Jayaprakash Narayan: An Idealist Betrayed – Part IV

M.G. Devasahayam

M.G. Devasahayam

The fourth part of a personal epitaph on Jayaprakash Narayan by former civil servant M.G. Devasahayam.


What is Fascism?


This is the dictionary definition of fascism: “a political philosophy, movement, or regime (such as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralised autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition.”


In an article, “Fascism Anyone?” Laurence Britt (an active writer and commentator on political, historical and economic affairs) comes out with a 14-point list describing fascism in different dimensions:


  1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism: Fascist regimes tend to make constant use of patriotic mottos, slogans, symbols, songs, and other paraphernalia. Flags are seen everywhere, as are flag symbols on clothing and in public displays.
  2. Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights: Because of fear of enemies and the need for security, the people in fascist regimes are persuaded that human rights can be ignored in certain special cases. The people tend to look the other way or even approve of torture, summary executions, assassinations, long incarcerations of prisoners etc.
  3. Identification of Enemies / Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause: The people are rallied into a unifying patriotic frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived common threat or foe: racial, ethnic, or religious minorities, liberals, communists, socialists, terrorists, etc.
  4. Supremacy of the Military: Soldiers and military service are glamourised. Even when there are widespread domestic problems, the military is given a disproportionate amount of government funding.
  5. Rampant Sexism: The governments of fascist nations tend to be almost exclusively male-dominated. Under fascist regimes, traditional gender roles are made more rigid. Maintenance of a patriarchal status quo is the norm.
  6. Controlled Mass Media: Sometimes the media is directly controlled by the government, but in other cases, the media is indirectly controlled by government regulation, or sympathetic media spokespeople and executives. Censorship of the media is very common.
  7. Obsession with National Security: Fear is used as a motivational tool by the government over the masses.
  8. Religion and Government are Intertwined: Governments in fascist nations tend to use the most common religion in the nation as a tool to manipulate public opinion. Religious rhetoric and terminology are common from government leaders, even if sometimes the major tenets of the religion are diametrically opposed to the government’s policies or actions.
  9. Corporate Power is Protected: The industrial and business aristocracy of a fascist nation often are the ones who put the government leaders into power, creating a mutually beneficial business–government relationship and power elite.
  10. Labor Power is Suppressed: Because the organising power of labor is often the only real threat to a fascist government, labor unions are either eliminated or severely suppressed.
  11. Disdain for Intellectuals, Centers of Education, and the Arts: Fascist nations tend to promote and tolerate open hostility to higher education and academia. It is not uncommon for professors and other academics to be censored or even arrested. Free expression in the arts is openly attacked, and governments often refuse to fund the arts.
  12. Obsession with Crime and Punishment: Under fascist regimes, the police are given almost limitless power to enforce laws. The people are often willing to overlook police abuses and even forego civil liberties in the name of patriotism.
  13. Rampant Cronyism and Corruption: Fascist regimes almost always are governed by groups of friends and associates who appoint each other to government positions and use governmental power and authority to protect their friends from accountability. It is not uncommon in fascist regimes for national resources and even treasures to be appropriated or even outright stolen by government leaders.
  14. Fraudulent Elections: Sometimes, elections in fascist nations are a complete sham. Other times elections are manipulated by smear campaigns against or even assassination of opposition candidates, use of legislation to control voting numbers or political district boundaries, and manipulation of the media. Fascist nations also typically use their judiciaries to manipulate or control elections.


Does the RSS miss even one of these points? The ‘Saffron Summit’ neither addressed nor resolved even one of this points to prove that it is not fascist. On the other hand, freedom is just the antithesis of all that fascism stands for.


Was JP a Fascist?


Anyone interested in the recent history of the Jan Sangh-turned-BJP’s rise to power should know that they used JP to the full, sucked the blood out of him and not only abandoned him but betrayed him. What is worse, Sanghis portray him as their patriarch and a fascist. As proof they quote JP’s words—“if you are fascist, then I too am a fascist” at a Jan Sangh-RSS rally! Every time I hear people berate JP in my presence blaming him for the rise of Sanghis and the horror that is India today, I shiver in anguish because I know it is not true.


JP has pronounced himself on various aspects which rings truer today:


  • On Freedom: “Freedom became one of the beacon lights of my life and it has remained so ever since. . . . Above all it meant freedom of the human personality, freedom of the mind, freedom of the spirit. This freedom has become a passion of my life and I shall not see it compromised for food, for security, for prosperity, for the glory of the state or for anything else.”
  • On Communalism: “Although almost every religious community had its own brand of communalism, Hindu communalism was more pernicious than the others because Hindu communalism can easily masquerade as Indian nationalism and denounce all opposition to it as being anti-national.”
  • On the RSS: “Some like the RSS might do it openly by identifying the Indian nation with Hindu Rashtra, others might do it more subtly,” he said. “But in every case, such identification is pregnant with national disintegration, because members of other communities can never accept the position of second-class citizens. Such a situation, therefore, has in it the seeds of perpetual conflict and ultimate disruption.”
  • India is not Hindu – JP: “Those who attempt to equate India with Hindus and Indian history with Hindu history are only detracting from the greatness of India and the glory of Indian history and civilization. Such person, paradoxical though this may seem, are in reality the enemies of Hinduism itself and the Hindus. Not only do they degrade the noble religion and destroy its catholicity and spirit of tolerance and harmony, but they also weaken and sunder the fabric of the nation, of which Hindus form such a vast majority.”
  • On Cow Slaughter: “I do not think that Hinduism has ever thought that the life of any animal, no matter how sacred, is more sacred than human life. All life is sacred, but the most sacred of all is human life.” He then contextualized the emergence of the cow as a sacred animal: “The Hindu concept that a cow’s life is inviolate is the outcome not of any primitive taboo, because beef was a common food of Hindu society at one time, but of the gradual moral and spiritual development of the Indian people in which non-Vedic Hindu religions such as Jainism and Buddhism perhaps took the lead. In course of time, respect for human life grew and non-violence came to be more and more emphasised in human relations”.


