which looks pretty grim in hindsight of yesterday's election. India is a complicated case because the main communist party, the CPI(M), originates out of an anti-revisionist split with the eurocommunst-style CPI, making a direct relationship between the collapse of 20th century socialism and the rise of fascism more complicated (further complicated by the close relationship between the congress and the USSR, making liberalism arguably more of a victim of that collapse than communism). Obviously in relation to the CPI(Maoist) both the CPI and CPI(M) are revisionist but the collapse of left nationalism and the new form of neoliberal fascism has to be understood on its own terms. It obviously starts with the fundamental changes China is causing to the world economy:
Anyway, thought people might enjoy this article on Gramsci and Indian fascism as a good starting point for discussing fascism in the third world and what this phenomenon means for our understanding of "third world" and the future form of the left.
If you can't access that I've uploaded it here:
or just search for "Fascism and National Culture: Reading Gramsci in the Days of Hindutva." Some highlights (it was written in 1993 for context):
For the early nineteenth century, he emphasises two factors: the growing conservatism of all European bourgeoisies, including the Italian bourgeoisie, after the French Revolution, and the failure of Italian literary Romanticism to get linked with any popular movement for social change, of the type that Jacobinism signified in the case of French Romanticism. Here, his essential argument is that the radical alliance of the bourgeoisie and the peasantry, as represented by the Jacobins, had so inspired the French working class that their insurgent radicalism began to threaten the power of the bourgeoisie itself, and although the terror managed to contain the French working class, national bourgeoisies everywhere else learned the lesson that they could not afford to break with the landowning aristocracy entirely, lest they themselves be attacked in a revolution that runs out of their control; the national revolutions that came after the French Revolution took the form, in other words, of a bourgeois-aristocrat alliance in order to preempt the possibility of a combined worker-peasant insurgency in the dynamic of a 'permanent revolution'
As we know, those simultaneous developments-the exhaustion of the bourgeois- revolutionary dynamic and the speedy liquidation of the first rudimentary form of proletarian power in the form of the Paris Commune- were succeeded by almost fifty years of the most intense period of colonial conquest and capitalist hegemony. But we know also that it was precisely the issue of the colonial division of the world that led to World War I; that the capitalist world-hegemony was then challenged, in the middle of that war, by the first Proletarian Revolution; and that the October Revolution then contributed immeasurably to the emergence and eventual triumph of the anti-colonial movements as well.
the immense energies of the anti-colonial revolutions too have been contained in those alliances of the indigenous propertied classes which made common cause with modern imperialism for fear of their own worker and peasant masses. For, if the October Revolution inspired the colonial peoples into the praxeological belief in mass uprisings against colonial state apparatuses, that same revolution instilled in the propertied classes of our countries the fear that the anti-colonial revolution may indeed proceed uninterruptedly to an anti-capitalist one; the anti- colonial revolution was made and unmade in that same condensed moment for which Gramsci used the term 'revolution-restoration'-in our case, a revolution against foreign rulers but also an immeasurably powerful 'restoration' of the rule of the indigenous propertied classes as well.
Fascism, in other words, has two faces. On the one hand, it engages the whole nation in a massive social upheaval in the ideological- cultural domain out of which arises the machinery of terror; but simul- taneously, it also enacts a comprehensive program of economic re-struc- turing in order to serve those interests of the liberal bourgeoisie which that bourgeoisie has not been able to legislate through machineries of the liberal state. The precise combination of terror and legislation would of course vary from one country to another, but it is somewhat alarming that while the RSS parivar and Shiv Sena boldly utilise their legal and extra-legal machineries for fascist mobilisations and even for terrorising major cities, and while the Congress busies itself in tuming its anti-communal face one day and its communal face the next day, there appears to be a wide consensus on those agendas of the bour- geoisie that are quaintly called 'liberalisation' and which have doubtless inaugurated, with ample aid from the media, 'a period of expectation and hope' among 'the great mass of urban and rural petty bourgeois', many of whom are otherwise partisans of the RSS and the like. Supposing the Congress variety of 'liberalisation' does not suc- ceed, shall we then be ready for an authoritarian resolution? Shall, then, 'the mass of the urban and rural petty bourgeois' demand that the machinery of terror and the machinery of 'liberalisation' be one and the same?
Gramsci first calls for analysis and struggle at two levels simultaneously:
". . . in studying a structure, it is necessary to distinguish organic movements (relatively permanent) from movements which may be termed 'conjunctural' (and which appear as occasional, immediate, almost accidental). Conjunctural phenomena too depend on organic movements to be sure, but they give rise to political criticism of a minor, day-to-day character, which has as its subject top political leaders and personalties ... Organic phenomena on the other hand give rise to socio-historical criticism, whose subject is wider social groupings-beyond the public figures and beyond the top leaders."
