1984 Sikh riots are fundamentally different from 2002 Gujarat Pogrom, reportedly said Kanhaiya Kumar, president of JNUSU as per ever suspect Indian media. He also asserted that Emergency is different from Fascism. Lo and behold, self-designated champions of Sectarian Left were out baying for his blood, as if waiting in the wings for that only.
But is Kanhaiya wrong, even if he did say so? That is based on the facts, not inventing them as real Left, unlike Fascists, can only interpret facts at best, not invent them. (No quoting Marx’ 11th Theses On Feuerbach here, please. I know that too well- the context here is altogether different.)
Lets face the facts one by one. Did Kanhaiya condone or defend 1984 Sikh massacre? The answer is a resounding NO. Lets come back to it later, though.
Is he factually wrong in differentiating between Fascism from Emergency? He is NOT is again the resounding answer. For the uninitiated- all dictatorships are not, and cannot be, fascist. Fascism is a specific ideology that operates through several core notions- aggressive and violent national chauvinism, claiming supremacy of a particular race, identifying or even inventing an ‘other’, an enemy as a unifying cause, calling for an attempting to ethnically cleanse such enemy, unleashing lynch mobs/storm troopers to savagely attack all who dare to protest its agenda and so on.
Does Emergency qualify to be fascist on any of these counts? Or any other anyone can come up with? It was not even a prototype that could mutate into Fascism, it was, and remained a feeble attempt at turning the republic into a dictatorship and failed at that!
Pause here for a moment and consider the current regime- would it qualify as a fascist one or not? With all the beef lynchings, killings of rationalists, minorities, dissenters, concerted attacks on universities, dubbing anyone and everyone opposing them as anti-national and seeking their ‘deportation’ to Pakistan and so on. And all this while forcing an idea of India, of Bharat Mata, that is intrinsically against the idea of secular, socialist and democratic republic that the freedom fighters envisaged and put in place, in howsoever inadequate form. The answer, my friends, is "Blowin' in the Wind".
Now, before cutting back to 1984, let’s pause for a moment to consider the history of Indian National Congress (INC) on secularism. No one in his or her senses would INC’s ever-opportunistic positions on the question. INC betrayed secularism both ways, of course with a tilt in favour of majority religion- right from giving in to Hindutva clan’s pressure on Hindu Code Bill to caving in Islamic fanatics on Shahbano to opening the gates of Babri mosque to allowing Shilanyas of Ram Janmbhoomi. The list is endless. Does that make it the same as BJP, though? Is majoritarianism its core ideology and ethnic cleansing of minorities its programme to build a strong nation? 1984 was not the only time it failed the minorities. 1984 was preceded by Nellie massacre in 1983 with an official toll of 2,191 while unofficial figures estimating the numbers at more than 10,000. What was the Congress government’s response to that massacre? It responded by never making the report of Tiwari Commission public and finally, dropping all the charge sheeted cases for Assam Accord with the All Assam Students Union. It is just that none seems to remember Nellie, not even those righteously hurt now. One may ask why, but then that is yet another debate for another day.
Many other massacres of varying scales happened under Congress’ watch including, just to mention a few, Gujarat riots (1969) with an official toll of 660, Moradabad riots (1980) with a toll of 130, Gujarat again (1985) with an estimated toll of 275, Bhagalpur (1989) with an official toll of 1070 and finally Bombay (later Mumbai) riots of 1992-93 with an estimated toll of more than 900. None can, thus, not even a foolhardy, absolve Congress of its crime of failing the minorities and stabbing the body politic of the republic. It is, in fact, these failures- ranging from being complicit in massacres to not enforcing rule of law to contain them that paved the way for murderous regime in the power now.
Does that make Congress same as BJP, though? Or 1984 massacre same as 2002 pogrom?
Let’s have a closer look. It was essentially Congress that set in a motion a chain of events that culminated in Indira Gandhi’s assassination and the 1984 massacre of Sikhs thereafter? Did it do it willfully, that is with a criminal intent? Assuming that would require another assumption- that it planned the assassination of Indira Gandhi as well, an assumption as preposterous and absurd as it can get. 1984 massacre was result of a political ploy- of pitting militant Sikhs against Akali Dal, a religio-political party gone horribly wrong, not an execution of a well thought out attempt of ethnic cleansing of a minority group.
Let’s dig deeper. What did Congress do after 1984? Did it try hounding Sikhs (or any other minority community for that reason) the way BJP is doing right from RSS and Jan Sangh instigated Gujarat massacre in 1969 at least? Did it target other minorities like BJP did- Christians in 1997 in Gujarat and in 2008 in Odisha?
The answers to these questions are obvious. Congress is no custodian of secularism. It is not a religiously fanatic group with fascistic tendencies either. And that is despite the fact that BJP is trying to legitimize all its nefarious decisions by insinuating that it is no different from Congress. It is high time to call that lie out, that too aloud.
Finally, does saying that amount to betraying the victims of 1984? Does it amount to forcing them to accept some sort of closure, like accepting the atrocities committed on them and stop seeking justice because their perpetrators did not do that ideologically?
Let me answer this by an analogy. Not all dictatorships are fascist in nature. Do acknowledging ones that were not fascist but mere dictatorships lessen their crime and the quest for redress and justice? Forget even that. And let us put it even more clearly- India has never been a fascist state, till last election at least. Does acknowledging, and stating, that condones the concerted violence it has inflicted on its people in the name of containing insurgencies- be that in Bastar, Telangana, Kashmir, North East and so on? And that is talking only of armed action of the state, not the countless millions it starves through its policies. There we are.
Or else, we can fight over the semantics, something Sectarian Left has always done and fight with comrades, not the fascists in power.