Courtesy: Times of India
An Intellectual’s Suicide
( May 23, 2014, New Delhi, Sri Lanka Guardian) In 1940, Walter Benjanim, the renowned literary critic of Germany, known all over the western world as one of 20th century greatest, liberal-left intellectual, was hounded to death by Hitler’s cohorts. Finding Germany’s illiberal atmosphere under Hitler arraigned against free speech and liberal arts, Benjamin wanted to emigrate; Nazi-fascist German authorities would not let him; finding all doors closed-even an attempted escape foiled-Benjamin committed suicide (Walter Benjanim).
Walter Benjamin was a Jew; it was impossible for him to fit into the `superiority of the pure Aryan race’, anti-Semitic, fascist-totalitarian ideology, peddled, by Hitler and his cohorts. Benjamin represented the quality driven strand of excellence, tolerance and pluralism in classical German culture; he stood proud and singular in the tradition of Mozart, Beethoven, Goethe, Heinrich Heine and other famous German artistes and intellectuals, several of whom were Jews. As part of the pre-Nazi, Germanic spirit-which prized music, philosophical breakthroughs, Judaic mysticism, idealism, and the science of dialectics-Benjamin rebelled against the Nazi-fascist thought of regarding Jews as inferior human beings. Benjamin also couldn’t accept Hitler’s dictum that the `pure German race’-if anything of that sort ever existed-possessed the divine right to rule other races and nations.
The Myth of Racial Superiority
Benjamin knew that all distinct cultures and identities of the world emerge only after prolonged material and spiritual praxis running over centuries. This process involves close interaction-struggle and unity-war and peace-intermingling and interbreeding-with people of other faiths-different skin colours-various cultural identities-and so on and forth.
Hitler’s very idea of a pure German race was a myth-a momentously ludicrous-and horrendously murderous-dark and comic lie. Told by him and his cohorts loudly and repeatedly, this lie instigated an irrational frenzy of anti-Semitic fear amongst the German people. The purpose was to divide the German people, so that they forget bread and butter, anti-establishment anger-issues-against the post World War I socio-economic order. Run by cold-hearted, anti-working class, German big business-corporate interests, the prime interest of this order lay in profit and fleecing its own people during one of worst economic depressions in human history. Forming a military-industrial complex and perpetuating War as an extension of business by other means was the logical outcome of agreements between fascists and big business interests.
Unlike Walter Benjamin-Bertolt Brecht-Benjamin’s friend-and a famous Marxist playwright-regarded second only to Shakespeare in art and content-was a non-Jewish, “true-blue blood” German. He could have slid easily into Hitler’s fantasy driven world of `pure Aryans’ controlling the earth. A resolute anti-fascist, Brecht, however, chose to fight; citing how Hitler and fascism distort and misuse the greatness of German culture for narrow, homicidal-political ends, Brecht attacked the banal fascist propaganda with pro-people, creative, leftist poetry, drama, and occasionally, cinema. Fortunate enough to have left Germany soon after Hitler ascension to power, Brecht termed Walter Benjamin’s suicide as the “first real blow to German literature” handed down by fascists (Bertolt Brecht).
Fascism and Democracy
Made famous by Hitler and Mussolini, the fascist ideology killed democracy in the 1930s and 40s in Spain, Portugal, Italy, Poland, and several East European countries invaded by Germany during World War II. Fascism led to the incarceration and death of such noted European intellectuals as Antonio Gramsci and Frederico Garcia Lorca to name a few; it also forced Freud and Einstein to flee from Continental Europe to the USA.
On 10th May, 1933, in a state-sponsored frenzy presided over gleefully by Hitler, Goebbels and other top Nazi officials-the first of its kind in modern human history-thousands of Nazi-fascist students burned over 25,000 volumes of classical and contemporary German literature (Nazi book burnings).
Books being burned by Nazis in Germany
Carried out all over Germany especially in University towns, the act presaged decades of illogical censorship and maniac, linear control of culture that destroyed German modernity and the country’s 2000 year old intellectual-cultural heritage. Thus, fascism destroyed both tradition and modernity-old and new-humanism and liberalism-religion and agnosticism-in one stroke.
Persecution, Dictatorship and Totalitarianism
Like Mussolini in Italy before him, Hitler went on to suspend Germany’s Parliament, declare dictatorship, end freedom of press, personal and religious liberty, and the right to form political parties. Communists, liberals, agnostics, atheists, Catholics, Protestants, gypsies, believers, non-believers, housewives, working women, prostitutes, even children-anyone even suspected of not falling in line with the fascist-Nazi ideology-was either killed or sent to concentration camps. Double standards were such that a homosexual with Nazi beliefs was allowed to thrive-but homosexuals of other ideological persuasions were declared deviants, not worthy of existence as human beings.