The elaboration of BJP's mass politics since the rath yatra would be an instance of 'conjunctural' movements, and it is absolutely essential to understand the techniques of mobilisation, the power of specific slo- gans, the role of particular leaders, the differential strategic deployment of the various branches of the Sangh parivar, the patterns of recruitment among specific social strata, the differential tactics used in different parts of the country and abroad, BJP's dealings with other political parties, voting patterns, conduct of state governments, and so on, in order to comprehend this 'conjunctural' movement. A comprehension of this conjuncture is of fundamental importance, but to stop at this level is to become a prisoner of such epiphenomena as fluctuations in voting patterns, change-over of leaders, short-lived alliances and manoeuvres, the relative success or failure of particular mobilising tactics, the mediatic construction, etc. What is of crucial importance, then, is to link the understanding of the 'conjuncture' with a comprehension of the 'organic movement', which brings up such long-wave issues as the revivalist component in nineteenth century thought, the sanctification of certain religious emphases in nationalist mobilisations during the colonial period, the old and new imperatives of gender politics among the middle classes, the shifting kaleidoscope of caste confrontation and alliance, the modalities of our capitalist development and the miseries of the new petty bourgeoisies in both the urban and rural sectors, the culture of our textbooks, classrooms, films and videos, and so on. In any political analysis, the dialectic of conjuncture and organic movement has a status quite similar to that of the dialectic between structure and superstructure.
But this struggle to understand needs then to be combined with a positive project of intellectual and moral reform which addresses the most fundamental issues of the structure itself:
"Intellectual and moral reform has to be linked with a programme of economic reform-indeed the programme of economic reform is precisely the concrete form in which every intellectual and moral reform presents itself."
Structural transformation of a national-popular kind is thus at the heart of any anti-fascist struggle. An ideological struggle against Hindutva fascism must recoup, as a significant element, those traditions of humanism, ecumenism, agnosticism and anti-casteist world-view which we have inherited from our medieval anti-Brahminical movements and which have left such indelible imprint on the spiritual life of the peasantry and the artisanate throughout this land. Similarly, we have inherited powerful legacies from a national movement which brought twenty million peasant households into the anti- colonial struggle on the triple platform of representative democracy, secular polity, and agrarian reform; that the peasantry in India continues to define its political world in terms of these basic values is undoubtedly our rain resource against the fascist forces. But it would be illusory to imagine that the struggle can be won on the ideological plain alone, because in order to be credible enough for the popular classes to engage actively in the anti-fascist struggle, the ideologies of secularism and democracy must take the concrete shape of radical restructuring of systems of property and governance, so that the people generally have a real, tangible stake in the anti-fascist struggle. The forces that so readily undertake to restructure the national economy in accordance with the World Bank diktat and for the benefit of a small coterie of speculators and entrepreneurs, bringing untold miseries to the mass of population, can hardly formulate a popular-democratic nationalism to pose against the obscurantist nationalist claims of the Hindutva combine; but the striking feature of our current situation in this regard is that the organised Left, with its galaxy of dazzling economists, has offered no comprehensive plan for the national eco- nomy to counter the free-marketeers. Nor is it possible to truly mobilise the peasantry on a secular-nationalist platform without first offering a credible plan for returning the land to those who work it. A very large part of the question of the anti-fascist struggle in India is, like much else, simply an agrarian question; if the rest of the country could speedily implement a land reform even as moderate as the one in West Bengal, 'Ram and his rabble' would have to run for cover.
In 2015, a mob in Dadri (Uttar Pradesh) alleged that Mohammed Akhlaq slaughtered a cow, so they killed him. This crime was justified by the RSS-BJP. It was a sign of what was to come. The frequency of mob lynching has made the crime almost normal. You can be lynched for what you eat, for what you are, for what you say and for whom you want to marry. The RSS-BJP seem to suggest that some lynching is good, that those who participate in this kind of lynching are not criminals but heroes. BJP ministers go to events and garland the criminals who lynched our fellow citizens. This is a very dangerous shocking and reprehensible situation.
What do they say is a good lynching? If a mob kills a Muslim man who dares to marry a Hindu girl–what the BJP sensationally calls Love Jihad–that is seen as a good lynching. If a mob attacks Muslims for offering prayers in a public space, that is seen as a good lynching. If a mob attacks young couples for celebrating Valentine’s Day, that is seen as a good lynching. In each case, the mob is defended by the RSS-BJP.
