Indian History & Sangh Parivar (Was: Medieval India)
y.r.rani at mail.utexas.edu
y.r.rani at mail.utexas.edu
Sat Dec 2 21:46:46 UTC 1995
In your message, you objected to what I had written:
"( . . .) we can no longer simply blast the Sangh Parivar, denigrating them
to fascists, while lamenting the end of Indic civilization."
"Fascism" is the classification of the movement and the predicted
catastrophic results of their ideas, if implemented, as determined by the
Congress Party, the Indian media and the majority of current scholarship.
It is essentially the only story that is available, especially in the West
where we are cut off from the BJP propaganda machine or first hand
observations. There is no dialogue happening in the main stream press and
in accepted academic circles. The point that I thought that I was making
in my previous message was that calling these Sangh Parivar people fascists
is applying yet another Western discourse overlaid on the India idioms
where it makes an uncomfortable fit.
"Lets call a spade a spade!"
But, is this really a "spade"? Maybe it's a "hoe" and we are just looking
at part of it and then, seeing the similarity, compare it to what *we* call
a "spade" in *our* cultural tool shed. Is Sangh Parivar fascist because
RSS has a hierarchical structure, not democratically selected? Isn't that
they way all Hindu organizations have historically been organized? Do we
call the Rama Krishna Mission or any of a thousand ashrams and religious
communities fascist? It could be argued that RSS has, at least in part, an
indigenous organizational model. Some historians claim that Hedgewar was
more influenced by the Boy Scouts than the fascists. Was the politburo
fascist? Some may have thought so, but we called them Communist. Do we
call the Sangh fascist because they have an exclusivist view of Hindu
culture in so far they consider it as the source of all wisdom and the one
truly universalistic religion? Then practically every religion and every
reform movement and every nationalist organization could be classified as
fascist. The creation of the "evil other" is certainly not specific to
fascism and this scape goating mentality unfortunately exists in the
highest level of all modern states. We don't call Pat Robertson fascist
for his hate campaign against Hindus. We call him a warped fundamentalist
Christian. We don't call Chirac fascist for bombing Pacific atolls, we
call him a right winger but not a fascist. We don't call the Quebecois
fascist , we call them Francophone nationalists.
I think the ease with which the Sangh Parivar is labeled fascist is more a
result of not agreeing with them and then not knowing what else to call
them. Fascism is, in post W.W.II terms, just about the worst political
insult possible. I think that there is a bigger picture here. I
personally disagree with most of what the Sangh stands for but I'm not so
sure that they are simply fascists. They seem pretty ready to compromise
on lots of things, almost flip-flopping on some issues, which is not very
fascist of them. This is another point I tried to make in my previous
post-- simply by ignoring them or painting them black, won't solve any
problems. There are enough aspects of the BJP that, in the jargon of
occidental politics, would make them appear as leftist (i.e.:
pro-abortion). There are other elements of their political agenda that are
quite centrist. As they gain political power, I think, judging from the
indications, these centrist orientations will obtain. It's the name of the
political game. The outsiders move to the center the center moves to the
periphery. One need not have read Foucault to see the repetition of
">Surely Ms. Rosser has enough experience of the Indian political scene to
know just what
rogues are at work, pretending to uphold Hindu traditions."
I am just speaking to one aspect of the perception of the Sangh Parivar. I
am not justifying their means or their goals. But unless we look carefully
at THEIR literature, we will not know what they intend except through the
eyes of their distracters. Then how can dialogue succeed?
>Both J.B. Sharma and Yvette Rosser really try to be objective about
>the situation, but the slips they make show how very difficult it
I'm not sure where I slipped, please explain. I certainly nevr said that I
am not pro-Sangh nor that I agree with them. I just think that as scholars,
perhaps we should re-evaluate our constructs and monikers regarding them.
>(. . .)we need to distinguish between the disastrous
>consequences for India if the people behind the RSS, Hindutva etc.
>with their fascist rhetoric gain power,
Are you sure that India would be disastrously effected? Is this not *your*
perspective? Is there another way to look at the situation? Are there
other view points? Is there no room for dialogue? What if they DO win the
majority in the Lok Saba in 1996? Is that the end of Indic civilization as
we know it? Do you really think so?
>The argument that 21% of the vote commands respect is no more valid in
>India than it
>was in pre-Nazi Germany.
Nor in Newt Gingrich's America! Whose Contract on America? Whose
Hindutva? It's not MY agenda, but we still have to look at it squarely.
(BTW, I heard that in the first election in which Hitler ran, he won by
only ONE VOTE!!!)
Do you really think that if the BJP comes to power they will set up
concentration camps for Muslims and chambers to gas millions of them? Do
you really think that Muslims will be herded up and walled into Muslim
ghettos? (They already live in Muslim ghettos!) God! I hope not! I
think we have to be careful with our predictions. 1996 India is not 1930's
Germany. India is so much more part of the world, the global village
mentality prevails especially in the Sangh who nurtures their diasporic
members. I think if the BJP comes to power it won't be that great a
change. Political exegencies prevail! Reagan was about as right wing a
demagogue as we've had in the White House, but for the average Joe on the
street, what was the difference between Carter's and Reagan's eras? As I
said, simply ascribing the title of fascist on them will not make them go
You are right we need to look at "why people accept and believe such
rhetoric and vote for them." Indian voters are not stupid and blind,
though when voters elect a candidate who is not of *our* particular choice,
we may say that they are suffering from mass illusion or have been deluded
and manipulated. If these same stupid voters who have no agency and are
just pawns in the power plays of elites were to vote for a candidate that
we did support, would we think that they had finally come to their senses?
Yvette C. Rosser
"THE SPIRIT OF DEMOCRACY IS THAT SPIRIT WHICH IS NOT
TOO SURE IT IS ALWAYS RIGHT." * Justice Learned Hand
More information about the INDOLOGY