The process of fascisation has entered a new phase. The Gujarat genocide has crystallized the reorganization of BJP state policy. Two political principles that fundamentally alter the Indian state have been articulated and legitimized as a state policy. First, the minority community is to be held responsible for every action of an individual, group or political trend within the community. Second, the representatives of the dominant Hindu community have the right to retaliate against and exact retribution from the minority community without due process of law. The acceptance of this principle by the BJP Government in Gujarat, and the NDA Government at the centre, along with the failure of the Indian polity to oust the Modi Government has sanctioned this ideological orientation, howsoever incompatible it is with constitutional norms. Narendra Modi personifies this orientation and he is the pivot of the reorganization of the fascist forces into a new phase. The political defeat of Modi can arrest this process momentarily.
Our main contention is that the Gujarat genocide is no ordinary political event or even one of the many increasingly vicious and brutal communal riots that have engulfed Indian society in the last decade with the rise of BJP. It is a decisive step by the Sangh Parivar to push the state system into a qualitative different and higher phase of fascisation of the state. No doubt this change of phase was precipitated by the recent electoral debacle which reflected the peoples opposition — ranging from militant struggle to wide discomfort — to liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation, which has been induced by the imperialist restructuring of the global economy, and which has led to the erosion of support for the BJP.
The compulsion of imperialism is evident, but it does not explain the more than willing acquiescing character of the BJP which led to the loss of focus on economic policy that could serve the possible, limited national interest and the ability to sustain economic growth. Even that Indian big bourgeoisie that accepts dependency on imperialism expects the state to craft a policy that would enable it to accumulate capital so as to negotiate a better position for itself in the hierarchical global capital structure.
If earlier, it grew under state led capitalism now it needs a stable political formation with an orientation of market driven capitalism, ruthlessness in the privatization of the public sector and the negotiating ability to gain a greater access to global capital, technology and markets. The big bourgeoisie found such a right-wing oriented government with the wide social base to fulfil its need in the BJP-led NDA government. Now, that the BJP is increasingly failing in these tasks, the clamour of its general incompetence and bad governance is being expressed loud and clear. Add to this the large-scale communal unrest that does not allow a peaceful transition period of production and economic transaction for restructuring business, and the call is out for heads to roll.
Communalism the Underside of Indian Nationalism
The BJP rose to power in the wake of a mass movement on the Ramjanambhumi agitation where it succeeded in linking the Hindu religious issue with nationalism and captured both the imagination and aspiration of a large section of people who felt that the majoritarian interest was inadequately articulated. To sustain that power it has to have the ability to constantly mobilise the people along the lines of communal nationalism. But without being able to provide economic or social benefits to these mobilized masses or gaining symbolic victory on the contentious issues such repeated mobilization began giving diminishing returns. It had to re-invent itself in order to recoup its hold by changing the form and level of mobilization to a new focus: to unleash the mass pogrom of Muslims.
Communalism and the violence it engenders, increasingly in a genocidal form, is as Thomas Hansen writes ‘neither the pathological nor antithesis of nationalism, but its dark underside that refuses to go away’. In fact this dark underside is the brahmanical lineage of the Indian ruling class. If a section of people are slowly realizing the need to reject such a heritage another section is sourcing from it to craft and nourish a new form of nationalism for a fascist agenda: Hindutva.
The anti-colonial movement was the process through which the diversity of peoples of India began their journey towards a modern state. Independence and the formation of a constitutional state system within the framework of bourgeois-landlord class rule, was an important event shaping this process. The state system is a result of the complex interplay of class and social forces that gave momentum and shape to the freedom movement. On the one hand the dominance of the ruling class retained intact the colonial coercive apparatus and on other hand universal suffrage, parliamentary democracy, positive discrimination and federal features were included to accommodate the aspirations of the mass upsurge for freedom, equality and dignity in a society with diversity and institutionalized graded inequality.
As this new state system was overlaid by the jati-feudalism it restrained and restricted the rights of the people to create a democratic political community founded on equal citizenship. But the creation of a new political space for the assertion by social and political forces has an internal dynamic that leads towards the further democratization of society.