It is equally disturbing that the police in many cases and sometimes also the judiciary have been protective towards these men. False charges are made against the families of those who are killed by the mob, and the courts have taken these charges seriously. Mohammad Akhlaq’s family has been threatened with arrest for cow slaughter–which never happened. It is a totally false case. Meanwhile, the killers of Mohammed Akhlaq walk the streets. Junaid Khan–killed on a local train in 2017–is unlikely to get justice. The First Information Report of the police suggests that Junaid Khan’s killers did so in self-defence. Once you accept that there is ‘good lynching’, there is no end to this nightmare.
from what i've heard just talking to indian communists online, this is all true and the right-wing parties use violence as like babby's introduction into politics if you're a young, right-wing thug looking for a promotion upwards through the party machinery. like you start out by knifing someone. one depressing thing i ran across was a youtube "prankster" who would dress his crew up with orange sashes and bamboo sticks and run into a park on valentine's day where couples were having romantic dates, basically "posing" as bajrang dal militants. instead of beating and/or lynching the couples on the spot, however, the pranksters would tell them (and the audience) that lynching is wrong but couples -- being effectively held as hostages in this situation -- still shouldn't be out in parks on valentine's day doing socially inappropriate things like kissing and holding hands or whatever. cue a few tens of thousands of comments like "what a nice message."
In Kashmir, the boot was on the other foot. There a Hindu ruler – rivalling the Nizam in obscurantist tyranny – lorded it over a population that was overwhelmingly Muslim. The largest princely state in the subcontinent, it had been sold by the East India Company in the 1840s to a Dogra adventurer, whose descendants presided over a sectarian regime in which senior officers and bureaucrats were exclusively Hindu; down to 1920 there was a death penalty for Muslim peasants, most living in abject misery, should they kill a cow. In the next decade, the first political organisation in the state – unsurprisingly a Muslim Conference – came into existence, headed by a local teacher, Sheikh Abdullah. Within a few years, the Muslim Conference had become a National Conference, and by 1944 it had adopted a social programme to the left of both Congress and the Muslim League, drafted by communists within the party and envisaging an independent Kashmir as an Asian Switzerland. Its position, however, was weakened first by collaboration with the maharajah’s regime in the name of support for the British war effort, and then by an unsuccessful attempt to redeem itself by campaigning for his ouster, which landed Abdullah in jail in 1946. In the southern part of the state, Jammu, where the Muslim majority was not so large and a substantial Dogra population provided the backbone of Hindu rule, intercommunal tensions had for some time given a splitaway force, reviving the banner of a Muslim Conference, the upper hand over the National Conference.
At partition the maharajah, seeking to preserve his autocracy, declared neither for India nor Pakistan. His realm was 77 per cent Muslim, but Kashmir itself was 92 per cent Muslim, and shared a border with Pakistan but none with India. If religion and geography were to determine its allocation, there could be no ambiguity as to where it would belong. Yet it had never occupied a significant position in Jinnah’s political thinking. The ‘six provinces’ which, by the end of the war, he was demanding for Pakistan included Assam, with a large Hindu majority, but not Kashmir. The extraordinary ineptitude of his handling of Kashmir, once partition came, was the fruit of long-standing limitations. Jinnah was more quintessentially a lawyer than any Congress leader; more committed to constitutional methods of advance; and during the war tactically much closer to the British, for whom meddling with local rulers who had shown their loyalty to the Raj was out of bounds. Congress had long made scant attempt to build grass-roots organisations in the princely states; the Muslim League had made none. In 1947 a blinkered legalism seems to have prompted Jinnah to the naive calculation that the right of the Nizam to hold onto landlocked Hyderabad, in the middle of the Deccan, would be compromised by any challenge to the right of the maharajah to dispose of Kashmir, as if there were any realistic chance of the former not being absorbed by India, whatever the juridical niceties. Cultural formation also played its part. Historically a product of Bombay whose main following was in the central plains of Uttar Pradesh, Jinnah had little familiarity with the north-west of the subcontinent. Islam was not a reliable bridge. Abdullah, a pious Muslim who prided himself on Quranic lore, regarded Jinnah as little better than an atheist, while a Muslim League mission to Kashmir reported that the locals were so heterodox as to be little better than pagans. As Pakistan loomed, Jinnah’s mind was elsewhere.
The opposite was true of Nehru. Though himself born and raised in Uttar Pradesh, his ancestors had come from the Hindu elite of Kashmir, offering sentimental investment in a region with which he otherwise had little contact. First arriving there for a bear hunt in his late twenties, he did not set eyes on the region again till 1940. But when he did so, he commemorated the experience in a dithyramb of sexualised gush to embarrass a tourist brochure. ‘I wandered about like one possessed and drunk with beauty, and the intoxication of it filled my mind,’ he reported.
