PREM SINGH | 11 FEBRUARY, 2019
The society of the spectacle feeds the imperial beast….as we applaud
The First Phenomenon
Prime Minister Narendra Modi's team has succeeded in projecting the political debate from the ground on to the virtual world. The political and intellectual class has played a pivotal role, over the last three decades, in the crystallisation of Modi’s successful endeavour.
As political and intellectual discussions began taking shape in a manner which led to the decimation of any opposition to the New Economic Policies introduced in 1991, the virtual world gradually erected its tall stature vis-a-vis the real world. Through this world of bizarre social-religious serials, sermons of god men, endless videos of dance and songs, endless commercial advertisements of consumer products, slapstick comedies, masala films etc. the virtual world found its way into the arena of news channels.
By now the phenomenon is so mature that news can be created even without any real content! In this world, the only currency in circulation is that of lies, ignorance, brazenness, amorality, aggression, violence and crime. Issues like manipulation of governmental figures or data, breakdown of constitutional institutions, scams; moral narratives such as patriotism and treason; and incidents whether mob lynching, murders, rapes, encounters or surgical strikes, are sacrificed at the altar of the virtual world.
Politics based on real issues and debates confronts neo-imperialist designs. This is why the country is being changed into the virtual world by the supporters of neo-imperialism. Whatever the advantages of the social media may be when compared to the mainstream media, ultimately both are found to be engaged in facilitating the virtual world.
There are sporadic instances of discussion over real issues, by intellectuals and non-government leaders. But since they align with the BJP-Congress consensus on neoliberal policies, this virtual world exists unaffected.
The magical spell of this virtual world is too strong to be dismantled easily. Therefore, whatever government is formed in future, it will be a government situated in this virtual world. The mob will prevail, instigating killings, taking the law into its own hands, and society will remain drunk with the intoxication of the virtual world.
The list of casualties will no longer be restricted to the Muslims and other minorities but anyone, including police personnel, who comes in the way of this raging mobocracy.
The episode of the ‘anti-corruption movement’, and the Aam Aadmi Party which made inroads into the corridors of power on an anti-ideology plank, presented a trailer of this phenomenon. Team Narendra Modi extended it to a full-fledged film. The near-blindness and frenzy of Hindu nationalism rides on the near-blindness and frenzy of the anti-corruption movement.
And there is no need to repeat the fact that almost the entire secular-progressive intelligentsia supported that ‘trailer’, held under the auspices of the RSS.
Just as the actors of the anti-corruption movement were not virtuous, in the same way, the soldiers of Hindu nationalism, as per even the most distorted interpretations of Hindu religion, are not religious. Both are pawns in the politics of neo-imperialism. In fact they have made neo-imperialism the destiny of the country in blatant disregard of the spirit of the Constitution.
The Second Phenomenon
Vajpayee may have let the Gujarat genocide occur, but in the Vajpayee era the government was wary of the fact that a communal frenzy might hamper foreign investment, or private investment in general. Vajpayee would often admonish the RSS to keep its agenda, of violent hatred and inequality between religions, within bounds. In fact he even asked the RSS to keep its facade of opposing private investment in check.
The ‘Modi Era’ has brought about a complete reversal of the situation. Now investors of domestic and foreign private capital themselves believe that higher the incidence of communal and social conflict, the more their business interests will be secured.
Such an alignment of mutual interests was sealed on the day when diplomatic and business representatives from the countries of Europe and America met the RSS/BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi in Delhi.
Modi did not disappoint domestic or foreign investors. He has shown that an atmosphere of communal and societal frenzy is conducive to domestic and foreign business interests. Under the RSS/BJP’s able leadership, part of Hindu society is dutifully engaged in Muslim bashing, and part of it in bashing ‘manuvadis’ or followers of Manu.
Modi’s feat owes partly to the fact that secular and progressive intellectuals were busy securing benefits and positions for themselves in the ten-year rule of the Congress. The ground for the same, however, was laid in the Vajpayee era.
Khushwant Singh foresaw the arrival of fascism at the time, and wrote a comment titled ‘Fascism Has Come’ in his weekly column ‘With Malice Towards One and All’, which used to be published in Hindi newspapers under the title ‘Bura mano ya bhala’. He wrote:
‘Fascism of the Hindustani brand is standing at our door, and the most prominent advocate of Hindustani fascism is our Deputy Prime Minister, LK Advani. During his imprisonment at the time of Emergency he read Hitler’s Mein Kampf. The supreme leader of the Shiv Sena never shied away from calling Hitler Superman. Narendra Modi has been instrumental in implementing fascism in Gujarat. Apart from these, Singhal, Giriraj Kishore, Togadia etc. have been the flag bearers of fascism.’
Upon the completion of four years of the Vajpayee government I wrote an article in Jansatta titled ‘Fasiwadi Muhim ke Nayak’ (Leader of the Fascist Campaign). I raised questions about Khushwant Singh’s evaluation as he kept Vajpayee out of the entire cauldron. I asked, who is spearheading the fascist campaign?
Securing shelter for themselves is the speciality of intellectuals, and likewise Khushwant Singh found his refuge in Vajpayee.
Most secular-progressive intellectuals who raise a hue and cry about fascism are concerned more about their entitlements than about the public which actually bears the brunt of this menace.
So despite a change of government in the upcoming election, they will be busy holding and securing their positions. Therefore, these two phenomena, which reared their heads in the Modi Era, will show no signs of relenting.
The minorities of the country need to understand this unfortunate reality of present times, and so should those who are engaged in the struggle of identity politics as a guarantee of their education and employment.
Prem Singh, a former Fellow of the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla, teaches Hindi at Delhi University and is president of the Socialist Party (India).