe has been at the root of our malaise. We can also console ourselves with the fact that  democratic institutions have taken deep roots in this country and even if some Halaku or Changez comes to power s/he will have to moderate her/his murderous policies.

But these are mere consolations.

It is not going to have any impact on the way in which they want to fashion India and its people in their own image.

We will have to admit that we could not gauge the pulse of the people and people cutting across caste, class, ethnicity lines and to an extent community lines have voted them to power. Of course, this is not the first time that people have voted against their own interests.

We will have to admit that despite our sincere attempts which gained momentum after the 2002 genocide, despite all our campaigning with likeminded forces to expose the real meaning of what a ‘Modi Sarkar’ entails for the broad masses of people, their appeal has won the day.

It is a fact that we have lost this round of battle and a much more slippery, much more treacherous path awaits at this juncture.

There have been many firsts in this election. Apart from the fact that BJP which owes its allegiance to the Sangh Parivar has won majority on its own, for Congress which ruled the country since independence for a considerable period of time it is its worst performance yet over. It seems to be in permanent decline now. Social justice parties have discovered to their dismay that ground has been fast slipping and now only a miracle can bring them back to the old reckoning. It is also for the first time that the ruling dispensation at the centre would not have a single member from the biggest minority community of the country. It is also going to be a parliament where we have lowest representation of them in the august house.

Coming to the parliamentary left the less said the better, while they can have some solace over the fact that in Kerala or in Tripura they have still significant bases left, West Bengal which was there bastion for more than thirty years they have been driven to the margins. A resurgent BJP coupled with the TMC which is holding reins of power have made their sustenance difficult. Expanding base in Hindi heartland still remains a dream for them left.

The revolutionary left does not fare better. Its crisis remains hidden as it is already in a very bad shape and beyond own band of supporters it is as of now out of the purview of discussion in broader left circles and concerned scholars, writers. It cannot claim that it is aloof from the sense of confusion and sense of disorientation which prevails among a broad section of people/formations yearning for a revolutionary change.

It is being rightly said that once the ‘magic’ wears off new type of anti-capital resistance struggles would emerge and then everybody concerned will have to play a role in it. But that is for tomorrow. Today we need to discuss threadbare the immediate and longterm reasons for our decline and debate ways and means to surge ahead once again

III

The immediate or short term reasons for the victory of BJP led alliance do not need much elaboration. Much has been written about it and commented upon. The covering letter to this meeting also summarises about the ‘[p]ivotal role played by media..aided by Corporate Class and RSS, coupled with voters disillusionment’ resulting in the ‘astounding majority for BJP’ and Modi’s ascendance to the PM post. To make it complete perhaps one can as well mention ‘support of the youth and women, and Modi’s tapping into aspirational politics etc. as well. 

One is also witness to the fact that the elections also dispelled many a myths:

-The well constructed myth of a Muslim vote bank found itself shattered

-The understanding that memories of 2002 genocide will come to play a role in choice of the people proved to be an illusion

-The assessment that NaMo would be a polariser in Party and society also proved wrong.

One feels that it would better serve our purpose if instead of dwelling much on the immediate reasons behind this ascendance of the Hindutva right – where there is no disagreement as such – we decide to probe further deep and understand for ourselves what do the results ‘tell’ us about say,

– the symbiotic relationship between neoliberalism and communalism which has unfolded here

– the society we live in where perpetrators of gross human rights violations are glorified and enthroned,

– the Indian state – a pefectly modern institution – and its relationship with the Indian society, which gives rise to ‘savage forces’ from amongst its midst

In fact, once we decide to go deeper, many questions would emerge, which normally do not get raised in similar gatherings. And believe me, they are not meant for some ‘supposed’ academic interest, they have practical implications.

The dangers which this ascendance of Hindutva right – variously called as communal fascism or Neoliberal Fascism or Corporate fascism- pose before the people have also become obvious since day one.

