The ongoing protests are against the Modi government’s attempts to delegitimise India’s citizens, give a religious hue to a secular Constitution and cause untold pain, damage and death, as we know. The combination of the Constitution Amendment Act, the National Register of Citizens and the National Population Register is dangerous, divisive and likely to be devastating. There is the underlying intention to delegitimise Indian Muslims coupled with the fact that for most of India, finding the paperwork required to suddenly prove that you are an Indian citizen will be almost impossible.
Over the past six years, we have seen a steady degradation of the Indian democratic and secular ethos. We have also seen the economy collapsing. And together with these two disasters, there was been the corruption of India’s institutions. The situation is such today that except for die hard fans of Narendra Modi, Amit Shah, the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, even admirers of these four know and acknowledge that things are seriously going wrong.
But oddly, as India sinks, a strange group of commentators has risen to the top: those who eternally search for balance in an unbalanced and biased world. There is the appalling attempt to co-relate protestors shot dead by the police with a bus burnt by protestors. Because the damage done to a bus is the same as police violence and brutality. I’m repeating the point because it is worth considering this attempt at “balance” over and over again. If you condemn police brutality, then apparently you must also express concern about a bus.
This is not an attempt at reductio ad absurdum on my part. This is really how absurd, inhuman, inhumane, intellectually bereft this “balance” argument is. And underlying it all, is cowardice. Suppose you set yourself up as a voice of reason. You take a volatile situation and you try to break it down so that all the components of the situation can be understood by themselves.
But when Indian citizens are being denied their identity, when minorities are being killed and discriminated against by a ruthless government, then they are no longer part of the little lab experiment inside your head.
The Modi-led government has unleashed the might and breadth of its fascist vision on India. What a fine time for India’s public intellectuals to try and find equivalences between the horrors of today and those of yesterday. Indeed, yes, the history of humankind is full of unspeakable brutalities.
But to try and find an excuse for current injustices by looking back is to make a mockery of philosopher George Santayana’s much-used line about those who do not know their history are condemned to repeat it.
In fact, what these commentators are doing is turning Santayana on his head. If India does not want a repeat of Nazi Germany, then we have to learn from history and fight them now. How is that so hard to understand?
There come these times in human history where you have to make a choice. Do we want to walk into destruction, or do we want to save ourselves and those who come after us? India faces that choice now. The time for wondering whether the bus matters more than the human has gone. The time to agonise over selecting an alternative is also gone.
Suppose you collectively put together the past transgressions of all the political parties of India, barring the BJP, the RSS idea of a fascist state will outweigh everything else. How’s that for balance? And, it is that RSS dream of a Hindu supremacist fascist state which Modi, Shah and the rest are trying faithfully to fulfil.
Let’s put it on the record that the Congress, the Left, all India’s regional and smaller parties, old and new, are far from perfect. Some have truly terrible acts which mark their pasts and remain as blights today. If democracy is about making choices, then we have reached that tipping point.
Throughout the Freedom Struggle, members of the RSS, Hindu Mahasabha and associated Hindu supremacist organisations, from “Veer” Savarkar to “Guru” Golwalkar abused the Congress for being “anti-Hindu” and “anti-national”. If you cannot see the connection between what they said then and what their ideological descendants are doing now, then you are nothing but an enabler of fascism. You are using the fig leaf of “balance” to cover your inner bigotry.