November 11, 2016

India: Raking up 'hurt pride' (Ajay Gudavarthy)

Deccan Herald

Raking up 'hurt pride'
By Ajay Gudavarthy, Nov 10, 2016, DHNS

The Sangh Parivar’s strategy of forming a ‘Hindu rashtra’ is operating through three distinct but inter-related strategies. Through these, they are attempting to go for a monolithic-majoritarian Hindu nation. The first of their strategies that is potent is to flare-up a ‘hurt pride’ that is reminiscent of the hurt German pride during the hey days of Nazi Germany.

The Parivar is raking up the hurt pride, what Ambedkar referred to as counter-revolution of the forward castes. As part of this, we have witnessed the mobilisation of the Patidars in Gujarat, Jats in Haryana, Marathas in Maharashtra and a generic victimhood psyche of the Brahmins.

There is today a massive insecurity among these castes comparable to that of Dalits and Muslims. These castes suffer from an insecurity of losing the hold on political and bureaucratic power and as a result a sense of suffocation of their social power that they wielded so long. Due to sustained agrarian crisis, these caste groups are, in a relative sense, losing out.

Even if they continue to be far ahead of Dalits, OBCs and Muslims, they feel they have lost out for not staking claim in modern economy and government jobs and higher education. They are also projecting the valid problem of the poor among these castes, which remained unaddressed in the political discourse of the secular-progressive forces.

On the basis of this somewhat legitimate claim they wish to either push themselves into the bracket of the OBCs or question the very validity of reservations on the basis of caste. Secular-progressive forces have no ready political strategy to deal with this political phenomenon where you have Brahmins who are economically weak and socially conservative.

These social groups, reflected recently in the language of political mobilisation of Marathas that is increasingly turning anti-Dalit in its rhetoric, are holding on to their old-time prejudices. Similar is the case of Kashmiri pundits, who are in a sense victims of displacement but socially continue to hold on to an ultra-nationalist discourse close to the RSS strategy.

Here too, Sangh can invoke the history of Muslim rule, excesses on the Hindus, such as the role of Rajakars that are indefensible, and the fact that Muslims come across as a more united lot in comparison to the Hindus who are divided more actively along caste lines. Even Ambedkar argued that while Muslims are a nation, Hindus are not. This kind of a political logic readily available in the public domain generates its own set of anxieties among the majority Hindu community.

The second is the strategy of the Congress-style accommodation. The RSS has moved towards what could be referred to as a process of de-Brahamanised Hinduisation, wherein it’s not the old type-of overt justification of discrimination along the lines of Manusmriti but a more covert and accommodative form of inclusion.

Here, RSS is willing to support the reservation for the Dalits, and one need not be surprised even if they make a Dalit or an OBC as their chief pracharak. They, in a sense, have already made that move in anointing Modi as the prime ministerial candidate as against the essentially Brahaminical old guard represented by Advani and Vajpayee.

It is again important to point out that the old-time secular-progressive forces made no distinction between Brahmanism and Hinduism, but a more representative Hinduisation seems to be a possibility. It is again in tune with the demands of Dalit-intellectuals who have time and again raised questions such as whether a Dalit can be the head priest of Tirupati. In the new mode, it is possible. Political representation without directly challenging social hierarchies is a possibility in the way liberal democracy has operated in India.

In much of UP, if one travels the rural hinterlands, it’s not uncommon to find in the Dalit households pictures of Ambedkar hanging next to that of Lord Ram and Krishna. Conversion to Islam or Christianity has not yielded any results for the Dalits, and in today’s context, one wishes to claim to be a Dalit rather than try and escape it through conversion. For the purposes of claiming reservations and remaining politically/ electorally potent remaining a ‘Hindu-Dalit’ makes more sense.

Extra-institutional violence
The third strategy is that of fear and extra-institutional violence. Here, one can cite the violence of the gau rakshaks, Dadri lynching, Muzaffarnagar, organised and sporadic riots, attacks on Dalits in Una and finally, the case of disappearance of Najeeb in JNU, right from the heart of Delhi.

The fear of unaccountable violence, foisting of cases such as in the case of Umar Khalid and Kanhaiya Kumar, falsity, rumours, morphed videos, false evidence and brazen use of state machinery become part of the Sangh strategy. The case of former Delhi police commissioner Bassi and his flip-flops followed by his re-appointment as a member of the UPSC is a case in point.

The mainstream media has already fallen in line. It also includes creating sense of fear among academics, journalists and all those who can potentially raise their voice. Even vice-chancellors, such as that of Allahabad University, appointed by the current government, can be implicated in cases or enquiry initiated against them if they do not side with the political regime.

Here, issues of institutional autonomy, merit and qualification of those appointed make very little sense in the Sangh strategy. The overall strategy is that of high-intensity growth combined with low-intensity communalism, accommodation and double-speak combined with more blatant attacks against the Muslims and the Dalits.

Each of these strategies is being deployed in tune with the other. Where readymade social cleavages are available, they are being used for counter-mobilisation, where there is space for accommodation it is being acknowledged, and where these strategies do not work, fear and extra-institutional violence is being unleashed.

Secular-progressive forces will not only have to address each of these strategies but need to make better sense of the distinct political atmosphere being created in the way they are being combined.

(The writer is Associate Professor, Centre for Political Studies, JNU)