Irrespective of whether they supported or opposed Hitler, Jews were stripped of citizenship rights, hounded and killed-often in state sponsored gas chambers-in numbers crossing the six million mark (The Holocaust).
World War II
Initiated by fascists and their irrational-fanatic lust for arbitrary, bloodthirsty power over “lesser” and “rival” nations-especially western democracies and socialist-communist countries-World War II claimed between 50-73 million lives (World War II).
Western nations like England, France and the USA joined hands with communist USSR in order to defeat fascism. In fact, principally, Hitler was brought to his knees by reverses on the eastern front when his blitzkrieg failed to break the morale of USSR’s Red Army. Under Stalin, the Red Army began the counter march from Moscow to Berlin, liberating many concentration camps victims-or what was left of them-in Auschwitz and other centres (Auschwitz concentration camp).
Never before, not during Mongol invasions, or the Crusades, or several wars of the 18th and 19th century, had the world seen massive killings of innocent men, women and children, ordered calmly, inside closed doors, in rooms and over tables, in a juridical-clinical, phased mode. Fascists outdid Attila the Hun and Changez Khan-who were at least warriors with medieval code of honour-in unleashing savagery and barbarism through modern technology and creating the world’s only State based on genocide, to describe which political scientists are still struggling with concepts.
RSS and Hitler
Hitler justified colonialism and British rule over India. In the 1930s, he was admired by quite a few anti-communists and anti-liberal figures. MS Golwalkar, the RSS chief from 1940 to 1970 was one of them. In 35/43 page of `We or our nation defined’, a 1938 tract, Golwalkar wrote:
“To keep the purity of the race and its culture, Germany shocked up the world by her purging the country, of Semitic races – the Jews. Race pride at its highest has been manifested here. Germany has also shown how well-nigh impossible it is for races and cultures, having differences going to root to be assimilated to one united whole, a good lesson for us in Hindusthan to learn and profit by…”
Golwalkar does not stop here; pages 47-48 and 55-56 openly threaten Muslims:
“The foreign races in Hindusthan must either adopt the Hindu culture and language, must learn to respect and hold in reverence Hindu religion, must entertain no idea but those of the glorification of the Hindu race and culture, i.e. of the Hindu nation and must lose their separate existence to merge into the Hindu race, or may stay in the country, wholly subordinated to the Hindu nation, claiming nothing…….not even citizen’s rights…”
I hate to make comparisons-it reflects poorly on India. But truth-however ugly-has to be told; this much Mahatama Gandhi has been able to inculcate in us writers. Isn’t it incredible that what Saadhvi Rithambara and Babu Bajrangi type figures threatened Muslims with-the stripping of their citizenship rights in an imagined Hindu Rashtra-respectively-during LK Advani’s Rath Yatra for a Ram temple in Ayodhya and the 2002 Gujarat riots-was not part of some extreme right-wing fringe? Rithambara and Bajrangi both took their lessons straight from a mainstream RSS leader like Golwalkar! What a discovery! No difference between Golwalkar, Advani, Modi, Rithambara and Babu Bajrangi! What do so-called sophisticated and `liberal’ leaders of the BJP-and their intellectual-right wing apologists like Swapan Dasgupta and Tavleen Singh-have to say now in their defence? Will they come out openly and admit that they support a convict like Bajrangi who waxed eloquent over ripping open a Muslim mother’s womb-and that he felt like Rana Pratap committing a heinous crime-on camera-in the Aaj Tak expose?
Till date, the RSS has not refuted lines written by Golwalkar. On the contrary, they form part of the core RSS ideology. It has become a fashion with some BJP figures to fudge and try to bypass Golwalkar’s views on Hitler by saying that `he (Golwalkar) changed his thinking, and why don’t you look at the good done by RSS etc’; in a previous article (Omissions and commissions of the RSS led Sangh Parivar…and the letters of Sardar Patel), I dwelt at length about RSS’ terrorist activities from the assassination of Mahatama Gandhi to involvement in 1947 anti-Muslim pogroms with active British assistance. This sordid saga includes RSS’ role in several anti-Muslim, anti-Sikh, anti-Christian riots in the post-Independence era, the murder of innocent men, women and children during the 2002 Gujarat riots, and bomb blasts of Malegaon, Modassa, Samjhauta Express, Mecca Masjid and Ajmer Sharif Dargah. In the same article, I also challenged the RSS to provide an iota of evidence of their involvement in the Indian freedom movement. I am still waiting.
