There is this general perception that the 2014 election “changed” India which is believed not just by the leftists but popular journalists like Rajdeep Sardesai who even wrote a book called “The Election That Changed India”. The basic idea is that Indian democracy had never seen such an unprecedented display of bigotry and fanning of communal sentiments. Never before had a political party cashed on bigotry or won elections with the help of the same.
This is the prevailing sentiment that the Congress has actually been cashing upon. The bar for Indian democratic ethics has hit such a rock bottom with the 5 years of BJP governance that parties like Congress can pretend to be the messiahs of the marginalized simply by being passive. Yes, passive. The opposition doesn’t even feel the need to be actively progressive or reformative, just being passive and non-appeasing of the far right Hindutva is today seen as secularism. As much as I am anti-BJP, this idea is entirely true.
What the BJP has perfected was initiated and deployed by the Congress for years. BJP’s massive Public Relations has somehow managed to convince hard-line Hindutva supporters and much of the gullible masses that the Congress focused solely on minority appeasements and Hindus were overlooked or deprioritized for want of vote bank and if they want to rise back to their glorious past or reclaim their country from “invaders” they should not trust Congress. This is completely false. The Congress has time and again cashed on communal sentiments and has remained a mute spectator in the face of riots and bigotry.
Anti-Sikh Riots of 1984, source: AFP
In the anti-Sikh riots of 1984 post-assassination of Indira Gandhi, the government not only remained shockingly paralyzed in trying to curb the flames and offer any sort of protection but also instigated the violence. But to think this is the only instance of communalism on part of Congress is a huge fallacy. The idea that communalism can be banished by simply voting BJP out of power is a deeply flawed one. When Narendra Modi had justified the Gujrat massacre with his “reaction to every action”, likewise Rajiv Gandhi had justified the anti-Sikh riots as “When a big tree falls, the earth about it shakes.”
The very inception of India’s history is with communalism, i.e the partition and the following massacre on either side. The Nellie massacre in 1983 in Assam which claimed around 3000 lives is said to be one of the worst pogroms since partition. The Hashimpura massacre, anti-Muslim riots in Ahmedabad, in Bhiwandi and Jalgaon in the towns of Madhya Pradesh and in Bhagalpur pretty much expose the truth behind Congress’s secular credentials. Congress ensured that Muslims and Dalits remain poor and vulnerable so that they see Congress as their only savior. The BJP has turned this false image into a reality. The BJP is masquerading as the well-wisher of caste Hindus whereas depicting Congress as the supporter of the “others”.
WHY THE MINORITIES ARE LIKELY TO VOTE AGAINST BJP IF CONGRESS HAS THE SAME FLAWS?
Proportions. It’s all about proportions. The Lok Sabha elections India have become a pitiful race for maximum possible self-preservation. Emancipation is no longer an agenda, to preserve what you already have is. Surely over decades the voters have/had lost faith in Congress mostly due to massive corruption charges and dynasty politics. With the onset of BJP, the concerns have seen a 180 degrees turn.
Bigotry very much existed and was fanned by the Congress but it has assumed diabolical proportions with the rise of BJP and the popularity of the Sangh. Where Congress cashed on communal sentiments and took advantage of bigotry whenever possible, the BJP has made communalism as a sole strategy, sole impetus, sole USP. The difference between Congress and BJP is in regards to brazenness. Congress cannot be accused of making communalism its only selling factor.
This was perfected by the BJP where they have tried and hugely succeeded in pitting one community against the other. An anti-BJP stance is seen as an actively anti-Hindu stance. The line between religion and nationalism is being deliberately blurred, just as the line between supporting BJP and Nationalism is.
They have managed to appropriate an entire religion and the entire country. They have made people believe that a BJP opponent is not only an enemy of the majority Hindus but also of the country. They have successfully made a divide and rule their only strategy. They have made ‘Fascists Political Aim’ look like Hindu religious aims and their Hindu ‘Religious Aims’ as national aims, and the amount of success they have achieved is not only heartbreaking but also intimidating. This is the level of polarization that Congress couldn’t achieve.
