Dismantling India: A Four Year Report
edited by John Dayal, Leena Dabiru, Shabnam Hashmi;
Media House, Delhi; 2018; pages 355; Price: Rs 600.
A recently published 355-page book titled Dismantling India: A Four Year Report with documented accounts, edited by John Dayal, Leena Dabiru and Shabnam Hashmi, gives an insight into the reality of whatever has been happening in our country in the last four years with a definite agenda of the BJP focussed through its governance. The 25 thought provoking and informative articles by well- known experts on varied issues ranging from onslaught on culture, communalisation of the political space, attack on women’s rights, distress of peasants and economic hardship to neighbourhood foreign policy, assault on judiciary, to mention a few, explore the huge amount of damage done by the Modi regime that would bound to have far-reaching negative impact on our society, polity and economy.
A major onslaught has been on human rights and the pertinent issue of freedom of faith. The worst victims are the poorer sections of the Muslim community, the Dalits, the adivasis and women. Social media with its ‘most advanced communication and marketing technology’ through the network of internet, smartphone and WhatsApp—which was introduced by the Congress ‘as signs of modernity’—has been misused by the present ruling dispensation as ‘instruments of the targeted hate in a manner that even Goebbels looked like a bumbling novice’. (Introduction, p. 6) With a definite agenda to dismantle the secular fabric of our country, the BJP under Modi gave a clear message to the minorities of their political irrelevance, isolating them electorally and socially. Not a single Muslim MP in the Lok Sabha from the BJP, not a single Muslim candidate in the 2017 UP and Gujarat Assembly elections! They are considered redundant, because for the BJP appeasement of the Hindu majoritarian community would fetch them electoral gains. That explains a series of actions and speeches of RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat and several BJP MPs.
This Report has been prepared by experts who had travelled throughout the country, communicating with the victims of violence and visualising the reality from the ground level. Falsification, distortion and suppression of facts and data virtually led to the collapse of the system of accountability in governance. For example, ‘the annual employment-unemployment survey has stopped getting reported from 2016’. The Economic Advisory Council of the PM claims that 15 million jobs were created in 2017 while the CMIE in its survey put the figure at 1.4 million. This Report has exposed the manipulation of data by the government at every level. Now the Aadhaar has become a surveillance machine and is just the opposite of the RTI.
Within space constraints, it is difficult to meticulously summarise each and every article enriched with facts and chronological accounts. Souradeep Roy, in his chapter titled “Unmaking Indian Culture”, has extensively brought out the onslaught on intellectuals who had raised their voices not just against official or unofficial censorship of books and films, but reacted to the attacks on the common people—‘the way people lived their life, the way they dress, what they eat, what they think’, in short, the ‘everyday acts of violence against the common citizens of the country’ (p. 16) In my opinion, this is worse than the Emergency.
Subhas Gatade’s “Hindutva Unlimited” with its apt title explains the concept from a historical perspective and analyses the present scenario of lynching and vigilante violence with figures to show that 84 per cent of those killed were Muslims. Mohan Bhagwat’s inflammatory speech to militarise Hindus and the visibility of armed demonstrations, weaponising Hindu religious festivals clearly reflect ‘communal polarisation’ via religious processions. Bhagwat’s call to prepare an army of their own to be deployed on the fronts is a veritable challenge thrown to our own security forces, something that had never happened in the last seventy years.
In his “Idea of India: the Case for Plurality”, K. Satchidanandan, while explaining the hatred of democracy, mentions about ‘the intolerance towards India’s religions, ethnic, linguistic, literary, philosophical and cultural plurality’, and points to the suppression of dissent and freedom of expression, weakening of federal polity and centralism of power. He has very meaningfully elucidated how the notion of political Hindutva goes against the pluralist ethos and concept of diversity. This chapter has exposed the BJP’s ‘monstrous attempt to appropriate culture for political use’ through a series of examples of institutional encroachments.
