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Fascism Versus Indigenous People

By Goldy M. George

02 September, 2006
Countercurrents.org

If anyone not of our own
happens to read this manuscript:
Heads will roll
hearts will beat to death
brains will curdle.
All that one has learned
will be lost.
Now,
I have placed curses
on my own words.


N. T. Rajkumar
Translations from the Tamil Panirendhu Kavithaigal


In a broader perspective, communalism of polity is preliminary to fascism of polity. In today’s context it is not mere communalism of polity, rather it is the fascism of state under the Hindutva brigade is what is ongoing in India. Hence as an activist working with Dalits, and also associated with some of the Adivasi movements, I would like to emphasis some of the major threats faced by the Dalits and Adivasis or Indigenous people.

Theology of Dominance

Before getting into a detailed discussion, let us understand what fascism is all about. Fascism is a terrible political domination capable of infringing any eligible rights of all communities to unpredictable magnitude. Historically it took different shapes and forms, depending upon the particular social order. Although was coined as a political ideology in 1919 with the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, it has much older roots in India and other parts of world.

Fascism is a form of extreme right-wing ideology that celebrates the nation or the race as an organic community transcending all other loyalties. It emphasizes a myth of national or racial or puritan rebirth after a period of decline or destruction. To this end, fascism calls for a "spiritual revolution" against signs of moral decay such as individualism and materialism, and seeks to purge "alien" forces and groups that threaten the organic community. Fascism tends to celebrate masculinity, youth, mystical unity, and the regenerative power of violence. Often, but not always, it promotes racial superiority doctrines, ethnic persecution, imperialist expansion, and genocide. At the same time, fascists may embrace a form of internationalism based on either racial or ideological solidarity across national boundaries. Usually fascism espouses open male supremacy, though sometimes it may also promote female solidarity and new opportunities for women of the privileged nation or race.

Fascism's approach to politics is both populist – in that it seeks to activate "the people" as a whole against perceived oppressors or enemies – and elitist – in that it treats the people's will as embodied in a select group, or often one supreme leader, from whom authority proceeds downward. Fascism seeks to organize a cadre-led mass movement in a drive to seize state power. It seeks to forcibly subordinate all spheres of society to its ideological vision of organic community, usually through a totalitarian state. Both as a movement and a regime, fascism uses mass organizations as a system of integration and control, and uses organized violence to suppress opposition, although the scale of violence varies widely.

Historical Strings in Indian Perspective

In our context it could be widely observed in caste domination and feudal relationship. The denial of Eklavya of his right to education and his subsequent assault; the assassination of Asur king Ravana; the deceitful murder of Bali and Sambhug, are only some impulses of this trend of domination over indigenous people.

Further these communities were addressed as Rakshashas, barbarian, wild, uncivilised, etc. Both Vedic and Sanskrit texts have justified the invasion and exploitation of Aryans and explicitly support the superiority of Aryan race and Vedic philosophy to the extent that their fate of being in the lower social strata is god given.

The present phase of fascism is a more organised and systematic attempt to continue the caste-class legacy. It started with the emergence of Hindu Chauvinism and Cultural Nationalism under the leadership of RSS led camp. This camp learnt various things from different sectors. They learnt the skills in organising and mobilising from Communist parties, mastered the management techniques from Churches & Christian institutions, the one-man dictator model of Adolph Hitler and the also the methods of maintaining private militia. In nutshell, the wholesome exercise was to sustain and strengthen the same old ideology of purity of the three upper varnas and Shudras and Panchamas as impure and pollutants. A twin strategy of dictating the Dalits and non-Hindu communities is the present form of communal fascism in India. Current mode of communal polity coupled with sustained casteism apparently speaks of this truth.

Ideological Formulation in pre-Independence History

Ideological upsurge of Hindutva has got a definite periodicity and it could be easily figured out from nineteenth century. It arouse as a system to put a break on the increasing reforms within Hindu religion of advocating freedom to women like the abolition of Sati, child marriage, opening the arena of education to women and to certain extend abolition of casteism by one section of Brahma Samaj. But the major reason was to counter the hazard of increasing Muslims presence in the national liberation movement, as the Muslims constituted a sizeable populace. Beyond this Christian who opened health and education arenas for all, thus threatened the social fabric at one end and on the other end Christianity was accepted as the mainstream faith line in several parts of the country particularly by Dalits, Adivasis and oppressed groups. Thus Christian conversion turned to be a major challenge to the Brahimincal social order of caste.

