Armies of the Pure: the question of Indian fascism
The permanent militarisation of society requires a permanent enemy
The independence of India and Pakistan was preceded by much bloodshed. Every decade since the 1890’s had witnessed communal violence, some of it spontaneous. By the 1940’s the deliberate instigation of violence had begun. The Calcutta Killing of 1946, in which over 5,000 people died, was a turning point.  After Partition (seen as a victory for proponents of a Muslim Nation), massacres took place all over north India and Bengal. Some fifteen million people were forced to migrate both ways, across a suddenly drawn border. Up to a million were killed.
Many scholars use prefixes such as Hindu and Muslim when speaking of communalism. Some speak only of majorities and minorities. I see it as a generic ideology, with different expressions.  In colonial India, communalism referred to the idea that shared religious beliefs imply shared political interests. But Indians also possessed affiliations related to caste, region and language. Religion-based communalism implied a goal, not a reality, and communal ideologies imagined an ideal religious unity. When the nation was defined in religious terms, communalism and nationalism got mixed together. Inevitably, communalists spoke a language of inclusion and exclusion based upon religious criteria.
One of India’s mainstream parties, the BJP, is a front of the RSS (National Volunteers), a paramilitary founded in 1925 by K.B. Hedgewar, a proponent of Hindu Nationalism. This doctrine propagates sacralised geography and racialist nationhood. Hindus are seen as the national race; Muslims, Christians and communists as alien elements. M.S. Golwalkar, the organisations' second Supreme Leader, who took over in 1940, called for unification along racial, religious and cultural lines. His stance towards minorities was this: ‘the foreign elements may live at the mercy of the national race… and quit the country at the sweet will of the national race. That is the only sound view on the minorities’ problem.’
The twentieth century has witnessed a prolonged and tactically sophisticated movement for the totalitarian transformation of South Asian politics. Opposing avatars of communalism run in tandem, like a magneto for generating animus. This is why the partition of India and developments in Pakistan are a part of the story. South Asian fascism is more complex than the situation in pre-war Europe. This obliges us to rethink its elemental aspects. Above all, the de- facto preparation for civil war manifests a systematic attempt to militarise public space. Conjointly with other lawless tendencies, it represents the criminalization of the polity. How far this process has gone in the different successor states of British India is another debate.
The Assassination of Mahatma Gandhi: Inquiry Commission Report (1969)
All tendencies towards annihilation are fascistic in nature. Therefore the question of violence is important for those of us who wish to understand what is going on. I have tried to think and analyse this issue ever since I witnessed the carnage of 1984 in the capital city of this 'world-class' power. If I believed in God I would pray that no generation would ever have to see such horrific things again, no people ever have to suffer such atrocities again. Alas, the atrocities show no sign of stopping. But we must speak. I must say I am pessimistic about the capacity of the established left (including the Maoists) to grasp the danger - my reasons for this are partly spelled out in the two essays mentioned above: A Hard Rain Falling; and Closing the Circle. I think the younger generation of concerned citizens - and not only leftists - is open to a fresh dialogue around these matters. I certainly hope so. Because the danger we face is great. If we make an effort, we may be able to face it and overcome it. Let us work for a world with lots of different ideas and cultures; but with less hatred, less violence and no more fantasies of mass destruction - Dilip
NB: Some observations that I made on a FB thread relating to this essay: There is another problem of attitude & definition that I've addressed in this essay, but I find difficult to get through. This is the arithmetical approach to communalism - it's like saying capitalism equals British capitalism + Mexican capitalism + Japanese, etc. The refusal by the Indian left to theorise fascism & the tendency to conflate communalised identity with 'self-determination' leads to an underplaying of Muslim right-wing politics, of which here are some examples:
