Does India under Modi Match the Early Warning Signs of Fascism?
- 1 Powerful and continuing nationalism
- 2 Disdain for human rights
- 3 The status of women and children
- 4 Arbitrary and Unaccountable Decisions
- 5 Treatment of Farmers and Tribals
- 6 Identification of enemies as a unifying cause
- 7 Religion, Government intertwined
- 8 Distorting, erasing historical facts from textbooks
- 9 Supremacy of the military
- 10 Rampant sexism
- 11 Controlling mass media
- 12 Corporate power protected and Rampant cronyism
- 13 Labour power suppressed
- 14 Disdain for intellectuals & the arts
- 15 Fraudulent elections
- 16 Rewarding those who are Obedient in advance
- 17 The all pervasive environment of fear
- 18 Promoting the Myth, the Image, the legend of the great leader
- 19 Conclusion
- 20 References
Are liberals being alarmist over the Majoritarianism unleashed by Sangh Parivar, or are we being oblivious like Frogs put in water, who complacently let themselves be boiled slowly? We compare the situation against the well defined signs of Fascism.
In 2003 a historian named Laurence Britt wrote an article, “Fascism Anyone?” for the magazine “Free Inquiry” which listed 14 warning signs of early fascism.
This list was converted into a poster and at one point sold by the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC.
More recently historian Timothy Snyder wrote “On Tyranny, Twenty lessons from the twentieth century.”
Most of the points in the list and the book echo the current political and social climate in India. Some, I feel, are unique to Modi’s rule.
Here’s my own list, adapted and expanded from Britt and Snyder’s work.
Powerful and continuing nationalism
Until Narendra Modi came to power not many in India had heard the word ‘nationalism’ used so stridently, usurped by the RSS/BJP supporters as their rightful and Only benchmark of patriotism. Before that, it seems nationalism was never an issue.
But in the last 3.5 years, anyone against the RSS concept of nationalist—that of a regressive belief in the superiority of the Hindu religion and nation to the exclusion of all others, especially Muslims & Christians—is shamed and labelled anti-national. Some celebrities have been recruited to further this brand of nationalism.
One of the milder but egregious displays of this chauvinism was the decision to play the national anthem in cinema halls and make it compulsory for people to stand up during it’s rendition. This order was eventually struck down by the Supreme Court who had passed it in the first place. Vigilantes took to attacking people in cinema halls, including one couple who beat up a handicapped man for not standing up.
Another example includes the decision to build extravagantly expensive statues of Hindu leaders, historical figures. The central and state government of Maharashtra have decided to build a statue of a 16th century warrior hero Shivaji at a cost of some Rs 2800 crores in a country which houses 1/5 of the hungriest on the planet. Until these right wing governments made such a fuss about Shivaji being Hindu, for most people, he was simply a much revered warrior.
Disdain for human rights
Since Modi came to power the hitherto uncoined word ‘gau-vigilante’ or ‘gau-rakshak’ entered the lexicon. These gau (cow) vigilantes are self styled, lawless gangs of brutal, violent thugs, who belong to extreme offshoots of the right wing Rashtriya Sevak Sangh (RSS), who’ve been beating up people, in most cases savagely and specifically to break legs, disable them for at least a year, Muslims and Dalits, purportedly for killing cows or eating beef.
It started on July 11, 2016 with the flogging of 4 Dalits by a gang of these thugs in Una, Gujarat for skinning the carcass of a cow. Fact is these 4 Dalit youths belong to a community whose traditional occupation for centuries has been to collect and skin cattle carcass. The vigilantes flogged these young men for hours, video taped it and disseminated it on social media!
Despite widespread revulsion and outrage, included internationally, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said nothing until August 7 and then it was an over the top theatrical speech.
“If you have any problems, attack me, not my Dalit brothers. If you want to shoot, shoot me..” he said.
While others in the party either stayed silent or as in the case of BJP MLA Raja Singh said “Gau Rakshaks taught Una Dalits a fitting lesson by flogging them.”
