India's slide into facsism...
September 18, 2002 8:59 AM   Subscribe

India's slide into facsism... An essay in The Nation by India's Arundhati Roy — novelist, essayist, activist — lays down the facts around a very troubling assertion: people-heavy, nuclear-armed, legitimacy-seeking, proto-super-power India is quickly becoming a fascist state.
posted by silusGROK (14 comments total)
Way back when I was in high-school (before the Wall fell), I saw three emerging super-powers waiting in the wings: Brazil, India, and another I can't for the life of me remember. Years later, my views on the emergent status of India-cum-super-power was colored by their role in a Tom Clancy novel (Executive Orders), where I began to see India as an independent agent in the community of nations.

Now, it appears, that the nascent democracy is still struggling to buy into the rule of law necessary for such a state to remain a democracy.

Anyway, just a few thoughts.
posted by silusGROK at 9:14 AM on September 18, 2002

The PBS series Wide Angle is airing Soul of India on 19th September in some areas of the US. Over the last three months, at least 850 Muslims have been killed -- some estimates go as high as 2,000 -- in the Province of Gujarat, and more than 100,000 Muslims have fled to refugee camps. Will India, home to more than a billion people, continue to be the multi-ethnic, religiously diverse, secular, and tolerant society that Gujarat's Mahatma Gandhi attempted to create? Or will the nation be split by an increasingly powerful Hindu nationalist movement?
posted by adnanbwp at 9:29 AM on September 18, 2002

while there is definitely some trouble with secularism in India it does not necessarily signify anything worst is in store for minorities in india.

in a country like india with a minority that includes every major religion living parallel to some rather radical Hindus, I think, overall there is a fair amount of tolerance for non-hindus and other minorities.

not to mention the richest person in the country is a muslim, the highest appointee in the judicial department is a muslim woman, the president is muslim, and the list goes on..............
posted by nish01 at 9:45 AM on September 18, 2002

The more I learn about Hindutva, the more scared I am of it...these people aren't just fascists, they also add in a Nazi-style religious angle with strong sexual undertones. I wouldn't be the least bit surprised to find they indoctrinate their people to believe that the vimana the gods fly in their ancient epics are modern-day fighter jets--i.e., that having nuclear weapons returns them to a state of long-ago national power and spiritual transcendance. Sigh. At least they have a better claim to the name Aryan than the Germans did.
posted by jbrjake at 10:46 AM on September 18, 2002

Since 1970, various pudpullers writing in The Nation have been hyperventilating about rise of fascism in the U.S. I'm still waiting for that sound of the jackboots in the streets that never quite seems to get here.

That doesn't mean this guy is wrong about India, of course. But given the source, I'll wait for corroboration from somewhere else before getting my underwear in a bunch over this.
posted by mojohand at 10:54 AM on September 18, 2002

Then you ought to take a listen to what the Attorney General's been up to, mojohand. I hear they're trading jackboots for dress shoes these days.

And I'd give Ms. Roy plenty of credence, seeing how she's, y'know, there, in India, where she can dig under the bullshit that the government slings to protect itself.

If the government has taken an active role in the pogrom against Muslims in India, this is bad juju all around.
posted by RakDaddy at 11:28 AM on September 18, 2002

Thanks, mojohand. Very helpful. Here's a bit more background . . .

First: 'this guy' is Arundhati Roy, a Booker Prize-winning novelist, a committed political activist in her native India, and, well, a woman. (And quite a gorgeous one at that.)

Still, if the alleged pudpullers at The Nation have on occasion over-stated America's fascist tendencies, surely that means they'd overstate the rise of fascism in India as well, since surely there's no fundamental difference between the US and India as nation-states and cultures. Right?

For what it's worth - and in case this wasn't clear in Ms. Roy's essay, since she seemed to be assuming a certain amount of basic knowledge of Indian history and politics - India's governing coalition is dominated by the BJP, which is the mainstream political outgrowth of the RSS, which is a fervently Hindu nationalist militia. It was an RSS member who assassinated Mahatma Gandhi - ostensibly for being sympathetic to the causes of India's Muslim minority. (Or, as the pudpullers in places like the National Review might phrase it, for being "soft" on Islam.)

In recent years, the RSS has consolidated its position as defender of the Hindu faith and destroyer of Muslim holy sites. The RSS has also dabbled in petty fascism - forcing the city of Bombay to change its name to the more ethnically correct Mumbai, for example. Pile on top of this the general corruption and decay in India's federal government (which alienates moderates from mainstream politics), the renewal of widespread communal violence (those hundreds or even thousands of Muslims butchered in Gujurat that Roy talked about) and the convenient new international justification for domestic fascism known as the "Bush doctrine" (if your problem is Muslim terrorists, there is no response too extreme) - and you have, as Roy explains, the preconditions for the rise of fascism.
posted by gompa at 11:50 AM on September 18, 2002

Well-put, gompa... thanks! I knew we'd get some solid background on this one from the MeFi crowd.
posted by silusGROK at 11:56 AM on September 18, 2002

I love Roy's book "The God of Small Things." She had creds so far as I'm concerned. Damend fundamnetlaists, just can't get away from them and their notions that they should kill God's children and do it in His name, whatever that may be. I should think God is very unhappy when that happens.
posted by nofundy at 1:13 PM on September 18, 2002

A word about Roy (not related to this article)

she usually takes the most liberal stand on many issues....

nonetheless, she is an excellent - perhaps one of the best India has produced and that world has seen....

both of the above can be seen in her Booker prize winning God of Small Things
posted by nish01 at 1:57 PM on September 18, 2002

A nation of bystanders - Vishavjit Singh, Yellow Times
posted by sheauga at 7:12 PM on September 18, 2002

An earlier version of this circulated in the spring. Back in 1998 TIME examined the rise to power of the BJP, and also some insight as to why center-left parties like Congress failed to hold on. I would like to dismiss the plainly socialist Roy's harping on fascism as more of the same (it would be more shocking were her tune to change), but independent observers have said similar things using less alarmist language. Key has been Gujarat Carnage 2002, an independent report, which concluded that Gujarat was not just more "communal violence" (the term of art in India), but in fact a coordinated campaign (pogrom may not be an exaggeration) with clear signs of state complicity in the BJP-controlled Gujarat government. I can't say personally how "independent" the academic team was, nor how accurate its conclusions are, at this distance. But the report, if true, is very disturbing. Apparently there was considerable coordination including bussing in rioters and stockpiling of LPG (propane gas) tanks, which were used by the thousands to level Muslim businesses and residential buildings.

Even sober policy assessments are pessimistic, seeing India tilt from secularism back to sectarianism.

Still, there is much to remain hopeful about. India is still fully democratic, and the fallout from the spring rioting has been a somewhat arcane scandal involving the scheduling of elections. The BJP will remain a governing majority for some time to come, barring upsets, but it remains to be seen whether it will be emboldened or chastened by the Gujarat crisis. This same government recently made a Muslim president, after all.

Vis1on: India is certainly a major regional power with strategic ambitions and well-thought-through alliances. But they're a long way off from challenging China in any meaningful way.
posted by dhartung at 1:20 AM on September 19, 2002

Dhartung... a long way off? I don't know: I see the disparity between China and India being comparable to the disparity between the US and the USSR -- a disparity that never got in the way of our being very dangerous to each other and the world.

Frankly, the whole China/India/Pakistan thing is just plain scary.

Another country on a post-Cold War rise up and away from a solid US alliance is Australia who has eyes on being a regional power.

Anyway... blah blah blah.
posted by silusGROK at 9:05 AM on September 19, 2002

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