The ideological formulation in the Indian context could be seen in three different phases - first is the sowing of seeds in recent history second the consolidation of ideological viewpoint viz. “Hindutva” and third is the delving and devising of programmatic part of it.

Bankim Chandra Chaterjee sowed the seed of communalism first in that era with his novel ‘Anand Math’. This novel is popularly known as the foundational text of Indian Nationalism, which in fact was Hindu Nationalism. The establishment of British rule in India was a prolonged process involving piecemeal conquest and consolidation. Needless to say this process produced discontent, resentment and resistance at every stage. Disposed Rajas, Nawabs or uprooted Zamindars and landlords often led a series of rebellions during the first 100 years of British rule. Peasants, ruined artisans, demobilized soldiers and discontented people formed the backbone of the rebellion. These rebellions were generally localised involving armed bands of a few hundreds to several thousands. The civil rebellions began as British rule was gradually established in Bengal and Bihar and occurred in area after area as it was incorporated into colonial rule. There was hardly any year without an armed rebellion in one part of the country or other. From 1763 to 1856 there were more than forty major and hundreds of minor rebellions. Dispossessed peasants and demobilised soldiers of Bengal were the first to rise.

One of the major rebellions was the sanyasi rebellion of Bengal, which was depicted first in the history book by Bankim Chandra Chaterjee in Anand Math. This is the background from where a clear divide between the Hindus and Muslims in Bengal began. This is the same novel in which Vande Mataram appears, which the Indian nationalists chose to sing in praise of their nation, came from the tradition of mythologizing a fictive imagined nation personified as a goddess. The fact that the novel and the context of the anthem were overtly anti-Muslim and treated them as a separate nation, and that the invocation of the deities, Durga, Kali and Lakshmi ran counter to the secular credentials. This was basically meant to instil inspiration in the Hindu populace to work for the destruction of the Muslim rule in Bengal.

The hero of the novel, Bhawananda is an ascetic. He recruits men for his mission. He meets a youth, Mahender. He then tries to explain him the meaning of Vande Mataram and warns him that unless the Muslims are banished from the Indian soil, his faith shall be in constant danger. Mahender asks him if he would face the Muslims alone. Bhanwanand replies asking would not the 30 crore voices with 60 crore swords in both their arms be enough for the mission. (vide the third stanza of Vande Mataram) When Mahender is not satisfied even then, Bhawanand takes him to Anand Math (the title of the novel). The Brahmachari of the Math takes Mahender inside the Math. The Math is half-illuminated with a narrow entrance. He enters the Math where he sees a big idol of Vishnu flanked by Lakshmi and Saraswati on either side. The Brahmachari introduces it to Mahender as the Mata and asks him to say Vande Mataram. He then takes him to another room where a magnificent idol of goddess Durga is kept. Here the Brahmachari prays the goddess chanting: “we worship ye, O Mata Durga, who posses ten hands. Ye are the Lakshmi whose abode is lotus. Ye are the bestower of knowledge.” (Vide the fourth stanza) Now Mahender receives the inspiration and takes a pledge.[1]

The eighth chapter in the third part contains incidents of arson and bloodshed, which inspires the Hindus to render the lives of the Muslims difficult. Voices are being raised to loot the Muslims and kill them. The atmosphere is filled with Vande Mataram. As a result, the Muslims try to take shelter far and near. The devotees of the Mata ask: “When would the time come when we would destroy the mosques and construct the temples of Radhi and Mahadev? To this the hero of the novel replies: “Now the English have arrived who will protect our life and property.”[2] Thus in Anand Math the Muslims are the villains, the Hindus the victims of Muslims and the British the saviour of the Hindus. Indeed this instigative novel had sown the seeds for the division of Bengal as East and West.