Like some supremely beautiful woman, whose beauty is almost impersonal and above human desire, such was Kashmir in all its feminine beauty of river and valley and lake and graceful trees … sometimes the sheer loveliness of it was overpowering and I felt almost faint. As I gazed at it, it seemed to me dream-like and unreal, like the hopes and desires that fill us and so seldom find fulfilment. It was like the face of the beloved that one sees in a dream and fades away on awakening.
Happily, no such thing. His strophes concluded: ‘Kashmir calls back, its pull is stronger than ever, it whispers its fairy magic to the ears, and its memory disturbs the mind. How can they who have fallen under its spell release themselves from this enchantment?’
How indeed. Alongside such fantasies were more material considerations. For Congress, as for British military planners after the war, Kashmir was a strategic redoubt commanding the approaches to Central Asia. Still more crucial was its importance as an ideological prize. If it went to India, it would demonstrate that Congress had built, as it had always said it would, a secular state in which a Muslim province could take its place among Hindu provinces, unlike the confessional state of Pakistan that had so gratuitously destroyed the natural unity of the subcontinent. Nehru, for whom its future was a matter of ‘intimate personal significance’, made no secret of the intensity of his feelings to Mountbatten, breaking down in front of Patel and weeping that Kashmir meant more to him than anything else, adding to Mountbatten’s wife that ‘Kashmir affects me in a peculiar way … like music sometimes or the company of a beloved person.’ Later he would simply cry out: ‘I want Kashmir.’ In June he was already explaining in a memorandum to Mountbatten that its accession to India would be the ‘normal and obvious course’ after partition, and that it would be ‘absurd to think that Pakistan would create trouble if this happens’.
In Kashmir itself, trouble came of its own accord. It did not take long for the communal violence which erupted over the partition of Punjab to spread to Jammu. There Dogra ethnic cleansing started to drive out Muslims. Then a full-scale Muslim rising against Hindu rule exploded in the western borderland of Poonch. In the Valley, where Indian arms had been quietly stockpiled, a battalion materialised from Patiala. Finally, inflamed by reports of massacres of fellow Muslims in Punjab and UP, and backed clandestinely – also haphazardly and incompetently, without heavy weapons or regular command – from Pakistan, Pathan tribesmen poured down from the North-West Frontier towards Srinagar, killing and plundering in their path, the maharajah fleeing to Jammu. Once Pathan fighters were at the gates of Srinagar, Delhi went into high gear. There Mountbatten was now governor-general of independent India, whose army – like that of Pakistan – remained under the command of British generals. Acutely aware of the importance of Kashmir for Nehru, Mountbatten had as early as 17 July, nine days after Radcliffe arrived to draw the borders, been minuted by Menon that for India to have access to Kashmir required passage through the district of Gurdaspur in Punjab, the only overland route from Delhi to Srinagar, and though it had a Muslim majority, Radcliffe duly awarded it to India. There was never any doubt where Mountbatten’s sympathies lay.
Legal cover was still required for military intervention by India, and on 26 October this was duly provided by Menon, with a forged declaration of accession to India by the maharajah, supposedly brought back from Srinagar by Menon, when in fact he was still in Delhi: a document, now recently ‘discovered’, on which the Indian state bases its entire claim to Kashmir, but was unable to produce for over half a century. In reality the maharajah, now a panic-stricken fugitive in Jammu and in no position to decline protection from Delhi, was perfectly willing to sign on the dotted line, but the Congress high command, fearing Srinagar was about to fall, could not wait for this formality. Patel airlifted troops into the city, and under its British commanders, Mountbatten supervising operations, the Indian army swiftly took possession of most of Kashmir. When Jinnah belatedly attempted a counter-intervention by the Pakistani army, Auchinleck – commander-in-chief in Delhi – flew in to instruct Messervy, his opposite number in Karachi, that all British officers in the Pakistani army would have to resign, decapitating its command structure, if it made any move into Kashmir, which had legally acceded to India. Jinnah desisted. The Valley was handed to India on a British plate.
Still, it remained all too obvious that a province with an overwhelming Muslim majority had been acquired by force and – as would in due course become clear – fraud. Even the Labour government in London, pre-eminently well disposed to Congress, expressed unease at the upshot, Attlee finding it a ‘dirty business’. There was trouble too at the UN. The back-dated instrument of accession justifying Indian seizure of Kashmir, which could not be found after the event, was an embarrassment apologists have since only aggravated with bedtime stories that present Menon, on the correct date, waving the document in triumph to Manekshaw – the general who, a quarter of a century later, wanted India to finish off Pakistan altogether – with a triumphant cry of ‘Sam, we have got it!’, as if the fate of five million people were a lottery ticket. But the ex post facto assent of the maharajah – himself summarily put out of the way once the province was safely in Delhi’s hands – was no better defence, since India had brushed aside princely decision in favour of popular preference to take over Junagadh and Hyderabad. There remained, however, a third claim: that in Kashmir the popular will itself, embodied in Abdullah’s National Conference, wanted integration with India. There is little reason to doubt that Nehru, believing Abdullah a political fellow-spirit, persuaded himself of this. Abdullah had indeed followed the maharajah in approving accession to India, and once the maharajah was coralled, was installed by Delhi as prime minister of Kashmir.
