This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Saarang Narayan. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

My View Of How Capitalism Has Strengthened The Right Wing Outlook In India

By Saarang Narayan:

An activist from the hardline Hindu group Bajrang Dal, attends a protest rally in the northern Indian city of Lucknow September 12, 2007. Thousands of activists gathered on Wednesday to take part in a nation wide protest rally against the controversial project to carve a shipping channel in seas off the Indian south coast despite protests by religious groups who say it will destroy a mythical bridge of sand made by a Hindu god. REUTERS/Pawan Kumar (INDIA) - RTR1TR6H
Source: Reuters/Pawan Kumar.

In all the textbooks of capitalism and political economy, one will always find the notion that capitalism as an economic system is accompanied by the ideals of ‘Modernity’. These ideals of modernity include democracy, socio-political equality, the rule of law, basic human rights of all citizens, a scientific and rational outlook and so on. In simpler words, capitalism means democracy, science, rationality etc. This is true for most of the capitalist nations of the 20th-century world economy. However, things are changing. Today, it is more or less the opposite.

How? Why?

In the last four decades or so, post-modernism has surfaced as a critique of ‘modernity’. Critics of modernity have problematised thus, the notions of democracy, science, rationality, justice, universality and so on; they assert that “everything that we think has biases and influences. Thus, nothing is black or white; everything is grey.” As an example, we may look at the case of a post-modern critique of human rights.

In essence, human rights are defined to be universally applicable to all humans. However, post-modern critics point out that ‘Western/Modern’ notions of individualism prevailing in human rights decrease the importance of family values and traditional communal relations in countries of Asia and Africa. This example further indicates that post-modernism has had a special place in the academia in the Third World.

In India, post-modernity encompasses similar critiques of all Modern thought as being a “colonial discourse” or “imperialist project”; labeling everything Modern as Eurocentric is the new trend. However, it has brewed a dangerous cocktail. Today, one may be a Hindu and a Feminist at the same time. The wise thing to do today is to locate ‘science’ in our past; to see how our traditions and heritage is as good and scientific as any other nation: the classic postmodern trope. To a certain degree, I concede this.

But this line of thought goes into far more dangerous territory – the Hindu Right. By placing astrology on equal footing with astronomy, for example, scholars like Ashis Nandy created the academic base for the retention of feudal ideals. The answer to questions like why we still live in a caste-based society is simply that we did not go to the end of the path of modernity; we took a detour that just runs in circles. Instead of, say, legally abolishing caste or derecognising politico-religious groups, we created a space for the hyper-assertion of pre-modern identities.

Besides, there has been a new inclusion into this set of pre-modern ideas. This is the idea of nationalism, or ‘rashtravaad’ to be precise. The antecedent of (falsely) asserting the idea of the Indian nation being present in ‘Ancient’ and ‘Medieval’ times is the hyper-nationalist rhetoric. This has found a space in the urban middle-class consciousness.

But where does Capitalism come into the picture?

The biggest event in recent times, where capitalism came under the scanner, is the 2008 crisis. Many believed that the crisis was a window for change; now things will change forever and never be the same again. Indeed, this happened. But it was very different from what was desired. Big industrialists and corporate houses, especially in America, blamed the state for having too much control over the economy; that there was little freedom for the big banks and companies to function. Since they have influence over some of the biggest lobbies in the global political arena, their voice was heard and accepted by all governments. Thus, the mantra for dealing with the crisis has been ‘back to the basics’. Just like the Arya Samajists, the call was for more ‘marketisation’, abolishing all tariff walls, lesser policy control over capital, intensified workers’ exploitation: back to the roots (of Capitalism)! Thus, it left no scope for the Left or for the Keynesians to have a say.

German philosopher Peter Sloterdijk had noted that it is people like Lee Kuan Yew (the late Singaporean Prime Minister) who would be revered in the new century. This is to say that the new style of highly authoritarian capitalism is what almost all countries have to follow to continue with the capitalistic structures. This is what has been called ‘Capitalism with Asian Values’.

