Sunday, May 25, 2008

Fascism will be Inevitable if Aggression is Called Resurgence

Arun Shourie

'Dalits fight back,' 'Dalit resurgence,' 'Dalit politics will never be the same again,' 'Mumbai massacre a watershed' -- headlines, news stories, comments in the wake of the firing at the crowd in Mumbai. There was a little hiccup -- the leaders of the 'Dalits' whom these publications had been building up for years were thrashed by the 'Dalits' whose resurgence the same press was celebrating! But the prophets of resurgence soon regained their vigour.

That 'resurgence' which our press detected, the 'resurgence' it was celebrating, its prophecy -- 'things will never be the same again'. How do that 'resurgence' and prophecy look two months later?

There is a pattern to this. Two years ago the press was full of analyses, 'resurgence of OBCs.' There is no talk of that today -- Laloo Yadav having shown the uses to which that particular resurgence was put, the resurgent Yadavs and the like having shown in massacre after massacre what they will do to the other group, the 'Dalits', whose resurgence the press is hailing. Before that -- what with killings in Punjab, in Kashmir, in Assam and the North-East -- the press was full of analyses proclaiming the resurgence of 'sub-nationalism', the 'coming into their own' of 'sub-national groups'.

And before that the Muslims were the ones who were proclaimed to be resurgent -- the killings in the wake of the demolition of the Babri mosque, the rise of the Islamic Seva Sangh: 'Muslim politics will never be the same again,' the press declared, 'Muslim youth alienated, will turn militant.'

And before that Naxalbari was to light the prairie fire. And after that -- what with Charan Singh, Tikait, Devi Lal -- the 'peasants' were proclaimed to be resurgent. And then of course there were the original resurgents throughout - the 'workers'. No talk of any of those resurgences today -- the resurgence this time round is of the 'Dalits'.

Notice, they proclaim resurgence only in regard to groups which constitute parts, never the whole, indeed to qualify as resurgent the group must be denouncing the whole -- for instance, you wouldn't catch any of these analysts seeing in the destruction of the Babri mosque resurgence among Hindus -- that was vandalism, a return to barbarism!

But the terrorists -- so long as they were Sikhs as in Punjab, or Muslims as in Kashmir -- they represented the resurgent sub-nationalities. So, it isn't that our intellectuals detect resurgence anywhere and everywhere. The group must be repudiating the whole, then whatever it does is a manifestation of that resurgence, and, accordingly, by definition entirely in order.

The first point thus is fanciful theorising. The second is purposeful theorising. The third point, indeed a necessary adjunct to both those kinds of theorising, is to block out the reality of what is going on. In the resurgence of workers, the fact that the leaders were just traders in unions had to be overlooked.

In the resurgence of peasants, the all-too-manifest petty politicking of Charan Singh, of Devi Lal and the rest had to be shut from view. In the resurgence heralded by Naxalbari, the fact that the Naxalites were just murdering and extorting had to be buried.

In the resurgence of OBCs, the fact that these were the very ones who on Mandal's own telling, and of course as evidenced by scores and scores of massacres since -- were belabouring the Scheduled Castes had to be obscured, Laloo's loot had to be obfuscated. The latest resurgence has made similar demands. It wasn't clear at all -- two months after the incident it still is not clear -- who put those shoes around the statue in Ramabai Nagar: A rival faction of the Dalit leadership, said many; the Congress out to create a case for the dismissal of the state government, said as many; the Congress acting through the suddenly respectable don, Arun Gawli, said others: Each theory as plausible as the other.

But our press was interested in only those things which could be used to reinforce the bad name it has given to the Shiv Sena-BJP government. Not only was Arun Gawli suddenly respectable -- the new manifestation, like Haji Mastan earlier, of resurgence -- Chhagan Bhujbal -- till the other day 'the gauletier of Thackeray' -- became a hero-victim just as suddenly. That too required strong amnesia.

With the solitary exception of The Observer, not one publication cared to recall what this very man had done not long ago -- the 'Dalits' held a demonstration around the Martyrs Memorial at Flora Fountain in Mumbai; Bhujbal led his followers the following day, and had the Martyrs Memorial and the area around it washed, he had pujas done, he staged an elaborate Shuddhikaran ceremony at the site: The 'Dalits' have polluted the place, he ' declared, and he is having it cleansed with Gangajal.

The resurgents silence the propagandists: No talk of the resurgence of sub-national groups after Bhindranwale, after the Kashmir mercenaries; no talk of workers and peasants after Dutta Samant and the Communists; no talk of the OBCs 'coming into their own' after Laloo Yadav. I have little doubt that the Ambedkarites will, with comparable thoroughness, silence the ones who have read into the latest events the empowerment of yet another group.