But the option – temporary, as it turned out – of a leader and the mood of the people were not the same thing. Abdullah was a popular politician, then and later, in the Valley of Kashmir, but his National Conference faced fierce competition from the Muslim Conference that had split from it, and neither party had any mass organisation comparable to Badshah Khan’s Red Shirts, which had dominated the North-West Frontier since the early 1930s. Yet when it came to a plebiscite in the NWFP, religious identity trumped political allegiance, and the region voted for Pakistan. Abdullah’s hand was weaker than Badshah’s. That Delhi itself rapidly realised this is plain from what followed. Believing it could count on a favourable vote, India officially promised a referendum to show that Kashmiris had rallied to it by their own free will, not simply at a ruler’s whim. Their intelligence reports soon disabused the Congress leaders of this notion. By the summer of 1949, one of these reported from a tour of Indian-held territory that it was ‘midsummer madness to believe we can win the plebiscite’. Within another year Patel was writing to Nehru: ‘It appears that both the National Conference and Sheikh Sahib are losing their hold on the people of the Valley and are becoming somewhat unpopular … In such circumstances I agree with you that a plebiscite is unreal.’ Four years later, Abdullah’s use had come to an end, and he was thrown into jail for conspiring against the state. No referendum would ever take place.
The concluding act of partition was a military conquest of familiar stamp: territorial expansion by force of arms, in the name of national integration. Nothing in the outlook of the Congress high command, or traditional pattern-books of nationalism, was inconsistent with it. What did Gandhi make of it? Did principles of non-violence and harmony between faiths distance him from the lunge for Kashmir? Far from it. ‘What is the reason for our fighting in Kashmir? I consider it barbarous for the tribal raiders to have attacked Kashmir; we had to send an army to fight them,’ he told a prayer meeting. ‘The simple fact is that Pakistan has invaded Kashmir. Units of the Indian Army have gone to Kashmir but not to invade Kashmir.’ What if war broke out between the two new states? ‘Do I imagine that the several crores of Muslims in India will be loyal to India and fight against Pakistan? It is easy to pose such questions but difficult to answer them … If later they betray you, you can shoot them. You may shoot one or two or a certain number. Everyone will not be disloyal.’ What of the province itself? ‘To whom does Kashmir belong? Right now I shall say it belongs to the maharajah because the maharajah still exists. In the eyes of the government the maharajah is still the legitimate ruler. Of course if the maharajah is a wicked man, if he does nothing for the people, I think it is for the government to displace him. But so far no such eventuality has arisen.’ Abdullah? ‘I have not the slightest doubt that if we show the least bit of slackness over Kashmir, Hyderabad and Junagadh are going to meet with the same fate. Sheikh Abdullah is a brave man. But one wonders whether he may not betray in the end.’ Prophetic words. Those who would in due course jail the traitor? ‘The government is composed of patriots and no one will do anything that is in conflict with the interests of the country.’
The stability of Indian democracy came in the first instance from the conditions of the country’s independence. There was no overthrow of the Raj, but a transfer of power by it to Congress as its successor. The colonial bureaucracy and army were left intact, minus the colonisers. In the mid-1930s Nehru, denouncing the Indian civil service as ‘neither Indian nor civil nor a service’, declared it ‘essential that the ICS and similar services disappear completely’. By 1947 pledges like these had faded away as completely as his promises that India would never become a dominion. The steel frame of the ICS remained in place, untouched. In the last years of the Raj, its upper ranks had been Indianised, and there was no other corps of native administrators available. But if this was true of the bureaucracy, it was not of the army. Indigenous officers and soldiers had fought bravely, arms in hand, against the Raj in the ranks of the Indian National Army. What was to be done with them, once the British left? Their record a potential reproach to Congress, they were refused integration in the armed forces of the former colonial power, composed of veterans of domestic repression and overseas aggression fresh from imperial service in Saigon and Surabaya who now became the military apparatus of the new order. Nor was there any purge of the police that had beaten, jailed and shot so many in the struggle for independence: they too were kept intact. For the Congress high command, the priority was stability. These were the sinews of a strong state.
