Tag Archives: Majoritarianism

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)

 

 

 

 

Nehru, Ambedkar and Challenge of Majoritarianism

Image result for nehru ambedkar

( Photo courtesy : The hoot)

(To be published in the special issue of ‘Janata’)

 

The spectacle of what is called religion, or at any rate organised religion, in India and elsewhere, has filled me with horror and I have frequently condemned it and wished to make a clean sweep of it. Almost always it seemed to stand for blind belief and reaction, dogma and bigotry, superstition, exploitation and the preservation of vested interests.

– Toward Freedom: The Autobiography of Jawaharlal Nehru (1936), pp. 240–241.

If Hindu Raj does become a fact, it will no doubt, be the greatest calamity for this country. No matter what the Hindus say, Hinduism is a menace to liberty, equality and fraternity. On that account it is incompatible with democracy. Hindu Raj must be prevented at any cost.

– Ambedkar, ‘Pakistan or Partition of India’, p. 358.

Introduction

India’s slow ushering into a majoritarian democracy is a matter of concern for every such individual who still believes in pluralism, democracy, equality and a clear separation of religion and politics. The way people are being hounded for raising dissenting opinions, for eating food of their choice or entering into relationships of their own liking or celebrating festivals according to their own faith is unprecedented. The situation has reached such extremes that one can even be publicly lynched for belonging to one of the minority religions or for engaging in an activity which is considered to be ‘suspicious’ by the majority community.

No doubt there is no direct harm to the basic structure of the Constitution, its formal structure remains intact, de jure India does remain a democracy as well as a republic, but de facto democracy has slowly metamorphosed into majoritarianism and the sine qua non of a republic—that its citizens are supreme—is being watered down fast. It does not need underlining that this process has received tremendous boost with the ascent of Hindutva supremacist forces at the centrestage of Indian politics. Continue reading Nehru, Ambedkar and Challenge of Majoritarianism

For A New Rendezvous With Dr Ambedkar – Focus on Last Decade of his Life

Image result for education of dr babasaheb ambedkar

..Everybody would agree that it is a challenging task to encapsulate a great wo/man’s vision in a few words- who as a public figure has impacted not only her/his generation but future generations, initiated or channelised debates in the society, led struggles, mobilised people, wrote thousands of pages and left a legacy for all of us to carry forward. …

To save time one can focus more on the last decade of his life – the most tumultuous period in his as well as the newly independent nation’s life – to know the important concerns which bothered his mind and how he envisioned the future trajectory of the movement he led and how he tried to chart a roadmap for the nascent nation with due support/cooperation and at times resistance from leading stalwarts of his time… Continue reading For A New Rendezvous With Dr Ambedkar – Focus on Last Decade of his Life

To Understand the Mind of NDA II, turn to Singhal and the Sangh: Teesta Setalvad

Guest post by TEESTA SETALVAD

I do not expect there to be any outrage, comment or protest over the most recent rants of Ashok Singhal, senior RSS leader and patron of the Viswa Hindu Parishad (VHP), an RSS offshoot in an interview published in the July 17,2014 of The Hindustan Times  daily. We have as a nation and a polity become sinisterly and compliantly accustomed and accepting of aggressive hatred spilt by the majority and hypocritically touchy and outraged by similar rantings by so-called leaders of the minority. How deep this hypocrisy of majoritarianism has spread is evident in the coverage and depiction of hate speech by our electronic media that picks and chooses what to show, how often and when. So the hate ridden rantings of an Owaisi, or a Qader Rana will be run and re-run across networks and channels but equally insidious and as or more dangerous ravings of politicians who play on the identity of the majority are glossed over, hidden and remarkably, not even commented upon.

Singhal tells us through this interview today, that he welcomes with all his heart the first RSS pracharak as Prime Minister of India but, adding the proverbial sting to the tale, says that what is truly historical and remarkable about NDA II’s victory is that this electoral win was ensured without Muslim votes or support. Barefacedly lending voice to what more sophisticated faces in government including the now maun PM would presently rather leave unsaid, Singhal gloats on the disenfranchisement of India’s largest minority during democratically conducted elections. A time-tested tactic of the octopus-like sangh that generates terror and intimidation in the public sphere by the mutterings of a Singhal and a Togadia and allows the flag bearer beneficiaries of this hate-splitting in governance, the luxuries of convenient, intermittent,  silences.  The Advani-Vajpayee duo in the first NDA were a fine example of this. [Though,  Advani often relapsed into expressing well trained views especially after the brutal burning alive of Graham Staines and his sons (Orissa, January 1999).] NDA II has witnessed some interesting role reversals with many of the flag bearers of hate mongering now at the helm: a cabinet full of hate mongers are in the government’s driving seat. Singhal also emphasises and welcomes – undoubtedly for the reassurance of the sangh support base — all those being chosen for post of Governors are sanghis,  Ram Naik or a  Kesari Nath Tripathi. Continue reading To Understand the Mind of NDA II, turn to Singhal and the Sangh: Teesta Setalvad

Where Are The Emile Zolas of Our Times !

On Minority Rights and State Violence

Each one has his reasons: for one, art is a flight; for another, a means of conquering. But one can flee into a hermitage, into madness, into death. One can conquer by arms. Why does it have to be writing, why does one have to manage his escapes and conquests by writing? Because, behind the various aims of authors, there is a deeper and more immediate choice which is common to all of us.

What is Literature? Jean Paul Sartre

It is difficult to start when you are among an august gathering of masters and students of a subject you are not much aware of and are asked to say something to them. Today I find myself in that unenviable situation.

Let me admit here that when I received the information of the seminar I was really very excited to learn that scholars of literature would be focusing themselves on human rights, an issue which demands urgent attention from every thinking and concerned human being. But when the question of joining the debate arose, I was really in two minds. In fact, I was bit reluctant to come here for two simple reasons.

Firstly, being a left activist for larger part of my social life, I have been more accustomed to address public meetings on specific issues or share my ideas on a particular theme among activist circles. There have not been very many occasions when I had the opportunity to come to such gatherings. Continue reading Where Are The Emile Zolas of Our Times !