Tag Archives: democracy

Democracy as Majoritarianism

Extract from the Preface of  ‘Hindutva’s Second Coming’

Preface

Democracy as Majoritarianism

We can never forget that everything that Hitler did in Germany was ‘legal,’ and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did was ‘illegal.’ It was ‘illegal’ to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler’s Germany, but I am sure that if I lived in Germany during that time I would have comforted my Jewish brothers even though it was illegal… we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive.
— Martin Luther King, Jr

What is the signature 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 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.
As India enters the race for elections to the 17 th Lok Sabha, these are the two broad questions which are staring in everyone’s mind, whether the same dynamic – which has made the last five years as unique in Independent India’s history – will continue or we will witness a rupture.
It is a disturbing scenario when the biggest democracy in the world seems to have taken a ‘[Q]uantum Jump In Wrong Direction Since 2014’ (Amartya Sen) – prompting even the normally reticient community of scientists to ask people to reject the politics which ‘.[d]ivides us, creates fears, and marginalises a large fraction of our society’ and remind them that “[D]iversity is our democracy’s greatest strength; discrimination and non-inclusivity strike at its very foundation.’
Whether there would be further normalisation of majoritianism or ordinary people’s desire to live a more inclusive, egalitarian life and in a less toxic world would ultimately triumph the designs of the hatemongers and secondly, whether free run being given to the crony capitalists and moneybags would be over and ideas of redistribution would make a comeback with vengeance.
What has added a new dimension to this dynamic is the existence of a ‘self proclaimed cultural organisation’ called RSS – whose principles, ideology and activities contravene the very basis of Constitution – which is de facto ruling the country. It is an organisation whose principles “[d]epicting Indian nationalism in terms of the faith of the religious majority – have serious negative social and political implications for sections of the citizen-body and are in violation of the Constitution.” ( http://caravandaily.com/rss-principles-are-in-violation-of-constitution-detrimental-to-india-hamid-ansari/)
It was exactly 42 years back that Indian people defeated the attempts to throttle the democratic experiment by their united struggle, whether they would be we able to have an encore when more secretive, sinister and communal forces are on ascent who are also popular among a significant section of people.
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The central concern of the collection of essays (some of them published earlier and revised for this collection) presented here is this normalisation of majoritarianism which is taking place here. A situation where representation of the biggest religious minority in the outgoing Parliament had been at its lowest since independence and where it is being slowly invisiblised even from public discourse.
Section I tries to situate these developments in India in South Asian context and search for any commonality in the experiences of people and also looks at the societal roots for this fascination of hate filled ideologies and leaders.
Section II deals with the ‘pioneers of the Hindutva Supremacist movement and the new icons they want to present for a ‘New India’ which is supposedly taking shape under their wings. Section III tries to offer tentative suggestions to fight the menace which is trying to overwhelm the Indian republic.
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The book is dedicated to the memory of the legendary Indonesian author Pramoedya Ananta Tur (February 20, 1925 – April 30, 2006) who survived persecution, imprisonment and censorship, whose writings have inspired generations of Indonesian People,
What was remarkable that Pramoedya, a leftist, was jailed not only during the anti-colonial struggle but had to undergo a long phase of detention which started in mid-sixties when Indonesia witnessed a CIA sponsored military coup – which witnessed killings of lakhs of people. He was released from imprisonment in 1979, but remained under house arrest in Jakarta until 1992.
His tetralogy of novels – for which he is best known – ‘Buru Quartet’ was written during the tormenting period of detention only. “Is it possible,” Pramoedya asked later, “to take from a man his right to speak to himself?”

 

Glory to his memory !

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Contents

Dedication
Preface
Section I
1. India: The Road Less Travelled by
2. Time to Militarise Hindus, Hinduise the Nation
3. South Asia: Forward March of Majoritarianism
4. Dear Hitler
Section II
5. Veer of a different Kind
6. Can the Real Shyamaprasad Mukherjee Ever Stand Up?
7. Godse: In Love with the Assasin
8. Deendayal Upadhyay: BJP’s “Gandhi”
9. Many Silences of Mr Mohan Bhagwat
Section III
10. Hindutva’s Second Coming
Appendix IV
Nehru, Ambedkar and Challenge of Majoritarianism

Index
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About the author
Subhash Gatade ( born 1957) is a left activist, writer and translator.
He has done M Tech ( Mech Engg 1981) from BHU-IT, Varanasi.
He has authored few books including  Modinama : On Caste, Cows and the Manusmriti ( Leftword, in press), Charvak ke Vaaris ( Authors Pride, Hindi, 2018), Ambedkar ani Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh ( Sugava, Marathi, 2016), Beesavi Sadi Mein Ambedkar ka Sawal ( Dakhal, Hindi, 2014), Godse ki Aulad ( Pharos, Urdu, 2013) , Godse’s Children – Hindutva Terror in India (Pharos,  2011), The Saffron Condition ( Three Essays, 2011)
He also occasionally writes for children. Pahad Se Uncha Aadmi ( NCERT, Hindi, 2010)

