True Love, in the time of Hindu Rashtra

The BJP government succeeded a period of utter chaos (read UPA II) and ushered in an age of brutal Hindu revivalism. Amit Sengupta wonders what dark times lay ahead and what ghosts haunt us…

Four kinds of striking phenomena seem to be infinitely repeating across many parts of the Indian electoral and political kaleidoscope. First, the manufactured Narendra Modi wave, with all the relentless carpet-bombing, often ad-free and live, breaking news media event/marketing management at a blitzkrieg and breathless speed, like an obsessive epidemic of magical optimism that refuses to ebb. Like the insatiability of a consumerist society, the more we have, the less it is. The fetish seems to be becoming a compulsive addiction for a reasonably mediocre and sycophantic media, and large parts of stupefied, aspirational masses, desperately waiting for Godot.

The second is the anti-Congress wave that has sustained and looped into a hyperbole like an encephalitic disease across the country, especially in those bleak, grey, dead-end twilight zones where the Congress party has been ruling, with or without an alliance. So much so that all those parties who were remotely associated even by default or as outside supporters with the Congress and its defunct and discredited leadership have been severely punished by an angry and disgusted electorate.They are sick with the atrophy, the incompetence, the arrogance, the pomposity, the policy paralysis, and the transparent we-care-a-damn body language of UPAII and its dynasty at 10, Janpath, with its reluctant and utterly unimaginative inheritor. And let us not even forget the lame-duck former Prime Minister, speechlessand ineffective, who was betrayed by the corporates, his own whiz kids of ‘reforms’ with deep pockets, during his regime itself, something unprecedented in history, even while he so deliberately pampered, subsidised and routinely manufactured them as part of his neo-liberal market fundamentalism. The one-dimensional protagonist of liberalisation and structural adjustment was devoured by his own fat-cats and big business Johnny-come-latelys. They ditched him on his face, and chose a superman with a 56-inch chest.

The fourth and the most significant factor is the abject surrender of both will and desire on the part of the Congress party to fight a losing battle, indeed, not even pretending to fight it. And it is not only Robert Vadra and the insatiable longing for real estate, or the multi-million 2G, Coal or Commonwealth scams, the plunder and loot of the last five years of UPA II has marked a permanent scar in the popular psyche of India. Combined with unbridled inflation, whichcontinues till this day, whereby the ordinary people and the poorest were hit where it hurts the most, this was a ready-made recipe in a ravaged landscape for the right-wing fascist wings to spread its carnivorous wings.

The compromised Congress leadership seemed too happy and willing to allow these cannibalistic, shadowy creatures of orthodox, fanatic revivalism to spread across the nooks and corners of the country, even while mass suffering, farmer suicides, social injustice, mass hunger and malnourishment, fake encounters, and communal violence and witch-hunts ravaged the country – from Muzaffarnagar to Saharanpur to Ahmedabad and Manipur. Every Muslim boy falsely accused of being a terrorist had to face the inhumanity of the Congress police system, sometimes for more than a decade in jail, condemned, tortured, degraded and brutalised, and then freed into an unequal and traumatised world, with neither a future, nor a semblance of constitutional dignity or freedom. If the ‘secular’ Congress did not do this to them, then who did it? And what did the ‘secular’ Congress do to punish the guilty, from Batla House in Delhi to Gulberg Society in Ahmedabad?

Every fake encounter, with transparent and irrefutable evidence, was left to be buried in the stinking garbage cans of Congress history with not an iota of justice for those who were dead, and who were fighting for the dead, often shot in cold-blood as a public spectacle. Remember Ishrat Jahan? Or Sohrabuddin?

Every raped woman in the sugarcane fields of Western UP, and thousands of internally displaced Muslim refugees who suffered the exile and condemnation of socially engineered riots by the sinister master-minds of ‘love jihad’, would testify how the Congress government, so close in Delhi, and the Samajwadi Party government, in the state capital, Lucknow, both self-proclaimed secularists, left them to their tragic fate of injustice, even while those who engineered it rode the flying chariots of victory soon after. So what did the Congress and SP government do to those who openly engineered the killings, the communal polarisation, the hate politics and the mass exodus of thousands?

So where did the boy wonder, and his illustrious second rung leadership disappear as floods ravaged Kashmir, with thousands perhaps dead or disappeared, homes and landscape ravaged, tragedy stalking them eternally like trapped in a prison in their imagined homeland. Anyway, how much more infinitely should the people of Kashmir suffer?

The truth is that the country is in the grip of right-wing fascism because the conditions were made ripe by the Congress leadership, the mother and son, and its totally incompetent, visionless, non-committal and low-caliber leadership, sycophantically crawling before the dynasty, despite one drubbing after another. Their body language shows that they care two hoots. Indeed, they have wilfully surrendered and allowed the epidemic to grow. So, how many rallies did Modi and Amit Shah address in Maharashtra? As many as 27 and 17 rallies, respectively. Add the other rallies by almost the entire BJP top leadership; the count comes to more than 500 rallies. Plus, the massive ground work by the RSS/VHP and the multiple fronts of the Sangh Parivar.