– Spurring controlled communal tensions in different parts of the country

– Spurt in Hate speeches

– Kidglove treatment towards perpetrators of communal violence

– Saffronisation of textbooks

– Increasing ghettoisation of minorities

– Curbs on freedom of expression

– Attack on worker’s hard earned rights

– Easing of environmental clearance laws

– Proposal to dilute Land acquisition laws

– Softpedalling laws for protection of dalit-adivasi rights

Perhaps as the debate moves ahead one can enumerate other immediate and long term dangers which would unfold themselves before us. Perhaps as the characterisation of this phase itself implies – may it be communal fascism or corporate fascism etc – it will be essentially walking on two legs. The growing neoliberal offensive couched in the language of ‘development’ would be accompanied by (as and when necessary) communal tensions supposedly to further drive a wedge between different sections of the toiling masses, so that the broader issues of deprivation and pauperisation do not get raised at any level.

It is really a strange coincidence that while we are debating ascendance of Hindutva Right here, situation in this part of South Asia looks very similar where majoritarian forces owing allegiance to a particular religion or ethnicity seem to be on the upswing. Mynamar, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Pakistan, you name a country and find democratic forces being pushed to the margins and majoritarian voices gaining new voice and strength.

Not very many people would have imagined that people claiming themselves followers of Buddha – who is considered apostle of non-violence – would metamorphose into perpetrators of tremendous human rights violations in Mynamar. It was only last year that ‘Guardian’ had done a special story on the Burmese monk Wirathu – called ‘Bin Laden of Burma’ – who with his 2,500 follower monks has become a dreaded name in the country., instigating Buddhist fanatics to attack Muslims. The plight of Rohingya Muslims has become a cause of international concern. The military in Mynamar has provided tacit support to him or others of his ilk.

Or, come to Sri Lanka, two months back the Bondu Bala Sena(BBS) started by Buddhist monks had reached headlines for attacking Muslims and causing loss of property and human lives. Since the suppression of the Tamil militancy the Sinhala extremist forces – which has enough sprinkling of Buddhist monks – with due connivance of the Rajpakshe government has discovered ‘new enemies’. If Muslims are target number one, Christians and Hindus are not far behind. Two years back in a place called Dumbulla, Sinhala extremists led by Buddhist monks had raided the mosques, temples and churches in the area claiming that it was a ‘sacred area’ for the Buddhists and ‘others’ will not be allowed to pray here and this despite the fact that these structures were decades old and had been constructed on the land by taking valid permission from the authorities. As expected here also police and security forces were mere bystanders.

Or you go to Bangladesh or reach neighbouring Pakistan where you find Islamist forces trying to play havoc with the lives of ‘others’. It is true that because of a strong tradition of secular movement, situation is still under control in B’desh but Pakistan seems to be bursting at its seams where various fanatic groups with their violenct acts against the ‘others’ – ranging from the Ahmadiyas, Shias, Hazaras, Hindus etc – have created a situation of implosion.

What is noticeable in this picture is perpetrator community changes as you cross the national borders. In Burma, Buddhist seem to be the perpetrators and Muslims seem to be at the receiving end, in B’desh there is reversal of roles and likewise in other countries of the region.

It is disturbing to note in such a volatile situation one type of fanaticism feeds on the other. Buddhist extremists in Mynamar strengthen Islamists in B’desh and they further add strenght to the Hindutva supremacists here. If the first half of 20 th century this area has been witness to anti-colonial struggles which had strengthened each others emancipatory aspirations, in the first quarter of 21 st century we all have been witness to explosion of majoritarian movements trying to put all the achievements of democracy and secularism on the backburner.

IV

What is a sine qua non of democracy?

It is the understanding that minority voices will be allowed to flourish and they will not be bulldozed.

At the apparent level majoritarianism – rule by majority – sounds very similar to democracy but it essentially stands democracy on its head. For real democracy to thrive, it is essential that ideas and principles of secularism are at its core. The idea that there will be a clear separation between state and religion and there won’t be any discrimination on the basis of religion has to be its guiding principle.

Majoritarianism thus clearly defeats democracy in idea as well as practice.

While democracy’s metamorphosis into majoritarianism is a real danger, under rule of capital – especially its present phase of neoliberalism – another lurking danger is its evolution into what can be called as plutocracy – government by the rich.