Calling such a man a fascist?


Governance by Fear—Fascist Style


Under the Emergency onslaught, India’s institutions and instruments of democratic governance—the Legislative, the Judiciary, and the Executive—were running in panic. Individuals were moving in hushed silence traumatised by what was going on. The irony is that today, even without a formal proclamation of the Emergency under the RSS rule, institutions and individuals are running in panic. Parliament passes harsh laws as Money Bills; the Reserve Bank ‘demonetises’ currency throwing people on the streets; ‘voluntary’ Aadhaar is being rammed down people’s throats through executive diktats; rapes, lynchings and killings take place with abandon; political rallies are held to rationalise these gruesome crimes; and predatory, nature-killing ‘development’ projects are being pushed through state terror; those who oppose these are branded as extremists and anti-nationals and draconian laws, including sedition and National Security Act, are invoked against them; power is centralised and institutions of democratic governance are trivialised.


Let us take a closer look at the declared Emergency of June 1975 and the undeclared Emergency prevailing in the country in the past few years. There was no lynching of Muslims, killings or assaults on Dalits, communal riots, political killings, Hindutva majoritarianism, targeted killing of left liberal intellectuals and journalists, political rally in support of gruesome rape, cow vigilantes roaming the streets attacking and killing animal traders and meat eaters with impunity during the Emergency as it is happening now.


There were also no religion-based senas, dals, vahinis of goons, louts, and street lumpens harassing, extorting, assaulting and killing defenceless citizens. There was no arms training to young innocent girls and boys in parks and institutions. There was no fear of majority community among minority communities. There were no hate crimes against fellow citizens, no pub attacks or private kitchen searches for beef, no restrictions on food and clothes of citizens, no moral policing in parks and public places, no forcible closure of NGOs, no fellow citizen was declared extremist or anti-national or asked to go to Pakistan or Europe.


Though the character and contents are different, there is a common thread between the Emergency and the situation at present—‘Governance by Fear’. The only difference is that the method adopted then was ‘Jhatka’ (single chop), and now it is ‘Halal’ (slow killing). The effect on freedom and liberty is the same, probably a shade worse now!


In order to concentrate political and administrative power in few hands, the instruments of public service are either demolished or made to self-destruct in order to snatch them away from the people and hand them over to a small coterie of oligarchs who own over 75 per cent of India’s wealth today. In recent years, well-orchestrated communal hatred and polarisation agenda has been unleashed to strengthen the hold of these oligarchs on India’s economy and polity.


‘Development’ has become a farce to hand over massive amount of public money to private individuals through predatory ‘infrastructure’ projects while starving the critical agriculture and social sectors. This has made India the most non-inclusive and inequitable country in the world only next to Russia! Most of the mainstream media owned or controlled by the oligarchs have turned mercenary and are singing the paeans of those who are systematically devastating the Republic and the institutions of people’s power.


‘Fear’ seems to be the overarching tool of governance. In the past few years, ‘demonetisation’, Aadhaar, and, to some extent, GST have been used to ‘terrorise’ the common man and make him run around like headless chicken by destabilising his life and livelihood. ‘Liberalisation and privatisation’ have turned educational institutions into windowless fortress preventing young minds from blossoming into fruitful citizens and future leaders.


Never before in recent history has the politics of hate, intolerance, division, and exclusion been so dominant and the poisonous ideology which informs it gone so deep into the body politic. Never before has hate been directed with such calculated intent against minority communities, adivasis, dalits, and women; hate which is nursed, aided, and abetted by those in power. It is cruel in the extreme and it spares no one, not even innocent women and children. Violence has been given social and political sanction by those in power and perpetrators of violence have been felicitated and serenaded while victims have been punished and harassed.


Never before have the coercive instruments of state power been used with such impunity to silence those who dare to raise their voice on behalf of the oppressed. Notions of majoritarian supremacy couched in the language of cultural nationalism have found renewed support and a gigantic Goebbelsian propaganda and disinformation machinery with seemingly unlimited resources has been used to distort our understanding of history and negate our pluralistic and syncretic heritage. Institutions of higher learning that stand for nurturing the spirit of enquiry have been forced to promote a hyper nationalist agenda which treats doubt and dissidence as anti-national. Intolerance has been made acceptable and communal and caste hatred normalised and given legitimacy. This, in turn, is used to justify vigilante violence. Perversity rules.


Never before have constitutional freedoms guaranteed to citizens come under such a sustained attack from the very people expected to protect them. Institutions of democracy and governance have been weakened and checks and balances removed to clear the passage for the march of bigotry, prejudice and intolerance. The media has been suborned or emasculated so that dissent can be silenced even before it is articulated. In the life of our nation, in post-independence India, this is possibly our bleakest moment.


The challenge posed by the RSS is deep, dangerous and disastrous: it challenges the very idea of India, the swadharma of the Republic and the cornerstone of our Constitution—“to promote among people fraternity, assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the nation.” Such a fascist outfit calls itself nationalist and patriotic. What a travesty?

(to be continued)

Nirdoshannaa Saja Nako (Marathi)

Article about victims of false cases.
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