It changed the nature of politics. With universal suffrage the open espousal of upper caste interest cannot build a political base adequate to win political power. The Congress knew it. So, Nehruvian secularism co-existed with the dispersed and localised structure of dominant caste hegemony. Though the logic of this arrangement required that the elites of all the electorally important communities be linked to the Congress centre in a network of state patronage it did not allow any social alliance to emerge and assert its autonomy. The main beneficiaries of the limited economic expansion which resulted from dependent development have been the bourgeois classes, bureaucratic strata and dominant landowning castes – who are primarily upper caste.
Breaking of the upper caste hegemony
The struggle from below against semi-feudalism was twofold, one, against the institution of the caste system, and other against landlordism. This is a protracted process of ideological, political, social and economic struggle which is taking place within the Indian society. It takes various and multiple forms ranging from revolutionary upsurges to legal struggles. In some areas the development of peoples’ struggles led to armed insurrection to destroy the power of the feudal relationship in the local areas. This gave impetus to countrywide land reforms. But, more than that, it had a radiating influence on the other political struggles of the oppressed.
In a parliamentary democracy the idea of political equality has the capacity to challenge the hierarchical social order. With the arrival of democracy, the millennium long social struggle against the caste system also took the form of electoral struggle. The aspirations and assertion of shudras, dalits, adivasis and Muslims came to be articulated through the electoral process. But the majority of the oppressed are also working class and labouring people. In general, the unorganized sections of labour are also the most socially oppressed sections of the class. The structuration of the working class – under the impact of the caste structure – impedes the organizing ability of the working class. In industries and occupations where workers from the non-socially oppressed communities dominate, the trade union movement has developed and trade union consciousness exists. Their struggle has also resulted in real wage rises and benefits. Yet only 10 per cent of the working class is organized. Today, the organized workers are under fierce attack from capital and a protracted struggle is taking place to defend the gains of trade union struggles.
The oppressed sections of the working class, though not organized into trade unions and so not struggling on the basis of trade union consciousness, does assert its economic and social interest through the electoral process, as organized dalit, backward and adivasi identity politics. The defeat of the Emergency in 1977 not only embedded the electoral democracy into our political system but also ushered in the process of democracy being increasingly claimed by people. The hegemony of the big bourgeois upper caste coalition was broken and since then political stability for the bourgeoisie has never been a certainty. But more, the electoral compulsion forced political parties into the politics of competitive populism. Though this never led to the radical redistribution of assets nor the substantive re-allocation of resources compared to the required needs, still these bourgeois parties were forced to address the concerns of the poor and include their needs in the budget. The massive expansion in poverty alleviation programmes through employment generation and augmenting income reflected this shift.
With the economic crisis of the 1960’s the growing assertion of socially oppressed groups, dominated by the shudra peasantry, emerged in class terms, as peasant issues, and reached a united platform in the form of Janata Dal. The breaking of the Congress power reflected the first crack in the upper caste hegemony with shudras asserting for power in the new order.
The political developments from the 1980’s saw the gradual emergence of dalits, adivasis and Muslims in the electoral process as an independent force. This led to the fragmentation of the existing political parties and the inability of any upper caste bourgeois party to emerge dominant. The repeated assertion of this independence in each election, and with no sign of it waning or retreating, indicated the breaking of the upper caste ideological hegemony.
But neither has this upsurge of the oppressed been able to throw up a political force and counter ideologies that can unify this fragmented and narrow sectarian force at a national level and emerge as a political block. In fact, the social history of India underlies the antagonism of these two historical blocks, one, brahmanical, always existent, and other non- brahmanical attempting to emerge. The structure of graded inequality always led to fragmentation of social opposition, and enabled the assimilation of all opposition back into new form of brahmanical order.
Fascism blocks the Democratic Revolution
Today again the situation is pregnant with the possibility of the unification and formation of a hegemonic counter brahmanical ideology and can begin with political forces spanning both the mass movement and the electoral struggle. For not only are both complementary to each other, but more important, the internal differences and contradictions among the oppressed people and their representatives can be negotiated and resolved within a common political project only under the compulsion of both the mass movement and the electoral dynamic.
