ALOK PRASANNA writes from Bangalore: Godwin’s Law states that as an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one, robbing the valid comparisons of their impact.
It is sort of true about the recent Gujarat elections, Narendra Modi, and the sangh parivar generally. All sane discussion on the policies and practices of the sangh parivar is supposed to come to an end once somebody uses the “F word”. Then the name calling begins and the discussion peters out.
Sadly, the media is also adding to this, and unfortunately, churumuri has also become part of this mindless trend.
By branding Modi and his ilk as “Fascist“, “Nazi“, and the like (Goebbelsian? Please!), the media are only pushing the Hindu right into a corner where they are convinced that it is, in fact, a simple matter of “us versus them”.
It is useful to see how valid the comparison of the sangh parivar with actual fascists (the European varieties). Let’s see what the fascists did in their brief period of dominance, against what our supposed “fascists” did in their six-year rule.
The fascists didn’t believe in democracy. It was a means to capture power, and once power was taken, democracy itself would be uprooted. They fundamentally despised democracy, and called for a one-party state. Sure a lot of fascists came to power through a democracy, but once there, they dismantled the damn thing, and did not just try to mildly change textbooks for high school kids. They broke down whatever democratic institutions existed, and used them to promote the one-party State.
The sangh parivar doesn’t stand for a one-party State. They know that making such a demand puts them in the same league as a certain Mrs. G and you cannot subvert a democracy from the inside if you keep losing elections. It’s not even as if a resounding majority is needed to turn a country into a one-party State. A few rigged elections, a threat of impending doom, organised mob violence at the right places, and voila, you have Nandigram… I mean a fascist takeover.
When democratic methods fail, or do not give adequate returns, fascists aim to take out the Government by marching into the capital with stormtroopers, literally. They oppose the State and its formal structure through violence and open warfare. Mussolini and Franco were successful; Mosley flopped completely, whereas Hitler flopped at first, but succeeded the second time around.
The sangh parivar cannot overthrow the State, nor does it want to try. What evidence we have seen of the sangh parivar’s macho-Hinduism has been mostly attacks on defenceless civilians, while in cahoots with the State machinery. When the State machinery turns agains them, or even just passes an externment order (a la Bababudangiri), they turn and run.
The sangh parivar has neither the guts nor the guns to turn against the State in order to meet their goals.
The fascists on the other hand, believed in an infalliable leader. The Il Duce was incapable of making mistakes (at least in front of his people), and when he seemed to, he always had the Fuehrer to bail him out. The titles are a dead giveaway about the importance fascism places in the cult of personality.
It is not that the Leader is important to the movement, but the Leader is the movement and the nation itself. The Leader is always right. Questioning the leader’s motives or capabilities was a pretty bad career move in fascist circles.
The sangh parivar, on the other hand, has tried its best to play down the cult of the single, unquestionable leader. Even Modi is a local aberration, and there is no way in hell he is going to be winning over voters in UP and Bihar with his Gujarat track record or anything.
Leaders are important, and they are figures around which the movement rallies around. You don’t see the sangh parivar touting one leader as the solution to all of India’s problems, and no way does it call for simple-minded obedience to that Leader. Now that I mention it, that sounds distinctly like… JD(S)!!
Finally, the fascists were really big on war. They stood for a state of perpetual war because might was right, and if you had a problem with it, you clarify that matter with the cold steel end of a bayonet! While constantly harping on peace, they would continually build up and arm for war, and when the moment was right, spring it upon their helpless enemies. It also helped to have the most kickass military in the world though that was somewhat compensated for by being allied with Italy.
The sangh parivar does not have the balls to actually go to war with Pakistan… or even Bangladesh. After all it was the BJP government that did not want to escalate conflict with Pakistan. Twice. Fascists don’t care about casualties or nukes. They love war. Not some low level, high altitude skirmish or periodic artillery jerk-offs, but the whole I-want-bomb-you-to-the-stone-age type so beloved of American leaders.
Of course the sangh parivar will talk big about teaching Pakistan a lesson, but when it came to walking the talk, their legs suddenly cramped up and a collective case of cold feet descended upon them. The Gandhi mother-son duo got us into more wars.
Sure the sangh parivar has some of the superficial similarities to Fascism, i.e., the fear of the foreign (and not just the Sonia Maino-type), the portrayal of Hindus as the victims (against Mughal oppression/Muslim dominance), and the general tendency to ignore individual rights.
However, disconcertingly, these traits have also been exhibited, at one time or the other by a lot of political parties in India, but for some reason, no one brands the CPI(M) as fascist, though they have done pretty much the same things as above for slightly different reasons.
I will not even bring up the example of the Congress.
So, ignore the occasional “endorsement” of Hitler. It is pretty much on the same level of their love for Shivaji. Distant worship, coupled with an absolute lack of cojones to do even a tenth of what their “heroes” accomplished make the sangh parivar nothing more than an angry rabble of fan-boys.
They also have a political party of smooth talkers and mass leaders, somewhat sane enough to know that the BJP is actually at the head of a slightly Centre-Right coalition—and that is better than being the sole champion of the lunatic fringe.