Yet! Hindutva was not established as a political ideology neither in theory nor in practice. Vinayak Damodar Savarkar carried strings from Bankim Chandra. The interpretation that Indian is the land of the Hindus is the underlying assumption of the Hindu religious was first instigated in the writings of Savarkar. Hindutva became an ideology through his writings when his book viz. “Hindutva” had come into the public in 1924. V D Savarkar, writing in the 1920s, stated that an Indian could be only that person who could claim that the land of his fathers, pitribhumi, and the land of his religion, punyabhumi, both lie within the territorial boundaries of British India. Furthermore, there had to be a commitment to a common Indian culture, inevitably defined by Hindutva. These qualifications automatically led to Muslims and Christians, being regarded as foreigners. Subsequently, Communists were added to this list ! Issues of race and language that dominated contemporary European fascist movements were introduced as further qualifiers. And, as we know, in periods of confusing change, the preference is for a theory that simplifies the social world into ëusí and ëthemí.[3] Savarkar along with Golwalkar was the early ideologue of the entire thesis of Hindutva.

It is with this intention that the Hindu Mahasabha was also formed. Further he was the inspiration behind the formation of Rashtriya Swamyamsevak Sangh. Dr Hedgewar, an Andhra Brahmin settled in Maharashtra, a discipline of Balkrishna Shivram Moonje and a close friend of Savarkar, established the Rashtriya Swamyamsevak Singh in 1925 in Nagpur. Hedgewar was sent to Kolkata by Moonje in 1910 to pursue his medical studies and unofficially learn the techniques of terror from the secret revolutionary organisations like the Anushilan Samiti and Jugantar in Bengal. He became a part of the inner circle of the Anushilan Samiti to which very few had access. In 1915 after returning to Nagpur he joined the Indian National Congress and engaged in anti-British activities through the Kranti Dal. He was also a member of the Hindu Mahasabha till 1929.[4]

Although, Hedgewar established RSS, Golwalkar was the man behind the entire growth of RSS. Like Savarkar he took this idea of Hindutva further to write a small book, 'We or our Nationhood Defined', which gives an outline of his ideology and later his articles were published as a compilation, 'Bunch of Thoughts'. In both these books and also in various other outpourings of his, he denigrates democracy and pluralism on one hand and upholds fascist concept of nationhood and sectarian version of culture on the other. His writing is most intimidating to the minorities in particular. He was the chief of RSS for 33 long years and was instrumental in giving RSS a direction, which assumed menacing proportions in times to come, and strengthening the foundations of the 'hate minorities' ideology resulting in the consequent waves of violence, undermining the democratic norms in the society. He can also be 'credited' with giving the sharp formulations, which laid the ideological foundation of different carnages in the country.[5]

Golwalkar praises Lord Manu as the greatest lawgiver mankind ever had. It was the same lawgiver Manu's book, which was burnt by Dr. Ambedkar in his pursuit of getting justice for the Dalits. In current times, Golwalkars' successor also demanded a throwing away of Indian constitution, to be replaced by the one which is based on Hindu holy books, implying Manusmriti, of course.[6]

His formulations of Hindutva Fascism are so blatant that even his followers, the RSS combine, is running for cover and claiming that this book, “We or our Nationhood defined”, portraying a naked hatred for minorities and eulogies for the likes of Hitler was not written by him. They avoid owning these ideas. But one knows that he penned this book. In an affidavit submitted to the charity commissioner, Rajendra Singh, a later Sarsanghchalak pleaded, "With a view to give a scientific base to propagate the idea India being historically from time immemorial a Hindu nation-the late Shri M.S. Golwalkar had written a book entitled 'We or Our Nationhood defined', which was published in 1938."[7] J.A. Curran in his classic study, RSS: Militant Hinduism in India Politics - A study of RSS: points out "The genuine ideology of Sangh is based upon principles formulated by its founder, Dr. Hedgewar.[8] These principles have been consolidated and amplified by the present leader (i.e. Golwalkar) in a small book called "We or our nationhood defined". It is a basic primer in the indoctrination of Sangh volunteers…[9] Since its quotations have been brought to the notice of people, RSS publishing houses have stopped republishing this book. What does Golwalkar say in this book?