Arun Jaitley Vs Markandey Katju
When Arun Jaitley first raised objections to Jutice Katju’s OP-ED article in the Hindu (All the perfumes of Arabia), people thought that the BJP leader was exercising his democratic right to disagree with an opinion. But no-Jaitley went on a tangent, accusing Katju harbouring a pro-Congress political agenda, holding a biased view. Jaitley even attacked the constitutional institution of Press Council of India (PCI), headed currently by Justice Katju.
People were astounded when Jaitley asked for Justice Katju’s resignation from the Press Council of India (PCI), on grounds that the PCI was listing grievances only against non-Congress Governments. Jaitley of course conveniently forgot that Justice Katju had intervened in several cases in Maharashtra and other Congress ruled states whenever an issue of restrictions to free speech came up.
What got Jaitley so worked up? Justice Katju’s write-up in The Hindu criticises Narendra Modi, asks questions about his role during 2002 Gujarat riots, and casts doubts on his achievements in Gujarat, especially in the sphere of human development. So many intellectuals have punctured Modi’s vibrant Gujarat to an extent that even pro-Modi Gujarati bureaucrats refrain now from belting out statistics at the drop of a hat. Beyond a modicum of doubt, it has been proved that except for opening Gujarat for loot by foreign and Indian big-business interests, Modi has done nothing special in improving the living standards, health, hygiene and physical well being of the vast majority of Dalits, Adivasis and OBCs in his state.
Modi has his defenders. Articles praising him have appeared innumerable times in the Indian Press. But no Congress leader stood up and demanded the resignation of an intellectual from a position he/she holds just because something got published in Modi’s favour.
Jaitley apologists say that as the PCI chariman, Justice Katju should not have aired his political views. Press Council chiefs and people holding similar posts have time and again spoken out on what they feel politically. There has been never been an argument on this issue.
Several other intellectuals have also written against Narendra Modi-including on Times of India’s edit page (Gujarat: Myth and reality). But Jaitley or other Sangh-BJP leaders never really attacked these figures or asked for the resignation of Bhalchandra Mungekar, the author of the afore-mentioned TOI edit page piece, from a post he holds currently-why was Justice Markandey Katju singled out for such treatment?
Liberal Hindus Vs Hindutvawaadis
The answer lies in the method to Jaitley’s madness. As an educated fascist, Jaitley knows that Justice Katju belongs to the liberal spectrum which believes in the ideology of Mahatama Gandhi and Jawahar Lal Nehru, and respects BR Ambedkar, Sardar Patel, and Maulana Abul Kalam Azad. As a retired Supreme Court judge, Justice Katju also carries a lot of prestige. He has adopted a consistent position on communalism and social justice. He enjoys huge support amongst liberal Hindus.
The BJP does not fear Muslims, leftists, socialists and English-speaking liberals, as much as it fears liberal Hindus. Justice Katju is a Kashmiri Brahmin. He is also a Sanatan Dharmi. Secretly, RSS regards Sanatan Dharmis as the main enemy. This is because RSS’ politics revolves around creating the myth of a divine Hindu race. And then declaring itself as the true representative of that race-in short, RSS might have a few confused-brainwashed Sanatan Dharmi followers. But RSS can never claim the sole leadership even of upper caste Hindus till it appropriates control of what constitutes divinity among Hindus-whether Brahmins, Rajputs, OBC or Dalits-or Sanatan Dharma leaders-of various Shankaracharya Peeths-Akhadas and Maths-of the Hindu religious order.
In 2001 and the ongoing 2013 Allahabadh Kumbh Mela, followers of traditional Hinduism or Sanatan Dharmis came to blows with Hindutvawaadis on several occasions. Sources close to Shankaracharya Swami Swarupanand-and the Naga Baba ascetics of the June Akhada-told me in confidence that RSS-VHP-BJP shady characters-some of them criminals-played a role in conjunction with the Samajwadi Party during the recent stampede which killed more than 50 people in Allahabad. At present, this is merely, an allegation. But since human lives are involved, it is worthy of investigation by an impartial body. It does seems that the `underground’ SP-BJP alliance has been flourishing in UP after the 2012 polls-several riots during the current SP regime bear testimony to the unholy nexus.
Fascist threat in India
People should wake up-Jaitley’s attack on Justice Katju should not be looked at in isolation. Digvijaya Singh, the Congress general secretary, rightly said that Jaitley owes Modi his Rajya Sabha Sabha seat-and by attacking Katju, Jaitley is returning the favour. Singh also went on to elaborate Sangh Parivar’s fascist mind-set, which rarely tolerates dissent (Digvijay Singh slams Jaitley’s remarks on Katju).
