An  indulgent  democratic  system  that  fosters  `religious  fascism’  –  both  in  the  brain  and  the  brawn

rss trishul

“Tolerance toward that which is radically evil now appears as good because it serves the cohesion of the whole on the road to affluence or more affluence…In a democracy with totalitarian organization, objectivity may fulfill a very different function, namely to foster a mental attitude which tends to obliterate the difference between true and false, information and indoctrination, right and wrong ” – Herbert Marcuse. 1

Marcuse’s words uttered in the 1960s in the context of the West in those days, have prophetically come true in India today, where a political party has been voted to power in a parliamentary democracy by an electorate possessing a mental attitude which tends to obliterate the difference between true and false, information and indoctrination, right and wrong.’ The campaign during the 2019 Lok Sabha elections was marked by a well-orchestrated propaganda by the BJP, through both the TV channels (mostly owned by its patrons or protégés) and its cadres at the ground level . While the TV channels boosted the image of Narendra Modi as the only supreme leader capable of defeating Pakistan (by using phallic terms likepenetration’ into its territory), the BJP activists in the rural areas resorted to the popular communication media of rumours – spreading fake news.’ A panic was spread among the people against Muslims (as agents of Pakistan) and Dalits (as criminal castes), many among whom became victims of a mass hysteria on the eve of the elections . They were lynched by mobs led by the Sangh Parivar vigilantes who had succeeded in mobilizing Hindu public support by foregrounding the issue of cow-protection and alleging that the Muslims and Dalits were slaughtering the cow - the holy emblem ofGo-mata’ of the Hindus.

Here is an example of an excellent combination of the use of modern technology and traditional oral popular forms of propaganda in an electoral campaign, that could shape the minds of the electorate in a particular direction, and pave the way for the victory of the BJP. It throws light on the mood of the voters who were motivated or swayed by the propaganda to such an extent that they were even willing to forget their recent unfortunate experiences in their daily existence following demonetization, GST, and to ignore the mass scale suicide of farmers in their own neighbourhood in the countryside. It is this `mental attitude’ (the term used by Marcuse) of the Indian electorate which needs to be analyzed.

We are living in what Marcuse termed as a totalitarian democracy,’ where themental attitude’ of our people is being shaped, distorted, and forced into a direction which is radically evil, ’ by powerful media channels, grass roots activists of the Sangh Parivar, and even sanctioned by the judiciary (e.g. Supreme Court Chief Justice J.S. Verma’s infamous pronouncement in December, 1995 thatHindutva’ was a “way of life and state of mind” that should be accepted by all Indians. Or, take the latest instance of the Meghalaya High Court judge, S. R. Sen stating in public in December, 2018, that India should have declared itself as a Hindu nation). Institutions which are required to be independent of political control and operate in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution (whether the Central Vigilance Commission, the CBI, or the Central Election Commission) have collaborated with the ruling party in the direction of a totalitarian neo-liberal economic order, a totalitarian socio-cultural order of majoritarian Hindu religious hegemony, and a totalitarian political order of one-party, one-person rule. The worst example of the degeneration of institutions is the partisan attitude that the Election Commission displayed during the Lok Sabha polls – giving clean chits to the Prime Minister and his followers even after clear evidence of their hate speeches that violated the Model Code of Conduct, while hauling up the Opposition politicians at the drop of a hat for violating the Code.

Ironically, all these developments – (i) the domination of the political sphere by a party whose leaders openly declare their intention to change the Constitution and create a theocratic majoritarian Hindu Rashtra (like Zionist Israel, and the Islamic regimes in the Middle East); (ii) the communalization and corruption of the judiciary ; (iii) the election of corrupt and criminal politicians in state legislatures and Parliament (forty-three percent of the newly elected Lok Sabha members, for instance, have criminal charges against them, the majority of them being from the BJP, according to the findings of the Association for Democratic Reforms); and (iv) the exercise of money power by the candidates (Rs. 27,000 crore spent by the BJP alone out of the total expenditure of Rs. 60,000 crore by all political parties in their campaign, according to a report by the Centre of Media Studies) to woo, bribe and mobilize the voters – have taken place under a system of parliamentary democracy, which is supposed to represent the popular will through elections !

