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Guided, shaped from above? India's complex, lethal 'counter-revolutionary' process

By Anand K Sahay*
The architect of the Russian Revolution, its master strategist and grand thinker, Vladimir Lenin, whose genius brought about a cataclysmic shift for the better part of a century in the affairs of most parts of the world, once observed that life was more “cunning” than any theory or plan we may devise.
There can then be little surprise that the counter-revolutionaries of our times, who imagined that the world lay at their feet, have lately had a taste of this special feature of life. They have in their grip all the levers of power, all the resource and all the force of the coercive apparatus of the state is theirs to command, and yet they have just had a rude shock and the electricity in the air hasn’t stopped crackling yet.
People had turned fearful of the state led by a hectoring, bullying, executive whose every malign act, and every word it uttered, was cheered on by the image-makers. A propaganda machine in the shape of powerful sections of the so-called independent media was summoned to serve and it chose to grovel out of anxiety. Big politicians lay prostrate, fearing the CBI, the enforcement machinery, and the income tax agents. An Aunt Tom from a key state is typical of this.
Top industry and business rallied in support out of fear of the unknown although they have suffered grievous blows due to foolish policies, cockily delivered. The big boys and girls of the much-vaunted film fraternity smiled for the cameras as they green-lighted the regime, or sat quiet, pretending they had seen nothing.
Even the judges seem poised to run errands. They appear to have transfers and posting and promotions on their minds, and occasionally the fear of being found out. In the event, the questions became all too real: Who will protect our individual and civil liberties? Who will stand up for the values of the Constitution -- our enabler of democracy -- which comes to us from the freedom movement?
The answer -- heroic in every dimension -- came from the countless young women and men, barely out of their teens, across the major universities and cities of India, and the thousands of poor women of all ages (one of them 90, reciting the names of seven generations of her Muslim family in trilling fashion) of the shanty-town of Shaheen Bagh by the side of the Yamuna bed in south-east Delhi, who have sat in peaceful protest day and night for three straight weeks in the harshest winter the national capital has known in 117 years.
Leaving out the legal, constitutional and ideological parsing, of which enough has been done, the three companion measures of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, National Population Register, and the National Register of Citizens is a way of declaring India a Hindu country where Muslims and Christians will be tolerated provided they kowtow.
If the RSS-BJP were to retain power in the foreseeable future, this putative Hindu country (replacing the Republic of India) will serve as the scaffolding to mount a Hindu Rashtra of the RSS conception, which can only come about under another Constitution in which the rules of democracy as we know it cannot apply. The full-spectrum exercise is apparently a two-stage process.
This diabolical move is sought to be obscured (by the government and the RSS-BJP) by drawing a red herring across the trail through the deceptive argument that no Muslim citizen will be asked to leave India.
Can street challenge compel political parties, formations ranged against RSS-BJP to coordinate effectively for elections when time comes?
It is plain to see that nobody will need to leave if the rules of the game are altered. They must just agree to change their ways, and no longer have the same expectations as before (guaranteed under the old Constitution and the earlier belief system). The new order is going to rest on a wholly different political theology in which there can be no place for “pseudo-secularism”, and wholly different assumptions.
If the independence movement, and the making of the Constitution which was its culmination, marked a revolutionary departure from not just the colonial period but also the feudal era that accompanied and preceded it, then the counter-process set in motion by the Modi regime under the aegis of Hindutva thought is an attempt at producing a counter-revolution.
The first serious street challenge to the making or the firming up of this counter-revolution has come in the form of the anti-CAA (and anti-NRC) protests that are ongoing, six long years after the process was inaugurated. This is the fundamental significance of the protests.
It is noteworthy that the protests, which have turned out to be passionate and also sometimes fierce, were preceded by the BJP being electorally and politically humiliated in Haryana, Maharashtra and Jharkhand -- states in which it held sway -- within six months of Narendra Modi returning to power at the Centre with a bigger mandate. This suggests that voters at the state level were turning away from the BJP although Modi, home minister Amit Shah, and UP Chief Minister -- three Hindutva icons -- campaigned with ferocity in these state polls.
But something similar had happened in three Hindi-heartland states (in which BJP lost to the Congress) and in Modi’s (and Shah’s) Gujarat, where the BJP just managed to scrape through. This hadn’t stopped a bigger victory for the BJP than before in the Lok Sabha elections. So, what’s different now?
The answer can only be a textured one. This time around things can be different because people are on the streets up and down the country. The outcome of the next Lok Sabha poll may also depend on the momentum and the longevity of the protests, especially when an open struggle is on between proponents of the old revolutionary idea and the counter-revolutionaries, their arch-opponents.
Since the people are out on the streets spontaneously and in very large numbers, the Constitutional side appears amorphous and leaderless. The question is, can it compel the political parties and formations ranged against RSS-BJP to coordinate effectively for elections when the time comes? This will help decide if the BJP can win the next Lok Sabha election after doing poorly in the states.
It is unusual that the counter-revolutionary process should be guided and shaped from above -- by the government (in the backdrop of RSS thought), and not by sections of the populace. Typically, revolutionary as well as counter-revolutionary surges originate within society.
Operating under the aegis of the government, those seeking to quell the protests -- including the PM -- have lionized the police in spite of its extreme brutality recorded in Delhi and UP. Law enforcement has been openly harnessed in a political cause, alongside swathes of the media and the investigating agencies, lending counter-revolutionary activity greater complexity and greater lethality. The methods of the Constitutional side bear watching.
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*Senior Delhi-based journalist and columnist

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