Both the embedding of the parliamentary democracy in the political system and the unabating assertion of the subalterns in the elections for more than a decade has precipitated a crisis for the ruling class in the potential of the emergence of a unified social agency outside the brahmanical ideological hegemony. The alliance of backward caste parties with parties of dalits creates an immense pressure for the democratization of society. If such an alliance also acquires an anti-imperialist programme along with an overarching anti-brahmanical ideology, it holds the possibility of a revolutionary upsurge. The logic of the political development will take it beyond the parliamentary framework towards the radical restructuring of property relations and governance. Even reforms, to thwart such a democratic radicalization will lead to capitalist expansion, autonomous from the imperialist framework. But, for this to happen the emergence of a revolutionary left force within the anti-brahmanical framework is required.
Hindutva: the neo-Brahmanism of modern India
The breaking of the upper caste hegemony and the maturing of a revolutionary situation makes the ruling class seek a party that can roll back this process. First, to arrest the backward class movement from developing an anti-brahmanical ideology and then enable an assimilation back into the brahmanical framework. Second, to preempt the unity between dalits, adivasis and Muslims – the reservoir of labour – by creating an ideologically legitimate boundary between the Muslims and the others.
The upper castes fall back upon their millennium years of experience: inclusion within a hierarchical order of graded inequality. The brahmanical order is required to be adjusted to the new reality of parliamentary democracy. The core of that order, the upper caste supremacy, is embedded in the majoritarian concept of the Hindu national community. If dalits and adivasis are excluded at a social level, now they are to be included at a political level of a Hindu national community, higher than the excluded people of second order citizens - the Muslims. Indian Fascism, with its ideology of Hindutva represents a brahmanical counter-revolution to preempt the democratic revolution.
But the material and social conditions of the lower castes and the majority of Muslims, as well as the syncretic religious traditions they share, create a common social world both in rural and urban areas. In the ordinary course of social life, the exclusion of Muslims to a degree that creates graded inequality, and is so experienced by the lower caste communities, is difficult, if not impossible. Such a hierarchy is possible and can be articulated only in a situation of communal polarisation by violence.
So it is a congenital trait of the Sangh Parivar to think, prepare and plan communal violence. Every riot in India, investigated by Inquiry Commission or studied by scholars has revealed their involvement. The evidence is so strong that riots and the Sangh Parivar appear like siamese twins. It is in these riots, when people suffer and die, that the Sangh Parivar celebrates. In the frenzy of burning and destruction, the macabre logic of violence, the raping of women and the mutilation of bodies, the ideals of the freedom movement die and the Hindu nation arrives. To put it clinically, the brahmanical order both in its traditional or modern form, is founded on the exclusion of a part of the people and violence to sustain that exclusion.
But unlike the earlier riots that were always triggered by local causes, the BJP grew in the 1990’s along with the waves of rioting that were induced by the nation-wide communal campaign. The genocide of Gujarat increased manifold all the forms of violence, destruction and brutality found in the earlier riots to a scale of a whole region simultaneously. More important, whereas it was executed at the level of a state, the BJP politically defended, justified and sought legitimacy at a national level. If Ayodha nationalized the communal identity and equated it with nationalism, the Gujarat genocide nationalized the Muslim pogrom and made it a synonym of nationalism. It was no coincidence that at the same time that the genocide was unfolding the RSS declared from Bangalore its new directive: Muslims have to live in India with the goodwill of Hindus. In the aftermath of Gujarat a credible threat is in place to underline the policy of the exclusion of Muslims from citizens’ rights.
Rise of provincial bourgeoisie in Gujarat
The rise of the Patel community, the dominant peasant caste in Gujarat, is linked with the agrarian transformation, reflected in the significant shift of more than 42% of the cropping pattern to commercial crops. The patidars were the landed caste that subordinated the various land reform legislations to serve its landed interest. In Saurashtra, they benefited from the abolition of the Zamindari system by becoming landowners, and in Central and North Gujarat they scuttled the land reforms by evicting the tenants under the guise of personal cultivation and consolidating their landholdings. They also gained most from the subsidy, credit and other farm inputs, and cornered large sections of the business of farm mechanization and the rural product market. With the accumulation of capital from the rural economy, they diversified to urban business and industrial manufacturing. This new economic strength allowed them the social mobility to move from intermediate Shudra caste status to forward caste status, overcoming the initial reluctance and resistance of the bania-brahman upper castes. This social mobility was both facilitated and consolidated by the religious movement of Vaishnavism and the culture of vegetarianism.
