Modi is Marching
Move Towards Fascism?
When the campaign for
the Lok Sabha polls was
on, many political observers noted that the Indian big business houses had united in an unpreceented manner in order to enthrone Narenrda Modi as the Prime Minister. This class allegedly provided billions of rupees to Modi's election fund, and the newspapers and other news media went on clamouring for Modi's premiership in the most overt, if not obnoxious fashion. Their main charge against Dr Manmohan Singh was that of ‘policy paralysis’; which simply meant that despite their commitment to the reforms programme, Manmohan Singh and his colleagues were failing to advance it properly. From the standpoint of transnational corporations and the domestic corporates, this accusation was correct. The reasons for this policy paralysis were twofold. The first was the presence of considerable strains and stresses inside the Congress Party itself. The second was the Congresss Party's dependence on some regional parties and social forces, which represented those classes and groups that were to be seriously hurt by the programme. After the amendment to the Land Acquisition Act and the Food Security Act was passed, the Indian big business came to the conclusion that in this hour of crisis, they would be provided with cheap land and labour, and getting the right to plunder natural resources like oil, gas and coal freely. But the amendment to the Land Acquisition Act made it difficult to acquire land cheaply. The Congress government failed to have the amendment to the labour legislation, a long-standing demand of the corporate lobby, passed in the Parliament. Besides, the NREGP or the Food Security Act led, in some parts of the unorganized sector, to a shorter supply of labour or to an upward movement in the wage rate. There were also problems in obtaining environmental clearance for industrial projects in some cases. Since there were ceilings to Foreign Direct Investment in many industries, there was a problem in attracting foreign capital.
The Manmohan Singh Government appointed the Nayek Committee with the purpose of privatization of public sector banks. The recommendations of the Committee, which were orientated towards this privatization, were published on the eve of the declaration of the results of the polls. Although the road to privatization was thus opened, Indian monopoly houses were not sure whether the Congress would be able to adopt this path in the face of political pressure and employees' movements. They were convincced that Modi must be brought to power for the corporatization of the whole of the economy. When this is completed, the country will no longer remain semi-independent, because the total control of the economy will be wrested by non-resident Indians or non-Indian multinational corporations.
After coming to power Modi has started taking steps according to the demands of the corporate tycoons. The increase in the limits of FDI in the defence sector, the proposal to raise the proportion of land that the government is entitled to acquire for the industrialist, the virtual termination of the NREGP—there is no allotment in the budget for this programme—are some such steps. Now they are all set to increase the limit of 49 percent in insurance. Already, instructions have been issued to the District Collectors to ensure that investment is not obstructed anywhere owing to the problem of land. Over the last ten years or so, many endeavours to hand over land to the industrialists have been obstructed by the strength of mass movement, as in Niyamgiri of Orissa or Tontopsi in Jharkhand. It is now clear that the Modi government wants to do away with these obstacles by changing the laws and if necessary, by sidetracking the laws and using the repressive arms of the state.
There is little doubt that not only in respect of land acquisition, but in other fields as well the programme of the Modi government will face popular resistance. If the present social security measures, e.g. NREGP, provision of food at cheap rates or the possible benefits under the Forest Act—these measures are, however, far from adequate—are curtailed, the toiling people will not accept it and a wave of countrywide mass movement will follow.
Hence Modi needs a political programme in order to translate his economic agenda into reality. This political programme will have various manifestations, the essence of which is robbing the people of their democratic rights. Hardly had Modi ascended to power when assaults on feedom of speech were intensified. Prosecution of Debu Chodankar, an engineer, of Goa and arrest of Syed Waker, an MBA student of Bangalore, for making disparaging remarks about Modi are two milder examples. A more outrageous and gruesome episode is the killing of Mahasin Adik Sheikh. The killers, who belong to an outfit named Hindu Rastra Sena were in search of an unknown person who had made a fictitious comment about Shivaji and Bal Thackerey in the facebook. The killers identified Adik Sheikh as a Muslim from his dress and lost no time in pouncing on him. Members of the Hindu Rastra Sena did not hesitate to go further and went on rampage in Pune for three days. The police could have stopped this vandalism, but deliberately remained passive. In the state of Maharastra, the role of the police, however, has always been despicable as far as the religious minorities are concerned.