The countries that fared through the crisis better were the ones where this authoritarian form of Capitalism functioned undisturbed and unchallenged. Post-2008, virtually all elections across the globe have been won by right-wing parties that are socio-culturally conservative. The free market has now been married to authoritarianism. Therefore, it is of little surprise that, in India, on the one hand, we have the Modi who wants to “Make in India” for the big capitalists, while on the other hand we have the Modi of 2002, the Sangh ‘pracharak’, the Hindu fundamentalist we have for our Prime Minister. This is post-modernism.

Coming back to the point of postmodernity, the dangerous concoction of lesser democracy and greater ‘marketisation’ must not be seen as an anomaly in the story of Capital. In Europe, capitalism led to the breakdown of feudal ties because they undermined the circulation of Capital. Democracy was seen as a natural ally of Capital, creating a new division of labour. However, in India, a division of labour has always existed in the varna-jati system. The lower castes have perpetually been “sacralised into labour.” No other social group has been involved in rendering services to the rest of society like the ‘shudras’. They were the ones who fought the kings’ battles, built royal palaces, imposing forts and awesome temples, tilled the fields, reaped the harvests, cleaned the drains, washed the floors, carried the shit and burnt the dead. Capitalism doesn’t need to break down any ‘feudal’ ties in India. There was no need to create a new proletariat; there always existed a workforce ready to be exploited. There was always a fissure that has now exploded into a volcano. And post-modernism has justified it.

The space created by post-modernism for the justification of ‘ancient knowledge’ and ‘bharatiya sanskriti’ has reasserted pre-modern identities in the market economy of our parochial democracy. Exploitation of the workforce is justified on grounds of vulgar economic nationalism, the disfigured remnant of the resistance to colonialism. The true message behind Make in India is, “be ready to be exploited, this time in the name of our country so that we may become the new hegemon!” As part of this, workers’ rights have slowly and silently been brushed under the carpet; anybody who dares bring it up becomes a Naxalite and a ‘desh-drohi’.

Is it mere coincidence that the Hindu Right emerged as a major political force at the same time that the Liberalisation of the economy took place in 1991? There is enough evidence to point towards the answer. The market and Capital have one simple logic: the generation and reinvestment of profit by any means necessary, under any structure, any socio-political scenario. There is no need for capitalism to be Eurocentric or Modern. The seemingly stagnant “Asian society” is suitable enough for Capital to operate in.

It is time that our criticism of capitalism and the market changed. It is time for a far more radical critique. Capitalism is now playing the game that its critics once began. Post-modernity has opened the doors of the horrors of pre-modern India to pass into today’s world. In demolishing the ‘Eurocentric’ structures of democracy, justice, equality, secularism and the like, the structures of the ancient and medieval world have been resuscitated. This is the night of the living dead, the zombie apocalypse, as it were!

Hence, we must reflect on this. Today’s hyper-permissive capitalism is very liberal on the face. But it is at its heart, most conservative. It may seem like a structure that allows us to live with freedom to express our true identity. But in playing by its postmodern rules, we often forget the excesses involved in our self-identification. Thus, our critique of Capital must be renewed in a radical manner. For as we have seen, asking for smaller, more immediate changes has only led to the strengthening of Capital, rather than its collapse. The 2008 crisis was its true ‘phoenix moment’: rather than burning out, Capitalism has emerged from its own ashes, stronger and meaner. We must sharpen our sickles and ready our hammers while the iron is still hot. The renewed machine is just feeding us fodder and making us fat before it eats all of us up!

You must be to comment.
  1. Sameer Shaikh

    Lee Kuan was one of the only two nation builders of the 20th century. Rare to find people like him. Singapore transformation from a third world backwater island to a modern metrolpolis has given many lessons to world. Mind you even after being diverse, it is a model country in religous pluralism. Mosque in Singapore are place not only for worship but act an community centers for social bonding with other communities and recreational activities and social service to people.

More from Saarang Narayan

Similar Posts

By Myra Rolston

By Adivasi Lives Matter

By Samaira Guleria

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below