Recent Agitation In India A Sign Of The Coming Storm
Former judge of the Indian Supreme Court Justice Markandey Katju argues that India is transitioning from a feudal to an industrial society, which history shows is always a tumultuous and bloody period. He argues that the recent agitation in India is a sign of rising fascism, and coupled with a tanking economy, is a portent of even darker times that lie in wait.
A curse shall light upon the limbs of men;
Domestic fury and fierce civil strife shall cumber all the parts of Italy;
Blood and destruction shall be so in use and dreadful objects so familiar
That mothers shall but smile when they behold their infants quarter’d with the hands of war;
All pity choked with custom of fell deeds:
And Caesar’s spirit, ranging for revenge, with Ate by his side come hot from hell,
Shall in these confines with a monarch’s voice Cry “Havoc!” and let slip the dogs of war;
That this foul deed shall smell above the earth with carrion men, groaning for burial.
(Shakespeare: Julius Caesar Act 3 Scene 1) ”
The above speech of Mark Antony before Caesar’s body in Shakespeare’s ‘Julius Caesar’ accurately portents the days to come in India.
India is passing through turbulent times. I do not wish to frighten anyone or sound alarmist, but it is time someone told Indians the truth; terrible times are coming in this country. The anti-Citizenship Amendment Act agitation and the attack by masked vandals on Jawaharlal Nehru University students and teachers have raised such a furore, but are only a small omen – the storm is yet to come.
After the Chinese Revolution succeeded in 1949, an assessment was made by the Chinese authorities of the number of people killed in the Revolution. It was found that about 50 million Chinese were killed in it, which was about 10% of the then total population of China. Similarly, when the Vietnamese war ended in 1975, it was estimated that about 4 million people, i.e. about 10% of the then total population of Vietnam of about 40 million, were killed in it.
A revolution is coming in India too, as I have said several times, but it will not be an easy or pleasant affair. Maybe, 10% of our present population of 1350 million, will be killed in it. This is no doubt horrible, and one wishes our historical transition, from a feudal to an industrial society, could be achieved without violence and pain, but that is unfortunately not how history functions.
As I had said earlier, we are passing through a transitional period in our history, from feudal agricultural society to a modern industrial society. Do historical transitions take place easily or quickly? No, they are terrible things, full of turbulence, turmoil, wars, revolutions, chaos, social churning, intellectual ferment, as a study of European history making a similar transition from the 16th to the 19th centuries shows.
For what is a historical transition? It is a period in history when the old social order is being uprooted and torn apart. Can this happen peacefully? No, the vested interests in the old social order will fiercely resist the transition, for they will feel their interests jeopardized. Only after going through this fire did modern society emerge in Europe.
India is presently going through this fire, and things are going to get much worse in the coming years. We are passing through a very turbulent and painful period in our history, which I guess will last another 15-20 years. In a historical transition, society is totally uprooted, old values are destroyed, but new values are yet to be created. Everything becomes chaotic and topsy-turvy.
Our national aim must be to create a highly industrialized, prosperous country and a just social order in which our people get decent lives and enjoy a high standard of living. But to achieve that, we have to wage a mighty historical struggle, make tremendous sacrifices, and pass through terrible times.
There are powerful vested interests, both external and internal, which do not want India to industrialize and modernize. These vested interests will fiercely resist any change. They want India to remain backward and semi-feudal and aim to maintain the status quo, and not become another China. These vested interests oppose change in the Indian economy, as they fear India becoming a powerful rival to their own economies. The vast majority of our people are gullible, they are still casteist, communal and superstitious, and fall easy prey to the wicked deigns of the vested interests who polarise our society on caste and communal lines. Of late, after 2014, communal polarization has increased exponentially.
Muslims are often lynched, attacked, humiliated and discriminated against. Dalits are looked down upon and often attacked. Half our children are malnourished, and healthcare is largely non-existent for our masses. Honour killings, female foeticide, dowry deaths and farmers’ suicides are commonplace in our society. There are people whose actions tend to disrupt the unity of the country, like those who spread religious or caste hatred, propagate the son of the soil theory or discriminate against North Eastern people.
The Indian economy is tanking and the business atmosphere is gloomy. Manufacturing and sales have dipped steeply. Unemployment is at a record high. Prices of foodstuffs and fuel have soared. The Indian Government, despite all its tall talk of vikas etc, is directionless, and has no inkling of how to solve these real problems. Thus, it has to rely on gimmicks like building Ram Mandir, Yoga Day, Swatchata Abhiyan, Cow Protection, abolition of Article 370, Citizens Amendment Act, to divert attention from the real issues. Also, it must have a scapegoat who must be blamed for all social ills. Like the Jews in Nazi Germany, Muslims in India are the scapegoat, who are painted as fanatics, terrorists, anti-nationals or Pakistanis.
Unemployment has reached massive proportions, with 12 million youth entering the job market every year, but only a few jobs to accommodate them in the organised sector of the Indian economy. So, what do these 12 million do? They become hawkers, bouncers, beggars, criminals or suicides.
Historical experience has shown that when there is an economic crisis, fascist forces arise, as it happened in Italy in 1922 and in Germany in 1933. The same tendency can be seen today in India; the attack by masked hooligans in JNU – which is reminiscent of the Nazi-era German paramilitary groups like the SA and SS – or the lynching or beating of Muslims by cow vigilantes.
What I foresee in the times to come are large scale communal and caste riots and other disturbances resulting in deaths of hundreds of thousands, if not millions of innocent people, as happened during the Partition in 1947. The recent incidents are only early ominous portents of the coming times.
The interests of our politicians are diametrically opposite to the national interests. The aim of our politicians is only to win elections, and for that they have to polarize society by spreading caste and communal hatred and rely on caste and communal vote banks. Casteism and communalism are feudal forces, and our national interest demands the destruction of feudal forces and the spread of scientific thinking to every nook and corner of the country. But parliamentary democracy further entrenches casteism and communalism, because it largely runs on it. It has therefore to be replaced by an alternative system which ensures our progress.
Our national aim must be to transform and uplift India from the ranks of the underdeveloped countries to the ranks of the developed, highly industrialized countries, otherwise we will remain condemned to poverty, massive unemployment, appalling child malnourishment, and almost a total lack of proper healthcare and good education for our masses.
But to engage in such a measure requires a mighty upheaval, a united historical people’s struggle over several years, or maybe several decades, led by genuinely patriotic, selfless, modern-minded leaders like Mustafa Kemal of Turkey, and tremendous sacrifices by the people, millions of whom no doubt will be martyred in this Long March, though for a noble cause.
Markandey Katju is a former judge of the Supreme Court of India. He was also the Chairman of the Press Council of India.