But the truly deep impediments to collective action, even within language communities, let alone across them, lay in the impassable trenches of the caste system. Hereditary, hierarchical, occupational, striated through and through with phobias and taboos, Hindu social organisation fissured the population into some five thousand jatis, few with any uniform status or definition across the country. No other system of inequality, dividing not simply, as in most cases, noble from commoner, rich from poor, trader from farmer, learned from unlettered, but the clean from the unclean, the seeable from the unseeable, the wretched from the abject, the abject from the subhuman, has ever been so extreme, and so hard-wired with religious force into human expectation. The role of caste in the political system would change, from the years after independence to the present. What would not change was its structural significance as the ultimate secret of Indian democracy. Gandhi declared that caste alone had preserved Hinduism from disintegration. His judgment can be given a more contemporary application. Caste is what preserved Hindu democracy from disintegration. Fixing in hierarchical position and dividing from one another every disadvantaged group, legitimating every misery in this life as a penalty for moral transgression in a previous incarnation, as it became the habitual framework of the nation it struck away any possibility of broad collective action to redress earthly injustice that might otherwise have threatened the stability of the parliamentary order over which Congress serenely presided for two decades after independence. Winding up the debate in the Constituent Assembly that approved the constitution, of which he was a leading architect, Ambedkar remarked: ‘We are going to enter a life of contradictions. In politics, we will have equality and in social and economic life, we will have inequality … We must remove this contradiction at the earliest possible moment or else those who suffer from inequality will blow up the structure of political democracy which this assembly has so laboriously constructed.’ He underestimated the system of inequality against which he had fought for so long. It was not a contradiction of the democracy to come. It was the condition of it. India would have a caste-iron democracy.
A glance at the map of the post-colonial world is enough to show that, no matter how heterogeneous or artificial the boundaries of any given European colony may have been, they continue to exist today. Of the 52 countries in Africa, the vast majority arbitrary fabrications of rival imperialist powers, just one – Sudan – has failed to persist within the same frontiers as an independent state. In Asia, the same pattern has held, the separation of Singapore from Malaysia after two years of cohabitation not even a break with the colonial past, of Bangladesh from Pakistan enabled by external invasion. Such few sports of history aside, the motto of independence has invariably been: what empire has joined, let no man put asunder. In this general landscape, India represents not an exception, but the rule.
That rule has, in one state after another, been enforced with violence. In Africa, wars in Nigeria, Mali, the Western Sahara, Ethiopia, Congo, Angola; in South-East Asia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Burma, Sri Lanka. Typically, military force deployed to preserve postcolonial unity has meant military government in one guise or another in society at large: state of emergency in the periphery, dictatorship at the centre. India has escaped the latter. But it has exhibited the former, with a vengeance.
By now, however, Delhi was becoming uneasy about the regime it had set up in Srinagar. In power, Abdullah’s main achievement had been an agrarian reform putting to shame Congress’s record of inaction on the land. But its political condition of possibility was confessional: the expropriated landlords were Hindu, the peasants who benefited Muslim. The National Conference could proclaim itself secular, but its policies on the land and in government employment catered to the interests of its base, which had always been in Muslim-majority areas, above all the Valley of Kashmir. Jammu, which after ethnic cleansing by Dogra forces in 1947 now had a Hindu majority, was on the receiving end of Abdullah’s system, subjected to an unfamiliar repression. Enraged by this reversal, the newly founded Jana Sangh in India joined forces with the local Hindu party, the Praja Parishad, in a violent campaign against Abdullah, who was charged with heading not only a communal Muslim but a communist regime in Srinagar. In the summer of 1953, the Indian leader of this agitation, S.P. Mookerjee, was arrested crossing the border into Jammu, and promptly expired in a Kashmiri jail.
This was too much for Delhi. Mookerjee had, after all, been Nehru’s confederate in not dissimilar Hindu agitation to lock down the partition of Bengal, and was rewarded with a cabinet post. Although since then he had been an opponent of the Congress regime, he was still a member in reasonably good standing of the Indian political establishment. Abdullah, moreover, was now suspected of recidivist hankering for an independent Kashmir. The Intelligence Bureau had little difficulty convincing Nehru that he had become a liability, and overnight he was dismissed by the stripling heir to the Dogra throne he had so complacently made head of state, and thrown into an Indian jail on charges of sedition. His one-time friend behind bars, Nehru installed the next notable down in the National Conference, Bakshi Gulam Mohammed, in his place. Brutal and corrupt, Bakshi’s regime – widely known as BBC: the Bakshi Brothers Corporation – depended entirely on the Indian security apparatus. After ten years, in which his main achievement was to do away with any pretence that Kashmir was other than ‘an integral part of the Union of India’, Bakshi’s reputation had become a liability to Delhi, and he was summarily ousted in turn, to be replaced after a short interval by another National Conference puppet, this time a renegade communist, G.M. Sadiq, whose no less repressive regime proceeded to wind up the party altogether, dissolving it into Congress.