Our intellectuals make out that, because the group has been wronged, it has the right to behave as it will, that it has a right to flout norms and rules: It is but natural, and therefore it is but right, their theories go, that the long-suppressed should have no patience with institutions, norms, rules and such fetishes; after all, the theories go, these rules and norms are devices by which the rest keep this group down.

When these two notions are compounded in the consciousness of a group -- the notion that it has been wronged, and that therefore it has the right to do as it will -- Fascism is the certain outcome: A Laloo Yadav acting above the law, his goons taking over the streets when a step is taken to bring him to book - that, if only our press gives up its blinkers, is the real Fascist force.

As are those acting in the name of 'Dalits' today -- the muscle they deploy, the amounts they exact, the brazenness with which they proclaim their exemption from every norm. No society can survive the abandonment of norms, of rules. On the other hand, at each step by reading resurgence into the latest aggressive group, these intellectuals are goading that very shredding of norms.

Soon enough the group which these theorists stoke suffers too. Along with the leaders, these intellectuals make it believe that it has a right to receive without working, that it has a right to grab -- for what the others have today is what belonged to it in the first place, that it is what they have grabbed.

In a word, the intellectuals rationalise aggression, and thereby foment it. This has immediate consequences. Work is no longer a duty, on the contrary the notion that we must work for what we want or need is proclaimed to be a device of the exploiters to keep the group in bondage. As the group becomes aggressive, other groups get pushed and thereby a strong reaction against that particular group develops.

That is what happened in regard to the Sikhs, it is what happened in regard to unionised labour, it is what has happened in the last five years against the Yadavs. What is being done in the name of 'Dalits' will ensure the same outcome against them.

When a group has been taught that it is right for it to be in a rage, rage becomes its second nature. Flying off the handle becomes a habit, even a fashion. And once a habit, it doesn't remain confined to exploding at outsiders: Members of the group -- and the leaders of the group really are the leaders in this regard -- explode just as ferociously at each other.

You would have noticed how such groups split, and go on splitting -- workers' and peasants' organisations, Naxalites, the OBCs, the uncounted factions of the Republican Party, every single group which has been worked up.

The leaders had started by exploiting the sense of insecurity in the group. Intellectuals started by fabricating 'reasons' for the group to feel suspicious of others, and to feel insecure. But the sequence compounds the insecurity. The reaction the aggressive behaviour of the group ignites gives genuine ground for feeling insecure -- that is obvious.

But I have observed a deeper, subterranean reason in addition. The entire chest-beating in the name of the group -- the chest-beating by intellectuals as much as that by the leaders -- comes to be based on gross exaggerations, indeed on wholesale falsehoods. This in turn becomes another reason for being even more aggressive -- the way these leaders and intellectuals descend to scotch the mere attempt at examining their assertions has been put in full view in the last decade.

That screamed-out righteousness, that worked up rage give the game away: They show that the leaders and intellectuals know that there is nothing to their assertions, that the moment examination begins, their shops will shut.

The group suffers -- but our intellectuals will not give up their practised trade any more than the leaders will. So intense is their need for these worked-up groups that, if one ground for stirring them falls through, they immediately latch on to another. Notice how every leftist denounced caste till the other day: 'class, not caste,' that was the war-cry. And today, every leftist is a casteist -- 'in India, caste is class,' that is the new analysis.

The need flows first of all from the high opinion these worthies have of themselves. They are convinced that their anointing is very important: It is vital strength for the group, they are certain. In their own eyes, and something they are even more keen about, in the eyes of others of their kind, shouting on behalf of the latest resurgent group is to declare oneself, it is to take a stand.

Then there is calculation: These intellectuals have convinced themselves for ever so long that shouting 'injustice,' 'exploitation' will get them a following in the target group: To see how potent this lure is you have just to read the internal Communist party documents of the late forties, documents in which the high-command explained that supporting the Muslim League's demand for Pakistan on the ground that Muslims would never get justice In a united India would attract Muslim middle class youth to the party.

But there isn't just calculation, there is compulsion, a psychological one: The very trade of these intellectuals is denunciation of India, of the whole as against the parts. When a group within the whole screams in anger, they feel vindicated: Hence, they ignite the group, 'it is right for you to rage,' they convince it; when it is enraged, they proclaim in triumph, 'see, this is an unjust society.' Even more compelling is the hunger of the impotent. These revolutionaries-by-proxy are a timorous lot, gnawed at by feelings of irrelevance and impotence. They search for the latest group that is stirring into aggressiveness. They gravitate to it. They goad it along. Then, shouting on its behalf, they convince each other they are a part of it, and thereby make-believe that they have power, that they count for something!

Society suffers as a consequence. The group suffers. But by then our friends are on to the next group. Jharkhand Tribals, next round?

The Observer
September 12, 1997

No comments:

Search This Blog