Democratic `Tolerance’

The system has degenerated over the years – with the collapse of the institutions that were entrusted with the task of supervising its functioning, and preventing its mal-functioning. It is in such a situation, that the majoritarian Hindu religious fanatic forces could occupy space in the socio-political field during the last decades. Taking advantage of the democratic rights under the Constitution, these forces (the Sangh Parivar and its lumpen outfits) under the garb of a recognized political party, the Jana Sangh in the 1960s and the BJP in the 1970s, entered the electoral arena. Piggybacking on the Jaya Prakash Narayan-led movement against the Congress government’s corrupt rule in 1973-74, they managed to emerge on the political scene, and become a part of the Janata government at the Centre after the 1977 general elections.

Since then, the politics of Hindu fascism had been increasingly earning legitimacy in social, cultural, educational and other spheres of Indian polity and society. This had been largely due to the acquiescence of those running the Indian parliamentary system in allowing, and at times encouraging these fascist forces to enter Parliament. Even after the year long `ratha-yatra’ led by the BJP leader L.K. Advani urging Hindus to build Ram-mandir in Ayodhya, which left a trail of communal riots, and culminated in the destruction of the Babri Masjid in 1992, those guilty of the crimes were permitted to contest elections, and create an environment of communal polarization in their poll campaign that enabled them to win.

To paraphrase Lenin’s famous words – “Anarchism was often a sort of punishment for the opportunist sins of the working class movement” (in his book Left Wing Communism, An Infantile Disorder’. 1920 ), we can also today say that religious fascism is thepunishment ‘ that we are suffering from, for the `sins’ committed by our politicians in the course of our transition through parliamentary democracy. In their opportunist interests, even secular, centrist, socialist and Left parties had often either collaborated with, or tacitly approved of the presence of Hindu communal forces in joint agitations, to oust their political opponents, as happened during the anti-Indira Gandhi movement led by J.P. Narayan in the 1970s.

The Sangh Parivar’s exploitation of India’s democratic system.

The Parivar uses the levers of democracy at two levels – one appealing to the brawn’, the other to thebrains.’ As for the first, we have already described how it has build up its muscle power based on the brawn’ of its recruits. Through them, it seeks to legitimize mobocracy, by rousing violent impulses among the Hindu public against the Muslim minority, secular forces and rationalist voices, in support of the false claim of identifying Indian nationalism withHindutva.

At the second level, it has successfully used the democratic mechanism of electoral politics to woo the brains’ of the voters in its favour, which enabled the BJP to come to power at the Centre first under Vajpayee’s leadership in 2014, and now again in 2019, on its own. During its first term, it exercised its power with uncommon ugliness to pollute thebrains’ by imposing its ideology of Hindutva in the academia. The then BJP minister in charge of the Human Resources Development portfolio, Murli Manohar Joshi, made use of the state-funded institutions like NCERT (National Council of Educational Research and Training), and NCTE (National Council for Teacher Training) by compelling them to make changes respectively in the hitherto approved text books and syllabi and teacher training course, through messages that falsified history by valorizing Hindu nationalism over other streams in the anti-colonial movement, and reinforced prejudices against Muslims and other minorities. (Re: `Doctoring Text Books’, by Parvathi Menon and T.K. Rajalakshmi in FRONTLINE, Vol. 15, No. 23, 1998).

The Sangh Parivar’s attempts to infiltrate into the Indian academia and dominate it with its own ideologues, gained momentum after its second coming – when Narendra Modi became the prime minister in 2014. The Parivar always resented the right to question given Hindu traditions, beliefs, and customs – a right that had been enjoyed by both teachers and students in educational institutions, where they could debate over controversial issues relating to the past in Indian history, the problems of nation-building in post-Independence India, the plight of religious and ethnic minorities under the present state, among other topics.

Once coming to power at the Centre in 2014, the BJP began to purge the academia of all historians, educationists, scientists who pursued their research, or taught their students, in accordance with the fundamental rules of their respective disciplines, and the basic values of our Constitution that uphold secularism and the fundamental duty to develop scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform. Its Human Resources Development) ministry forced them out by making things difficult for them to function.

