Nationalists versus people of India?

Chandra Bhan Prasad

 (First published in October 2001)

My Dalit scholar friend HL Dushad keeps coming up with ideas. This time he suggested, "The ultra-nationalist forces, the Left parivar and the Sangh should dissolve into their original Varna identities. That way, the people of India could fight them." I asked, "Just what has got you to you to theorise this way?" He answered, "Look at their stand on Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the print media." Dushad's deep insight into things happening in India often stuns me.

 Only a few years ago, the makers of a "popular" scooter, a monopoly company in India, turned "Leninist" when foreign two-wheeler makers made a bid to re-enter India. Now we know that the particular scooter was technologically backward, polluting and accident-prone but left with no choice, Indians had to buy it. Similarly, when Coca Cola was coming in, Indian soft drink makers raised similar Leninist/nationalistic voices. Now we know Indians were forced to buy third rate and dirty soft drinks. And on every such occasion, the Left and the Sangh together opposed the entry of MNCs.

When the winds of globalisation wafted into India (during VP Singh's time; he later claimed in a TV interview that he had opened only windows but that the Rao Government was opening up doors), both the Left and the Sangh sang the same tune and continue to do so even today. Anti-imperialistic fever (a disease) preaches that the MNCs will plunder India, Indian industrialists will suffer, that foreign capital will be more exploitative and so on. Of late, both these arms of the Varna order have begun saying, with an eye on Dalit support, that globalisation will bring about privatisation which, in turn, will shrink Government jobs. While it is true that the immediate victim of globalisation will be the Dalits, neither of these two opponents of globalisation has any credible record of supporting Dalit reservations. In fact, the performance of Kerala and West Bengal in implementing reservations for the Dalits falls far short of the all-India average. And very little can be expected from Governments inspired, if not remote controlled, by the Sangh.

Both members of the Varna family, while opposing imperialism, fail to explain how benevolent Indian capital or the corporate houses have been towards the Dalits? The Left and the Sangh parivars never demand that Indian industrialists implement, in the private sector, a state policy of affirmative action as done in America. In fact, most Indian industrialists are opposed to the idea of reservations - they stand opposed to the very notion of a Welfare State. Obviously, India's private sector is the biggest challenge to democratising capital and society. If the private sector is given a free hand, they would first and foremost exempt themselves from paying tax and abolish the Bureau of Indian Standards (ISI branding), so that they could produce third rate goods and plunder us Indians even more effectively.

How obscurantist and degraded the Indian industrialist is, we know. But how comical most of them could be, on the question of FDI in the print media, is beyond comprehension of the average mind. They stand against FDI on the grounds that "the foreign media will begin influencing public opinion, adversely affect the culture of this great civilisation and give imperialism a free hand."

What could be more absurd than talking about the glory of Indian "culture", to which the very notions of morality, ethics, brotherhood and universal good are alien. Why should one feel sorry for a culture defined by eternal corruptibility, mutual-hatred for each other and which produces a personality often contemptuous towards labour. What could be a greater blessing than allowing Western culture to come to this land and completely de-Indianise us all.

Furthermore, on what count does the monopoly Press deserve any sympathy or mercy. In India, four sections function as the fountainheads of obscurantism and atrocity: the landlords, temple priests, education/art/music managers and the mainstream Press, the large players in particular. Of the four, the latter two stand to do more harm to the constitutional objectives of universal good and brotherhood. While landlords and temple priests, thankfully, do not claim any high moral ground, the pig-skinned educational managers and monopoly Press masquerade as "torchbearers" of liberalism and modernity.

The treatment is never a pleasant process. If the Washington Post, The New York Times or Time magazine came to India or bought shares in Indian newspapers, The Hindustan Times, The Times of India, India Today and the Outlook could start looking good, democratic, competent and intellectually healthy. If they don't, then what reason did they have to exist? My friend Dushad is less worried about them. His only worry: why don't the Left and the Sangh, both ultra-nationalists, officially merge to promote their nationalism. That way, the people could fight them!

[Courtesy: Pioneer, October 29, 2001]

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