At the state level, the rise of a business class from the dominant peasant caste and the artisan shudra castes developed into an expanding propertied class. In Gujarat, it was from the peasant patidars and the artisan castes like panchals, prajapatis etc. Their caste cohesion remained embedded in the emerging secular economic and political organizations, becoming a means of enabling formation of new capital from money income, a social agency for breaking economic barriers and creating economic space and creating political support for state assistance for economic expansion and the accumulation of capital. In the initial period of economic expansion, the competition between this upwardly mobile propertied class and the existent bania-brahmin forces remained subdued, and gradually evolved into a core of the forward caste – the savarna identity. These forward caste communities constituted more than three fourth of the middle class and overwhelmingly of the provincial bourgeoisie.
This rise of the provincial bourgeoisie, arising primarily from the dominant landed caste, took the form of various centrist political trends in opposition to the Congress, with the farmers’ issues at its core. It is pertinent to point out that the distinction between centrist and fascist polity is the ideology of populism of the former and the ideology of communal nationalism of the latter. In the actual development of politics parties emerge as well as transform themselves within the wide spectrum between these polar ends, with eclectic combinations of various degrees of both ideological trends. The decisive shift towards communal nationalism as a dominant ideology and organising principle for mass mobilization begins the road toward fascism.
In Gujarat, the BJP moved beyond the bania-brahmin social base by organizing the farmers, at least in Saurashtra and North Gujarat, in the rich peasant led Bharatiya Kisan Sangh. In the process it began articulating the interests of the emerging provincial bourgeoisie. As a result, the opposition political space in Gujarat, after the 1970’s, was occupied by the BJP and various Janata Party / Janata Dal groups, though in ideological terms the centrist polity remained the major influence. The opposition broke the dominance of the Congress in the 1990 assembly election and the JD and BJP decided to form an alliance government under Mr Chimanbhai Patel. But, with the fall of the V.P. Singh government at the centre the JD-BJP alliance broke, and Chimanbhai formed an alliance with the Congress. This collapse of the centrist opposition in Gujarat and the BJP’s Ayodhya rath yatra – with its most intensive mobilisation taking place in Gujarat – provided the ground for a decisive shift in the ideology of the provincial bourgeoisie toward a communal Gujarati identity.
Communalisation of the Gujarati provincial bourgeoisie
The making of the BJP, almost exclusively, as the party of the patidar-led provincial bourgeoisie began in 1991, with the Lok Sabha election in the Patel dominated Gandhinagar constituency, where L K Advani defeated a Patel candidate of the Congress-Chimanbhai combine. It consolidated with the 1995 panchayati raj elections with the BJP winning 18 of the 19 zilla panchayats and 154 of the 183 taluka panchayats. The BJP becoming an instrument for political assertion and for capturing of the power by the Patel dominated provincial bourgeoisie is also evident from the study of the 1999 parliamentary elections where 89% of the patidars voted for the BJP. Such a polarization of a single community in support of one party is probably the highest in the country.
After the initial subdued phase in the aftermath of partition passing, the Muslim community began to reclaim its place in the secular democratic process of nation building. In the economic plane, slowly a class of small manufacturers began to emerge from the Muslim artisan and craftsmen community. Moreover, in the western region, the Gujarati Muslims – who were always a significant section of the mercantile community – expanded, more rapidly, into business and trade, though very little in modern big industry. In many business areas like dyeing, semi-mechanized fabric printing, transportation, industrial scrap, vehicle repairing, restaurants etc. they have become dominant. Their more labour intensive processes and low capital costs made the Muslim businesses very competitive.
With the slowing down of the economy and the reduction in state support, the economic competition intensified within the provincial bourgeoisie. In districts where the regional politics is dominated by political parties, including regional parties that occupy a centrist, and broadly secular, political space, the contradictions within the provincial bourgeoisie is contained at an economic level. But, in Gujarat, the Hindutva ideology slowly transformed the economic contradictions into a political one and with the BJP acquiring power at the state level there was opened up the possibility of resolving this issue by extra-economic and extra-legal modes. The turn of genocide had arrived.
Big bourgeoisie is cautious towards Hindutva Fascism
For the bourgeoisie – both the big and the growing provincial propertied class – dependent on the state through subsidies, transfers and patronage, the claim on the state resources by the working people emerged as an area of conflict and began to intensify. In a situation, where the bourgeois-landlord power restrained resource mobilisation through taxation and where the identity politics had neither the vision nor understanding to look beyond their sectarian interest and focus on economic programmes, this intensified class conflict emerged in the form of a fiscal and debt crisis.