34 people, including four police personnel were charged by the police but over a year and half later, not much is known about the perpetrators, whether they are in jail or were punished at all. Many have in fact been rewarded with jobs.
Since July 2016 until end 2017, there’ve been at least 37 Known cases of lynchings by gau-vigilantes in which some victims have been shot or died from the beatings.
Since Modi’s rare and rhetorical comments are never followed by any action, leave alone jail sentences against these killers, since no laws have been passed specifically against these lynch mobs, the attacks continue.
The status of women and children
Over the past few years, BJP ruled states like Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Haryana, Chattisgarh, Jharkhand have had the highest and ever increasing rate of rapes, gangrapes, crimes against women and children.
As per the latest data from National Crime Records Bureau, the crime rate against women rose from 41.7% to 53.9%, between 2011 and 2015.
In one of the most distressing cases of neglect of children, 1,250 have died of Japanese Encephalitis in just one year, since January 2017 in just one hospital—the BRD Medical College in Uttar Pradesh. Of these, 290 died in August alone and the reaction of one of the BJP legislators was ‘but children always die in August.’ (of encephalitis).
What shocked the nation was most of these deaths were preventable—the ones in August, it emerged, was due to oxygen supply being cut off because the suppliers, despite 40 notices to the hospital administration, had not received their payment for two years.
Arbitrary and Unaccountable Decisions
On November 8, 2016 PM Modi declared that the high value currency notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 would no longer be legal tender. Overnight millions of people went into severe panic mode trying to exchange their notes in banks before the deadline of December 31.
This Demonitisation has been declared by dozens of economists as one of the worst man made disasters perpetrated on a people.
It caused untold suffering to millions of people in a cash and unorganised economy like India. 1000s of small and medium businesses have been wiped out, GDP has gone down, at least 150 people died while standing in queues to withdraw or deposit their currency, from stress.
Till date Modi and his colleagues defend the #Demonitisation as a move that helped the country. From the little that is known, it seems the decision was made by Modi and just a handful of his allies, not including the Finance Minister, the RBI governor, there was no expert committee, no pre-planning.
There are serious doubts whether Modi’s initially declared goal of removing black money by this horrific act of wanton cruelty and stupidity was indeed the real one.
The Rafale Deal is too complicated to explain here but again in a flagrant show of monocracy and crony capitalism, PM Modi cancelled a deal made by the previous UPA govt to buy 126 Rafale fighter aircraft—and replaced it with one that will cost the Indian exchequer at least 3 times more and benefit a private citizen and company with absolutely No experience of aircraft or defense manufacturing.
In July 2017, Modi passed a new unified taxation system GST with it seems virtually no preparedness—the result has been continued chaos and extreme stress for businesses. He was apparently advised to delay the launch of the new tax regime until October but made his own decision.
Modi government has not only stonewalled most questions or debate on any of these issues but any criticism of Modi now falls within the purview of ‘anti-nationalism’.
Treatment of Farmers and Tribals
Farmer suicides have gone up by 42% in one year, between 2014-2015. 1000s of farmers, 13,000 in 2015 alone, have committed suicide every year over agrarian distress for one reason or another.
Crimes against tribals and lower castes has gone up. In 2014, most crimes against Scheduled Castes were registered in Uttar Pradesh (8,075) followed by Rajasthan (8,028) and Bihar (7,893), and most crimes against STs were registered in Rajasthan (3,952), Madhya Pradesh (2,279) and Odisha (1,259). 
Identification of enemies as a unifying cause
In an effort to unite all Hindus, since coming to power in 2014 the Hindutva preaching RSS backed BJP have been increasingly identifying India’s 14% Muslims as the number 1 enemy of Indians and Hinduism specifically.
On Nov 14, 2017 Yogi Adityanath, Chief Minister of UP, said “”I believe that the word secular is the biggest lie told since Independence. Those that have used this word should apologise to the people of the country. No system can be secular.”
Yogi’s tourism board didn’t include the Taj Mahal in Agra in the current brochure because it does not represent “authentic Indian culture”
and began a campaign to vilify it as a symbol of anti-Hindu Muslim invaders.
