INDIAN People’s Association in North America (IPANA) organized a public meeting in Vancouver. It had its focus on the problem of communalism in India, particularly the growth of Hindu chauvanism which is not only posing a serious threat to the many religious, ethnic and linguistic minorities but also becoming an ideology of emergent fascism in the country.

The main speaker was Dr. Rajni Kothari, an internationally renowned political scientist, author of many books, and most importantly a concerned and committed democrat. Besides being the Director of the Centre for the Developing Societies in Delhi, Dr. Kothari also heads LOKAYAN, an organization committed to grassroots action and social justice. A few months ago Dr. Kothari, along with over one hundred other concerned democratic personalities in India, gave out a call to the nation. This is what the Call said:

“Recent political developments in India are dominated by the tragic and systematic suppression of various groups: linguistic and religious minorities, various regional identities, the schedule castes and tribes, and other backward classes.

“This vast majority is largely illiterate and powerless. The powerbrokers of the dominating minority can easily divide them into helpless segments or, worse, into hostile factions by manipulating the degrading but powerful symbols of Casteism, communalism, linguistic and regional chauvanism. Ruling over this dismembered body of subalterns with provocations, with incitements to riot and massacre, and, failing these, with fascist methods and fascist laws has come to be known as secularism and national integration.

“The results are there for all to see. This so-called secularism and national integration has eroded communal harmony, created linguistic and interregional discord and rivalry, incited ethnic and caste violence, and, now, it threatens the very existence and development of the nation.

“In view of such a situation, patriots and democrats belonging to all sections of the Indian nation are increasingly asking: Whither India? Is India to slide into a vicious circle of governmental and private terrorism and heartless ethnic strife? Is it to be balkanized out of existence? Is an increasingly brutal and brutalizing centralized State is the only destiny? Are all identities to be dissolved by throwing the nation into a vitriolic mixture of corruption, economic stagnation, discriminatory distribution, gender suppression, and brutal state violence?

“Or is India to strike out on a different road which combines growth with equality, and unity with a multilayered process of autonomy that recognizes both disjunctions and conjunctions in the various caste, tribal, national, regional and religious identities?

“This choice of roads confronts every Indian today. We are convinced that the present turn in Indian history will lead us to a culdesac of disaster and liquidation. All well-meaning Indians must rise to the occasion and devise ways and means for achieving a truly democratic and secular nation.”

This is the call which Dr. Rajni Kothari and many other leading democratic personalities in India made to the nation. The crisis is indeed serious. Unable to solve the basic problems of the Indian masses and confronted with their growing struggles, the ruling classes and their party, the Congress and the Gandhi family, have been fomenting the virus of communalism among the people. They have largely succeeded in turning Punjab into a “Sikh” problem. By raising the fake issue of national integrity and unity and flaming a countrywide hysteria around it, they have put the entire Sikh community on the spot. All over India Sikhs are today treated as suspects ridiculed and humiliated. And it is no longer the question of the Sikhs or of Punjab anymore. These have already served the initial purpose of inflaming Hindu fundamentalism, in the name of nationalism. Today, every religious minority, and every distinct ethnic, regional and linguistic identity, is under attack. Muslims as the largest religious minority was never quite secure in India. Today the very survival of their distinct cultural identity is under threat. Their mosques are being occupied or trespassed. Their religious beliefs are being challenged. The same is the fate of the Christians in India, about as big a minority as the Sikhs. Organized forces of Hindu fundamentalists are going around burning churches and undertaking programmes of “shuddhikaran” (reconversions). The tribal people unless they declare that they are Hindus are being subjected to similar threats. The Dalits (the untouchables and other low castes), for long the most oppressed in Indian society, are being put under similar pressures. There is a phenomenal, frightening growth of chauvanistic Hindu fundamentalism which is often taking militant, armed, and organized forms. This growing Hindu chauvanism, abetted and endorsed by the State policies, is increasingly forcing every minority group into a situation where they have to prove that they are Indians.

Under this facade of growing communalism, there are clear signs of the emergence of fascism in India. It will be fascism much more dangerous than the emergency rule of the 70’s. This will be fascism with a social ideology, the ideology of Brahminical Hindu Chauvanism. Signs of it could be seen in the manner the fundamentalist forces are attempting to equate being an Indian with being a Hindu.

India is rich because, among other things, of its diverse people: their languages, religions, cultures, and regional identities. The ruling classes and the ruling party are posing a serious threat to this diversity by promoting forces of fascism based upon Hindu issued and Brahminical uniformity.

It is to fight these trends that the democratic people all over India are uniting. The Call given by Dr. Kothari and others resulted in a countrywide mobilization in the form of a national convention. Other regional conferences have followed. Under the leadership of revolutionary and democratic forces, new organizational forms on a national scale are in the process of emerging which brings together the many distinct religious, linguistic, ethnic and regional identities. More importantly, a new realization is emerging that put together all the minorities constitute an overwhelming majority in India.

Article extracted from this publication >>  May 29, 1987