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India might slip into fascism if Gujarat's neo-liberal model is imposed on India, warn top scholars

By Our Representative
A well-attended seminar “India’s descent into fascism: How can we stop it?” saw two senior scholars, Anil Choudhury of the Indian Social Action Forum, Delhi, and Prof Ghanshyam Shah, an eminent Gujarat-based social scientist, presenting diametrically opposite view on the reasons behind possibilities of India slipping under a fascist rule. While both agreed that things had become increasingly difficult for working classes across India to fight for their rights, and this was a clear sign of how the danger of a fascist rule might take over in the country, Choudhury believed that the race to push India to eight per cent rate of growth is forcing the movement towards fascism.
Prof Shah, on the other hand, giving example of the rise of Hitler in Germany and Mussolini in Italy, felt that fascism took shape under a situation of grave economic crisis, making the ruling classes to adopt to authoritarian ways to suppress the increasing demands of the working population. “One must remember that fascism in Germany arose after Hitler won the elections polling 96 per cent of the votes”, he warned participants in an oblique reference to the way Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi is seeking to go on the national scene to project Gujarat as India's model.
The seminar was organised by voluntary organisation Anhad,founded by a Delhi-based social activist Shehla Hashmi a decade ago in the wake of the Gujarat riots. Those who collaborated included Aravalli Adivasi Vikas Trust, Behavioural Science Centre, Janvikas, Janpath, Paryavaran Mitra, Prashant, People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) and Safar. Others who spoke included PUCL's Gautam Thakker, Prashant's Father Cedric Prakash, theatre personalities Kabir Thakore and Paresh Vyas, literary critic Prakash Shah, environmentalist Mahesh Pandya, well-known danseuse and activist Mallika Sarabhai, activists Raju Solanki, Sofia Khan, Mehul Makwana and others.
Choudhary, who delivered the keynote address, said, "There gave the example of how a fascist-authoritarian rule might become a reality in coming days by citing land acquisition process in Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC), a major portion of which passes through Gujarat. “Being planned in collaboration with Japan, both the UPA government in Delhi and Gujarat government want it to be built come what may. Already, farmers have begun to file cases in court against forced acquisition in order to ensure that they are not dispossessed. However, if the ruling classes really want the DMIC with industries on two sides of the corridor and sprawling buildings to come up in the next 10 years, they will have to impose an authoritarian fascist rule”.
He added, "We must ensure that India does not adopt the Gujarat model, which pursues neo-liberal policies which supports the corporate sector at the expense of the common people".
Interestingly, both agreed on how an atmosphere of intolerance and insecurity has to stay in Indian polity, which they at believed is a clear indication of things to come. Saying that the neo-liberal policies going on at the Centre as well as in Gujarat are responsible for this state of affair. “A situation would arise when people would not be able to use the existing democratic institutions for their political ends”, Choudhary said. The seminar was held at the Mehdi Nawaz Jung Hall in Ahmedabad.
Meanwhile, a statement issued at the end of the one-day seminar said, “The spectre of the country’s descent into fascism stares at us. The long reign of the UPA has not halted or arrested the march of the communal fascist forces; indeed there seems today to be a greater acceptance of ideas that we would call fascist. The strident demands for death penalty – whether for alleged rapists or terrorists – the impatience with rule of law; the acceptability among the young urban people and the desire for a strong authoritarian leader, all again point to the circulation and reception of fascist ideas.”
Suggesting how this is happening, the statement added, “There have been several low intensity riots across the country during the past couple of years: Gopalgarh (Rajasthan); Faizabad and Kosi (UP), Dhule (Maharashtra), Forbesgunj ( Bihar), Kosamba, Chota Udaipur ( Gujarat) which really points to the potential return of communalism to the centre-stage of Indian politics. It also indicates the fragility of communal peace and the continuing communalization of the police force at the local thana level, which openly target the minority community in times of violence, as the video of the Dhule and Forbesgunj violence graphically illustrated.”
The statement continues, “The communal violence of 2013 mimics that of the early 1990s, in that disputes over places of worship, as in Bhojshala in Madhya Pradesh, or the aggression over the Bhagyalakshmi temple in the Charminar premises in Hyderabad, are returning. On the one hand, one sees local-level riots engineering machinery gearing up, and on the other the cleansing and anointing of communal leaders as the development idols. The rise in the power of the middle class via a corporate media, which aggressively pushes the agenda of ‘corruption-free efficiency’ at the cost of issues of social justice, secularism and democracy movements, is further pushing the Indian polity towards the Right. A symptom of this can be seen from the rising clout of godmen, which is a sign of the alienated middle class seeking shortcuts for maintaining status quo.”

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