Sunday, September 15, 2013

And There Will Be Blood

Let's be irrational: Friday the 13th. Four Death Sentences. An Announcement that can define India's future. Despite this being plucked from Hollywood lore, such connections always appeal to Hindu mind. However, even if one does not believe in omen and try to be rational, Friday the 13th of September would still appear to be a great day for the Indian Middle Classes - as they got what they wanted: Death sentence for the four people who brutally raped and killed one of their own, and a 'strong' leader who would drive India to its destiny.

If one wondered what that destiny may look like, the signs are already there. Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the main opposition party in India, calls the inflation in India 'Jijiya Tax'. Inflation is corrosive, and it spiralled out of control under the callous economic management of the incumbent government, and has indeed hurt the salaried middle classes. Protesting against inflation, however, is not the point here: Likening it to a historical tax that Muslim Emperor Aurangzeb imposed on people of other religions, mainly Hindus, in India, is. 

Indeed, it is a stretch of imagination to compare a tax and inflation, but one can argue that such metaphors are allowed in politics. But, the reference to Jijiya is telling. This is the 'us-and-them' game, 'India-for-Hindus' doctrine at work. Indeed, inflation is utterly secular and it hits everyone, more so the poor people, and overwhelming proportion of muslims in India are poor. However, this isn't about tax/inflation at all: This is the battle cry for the re-establishing the dominion of Upper Caste Hindus, from the loss of power that democratic India meant for them.

We have been here before: Men who don't read history are condemned to repeat it, and the induction manual for aspiring middle classes in India does not include any reading of History, because they are special people born outside time. These components were all there: A world recession and a wobbly economy; a middle class proud about their progress and dreaming about their rightful place in the world; a listless democratic government serving too many masters; and a canny and cynical political movement, gambling with a country's future. This is uncannily like the narrative of Nazi Germany.

If a strong leader could fix a country, Hitler would have done very well. You couldn't afford to disagree with him. He would have done anything he liked. But, this is how it works for despots: They cynically manipulate the electorate to take power. Then, they impose a technocratic formula of development, and treat all dissent as anti-development. When their formula does not work, then they blame 'the other', those who don't agree with them, and turn them into public enemies. This leads to purges, progroms and finally, a war, because this infallible leader's credibility depends on proving that the others, traitors and outsiders, are really stopping his unworkable plans from bringing the prosperity that he promised. This has been the trajectory of all such experiments in history, and India seems to be just signed up for this.

But, I exaggerate: India hasn't signed up for it yet. It is still a middle class pipe-dream. Ironically, this latest surge of this 'strong leader' is orchestrated by money coming from business owners and expatriates, coordinated by a highly organised minority group, and driven primarily through social media, a formulation which sounds almost like a terrorist network. It is just the latest attempt by Facebook mercenaries to take over a country, and indeed, its most audacious. This may work, but equally, this is a tiny minority enclosed in its own echo chamber. Hopefully, this chosen 'strong leader' is divisive and arrogant enough to let the disparate majority of India, the non-Hindi speaking, the women, the minorities, the poor, the villagers (overlapping and chaotic formulations, but united in the fear of disenfranchisement) to come together for a day and save the republic.

Otherwise, there will be blood.

2 comments:

Bhaswati Bhattacharya said...

um, we already have a Hitler-like person ruling the country..., but she is Italian. You can't afford to disagree with her. She will have you killed. And, yes, she does anything she likes, even putting her (unqualified) son up for political office.

Supriyo Chaudhuri said...

Hi

I disagree on this one. I believe the current government is chaotic and inefficient, but not authoritarian. In fact, it is blamed for its lack of authority, and numerous protest movements are evidence that it has not been dictatorial. My feeling is that we are so disillusioned by this directionless ness that we are willing to give up some freedoms to a 'strong leader'. While I fully sympathise with the desire for effective governance, I am mindful of Benjamin Franklin: Those who give up a little liberty for a little security, deserve neither liberty nor security.

Supriyo

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