To mention a few instances of the ouster of eminent academics from such institutions, we can start with the case of the Nobel Laureate economist Amartya Sen. He felt compelled to resign from the post of the Chancellor of Nalanda University in February , 2015 as he found that “academic governance in India remains so deeply vulnerable to the opinions of the ruling government”. 2 Similarly, the eminent nuclear scientist Anil Kakodkar, apparently because of differences with the then HRD minister Smriti Irani – but surely disturbed by the BJP rulers’ dismissal of science and scientific research – resigned from the post of chairman of the Mumbai IIT. (Re: Times of India, March 18, 2015).

Who were the people whom the BJP government appointed to the top posts in the research institutes and educational and cultural establishments ? Its Human Resources Development (HRD) ministry started filling these posts with RSS activists or people with Sangh Parivar affiliation. The prestigious Indian Council of Historical Research, came to be headed by Y. Sudershan Rao, who was associated with the RSS-sponsored Akhil Bhartiya Itihas Sankalan Yojana. Not known as a scholar of repute among his peers, this gentleman, soon after assuming the position of chairperson of ICHR, announced his decision to sponsor research projects to rewrite ancient history based on the stories of Ramayana and Mahabharata ! Much worse, after his appointment in July, 2014, he literally sabotaged the publication of the last two volumes (IV and V) of a nationally important research project undertaken earlier by the ICHR – ‘Dictionary of Martyrs: India’s Freedom Struggle, 1857-1947.’

Despite the completion of these volumes, and their finalization for printing, he sat on them, refusing to hold any meeting of the Advisory Committee to proceed with their publication. The inordinate delay in bringing out these last two volumes of a project of national importance, raised eye-brows not only among historians, but also the common readers. Volumes IV and V, incidentally, cover respectively eastern and southern India – areas where the Hindu chauvinist RSS (whose leaders collaborated with the British colonial administration) had no presence during the freedom movement, and therefore could not claim any martyr. Is that the reason why the authorities of ICHR were reluctant to publish those volumes ?

Next, we heard of the irregular appointment of a new chairperson for the Indian Institute of Advance Studies in Shimla (from which position Gopal Krishna Gandhi resigned soon after the BJP came to power), called Chandrakala Padia – a little-known individual in academic circles – who to start with, was not in the original panel of nominees that was submitted to the appointees. But her name was reportedly recommended by Smriti Irani, who was then the Human Resources Development minister in the BJP cabinet (Re: The Hindu Business Line, July 31, 2015).

Three other important institutions – this time in the highly influential sphere of mass communication – were brought under the domination of newly appointed heads who were affiliated to the Sangh Parivar in some way or other. The first was the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), the country’s premier centre to train actors, directors, script-writers and technicians among others in the film industry. The second was the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), which has over the years assumed – illegally – the power to censor films . The third was the news channel Prasar Bharati. (Re: `The takeover: how the Modi government has filled key positions in 14 institutions,’ by Soumya Shankar, in www.… October 28, 2015).

In the FTTI, students began a strike from June 12, 2015 in protest against the appointment of their new head by the Information and Broadcasting Ministry. This person was a certain Gajendra Chauhan – a small time actor in TV soap operas who had been a member of the BJP since 2004, and campaigned for the party in Haryana during the last Lok Sabha elections. His appointment – a political largesse of sorts by the ruling party – was thus quite understandably seen by both the students and the faculty, as well as the former alumni of the FTTI, as an insult to the tradition of the institute which in the past had been headed by eminent film makers like Shyam Benegal, Mrinal Sen, Mahesh Bhatt, and Girish Karnad among others.

A similar political largesse was given by the BJP government to Pahlaj Nihelani who was appointed the head of the Central Board of Film Certification, in January, 2015, soon after Leela Samson (the famous Bharatnatyam dancer, choreographer and writer) resigned from her position as its chairperson citing interference by the new government. Who was this Pahlaj Nihelani ? A film maker with a few mediocre Bollywood films to his credit, he came into prominence with his promotional video called “Har Har Modi, Ghar Ghar Modi” that was released on the social media to boost Narendra Modi’s image on the eve of the 2014 general elections. At press interviews, he openly declared: “Narendra Modi is my action hero.” 3 No wonder, he was rewarded with this coveted post – and predictably enough he carried out the Sangh Parivar’s agenda of banning any expression of defiance of conservative and parochial sexual and social norms on the screen. He got embroiled himself into a number of controversies with the film fraternity, by censoring scenes of kissing, gay relationships, assertion of women’s rights , etc. – one instance being his refusal to give certificate to the film `Lipstick under my burkha.’ The reasons for the refusal were stated in a note by the CBFC, that was written in a style that reflected the low level of both thinking and articulation among the BJP appointees. Here are a few samples: “The story is lady oriented, their fantasy above life….contanious (sic) sexual scenes….audio pornography.” 4

