[Reader-list] Gujarati 'pride' hurt once again

Shivam Vij शिवम् विज् mail at shivamvij.com
Tue Jun 17 20:03:54 IST 2008

An organisation in Ahemdabad called National Council for Civil
Liberties has filed a case against Ashis Nandy for his article in The
Times of India in January after Modi's election victory. The case has
been filed for for 'promoting enmity between different groups on
grounds of religion, race, place of birth and language' [Sections 153
(A) and (B) of IPC].

178 academics and intellectuals have signed a statement in protest,
which is available at

Given below is the 'offending' article:

o o o

Blame The Middle Class

By Ashis Nandy
8 Jan 2008

Now that the dust has settled over the Gujarat elections, we can
afford to defy the pundits and admit that, even if Narendra Modi had
lost the last elections, it would not have made much difference to the
culture of Gujarat politics. Modi had already done his job. Most of
the state's urban middle class would have remained mired in its inane
versions of communalism and parochialism and the VHP and the Bajrang
Dal would have continued to set the tone of state politics. Forty
years of dedicated propaganda does pay dividends, electorally and

The Hindus and the Muslims of the state — once bonded so conspicuously
by language, culture and commerce — have met the demands of both V D
Savarkar and M A Jinnah. They now face each other as two hostile
nations. The handful of Gujarati social and political activists who
resist the trend are seen not as dissenters but as treacherous
troublemakers who should be silenced by any means, including
surveillance, censorship and direct violence. As a result, Gujarati
cities, particularly its educational institutions are turning cultural
deserts. Gujarat has already disowned the Indian Constitution and the
state apparatus has adjusted to the change.

The Congress, the main opposition party, has no effective leader. Nor
does it represent any threat to the mainstream politics of Gujarat.
The days of grass-roots leaders like Jhinabhai Darji are past and a
large section of the party now consists of Hindu nationalists. The
national leadership of the party does not have the courage to confront
Modi over 2002, given its abominable record of 1984.

The Left is virtually non-existent in Gujarat. Whatever minor presence
it once had among intellectuals and trade unionists is now a vague
memory. The state has disowned Gandhi, too; Gandhian politics arouses
derision in middle-class Gujarat. Except for a few valiant old-timers,
Gandhians have made peace with their conscience by withdrawing from
the public domain. Gandhi himself has been given a saintly, Hindu
nationalist status and shelved. Even the Gujarati translations of his
Complete Works have been stealthily distorted to conform to the Hindu
nationalist agenda.

Gujarati Muslims too are "adjusting" to their new station. Denied
justice and proper compensation, and as second-class citizens in their
home state, they have to depend on voluntary efforts and donor
agencies. The state's refusal to provide relief has been partly met by
voluntary groups having fundamentalist sympathies. They supply aid but
insist that the beneficiaries give up Gujarati and take to Urdu, adopt
veil, and send their children to madrassas. Events like the
desecration of Wali Gujarati's grave have pushed one of India's
culturally richest, most diverse, vernacular Islamic traditions to the
wall. Future generations will as gratefully acknowledge the sangh
parivar's contribution to the growth of radical Islam in India as this
generation remembers with gratitude the handsome contribution of Rajiv
Gandhi and his cohorts to Sikh militancy.

The secularist dogma of many fighting the sangh parivar has not helped
matters. Even those who have benefited from secular lawyers and
activists relate to secular ideologies instrumentally. They neither
understand them nor respect them. The victims still derive solace from
their religions and, when under attack, they cling more passionately
to faith. Indeed, shallow ideologies of secularism have simultaneously
broken the back of Gandhism and discouraged the emergence of figures
like Ali Shariatis, Desmond Tutus and the Dalai Lama — persons who can
give suffering a new voice audible to the poor and the powerless and
make a creative intervention possible from within worldviews
accessible to the people.

Finally, Gujarat's spectacular development has underwritten the
de-civilising process. One of the worst-kept secrets of our times is
that dramatic development almost always has an authoritarian tail.
Post-World War II Asia too has had its love affair with developmental
despotism and the censorship, surveillance and thought control that go
with it. The East Asian tigers have all been maneaters most of the
time. Gujarat has now chosen to join the pack. Development in the
state now justifies amorality, abridgement of freedom, and collapse of
social ethics.

Is there life after Modi? Is it possible to look beyond the 35 years
of rioting that began in 1969 and ended in 2002? Prima facie, the
answer is "no". We can only wait for a new generation that will, out
of sheer self-interest and tiredness, learn to live with each other.
In the meanwhile, we have to wait patiently but not passively to keep
values alive, hoping that at some point will come a modicum of remorse
and a search for atonement and that ultimately Gujarati traditions
will triumph over the culture of the state's urban middle class.

Recovering Gujarat from its urban middle class will not be easy. The
class has found in militant religious nationalism a new self- respect
and a new virtual identity as a martial community, the way Bengali
babus, Maharashtrian Brahmins and Kashmiri Muslims at different times
have sought salvation in violence. In Gujarat this class has smelt
blood, for it does not have to do the killings but can plan, finance
and coordinate them with impunity. The actual killers are the lowest
of the low, mostly tribals and Dalits. The middle class controls the
media and education, which have become hate factories in recent times.
And they receive spirited support from most non-resident Indians who,
at a safe distance from India, can afford to be more nationalist,
bloodthirsty, and irresponsible.

[The writer is a political psychologist.]

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