Abdullah, meanwhile, sat in an Indian prison for 12 years, eventually on charges of treason, with two brief intermissions in 1958 and 1964. During the second of these, he held talks with Nehru in Delhi and Ayub Khan in Rawalpindi, just before Nehru died, but was then rearrested for having had the temerity to meet Zhou Enlai in Algiers. A troubled Nehru had supposedly been willing to contemplate some loosening of the Indian grip on the Valley; much sentimentality has been expended on this lost opportunity for a better settlement in Kashmir, tragically frustrated by Nehru’s death. But the reality is that Nehru, having seized Kashmir by force in 1947, had rapidly discovered that Abdullah and his party were neither as popular nor as secular as he had imagined, and that he could hold his prey only by an indefinite military occupation with a façade of collaborators, each less satisfactory than the last. The ease with which the National Conference was manipulated to Indian ends, as Abdullah was discarded for Bakshi, and Bakshi for Sadiq, made it clear how relatively shallow an organisation it had, despite appearances, always been. By the end of his life, Nehru would have liked a more presentable fig-leaf for Indian rule, but that he had any intention of allowing free expression of the popular will in Kashmir can be excluded: he could never afford to do so. He had shown no compunction in incarcerating on trumped-up charges the ostensible embodiment of the ultimate legitimacy of Indian conquest of the region, and no hesitation in presiding over subcontracted tyrannies of whose nature he was well aware. When an anguished admirer from Jammu pleaded with him not to do so, he replied that the national interest was more important than democracy: ‘We have gambled on the international stage on Kashmir, and we cannot afford to lose. At the moment we are there at the point of a bayonet. Till things improve, democracy and morality can wait.’ Sixty years later the bayonets are still there, democracy nowhere in sight.
How have Muslims fared under such secularism, equidistant or group-sensitive? In 2006, the government-appointed Sachar Commission found that of the 138 million Muslims in India, numbering some 13.4 per cent of the population, fewer than three out of five were literate, and a third were to be found in the most destitute layers of Indian society. A quarter of their children between the ages of six and 14 were not in school. In the top fifty colleges of the land, two out of a hundred postgraduates were Muslim; in the elite institutes of technology, four out of a hundred. In the cities, Muslims had fewer chances of any regular job than Dalits or Adivasis, and higher rates of unemployment. The Indian state itself, presiding over this scene? In central government, the report confessed, ‘Muslims’ share in employment in various departments is abysmally low at all levels’ – not more than 5 per cent at even the humblest rung. In state governments, the situation was still worse, nowhere more so than in communist-run West Bengal, which with a Muslim population of 25 per cent, nearly double the official average for the nation, many confined in ghettos of appalling misery, posted a figure of just 3.25 per cent of Muslims in its service. It is possible, moreover, that the official number of Muslims in India is an underestimate. In a confidential cable to Washington released by WikiLeaks, the US Embassy reported that the real figure was somewhere between 160 and 180 million. Were that so, Sachar’s percentages would need to be reduced.
At partition, most middle-class Muslims in Hindu-majority areas had emigrated to Pakistan, leaving a decapitated community of poorer co-religionaries behind. The great mass of those who remained in India thus started out in a very disadvantaged position. But what is transparent is that the Indian state which now claimed to cast an impartial mantle over them did no such thing. Discrimination began with the constitution itself, which accorded rights of representation to minorities that were denied to Muslims. Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes were granted special constituencies and seats in the Lok Sabha, subsequently also reservations in public employment, and in due course further Hindu groups – ‘Other Backward Castes’ – acquired the latter privilege too. But Muslims were refused both, on the grounds that conceding them would violate the precepts of secularism by introducing religion into matters of state. They were thereby denied any possibility of acting collectively to better their lot. If a Muslim party had possessed any proportionate share of national representation, its interests could never have been ignored in the coalition politics that have been the norm since Congress lost its monopoly of power. To add insult to injury, even where they were locally concentrated in sufficient numbers to make an electoral difference, these constituencies were not infrequently reserved for castes supposedly worse off than they, but actually better off. In mechanics such as these, Indian secularism is Hindu confessionalism by another name.
If matters are like this in the Indian state’s machinery of representation, it may be imagined how they stand in its now immense apparatus of repression. All told, the ‘security agencies’ of the Indian Union, as the Sachar Report politely calls them, employ close to two million. How many Muslims do they contain? The answer is too sensitive to divulge: as the report notes, no data on their composition are available for three-quarters of these. Put simply, Muslims are not wanted in their ranks. In 1999, a former defence minister let slip that they numbered just 1 per cent of 1,100,000 regulars. In the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) and Intelligence Bureau (IB) – the CIA and FBI of the Indian state – it is an ‘unwritten code’ that there should be not a single Muslim; so too in the National Security Guards and Special Protection Group, its Secret Service corps. The Indian armed forces are a Hindu preserve, garnished with Sikhs, and bolstered still – a unique arrangement in the postcolonial world – by Gurkhas from Nepal, as under the Raj. Mercenaries they may be, but their battle-cry could not be more impeccably Hindu: yells of ‘O Goddess Kali’ as they unsheath their kukri.