At the same time there was a major change in the political balance at the international level leading to the offensive of imperialism for the global restructuring of capital. Both factors created the conjuncture to enforce a fundamental change in economic policy. Though it was the Congress Party under Rajiv Gandhi that made a gradual transition towards the market and the communalization of politics, it lost out to the accelerated reforms for the market and mass mobilization for communal nationalism of the BJP. There was a consensus among all sections of the bourgeoisie for reform for the market, arising more as a counter position to the economic space controlled by state. So there was no strong anti-imperialist tendency appearing within the Indian bourgeoisie. The difference in response had more to do with repositioning with respect to international capital. But it was different on the question of communal nationalism. It was more un-even.
The preferred policy of the big bourgeoisie is to have a right-wing oriented central government that can execute the economic reform designed to strengthen them and have the political capacity to manage the opposition. At this juncture even a centre-left political power is not acceptable as it will surely slow down the tempo of the economic reform and possibly undermine the cohesiveness of the multi-structured reform programme. The astuteness of big bourgeoisie is clear in its realistic appraisal that the BJP’s threshold of electoral support may not cross more than 25%, and so they prefer the BJP-led right-wing dominated centre-right coalition of the NDA.
The fascist push of the BJP in Gujarat, beside de-stabilizing this delicate political balance may even jeopardize the centrist space in politics and force a shift toward the left, a situation that haunts the big bourgeoisie. But for the BJP, the genocide is a logical step toward the creation of a stable identity of Hindu nationalism. It believes that the experiment of Gujarat can be replicated to create such a identity, which can then be converted into electoral support beyond the existing threshold.
Though there is a linkage between the provincial bourgeoisie and the big bourgeoisie and a continuum of common interests, against labour and the oppressed, their differential location in the economic order gives rise to specificities. The main interest of the big bourgeoisie class is crystallised within the global economy framework and its strength depends upon the capacity to use the Indian state and the national market for global expansion. For this it requires that the state remain exclusively concerned with an economic agenda that allows it to expand into the public sector, provide efficient and cheap capital, increase accumulation, and stability of the national market.
These differences got reflected on the issue of Gujarat genocide. If the Gujarat provincial bourgeoisie supported the genocide or mutely remained ambivalent, the big bourgeoisie openly expressed its displeasure. For the genocide, without immediately resolving any issues of its concern, disturbs and threatens its ‘normal’ business process, so essential for its ability to negotiate with global capital in this transient phase of reorganization.
So, when occasional riots or even the destruction of the Babri Masjid, which contributes to the development of a communal identity, does not attract comment from business, the Gujarat genocide becomes a serious concern. The depth of this concern is evident from the fact that 22 past presidents of the Confederation of Indian Industries found the time to meet before the Annual meeting, as reported in Financial Express of 30th April, to build the consensus and resolve to oppose the Gujarat genocide and form a committee on Social Integration, even in the face of the Prime Minister’s displeasure to such a position. It was a clear message that localized communalism to sustain a right wing government is understandable but on a scale that can engulf the country is a high-risk option.
The national business press reflected this long-term interest of the bourgeoisie with clarity. The general view is that the failure of the government to pursue economic reform cannot be equated with the Indian state’s attempt to espouse the cause of the majority. The Business Standard put it most succinctly that: the BJP instead of becoming largely a centrist party with a right-wing orientation, has opted to inhabit an extreme corner of the political spectrum and unless the BJP quickly changes track, it is hard to escape the conclusion that a national tragedy can be averted only by changing the government.
Genocide is in the logic of the Hindutva State
But what the big bourgeoisie fails to understand is the difficulty of sustaining a right-wing orientation within parliamentary democracy in an underdeveloped country. The party in power has to acquire legitimacy from the labouring people, and even sections of the propertied class, who are losing out under the impact of imperialist globalisation. In order to displace aside the developmental and welfarist aspiration of people the right-wing ideology has to emerge as a mass movement from among the people.
For this to be achieved capitalism requires a fascist agency to set in motion the mass of the petty bourgeoisie, the middle class and the de-classed lumpens with an ideology that gives coherence to this movement by converting the masses' demoralisation, desperation and frustration into a frenzied opposition to sections of the people instead of anger against finance capital which in the first place is the source of this situation. Hindutva provides both the identity and purpose for such mobilisation and so is essential to such right-wing legitimacy.