Modi himself still remains tainted by what’s seen as a ‘pogrom’ in 2002 when 3000 Muslims were murdered in Gujarat when he was CM.
In the past 3-4 years, BJP legislators have made some disturbing threats and statements against Muslims in India and after a brief outrage from the more secular sections, the issue dies without any action, even any admonition from the BJP leadership.
Religion, Government intertwined
The BJP is based on and backed by the RSS and it’s radical right wing theories of Hindu superiority. Every policy of this government, it seems, is invested in enforcing this ideology to take Hindustan, not Bharat, back to some historical and mythical days of glory.
This govt’s primary stand and source of popularity has been an aggressive and militant focus on their own reactionary definition of Hindutva.
The chief minister of India’s biggest state, Uttar Pradesh, Yogi Adityanath, is a saffron robe wearing ‘mahant’, a monk and a hardcore regressive Hindu. Yogi’s primary concern has been welfare of cows, shutting down of all slaughter houses, stopping consumption of beef.
Unskilled, uneducated and with virtually No administrative experience or in running any kind of organisation even, leave alone governance, the sole reason why he was made CM by Modi was his saffron robes, which would appeal to other hard care Hindutva supporters.
Modi government miss no opportunity to promise construction of more Hindu structures, temples. Many of Modi’s public events are centered around Hindu deities, festivals—e.g the “Ganga aarti”, early on his tenure, the visit to Shiv temple inauguration in Coimbatore, the combatant and regular reminder, especially it seems at the time of elections, to build a temple to Lord Rama in Ayodhya.
Hindu Gurus and religious leaders have gained popularity, power and given 1000s of acres of public land at throwaway prices to produce substandard herbal products.
Some of this government’s most shrill, abusive and defiantly communal spokespersons, which includes legislators, belong to extreme right wing organisations.
Distorting, erasing historical facts from textbooks
In some BJP ruled states, like Rajasthan, history books have been saffronised and distorted to erase all reference to Mughal victories against Hindu rulers, or the role of the secular Gandhi and Nehru in more recent history.
Public libraries have been ordered to include books written by several BJP and RSS leaders including those written by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP general secretary Ram Madhav, Rakesh Sinha, V D Savarkar, Dinanath Batra and others.
School children in government schools are being indoctrinated and ‘saffronised’ with undisguised hate mongering and lies about Muslims and other minorities.
Supremacy of the military
In the first 2-3 years of Modi rule the Army was vigorously used as symbol of nationalistic pride, patriotism not to mention machismo. The Army became another sacred cow and despite unconfirmed accounts of massive corruption within the ranks, they are deemed above the law.
The worst example of ruthless and misplaced military supremacy was in Kashmir when the army fired metal pellets and in a case of ‘mass blinding’ killed at least 90 and injured over 17,000 civilians, leaving hundreds blinded, including children.
On 29 September 2016, the government claimed it had conducted a ‘surgical strike’ on militant launch pads across the Line of Control in Pakistan and inflicted “significant casualties.” This was in response to Pakistani terrorist attack in Uri. Pakistan rejected these claims outright.
Modi and then Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar were proclaimed avenging angels and the government milked the event for as long as it could.
This strike was supposed to have put an end to Pakistan’s terrorist activities aimed at India. It did no such thing and since then there’ve been other skirmishes, and stand offs including one with China over the Doklam plateau.
When he came to power, Modi launched programmes like “beti bachao beti padhao..” which have been abject failures given the massive rise in number of rapes, gangrapes, sexual and other crimes against women, the prevailing attitudes evidenced by comments of some of the senior leaders of BJP are indicative of how RSS/BJP see women. Irrelevant at best To be Exploited, at worst. Persecution rates are as low as 3%, as in Rajasthan, well known for female foeticide and infanticide.
Some of the comments by BJP leaders on women:
Narendra Modi as the Prime Minister on 7th November 2014 during a rally in Jayapur, on biases that lead to killing female newborns.