Recently two interesting books have come out discussing 21 st century capitalism. The one by Thomas Picketty ‘Capitalism in the 21 st Century ‘ – which demonstrates convincingly that the twentieth century exhibited a secular tendency toward continuous and widening inequality – has been received well here also. It discusses increasingly disproportionate concentration of income at the top, and the widening inequality that goes along with it, is integral to the system and a consequence of “the central contradiction of capitalism,” (Capital, 571).Piketty’s core theoretical concept is expressed in the formula ‘r>g’, where ‘r’ represents the return on capital/INVESTMENT, and ‘g’ the rate of growth of the economy.

Much like Piketty’s contribution, a major study of democracy in America has also received almost as much attention in the west. It confirms our suspicions that oligarchy has replaced democracy. The authors found that “policies supported by economic elites and business interest groups were far more likely to become law than those they opposed…. [T]he preferences of the middle class made essentially no difference to a bill’s fate”.

The study “Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens”.by Martin Gilens (Princeton) and Benjamin Page (Northwestern) – which entirely undermine the notion that America is a democracy – and carries wider significance has not received attention here..(http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/05/02/apolitical-economy-democracy-and-dynasty/)

. “Majority rule” accounts, construed numerically or by any “median voter” criterion, are found to be a “nearly total failure.” Controlling for the preferences of economic elites and business-oriented interest groups, the preferences of the average citizen have a “near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.”

The preferences of economic elites have “far more independent impact upon policy change than the preferences of average citizens do.” This does not mean that ordinary citizens never get what they want by way of policy. Sometimes they do, but only when their preferences are the same as those of the economic elite…

 “[M]ajorities of the American public actually have little influence over the policies our government adopts… [I]f policymaking is dominated by powerful business organizations and a small number of affluent Americans, then America’s claims to being a democratic society are seriously threatened.”

(http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/05/02/apolitical-economy-democracy-and-dynasty/)

According to the authors their results are ‘troubling news for advocates of “populistic” democracy.’ “When a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites and/or with organized interests, they generally lose…even when fairly large majorities of Americans favor policy change, they generally do not get it.”

In such an unfolding situation, where we are faced with this dangers of democracy metamorphosing into majoritarianism and democracy becoming oligarchy with the highly undemocratic, violent Indian society – which glorifies violence against the oppressed and legitimises, sanctifies inequality in very many ways acting as a backdrop question arises – the same question which Comrade Lenin had asked in a very different context ‘What is to be Done’ ?

V

Looking back at the earlier experiences of fighting authoritarianism, totalitarianism or fascism, the natural reaction would be to explore the possibility of forming United All India Fascist Front.

While in principle agreeing with the idea that that there should be broader unity among all those forces, formations who are against what can be variously described as ‘communal fascism’, neoliberal fascism or corporate fascism’ etc one sincerely feels that any hurry in this direction would be counterproductive. It should be seen more as a process – which will have to first achieve clarity on challenges/dangers which confront us, get ready for serious self-introspection about what went wrong or what proved inadequate in our practice and then slowly move towards joint actions/co-ordination etc. Any top down approach towards such unity can be mentally soothing for many of us but would not be of much use in addressing the challenge.

There are three four questions around which we need to have a clarity before moving further.

  1. How to view the genesis of Hindutva in India ?

As we normally see the idea and politics of Hindutva is understood in the form of religious imaginaries.

For its proponents, it is THE way to correct ‘historial wrongs’ supposedly committed by ‘aggressors’ of various hues against ‘Hindu Nation’ -which according to them has been in existence since times immemorial. It does not need recounting how this strange mix of mythology and history which is fed to the gullible followers unfolds itself before us with dangerous implications.

The dominant antidote to this exclusivist idea, rubbishes the ‘us’ versus ‘them’ rationale provided to justify its actions, denies any such continuous strife on the basis of religion amongst people, talks of emergence of composite heritage and the flourishing of many syncretic traditions etc. It is no surprise that the explosive manifestations of communal conflict are presented here as a handiwork of ‘few bad apples’ within the communities which need to be weeded out or quarantined. A logical consequence of this understanding is that secularism as it is practised here as part of statecraft similarly veers around Sarv Dharm Sambhav (Equal Respect to All Religions) and not to separation of religion from running of the state and society as it is normally understood.

