I read George Orwell’s ‘1984’ in 1985 when I was a 15 year old. Although the ‘Big Brother’ appearing on screens to announce what people should be doing looked like a science fiction in an 80s India, it made a nightmarish impact on me, even when I was awake. As a 15 year old I never thought that it could happen ever in India. When I sat down in front of the TV screen last night to watch Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s New Year eve message to the nation, I knew my teenage illusions were wrong. It happens in India.
India is a cricket mad nation. I guess Prime Minister’s New Year message had more viewership than the world cup final of 2011 when India defeated Sri Lanka to become the world cup champion.
I had missed Prime Minister’s last televised address to the nation on November 7, when he withdrew high valued denomination notes of Rs 1000, Rs 500 as legal tenders, which was subsequently dubbed as ‘demonetisation’. As I was not a frequent TV watcher I was taken for by surprise. That announcement annulled 86 % of cash in circulation as legal tenders.
After 52 painful cashless days, I was not going to miss what Prime Minister had to say this time. The whole nation glued to the TV sets to hear Prime Ministers speech. Prime Minister also had said ‘wait for 50 days or hang me in public if I’m proved wrong’.
What did he say? Nothing!
Nothing? Not yet, but Everything!
He didn’t say anything to prove that his demonetisation move was right to avoid his public hanging. There was nothing for the people who were waiting long hours in bank queues patiently to withdraw their hard earned money. He didn’t say when their ordeal will be over. He didn’t say when the withdrawal limit set on people’s money will be over. He didn’t apologise to the family of the people who died standing in queues. He didn’t apologise to the farmers who couldn’t sell their produce at a good price or plant the next crop. He did not even tell the nation how much black money came back to the banks. He could not even say whether the demonetization was success or not. Whatever sops he announced to the public were rehashed versions of the already existing social welfare schemes.
He claimed that ‘demonetistion dealt a severe blow’ terrorism, Naxalism, Maoism without submitting any data to back up. He also made laughable claims like ‘the excess of cash was fuelling inflation’.
But he said everything within the subtext of his speech. This was a Prime Minister who avoided the parliament through an entire session and chose to speak to the masses, thus directly denigrating the sanctity of parliamentary democracy of India. His speech was interspersed with war terminology. War, fight, evil, purification… these words came up again and again throughout his speech. The prime minister was speaking in binaries of good and evil. He presented himself as a champion of Good leading the war against forces of Evil.
Collective Good vs Collective Evil! Isn’t that fascism in nutshell? Haven’t we seen all this before and paid the price for not reading the early signs?
Robert O. Paxton says in his book ‘The Anatomy of Fascism’ – ” I propose to examine fascism in a cycle of ﬁve stages: (1) the creation of movements; (2) their rooting in the political system; (3) their seizure of power; (4) the exercise of power; (5) and, ﬁnally, the long duration, during which the fascist regime chooses either radicalization or entropy.”
I think the the fifth and final stage of fascism has arrived in India with “Demonetisation”. With demonetisation the government has taken control of everyone’s life. The war for collective good against the Evil has taken over the individual rights of citizens. The prime minister said in his speech “when crores of Indians unite to fight a war against internal evils, it is unparalleled.” Internal enemies had been identified! He also said “since Diwali, our nation has been witness to a historic rite of purification”. Which are the ‘internal evils’ that the Prime Minister is trying to purify? The events of the last 53 days prove that it is India’s very own citizens! Especially the poor, women, children and the other disenfranchised citizens of India.
In a cashless / digital money India Big Brother would be watching 24/7. The digitally illiterate vast majority would be driven out of circulation like the old notes. It’s a long process, perhaps more lethal than Hitler’s “Final Solution”. More people died in World War II Bengal famine than Hitler’s gas chambers. Did it make it at least into the footnotes of Indian history? Demonetised India dosen’t need gas chambers, hunger will do the job!
Modi’s speech yesterday was a reiteration of his war on evil. So what does that mean in the overall fascist scheme of things? Does it signify a move towards entropy in the fascist project?
In a hierarchically caste ridden society, a people’s rebellion like the one that happened in Venezuela is out of the question unless and until a Mahatma Gandhi like political leader emerges who can unify the country against fascism.
There are two possible scenarios emerging 1) BJP faces the fury of the electorate and loses the coming state elections and consequently 2019 general elections. A welcome move towards fascist entropy. But 2019 is light years away and anything can happen in between 2) The demon of demonetisation unleashed by Modi creates socioeconomic chaos, a Weimar Republic like confusion of political opposition, and to ‘save the nation’ constitution is suspended and amended and the foundation stone of ‘Hindu Rashtra’ is laid.
So, where do you think India headed? Do you see any other scenarios?
Remember “History doesn’t repeat itself but it often rhymes”!
Binu Mathew is the Editor of www.countercurrents.org. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org