In this book he rejects the notions of Indian nationhood, India as a Nation in the making. He rejects the idea that all the citizens will be equal. He goes on to harp the notions of nationhood borrowed from Hitler's Nazi movement. He rejects that India is a secular nation and posits that it is a Hindu Rashtra. He rejects the territorial-political concept of nationhood and puts forward the concept of cultural nationalism, which was the foundation of Nazi ideology. His admiration of Hitler's ideology and politics is the running thread of the book and he takes inspiration from the massive holocaust, which decimated millions of people in Germany. He uses this as a shield to propagate his political ideology. It is this ideology, which formed the base of communal common sense amongst a section of the population.[10] "German national pride has now become the topic of the day. To keep up purity of the nation and its culture, Germany shocked the world by her purging the country of the Semitic races, the Jews. National pride at its highest has been manifested here. Germany has also shown how well-nigh impossible it is for races and cultures having differences going to the root, to be assimilated into a united whole, a good lesson for us in Hindustan to learn and profit by."[11]

In the Sangh circles this book is regarded as their Gita. The implications for Indian minorities are presented here in a forthright manner. Today the swayamsevaks brought up on this Gita, do believe in all this but the language of expression is being made more polished so that the poison is coated with honey and administered with ease. Golwalkar goes on to assert, "From the standpoint sanctioned by the experience of shrewd nations, the non-Hindu people in Hindustan must either adopt the Hindu culture and language, must learn to respect and revere Hindu religion, must entertain no idea but the glorification of Hindu nation i.e. they must not only give up their attitude of intolerance and ingratitude towards this land and its age long traditions, but must also cultivate the positive attitude of love and devotion instead; in one word, they must cease to be foreigners or may stay in the country wholly subordinated to the Hindu nation, claiming nothing, deserving no privileges, for less any preferential treatment, not even the citizen's rights."[12]

When the Hindutva politics came up in the late 1980s, in the beginning an unsuspecting observer could not comprehend from where has the concept of Hindu nation come up suddenly, why such an intense hatred for minorities, a glance at We… and one becomes clear that those fed on this ideology cannot but be what they are, cannot do anything else than what they did and have been doing since 1990, the Babri demolition, the anti minority violence and an open violation of democratic ethos of the country. These ideas were translated into the stories of atrocities of Muslim kings, the myth of Hindus owning this land from times immemorial and a lot of such make believe concoction. Irrespective of the fact the freedom movement rejected this ideology and its formulations, it was kept alive through the ideological indoctrination work in the RSS shakhas going on ceaselessly.[13]

Golwalkar was also faced with some of the naïve swaymasevaks wishing to participate in the national movement, more so after the massive Quit India movement was launched. That time Golwalkar was the RSS chief and he dissuaded the people from participating in the movement, and some of them who participated did it in their personal capacity, some of them now claim that they also participated. As matter of fact Golwalkar was very contemptuous towards the anti British movement. There is no mention of presence of RSS in the anti British movement even in most of the sympathetic accounts written about it. Even Nanaji Deshmukh, the foremost leaders of RSS puts this question, why did RSS not take part in the liberation struggle as an organization?[14]

Since Golwalkar propounded religion-based nationalism, there was no place for anti British stance. "The theories of territorial nationalism and of common danger, which formed the basis of our concept of nation, had deprived us of the positive and inspiring content of our real Hindu Nationhood and made many of the 'freedom movements' virtually anti-British movements. Anti Britishism was equated with patriotism and nationalism. This reactionary view has had disastrous effects upon the entire course of freedom movement…".[15]

In a frank defence of British colonialist he reminds the people of RSS pledge, "We should remember that in our pledge we have talked of freedom of the country through defending religion and culture. There is no mention of departure of British in that."[16] With allies like this British could merrily pursue their policy of divide and rule![17]

No wonder British never repressed RSS. Also the collusion between religion based nationalism and colonialism can be understood from such statements. Later the World saw that in tune with this pro imperialist ideology, Golwalkar was to support the US aggression on Vietnam and his successor Sudarshan defended the US aggression against Iraq.