Looking at the fact that the politics of Hindutva has been on ascendance since last two and half decades – despite witnessing temporary setbacks here and there – and the established/standard response to it losing its luster, and the strategies devised to deal with losing their appeal and impact, it is time to look at the phenomenon in a more nuanced way. It is time to move away from standard questions and their pet answers to an arena less probed and investigated. Perhaps it it time to raise questions which were never raised or did not receive the attention they really deserved.

Would it be proper to say that Hindutva is rather an extension of the ongoing Brahminical project of hegemonising and homogenising of Indian society and in fact could be seen as part of Brahminical counterrevolution against the Shudras-Atishudras who had witnessed loosening of the social bondages and restrictions under the twin impact of policies promulgated by the colonial regime coupled with the path breaking movements led by the social revolutionaries.

How does one relate to the emergence of the weltanshauung (world view) of Hindutva with the struggles against Brahminism pioneered by the likes of Savitribai and Jyotiba Phule and the ongoing efforts of many stalwarts of the movement – ranging from the plethora of leaders of the Satyashodhak Samaj to the Bahishkrit Hitakarini Sabha, Independent Labour Party or for that matter Republican Party of India and the pathbreaking role played by the legendary son of the oppressed Dr Ambedkar.

A question could be why Maharashtra – where the population of minorities has never crossed ten per cent mark, and where they were never politically dominant, metamorphosed into a region which saw not only emergence of many leading Hindutva ideologues – ranging from Savarkar, Hedgewar and Golwalkar – and their organisations but a strong base as well as popular legitimacy as well.

A satisfactory answer to all these queries can only be had if we are able to look afresh at all those assumptions about ascent of Hindutva and are ready to break new grounds in pursuit of this aim.

To put it other way we need to address what Dilip Menon calls ‘the general reluctance to engage with what is arguably an intimate relation between the discourses of caste, secularism and communalism.’ He adds :

The inner violence within Hinduism explains to a considerable extent the violence directed outwards against Muslims once we concede that the former is historically prior. The question needs to be : how has the deployment of violence against an internal other (defined primarily in terms of inherent inequality), the dalit, come to be transformed at certain conjectures into one of aggression against an external other (defined primarily in terms of inherent difference), the Muslim ? Is communalism a deflection of the central issue of violence and inegalitarianism in Indian society ? (do)(See P2, The Blindness of Singht, Navayana 2006).

 

  1. What is our understanding of minority communalism?

One knows that when it comes to the situation of Muslims – the biggest religious minority here – we find ourselves in a particular bind. While we are aware that a large section of the community faces deprivation, dispossession, pauperisation – brought in by the nature of socio-economic development followed here which gets accentuated because of the prejudice/bias prevalent against them in all the organs of the state and ‘civil society’. Thanks to the report of the Sachar commission, many of the myths perpetuated by the majoritarian forces like ‘appeasement of Muslims’ lie shattered and their ‘majority going for Madarasa education’ stand exposed.

There have been thousands of riots in post-independence times, where they have been at the receiving end of administrative apathy and connivance and the combined might of the majoritarian forces. None of the real planners/masterminds of the riots have been caught or people leading riots have been arrested and despite reports by various judicial commissions rarely one notices prosecution of anyone from the administrative side or people supposed to maintain law and order for their complicity in the pogroms. And as rightly put by Paul R Brass, there have developed what he terms as ‘institutionalised riot systems’ which are in a position to engineer riot at any moment.

We are also becoming aware – post 2002 riots – how the state has slowly abdicated the role of providing relief and rehabilitation to riot affected people and victims of communal violence and the vacuum has been filled by different community organisations. And this one witnessed not only in Gujarat but even in a state like Assam – ruled by the Congress consecutively for three terms- when there was violence in BTAD areas. According to a journalist most of the relief camps set up for the internally displaced people were run either by Jamaat-e-Islami or Jamiat-Ulema-i-Hind making the victims and other affected people more amenable to their agendas.