To come to the third instance of a political appointment, in October, 2014, the BJP government chose a new chairman for Prasar Bharati (which administers the country’s public broadcasters – Doordarshan and All India Radio). The appointee was A. Surya Prakash, a fellow of the Vivekananda International Foundation, which is openly supported by the Sangh Parivar as its think tank. This gentleman is known to have closely worked with BJP and RSS leaders. 5

If we turn to the universities, the most brazen example of inept vice-chancellors being appointed and protected by BJP Ministers, is that of Appa Rao Podile at the University of Hyderabad. This gentleman became the vice-chancellor of the university in September, 2015. The next year, following the suicide of the Dalit student Rohit Vemula, the students and teachers of the university filed a case against him – citing instances of his prejudicial attitude against Dalit students, which they claimed led to Rohit’s suicide. Any academic, with an iota of self-respect, should have resigned in the face of such allegations, and chosen to keep away from the campus till cleared of the charges. But despite continuing protests by the faculty and the students of the University of Hyderabad who demanded his removal, Appa Rao Podile continues to rule over the University, thanks to the reported protection he receives from his political patrons in New Delhi. 6

The other shameless example of a vice-chancellor buckling down under the dictates of the goons of the ruling BJP, was Mamidala Jagadesh Kumar, who headed the Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi. A former professor of electrical engineering at the IIT, Delhi, he was suddenly promoted to the position of the vice-chancellor of JNU, an internationally acclaimed institution which had seen a succession of eminent scholars as its vice-chancellors. This newly appointed vice-chancellor, according to reports, overrode many other suitable candidates – thanks to his proximity to the BJP government. Apparently, his only qualification (recognized by his political patrons) was his affiliation with an RSS outfit called Vijnana Bharati, which indulges in pseudo-scientific propaganda. Before his appointment, on being asked about his vision for the university (JNU), he said: “If selected, I will first interact with students to seek their feedback on campus facilities.” 7 But once having been appointed, he reneged on his promise, and started instead to persecute the students at the behest of the BJP government. He allowed the goons of the ABVP to disrupt meetings of students belonging to Left and secular organizations, leading to clashes, and then called the police into the campus in February 2016, who arrested Kanhaiya Kumar, the elected president of the JNU students’ union (a Leftist student leader).

Narendra Modi’s rise as a religio-political messiah in Indian public mind

It is in this scenario, designed during the 2014-2019 NDA regime under his helm, that Narendra Modi staked his candidature as the prime minister for the second term. Through the saffronization’ of major educational and cultural institutions (as described earlier), he had already succeeded in banishing secular and liberal minded public intellectuals from these fora, by damning them as Anglisized elite, thus conflating liberal values with Western culture, in a bid to rouse nativist nationalism. This curbed the opportunity of the liberal-secular intellectuals (often described asopinion-makers’, due to their position which they enjoyed in the academia and other spheres till then), to intervene in the public debate during the 2019 election campaign, and try to influence the choices of the voters. Later during his 2019 election speeches, Narendra Modi started describing this liberal/secular intellectual spectrum as `Khan Market’ gang. He was presumably targeting the reputed India International Centre, which is a few yards away from Khan Market, and which continues to host meetings of academics and social activists, among others, in a tradition of free debates over the policies and acts of the ruling powers, irrespective of their political hues.

Just a few months ahead of the 2019 polls, in another clever move, Modi managed to shut out social activists and human rights fighters from campaigning against him, by orchestrating police raids at their homes across Delhi, Pune, Hyderabad, Ranchi among other places in June, 2018, in connection with the fabricated Bhima Koregaon case. Lawyer Sudha Bharadwaj who had been fighting cases of the poor in Chhattisgarh, and the well-known Telegu poet Varavara Rao who had been giving voice to the protests of the rural poor in Telengana, were put behind bars, along with many other social activists. Human rights advocate and journalist Gautam Navlakha was put under house arrest in Delhi, while the writer Anand Teltumbe, known for his outspoken defence of Dalit rights.

