It has been alleged that India is becoming an intolerant state, which has started to function on the beliefs of a particular religious philosophy. Internationally, India is being defamed as a nation that does injustice to the minorities. India, which has forever bragged off its principles of ‘unity in diversity’, is being accused of being the proponents of hatred and discrimination towards religious minorities. Minorities have claimed that the unwillingness shown by the majority, to accept beliefs that contrast their own, has instigated upheaval in the social circles.
Commotion in the society is seen in the form of mob lynching, communal insurgencies, forced conversions, religious vehemence, hate crimes, etc. Executions on the pretext of “cow protection” have become commonplace. Often, the followers of a specific faith are found victimised by the self-proclaimed vigilantes.
It is not surprising to note, that the rise of right-wing ideologies in the Indian political scene, has made the matter more acute. With the far-right setting up a stronghold in the Indian legislature, it has become a fear of many that India is slowly moving towards fascism.
Fascism is a right-wing political philosophy that promotes ultranationalism, and interests of a specific race or religion. It stands for a centralised, autocratic government, headed by a dictatorial leader, with severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition. It might be disguised in the form of an imposing democratic regime.
It emerged in the 1910s in Italy and was endorsed by Benito Mussolini. From Italy, it spread to other parts of Europe. Adolf Hitler was one of the leading fascists.
Let us briefly discuss the current scenario that our nation finds itself in and see if it really is moving towards fascism.
Lately, election outcomes have also shown that India is slowly and steadily becoming a one-party democracy (should it even be called a democracy if it is a one-party system?). Elections have been suspected to be rigged in favour of a particular party, which further raises doubts of a silent and gradual transformation towards an authoritarian state. Discrepancies and deceit in the electoral system have also been asserted many a time, but with no independent body to conduct a fair investigation, every single contention dies out after creating some hysteria.
The government’s proposals of one-nation one-election have also been seen as a tool to gain more control in the government, as it will be detrimental for the smaller regional parties, and will give the ultimate edge to the bigger national powerful parties. Though, it has other benefits as well which cannot be denied, such as lesser expenditure.
The last couple of years have also proven to be a period of decline in journalism in India. Media has been severely criticised for being partial and loyal towards the ruling party. Many crucial issues such as corruption, educated unemployment, crime, communalism, inflation have often been ignored by the media in favour of singing praises for the ruling party.
The lack of intent shown by the media in questioning the government for its failed policies, lack of implementation of numerous schemes, false data, and claimed the success that lies only on paper has raised serious doubts over freedom of press and media in India.
The debate between President Donald Trump and a CNN correspondent at a press conference in the White House is a sight that could never even be imagined in India, as no mode of a full-duplex communication was ever promoted by the ruling elite. Even the few interviews that were given to select media houses were proved to be preset with questions that could be termed as “lollipops”.
The media was seen to be more interested in identifying the variety of a fruit that a leader eats instead of discerning the veracity in the claims that he makes. Many honest journalists were seen to be victimised for being too critical of the government.
The government is seen to be gaining more and direct control over the media. This has become easier as well, considering the fact that most of the private news channels and presses are run by the capitalist industrialists who have direct dealings with the government. Also, there are some channels which are run by the politicians themselves or have a direct financial stake in.
Rise of communalism is another concern that has remained prevalent in recent times. The Hindu-Muslim divide seems to be on an all-time high in the last 25 years. Minorities have blamed the government of being biased towards them in favour of the majority Hindu community.
The government has been observed to distract the attention of the masses from important national issues by diverting limelight towards petty issues such as beef, azaan, interfaith marriage, etc. Such issues have led to a high crime rate. The government has been hypocritical. It has applied its policies selectively. Where eating beef in the North-Eastern states and Goa is a non-issue, it takes a relevant position in states such as Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and, Hyderabad. It is quite evident that the decisions and steps taken by the government are politically motivated with vested interests.
The government has also misused the Constitution to create an air of fear among certain sections of society. For instance, the prohibition of cow slaughter is a part of the constitution under Article 48: “Organisation of agriculture and animal husbandry”. It states that:
“The State shall endeavour to organise agriculture and animal husbandry on modern and scientific lines and shall, in particular, take steps for preserving and improving the breeds, and prohibiting the slaughter, of cows and calves and other milch and draught cattle.”
