In a Mess

Hitler, Mussolini were products of democracy. So said Ram Madhav, General Secretary of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in a paneled discussion in the Raisina Dalogue. This is perhaps BJP's message to the nation that they won't budge an inch over Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) even if Modi goes down in history as Indian variant of Hitler or Mussolini. The saffron brand of fascism is not identical with what Nazi Germany or Fascist Italy practised against their own people and unwanted racial 'inferior' minority people like Jews. Madhav blames it on the Opposition for continuing street violence across the country though protest movement as it is spreading like wildfire is somewhat spontaneous. The Modi government is desperate to implement the notorious trio—Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), National Register of Citizens (NRC) and National Population Register (NPR), at any cost as Union Home Minister has made it clear that they won't take back CAA, agitation or no agitation. Home Minister Amit Shah like Ram Madhav flayed the opposition parties—Congress, Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party and Trinamul Congress—for misleading the people. He declared there was no provision in the Act for taking away anyone's citizenship. But they are simply dishing out lies while keeping the anxious people always in tension and agony. Having failed to defend the indefensible—the most obnoxious unconstitutional Citizenship Act—they have begun to prescribe more coercion and repression, if their fascistic methods , rather methods in madness, fail to deliver goods. Fascism is not really an opinion, it is a crime, crime against humanity. India is a democracy without democratic rights for the people. And democracy without rights is hypocrisy without limitation.

Madhav's claim that CAA was passed in the most democratic manner betrays his ignorance. Everybody knows they passed it in both houses of parliament with the help of their brute majority they now enjoy, thanks to benevolence of some opportunist regional outfits. For all practical purposes democracy finally boils down to sheer numbers. Madhav's assertion that the new CAA rules were not discriminatory and allowed outsiders to become citizens after migrating for many years and staying in India without being called anyone's babies. After Assam Bengal will suffer most if CAA is implemented in letters and spirit. That India has a vibrant Constitution has lost all its meaning under the Modi dispensation. For one thing this is not the first time Hitler and Mussolini became part of political slugfest. In January last year Rahul Gandhi oblised Modi with a certificate of 'Fuhrer' in a different context of course, he was actually accusing Modi of failing to control rising level of unemployment. But they use the term fascism so loosely and casually that the Modis do hardly worry about it. Fascism is to be smashed, it is not to be debated in parliament because there is no scope for it. They are in a hurry to saffronise everything—art, culture, education and all democratic institutions that matter in the daily life of common people.

Amidst anti-CAA stir spreading like wildfire across the country, the only silver lining is bank strike which has added a class dimension to the on-going anti-citizenship movement. After the success of the January 8 general strike by thousands of bank workers and employees and officers, the unions operating in the banking industry announced their resolve to go on a bigger 3-phase strike beginning January 31 and concluding on February 1. And the second phase of strike would start from 11to 13 March and finally a failure of March strike will pave the way for an indefinite strike from April 1. The indefinite strike has been called to assert the rights that belong to workers, peasants and other toiling people who create the wealth of India.

Bank employees have been agitating for long over their legitimate pay-hike, long overdue. They want 20 per cent pay rise while the Bank Association of India, the sole bargain counter for Indian Banks has declined to offer anything beyond 12.25 per cent. Demands include among other things, de-casualisation of casual workers and abolition of contractual and unfair labour practice in perennial nature of job. They also want to revert to old pension scheme in place of the new system and emphatically demand immediate raise in quantum of pension pay to a dignified level. No, the authorities are not listening. If the bank strikes succeed, the anti-CAA movement would also succeed.

Toilers, including the worst affected agricultural workers and daily wage labourers, suffer enormously under the Modi regime. The January 8 General Strike was called by a joint platform of 10 central trade unions, barring Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, the trade union wing of Bharatiya Janata Party. It is refreshing to note that students in over 60 universities and their affiliated colleges too observed the general strike along with thousands of workers and employees, after boycotting classes.

Over 7.3 crore people, mostly youth, are currently unemployed according to Centre for Monitoring Indian Economic Estimates. This is perhaps the largest army of jobless people India has ever seen. The unemployment rate stood at 7.7 per cent in December 2019 and for urban areas it was even higher with a staggering 8.9 per cent.

Since the imposition of neo-liberal policies 28 years ago working people and wage earners have gone on strike 19 times pushing back to some extent several unjust and harsh measures. Similarly farmers carried out country-wide movements including rallies at parliament. The momentous strike of January 8,2020, represents a convergence of all these streams and holds the promise of even bigger struggle in the coming days. Increase in minimum wages, reining in price, adequate policies to curb joblessness, reversing the hostile labour laws, end to public sector sell-off—these demands are there and Modi is unlikely to address them as economic slowdown is a hard reality and Modi has no control over it. For one thing strike is the only weapon that the employers and authorities understand.

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Vol. 52, No. 32, Feb 2 - 8, 2020