But what does one think about the community leadership – the dominant politics there – which is undemocratic to say the least. In fact, one can cite many examples which go to show the growing disjunction between the leadership and the Muslim masses which is neither ready to take up issues of internal divisions, asymmetries nor does it want to move beyond ‘community interests’ while taking highly problematic stands on various issues of concern. e.g. Neither it has bothered to take up the issue of rights of Muslim women nor it has ever acknowledged the issue of discrimination based on caste in the community. Despite the existence of a nascent Pasmanda (backward) Muslim movement in the community it is yet to acknowledge its significance. Much on the lines of Pakistan, which happens to be the only country in the world which has declared ‘Ahmadiyas/Qadianis’ as unIslamic, one witnesses similar forces on the ascendance in the community here as well.

It has also exhibited its myopic nature by not coming clean on anti-human actions undertaken by Islamist groups/formations elsewhere. May it be activities of Boko Haram or for that matter the war crimes committed by Jamat-e-Islami in neighbouring Bangladesh during its war of liberation, it has either maintained ambivalence or went out unashamedly supporting them. Recently when one Sunni scholar – grandson of Ali of Nadwa – called upon Sunnis of India to join the Jihad undertaken by Baghdadi in Iraq and Syria, who has declared establishment of Islamic Khalifate, there were no voices of condemnation here.

It is high time that we move beyond the bind in which we find ourselves on various ‘sensitive’ sounding issues. While we should fight against deprivations of the Muslim masses we should not remain silent over depradations of its leadership. Our fight against targeting of Muslims in general and Muslim youth in particular should not mean that we remain silent when some Popular Front issues diktats to Muslim women to wear this or that dress or has no qualms in attacking a Professor and cutting his hand just for the fact that the question he put in a question paper ‘hurt their sentiments’.

  1. What is our critique of secular practice or our struggle against communalism?

Today, as we look back, it clearly indicates the lack of a social foundation for secularism. Question arises why more than sixty years after we embarked on a secular path, it has remained so weak.

It can be observed that here the emphasis has always been on maintaining secularity of the state and forgetting or neglecting the important aspect of secularisation of society. Perhaps it has to do with the emphasis of the progressive/transformative movements on political-economic struggles and their neglect of intervention in social-cultural arena.

One discovers that forces like RSS/Jamaat-e-Islami or other status quoist or reactionary organisations have been very clear about their ‘anti-secular’ agenda which they tried to bolster through intervention in culture in a startegic manner. They tried to enhance their ‘religious viewpoint’ by institutionalising it through n number of affiliated organisations. May it be the formation of schools or hospitals or organisations catering to diverse sections of society they tried to fashion society in their own image. It is not for nothing that RSS describes itself not as ‘organisation in society’ but ‘organisation of society’. (Samaj me Sangathan nahin, Samaj ka Sangathan) Prof K N Pannikar  writes that RSS’s educational work started in the 40s itself and today they have 70,000 schools – from Ekal Vidyalayas to Saraswati Shishu Mandir – spread all over the country. These activities have helped them ‘in transforming the cultural consciousness of the people from the secular to the religious’ (P 169,History as a Site of Struggle, Three Essays Collective) According to him

 ‘This is qualitatively different effort from that of the secular forces who mainly focus on cultural intervention, the impact of which is limited and transient. The difference between cultural intervention and intervention in culture distinguishes the cultural engagement of the communal and the secular and their relative success’. (do)

Secondly, the secular movement, has always emphasised what Harsh Mander has described in his recent article (Learning from Ambedkar, http://kafila.org/2014/08/23/learning-from-babasaheb-harsh-mander/#more-23461)   an image of India which has been ‘through most of its long history, a diverse, pluralist and tolerant civilization – the land of Buddha, Kabir and Nanak, of Ashoka, Akbar and Gandhi. ‘ as a counter to a narrow, intolerant, exclucivist, monolithic interpretation of Indian culture done by the Hindutva right, which Romila Thapar describes ‘as the right-wing Semitisation of Hinduism‘. It has celebrated the existing culture here which has provided space and freedom for every major faith to flourish, where ‘persecuted faiths have received refuge’ and ‘where heterodox and sceptical traditions thrived alongside spiritual and mystical traditions’.

