India, the largest parliamentary democracy in the world, celebrated its 73rd Independence Day on Saturday, August 15. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as per the protocol, addressed the 1.3 billion people of the country from the Red Fort in Delhi. In his speech, he promised to bring universal health cards, provide internet access, through optical fibre lines, to all villages across the country, including the islands, within the next 1,000 days. And in his characteristic way, he had warned the two neighbouring states. Standing in the Red Fort on the same day, the Prime Minister said, “Be it terrorism or expansionism, India is standing up to both and defeating it.”
It is to be noted that,ever since he became the Prime Minister, the issue of the security of India has come up time and again in his speeches. Earlier in 2016, when a militant attack on an army camp in Uri took place or in more recent times after a militant attack on a CRPF convoy in Pulwama,Modi was seen to issue a stern warning to Pakistan. India had responded to Pakistan with surgical strikes after the Uri attack and with airstrikes in Balakot after the Pulwama incidence. Although 20 Indian soldiers were killed in Ladakh, at least 35 Chinese soldiers were killed. The Prime Minister has repeatedly highlighted this glorious ballad and heroism of the Indian Army.
Even this year’s Independence Day speech was no exception. The PM had said, “The country has embarked on a remarkable journey with an extraordinary goal. The walkway is full of adversity. Recently some unfortunate movements on the border have challenged the country. But whoever has challenged the sovereignty of the country in the Line of Control or the Line of Actual Control, the brave soldiers of the country have given them fitting response. The world has seen what the Indian Army is capable of doing to protect the country in Ladakh. Today, from this premise of the Red Fort, I pay my homage to the soldiers who sacrificed their lives for the motherland.”
In this article, I will not write anything special to analyse the speech and action of Mr.Modi and his government. Instead, I will quote the political scientist Lawrence W. Britt’s writing ‘The Fourteen Characteristics of Fascism’. Lawrence Britt has identified fourteen signs of fascism by analyzing the regimes of Adolf Hitler of Germany, Benito Mussolini of Italy, Francisco Franco of Spain, Suharto of Indonesia and Augusto Pinochet of Chile.
These 14 characteristics are:
- Powerful and Continuing Nationalism—Fascist regimes tend to make constant use of patriotic mottos, slogans, symbols, songs, and other paraphernalia. Flags are seen everywhere, as are flag symbols on clothing and in public displays.
- Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights—Because of fear of enemies and the need for security, the people in fascist regimes are persuaded that human rights can be ignored in certain cases because of “need”. The people tend to ‘look the other way’ or even approve of torture, summary executions, assassinations, long incarcerations of prisoners, etc.
- Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause—The people are rallied into a unifying patriotic frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived common threat or foe: racial, ethnic or religious minorities; liberals; communists; socialists, terrorists, etc.
- The supremacy of the Military—Even when there are widespread domestic problems, the military is given a disproportionate amount of government funding, and the domestic agenda is neglected. Soldiers and military service are glamourised.
- Rampant Sexism—The governments of fascist nations tend to be almost exclusively male-dominated. Under fascist regimes, traditional gender roles are made more rigid. Opposition to abortion is high, as is homophobia and anti-gay legislation and national policy.
- Controlled Mass Media—Sometimes the media is directly controlled by the government, but in other cases, the media is indirectly controlled by government regulation, or through sympathetic media spokespeople and executives. Censorship, especially in wartime, is very common.
- Obsession with National Security—Fear is used as a motivational tool by the government over the masses.
- Religion and Government are Intertwined—Governments in fascist nations tend to use the most common religion in the nation as a tool to manipulate public opinion. Religious rhetoric and terminology are common from government leaders, even when the major tenets of the religion are diametrically opposed to the government’s policies or actions.
- Corporate Power is Protected—The industrial and business aristocracy of a fascist nation often are the ones who put the government leaders into power, creating a mutually beneficial business/government relationship and power elite.
- Labor Power is Suppressed—Because the organizing power of labor is the only real threat to a fascist government, labor unions are either eliminated entirely or are severely suppressed.
- Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts—Fascist nations tend to promote and tolerate open hostility to higher education, and academia. It is not uncommon for professors and other academics to be censored or even arrested. Free-expression in the arts is openly attacked, and governments often refuse to fund the arts.
- Obsession with Crime and Punishment—Under fascist regimes, the police are given almost limitless power to enforce laws. The people are often willing to overlook police abuses, and even forego civil liberties, in the name of patriotism. There is often a national police force with virtually unlimited power in fascist nations.
- Rampant Cronyism and Corruption—Fascist regimes are almost always governed by groups of friends and associates who appoint each other to government positions, and who use governmental power and authority to protect their friends from accountability. It is not uncommon in fascist regimes for national resources and even treasures to be appropriated or even outright stolen by government leaders.
- Fraudulent Elections—Sometimes elections in fascist nations are a complete sham. Other times elections are manipulated by smear campaigns against (or even the assassination of) opposition candidates, the use of legislation to control voting numbers or political district boundaries, and the manipulation of the media. Fascist nations also typically use their judiciaries to manipulate or control elections.
Continuing with my initial remark on the Prime Minister’s speech on India’s security, Prime Minister NarendraModi’s speech at the Red Fort summed up the security situation, I want to stress that the speech on the Independence Day is not an one-off incidence. Rather, it is a continuation of his speeches on national security since his coming to power in 2014. His carefully crafted strategy on religion-politics-administration centres around Ram Mandir and is evident in his 5th August-speech in Ayodhya: “Ram Mandir will become the modern symbol of our traditions. It’ll become a symbol of our devotion, our national sentiment. This temple will also symbolise the power of collective resolution of crores of people. It will keep inspiring the future generations.”The rule of the BJP-led NDA government under Narendra Modi is marked by the imprisonment ofthe intellectuals-professors-social workers in the country. His government is also instrumental in taking decision to sell government agencies to corporates, bring in new labour law or the labour code. Do these speeches and actions not remind us of Britt’s characterisation of fascism?
Asish Gupta is a senior journalist