This Article features in the Directive Principles of State Policy. Rather than a right, these are considered as high ideals or broad guidelines that governments should bear in mind while framing policy. But the governments, via their spokespersons, in news channel debates, deliberately disinform the unaware public to instil fear in their minds.
It should also be noted, that lynching over the issues of beef is habitually supported by the right-wing leaders. Every so often, no formal inquiries are conducted and innocent people from different faiths, are mercilessly executed, by the self-proclaimed Gau-Rakshaks, who are unofficially supported by the leadership.
Such cases have also come into account where the murdered people who were carrying live cattle (many times were not cows!) were on a government grant for breeding purposes, etc. Uneducated, illiterate goons are being given free hand, and, law and order are greatly deteriorating. It must be noted that India happens to be one of the largest exporters of Carabeef (buffalo meat) in the world.
The government spokespersons and ministers at the highest of levels are very frequently observed to be disparaging people of a certain religion, even those who lived 500 years ago. How does it make sense now? If you have such strong emotion for the invaders, why do you still trade with the British? Why use their language and dressing? The use of Urdu has raised controversies but English resonates with one’s status symbol and approves of their standing in the society. People need to understand that all this is done to create a divide among the public so that they can be ruled easily. It is done to avoid notice from other vital issues.
The Hindu-Muslim divide has also been used to gain electoral benefit by impressing upon the people of extremist ideologies by discouraging inter-faith marriages. Where the right to marry a person of one’s choice is integral to Article 21 of the constitution, couples of mixed marriages, especially from the economically weaker section, are often mentally and physically tortured by miscreants in the society, under the nose of the police. Couples who happen to belong to the affluent backgrounds are termed as a case of Love Jihad.
State-sponsored Anti-Romeo squads (also called as Nari Suraksha Bal) openly spread nuisance by harassing men and women who are sitting or moving together, without even knowing the relationship between them. The right-wing political parties which happen to be in power, deem it necessary, and correct, in the name of the Hindu philosophy, which they have probably never read.
Where the Freedom of religion happens to be a fundamental right, guaranteed by Article 25-28 of the Constitution, state-sponsored programs, such as Ghar Vaapsi legitimise conversions, enticed by offering monetary advantages.
All of this weakens the very fabric of the Indian culture under which we have lived harmoniously for centuries.
The government, which on one hand, happens to form tight grip over monetary transactions done by the common man, is, on the other hand, absolutely silent on the money that the parties receive and spend in political rallies. Where the common man is bound by restrictions of cash withdrawal from their bank accounts (white money!), political leaders and their allies are seen enjoying a lavish lifestyle with no confines whatsoever.
Capitalism is being heavily promoted, as a few business families are getting richer day by day, and the educated youth is being exploited by availing their services for a meagre income. It is public knowledge, that where the state-run telecom company BSNL is facing heavy losses, another private telecom company is making huge profits even by providing free calls and data. There are only a handful of private companies whose presence can be observed in every industrial sector.
The markets are not as open as they are theoretically propounded to be. Strict unfair economic policies are being imposed upon people who are working their socks off to earn an honest living. But, in the eyes of the ruling elite everybody happens to be a thief.
The ruling elite has effectively used xenophobia as a way to implement its policy of nationalism. Issues of the most significant character have been sidetracked by the government, by evoking the nationalistic sentiments of the people. People are always found to fall for this trick because it is always Bharat Mata ki Jai. Talking of patriotism, even this sweet patriotic phrase has been employed as a tool to gain political mileage in the elections. Nationalism has not stayed confined to patriotism, it has transformed into chauvinism.
The current era in India is a very dangerous one. Though Article 19 of the Indian Constitution provides for freedom of expression with certain (reasonable) restrictions but questioning the government, standing for the right, supporting a certain section of the society might land one in deep trouble.
One might be labelled an anti-national, a pro-Pakistani, an urban-Naxal, etc. The government is creating an air of fear, where people are frightened to stand for their rights. The debates have lost their essence; most of the debates on news channels today are filled with calling names and, giving labels and tags. Today, answers to questions are diverted by assigning labels to the askers. Asking a question has become the sure shot way to obtain an anti-national tag. People who chose to speak truthfully are quietly brutally silenced. The days when the pen was mightier than the sword are long gone!
So, the question remains, is India slowly transforming into a fascist state? I leave the answer to your wise sense of judgment.
Nitish Kapur नितिष कपूर ਨਿਤਿਸ਼ ਕਪੂਰ