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Erosion Of Democratic Norms:
A case Of Modi

By Ram Puniyani

11 December, 2007

Current Gujarat elections, irrespective of their
results, will remain etched in the memory of the
nation for wrong reasons. Gujarat witnessed the
burning of Sabarmati express at Godhra in Feb 2002.
The carnage which followed this train accident claimed
the lives of thousands of innocents and simultaneously
polarized Gujarat along religious lines. The process
of ghettotisation of Muslims and the fear of
minorities constructed in the minds of majority
community are staring in our face. At the same time
the threads of democratic nationalism, national
integration are breaking rapidly. While various
citizens' inquiry reports did point out the pre
planned nature of the pogrom and the role of RSS
combine led by Modi in the carnage, we could all see
the same for ourselves thanks to the Tehelka. The
consequent polarization led to the victory of the
leader of the carnage back to power in the elections
which took place a bit later. In the elections of
2002, the main opposition party, Congress did not
gather strength to take on Modi with full vigor. One
of the reasons was that Modi deflected the criticism
directed again him and against RSS combine as the
insult to 5 crore Gujartis, and his assertion was well
received in a section of society.

The Tehelka sting showed some of the perpetrators
boasting about their crimes in front of the camera,
and this made most of the people realize once again
the gravity of the crime. Now most of the society got
a direct feel of what had happened, who did it.
Society also registered that the reports of citizens
groups were on the dot in pinpointing the malaise of
Gujarat society. It was in this background that Sonia
Gandhi in her election campaign called the Modi led
BJP as the merchants of death. Modi realized that the
truth is being said after all, and tried to raise the
communal and criminal sentiments by justifying the
extra judicial killing of Sorabuddin, who was killed
in a fake encounter by the police.

The ploy was that since a section of society has been
communized enough, the illegal act of killing someone
will get him sympathy votes. He took 'credit' for this
'bravery' of killing of Soharabuddin and his wife.
Human rights workers raised the issue of Modi
communalizing and criminalizing the people's mindset.
And as is his wont, he presented the criticism against
him as the insult of people of Gujarat, of Gujarat

Usual damage control exercises unrolled, he has been
quoted out of context, he does not justify the extra
judicial killings etc. But the damage was done and
election commission took a serous note of it. The
frail nature of legal mechanism, as to how a
democratically elected chief minister, takes oath in
the name of constitution, than openly incites the
public and tries to bask in the 'glory' of this
illegal act done by state machinery, is there for all
to see.

The larger issue of democratic norms, morality and
polity are put at the backburner, with the leaders
doing their electoral arithmetic of what will help
them more in getting the power. Now the issue can be
discussed at the level of legalities and also at the
level of electoral arithmetic. All these do have their
importance but one also needs to be concerned about
the deeper and broader issues related to our
constitution, as to what is happening to the values of
democracy enshrined in our constitution?

In Gujarat the legal norms have been put aside in
matters of rehabilitation and in the post violence
justice. In 'regular' life patterns, now a section of
Muslims are willing to bend on their knees to survive,
willing to 'forgive' unilaterally, while no body is
caring to ask for their forgiveness. The 'charisma' of
Modi is on the rise. He was keeping the communal card,
under wraps till the word Merchants of death was
hurled upon him. And then he unraveled his communal
face with full force just before the polling. All this
sounds so unusual but we are becoming used to the
prevalence of these things. Does it ring familiar to
something which happened in history? While there are
lot of differences from what happened in Germany some
similarities are too glaring.

The targeting of minorities, the total abolition of
democratic space, the social common sense directed
against the minorities and secularists, and consensus
built around the fascist state are very similar. 'Kill
them, kill them' is what Modi could easily extract
from the section of crowd for Soharabuddin. What
distinguishes Gujarat from the Germany's state of
affairs in 30s and 40s of last century is that here
the process is taking place at a slower pace and the
same process is on with different intensities in
different states of the country. So can we use the
term Chronic Fascism in Gujarat in contrast to acute
fascism of Germany. Whole of Germany was totally
gripped by this politics, while in India Gujarat is
worst but all the same in other states also this
fascism is strangulating democratic space, though with
different degrees of intensity. The biggest similarity
is the 'successes' of a fascist party, which in
Germany took the pretext of race and here it is
wearing the garb of religion. Interestingly earlier
and even now the fascist parties are using the
democratic space to come to power, to precisely
abolish the same in due course.

During last two and a half decades the rise of right
wing politics has taken place on the pretext of
Hinduism, while it has nothing to do with the humane
streams of Hinduism. It claims to be for Hindus, while
majority of Hindus have become victim of this
intimidating politics. It reflects the state of
erosion of our democratic norms and gradual
strengthening of the forces which do talk about
democracy but are deeply wedded to the RSS, the
organization which is opposed to democracy and wants
to bring Hindu nation. That the concept of Hindu
nation is for Hindus, is just a pretext. It
essentially aims to abolish the values of liberty
equality and fraternity and strengthens the hold of
section of Hindus, the elite, males, on the whole
society. The trick is the agenda of a small dominant
section of society has been propagated as being for
all Hindus.

Coming to Gujarat, one can clearly make out that there
is a slow but dangerous march towards a fascist state.
The classical fascism which one witnessed in Germany
and Italy in the early decades of last century was
marked by the targeting of minorities, of social
rights groups/parties and at the same time doing away
with all democratic norms. It created a terrorizing
atmosphere, where the handful ruled the roost with the
charisma of leader like Hitler, who swayed the people,
worked and he got the anti democratic things accepted
by people in the initial part of the rule, till
Germany itself collapsed under the weight of the
fascist boots. Such politics does discover and project
a single charismatic leader, in Germany it was Hitler,
in Gujarat it is Modi. Incidentally RSS nationalism
also took lot of inspiration from Hitler's
Nationalism, "German national pride has now become the
topic of the day. To keep up the purity of nation and
its culture, Germany shocked the world by her purging
the country of Semitic races-The Jews. National pride
at its highest has been manifested here. Germany has
also shown how neigh impossible it is for races and
cultures, having differences going to the root, to be
assimilated into one united whole, a good lesson for
us in Hindustan to learn and profit by." (We or Our
nationhood Defined,1938)

The politics of RSS combine has cleverly adopted
itself to the Indian situation and has gone on to
create a fear of the miniscule minority. It is quite
similar to Hitler creating a phobia against Jews,
holding them responsible for the plight of Germany,
and using that as the center of his policies
terrorizing the whole nation into submission to the
agenda of fascism, abolition of the concept of rights,
something which is the life and breath of democracy,
something which is a shield for the average people to
survive. While a large section of Gujarat, Minorities,
dalits, adivasis and women are suffering the middle
and affluent classes are able to get their way through
the agenda of vibrant Gujarat!

The analogy does not end here. The terrorizing
atmosphere created in Gujarat does remind us of the
status of minorities. Now the large sections of
minorities feel that they have been relegated to the
second class citizenship status. Their insecurity is
the index of our democratic ethos. It is correctly
pointed out that if you want to see the state of
health of democracy, have a look at the status of its

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