Recently I wrote a short article, entitled Power of critical thinking, comparing the current Indian Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Prime Minister Narendra Modi with the Italian fascist leader Benito Mussolini.
In the piece, I pointed out the importance of becoming educated about the dangerous direction of travel for Indians and that the farmers movement was not just about the unjust farming ordinances, but on a deeper level, the anti-democratic behavior of the Modi government.
If we see the behavior of Modi’s Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) backed government, the media manipulation, the deployment of agent provocateurs, the mobilisation of the police and paramilitary forces against innocent protestors, and the free-range given to RSS thuggish vigil anti groups, one can see uncanny resemblances between the 1930’s Europe and India of today.
Modi’s supporters like to romanticise about his humble beginnings as a tea boy. But one’s previous life, however humble, is no guarantor of where one might end up. Mussolini began his professional life as a left-wing journalist and socialist, but then went onto proclaim that he was ‘tired of liberty’. He then began organising a group called fasci di combattimento, a paramilitary group known for wearing black shirts who we were given free rein to wage campaigns of terrorism and intimidation against leftist institutions at his behest.
India’s long tradition of social stratification based on a toxic cocktail of race, class, and gender discrimination (the caste system) coupled with a very large Hindu majority, we have the perfect conditions for the appeal of majoritarianism and Fascism; especially so in times of crisis. And in Hindu historical texts, such as the Manusmriti or Book of Manu, which describes a hierarchy of humanity in the world, we even have theological unpinning of what is a cruel ideology. Top of the tree is a Brahmin elite caste/class that, despite constituting less than 15% of the population, is divinely ordained to rule. And so with this ideological backdrop, we have the perfect rationalisation that BJP / Hindiuva / RSS fascists require.
Within the next few days or weeks, we may well get a settlement between the framers, but I feel like this remedy will be nothing more than a sticking plaster over a gaping wound. What I fear is we may end up with a pain killer or steroid injection masking a much deeper crisis, which is the spectre of fascism in India.
And so, with a series of short pieces, over the next few weeks, I am hoping to broaden out the debate to focus on the death of democracy, liberty, and autonomy in India and the rise of RSS Hindutva fascism.
I will be drawing on both historical sources and also contemporary writings from people such as Arundhati Roy who recently published a book of essays entitled ‘Azadi‘, where, taking the rise of Hindutva in India, she challenges us to reflect on the meaning of freedom in a world of growing authoritarianism.
I feel for too long Sikh activism has been emasculated to the realms of formal religious beliefs and practices, and it is important to claim our deeper legacy of fighting racism, fascism, imperialism, and all kinds of injustices. Indeed, where our religious organisations and institutions have failed to provide the leadership that our Gurus inspired, the farmer’s unions have. And I have to regrettably acknowledge that today Guru Nanak is not to be found in temples, gurdwaras, mosques, or churches but on the motorways encircling Delhi.
And the only ritual the Guru demands of us today is what we see on the ground in and around Delhi, that is honest living, sharing, caring and a willingness to sacrifice one’s life in fighting injustice. As Guru Gobind Singh proclaimed, ‘let the mouth of a poor person be my treasury.’ and let us ‘recognise the human race as one’. And so, what better basis for mounting a struggle against the Indian BJP/RSS fascists. And what makes me feel proud to be a Sikh is not the plethora of religious baggage, which I believe is simply the ‘opium of the masses’ but these sentiments, which are a call to think and act.
[Gurnam Singh is an academic activist dedicated to human rights, liberty, equality, social and environmental justice. He is an Associate Professor of Sociology at University of Warwick, UK. He can be contacted at Gurnam.firstname.lastname@example.org]
* This is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Asia Samachar.
Power of critical thinking (Asia Samachar, 5 Jan 2021)
Towards a more loving, sharing and caring world in 2021 (Asia Samachar, 22 Dec 2020)