Right now, the country has been turned into a Lynchistan as the last four years have witnessed the most horrific incidents of lynching and mobocracy with patronage from politicians of the Modi regime. John Dayal, in his article “Lynching and other consequences of targeted Hate”, has given a detailed account of such horrendous incidents and the ‘impunity inherent in the state apparatus’ with mention of specific hate speeches inciting violence. This has indeed been a new trend of Modi’s electoral politics. Data from the NCRB on targeted incidents of communal violence has given weightage to his argument of state sanction behind them. Here again the government did not release the data of communal violence since the takeover of Modi as the PM. Denial of gruesome facts, emboldened by Modi’s silence on incidents of such violence, sends a particular kind of signal to the nation that tolerance is a forgotten word and here again majoritarian politics has become a serious threat to all minorities. The article ends with a list of lynchings (though incomplete) that makes it clear how poor Muslims are targeted.
Some of the articles are overlapping but that is understandable as the contents relate to violence, hate speech and communalisation of social, political spaces. Ram Puniyani traces the trend from the Ram temple to the issues of holy Cow, Vande Mataram, Love-Jihad,Ghar Wapsi and so on. History is the worst victim and the author in his narrative on communal historio-graphy harps on polemically constructed issues such as Taj Mahal, Rana Pratap, Shivaji, Taimur, Tipu, Padmavati etc. which have generated religious frenzy.
Similarly Harsh Mander, in his article “Republic of Hate”, cites specific incidents from across the country. He ends with a quote of a young Muslim man—‘A poisonous wind is blowing through our country. I feel a stranger in my own homeland.’ How sad and terrible it is!
Syeda Hameed’s “Years of Trial: A Muslim Woman Muses” makes us ashamed of the situation which a Muslim woman is forced to face in India today.
Kavita Krishnan has penned the violence against women, citing incidents of rape of Dalit women, specifically referring to whatever happened in Unnao and Kathua, and trafficking. The section of the Cobrapost sting operation is most revealing in its exposure of BJP men committing ‘Hindu terrorism’. The writer has traced the RSS ideology’s impact on women, relating to writings and speeches by the BJP leaders on the woman’s space in the present- day context.
Goldy M. George’s article on Adivasis in the fascist regime provides interesting information on the militarisation of adivasi regions by the newly formed body Sarva Adivasi Sanatan Samaj. There are a few comparisons with the Congress-led UPA and it has been aptly pointed out that the Modi-led NDA has seen ‘the systematic curtailment of Adivasi cultural symbols along with a Hinduised consumeristic model in a modern format.’ (p. 113) The purpose is not only to establish control over their life but also to acquire a command over their resource zones such as mining.
Gauhar Raza and Dr Surjeet Singh’s narration of the attack on scientific temper and rationality explains the nature of arguments of the BJP leaders and also unmasks the unscientific and irrational schemes and projects of the govern-ment. The last four years have created an anti-science environment with an increasing rise of institutions nurturing superstitious and unsci-entific temperament.
Karen Gabriel’s article on educational reforms needs to be specifically mentioned as it deals with the framing of a value system attuned to Hindu religious understanding which is problematic in a multi-religious country like ours. This sets a dangerous trend, transforming the secular ethos into a specific value system nurtured with Hindutva ideology. The author has rightly concluded: ‘This is not about propagating values; this is about losing them.’ (p. 64) Mathew Jacob, while discussing “Democratic space and the regime”, has also pointed to the attack on educational institutions.
The articles on the economy and related issues are most valuable as these break the myth of Modi’s so-called development and growth plank. From black economy to challenges regarding employment, crisis in the farming sector, the data shows that Modi’s report card is miserably poor. This has come out with clarity from the articles by Arun Kumar, Biju Krishnan, Rakhi Sehgal and Vidya Bhushan Rawat.
The report on the foreign policy sector is equally deplorable as is clear from the articles by Mani Shankar Aiyar and L. Ramdas with Lalitha Ramdas.
There are a few more informative and analytical articles particularly on the attack on the judiciary by Colin Gonsalves, ten years of RTI by Aruna Roy, Nikhil Dey, Rakshita Swamy and MKSS. Articles by Usha Ramanathan, Hartosh Bal and Ashok Vajpayee are equally substantive with information. Specially important is the role of Dalits in the NDA Government by N. Paul Divakar and Juno Varghese.
This book is enriched with a list of 11 tables and charts on issues and incidents which help supplementing the analyses of the articles mentioned above. By bringing out this Report, the editors have done an immense service to the nation. It is a Reader for human rights activists and members of civil society and liberals of all shades who are today determined to ensure that India is not dismantled.
The reviewer, a former Associate Professor of History, Maitreyi College, University of Delhi, is a Vice-President of the National Federation of Indian Women.