Domineering Indigenous Life

Controlling all life at large is the general strategy of RSS and this is part of the larger design through Cultural nationalism till political life. In the present time the most crucial aspect of the fascist agenda is to control the wholesome dynamics of indigenous life and its systems. The strategy of taking over all the possible institutions of civil society, right from the electronic media to primary schools, were applied by the champions of Hindutva to create a sensation of inferiority and thus to manipulate the masses.

Among the indigenous people two processes were induced in parallel. One was the deliberate formation of institutions such as Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram, Ekal Vidyalaya, Bal Bharti, Saraswati Sishu Mandir and Dalit Sanghs at the lowest level to train-up children and youth cadres and thus to inculcate a feeling that indigenous tradition and culture is inferior to that of Hindu religion and also to follow the mainstream Hindu religion as their lone religion. Secondly, the insurgence of consumeristic culture in such areas. Both these process went in parallel and are inter-related and empowers the coexistence. One of the outcomes of these trends is the crucial osmosis of Hindu strings and civilisation with all its flaws among the indigenous people plus a bonus of corrupting them as units of consumer market.

Nevertheless this fondness of controlling indigenous people has two basic reasons. One was to perpetuate the political power and right over their life though legitimising the social system and second to establish an unquestioned command over the resource zones of the country. Another vital part of the process is the development of internal colonisation. This is a vicious conspiracy by the Brahministic society to cohere the Dalits into their fold in order to continue the historical mode of oppression in new forms and incarnations.

Contrary to this situation, Adivasis were never part of Varnashram. Adivasis a wonderful model of egalitarianism and naturocentric life who had a lively past of living in proximity and harmony with nature are being on target of the principles of development. Uprooting them off their nature and culture is part and parcel of this concoct design itself. In the result they have been transformed into an exploited class. Jharkhand and Bastar are the best examples to check the impact of such trends and processes. Earlier these aspects were efficiently engineered through the socio-religious structures, but today it is taking a political shape, which in fact is communalisation of polity or inculcating the culture of fascism among the indigenous masses.

Dalits & Adivasis - the Logical Targets


Communal-fascism is exploring its way to elaborate its base and activities and action. It appears that building of philanthropic and religious institutions other than mentioned above like Deen Dayal Shodh Sansthan, Sanskriti Bihar, Vikas Bharit, Gayatri Pariwar, Brahmakumari Samaj, etc. are some of the strategies adopted to create inroads among the Dalits & Adivasis. Recruitment of young boys from these communities into the cadre of RSS, VHP, Bajrang Dal and arming them with hatred and intolerance against minorities are part of this process. Another strategy applied is the steady and systematic capturing of the community panchayats and organisations. In recent past the best example is of Gujarat where the communal fascists have got their stranglehold by adopting these. Such undercurrents are also active in states like Chhattisgarh and Orissa where the undercurrent of ‘mission re-conversion’ is on a mass scale.

All these have added impelling force to the Hindutva card among Dalits and Adivasis. By and large this consists of concepts like de-Dalitisation and de-Adivasisation. Eventually this tendency empowers the fascist forces and broadens its space.

Expansion of fascism has so far and is disintegrating the Dalit-Adivasi ideology, theology, and identity and intimidated their very existence. Apparently this ruptures the community, deteriorates the noble notions of sharing, caring and co-operation, expansion of patriarchy and battered the inkling of community ownership over resources and all remaining symbols of common property.

The Indestructible Association

While going into further analysis, fascism acts close to the current process of globalisation. Both these are two inter-dependent and inter-linked facets of capitalism. While globalisation is supposed to capture the global economic and political power by cutting the national boundaries and establishing/capturing the market, fascist forces acts as their local agents in its approaches and attitudes with a bonus of suppressive socio-cultural and religious domination.