The big bourgeoisie, rooted in its managerial culture, believe that this mobilisation can be managed to sustain a right-wing orientation in a centrist polity. But like all social movements even a right is one is compelled by the inner dynamics and the logic of the movement to push its agenda. It acquires a tempo of development that cannot be manageable by the very class which gives genesis to it or wants to utilize it.
In parliamentary democracy fascism inevitably, if one goes by the European experience, arrives through a phase of coalition government. In government the fascists either with the support of the state or by neutralizing the police to act, enable the armed fascist bands to push the fascist agenda of smashing all forms of opposition against itself, including bourgeois opposition. The fascist BJP entered the central government through the NDA coalition. Most of the parties in coalition are actually regional parties of the provincial bourgeoisies having roots in the semi-feudal order. The crisis of the NDA on the Gujarat genocide and its survival has strengthened the hegemony of the BJP over the regional parties.
This has emboldened the BJP to change its strategy. If till now the BJP is not for the abolition of parliament it is because it has neither the broad mass base nor the legitimacy to do so. The BJP is still a minority in parliament. But, with the method of Gujarat genocide it sees the emergence of a nation wide Hindu communal vote to propel it into a majority party in parliament. With a majority in parliament and the opposition weak and divided the BJP may either wait for a constitutional crises to emerge or engineer it, to dispense with the parliamentary system and force a presidential form of government. The BJP dares to achieve what is in the heart of the bourgeoisie.
For the moment, the big bourgeoisie is not willing to embark on such a high-risk strategy with a weak and wounded BJP. Its preference is for a more realistic low risk strategy of a centrist government with a right-wing orientation.
US Imperialism drives Indian Fascism
Then, what is behind the source of the strength and confidence of the BJP to push forward the fascist agenda? This brings us to the issue of imperialism and its influence in the political development within the country. Our contention is that the BJP has emerged as a dominant ruling class party aligned to imperialism, in particular US imperialism. They are sure of their support and finance to seek power and consolidate it. It is this fusion of the Hindutva political trend with US imperialism that gives the impetus to the fascist trend and the threat of fascism emerges.
Imperialism means imperialist rivalries. And India being a dependent country makes it vulnerable to the imperialists. The inter-imperialist contention will work itself out as internal conflicts of the parties and factions. In the public domain, such conflicts will emerge in the contention between the US, EU and Japan and they are unfolding every day. It has already spilled into trade disputes and proxy wars. The severest contention will take place in the Third world countries. In ideological terms issues such as secular versus non-secular, Indian born versus naturalized citizen etc. come to the fore. The parliamentary system allows for a better political resolution of the conflict among the ruling classes. Till this inter-imperialist contention reaches an intensity where one imperialist power attempts to oust the other from the political domain the subversion of parliament is not on the agenda.
The BJP has ushered in a strategic relationship with US Imperialism. India’s foreign and military policy are getting linked to the geo-strategic concerns of US imperialism. In order to consolidate the military linkage, which began from 1991, and translate the strategic convergence into operational military policies, the Defense Policy Group was formed in 2001. Since then the rapid growth of joint actions has been initiated by the steering groups established between the two countries for each of the services – army, navy and air force. That this DPG functioned even during the period of tension with Pakistan indicates the extent of integration.
The first joint military exercise in May at Agra code named ‘Balance Iroquois’, for training in airborne assault with the US Special Forces, the combined naval training exercise in the Malacca Straits in March and the planned exercise with the Special Forces of the US Pacific Command in the cold, mountainous terrain in Alaska which is similar to the conditions of the Indian border with China, mark the sharp shift underscoring the key role of India in US strategic planning. The US Defense Department views India as ‘a force for political stability and economic progress in South Asia’. Even the military-industrial complex of US imperialism is negotiating the streamlining of technology and the export licensing of arms sales and the opening up of the Indian defence market for private sector investment. Already, eight AN TPQ-37 Firefighters – an artillery locating radar system – costing US $146 million have been sold to the Indian Army and engines and avionics for the Light Combat Aircraft project are in the pipeline.