 

 

 

 

A Statement against Suppression of Dissent by IACLALS

We are publishing below a statement sent to us by the Indian Association of Commonwealth Literature and Language Studies against the suppression and criminalizing of dissent in India

The Indian Association of Commonwealth Literature and Language Studies (IACLALS) expresses its deep dismay over the continuing assault on civic freedoms and constitutional rights of writers, teachers, students, human rights activists and public intellectuals in the country. The current political climate of fear and intimidation – fuelled and vindicated by the state and the ruling party – has simultaneously targetted entire communities through a range of religious-ethnic violence, as much as it has sought to silence conscientious voices that have spoken up against such onslaughts. Vacuous rhetorical constructions like “anti-national” and “urban naxal” – with no basis in fact or in principles of democratic governance – have been repeatedly manufactured as the grounds for punitive-legal action and media trials, through the invoking of outdated colonial codes like the sedition laws. The latest of these forms of orchestrated witch-hunt has seen the attempted arrest or chargesheeting of Hiren Gohain, Anand Teltumbde and of several JNU students – in the cause of raking up an electoral consensus against the spirit of scientific inquiry and free-thinking.

The IACLALS’ academic investments have engaged with and gained from the works and ideas of these scholars, who now face the ire of the state. As a scholarly association, we believe in the need and power of a critical public sphere, as the only promise of a living democracy. We stand in firm solidarity with them, and strongly condemn every attempt being made at gagging forms of dissent and enforcing regimes of censorship.

Pondicherry University, Feb. 8, 2019.

GJV Prasad (Chariperson), Subhendu Mund and M. Asaduddin (Vice Chairpersons), Rina Ramdev (Secretary), Angelie Multani (Treasurer)

 

Defend Constitutional Values, Save Hinduism from Hindtuva: For Civil Servants and Armed Forces Veterans

On 30 January 2018, retired civil servants and veterans of the armed forces jointly organised a conclave on ‘Hinduism and Hindutva’ at the Indian Social Institute, New Delhi. The conclave attended by over hundred participants, emphasized the need to rescue both Hinduism and the Indian Constitution from the clutches of the political project that calls itself Hindutva, and which has nothing to do with religion as such. The participants at the conclave sought to make a plea for saving Hinduism without making any concessions to the monstrosity of caste oppression, which in the spirit of many earlier reformers, they rejected.

This conclave followed an earlier one on ‘A Fractured Polity: The
Relevance of Gandhi Today’ organised on 10 October 2017, which had been
addressed by Justice A P Shah, Mrinal Pande and Ramachandra Guha. The
speeches are available on YouTube (Justice A.P. Shah, Mrinal Pande,
Ramachandra Guha). These civil servants and veterans have also raised severe
concerns about the present situation in a series of open letters over the last few
months: on vigilantism and hyper-nationalism; the suspicious death of Justice
Loya; and violence and discrimination against minorities in India. (See: Retired
Civil Servants open letter – 10 June 2017, Armed Forces Veterans open letter –
30 July 2017, Retired Civil Servants Letter 02 December 2017 – Enquiry into
Judge Loya’s death, Armed Forces Veterans letter to Supreme Court & Bombay
High Court on Judge Loya’s death, Retired Civil Servants open letter – 28 January
2018).
Continue reading Defend Constitutional Values, Save Hinduism from Hindtuva: For Civil Servants and Armed Forces Veterans

‘Degrees’ of Democracy – Field Notes from a Central University in Bihar: Debaditya Bhattacharya

Guest post by DEBADITYA BHATTACHARYA

This piece has long been in the coming. Soon after the summer of student protests in India exposed the terror-apparatuses of the state and unleashed a new vocabulary of progressive political resistance, the students of a certain Central University of South Bihar (in Gaya) went on strike against the university administration in the early days of August. They however were not fighting to protect constitutional rights, because their daily encounters with the university had already come to rest on a structural suspension of many such rights. Like those of speech, of rational thought and scientific inquiry, of gender-equality, and of resisting what Vemula called the event of being reduced to one’s “immediate identity”. These students merely decided to fight for their right to a degree.

