People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 11

March 11, 2012

‘Gujarati Asmita’: A Hindutva Tool

For Corporate Capitalism


Archana Prasad


TEN years since Gujarat burnt under the state sponsored anti-Muslim riots after the Godhra incident, the public debate on ‘development as a healing process has hotted up”. The supporters of Modi claim, that he is a model in showing how communal cleavages can be eroded by a paradigm of ‘inclusive’ development’ that is prevalent in Gujarat. Narendra Modi has often stated that he does not look at the caste, creed or gender of people when implementing developmental programmes and that all the 6.3 crore people of the state are equal in his eyes. Their pride is the basis of his success and any one who tries to create divisions on the basis of caste and creed are infact hurting the pride of the state. Hence being anti-Modi is being anti-Gujarat and the idea of Gujarati asmita has been used as a public defense for targeting social and political activists who have been in the forefront of the fight for justice for the victims of the Gujarat riots. Hence ‘Gujarati asmita’ is itself a hegemonic ideological tool to ensure that the discriminatory attitude of the state government towards Gujarat’s labouring classes and minorities goes unnoticed by the rest of the country. It also provides the national leadership of the BJP a good cover up for their larger Hindutva politics and agenda.




It is well known that Gujarat has become not only a test case for Hindutva, but also a model for corporate capitalism in both the agriculture and industry. The rapid industrialisation of the state has made it a destination for migrant labour and has led to a burgeoning of the informal sector working class. In 2009-2010, approximately 45.9 per cent of the entire workforce of rural Gujarat was working in the informal sector as compared to 40.8 per cent of the rural Indian workforce. In the urban areas, this proportion was 37 per cent, which is 2 per cent higher than the national average. Within states, the only other states that report a higher degree of informalisation of the workforce are Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka which are also well known for their own brand of corporate capitalism. Hence Gujarat has ‘developed’ in terms of entry of corporate capital in both industry and agriculture.


However its labouring class is comprised of a large number of Muslim self employed people who have been severely affected by the social discrimination, segregation and economic boycotts in the post riot periods. Sixty per cent of the Muslims live in urban areas, but poverty among Muslims in Gujarat is eight times higher as compared to high-caste Hindus and 50 per cent more than Hindu OBCs, even more than SCs/STs. But it is not boycotts alone that effected them. Since the Muslims formed a large part of the trading and business community with more than two thirds being in informal trade and self employment, access to financial resources is important for their survival. However they have only 12 per cent of the accounts and only 2.6 per cent of outstanding bank loans. This led to economic crisis for many Muslim unemployed people and many of them are now forced to work as unskilled employees for non-Muslim entrepreneurs. Thus, even though corporates and entrepreneurship development institutes may state that there is no ‘caste, community or religion to Gujarat’s business interests’, ground level experience gives a different picture. While 21 per cent of Indian Muslims’ work is in the manufacturing sector, only 13 per cent of Gujarati Muslims are able to get jobs in the organised and manufacturing sector. Further this situation is not likely to improve in the future, as the Gujarat government does not seem to be interested in ensuring the education and skills of the youth and children of minorities.  For instance the central scheme for the education of minorities has been turned down by the state and the dropout rate amongst Muslim minorities is considerably higher than others. Further non-Hindu youths also find it hard to find both admissions and jobs. This clearly goes against L K  Advani’s oft quoted statement that the ‘Muslims are partaking in the state’s ‘prosperty’ and shows that the economy of the state is structured through a process of religious discrimination.




However it would not be correct to infer that the Gujarati Muslims are the only sufferers of this model of high capitalist development. The Muslims, in fact, form a part of the larger agricultural and urban workforce that lives in abysmal conditions. The increasing landlessness in the state in recent years (45.2 per cent reported in 2009-10 i.e. 4 per cent higher than all India figure) is a result of the government promoted company sponsored and export oriented agriculture programme. Fewer farmers have started controlling larger land holdings resulting in the pauperisation of the middle peasant that was once the icon of Gujarat’s development. Most of these large farmers are contracted with multinational companies and employ migrant and child labour from different states. A survey of the cotton seed farms of north Gujarat in 2008 showed that 35 to 40 per cent of the labour was illegal child labour. Further about 90 per cent of the farms owned by big multinational firms employed such labours. But this was not the only characteristic of these farms. Another interesting fact that came out of the survey was that corporate agrarian capitalism was based on exploitation of people from the neighbouring state. More than 75 per cent of the contracted farmers on cotton seed farms visited Rajasthan to recruit workers, most of which is tribal female and child labour. Most of the labourers worked from 10-12 hours a day and were paid Rs 40-60 per day for their work. However this payment was only made in the middle of October and they were forced to manage on petty advances till then. This is just one instance of the agrarian relations as they have emerged with the active support of the Modi government.


The industrial working class is not much better off, and is working largely as contracted labour to companies owned by big industrialists. The Annual Economic Survey Report, 2011 revealed that Gujarat witnessed more strikes than any other state in India. The recent strike of the 1100 permanent workers and 4400 contracted workers of the Reliance Textile Plant at Naroda showed that the state government is not willing to regulate big industrialists. For the last 20 years permanent employees of the company have been earning a measly Rs 5000-6000 per month and the contract employees get about Rs 85-100 a month even as the companies profit increased tenfold. The striking workers have been arrested by the police and intimidated through legal and other repressive means. Thus instead of regulating and imposing the implementation of minimum wages and other legal provisions, the state government has firmly shown its partnership with the Reliance family. It is therefore not surprising that almost all corporates consider Narendra Modi ‘prime ministerial material’ and consider Gujarat as an important investment destination.


These characteristics of the Gujarat model of development have to enter the larger national discourse if the ‘idea of Gujarati asmita’ and development is to be erased from the minds of ordinary Indians. The encounter killings, threats to personal security and targeting of those questioning this model are not the only characteristics of a repressive state. It is an integral part of a strategy to justify the policies that favour corporate capitalism. Hence corporate capitalism and Hindutva politics have become interrelated ideological tools in the hands of Narendra Modi, to  stay in power and to further the penury of the Gujarati masses. The slogan of ‘Gujarati asmita’ is just a way of making the working class submit willingly to their own exploitation. But the continuing protests in Gujarat show that this is not a uniform or easy process. Hence left and democratic forces need to not only support the dissenting voices, but also provide them a national platform in a sustained way.