Fascism in India
Posted by Jerry on May 25, 2007
Martha Nussbaum—a well-known professor of Philosophy at the University of Chicago—recently wrote a critical article on the current state of cultural and political affairs in India. Particularly, by analyzing the violence surrounding religious and ethnic conflicts in places like Gujurat, Nussbaum indicates the disturbing rise of fascism and the weakening of democratic institutions in India.
Her thesis is that the threat to democracies is arising from within cultures and civilizations rather that from an outside culture or civilization. As I have personally noted in several instances before, the rise of fascism in India is certainly becoming apparent—indeed increasingly so over recent years since the country’s crawl towards globalization and the free exchange of ideas.
However, unlike Nussbaum, I do not call for the rescue of currently existing democratic institutions and legal structures in India from fascist ideologies; in fact, in my opinion, the institutions as they currently exist are instrumentally causing the decline of liberty and the move toward the fascism of a vocal collective. These legal and democratic structures need to either be dissolved entirely or reformed radically. A new legal structure needs to be introduced—one that is based on the recognition and guarantee of fundamental human rights, not on the guarantee of a majoritarian democracy, a thuggish minority, or one that is based on the expediency of the moment.
One effective and immediate way to achieve this would be to introduce a constitutional amendment declaring certain laws based on objective, fundamental principles as off-limits to a democratic vote. For example, laws such as the guaranteeing of freedom of speech, separation of religion and state, and the repeal of institutionalized discrimination based on caste, religion, or race should be taken off the voting table regardless of popular opinion.
Another key area of influence in curbing the rise of fascism is—as Nussbaum points out—the culture of education. Currently, Indians are either ignorant of or actively deny the influence of ideas and philosophy in the matter of man’s survival. The Indian education system continues to produce “docile engineers” and rote learners from the IITs and IIMs who are utterly inept at critically thinking in principles outside their area of specialization. Indian parents actively cultivate a culture of “contempt for the humanities and the arts” and prefer to have their children as mindless cogs in the machine of marketability. I share Nussbaum’s fear that the Indian democracy will be increasingly administered by such mentally tame bureaucrats, leaders, and politicians who are unable to grasp implications beyond the perceptual reality of the moment.
India urgently needs to introduce critical thinking and respect for disciplines in the arts and the humanities in its educational system. However, this introduction should not be carried out by the inept bureaucracy of the government education department—for they are the cause of this current mental stagnation—but by privatizing school and college syllabi and simply withdrawing from the arena of educational administration altogether.
Private schools and colleges will be forced to compete for survival by improving their services, ensuring the superior quality of their teachers and students, offering a variety of courses to beat competitors, and securing the reputation of their degrees.
On one hand, as India crawls towards the ideals of freedom in its economic sphere, the conflict between its past and its desired future is being starkly highlighted; on the other hand, the fascist forces are tightening their noose around the necks of the people in their attempt to rein in the march towards progress by cloaking their actions and rhetoric in moral and patriotic terms. The recent attacks on the freedom of artists in universities, the moral policing of the internet—including Orkut, blogs, and Google searches—the criminal indictment of celebrities for a public kiss, the monitoring and arbitrary blockage of airwaves, and the general arbitrary nature of laws across the country are alarming signs of a country being engulfed by pockets of fascist forces intent upon usurping the entire nation. It might perhaps not be too long before India comes to be referred to as the fascist country that once was the largest democracy in the world.