During a rally in Meerut in 2015, a BJP Member of Parliament from UP, Sakshi Maharaj, who has rape cases against him, asked Hindu women to produce “at least 4 children” to “protect” Hinduism.
BJP ruled Madhya Pradesh Home Minister Babulal Gaur‘s understanding of rape is ‘rape is a social crime that is “sometimes right, sometimes wrong.” He also believes a government cannot ensure women’s safety or whether they get raped.
Controlling mass media
Modi and Amit Shah were quick to understand the importance of controlling the media and in the past 3.5 years have either directly or indirectly managed most of the mainstream publications, TV channels, through overt rewards with millions worth of government advertisements. 1
The few who opposed or still do, are intimidated, mocked, marginalised and attacked with SLAPPS, and through the laks of trolls recruited on social media whose job is to regularly abuse all such journalists who speak out against the government.
Some of them like journalist Gauri Lankesh was actually shot and killed apparently by right wing Hindus—BJP MLA D.N Jeevaraj from Karnataka suggested that Gauri Lankesh might be alive if she hadn’t criticised the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
Other journalists have been forced to resign, harassed with multi-million dollar lawsuits, any government advertisements have been cut off.
Much of the ‘big media’, the celebrity journalists, the popular TV channels seems to have succumbed—self censorship has become norm of the day. Stories which show Modi and BJP in a critical light are ignored, movies and trivial issues are blown up to dominate the discourse and to distract.
Since coming to power in summer of 2014 Modi has given two media interviews, zero press conference and until October 29, 2017, 37 ‘mann ki baat’. This is a radio show hosted by Modi in which he talks about his heartfelt thoughts.
“India’s big media conglomerates are either owned by fans of the BJP, or else reliant on the government’s favour. There are few legal limits and little oversight of government spending on advertising. Mr Modi’s image is everywhere: on giant billboards trumpeting new roads and bridges, in full-page newspaper spreads for BJP election campaigns, in television spots touting myriad government programmes. During the first week of June, state-sponsored projects accounted for three of the top five brands advertised on television, amounting to some 30,000 “insertions”. The risk of losing such revenue hangs heavily over editorial decisions.”
Corporate power protected and Rampant cronyism
Modi is visibly close to people like the Ambani brothers—the richest men in south Asia, Gautam Adani is a family friend, Ramdev who fund his elections by 100s of millions and in return get the best government deals—as in the case of Rafale which went to Anil Ambani.
As an example, Adani Group’s revenue increased 20 times in a span of 12 years from Rs.3741 crore in 2002-03 to Rs.75659 crore in 2014-15 during the time when Narendra Modi was the chief minister of Gujarat. In 2016 Adani’s assets were worth approximately Rs 80,000Crore.
A millionaire Vijay Shekhar Sharma joined the Forbes top 100 list this year, with a total worth of about Rs 10,000 crores. When Modi launched Demonitisation on Nov 8, 2016, full page advertisements appeared of him promoting the digital payment gateway, PayTM owned by Vijay Shekhar—and overnight made him a billionaire.
There’s a long list of the biggest business men and corporations who have taken loans worth lakhs of crores, at a minimum Rs1.2 lakh crore from public sector units which have been either been ‘restructured’ written or waived off.
These PSUs thus bankrupted and gouged out were apparently recapitalised by the cash collected by the RBI during Demonitisation.
Vijay Mallya, an ex BJP member of Parliament who owed about Rs 9000 crores to PSUs was allowed to escape the country. The government has had a list of Indians who have offshore accounts in Panama and the Paradise Islands, but despite regular promises of retribution, threats of legal action against money launderers, not a single of these account holders, ex politicians or CEOs has ever been arrested or even had enquiries against them.
Modi’s closest ally and BJP President Amit Shah’s son Jay Shah turned a small unit and business into a multi crore one within a year—posting a turnover of 16000 times that of the previous year—and then shut it down!
Yet when an online magazine, The Wire reported this staggeringly successful business, they were slapped with a Rs100 crore lawsuit and despite Jay Shah claiming he was a private citizen, several senior ministers were immediately deployed to defend him.
