People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
May 14, 2006
decade following the destruction of the Babri Masjid saw a qualitative advance
in the growth of right wing politics in general and the Hindutva political
forces in particular, in so far as our country is concerned.
the global level, there have been qualitative changes in the relationship
between right-wing politics, educational process and the media, which are
contributing to the creation of a popular ‘commonsense’ that supports and
takes for granted not just the process of economic liberalisation but also
politics that is characterised by authoritarianism, compromise and lack of
sympathy for the working class and other oppressed sections of society.
India one can clearly see its impact from the eighties onwards, and particularly
since 1992, in many ways a watershed in the history of independent India.
can see a new, undemocratic and sectarian popular consciousness being created
before our very eyes. The ruling classes have decided to pick up a great deal of
what has been backward in our tradition and to make it part of modern politics.
They have sought to align our educational system, the content of our print and
television media and forms of political mobilisation with their need to
construct a new, sectarian popular common sense that serves their needs today
and an equally useful popular memory for tomorrow. A dissection of this process
will help us understand not only where we are heading, but why we are where we
acute conditions of survival in adverse circumstances has made it that much more
easier to divide people along lines of identity, religion and caste, and that
much more difficult to organise people in struggle, and the ruling classes have
made the most of this opportunity. With all the resources at their command they
have fashioned media in a way that all the sophisticated modes of manufacturing
consent and influencing minds devised and designed by the ad agencies for
fostering consumerism have been put to use in promoting a right wing politics.
the eighties we saw not just critiques that the public sector does not work and
people in permanent jobs tend to be lazy, but that secularism has failed in
India because it is a western concept, out of tune with our tradition. Pluralism
and diversity were posited against secularism; merit was divorced from
affirmative action; rationality and efficiency were pitted against planned
economy; public investment was shown as detrimental to ‘growth’ economy; and
religion and caste were promoted as sensitive markers of identity as opposed to
a soulless class affiliation.
this broad framework it was easy and useful for the ruling classes to pick up
the threads connecting the right wing upsurge in the imperialist world and our
own home grown sectarianism, to create a heady mix that made Gujarat 2002
possible and continuously feeds into keeping the relationship between capital
and religious fundamentalism alive and strong, to be ignited at will. The
Huntington authored ‘Clash of Civilisations’ timed very well with the
renewed campaign against the minorities in the 80s and 90s. The defeat of the
socialism in the USSR and the envisioning of the new ‘enemy of the civilised
world’ in the shape of Islam by the US served the Hindutva campaign here more
than we realise.
media infiltrated by the Hindutva forces during Advani’s stint as Information
and Broadcasting minister in the post-Emergency era demolished the Babri Masjid
before the Hindutva forces actually razed it to the ground. Well before December
6, 1992, we saw Babri Masjid first transformed into a “disputed structure”
–information factually correct because there was a property dispute on the
site – not in the sense of dispute over land but a dispute over whether the
Babri Masjid had a right to remain undisturbed or was the site of an earlier Ram
temple. Again, even as eminent historians proved beyond doubt, on the basis of
archaeological and literary evidence that no Ram temple existed on the site
where Babri Masjid stood, the media was already terming the area as
“Ramjanambhoomi-Babri Masjid complex”. The media was saying two things
through this nomenclature: one, that the temple stood on that site prior to the
construction of the Babri Masjid; and, two, that Ram was born where the Masjid
stood. This nomenclature remains standard in referring to the site or the issue
at hand even today, and is accepted without question by most people
(incidentally, also in the newly released book authored by P V Narasimha Rao
before his death).
EQUATING MUSLIMS WITH TERRORISM
identification of Muslims with terrorism has been similarly already well
established, and very consciously we may add. When A B Vajpayee said “Not all
Muslims are terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslims”, he was merely voicing
the dominant perception being fostered by his parivar through the media. While
nobody can deny the existence Islamic terrorism in India, it is far from true
that this is the only form of terrorism in this country, or this part of the
world. Islam-bombs-religious fanaticism-mindless cruelty and killing of innocent
neutral population are neat equations that all newspapers promote or fall prey
to almost every single day in their reporting and news analysis –– even when
such actions are not taking place every day, or when the identity of the
perpetrators are not known. We hardly need an hour to pass before Hindutva
leaders and their supporters in the administration and police and ‘experts’
are ready with their answers, and television screens are taken over by visuals
of past ‘encounters’, earlier terrorist acts, a directory of dangerous
organisations, of Muslims in Pathan dress with faces covered, women in burqas,
and the entire imagery that makes most people believe that all terrorists are
Muslims, even against all evidence to the contrary. References to mobile phones,
phone numbers and papers that terrorists obligingly(!) carry come in useful, and
the media does not try to question why those so dangerous and daring never take
the minimum precaution of not wearing their identity on their sleeves!
All the newspapers carried headlines of the “Varanasi blast ‘brain’ shot in J&K” who was “UP madrasa teacher”, which may well be correct, but details of his family, pictures of his father and the madrasa…one wonders if they are all so necessary. They perhaps are, if the idea is to present terrorists as normal in Muslim society in India, but why else? The box which is part of the story in The Indian Express is titled “59 terror camps in POK, more troops for J&K’, as if that were also a new discovery today.
In complete contrast, as a report by Ram Puniyani tells us, recently when a bomb explosion rocked Nanded, a town in Maharashtra, and it was discovered that it was in the house of a RSS sympathiser with the Bajrang Dal flag flying on the house top, what followed was very different. “Next day the local superintendent of police was prompt to offer the cover to the Bajrang Dal and its activists by declaring that it was due to crackers, which have accidentally been exploded. The house search revealed the powerful bomb, IED with timer and remote control, after which the Inspector General of police had to concede that it was a bomb blast and that those involved in the blast are the members of Bajrang Dal. Local papers reported that a diary has been found at the spot, which has the details of bomb making techniques and other relevant information. The local BJP MP started dishing out the subtle instructions by saying that innocents should not be implicated and that it was a minor incident. … The police, despite the severe implications of the incident are dealing with this blast with kid gloves.” This took place in the context of various other tensions and incidents over the past two years. As he also points out: “The surprising aspects of the episode is, the soft peddling of the incident by the local police, the apathy of the guardian minister and the home minister of the state, the non cognizance of the event by the central government and the national media, print and electronic both.”. Most of us would indeed have not read of the incident anywhere.
This is of course, one recent instance that we are talking of. But this is reflective of a generalisation, where bombs, explosives, terror, cruelty, religious fanaticism just become invisible in any references to the acts of violence committed by the Hindutva forces. Do they not merit being called terrorists? The word has never to date been used for them — by the media, by the police, by any district administration, or by our state and central governments, and officials, even as the word terrorism is an important and frequently used part of their vocabulary.
What would anyone looking at these newspapers after 10 years think? What would a child think today? We should remember that this is how fascist commonsense was created in Europe in 1920s and 30s, and those who helped in creating this commonsense were not all Nazis and fascists. There is a lesson to learn here.