The Jaitley-Katju spat represents the beginning of an open fight between Hindutvawaadis and liberal Hindus, a real life drama that will unleash with full fury in the 2014 elections. Indians have to decide whether they want a India where Bajrang Dal and Sangh Parivar activists go on a rampage attacking liberal Hindu, largely upper caste, judges, professors, media heads, senior journalists, respected intellectuals-members of the Dalit-OBC intelligentsia-as well as esteemed women personalities in social life-and the like; or they would like a peaceful India where the rule of law, liberty and freedom of speech and religion prevails. If voted to power, fascists will launch a smear campaign against modernity, pluralism, diversity, democracy and liberalism. As under Hitler, women will suffer the most under fascist-Hindutvawaadi rule.
Since they supported the British in the pre-Independence era, RSS inspired forces will not hesitate to undermine Indian sovereignty in the interests of US led western block. Historically, xenophobic-fundamentalist-fascistic nationalism has always favoured the big over small, domination of superpowers over regional powers. Liberal-left nationalism on the other hand, usually fights in the interest of the people and the country.
Modi’s developmental model excludes benefits to OBCs, Dalits, the middle and the small peasantry, Adivasis, organized and unorganized labour, small and medium businesses, entrepreneurs, and the lower middle classes whether Hindus or Muslims. Under the Indian fascist utopia, people are supposed to remain bogged down in inter-religious or inter-ethnic conflicts while big business corporate interests loot precious Indian resources in Indian tribal and forest regions, displace peasants in the name of development and muzzle all voices that disagree-a fascist victory in 2014 would imply an end of India’s 5000 year old civilization and culture.
Five years of NDA rule failed not only to build the Ram temple; apart from unscientific posturing on `Vedic Mathematics’-that too inconsistent-the BJP led government made no effort to highlight the great scientific-philosophical-cultural-artistic-moral-political achievements of Indian society before the advent of Muslims. On the contrary-the NDA regime-including senior leaders like Murli Manohar Joshi-persecuted Gandhians and liberal Hindus-and forced several Gandhian institutes-to shut down. Many erstwhile VHP-Bajrang Dal members-and former MLAs like Pawan Pandey-one of the prime accused in the Babari Masjid demolition case-left the BJP in disgust after seeing the moral degeneration of Ayodhya based BJP leaders such as Vinay Katiyar.
If nothing else-this-the deliberate neglect of the very Hindu heritage the Sangh Parivar claims to protect-should persuade people to see the other side of the Sanghi moonlight. Who is going to stop Hindutvawaadis from burning Vedas, Upanishads, Puranas, Mahabharata, Ramayan, Arthashastra, Kamasutra-as well as ancient, medieval and modern Indian works on science, art and humanism-if they are in power and a wave of puritan-paranoia takes hold of their political persona?
Is there a Hindu race and nation?
RSS uses terms like `Hindu race’ and `Hindu nation’-of course both these terms have no rational-scientific basis. There is no one Hindu-Aryan race-and surely no Hindu nation-the Vedas and Puranas mention nothing of that sort-Puranas use `Bharat’ to denote a shifting, geographical entity.
Even rational RSS sympathisers concede that different castes and tribes living in India-peoples of a modern nation-state-welded in its present form initially by the great Mughals, then the colonial British, and finally Independent India’s State power-consist of men, women and children of diverse racial origin. The concept of a single, dominant `Hindu race’ is not only false-it is dangerous as it allows any small group to lay claim to that status and then use it to suppress democracy and the vast majority of the Indian people.
Puranas mention different kingdoms, not a `Hindu nation’-this does not mean that the idea of India did not exist in ancient times. It just did not exist the way the fascists want it to exist-Mughals carried forward the initial efforts of empire building by Mauryas and Guptas-and beginning from the 1857 war, the Indian Independence movement gave a modern, nationhood status to that idea.
Violence and Fascism
The other aspect of course, is the use of violence for political ends, something that all fascists exercise to attain power. After all, even the most reverent Narendra Modi supporter concedes that the extremely violent Gujarat 2002 riots made possible the rise of their self-styled Hindutva icon. Fascist violence carries an abnormal strain-it reflects a mind-set that is sadist, inherently cruel and cowardly-as well as eccentric-whimsical-in the ugly sense. Killing babies and children and raping women has always been a special fascist prerogative. If some day, a crazy bout of psychosis grips a fascist in power, he can also sever facets of the fascist-big business alliance. Hitler persecuted businessmen also because they had some remote Jewish connection or the colour of their hair was not to his liking. True horror stories from Gujarat-of capricious mistreatment of even well placed individuals by Modi-will start appearing only after BJP’s defeat in the state. Don’t be surprised if suddenly, a Sangh Parivar leader takes a disliking to Ratan Tata or Cyrus Mistry for being Parsees, or to Kumar Mangalam Birla for his hair style or to the Ambanis for not contributing enough to fascist coffers-once unleashed, weird politics of paper tigers carries untold destruction.