Most of us have begun to notice that things are changing in our country. New laws are being passed and old laws are being ignored. So let’s ask ourselves a question; is life in India today similar to life in a fascist regime?
The following are the different identifiers of life in a fascist regime. I shall draw comparisons between each identifier to life in India today which should allow us to determine for ourselves the answer to that question.
1. Fascist governments control the way people live. Those who criticize the government or do not obey are punished. They must leave the country, go to prison or are often executed.
If you are an Indian reader, you already know about the favourite word of the current Indian government upon reading the first identifier.
The BJP or Ban Janta Party does not even try to disguise the reasons for its bans. It does not need to, the number of supporters of the party and its conservative Hindutva ideologies are strong enough that all they need to do is simply state how they would like us all to live and then make sure we all do so.
The most directly fascist move in the list would be the ban on beef. Just this year (2015) Maharashtra and Haryana banned the sale and possession of beef, treating it like drugs in the eyes of the law. The proposed sentence of 5 years for possession has also been called out for its harshness in comparison to ‘criminal’ offences.
In fascist societies one group is chosen as the ‘superior’ group. To exercise their power over the ‘inferior’ groups the ‘superior’ will alienate the ‘inferior’ groups by making them follow the rules as defined by them i.e the superior race.
The ban on beef had an added benefit of destroying several beef related industries that traditionally, in India, has only had non-Hindu participants, from Christian farmers to Muslim beef exporters.
Preamble to our Constitution states that the Indian government is secular and the constitution provides us with the fundamental Right to Freedom of Religion. While consumption of beef is not a religious mandate of Muslims, Christians or other religious groups in India, it is still a choice provided to them by their religion and country.
The ability to rob someone of this free choice because the ‘superior’ group doesn’t approve of it, is at the core of this ideology. The bikini ban in Goa is yet another such example. Foreigners and those who don’t subscribe to the lifestyle of the ‘superior’ group are considered inferior, and therefore need to be alienated or made to behave in an agreeable manner.
Fascist governments have party members, workers and supporters who believing in their own collective superiority will take to moral policing, wherein a group of individuals, will force on others their beliefs and way of life.
Witnessed most recently in the case of Madh Moral Policing by Mumbai Police, where the police rounded up over 50 couples from the beaches and hotels for behaving indecently. The same actions of the police were later called illegal, intrusive and unconstitutional by the Bombay High Court.
Civilian moral policing is also prevalent in India today, take the following two horrific incidents for example:
2. Fascist leaders want to make their state strong and powerful. They claim that only the strongest and fittest in the population can survive. With the help of a strong army they go to war and expand their territory.
The go-to topic in relation to this identifier, is the India-Pak conflict that has escalated since the BJP came to power. But if we were to be mature about this, we would easily realize that India – Pak conflicts are just a farce. Neither will actually start a war because neither has a vested interest in conflict. Besides, and maybe more importantly, both are nuclear powers and hence would never declare war on each other, but both countries use the misinformation from these border conflicts to influence the way their citizens perceive: their own governments, the government of the ‘enemy’ and the ‘enemy’.
Besides military might there is another way a state gains power and strength- money. A powerful economy that is capable of affecting the functioning of different economies in the world by its own movements, is a truly powerful and strong country.
The places marked in blue are the ones visited by Prime Minister Modi since he took over the PM’s office.
Therein lies the sitting Indian government’s focus. Sitting? Sorry the traveling Prime Minister and his Government. The objective is to open trade with the powerful economies so as to gain might, power and influence in state and internationally. But the cause and effect of such a rapid burst into the global economy requires a certain lack of ‘regulations and reforms’ for corporations which can get the economy hooked to the tide of the global market, and that inadvertently causes strain on the currency, but the effect of which is only felt by the lower income groups and through the toll on the environment due to the practices of unregulated corrupt corporations.
Surajbai, 80, poses at the site of her old home in Barkutta, which was destroyed. The land is now under the proposed area of expansion by the Kusmunda coal mining operation. Image source: Al Jazeera
3. School teachers show children that only the state is important. Pupils must exercise to stay healthy. Young organizations are often created in which children admire the state and learn slogans and songs. They are trained to march and follow the beliefs of the ruling party.
Remember that the state we are talking about is the BJP whose core ideologies are conservatism, Hindu nationalism and Hindutva.
