Issues

The march of fascism from Gujarat 2002 to Ramjas College 2017

SIGNS OF THE TIMES

What is happening on the Delhi University campus is a pointer that fascist forces have intruded into campuses, making life hell for any of those sane voices. This is the very basic crux of what took place last week in the very interiors of Delhi University’s Ramjas College. It’s all out in the open, battle between the sane and the fascists.

It’s about time we sit and read any of the available volumes on how fascists intrude and take on and then destroy. The reality of the day is that we have got to take on these destructive forces.

Today, this government is following an agenda — the RSS agenda! Using all possible ploys trying to crush all those who are against communal politics. All those who are against the fascist forces.

In fact, as I have been reading the latest edition of Shamsul Islam’s book, Know The RSS: Based on Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh Documents (Pharos Media), I feel worried what the future would hold out for us. As Shamsul Islam warns with an earnest appeal tucked in this book, “it is the primary duty of every patriotic Indian to expose the anti–national and anti-social ideology of the RSS and its network, so that Hindutva forces working overtime to undo the democratic-secular India from within are checked and confronted.”

In fact, Khushwant Singh had been far-sighted enough to have seen the dangers ahead …and had authored The End of India (Penguin), where he focused on the growing dangers to the country. To quote him from an interview he had given me just after the launch of his book, “I wrote my book - The End of India - with a deep sense of concern for the country. Unless we reject the communal policies, there is going to be disaster. Whatever one is seeing around are all signs of fascism - appointments to important offices are not done on merit, key posts are given to their men, even Governor-level appointments. There could be some two or three showpieces from other communities, otherwise its 'their' men in all key positions. Hitler functioned in exactly the same manner. And whilst Hitler's main target was the Jews, for this brigade it’s the Muslim and Christian population in the country… Fascism has well and truly crossed our threshold and dug its heels in our courtyard. And we have only ourselves to blame for this. We let the fanatics get away with every step they took without raising a howl of protest. They burnt books they did not like…they perverted texts from history books to make them conform to their ideas. We allowed them to do all this, as if none of this was our business…they foul-mouth everyone who disagrees with them. To them we are pseudo-secularists. We have failed to hit back because we are not a united force and did not realize the perils of allowing our country to fall into their hands. Now we are paying the price.”

Khushwant had sounded upset and anguished at the rise of communal forces: "If we love our country we have to save it from the communal forces. Though the liberal class is shrinking, I do hope the present generation totally rejects the communal and fascist policies." He had sounded extremely worried that perhaps we as country do not realize what disasters communal politics can drag along: “I think most Indians cannot really visualize the magnitude of the communal problem, although the eerie buildups are writ large - besides communal surcharge, poisonous and mischievous propagandas doing the rounds. There's a propaganda that the Christian population is rising because of conversions but the reality is that the Christian population in India has actually gone down. And the Sangh has capitalized on old prejudices about Muslims and since Independence, in all communal rioting, the Muslim loss of life and property has been about ten times that of the Hindus."

Nah, he wasn’t optimistic about sane elements coming to the fore: “No, I 'm not optimistic but one should fight, one should make every single effort to save the country and openly challenge and take on these Sanghis/fundoos who are destroying the country. We have to battle with them at any cost, give it back to them, abuse for abuse. For, if we love our country, we have to save it from the fascist forces. And though the liberal class is shrinking, I do hope that the present generation rejects the communal and fascist polices…What I find very disturbing and dangerous is that the communal parties have launched their own private armies. Any government which allows private armies affiliated to political parties is doing nothing short of making inroads for fascism! Fascism is here! The saffron tide is rising!"

WITH GUJARAT FLOWED INTENSE VERSE

I’m filing this column on March 1st, and whilst keying in, images of the Gujarat pogrom hold out. Its been exactly 15 years when the killings and carnage took off in the targeted areas of Gujarat. Blatant killings of the Muslims… Even today, the very word ‘Gujarat’ drags along faces of hundreds of the pogrom-affected whom I have been interacting with right from 2002...Men and woman and children affected in one way or the other, by the State machinery and the goon brigades it had mobilized to unleash terror. No, I have no answers to give the hapless victims, why they were so very systematically attacked and ruined, if not also raped and molested. No, I have no answers to give why the masterminds to that pogrom are not arrested? No, I have no answers to give why the political rulers are sitting untouched, atop those thrones? There are hundreds of ‘whys’ but I have no answers to give, because we are living in horribly twisted times, where fascism has creeped in, devouring sane voices, one by one.

Leaving you with these lines by the sensitive amongst us, who wrote verse after verse on that tragedy. In keeping with the fact that disasters and massacres churn out the best of literatures and haunting verse, writer-poet, Seeme Qasim's lines hit. In fact, I 'd read and re-read her haunting verse in the dead of the night, for that's the time I'm most alive, deadened I'd lay that entire night. Quoting from her poems titled “Riots 1 and Riots 2”: “Killings /and lying politicians /television channels /and images /of black smouldering bodies / like forlorn clay models /near a scooter in flames /….Near a freshly covered grave /an infant sleeps, carefully tucked /into his cane cot /The old cemeteries of Gujarat /have now become /sentinels for the living / Shuttered streets /silently wait /….From Delhi, I watch hate /carefully nurtured /revealing itself / fascism becoming nationalism /containing spaces for decapitation /for kerosene and hands and sickles /turning localities to ash / Mosques and dargahs / are being attacked, razed./Mobs replace them / with makeshift temples/and saffron flags /The victims' names /marked on grimy sheets / in dingy offices /sealed their fate.”

Then the former bureaucrat poet, JP DAS, also couldn't hold himself back from writing “After Gujarat,” a paean to the power of poetry in the darkest of times, which he had penned in 2002. I quote: “After Gujarat / will there be poetry? / Could poets write /after Alexandria was razed? / After Auschwitz / Hiroshima and Vietnam / after the Emergency / after Babri Masjid / 9/11 and Iraq? ….Poetry cannot be banished / It returns at will / to Plato's Republic / to Stalin's Siberia / to Pokhran and Kalahandi /following in the footprints /of violence / as it chronicles /the descent of man / As with history, to poetry / there is no end / ….Poetry will be written / despite fatwas and bans /Poetry will defy the Gulag /it will ignore the censor's blue pencil /and the fundamentalist's frown /poetry will be written /even as books /are being burnt …After Gujarat / poetry will be written / About Gujarat itself /beginning with / the shame of Ayodhya /and following the bloody trail /to Godhra, to Gujarat / and on to Mumbai …When Babri rises /poetry will affirm /that temples are made / not with blood-scribed bricks /or stones carved in hate /that they, like poetry /are founded on /imagination and faith / in the hearts of men."

And Jesuit, Father Cedric Prakash, had penned these lines in 2012: “Ten years on…!/My unborn child/Still screams in pain/As cruel swords /Plunder her mortal remains…/Ten years on…!/My son, ten years then/Still haunts my day and night/ As I search him relentlessly/ In hope and in light…/Ten years on…! /I writhe in sheer agony/ Me, they cut and chop/ In a way most barbaric/ Will they ever stop…?/Ten years on….!/I am no longer a child/But I still grovel in the earth/Looking for my aged mother/The one who gave me birth…/Ten years on…!/I wake up in gripping fear/My body is agitated/Remembering those hideous men/Who left me decapitated…/Ten years on...!/My quest for Truth and Justice/Will never die/These need to prevail/Only to nail the lie… /Ten years on….!/‘Forgive and forget’, they tell me/‘Forgive’, I can, if there is remorse/‘Forget’ never, never! I say/And I continue to run the course.”

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