It was this political vacuum which was created by the Modi regime’s denial of ideological inputs and intervention from these liberal-secular sections in the public debate, that opened up a hugely advantageous space for Modi in the subservient mass media channels for his next bid for power. This is not to say that the absence of the liberal-secular forces in the mass media was the determinant factor in his re-election with a thumping majority.

He managed to toss off a populist cocktail of development’ andnationalism a la Hindutva,’ which intoxicated some 40 % (a rise from the 30% in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections) of the electorate to vote for his party at the Centre in the recent 2019 parliamentary elections. This success of his cannot be solely attributed to the tireless work of the RSS activists and others of the Sangh Parivar, to which he belongs. It is quite evident that over the last five years, outside the Parivar’ circles, he had built up an image of himself among large sections of urban and rural voters, who had been persuaded to believe (through his public interactions as well as the deluge of pro-Modia propaganda through the social media) that he is a messiah promising them the utopia ofachche din.’ Despite the burah din’ - bad times - that they experienced in their diurnal living during the last five years of his rule, following demonetization, GST, agrarian distress), they still voted for Modi. How do we explain this contradiction between their unhappy existential experiences and their re-affirmation of faith in the same political leader who failed to give them theachche din.’ ?
We need to recall Marcuse’s concept of the mental attitude ‘ of the people. In the Indian context, themental attitude’ of our people is not only shaped by the modern media, but also determined to a large extent by the traditional socio-religious belief system. The bedrock of this system is the faith in an individual authority – a guru’ among Hindus, apir’ among Muslims, a saint’ among Christians, and similar counterparts among other religious communities. It is this tradition of popular faith in, and submission to an individual authority, that had been cunningly used by the BJP and its prime minister Modi during its five-year rule, and the later Lok Sabha electoral campaign. Both the BJP’s political promotion of Modi as their leader, and Modi’s personal projection of himself as a persona in national politics and international fora, helped to elevate Modi to the stature of aguru’ in the Indian public psyche, where he alone could be trusted to deliver the promised benefits to his devotees. Like the village religious charlatans, or the heads of religious establishments, who attract followers by promising them cures for their ailments (by distributing amulets and sanctified food prasada’s, and keep them awaiting by repeating a new set of promises after they are disappointed), Narendra Modi has adopted their tactics in the Indian political scenario. If his pre-2014 electoral promises of millions of jobs andachchey din’ for the masses went haywire during the last five years, so what ? He was not to be daunted. In his 2019 election campaign he came out with another long string of amulets and prasada’s to keep his devotees faithful to him: in the form of provision of Rs. 2000 for a farmer every now and then; a toilet for every rural family; medical care for the poor;mantras’ uttering the rhetoric of `vikash’ (development) and nationalism, the latter being loudly proclaimed through claims of military strikes against Pakistan. His magic cocktail worked – recalling the German mass worship of Hitler as the Furher and Italian popular devotion to Mussolini as their Duce in the 1930s.

Restoring democracy in India

However much we may feel disappointed by the results of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, we have to admit that the present government has come to power through an electoral process, where large sections of the electorate voted for corrupt and criminal politicians, as well as bigots of Hindutva terrorist outfits (like Pragya from Bhopal), who will run the Indian state for the next five years.

The BJP thus represents an oligarchy of (i) criminal and corrupt ministers and legislators ; (ii) ideologues of its religious patron RSS, who dictate its policies; (iii) powerful corporate business house members, known to be close to BJP, who bank – rolled its electoral campaign in 2019, in exchange of future favours; and (iv) some sections of the army who are ready to echo the militarist jingoism of the Sangh Parivar.

The uphill task of defeating this process of subversion of our Constitution and destruction of our democratic rights, that had been unleashed by the BJP and its non-state agencies (whether in power or outside), requires a multi-pronged strategy.