Dozens of BJP MPs caught with crores in unaccounted for cash during Demonitisation were never held accountable, there were NO investigations that went anywhere.
Labour power suppressed
The Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh(BMS), the largest trade union in India backed by the RSS, held a massive rally in Delhi on November 17 against the “anti-labour policies of BJP-led government”. Yet this was largely ignored by our media.
Because of Demonitisation crores of small and middle businesses, small traders, unorganised labours in construction and every field have been wiped out and lost their source of earnings.
Disdain for intellectuals & the arts
One of the early examples of this disdain for what’re termed by rightwing trolls as “libtards”, “sickulars”, rationalists was the attack on the students of Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi, one of the most respected liberal hubs of intelligentsia and academia. From being labelled traitors, to anti nationals, to debauched, sex crazed Commies, the attack on other similar universities and students continue.
At least 5 well known writers, intellectuals and rationalists have been murdered and their killers never apprehended. Others have been beaten up, threatened, jailed.
Centre’s budgeted Spending on education has been falling for the past three years. Compared to 2013-14, the last year of UPA, when education got 4.57% of the total expenditure, there has been a steady decline — 3.65% in 2016-2017.
India spends less than 1% of it’s total budget on art, compared to say 19% on defense.
Bollywood movies have become frequent objects of controversy, intimidation and irrational censorship based on ‘hurt feelings’, hurt sentiments of a particular community or alleged distortion of history.
If a government can manipulate and control voting machines, in a democracy, it can potentially perpetuate it’s rule forever.
In the last year, several cases have emerged of Electronic Voting Machines tampering in a way that no matter who the voters chose, which button they pressed, the votes went to the BJP candidate.
The Election Commission of India, an independent body, or used to be, seems to have been brought to heel with the appointment of commissioners who had earlier worked with Modi, and now despite evidence of EVM rigging come up with no clear directives on abandoning these EVMs for ballot boxes.
There’ve been instances as in the recent civic polls in UP, that BJP did well in constituences which used EVMs, but fared very poorly where ballot boxes were used.
Rewarding those who are Obedient in advance
Modi government seems to have appointed it’s ‘own’ men and women, BJP/RSS sympathisers if not supporters, tainted in some way by scandal or case of corruption, or hungry for power at all cost in all key administrative positions in the government, in law enforcement agencies like CBI, NIA, Army, Police, in the Income Tax Department.
Others are controlled by intimidation, threat of transfers to difficult postings, so civil servants who earlier refused to follow unlawful orders seem to be a sick if not dying breed.
The gau vigilantes fall in this category also—each unit and there are known to be in thousands now, may not have been individually instructed to beat up anyone seen with cattle—but they know what is expected of them, what may be rewarded and hence they roam highways in search of anyone with cattle—even those legitimate, with receipts of purchase.
The government at the Centre seems to be run by a handful of men and not one of them every presents a view contrary to any decision made by Modi—even when some like Demonitisation have been colossal blunders.
Not one BJP leader ever comes out against the savage lawless gau-vigilantes. Not a word is ever said against leaders who make virulent attacks or comments on women. Nobody says a word when every month hundreds of infants died in UP’s hospitals because of corruption, neglect.
There seems a disturbing conspiracy of silence in the government—Modi has been given status of the supreme ruler, extremely sensitive to any criticism and there are only rare if ever, any conflict, any discourse, or disagreement between the legislators and or the senior leadership. Those who disagree are marginalised, short of expulsion.
The all pervasive environment of fear
Self monitoring in what you write or say whether in articles or even social media, on TV shows, has started becoming an unspoken norm. Watch out, be careful, #AmitShah #RSS goons are watching, seems to be the silent warning.
A young man, Shyam Rangeela a brilliant mimic of Modi was told to stop his mimicry. His video clips were removed by Twitter and FB (quoting copyright act).
An FIR was filed against a Meerut Journalist for forwarding on whatsapp a clip making fun of Modi and his bhakts.