The reality is otherwise. In these pages, there should be little need for any reminder of the fate of Kashmir, under the longest military occupation in the world. At its height, in the sixty years since it was taken by India, some 400,000 troops have been deployed to hold down a Valley population of five million – a far higher ratio of repression than in Palestine or Tibet. Demonstrations, strikes, riots, guerrillas, risings urban and rural, have all been beaten down with armed force. In this ‘valley of scorpions’, declared Jagmohan – proconsul for Nehru’s daughter in Kashmir – ‘the bullet is the only solution.’ The death toll, at a low reckoning, would be equivalent to the killing of four million people, were it India – more than double that, if higher estimates are accurate. Held fast by Nehru to prove that India was a secular state, Kashmir has demonstrated the exact opposite: a confessional expansionism. Today, the bureaucracy that rules it under military command contains scarcely a Muslim, and jobs in it can be openly advertised for Hindus only. In what was supposed to be the showcase of India’s tolerant multiculturalism, ethnic cleansing has reduced Muslims, once a majority, to a third of the population of Jammu, and Hindu Pandits to a mere handful in the Valley.
How is this landscape received by the Indian intelligentsia? In late 2010, readers of the Indian press could find a headline ‘Nobel Laureate takes India to task for tolerating tyranny.’ Where would that be? Below, Amartya Sen uttered a plangent cry. ‘As a loyal Indian citizen,’ he exclaimed, ‘it breaks my heart to see the prime minister of my democratic country – and one of the most humane and sympathetic political leaders in the world – engaged in welcoming the butchers of Myanmar and photographed in a state of cordial proximity.’ Moral indignation is too precious an export to be wasted at home. That the democracy of his country and the humanity of his leader preside over an indurated tyranny, replete with torture and murder, within what they claim as their national borders, need not ruffle a loyal Indian citizen. If we turn to Sen’s book The Argumentative Indian, we find, in a footnote: ‘The Kashmir issue certainly demands political attention on its own (I am not taking up that thorny question here).’ Nor, we might infer from that delicate parenthesis, anywhere else either. Nobel prizes are rarely badges of political courage – some of infamy – so there is little reason for surprise at a silence that, in one form or another, is so common among Indian intellectuals.
Brazen celebration of India’s goodwill in Kashmir, its peace troubled only by terrorists infiltrated from Pakistan, is a staple of the media more than the academy. There, discreet allusion to ‘human rights abuses’ that have marred the centre’s performance are quite acceptable, excesses that any decent person must deplore. But any talk of self-determination is another matter, garlic to the vampire. More than ordinary intellectual conformism is at work here. To break ranks on India’s claim to Kashmir is to risk not only popular hysteria but legal repression, as Arundhati Roy – brave enough to speak of freedom for Kashmir – bears witness: to question the territorial integrity of the union is a crime punishable at law.
Edited by babyhueypnewton ()
The rise of the BJP was greeted with intense alarm by most of the country’s intellectuals, many of whom saw the party and its mentor the RSS as akin to an Indian version of fascism. This was a category mistake – there was no working-class threat, no economic slump, no revanchist drive, to produce any subcontinental equivalent of the interwar scene in Europe – and overlooked not only the distinct social matrix of Hindutva, but the ideological setting in which it could flourish. Indian secularism of the post-independence period had never sharply separated state and religion, let alone developed any systematic critique of Hinduism. But by the 1980s, it had come under fire from neo-nativist thinkers as an alienated elitism, insufficiently attuned to popular sensibilities and practices of devotion that Gandhi had intuitively understood, and Subaltern Studies would later defend and illustrate.
Obviously the American manifestation is different and post-colonial thought is still leftist in appearance, both because we do not have a Marxist intellectual tradition as in India and because the continued power of settler colonialism has prevented a proper post-colonial solution in the American internal colonies. But the collapse of the liberal left by a right wing that accelerates its own logic is the same in both places.
Edited by babyhueypnewton ()
Will business now bloom in Valley?
Home minister Amit Shah, while replying to the debate on bills and resolutions on J&K moved in Rajya Sabha on Monday, said after Article 370 was defanged, doors to private investment in J&K would be opened, which would in turn increase the potential for development. Increased investments would lead to increased job creation and betterment of socio-economic infrastructure in the state. Opening of buying of land would bring in investment from private individuals and multinational companies and give a boost to the local economy, he added.