Grassroots mass movements

The first prong can be the organization of well-coordinated mass movements at the grassroots level which can unite all sections of the people against the oppressive economic policies and repressive socio-religious practices. One such example of a successful mass mobilization was the march of some 40,000 farmers and peasants of Maharashtra (under the aegis of the Leftist AIKS – All India Kisan Sabha) in the second week of March, 2018. They walked 180 kms. from different villages to reach the centre of Mumbai in March, 2018 , and congregated at Azad Maidan to voice their demands for waiver of debts, fair price for their agricultural products, minimum wages for the agricultural labourers, and rights of forest dwellers on their lands. The AIKS succeeded in bringing together on a common platform these grievances of various sections of the agrarian people – ranging from small farmers to tribal forest dwellers. More importantly, the citizens of Mumbai spontaneously welcomed these farmers when they arrived, by offering food, drinking water and shelters. They joined them in their protest rally in Azad Maidan. It was this powerful public demonstration of various voices of protests – brought together by the AIKS – which compelled the BJP chief minister Devendra Phatnavis to meet its leaders, and finally concede to their demands. This experience reassures us that well-organized mass campaigns based on the fundamental needs of the working poor, still remain the propelling force to resist Right-wing neo-liberal Hindu fascism in the economic arena.

Similar campaigns launched by a new generation of young social activists and politicians to rally the Dalits and other oppressed sections, helped them to defeat the BJP in elections in its traditional stronghold in Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh, and even trounce its candidate in Narendra Modi’s home state Gujarat, by getting elected their dynamic young Dalit social activist, Jignesh Mevani to the legislature in 2018. It is the young activists from the campuses – the JNU (Jawaharlal Nehru University) students leaders like Kanhaiya Kumar and Shehla Rashid among many others – and the activists in the fighting fields of the countryside, like Chandrasekhar Azad, the leader of the Dalit youth organization Bhim Army, who are emerging as new forces in the Indian political scenario. If they can come together, and forge an alliance with various all-India organizations like the NAPM (National Alliance of People’s Movements), Bhumi Adhikar Andoloan (BAA), All India Union for Forest Working People, which had been engaged in grass roots struggles for several decades, such a combination could effectively resist the `religious fascism’ that has been unleashed in India by the BJP-led government through its agents and agencies.

Changing the mindset of the Indian bourgeoisie

The next prong has to address the Indian middle and upper class urban social and cultural milieu – members of which are described as `opinion makers’ in the political discourse and the media. They have been largely seduced by Narendra Mody’s rhetoric of development, economic growth, nationalist pride, etc. Any attempt to change this psyche involves a long haul. Reared upon values of pursuing goals of sheer self advancement (whether under the Congress-led UPA, or the BJP-led NDA), members of this section range from corporate bigwigs to traders in the business sector, from employees in MNC (Multi National Corporation) and IT (Information Technology) to lawyers and college teachers in the sector of professions, from journalists in newspapers to anchors in television in the communication media sector, from MLAs and MPs to panchayat heads in the political scenario. Ensconced within their comfortable cubicles, they can afford to be totally oblivious of the untold miseries brought upon the common people by Modi’s reckless policies during the last five years.

Should this elitist conglomeration be described as opinion makers’ ? They may be literate and well-conversant with the terms of modern politics and administration, which enable them to thrive . But are they educated enough in the values of secularism, socialism, scientific temperament that are enshrined in our Constitution ? Steeped in superstitious beliefs and practices, they prefer to spend crores on religiousyagnas,’ and patronize lecherous god-men like Asharam Bapu and Ram Rahim – accused of raping their female disciples (re:, August 28, 2017; https://www.the to run their `ashrams,’ instead of heeding to the more important basic needs of the rural and urban poor.

A concerted effort has to be made to detoxify their minds from the poison of religious obscurantism (which paves the way for the social legitimization of `religious fascism’), and sensitize them to the wider and basic socio- economic issues that plague the nation – like farmers’ suicides caused by indebtedness, the central government’s agrarian policies that cause these suicides, its plans of industrialization that are leading to displacement of thousands of the rural population from their fields and homesteads. More importantly, they need to be warned about the limitations of the present technology-oriented model of development – which they are enamoured of, as it provides them with remunerative jobs and prospective careers now, but can throw them out in the near future once their capitalist employers find them redundant after their replacement with robots in the coming era of AI (Artificial Intelligence.)

Need for a new political pedagogy – from information’ toknowledge.’