Kerala teacher's hand cut off for alleged Mohammed slight:
An exhibition of Ahmediya literature in Delhi in September 2011 was forced to close down by violent threats issued by Sunni supremacists. <http://utopic.me/page/105348638_/?utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=wall&utm_campaign=sharebookmarklet>
Persecution of Ahmediyas in India is growing & there's little or no awareness, let alone defence of their human rights by leftist HR groups. What happens to public perceptions as a result?: http://dilipsimeon.blogspot.in/2011/11/anti-ahmadism-in-india.html
The Deobandis recently sabotaged academic research on Rushdie & inspired the sabotage of his trip to Jaipur, with local Muslim goondas (some part of the BJP 'minority cell', incidentally) speaking of 'rivers of blood.' <http://dilipsimeon.blogspot.in/2012/04/academic-research-on-rushdies-literary.html>
And we know what happened to Taslima. My problem with all these stalwarts of doctrinal or 'cultural' purity is their threat to resort to violence - justified as it is in the IPC as 'hurting popular sentiments'. An army of goons has now begin specialising in the manufacture of hurt sentiment. In the aftermath of the Kokrajhar events in Assam, there was mass rioting in Mumbai & some Muslim youth assaulted people with 'Chinese' features in Pune, Bangalore & elsewhere. Most leftists use Nelsonian vision when it comes to these things, because they think in terms of 'minority' communalism being less dangerous than that of the 'majority'. Arithmetic, once again - we don't reflect either on the generic similarity of the communal style or on how various shades of fanaticism feed on one another, or the fact that a mere re-drawing of sets or sub-sets can make a minority into a majority & vice versa. I'd like to point out (not for the first time) that to reduce fascism in India to Hindutva is to do precisely what our leftists have done for decades - viz, theorise communalism through a denominational prism. The matter is complicated by the boundaries of 1947 & 1971 and the mutation of communalised nationalism into communalised sovereignty.
This sovereignty seems to have affected our capacity & even our intention to understand what we are talking about. We have consigned developments in Pakistan & Bangladesh into a black hole of ignorance. The relentless persecution of minorities in these nation-states is manifest in the fact that as per the 1951 Census of Pakistan, the proportion of Hindus in the population was 22 % (including East Pakistan). The last census for which this break-down is available (1998) placed the figure at 1.85%. There is an entire section of a Pakistani website devoted to the genocide of Shias:
And whereas the Hindu population of Bangladesh was nearly a quarter of the total, today it is under 5 %. JN Mandal's letter gives detailed accounts of a process that began in 1948. (He was a follower of Ambedkar, by the way). I supplied these exemplary references in my fascism essay, but am placing them again here because they tend to get ignored & some people prefer to think that Islamisation began only with Bhutto or Zia: Here's Pakistan's 1st Law Minister's sadly neglected resignation letter:
and Sris Chandra Chattopadhya's speech on the Objectives Resolution, Constituent Assembly Pakistan March12, 1949
Leaving aside the abomination of the little Dalit Christian girl Rimsha Masih being hurled into jail for blasphemy, here's a Pakistani liberal view of the ongoing events around 'Muslim sentiment': <http://tribune.com.pk/story/439953/a-time-for-introspection-2/>
If protests were peaceful, there could be no objection. But as things stand, all communalists mimic one another in violent intimidation whilst the State stands by and mollycoddles them. In Pakistan the state itself is calling for nation wide strikes on behalf of wounded sentiment. But we prefer to remain blind, deaf and dumb. As I said, even our theorisation of communalism is communalised. That's how deep it has sunk. Here's an essay by the wise C.M. Naim: The Second Tyranny of Religious Majorities
In the eyes of the RSS, Muslims are genetically treacherous; and in the eyes of many liberals & leftists, Muslims are genetically incapable of producing fascists. Either way, Muslims are essentialised as less than human. That European leftists are clueless about communalism is one thing, but for us to stick to the vocabulary of Hindutva being fascism but Muslim communalism being something less monstrous is self-deception. As things stand, we are contributing to the confusion, not mending it. Inshallah, we shall wake up some day.