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Rise of Modi and Anti-Muslim Politics: A Critical Reading of the Left

Rise of Modi and Anti-Muslim Politics: A Critical Reading of the Left


K K Baburaj

baburajAfter hearing the news of BJP securing individual majority in parliament, I visited a friend of mine. His father, a retired teacher and a well-known leftist locally being an ex-leader of a left wing teachers’ association, started talking to me enthusiastically about the election results. “This result is a reply to the Muslims for their audacity”, he began. I engaged in a long conversation with him for almost two hours, mostly disagreeing with his views. Though later he agreed on many of my opinions, he strongly believed that minorities, especially Muslims have to be tamed and disciplined. “Whatsoever, I will not change my opinion and will stand by it for ever”, he said. The next day, at office also, to my surprise, I found my colleagues sharing the same view in general.

Last two decades has seen the Sangh Parivar’s brooding machinations to label Muslims as the internal ‘others’. The influence of this agenda worked largely on upper-caste hindus, and to a certain extent on Dalit Bahujans, and led BJP to a sweeping victory. This doesn’t mean that the ten-year rule of the congress aristocracy, rise in prices and the increased invasion of corporates are lesser contributors in making BJP’s way to success easy. But, the point to be understood very clearly is the gravity of hostility the Sangh Parivar brewed against the internal ‘other’ and how they succeeded in establishing this issue as their epicentre of politics.

In Germany, when the Nazis came to power the European Marxists and the social thinkers tried to define it within the sphere of economics. The imperial powers are creating a chimera through sentiments of anti-Judaism to capture absolute power, they said. Hannah Arendt held a contradictory social view and said Nazis had converted the anti-Jew wave existing in Europe to an established political movement. She observed that the Marxists failed to understand the new political current in Germany, and their anti-imperialist rhetoric had drowned the Jewish community in dormancy and inactivity. Hannah Arendt frequently expressed her strong disapproval and contempt towards such Marxist theories.

Similarly the Marxists here in India have also failed to understand the anti-Muslim/anti-Dalit stance that BJP harbours, and in one voice, have framed the whole political phenomenon in a simple equation i.e, ‘Modi is equal to corporatisation’. Like the Sangh Parivar, the Marxists also bury the fact that fascism is the rejection of diversity. Such anti-corporate assertions of Marxists erode the fact that in India diversity in its actual form lay with the fraternal bonding of Dalit-backward-minority communities and they are the only force that can counter the hostile politics of Sangh Parivar.

The leftist writings after Modi became the prime minister are an indicator as to how backward-minority politics get silenced and rejected if one resorts to Marxist theories of social formation. These leftists support the same old leftist equation, namely, Modi is the sum of traditional Hinduism plus corporatisation. It is best exemplified in the views of Prabhat Patnaik who said that fascism is compromised capitalism bound to the elements of the pre-modern era.

It is clear to any observer that Indian marxists while referring to pre-modern era include not only Hidutva but Dalit-minority politics also within it. They declare that only the political class of pure marxists, untainted by caste and religion (pre-modern elements), will be the force capable of resisting fascism. As Hannah Arendt pointed out, Marxists, through these affirmations are demanding in advance the submission and complete morbidity from a section of people who are most affected by fascism. This implies that the Dalit-Bahujan-minorites have a very important role to play  against the politics of Sangh Parivar. By self-estranging these forces the Marxists are trying to take refuge in their vision of pure political class, which structurally will be an upper caste-led secular platform. However, at the end of the day, what the Prabhat Patnaik clans see as horrific are not Hindutva forces but the communities fighting for identity, and the civil rights movements fighting for justice.

The agenda of Sangh Parivar is the unification of an imaginary Hindu identity. To materialise this they need to establish a value system which does not divide upper-caste – lower caste – backward – dalit classes. As we know this will not happen through democratic values or progressive ideas. The only alternative then is to project Muslims as the common enemy of Hindus. They keep accusing Islam and Muslim nationality as elements that interfered and scuffled with the Hindu ‘pre-nationality’. As soon as the bureaucracy, judiciary and the media, which have prominent upper caste representation, acquiesce to this ‘othering’, it is certain that the anti-muslim feeling will seep its way to the bottom of society.

The individual majority of BJP and Modi’s rule will definitely silence the Muslim community. From Uttar Pradesh, the state which contributes the nation’s maximum number of parliamentarians, not a single member from the Muslim community has been elected to the parliament. The new parliament has the lowest ever representation of Muslim members in the history of India. All reports, including the Sachar Committee Report that pointed out the backwardness of the Muslim community, are likely to be rejected by the current national politics. Under this government, apart from Muslims, those who are outside the caste Hindu belt such as Dalits, other backward castes, marginalised people, women from lower castes, workers employed in menial jobs, will also lose identity. Various autocratic measures of the government in the name of national security, corporatisation for development, controlling cultural and academic areas accusing them of disrespecting heredity will surely increase.

At the same time, the fear of the left parties that this government will act as a tool to implement Sangh Parivar fascism by nullifying constitution and all other systems of democracy, I believe, is unwarranted. The working mechanism of the caste system, the position of subjectivity acquired by the backward communities over the years, and the experiences of liberal democracy that have been here for the last fifty years, will resist BJP from enjoying the crown of an all-encompassing power.

