‘Friendly’ fascists can overwhelm inclusive culture & liberal institutions

The Indian version of Fascism has already infiltrated institutions and even intelligence agencies. It will require concerted and sustained effort to detox the institutions subverted

Prime Minister Narendra Modi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi

Kumar Ketkar

What is happening in India? There is a huge conspiracy perhaps to turn the clock of history. It’s a global conspiracy. Let us not underestimate the gravity and efforts of the “deep state” to destroy the democratic, secular, sovereign, liberal Republic of India. Can Fascism come in any country which is a practising democracy? How and Why?

The great American writer, Sinclair Lewis, was prescient. He wrote over 80 years ago, warning the American people that “don’t think... It can’t Happen Here”! There were people who genuinely thought that “ It Can’t Happen Here” in America. Lewis tried earnestly to alert the “smug, comfortable, economically secure, even prosperous middle class.” The villains of this conspiracy have completed the first phase after they brought the Narendra Modi-led BJP/NDA to power in 2014.

Before these forces embark on the second phase, it is necessary to defeat their nefarious game. Some genuine well meaning people believed that our institutions are strong enough to sustain such onslaughts. But we have seen how systematically, one after another, institutions have been either destroyed or forced to bend or crawl. From the RBI to the CBI, from Planning Commission to UGC, from media to bureaucracy, all are under pressure or weakened or destroyed.

This has a global context. The world is passing through the most dangerous phase now, since the Second World War, in which the demonic, nihilist and destructive forces led by the Nazis, personified by Adolf Hitler, were conclusively defeated. Or, can we say, we “thought” that they were “conclusively” defeated? In the last two decades, and particularly in the last five years, the world history has changed, or in fact, has reversed its course.

Perhaps, this reversal of history began with the collapse of the Soviet Union. Then came the Gulf War, followed by the disintegration of Yugoslavia, the transformation of China into a kind of “Red Nationalist Capitalism”, the violent anarchy in West Asia, the execution of Saddam Hussein and the murder of Gaddafi. That began the disruption in the Arab countries followed by civil wars and anarchy.

These forces have slowly engulfed South Asia too. We are witnessing the explosive rise of medieval ideologies, religious and communal confrontations and set back to the philosophy and ideology of Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru. The institutions that they built, the ethos of humanism, pacifism, internationalism have been replaced by the forces of regression and fascism.

Nehru had seen the clouds of regression, medievalism and barbarism in Europe swept by Hitler and Mussolini and warned us 70 years ago, in precise words, of the dangers of fascism in India. But we, meaning all of us, the leftists, liberals, media, academics and intellectuals were either complacent, indifferent or irresponsible. We took for granted that we as a nation, we as a civilisation, we as a culture (“and for some, we as Hindus!”) will never succumb to the forces of fascism.

In a letter to the chief ministers, on December 7, 1947, and just a month and a half before the murder of the Mahatma, he wrote, “We have a great deal of evidence to show that the RSS is an organisation, which is proceeding on the strictest Nazi lines, even following the technique of organisation. The German youth drifted towards the Nazi Party because of their negative programmes which did not require active effort of mind. The Nazi Party brought Germany to ruin and I have little doubt that if these tendencies are allowed to spread and increase in India, they would do enormous injury to India. No doubt, India would survive, but she would be grievously wounded and would take a long time to recover.”

There are some myths, believed even by liberals, that Hindu civilisation by definition is plural and multicultural and will resist the regressive and unicolour forces of fascism. Then, there are some naive intellectuals who think that the various public institutions are so entrenched that they will defeat the fascistic design. This faith has been belied totally.

According to political sociologist Bertram Gross, even in developed western democracies, fascism can come to power. His book, “Friendly Fascism” says even in America, fascism can come to power through electoral politics. His fears have almost come true with Donald Trump as the President. He wrote the book, with the subtitle “The New Face of Power in America”! Similar winds are blowing in western Europe, as capitalism faces deeper and deeper crisis. The Marxist dictum that fascism is a manifestation of “final solution” of capitalism with its anti-people policies and actions is coming true.

The state governments under the Modi regime are virtually at his feet, from their budgetary allocations to the so-called smart city plans. And from loan waiving programmes to who should be included or dropped from the state ministries. The interference of the PMO is sweeping.

We saw how the RBI surrendered its autonomy to the executive led by Modi. The disruptive Demonetisation, which brought misery to vast number of people, was announced and implemented without proper scrutiny by the RBI. The NPA’s of banks have been playing havoc with the system and the RBI would not even declare the names of the (crony) capitalists.

Everything in the universities is dictated by the HRD - from appointments to syllabus and campus rules. Earlier, even the police could not enter these supposed temples of knowledge. Now the police enter the campuses without any compunction and the government wants to display military tanks at university gates. All grant-in-aid educational institutions have to follow the diktats of the government. The books on history and politics are being changed. They want to erase or distort the very history of the freedom movement under the guidelines of the RSS.

The Intelligence agencies, the IB, the ED, the CBI and the NIA have become tools of the government to blackmail and terrorise political leaders, writers, journalists and artists, filmmakers, painters, poets and cartoonists. The bureaucracy was always subservient. But now it has become a slave. The judiciary is cunningly circumvented by using all means—“sam, dam, dand, bhed” that is persuade, bribe, reprimand or terrorise and divide to rule. The judges are transferred at shortest notice, kicked upwards, bribed, jailed or even killed!

Some intellectuals obfuscate the issue of fascism by saying that the situations in India cannot be compared with those in Italy in the twenties and in Germany in the thirties. Of course, no situations could be in a ditto format. But we have to identify and diagnose similar attributes and elements that define the fascistic rule.

Those elements are systematic creation and spread of fear psychosis, persecution of political rivals, controlling the media and terrorising the opposition, blackmailing critics and detractors, using violence as means of dividing communities on religious and caste lines, and generating hyper-nationalistic and jingoistic, xenophobic mindsets. All this is done by actively promoting an obscene personality cult and setting up a caucus that rules bypassing Parliament, cabinet, constitutional bodies, etc.

The Indian version of fascism is based on majoritarianism, Hindu communal consolidation, isolating minorities, mainly Muslims, threatening and terrorising them, destroying their places of worship, killing helpless and hapless Muslims, raping women and so on. Indian fascism is no less anti-civilisation, no less brutal and no less authoritarian than that of Hitler, Mussolini or Franco. It is time for all those who believe in democracy, secularism and liberal values to stand up and fight.

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Published: 27 Apr 2019, 8:00 PM