In such a situation where the so-called `opinion makers’ are themselves distorting Indian public opinion in the direction of subversion of the basic tenets of our Constitution, Indian democracy, for its survival, needs a watch-dog. The role of the watch dog is expected to be played by the electorate. But the Indian electorate till now have turned out to be a rather unreliable and unpredictable entity. True, they overthrew Indira Gandhi’s dictatorial regime by defeating her in the 1977 Lok Sabha elections. But soon after, she bounced back as an MP from Chigmagalur in Karnataka, where the voters (who having been unaffected by, and indifferent to, the atrocities of the Emergency period in north India and other parts of the country), elected her. This paved her way to rally her followers and return to power at the Centre in 1982. Thus, just within a five-year period, the electorate psyche changed – partly because of the anti-incumbency mood of disappointment with the prevalent Janata government, and partly due to the traditional faith in the Nehru family-led Congress party’s promise to deliver goods. Similarly, within another five year period – from 2009 to 2014 – the Indian electorate swung from one end of the political spectrum to the other – from the centrist Congress to the Rightist BJP , which was elected to power in the parliamentary elections in 2014.

This mercurial mood of the Indian voters reflects a pathetic absence of any firm ideology-based politics of secularism and socialism (principles on which our Constitution is grounded), and points out at the lack of any enlightened political leadership to educate and organize them in that direction. It is urgent therefore that secular political parties co-operate with civil society groups and social movements to formulate a new political pedagogy to sensitize the electorate to the values of Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles of our Constitution – instead of playing upon their sectarian sentiments and immediate self-interest in order to win votes. Only an electorate which is committed to these values, can ensure the preservation of democracy in India. The need for educating the electorate, was best explained by John Stuart Mill (1806-73) over a century ago, in the context of his own England, and framed in words which may sound quaint, but their essence still remaining relevant for the Indian electorate today : “Until there shall have been devised, and until opinion is willing to accept, some mode of plural voting which may assign to education as such the degree of superior influence due to it….for so long, the benefits of completely universal suffrage cannot be obtained without bringing with them ….more than equivalent evils.” 12

The concept of education’ in this context, implies something beyond its present opportunist interpretation as a mere tool for getting jobs in the commercial market, or making political careers in the electoral arena. We should restore the concept to its original status as asuperior influence’ (superior to religious, racist, and other sectarian sources of influence), as an agency for enlightening people with knowledge’ (as different frominformation’ ). What I mean by a new political pedagogy,’ in the present Indian situation, is the education of our people in theknowledge’ of the underlying factors in our society, economy and political system that produce an iniquitous and disharmonious reality. Only such a knowledge can activate our people to challenge the prevailing model of economic development of nation-building, and invigorate the present flaccid democratic system with enough spirit and strength to defeat religious fascism.

1. Repressive Tolerance (1965) in A Critique of Pure Tolerance. Boston. Beacon Press. 1969.
1. Re: Sen’s letter of resignation, as published in The Wall Street Journal, February 22, 2015.
2. Re: Times of India, January 20, 2015
3. Re:…February 25, 2017
4. prakash… October 29, 2014.
5. Re: (i) TNN. January 21, 2016. Times of (ii) Deccan Chronicle, March 25, 2016.
6.… Uploaded on March 7, 2017
7. For a well-researched exposure of the foreign-funding of RSS –affiliated organizations in India, see the report of The Campaign To Stop Funding Hate (TCTSFH), referred to by Times of India, November 20, 2002. (downloaded on March 14, 2017 from…)
8. A study by the South Asian American Leading Together, linked more than 90% of such hate crimes taking place now, to Trump’s hate speeches during his electoral campaign. (Re: HINDU, March 14, 2017)
9. Ibid. HINDU, March 14, 2017
10. India Times, February 26, 2017.
11. J.S. Mill: ‘Considerations on Representative Government.’ Chicago. Gateway Edition. 1962. P. 183)

Sumanta Banerjee is a political and civil rights activist and social scientist. Email: [email protected]


Join Our News Letter




Support Countercurrents

Countercurrents is answerable only to our readers. Support honest journalism because we have no PLANET B.
Become a Patron at Patreon

Join Our Newsletter


Join our WhatsApp and Telegram Channels

Get CounterCurrents updates on our WhatsApp and Telegram Channels

Related Posts

Join Our Newsletter

Annual Subscription

Join Countercurrents Annual Fund Raising Campaign and help us

Latest News