“They (non-vegetarians) easily cheat, tell lies, they forget promises, they are dishonest and tell bad words, steal, fight and turn to violence and commit sex crimes.” Class six CBSE textbook titled, ‘New Healthway: Health, Hygiene, Physiology, Safety, Sex Education, Games and Exercises’ teaches eleven year old students the ‘truth’ about non veg people.
“Instead (of celebrating birthday with cakes and candles), we should follow a purely Indian culture by wearing swadeshi clothes, doing a havan and praying to ishtadev (preferred deity), reciting mantras such as Gayatri mantra, distributing new clothes to the needy, feeding cows, distributing ‘prasad’ and winding up the day by playing songs produced by Vidya Bharati.” – Shikhan nu Bhartiyakaran (Indianisation of Education) by Dinanath Batra. This textbook is used in Gujarat’s primary schools.
Dinanath Batra, was appointed as the full time General Secretary of Vidya Bharati in 1990, which is the educational wing of the famed RSS. It runs one of the largest network of private schools in India. As of 2013, it had 25,377 schools, with over 3.4 million students, over 147,500 teachers, over 15 teacher training colleges, 12 degree colleges and 7 vocational and training institutions. Most of the Vidya Bharati schools are affiliated to the Central Board for Secondary Education or their local State Boards.
“The pilot and the Indian together thrashed the negro and tied him up with rope. Like a tied buffalo, he frantically tried to escape but could not. The plane landed safely in Chicago. The negro was a serious criminal…and this brave Indian was an employee of Air India.” Prernadeep -2 used in English medium primary schools in Gujarat. This one is so outrageous that you probably do not believe it exists. However, the most amazing instance would have to be the following: “Hitler lent dignity and prestige to the German government within a short time, establishing a strong administrative set-up.”- Gujarat textbook for Class X
4. Fascist governments try to give all people work, mainly in the industries they need. They build roads, hospitals and industries which help them rise to power.
The promise of development, that will benefit the common man, is the basis on which BJP came to power, and the promise that the entrepreneur’s life is going to become extremely easy assured BJP the required donations and votes.
“Our government has speeded up the construction of highways by seven times,” said the Union Road Transport and Highways Minister, Nitin Gadkari. BJP-led Centre is building highways at a pace of 14-km per day while the previous Congress regime laid only two kms a day, Gadkari said National Highway works worth Rs Five Lakh crore would be generated in the next five years providing employment opportunities to 50 lakh youths.
Another example of this would be PM Modi’s 1.25 lakh crore special package assigned to Bihar (third most populated state in India) just ahead of Bihar polls about which the BJP President Shri Amit Shah said that the Hon’ble Prime Minister has granted a comprehensive economic package to establish Bihar in the list of developing states so that the state could become a self-reliant state, to provide jobs for the younger generation and everyone will be able to achieve all-round development whether it will be farmers, labourers, women, downtrodden or backward class.
The flip side to all of this is whether these new developments in infrastructure and industries will hurt or help the economy. One such situation already showing itself are the ghost airports, most of these airports were planned by the Congress government, but they need to be addressed now. Besides BJP too is on an airport construction spree.
India has spent more than $50 million since 2009 on eight airports that do not receive scheduled flights, these airports need to be given serious thought as the Prime Minister is betting on the economy to fuel growth. One such airport is Jaisalmer’s $17 million new terminal building.
“They (the government) need to realise it’s not a case of ‘build the airport and we will come“, Sanjiv Kapoor, COO at SpiceJet Ltd, in regard with their decision to stop flying to a Mysore airport due to lack of demand.
5. In fascist countries no other political parties are allowed. The government controls newspapers, radio and television. There is no freedom of speech.
“If freedom of expression is under attack, if religious freedom is threatened and if substantial parts of society live in physical fear for their safety, then such a society cannot be said to be a true democracy,” Mr. Rushdie said in early 2014.
More than anything else, what is truly worrying is the kind of self-censorship that is prevalent in today’s Indian society. This means that we have begun to change our own behaviour because of our Government’s intolerance to dissent. This should never be the case. A country’s people should never be afraid of their own government in a democracy.
In conclusion ask yourself the same question I did at the beginning; is life in India today the same as life in a fascist regime?