Basing itself on this understanding it has tried to interrogate, question and challenge Hindutva Supremacist forces. But this understanding as anyone can notice seems to be a partial description of our society which invisibilises the stark reality of caste – the hierarchial division of society – an integral part of Indian social fabric based on the age old doctrine of exclusion legitimised and sanctified by the Brahminical ideology. This sociological blindness towards such an age-old structure has impacted its task of secularization.

VI.

What no one seemed to notice . . . was the ever widening gap. . . between the government and the people.

The dictatorship, and the whole process of its coming into being, was above all diverting. . . . It provided an excuse not to think for people who did not want to think anyway . . . and kept us so busy with continuous changes and “crises” and so fascinated, yes, fascinated, by the machinations of the “national enemies,” without and within, that we had no time to think about these dreadful things that were growing, little by little, all around us. . . .

Each step was so small, so inconsequential, so well explained or, on occasion, “regretted,” that . . . one no more saw it developing from day to day than a farmer in his field sees the corn growing. One day it is over his head.

Each act, each occasion, is worse than the last, but only a little worse. . . . You wait for the one great shocking occasion, thinking that others, when such a shock comes, will join with you in resisting somehow. . . .

But the one great shocking occasion . . . never comes. . . . That’s the difficulty.

Milton Mayer, (They Thought They Were Free: The Germans, 1938-45 University of Chicago Press, 1955), writing about the Nazi takeover of Germany

 

There could be many such questions which demand answers. For example, till date not much attention has been paid to the parallel growth of nationalism and communalism in this part of South Asia. One also needs to revisit the anti-colonial struggle more critically, as one discovers that although it was fought invoking the idea of the nascent nation, at every crucial step, it tried to silence the voices of oppressed already present here.

There is a Sanskrit Subhashitam which says ‘Wade wade jayate Tatwabodha‘ (As the debate progresses, we can reach a better understanding). One sincerely hopes that we will emerge from the meeting with new clarity, new resolve and new enthusiasm to fight demons of the present.

As we mentioned in the beginning these are really dark times. But we should never forget that humanity has faced darker times than we have been witness to today. And despite occasional setbacks it has always moved ahead, surged ahead.

Everybody knows that people who hold reins of power today have no qualms in glorifying Hitler or discussing achievements of Nazism in their documents or telling the outside world that they take inspiration from such experiments. Perhaps they need to be also reminded that how all such experiments in ‘Aryan Supremacy’ accompanied by ethnic cleansing of the ‘others’ ended and how all those Fuhrers and Duces were thrown into the dustbin of history.

Indian people also await similar juncture.

It depends upon all of us who are committed to a better life for humanity – better justice, better peace and better progress. It also depends upon how we strategise so that similar emancipatory moment arrives here at the earliest.

( Revised version of presentation at All India Consultative meeting of Progressive Organisations and Individuals, organised by Karnataka Kaumu Sauhardu Vedike [Karnatak Communal Harmony Forum] to discuss the post-poll situation and the way ahead, 16-17 th August 2014, Bengaluru)

 

 

3 thoughts on “Scribbling in Dark Times”

  1. It was interesting to note that most of the quotes that the author picked up were from the years before the fall of the soviet union. The left has been unable to accept the fact that their ideology has failed and they have become bankrupt of ideas. Replaying the same tune over and over again is the mark of insanity and its time that the left realizes it..

  2. In the opening lines of the part V of the article the author writes:”Looking back at the earlier experiences of fighting authoritarianism,totalitarianism or fascism,the natural reaction would be to explore the possibility of forming United All India Fascist Front.”I am sure the author meant “United All India Anti-Fascist Front.”I do not however share the desperation and frustration of the author.I fully agree that all those who professed to combat communalism miserably failed.Rather I am of the opinion that actuallythey underestimated the challenge of posed by Hidutava since the very inception of RSS in 1925.To find out reasons for its ascendance in the recently held Lok Sabha elections will be in-comprehensive .Historical reasons are more important than incidental..

  3. Informative and well laid out. One issue that hasn’t been addressed is the reason why a majority feel ‘oppressed’ by minority. There has certainly been NO APPEASEMENT.

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