As a matter of fact, the Sangh Parivar cannot brook anything that differs from their ingrained beliefs. A glaring illustration is their vandalism in the Vandarkar Oriental Research Institute of Pune after the publication of James Line's Shivaji : Hindu King in Islamic India. It is not possible to silence all differences just by state repression, and hence state repression must be supplemented by the hooliganism of the fascist saffron brigade. The combined result would be the creation of an environment in which no historian would be able to undertake any independent research, and even if somebody did it, no publisher would have the courage to publish his book. Already one section of the publishing world is gripped with fear and is withdrawing from circulation the books that differ in outlook and opinion from those of the Sangh Parivar.
Something like the press censorship imposed during the Emergency of 1975 is yet to appear. But perhaps that will not be needed. Already the large dailies and electronic media have gone into the possession of the big business. Almost all of them campaigned for Narendra Modi at the time of the Lok Sabha polls, and for one year before the polls, they went on attacking the "policy paralysis" of Manmohan Singh. But the change that has followed Narendra Modi's swearing - in as the Prime Minister has left only the freedom of the elite as the " freedom of speech" and "freedom of press". On 30 May, the Reliance Industries Limited issued a proclamation before the Bombay Stock Exchange that they had formed an organization named Independent Media Trust and that the Trust had purchased all the property of the Network-18 group. The latter, combining with the E-TV, had already become the largest propaganda medium of the country. The Ambani and Adani groups were foremost among the large corporate captains who played a big role in enthroning Modi as the Prime Minister. Now nothing is left of the freedom of press or freedom of speech if Mukesh Ambani becomes the overlord of the largest media empire of India.
The Modi Government is going to abolish the institution named the Planning Commission. After the resignation of M S Aluwaliah, no new chairman has been appointed. Hitherto, the Planning Commission played a significant role in the preparation of the budget. This role was absent this year.
The Planning Commission of India was formed in a specific historical situation when the country had attained independence and fascism had been defeated in World War II. The Soviet Union also had attained a glorious position in world politics through this victory. The Chinese Communist Party, after wining the war of resistance against Japan was advancing towards a nationwide victory. All these events had increased the appeal of socialism to the Indian people and in consequence, a strong socialist wave had been active in the struggle for national independence. Hence the importance of planning was a subject for discussion within the national movement. After independence, the state power was grabbed by the big business and big landlords, but in the then international and national situation, the state could not afford to bypass the situation of social security. It was laid down in the constitution that the state's policy would be (a) to ensure basic livelihood for all irrespective of gender, (b) to arrange the distribution of control of the resources of the society so as to benefit all, (c) not to direct the economic system in a way so that there is a concentration of wealth in the hands of the few, (d) to ensure that all, irrespective of gender, get equal wages and salaries for equal amounts of work (article 39). Besides, the article laid down the principle of free and compulsory education for everybody upto the age of fourteen and special provisions for the scheduled castes, adivasis and other weaker sections of the society. It is true that whatever was written in the constitution, the sixty-seven years following independence have witnessed a large concentration of wealth, and sixty-five years have passed before the formalization of the right to education as an Act. Although some primary initiatives for land reform was taken in the beginning, they were abandoned half-way. Again, Indira Gandhi nationalized the banks and in quite a few states, laws have been passed for lowering the ceilings of ownership of land. Organizations like the RSS, Hindu Mahasabha and Jana Sangh have, however, always been consistent in their opposition to any land reform measure, abolition of privy purses and nationalization of banks.
By dismantling the institution Planning Commission, the Modi Government seeks to communicate the message that the 'country' has attained genuine freedom in 2014. Here the 'country' means the Ambanis and Mittals. Asok Singhal, a leader of the Sangh Parivar, has openly said this in a speech. Jagdish Bhagwati, the champion spokesman of neo-liberalism, has congratualated it as India's 'second revolution'.
The ascent of Modi to power has marked the end of an era. What 'precious little' was achieved after 1947 is now going to be submerged in the Ganga water of Benaras.