And how many did the mother and son, so, seemingly reluctantly, address in the same state before the recent assembly elections? Just about 10. And its top leadership? They simply disappeared into the rat-holes of history’s meaningless and predictable defeats. Of all of them, one political nobody called Anand Sharma, his claim to fame being that he is a staunch loyalist of the dynasty, was apparently sent to Maharashtra. This same fellow, who messed up the commerce ministry in UPA II, has not won a single election in his own home state, Himachal Pradesh, where he is universally treated with disdain and contempt. So how come he and a couple of others became a trump card of a lost battle? And how come the ‘boy wonder’ refuses to take any responsibility for one defeat after another? So why should he not be sacked? Indeed, in which book of history has he read even the abcd of Fascism? Is he aware of its gigantic power and its sinister vision, especially with the State as its instrument?

And where have the great helmsmen of neo-liberal globalisation disappeared, including the lame-duck Prime Minister’s favourite chums of the Washington Consensus? P Chidambaram, Jairam Ramesh, Sushilkumar Shinde, Digvijay Singh, Manish Tewari, Ambika Soni, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Murli Deora, and the entire loyalist soap opera of singular soliloquy, who strutted about the ‘secular’ stage with such stuffed up sentimentality, taking the country for such a jolly good ride which could only end into the abyss of utter despair.

Nietzsche had said that if you gaze at the abyss for too long, the abyss too will start gazing at you. Indeed, thanks to the Congress, we, the people of India, have finally succeeded in inverting the gaze into our own souls. And what have we rediscovered there, in the innermost abyss of darkest despair, like a black hole in a condemned galaxy?

We have found our own neo-Nazi civilisational essence, the great revivalism of Neo-con, Tory, Neo-Nazi Hindutva, the fundamentalist prototypes and clones of our sleepwalker’s dream sequences, the uncanny catharsis of our ‘Catch-22’ anti-catharsis, the pledge of cleanliness after the ethnic cleansing. We have resurrected the stuffed and hollow images of our own bloated, selfish, soulless image, the anti-humanism of symbolic humanism, the dynamic dictatorship of a dead democracy, the unbridled, unchained, unleashed capitalism of dying, gasping, pseudo-socialism. We have reincarnated the Joseph Goebbles of our collective manufactured consent, mythical libidos and guilt complexes; we are in love with the vicious circle, we run round and round the doublespeak labyrinth, around the everyday trial and metamorphosis of Franz Kafka’s nightmares, in the caricatures of endless corridors which run into each other like the walls of a maze runner.

We are so proud now. We have given the country to event managers and ad-tycoons who are also melodious lyric writers. They tell us how the good days are eternally coming; they skin our souls and reinvent our buried fantasies, they become the scavengers and parasites of our political unconscious, resurrecting the poetics of space and the poetics of reverie. They rattrap us into warped time zones and spatial terrains where the only Pather Panchali, the song of the road, is the drum-beat of magical, clinical, antiseptic fascism.

Everywhere, inside and outside hysterical, servile, desensitised media headlines, across mindless shouting matches on prime time TV, in wakefulness and dream and hangovers, across the geographies of Sabarmati Ashrams, Times Squares and Madison Gardens, even in a museum dedicated to Martin Luther King, you see and hear the same marching melody of the drum-beat, also, every month, heart-to-heart, soul-too-soul, on the radio, like a lullaby amidst universal insomnia. This is the magic realism of modern India. This is the national anthem of our new city-lights. This is the discharge of the light brigade. The bullet train flying on a dirty drain called a holy river.

Sleep well, nation. Speak aloud in sleep: I have a dream. Like Martin Luther King, your time has come to dream. A dreamless, carnivorous, carnival of dream, riding on the wings of superpower desire. Oh, how great we are as a nation-state! How great is this greatness! And how lucky! As lucky as that coin in Sholay, we look at life in one-dimensions now. The more we have, the less it is. The abyss too must gaze back at us, now that we are so much in love with the abyss. When there is no hope in the world anymore, we must return to concentration camps. Here, we shall light our fires of patriotism, democracy and nationhood. This is true love in the time of Hindu Rashtra.

Credits for the featured image: REUTERS.

Amit Sengupta started journalism when he was 19, even while he was working in the relief camps as a student of JNU after the State sponsored genocide of Sikhs in Delhi in 1984. Since then, he has been an independent president of the JNU Students' Union, writer, activist and editor, closely involved with multiple people's movements and conflict zones in contemporary India. He was Executive Editor, Hardnews magazine, South Asian partner of Le Monde Diplomatique, Paris. He has earlier worked as a senior editor and journalist with Tehelka, Outlook, The Hindustan Times, Asian Age, The Pioneer, The Economic Times and Financial Chronicle. Till recently he has been a professor at the Indian Institute of Mass Communication, New Delhi.

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