The Indian Road : The Tolerance of Intolerance
Anupam Kher, a popular and accomplished actor who has been dabbling in politics, organised this protest-against-protest march, arguing that the recent protests by a broad section of Indian intelligentsia against growing intolerance in India undermines the country's image abroad. In a way, this is a sort of political faux pas, as this proves the very point the ruling party is desperately trying to disprove: That it does not matter that a large number of Indian writers, film makers and thought leaders are denouncing, in no uncertain terms, the cultural violence it has unleashed in the country since it won the general election last year.
Indeed, all these were vigorously exploited by the thriving news channels, and ruling party spokesmen appeared there with the incontrovertible justification - that we should accept all these because this might have happened before. Indeed, questioning the very basis of this logic - how, even if something might have happened in the previous Congress regime, may justify its recurrence and most importantly, official sanction - has been branded conspiratorial. The official strategy of being silent about even the most heinous crimes, such as lynching of an innocent man accused of eating beef at home, has been interpreted, perhaps as it was intended to be, as support of such actions (just as Mr Modi encouraged the rioters in Gujarat, who massacred over 2000 Muslim men, women and children, in 2002, by remaining silent and inactive for three days, after which he was forced to accept Military detachments sent by the Central Government).
What is underway is indeed a transformation of India. While the ruling party keeps defending itself that such intolerance is not new, what we are seeing now is not mere intolerance, as the media is portraying it to be, and isolated individual acts. Rather, with the encouragement of the Government and ruling party MPs, this is a planned transformation of India as a Total State, representing a majoritarian ideology and making a clear break with its secular and democratic past. This may appear a tall claim now, but one must note that this is perfectly consistent with the RSS ideology, the movement of which the ruling party, BJP, is a part. RSS was founded as a social organisation following the inspiration of Mussolini and his movement. They evidently believe their moment has come - Narendra Modi's landslide victory last year was their equivalent of march on Rome - and they have now embarked on an agenda of social and cultural transformation backed by the full power of the state.
This economic failure, as any reading of Fascist history would suggest, eventually leads to a search for other, those who could be blamed because they are different, or those who disagree. This is the process that is now underway. The election theme of BJP in Bihar, which has now spectacularly backfired, was that people should vote for it for Development, and voting for the other side would light up firecrackers in Pakistan. Expecting the party to learn the lesson from the overwhelming rejection in Bihar would be expecting too much. One would rather expect to see the return of a tried-and-tested strategy of authoritarian rule, communal discord leading to riots leading to imposition of emergency, as the ideologues realise the limits of their demagoguery - that one can fool some people all the time, or all people some of the time, but not all people all the time.