Secularism and Communalism
One component of the 'precious little" was India's secularism. The term 'secularism' is open to a number of interpretations. In its broader sense, secularism means a total separation between the state and religion. Here no leader of the state is allowed to go to religious ceremonies or even if he is allowed, he can do so only privately. The state never provides any help to any religious festival. The secularism of the Indian State denoted a narrower sense. In this secular principle, it was laid down that the state would not practice any discrimination on the basis of religion. But in India, Christian and Muslim minorities, and sometimes Sikhs also, have been targets of attacks. In respect of basic amenities like roads, drinking water and educational institutions like schools and colleges, Muslim-dominated areas have been victims of discriminatory neglect. The presence of Muslims in government jobs is something that can be observed only through a microscope. Yet it should be accepted that secularism as a policy of the state has to some extent been honoured and some attempts have been made to end this discrimination through the formation of the Sachar Committee, Ranganath Misra Commission etc. But the communal forces of the majority community have decried such attempts as 'appeasement of Muslims' and have used this 'appeasement' to incite majority communalism.
The victory of Modi may not be able to destroy India's secularism entirely, because the Indian people, over the last sixty-seven years, have learnt something from the practice of secularism. But there is no doubt that the Sangh Parivar will try to the best of their ability to destroy India's secularism by using state power. They have now found an opportunity to realize the dreams of Savarkar and Golwalkar. Some persons are inclined to the notion that since Modi's victory is the victory of corporate power, the corporate groups will prevent Modi from adopting the path of aggressive communalism, because events like the Gujarat genocide of 2002 or any similar phenomenon of large-scale communal violence destabili-zes the society, and hampers the climate of investment and profit-making. Such persons fail to see that the financial and propaganda power of the corporate lobby and the Hindutva of the Sangh Parivar have together constituted a package that has enabled Modi to win. This package is essential for Modi in order to win the assembly polls in Maharastra, Bihar, Jharkhand etc and thus to gain a majority in the Rajya Sabha. On one side of the coin there is Narendra Modi and on the other there is Amit Shah. The history of the Indian business barons suggests that they prefer the line of soft Hindutva, but for the sake of economic interests, they are not unwilling to accept the line of 'strong Hindutva'. This is clear from the way the corporate world accepted Modi's name after the Sangh Parivar decided on it. They could have preferred some other leader like Advani, but they did not because they needed all the obstacles and vacillations that stand in the way of the second generation of reforms to be removed.
Any well-meaning person should understand that communalism is used also in order to maintain and enhance the profits on investment. The depressed and suppressed sections of the Indian masses are the lower castes, the adivasis and the religious minorities. If these people are deprived of their rights and kept in a state of suppression, the wage rates can be depressed and profits raised. But such a suppression of the majority of the people hinders the expansion of the domestic market and make it essential for the corporate world to look for external markets. But the Indian big business conglomerates have all along depended on foreign masters for capital, technology and market. That is why they have rejected the "policy paralysis" and stood by "firmness of decision", whatever the decision may be.
The present Indian situation has many similarities with that of Germany in the 1930s. The Weimer Republic was based on a multi-party coalition, which was suffering from indecision in many respects. At that time, a large section of the German industrialists had been campaigning in favour of a political authority that would be firm in decision-making. This firmness was achieved when Hitler, in 1933, proclaimed the Emergency and suspended the Weimer Constitution for twelve years. Not only Germany, but also the world at large had to suffer the consequences. Hitler at first targeted the Jews, and then gradually extended the attack to all sections of the people. Modi has now targeted the Muslims. He had asked them to pack up in order to leave the country after the publication of the poll results. It is now heard that the attack on Muslims in the name of driving out "immigrants" will start from Assam, and if the situation favours, the drive will be launched in West Bengal too. Those who have some knowledge of what happened in Assam in the name of driving out 'foreigners' are aware that it is difficult to oust even a few hundreds through the legal process. Hence legal processes are combined with extra-legal ones and genocides like Nelli, Mokalmoa and Gohapur are perpetrated. The Nelli episode was the most horrible genocide in the history of independent India. The killed persons and their families had been living in the riverine tracts (char region) of Assam for about one hundred years.
The saffron brigade is being organized in a manner resembling the storm troopers of Hitler and is being trained in the use of latest weapons. Some news media have already published pictures of this. Many of the ultra-left friends as yet refuse to see the danger of fascism. Some of them accept that Modi may become a fascist dictator, but they think that this is a distant phenomenon. So, they consider the slogan of a front of all secular and democratic forces an impractical one. Such a front is absolutely necessary, although many of the possible constituents of it have to be fought on many issues.
Vol. 47, No. 6, Aug 17 - 23, 2014