Dangers of Majoritarianism
Should flawed implementation of a good ideology become grounds for us to switch to a flawed ideology?
Majoritarianism is a dangerous path, we risk becoming what we hate.
Despite the so-called minority appeasement by the Pseudo-Seculars for 60 years, Hindus are doing well, it is actually the Muslims who have suffered socio-economically. So it might be apt to refer to this “Pseudo-appeasement“. At worst, these so called “minority appeasement” policies are only a minor annoyance to the vast number of people from the majority, but this is deliberately being exploited by the communal parties for their political gain. Even if there have been flaws in implementing Secularism in India, it is still a fundamentally sound ideology, would it be prudent for us to switch to an ideology that is flawed?
Going down the path of the majority becoming communal, is a far much more dangerous road.
India vs Pakistan
India and Pakistan inherited the same society, systems and land after the madness of partition. Both have similar income levels, similar cultural background. We were even the same country – this is as comparable as it gets.
Founding fathers of India had the wisdom to keep the country away from the religious madness that caused partition, and tried to build a plural, secular state.
Pakistan’s leaders needed to justify their raison d’être, and hence defined themselves as something that is “Not” India, and chose to use the Majority religion and “Culture” to unite the people. This is the mirror image of BJP’s ideological platform, idea of defining nationhood on the basis of religion and culture, Hindutva.
In other words, Pakistan has followed majoritarianism. Pakistan’s ideology of using Islam to define their nationhood can be seen as “Muslimatva“, or a Muslim version of Hindutva.
This imposition of a “national culture” and refusal to accept the Bengalis as equals led their their break-up. After 1971, Pakistan is a 95% Muslim majority country, and are still less united than a secular India.
We all know where they are, yet some of us seem keen to become what we hate. India will become like Pakistan if it follows majoritarianism. We have already seen some glimpses of what this can do – in Gujarat, Muzaffarnagar, and in Pakistan.
Examples of Majoritarianism
Majoritarianism is simply about the majority believing that it has a supremacy over others, and starts imposing its will and hegemony on the rest.
What form this takes, can vary.
Some examples, all leading to some of the worst genocides in the last century:
- In Sri Lanka, It was based on religion and language – Buddhist Sinhala Majoritarianism led to a 30 year civil war with Minority Tamils.
- In Nazi Germany, the majority collected around a racial and ideological platform, and killed Jews and even anyone opposed to the ideology – communists, writers, intellectuals, irrespective of their religion. The Nazis imagined a Jewish conspiracy to control the world, and oppose an Aryan quest. During 1941-1945, the Nazis exterminated about 6 million Jews, including 1.5 million children, in the territories controlled by them.
- In Rwanda, it was purely ethnic, with historical enmity. The 85% Hutu Majority held the minority Tutsi’s (15%) with historical grudge (as the had been old rulers). In a period of 100 days, the Hutu majority killed about a million of Tutsis, and also Hutus who opposed this. This started after the Hutu leader who had contributed to polarisation of the society by playing politics of “Hutu Power” was killed.
Common traits of Majoritarianism
- Held some grudge against the minority.
- Viewed the minority with suspicion – “Outsiders”, “Traitors”, “Old exploiters”
- Believed they were working for a just cause to the benefit of their nation
- Felt victimized itself !
In most cases, the situation was exploited by some political force espousing “majority nationalism” appealing to these feelings of historical injustice and suspicion.
In all the cases, once these feelings were aroused, the situation went out of hand very quickly, and resulted in genocides, civil wars. In India too, recall how quickly things went into complete chaos and out of control during 1947 partition.
Genie out of the bottle
The biggest danger with Majoritarianism is that once the majority becomes communal, nobody can control the matters. Such forces are easy to unleash, and very difficult to rein in later. Pakistani army created Taliban, but later lost control over it, and had to fight it.
Do not assume that only the things in the BJP’s current manifesto will drive everything. Even if BJP simply make a fool of the Hindus for votes, and do not actually act on anything, once they have polarized enough people, a more extremist Shiv Sena, a Sanatan Sanstha or a Hindu Mahasabha or someone else will exploit it. Its an irreversible slide in the downward spiral of groups of ever more puritanical vigilantes taking control.
BJP’s declared ideology, Savarkar’s Hindutva, is based on Hindu† Supremacy. It defines citizenship on the basis of people having India as their birthplace (janmbhoomi), as well as their holy place (punyabhoomi).
It treats every 5th Indian with a suspicion (“the Muslim Problem“).
“We must watch (the Moslem minority) in all its actions with the greatest distrust possible. … even after India is free we must look upon them as suspicious friends and take great care to see that the Northern Frontiers of India are well guarded by staunch and powerful Hindu forces to avoid the possible danger of the Indian Moslems going over to the alien Moslem nations across the Indus and betraying our Hindusthan to our non-Hindu foes” (Presidential address to the 20th session of the Hindu Mahasabha, Nagpur, 1938).
A large number of Sangh people openly hold bigoted views towards other religions. We can no longer keep dismissing it as “fringe” especially when the Party President, Union Ministers, and even the PM himself start saying things that are unbecoming of a leader of the whole country.
Hindu Rashtra slogans were raised constantly during the Ram Mandir campaign, which was fundamentally about imposing the will of the Majority Hindus, irrespective of the court’s decision on the matter.
What form will Hindu majoritarianism take, we can only speculate. Whatever it will be, history tells us, that it will lead the country towards more violence and polarization, and possibly a Fascist society that indulges in a genocide.
- Essentials of Hindutva, VD Savarkar, 1923
† Or, of all Indic faiths.