They had come together to demand statutory recognition for courses that they were enrolled in since 2013, but most sections of the national media at that time deemed the issue ‘sub-national’ enough to be granted space or audience. Reporters from the local print-media were – in what seems like accepted practice across public institutions in the country – barred entry into the university campus, and hearsay reports constituted the stuff of low-key news-briefs with little context or compassion. Those who attempted to organise public opinion by writing on social and alternative media spaces, were – in a classic division of interests that administrative bureaucracies are deft at provoking – urged by students themselves to withdraw. The reason was simple: each social media post or conversation around the issue was declaredly spied on by the university administration in order to ‘detect’ subterranean alliances and “outside support” (as if it were a terrorist conspiracy!), and students were individually targeted and intimidated for passing on internal ‘secrets’ to ‘outsiders’. I know of specific Facebook posts which had been taken print-outs of and convened surreptitious meetings over, where administrative heads and proctorial board members put their heads together to crush the germ of student dissent and ‘outsider’-mobilizations. The agitated students continued in their own ways, despite open threats of disciplinary action and reminders of exam-time tactics of penalisation. The Vice-Chancellor marched off to Delhi to strike bargains for an interim settlement-package with officials in the ministry, and returned to meet the striking protestors with as much of an assurance as threats of expulsion. Continue reading ‘Degrees’ of Democracy – Field Notes from a Central University in Bihar: Debaditya Bhattacharya

Kashmir’s Freedom is India’s Freedom: Hum Kya Chahte? Azadi

I do not think ordinary Indians support the brutality of army occupation in Kashmir. Despite what the Indian state says, and despite what the Indian army and CRPF are doing, I honestly do not believe that any ordinary Indian supports the torture of young men, the blinding of people attending a funeral, the rape of women, the killings and maiming and abuse and humiliation that are now a routinized fact of daily life in the Kashmir valley. To believe that ordinary Indians enjoy watching this spectacle of violence, that ordinary Indians take pleasure in the torture of children, would be to think India is now a country comprised of sadistic psychopaths. I honestly do not think ordinary Indians are psychopaths. I do think, however, that ordinary Indians, and I count myself amongst them, have somehow managed, till now, to keep some distance between what is happening in Kashmir and the idea of India as a whole. After all, India is a large and complex country, a huge and diverse society. Everything that happens in Kashmir, the brutality of the army and the security forces, cannot signify the whole truth of India we tell ourselves. It seems somehow unfair to us ordinary Indians that what happens in Kashmir reflects on us all.

But the time has come now to squarely face some hard truths about ourselves, and the dissimulations, psychological and social, by which we continue to live in this country and call ourselves ‘Indians’. Continue reading Kashmir’s Freedom is India’s Freedom: Hum Kya Chahte? Azadi

P.A.D.S. Statement on the killing of Prof MM Kalburgi – a sane voice against communalism and superstition

People’s Alliance for Democracy and Secularism (PADS)

Murder of another rational voice against communalism and superstition

The respected and loved Kannada scholar and writer MM Kalburgi was murdered by two unidentified men on August 30 at his home in Dharwad. The seventy seven year scholar was actively researching Vachanas literature of early Kannada and literature produced during the Adil Shahi period in Northern Karnataka. He was a source of wisdom for many students and scholars, and his killers gained access posing as students. He was also a vocal critic of religious superstitions and had been targeted by fundamentalists within his own Lingayat community and by Hindutva organisations. He had received many threats and his house had been attacked with stones and bottles. He was given police protection, which was withdrawn only days before his murder.

Professor Kalburgi’s cold-blooded murder has caused widespread shock and dismay in the literary and intellectual circles of Karnataka. Many protests involving ordinary citizens have been held in Bangalore and Dharwad. At least one Hindutva Bajrang dal activist has publicly welcomed the assassination, warned another rationalist of Karnataka, Prof KS Bhagwan of the same fate.

Prof Kalburgi’s killing comes after the murders of two other prominent critics of religious superstitions. Dr Narender Dabholkar was killed in 2013 in Pune. Trade Unionist and Communist Govind Pansare was killed in Kolhapur in February this year. There are uncanny similarities in the modus operandi of all three cases. It is likely that as in the earlier cases, the police will fail to solve Prof Kalburgi’s murder. Continue reading P.A.D.S. Statement on the killing of Prof MM Kalburgi – a sane voice against communalism and superstition

Whatever happened to 15-M Movement? Atharva Pandit

Guest post by ATHARVA PANDIT

[Against the background of Spain’s recent criminalizing of public protests and the first ever hologram demonstration (see Kafila post by Geeta Seshu) against it, this article revisits the major eruption in 2011, that eventually laid the ground for the emergence of a new political force in Spanish politics]

15M, image courtesy El Tecolote
15M, image courtesy El Tecolote

Spain, seems to be a country that is still shaping itself. Somewhat like a nation that wants to come to terms with its past, unlike many other countries that have gone through a traumatic history and have finally emerged through the political passions – admittedly misdirected – of their distant past. Spain seems like it is yet to come to terms with a civil war that forged its legacy in millions of Spanish minds and the future generations of the country. The fascist forces that staged a coup, and consequently, went on to purge about 150,000 of its citizens in summary executions, far surpassed some of the worst dictatorships that the world has witnessed, including that of Pinochet’s in Chile and of Videla’s in Argentina.

Continue reading Whatever happened to 15-M Movement? Atharva Pandit