By encouraging regressive mullahs and orthodox leaders and by minimal development in Muslim dominated regions, Congress managed to consign Muslims to a social and political ghetto. This ghettoization helped BJP in demonizing the community. Not only the Muslims but the Christians have also been routinely targeted by them. It is no secret how many times Sonia Gandhi’s catholic origin has been used to instigate the masses against Christians. Churches have been attacked and crosses have been desecrated and missionary work has come under disrespectful scrutiny and calumny.
As said by N S Saksena, a retired director general of police in his book Terrorism: History and Facts in the World and in India,
“Terrorism has largely been a public sector enterprise.”
So there is nothing new about the existence of bigotry but what’s new is the brazen employment of bigotry and communalism to further political agenda. The BJP has all the distinctive features preceding a fascist regime.
The BJP claims to be pragmatic and un-appeasing and dealing with minorities with an iron hand and taking drastic steps which the previous governments did not dare. There is an evoking of a faux revolution, a faux rebellion among the most privileged demographic in the country to rise up for their rights and freedom that were apparently defiled by pseudo-secularists till date.
The distinctive feature of fascism is the denial of equality. Now the BJP is the political offshoot of the RSS which is definitely not a secular organization. This RSS had leaders like Golwalkar and Savarkar who idolized Hitler and the concept of racial purity and of secondary citizens. Secondly, fascism involves the glorification of war and violence and this is one of the biggest cause for BJP support. From the BJP manifesto to the random advertisements on FM radio, BJP’s prime hype is around militarism, the age-old distraction tactic from civic issues; that is by posing an irrelevant enemy across the border.
The belief that BJP will show Pakistan its place even when they do nothing in reality or will show minorities their place is what fuels this sentiment. Fascism is a totalitarian authoritarian ideology. A very recent Pew research showed that a staggering 55% of Indians support military rule or autocracy. Fascism entails massive support for racism and imperialism. This is no secret that communal and hate crimes have risen exponentially ever since the BJP came into power and there has been a deliberate attempt by the media to either hush it or justify it somehow.
Despite the burgeoning evidence, several people including renowned historian Ramachandra Guha has claimed “fascism” to be too extreme a term for the BJP rule. Fascism requires glorification of the state and nothing above the state. In the current Indian political scenario, it is becoming increasingly difficult to criticize the government without being called an anti-national. Fascism operates by instilling a false sense of pride and unity. This is one of the most important modes of playing with voter sentiments. To give them a false sense of pride.
The propaganda that the minorities are trying to desecrate the Hindu or Indian culture or that westernization is ruining the essence of India or that the most sophisticated of technologies existed in ancient India are all examples of the same.
Fascism is a predominantly bourgeoisie movement and there is little need to elaborate on the support base of BJP comprising of the elite propertied class of upper caste Hindus. Not just religious minorities but the lower castes have come under massive attack and hate crimes have plummeted in the last 4 yrs. Fascism is also known for anti-intellectualism or irrationalism. The BJP government has been more than eager to implement several groundbreaking changes in the curriculum of primary and secondary schools. Several lessons on democracy, secularism, Dalit struggle have been omitted on flimsy grounds such as “vast syllabus”.
One of the greatest hallmarks of fascism is the large scale dehumanization and othering of a target section of society. The BJP manifesto is an alarming telltale of the country’s social doom. Apart from endorsing violence across borders, there are subtly worded promises of eliminating and disabling minorities, especially Muslims. There is a stress on the NRC bill in Assam which would be responsible for one of the largest mass exodus in recorded history if implemented. Apart from that Kashmir has always remained a crucial polarising tactic for the BJP and they have persistently pretended to “teach a lesson” to Kashmiris by revoking special status of the state. One would think these are subtle references to incoming violence that the nation is about to see in the coming years against the BJP opponents but yet again, the BJP outdoes itself. Subtlety is passe. Here is a tweet by BJP president Amit Shah where he promises to curb infiltrators except Muslims and Christians.
This is the blatant othering and proud communalism that Congress wasn’t capable of. India is on its way to develop its own brand of fascism and this is what most of us are opposing. The BJP uses the Hindu religion and then the entire country as a shield and morphs the criticism of the government as a criticism of a religion or the country. No other political party has accomplished this level of polarization or played along communal lines. And hence there is an urgent need to uproot this menace of a party before any sort of revamping is initiated.
Congress is NOT the SOLUTION to the BJP problem. Congress is only the EVASION of the BJP problem.