Saturday, November 17, 2007

Who wants to be a Fascist?

Budhdhadev Bhattacharya, the Chief Minister of West Bengal, commented upon the recent violence of Nandigram - 'they have been paid back by their own coins' - commenting upon his party-workers' recent assault on Nandigram, an unremarkable village in West Bengal where an unique people's resistance movement to the Government's land acquisition took form. The resisting few had outside help - from an assortment of opposition parties and left-wing guerrillas - and they have fought for their corner. They managed to cut off the roads, and embarrassed and terrorised police, who managed to torture and fire upon innocent civilians in some cases. Then came the CPIM Cadres, armed and facilitated by the state machinery, while police stood by and in fact blocked everyone else from reaching the village. The Governor of the state lodged a protest, but CPIM created a huge ruckus on his comments. The cadres invaded Nandigram and flushed out the resistance - while scores of central security force personnel was held back by the state and the protests in Calcutta changed nothing. Then, the Chief Minister announced victory, with these comments.

This would have been a standard tale of an industrialising society. Industry needs land, and the transformation is often cruel and violent. This could have also been an unremarkable story of political violence, which is commonplace in India, where armed cadres of one party fights with another. But the erudite Chief Minister, by staying silent when the violence continued for good many days, and then making comments justifying the violence, let this incident transcend both.

There was another story which grabbed headlines in India recently. The criminals of Gujrat riots recently confessed - on camera on a sting operation - that they had direct support of the Chief Minister of the state, Narendra Modi, who gave them three days to 'clean up' the muslim areas. Modi was termed a Fascist, for letting the state police stand aside, while the butchery continued unabated.

What's the key difference between what Modi did, and what the enlightened, secular Chief Minister of West Bengal did? Just that Modi did not justify the killers' actions officially. He made a similar statement to that of Budhdhadev's - implied that the muslim community has been paid back for their crimes in Godhra, 'paid back in their own coins'. BB went a step further, he said 'he can't deny his political self', which Modi, pragmatic as he is, did not say.

Modi is Fascist, as CPIM says. Indeed, he used the state machinery ruthlessly to run a brutal pogrom. But genocides are not only defined by scale, but by intention. Wiping out those who are dissimilar to ourselves is an equivalent crime of attacking those who don't agree with us. Fascism is not just about an ideology, or being right or left of the centre, but also about ignoring the rule of law for the sake of one's political self.

The cat is out of the bag, therefore. Meanwhile, we will continue to suffer. This is because we would keep thinking that we are unaffected, and this is about Muslims, the wayward peasants of Nandigram, madcap Maoists, and not us. And, yes, we shall forget Rev. Martin Niemoller:

First they came for the Communists,
and I didn’t speak up,
because I wasn’t a Communist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak up,
because I wasn’t a Jew.
Then they came for the Catholics,
and I didn’t speak up,
because I was a Protestant.
Then they came for me,
and by that time there was no one
left to speak up for me.

2 comments:

binitha said...

Hi Supriyo,

I read ur post on nandigram genocide.Found it interesting and like to read the remaining ones.
I have attended a protest meeting in Kerala and while organising the same, we understood that where do the so called progressive public intellectuals stand. When invited, most of them refused to participate.

Supriyo said...

Well, I agree - in my experience with some of the celebrity intellectuals, it is about swiming with the tide, rather than against it. I guess they spend an enormous amount of their time trying to understand which way the tide is - because they have a lot to lose if they get it wrong. In a culture where Government handouts, foreign trips and advisory roles are a big part of an intellectual's world-view, it is surely not easy to challenge the authorities even when it strays off course.

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