Charges were filed against a journalist for lambasting Modi’s choice of RSS sympathiser Ram Nath Kovind as President of India.
A few others criticising Modi on FaceBook had FIRs filed against them, a cartoonist was jailed, other memes making fun of Modi are removed under one pretext or other.
Criticising Narendra Modi in the mildest way has become synonymous with being anti Hindu, anti India, anti nationalist, unpatriotic and generates a swift and savage attack from his supporters whether in social or main stream media, or often from law enforcement agencies.
Promoting the Myth, the Image, the legend of the great leader
Modi apparently keeps the Navratra fast for nine days which gives him divine powers, it is rumoured. Rural and uneducated crowds then see a celestial being in him.
Modi works 18 hours a day.
Modi even pays for his own salt at the PM’s residence.
I’m a fakir Modi announces from a podium while attired in designer togs that cost on an average a lakh each—he changes it four times a day. Has a fondness and large collection of Bvlgari sunglasses, expensive watches and pens. Drives in customised cars that can cost up to 12 crores, has a personal plane. He’s fond of and keeps himself healthy by consuming mushrooms that cost Rs 30,000/kg and cashew flour rotis.
And yet, on a daily basis he or someone from his party reminds India of his poor origins and the reason why he’s persecuted.
Modi repeatedly brings up his own humble origins as a tea seller at a railway station in Gujarat—the legend has now come under serious doubt.
Modi keeps referring to himself as Ganga Putra, Shiva’s son, Gujarat’s son, UP’s son—in other words he feels identified with divinity, with the soil of whichever state he happens to be canvassing in.
Now a temple, an actual temple with Modi as diety, with his 100 foot tall statue, is being built in Meerut, UP—there’ve been not only no objections from him but his close ally Amit Shah has been working on the inauguration of construction of the temple.
When the Russians voted in 1990 they didn’t realise it would be their last free and fair election—thus far.
Nazis came to power in 1932 and remained in power until 1945.
The Czechs voted for the communist party in 1946—it remained in power until 1989.
General Zia-Ul-Haq was only in power for a decade in Pakistan, but that country is still paying a huge price for his Islamization of curriculum and society, a whole generation has been brainwashed, religious extremism and bigotry been normalised.
RSS’s most influential supremo, Golwalkar, whom Mr Modi described as the second biggest inspiration for him, had openly admired the holocaust of Jews by Nazis as something worth emulating.
The Modi government and his RSS backers, now in power after many years, seem determined to not relinquish control. They have ensured enormous funding from their cronies for elections, publicity, buying out media. They have their supporters and sympathisers in every top position in every aspect of administration and law enforcement.
With the exception of the judiciary which is still relatively independent, Modi now controls the 3 pillars of democracy plus, most disturbingly, has his supporter as Army chief and the President of India, the Election Commission of India, the Intelligence wings of law enforcement, the police, the CBI.
India’s biggest Opposition party, the Congress, seems to be getting stronger and rebirthing with Rahul Gandhi as new party president but there’s a blindness to the real and extreme danger Modi poses.
2 days ago in BJP ruled Rajasthan, a Hindu man hacked to death a Muslim man, then burned him alive and and declared on video that they’d do it again. Most of mainstream media ignored this horrific event. There was No word of condemnation or outrage from any political leader.
So what if these are test cases? What if this began happening more frequently? What if these single murders turned into minor or major riots in various BJP ruled states.
Would that scenario then, of ‘national instability’ be an opportunity for the BJP government to declare a state of Emergency, to anoint Modi US-style President or even Emperor, to dissolve Parliament? Who would be in a position to stop them?!
Only an allied front of the entire Opposition, irrespective of their previous positions and relationships, can possibly remove BJP from power.
By all indications, Narendra Modi appears to be a malignant narcissist with fascist tendencies and it’s unimaginable that he’ll go back to being Chief Minister of Gujarat or any state, or fade gently into retirement after having tasted the kind of power he has. If the Allied Opposition fail to stop Modi, India may well mutate into a tyrannical, virulent form of totalitarian state.