This integration of the Indian State and its military power into the global military strategy of US Imperialism is in tune with the latter's’ strategic shift to Central Asia and China. Bush declared China as a strategic competitor. And Central Asia is not only the area of crossroads between Europe and Asia but also the world’s other major source of oil and gas outside the Middle East. As India straddles the geographic arc from Central Asia to the Straits of Malacca, essential for containing China, the BJP is instrumental in integrating India into the US strategic grand design of military contention with China. In this process the BJP has failed to assess the real national interest of India, and has built on the illusion of regional power allowed by US. The Indian resources and people will be drawn into military adventurism to defend the American Empire. The Indian soldiers’ lives will be used to overcome the vulnerability of US imperialism in a protracted ground war. Besides, this integration will lead to the isolation of India among the community of developing countries and weaken the alliance against US imperialism.
One of the implications of such an integration at the level of military affairs is the influence of the US in the domestic affairs of the country. As a 1970 report of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee noted that ‘the presence of elements of United States armed forces, joint planning, joint exercise or excessive military assistance…. all but guarantee some involvement by United States in the internal affairs of the host country.’ (emphasis added)
This influence of American imperialism is also translated into supporting US economic interests against both the domestic big bourgeoisie and other imperialist powers, primarily the EU. As against economic competitiveness and financial criteria, the US corporates use this influence for acquisition and expansion in the Indian market. In fact, even in the inter-imperialist economic contention, US imperialism relies primarily on strategic and political influence over the Indian state, whereas the EU mainly depends on economic mechanisms. From the case of Enron to the recent 2 billion US dollar order of aircraft fleet for Indian Airlines, it is not economic considerations and the efficiency of the market that gives US companies an edge but the influence arising from strategic power over the Indian state.
So for the EU, the stability and transparency of the market process is crucial and it needs the multi-party political system to ensure that. US imperialism has almost an exclusive hegemony over the BJP led government and the drive for a fascist state by BJP will ensure the absolute guarantee of this power. In contrast, the EU contention with US in India takes the political form of support for regional peace, the strengthening and transparency of the market mechanism and the stability of multi-party democracy. It supports those political parties and non-governmental organizations that sustain these political issues.
It is in this context that the response of various imperialist powers to the issue of Gujarat genocide needs to viewed. The US government had a pragmatic silence on the issue under the pretext that it is an ‘internal affair’ of India, and so, accepted it as a strategic step of the BJP. It made occasional remarks to restore normalcy in Gujarat only after voluble concern was expressed internationally. This was more to remind the Indian government that only normalcy can cover up the fait accompli and prevent it from becoming an international issue. The EU on the other hand openly sent officials to study the situation and made selective leaks of such reports pointing to the specific targeting of Muslims and the failure in providing proper relief. It also openly discussed the Gujarat situation at the Luxemburg meeting of the European Union and diplomatically presented a demarche to the Indian government. It is clearly apparent that the EU does not support the fascist strategy of the BJP. In the present context, the inter-imperialist rivalry in India is being played out with US imperialism as the sole global power backing the BJP in its fascist strategy, and the EU opposing such a policy.
Congress shares with BJP local communal space
The BJP and the dominant section of the Congress share a common localized communalism. It is this sharing that has made it unable to oppose or resist the genocide as it was unfolding in Gujarat or to respond immediately and effectively to the humanitarian crisis resulting from the large-scale killing, destruction and displacement of Muslims. Even in Ahmedabad, the city that witnessed the largest carnage, and which is controlled by the Congress (I), it was reluctant to initiate a political struggle to isolate the BJP or build a secular campaign.
It justifies this in terms of not alienating the ordinary Hindu people. The Gujarat Congress though it is not an aggressive propagator or participant of the VHP, nevertheless shares the common local communal space. Its strategy is not to be excluded from this social space and fight the BJP politically. As always, the Congress finds it difficult to extricate itself from this practice of pragmatic or localized communalism: a politics of which it has long experience, linkage and capacity to manage.
But it is precisely this political capacity of the Congress to manage communalism that is in question. The genocide has taken place in an area dominated by Congress and intends to undercut the strategy of Congress. At the national level, the communal polarization, the inability to resurrect the party in the Hindi heartland and the fundamental shift at the political plane toward coalition framework, is making the national leadership increasingly aware of this weakness and so the reluctant shift towards secularism is taking place.
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