Edit/Op-Ed

Fascists at Door-Steps – Wake up, Unite and Fight

Abdul Khalique for BeyondHeadlines

Fascists are found to possess quite similar motives and strategies. Social scientists who have studied fascism in different countries have identified certain features common to each. Among the salient characteristics are:

(i)   identification of a common enemy as a unifying cause;

(ii)  disdain for human rights;

(iii) protection of corporate power;

(iv) obsession with national security;

(v)  intertwining of politics and religion;

(vi) rampant sexism.

At its very core, fascism repudiates the concept of the universal brotherhood of all men and violates the basic canons of secular humanism.

Recent events in India point to disturbing portents for the future of our secular republic. The secular order is under siege by revivalist right-wing forces with the State playing the hand maiden by not only failing to protect the targeted victims but actually bolstering right wing extremism through its misguided war on terrorism.

Fascists at Door-Steps – Wake up, Unite and Fight

What is most frightening is that distrust and prejudice against a group have seeped into the law enforcement apparatus, which has been routinely rounding up innocent Muslims without a shred of evidence. The indiscriminate arrest of Muslims for alleged terrorist links has alienated an entire community, which is now viewed as “the other.”  Even today, there are hundreds of innocent Muslims languishing in jails across the country as the intelligence agencies continue to unjustly identify a community with terrorism. A study conducted two years ago by TISS at the behest of the Maharashtra State Minorities Commission shockingly revealed that Muslims constitute 36% of the jail population in Maharashtra and a large number of them were arrested under TADA, MCOCA and even the Official Secrets Act.

Two months ago, the whole world witnessed the videos of policemen in Dhule vandalising Muslim property and shooting dead only Muslims during the communal riots there. In 2012, we saw a similar approach by the police in Gopalgarh – shoot only at Muslims. There is little doubt that the police forces, whether in Congress-ruled A.P., Maharashtra, Assam, Delhi or BJP-ruled Gujarat or Karnataka are increasingly communalised. Not surprisingly, the Muslims are forced to view police as biased public servants who are targeting and terrorizing their community.

Today, the most deviant anti-minority ideas designed to breed bigotry and hatred are being freely aired in the public space. However, the scariest of all is the indoctrination of the young in the gospel of hate.  Apart from the scores of Shishu Mandirs (institutions), we have nearly 30,000 Vidya Bharati schools whose declared objective is “to develop a national system of education which would help to build a generation of young men and women that is committed to Hindutva and infused with patriotic fervour.” Decades of Goebbelsian propaganda and indoctrination have predictably resulted in the infiltration of extremist right-wing ideas in government, educational institutions, even the armed forces.

It may be recalled that the key conspirator in the Malegaon blasts was a serving Army official. The Bhonsle Military School in Nasik, which was used as a training ground by the conspirators of Malegaon blast, continues to flourish and there are plans to open similar schools in BJP-ruled states. When one considers that the primary mission of these institutions is to create and breed distrust of the minorities, it is clear that our founding fathers’ cherished dream of universal brotherhood is under grave threat.

We live in strange times where discrimination and prejudice are practised by the State in the most bare-faced brazen manner. Afzal Guru is hanged in vulgar haste to soothe the “collective conscience of society” but the killers of Rajeev Gandhi are treated differently. Owaisi is put behind bars for his hate speech, but the apostle of hate, Praveen Togadia moves around freely spreading his toxic message. The Education Minister of Karnataka proposes the compulsory teaching of Bhagwat Gita in all schools and he also grandly announced that those who oppose such a move should leave the country and go elsewhere. The syllabi in schools and colleges across the BJP-ruled states have been infused with right-wing ideas that are designed to alienate an entire community. Housing apartheid exists even in the capital of the country. Minorities are beginning to wonder whether they have equal citizenship rights under the law.

We all need to recognise that today extreme right-wing fundamentalism is the insidious, all consuming poison that is eating into the vitals of the nation. The old ideologies such as socialism and Marxism have been cast aside and in their place, we have the frightening spectre of right wing fundamentalism ruling the public space. And it is, therefore, hardly surprising that the leading light of the Gujarat carnage of 2002 is the frontrunner for the top political post of the nation. The Hindu Rashtra of Hedgewar and Golwalker is at our door-step.

How do we stop the inexorable march of the fascist forces to the seat of political power?  There are no easy answers. These may be a few possible steps:

1.  Secular forces should unite. That sounds a tired platitude but is vital to meet the challenge.

2.  Media must play its part in exposing the designs of the fundamentalists.

3.  Set up special courts to fast track terrorism related cases.

4.  Security and intelligence officials responsible for illegal, unfair arrests should be subjected to exemplary punishment.

5.  A Judicial Commission should be set up to study the entire gamut of terrorist arrests and suggest improvement in the system that will eliminate the possibility of victimisation of innocents.

6.  Our world is scarred and disfigured with prejudice and hatred but we need to ensure that the young are protected from this blight. I do not know how this can be achieved, but perhaps a first step is to be vigilant about what is being taught in our schools.

Ultimately though, the success of the fight against fascism and fundamentalism would depend on multiplying Shabnam Hashmis, Teesta Setalvads, Asghar Ali Engineers…etc. who have been waging a valiant, relentless and often lonely battle to protect our secular identity!

(The author, a former civil servant, is Secretary General of Lok Janshakti Party and can be contacted on akhaliq2007@gmail.com)

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