By Nalini Taneja
25 February, 2004
seem to be witness to a rather contradictory phenomenon these days.
The attacks on education and secular cultural expression have become
more frequent, far more sectarian, and reflect anything but a desire
to accommodate. On the other hand, at the level of electoral politics
the BJP is going around appealing to all and sundry to join its already
quite broad NDA alliance. How does it manage this apparently quite contradictory
feat? How does it get away with it? Even parties who it seems would
stand to lose their mass base, should the BJP succeed in its Hindutva
agenda, are ready to join an electoral alliance that includes them,
and to fall in line with a cultural agenda that excludes them.
Despite the recent
victories in the assembly elections one can say that in electoral terms
the BJP remains just where it was in the last round of national elections.
It is in no position to win the coming elections and form a government
on its own. Yet it gets away with attacks on culture and educational
institutions, both matters of direct concern to people. In ideological
terms it is much stronger than it was in the last round, primarily because
its social and political vision finds favour with and reflects the prerogatives
of the ruling classes better than any other party.
IN THE SERVICE
OF RULING CLASSES
The BJP it has achieved
almost a monopoly of support from the ruling classes. This support becomes
a big factor in pressurising other bourgeois parties, the Congress and
the regional groupings, to accommodate the Sangh Parivar cultural agenda.
They are after all competing for and reflecting the same ruling class
interests. The leaders of these other parties may question whether India
is really shining, but for most of them, their vision of a shining India
is not much different from that of the BJP.
All said and done,
there was never so much dissatisfaction against the ruling classes,
and never so much domination of popular imagination by ruling class
ideas. While it is possible today to have great trade union actions
on issues of service conditions, livelihood and the right to strike,
and there is widespread opposition to fee hikes, denial of access to
water, increasing costs of power and the erosion of the PDS, this does
not necessarily translate into opposition to the Sangh Parivars
THE RIGHT WING
The BJP on its part
is willing to concede as little in terms of its cultural agenda, as
it is in terms of its economic agenda. The erosion of the Nehruvian,
Liberal paradigm in economy has meant a weakening of the politics of
the centre and the collapse of the liberal political alternative. The
parliamentary representative institutions assiduously built by the early
nationalist leadership are being twisted and manipulated to serve right
wing economic and political agendas. The great flexibility and fluidity
of electoral political alliances is but a manifestation of this erosion
of liberal politics and the ascendancy of the right wing, and a situation
where apart from the Left there is no political party that takes an
uncompromising stand against communalism.
cultural and educational, are today being captured not from those branded
as Left or pseudo secularists, but from those who represent
a conservative stance in ideological terms. The agendas being undermined
in the more recent spate of attacks (barring those on Habib Tanvir)
are not those of the Left, who have already been sidelined in all institutions
that matter over these last four and a half years, but those who stood
with the right wing through the Nehruvian years. Left leaning journalists
in most sectors of media are under extreme pressure and have little
independence. It is only in the universities and colleges that they
still have a presence as teachers and trade unionists.
A lot of those under
attack now are individuals and institutions that have contributed to
the notion of an eternal India primarily Hindu in soul.
In fact it would not be out of place to state here that while Nehru
was busy building his temples of learningthe IITs and Centres
of Science and Technologyand public sector units of heavy industry
with the help of socialist USSR, cultural institutions remained permeated
and dominated by people of soft Hindutva persuasion and little secular
concern. Institutions like Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan, Sangeet Natak Academies
and Sahitya Academies have never fostered or promoted democratic cultural
expression. Those at the helm of affairs in cultural fields have tended
to be patronising towards popular culture, and crafts and dances and
have showcased them in festivals, but their cultural expression has
never been seen as intrinsic to the making of India as a civilisation
even, leave alone to the making of its political personality.
DOMINATED BY LIBERALS
That even these institutions and individuals are now under attack by
the radical right is an indication of the narrowness and exclusivity
of the cultural vision of the Sangh Parivar and the government that
represents them. It reflects and parallels the narrowness and exclusivity
of the pro-ruling class economic policies of the Sangh Parivar and the
government that represents them. It is this parallel, which necessitates
suppression of all dissent and democratic expression that also makes
attacks on cultural expression tolerable to those political parties
who claim to be secular and concerned about minorities, dalits and women.
It is not simple opportunism. It can be seen in the media coverage of
these events which reduce these attacks to madnesses indulged in by
the [lunatic] right wing fringe, without holding the right
wing government responsible. We have this fringe, as ministers in our
government is something the corporate owned media seems not to have
noticed, despite the routine and continuous appearances of these ministers
on the platforms of this right wing fringe.
The trend was perhaps
set by the takeover of the Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts, which
despite being built up by the Congress regime was always dominated by
those who are soft on Brahminism in culture and whose critique of modernity
has always been from a conservative right-wing point of view. They have
now been usurped by the radical rightthe independent radical right
intellectual and the Sangh Parivar variety, for both of which they helped
do intellectual spadework (to borrow Lukacs phrase).
Bharat Bhavan has
a similar history. Established during the Arjun Singh era in Madhya
Pradesh by his right hand man (right in several senses)
and the culture Czar, Ashok Vajpeyi, it has traversed diverse territories
in the last few decades from being a den of avowedly anti-communist
and anti-left intellectuals and artists and Cold-War think tank in culture
to a right-of-the-centre cultural institution with some semblance of
liberal outlook to a culturally cosmopolitan forum of artistic exchange.
Despite its overt and covert support to the political right and blatant
anti-left prejudice it was always in hot waters whenever a BJP government
came to power in Madhya Pradesh because of the tussle over control.
Research Institute (BORI) of Pune has not exactly been known for being
a centre of enlightenmentit has often been seen as a place of
Brahmanical dominance and reactionary leanings of its establishment.
In fact, it is people associated with it who have initiated chauvinist
historiography on Maharashtra, and there are many among them who initiated
also the demand for ban on Laines Shivaji book. It is a different
matter that the situation is now out of their control.
Bharatiya Lok Kala
Mandal is now being attacked by Bajrang Dal for sponsoring a campaign
on brest feeding which uses pictures of Gods and Godesses to make the
point. It is an indication of todays situation that we are today
forced to defend this parochial form of promoting something, which can
equally well be promoted on a scientific ground.
But perhaps the
two most blatant examples of the narrowness and sectarianism of the
Parivars vision is reflected in the removal of MGS Narayanan as
Chairman of ICHR, and the call for removing the name of Allauddin Khan
from the Madhya Pradesh Sangeet Academy. MGS Narayanan, we may remember,
aided the removal of secular and left historians from the ICHR boards,
and was made Chairman by Murli Manohar Joshi himself. Alauddin Khan,
the great doyen of Indian music, who made the village of Maihar in Madhya
Pradesh his home and started the renowned Maihar Band by organising
the orphaned Dalit children of the area and teaching them music. He
incidentally was also the father of Ali Akbar Khan, Annapurna and guru
and father-in-law of Ravi Shankar. Several other illustrious names in
Indian music have been his disciples, such as Nikhil Bannerjee. He has
been called by the loutish and ignorant minister of culture from BJP
as a Bangladeshi singer, notwithstanding the fact that the
Ustad was born in an undivided in Indiain 1872! Of course Advani
was also born in Sindh, which is now Pakistan.
We must recognise
that these are efforts to intimidate people, and to show what can happen
to those who do not fall in line. It is today necessary to defend all
those under attack by the Hindutva forces, to recognise their extreme
sectarianism and make the broadest possible front with those who oppose
the Hindutva forces. It is also necessary, however to recognise the
nature of the attacks and the character of those who are being attacked,
for they may go along with us only some part of the way, and not very