The primary factor that helped Modi and the BJP gather phenomenal power is his backward/lower caste identity. Though attributes like ‘leader of development’ was acceptable to the upper class, the common people of India were attracted towards his lower caste status, a card he played effectively. What we must understand here is the fact that the Dalit-backward-lower caste category of people who supported Modi are Hindus only in imagination. 

Moreover, the secularism that exists here is majorly upper-caste centered. This also needs to be reconstructed. If we sieve aside the Sangh Parivar propaganda and the malignant secularism, we can make out that it is with the elite class that the common people are in conflict with. This divide is historical and deep. It was the outbursts of conflict between the upper and lower castes inside Hindus that shattered and pulled down the old BJP governments. The situation is not going to be different this time also. Like earlier, the lower castes and the power centre of BJP will get along only for a short period.

In Gujarat, the backwardness of the dalits and the marginalised are a precondition that helped Modi stay in power unchallenged. Various studies prove that maximum number of dalits who have been traditionally involved in menial jobs live in Gujarat. In other states the dalit movements have followed Ambedkar principles, while Gujarat stuck to Gandhian modes. Many activists pointed out this as the reason for their extreme backwardness. Firstly, the Sangh Parivar in Gujarat destroyed the unity of dalits and Muslims that existed during the period of anti-reservation riots. And slowly they sent both communities to ghettoes. The real secret of Gujarat development lies in this ‘ghettoisation’. And the carnage between the Muslims and Dalits during the riots were fabricated stories created by the secular media and liberal intellectuals. It is clear now that the brotherhood among the backward people has never been broken there. Various Dalit activists, with supporting figures, have established that it was only in areas where Dalit migrants lived that they entered into conflict with the Muslims. Several killings carried out by the trained cadres of Sangh Parivar on behalf of the government were thrust on the shoulders of dalits; it is unfortunate that several left media and academicians believed and upheld this lie.

When Modi rule shifts from Gujarat to India, aforementioned favourable factors will not sail along with them. The civil society in Gujarat is in a state of infancy. At the national level, the reality is different. The rusted slogans of the BJP like ‘Hindu Pride’, ‘love for the nation’, ‘cultural nationalism’ and the ‘might of the Patels’ are incapable of resisting the pressure jointly ushered by the lower caste bahujans, women’s movements, the new social subjectivities, civil societies and social media. To accomplish the fascist agenda visualised by the Sangh Parivar, they need to continuously place on board a war against the ‘external enemy’, Pakistan, or the ‘internal enemy’, Muslims, creating certain skirmishes at borders or several riots inside the nation, as the international scene is not favourable for a war. Due to this lack of opportunity of a war, the only possibility that remains is an internal fight between those ‘hindus’ who have paraded under the Sangh Parivar.

Earlier, the BJP kept a certain degree of commitment at least towards Mandal Commission, when many backward community leaders walked out of their clan. But, now, to everyone’s dismay, hardly any thought on social justice emerges from Modi. However, the influence of the Ambedkar movement in India, struggles of lower caste youth of post-Mandal era, Dalit-Bahujan/Women movements that are rising as new subjects, neo-reform organisations from Muslim community – are factors which will resist the fascist deliberations of Modi government.

Those who assume that Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has a recipe that could counter BJP’s Hindutva politics, are mistaken. AAP rejects the presence of caste, religion, sex, class, geography, the regional/national power players, or power centers of capitalism and imperialism. AAP is a group stuffed with degenerated upper caste individualism, with a complete laxity in understanding communities. Any attempt to place them as an organisation with people oriented politics would be an undeserving honor. It could be the presence of AAP that helped BJP secure such a massive victory. Not only did any of the prominent leaders of AAP fail to openly denounce the Hindu assimilation of the Sangh Parivar, they also reconstructed Hindutva with greater attraction through representational politics also. In Delhi by-elections, it disintegrated the dalit-minority vote banks and blocked the civil society resistance movements to silence. Are we to find our saviours in those who label the pressure politics that emerge from the marginalised communities and their self-organising movements, as ‘corruption’, and subject them to ‘othering’? Wouldn’t it be a grave error if we consider these people as our benefactors? It is our over-enthusiastic belief in these people that led to splitting and scattering of muslim and Dalit Bahujan votes.

Towards putting the state under fascism, in given circumstances, Sangh Parivar may adopt different strategies. It may not be centered around Islamic terrorism alone. As Islamophobia spread by the George Bush administration (2000-2008) faced big setback internationally, false stories of Islamic terrorism will no more find listeners as before. In this space, the armed/militaristic/feudal organisations like Communist Party of India (Maoists) could be the centers that provide safer routes for Sangh Parivar to bring the state under fascism. For instance, writers like Arundhati Roy are on stage advocating Maoism to counter Modism by calling for violent counter strikes by Maoists to fight fascism, instead of working for the unity of dalit bahujans, minorities, civil society organisations and different socialist groups. This is nothing but ignorance. They are intellectually stagnant and dreamers of social reform without any social content. Sangh Parivar politics can be weakened only by staying away from these people and joining the fraternity of lower castes and subaltern mass movements.



K K Baburaj is a writer, social critic and Dalit activist based in Kerala. 

This article was translated from Malayalam by Jayachandran J M.