The majoritarian rule in India has possibly tended to be autocratic. Absolute power in the hands of a political party, as is generally agreed by political commentators is deemed to lead a nation towards fascism. And perhaps India is inching towards it with religion being highlighted to serve its purpose and also change public attention from the slowdown of the economy and massive unemployment coupled with farm distress, affecting the impoverished sections of society.
Meanwhile, political leaders of the ruling establishment are spreading the misconception that a Hindu rashtra (nation) will benefit Hindus by giving them a superior position so that milestones along the path like promulgation of CAA and NRC could be achieved. It is generally agreed that such rashtra would not entail an iota of improvement in the material living conditions of Hindus and also the supremacy of an idealised category called the ‘Hindus’ will be as much of a dictatorship imposed upon them.
Moreover, the minority community are being victimised en masse but then, it appears, as per the view of political analysts, everybody else from the majority community who doesn’t fall in line with the regime’s dictates would be affected too. These analysts believe, quite rightly, that the practices that would prevail in such Hindu rashtra would obviously follow from the beliefs held by the leader or his coterie. In addition, these practices would also be based on beliefs held by the vigilante groups themselves. Such a rashtra will subject everybody to follow the diktats of the leader and its vigilante hordes, leading to a fascist state.
Minority exploitation is nothing new, not just in India but in many other countries. Also exploitation by the privileged of the poor and economically weaker sections is a harsh reality, in India like in others too. As the European Parliament rightly pointed out that a human rights approach entailed that “all migrants, regardless of their migration status, are entitled to the respect, protection and fulfilment of their basic human rights”.
The steady caving in of state institutions in the face of imminent fascism may not be a surprise for political analysts. The so-called independent institutions in India such as the Election Commission, the Supreme Court and the Armed forces not to speak of educational institutions and even financial institutions are being accused of deep and significant political partiality. Similarly, the state institutions around the world are found to support the politics of ultra right for their own vested interests.
The process of transition from a democratic to a fascist state is ironic but inevitable as history shows. Though popular resistance has been built up and appears quite formidable, the political leadership echoes what it does not really believe in. It is difficult to believe whether the concepts of a free, secular, democratic and inclusive nation are at all seriously considered as also Mahatma Gandhi’s idea on religion and secularism. In view of recent developments, it remains to be seen whether the resistance can counter the approaching fascist tendencies of the government.
What does fascism mean at the beginning of the 21st century? When we use the word ‘fascism’, our memory goes back to the period between the First World War and the Second World War, fascists like Benito Mussolini of Italy and Adolf Hitler of Germany, and images like dictatorship, racism, concentration camps, violence and genocide. But contemporary fascism, which is manifest not just in India but in many countries, specially of the Third World, may not be the reproduction of historic fascism but something with the same characteristics.
It is also argued that such neo-fascism represents a continual evolution of fascism with resemblances in certain ways with ‘historic fascism’ and distinct features specific to the political economy and culture of each country. Obviously, majoritarianism with the supremo exerting centralised authority is the reason for the escalation of such fascism. That’s why noted Italian novelist Umberto Eco declared, “Ur-Fascism is still around us, sometimes in plainclothes.”
Civil society protest against imminent fascism in India has, no doubt, gained momentum but it has to be backed by resistance at the political level in order to be effective. Some political support has been received from state governments but many others have gone along with the Centre for opportunistic reasons. The lack of moral integrity among a whole spectrum of political parties makes it much more difficult to translate into meaningful political action in the resistance being mounted in the streets against fascist elements.
Though the protests have been remarkable and unforeseen, not witnessed in recent times, there is need to strengthen these further in order to influence those in authority and thereby prevent the onslaught of fascism, which is dangerous for Indian society and has the potential to break up our social fabric.
What is the future of the increasing fascist tendencies and how can these be curbed? Liberalism is enduringly relevant to the ethos and its civilizational legacy of our country. Its belief in pluralism, respect for all faiths, a just social order, equitable economic progress, tolerance for different opinions, acceptance of dissent, social peace and harmony, a civilised discourse and avoidance of shrill, extremist views resonates with the spirit of the Constitution and the essential idea of India.
The secularism that is really relevant to counter such form of fascism is to refer to Mahatma Gandhi, who uninhibitedly immersed himself in all religions, made no secret of his own Hindu piety and then emerged with the inference that all religions must be respected. Moreover, the sound and broad-hearted tradition of Indian religions and Abrahamic faiths based on social, ethical and moral consideration there is need for an outcome of dialogues and deliberations that acknowledged the existence of different paths to reaching God or reaching the inherent truth of life, as Gandhi visualised.
Whatever our political leaders may say that has unfortunately no resemblance to their activities. Possibly, as some commentators point out, the rampant crony capitalism and materialist tendencies in society as also centralised authority may be the reasons for fascist tendencies to exert their authority. Moreover, literacy levels being poor and education levels low, the fascist forces can sway this class with wrong notions of nationalism.
It needs to be seen whether the progressive forces can organise themselves around the world to counter the rise of fascism but structural support for such forces may not be forthcoming. Again referring to Gandhi, this can become a reality if there is true decentralisation for which educationists and knowledge leaders have a vital role to play. It is hoped that these forces would be able to bring about a more compassionate world for future generations.