The ideology of capitalism assumes absoluteness only through its offspring fascism. In India, Washington is taking a lenient view to prop up the communal fascist government of the BJP Hindu nationalists. The global governance can afford to accommodate and promote religious fundamentalist regimes as long as they are useful weapons in their hand because they have several things in common. That is why despite the State’s crucial role in the Gujarat genocide, Washington never intervened with any principle disagreement strong opposition, but when there is any reposition to challenge the global capital regime it is met with war as it was the case of Afghanistan and Iraq.

The political segments in India, by and large, strive and thrive to cater the global and national capitalistic market. As a part of this practice, there is an invisible ‘safety net’ around the capitalist camp. Having nothing to do with the people, the resources are rapidly being opened for the neo-colonisers to be explored and exploited. This great surrender before the global capital market implicates the momentum by which the fascist-capitalist nexus is plundering the resources.

Targeting the resources is directly an assault on indigenous masses. Since their land, property, forest and other resources are the pastureland for any sort of investment, strategies and planning are formulated in such a way to allure them so that they get entangled in the web and are unable to break it. This eventually culminates into large scale of displacement and migration, heavy loss of land and resources, robs them of their rich tradition and culture, and leads to the irreversible and perpetual loss of livelihood source. Therefore fascism is utmost visible in the market.

So

Never before in the history have we witnessed such a period of deliberate drift of further confusing and disempowerment of Dalits and Adivasis. It has constantly succeeded in gearing up its organisational tactics and mobilisation methods to subtly crush the energy of people, and divert it; thus draining off their capacity to fight for their rights and their ability to resist injustice. It is sucking them like a vampire day by day.

Under this circumstance, where humanitarian norms and values are degenerating and the indigenous people stand at the receiving end, is it possible for us to go back to these communities and unveil the wolf inside the goat’s skin? Can we stand with the Dalits and Adivasis in developing a counter movement to combat the fascist-capitalist forces? Can we intentionally foster the indigenous people towards a socialist, secular, democratic and decentralised polity? This is the biggest challenge before us, or else the story will remain the same.


Goldy M. George is a social activist working on Dalit & Adivasi Human Rights in Chhattisgarh and could be contacted on dalitstudycircle@yahoo.com or goldymgeorge@gmail.com .

[1] “Vande Mataram - A Historical Perspective” by a staff writer in a monthly magazine viz. ‘Islamic Voice’, Volume 12-12 No. 144, December 1998.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Thaper, Romila, “The Future of the Indian Past”, From the Seventh D. T. Lakdawala Memorial Lecture delivered at FICCI Auditorium, New Delhi on 21 February 2004, organised by the Institute of Social Sciences.
[4] Ramaswami, Sushila “Hedgewar and RSS – Revising History in the light of BJP Perception”, The Statesman, 26 June, 2003
[5] Puniyani, Ram “M.S. Golwalkar: Conceptualising Hindutva Fascism”, www.countercurrents.org 10 March, 2006.
[6] Ibid.
[7] Islam, Shamsul “Undoing India: The RSS way”
[8] Optical Cite, Ram Puniyani
[9] Curran, J.A., “RSS: Militant Hinduism in Indian Politics - A study of RSS”, page 39
[10] Optical Cite, Ram Puniyani
[11] Golwalkar, M.S., “We or Our Nationhood Defined”, page 37

[12] Ibid, page 52
[13] Optical Cite, Ram Puniyani
[14] Deshmukh, Nanaji, “Victim of Slander, page 70
[15] Golwalkar, M.S., Bunch of thoughts, page 138
[16] Shri Guruji Samgra Darshan, Vol 4, page 2
[17] Optical Cite, Ram Puniyani

Dalit Study Circle, A unit of Dalit Mukti Morcha, Chhattisgarh

Creation of a casteless and peaceful society is indeed the first step towards just, egalitarian, and harmonious society. A society of equals, neither unequal nor more-equals, beyond the strings of caste, class, gender, race, etc. Otherwise it leads to social oppression, political exploitation, economic deprivation, cultural domination, gender discrimination, class isolation, deliberate exclusion. Lets’ believe in a society beyond this. Dalit Mukti Morcha is a mass based Dalit Organisation in Chhattisgarh. For further information on DMM, write to dalitmuktimorcha@gmail.com

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