WHOâ€™S THE REAL FASCIST? One fine day, the landmass cracked and Gujarat was no longer a part of India. It broke away from the mainland just as Pakistan had in 1947. It is now very much a separate country and its citizens, the sixty million or so Gujaratis, are communal, bigoted, fascist merchants of death. They have to be. After all, they have time after time elected a man who is a communal, bigoted, fascist merchant of death. The logic is irrefutable â€“ why would secular, non-sectarian, democratic, merchants of love ever elect a communal, bigoted, fascist merchant of death? And so the Indian media is bang on â€“ the epithets that apply to the leader also apply equally and as forcefully to those who have elected him. If you donâ€™t believe me Google the following keywords: Gujarati, Communal, Gujarat, Fascists, and Bigots. Since 2002, hundreds of intellectuals â€“ these would be journalists, thinkers, psychologists, historians, anchors, columnists â€“ have proclaimed Gujaratis to be communal â€“ all sixty million of them. Here are just some examples: â€œCommunalism has been a constant in Gujaratâ€™s historyâ€; Gujarati cities are â€œturning cultural desertsâ€â€¦Gujarat has â€œdisowned the Indian constitutionâ€â€¦Gujarat middle-class has â€œsmelt bloodâ€; â€œGujarat has become a terrible placeâ€; â€œGujaratis are communal by nature, Ahmed Patelâ€; â€œGujarat, not Kashmir, has become the number one reason for terrorist violence against Indiaâ€; â€œA strong current of anti-Muslim prejudice runs through the stateâ€; â€œAhmedabad and Vadodara are the two most savage cities in Indiaâ€; â€œGujarat is perhaps the most communalised state in the countryâ€; â€œDoes India want to be Gujarat?â€; Gujaratis are â€œbigotsâ€. The line separating news and opinion stands utterly blurred. Rumour has replaced rigour and what should have been spotted and nipped in the bud has now taken over the discourse entirely. Communal Gujarat is now a brand much like Cool Britannia was in the 90s. The power of words, the power of branding. And, ultimately, the power of a society that values a brand. FCUK is not an abuse but ---- is. This is who we are and we have decided what we need: Roti, kapda, makaan, intellectuals. Intellectuals who have no hesitation in calling sixty million people bigots. It is of little consequence that 3.5 million of these bigots make butter for us, or that another 12 million fascists are busy refining oil or dismantling ships or assembling cars or making handicrafts that adorn our living rooms. All communal, every last one of them. No, this isnâ€™t about their leader. Calling an elected leader all those charming names doesnâ€™t bother me one bit, sorry. He is an adult and this is a free country with laws and lawyers, including some who practise not on television, but in courts. And if this one man â€“ the man who holds a constitutional post and runs a state of sixty million butter-churning, Nano-assembling barbarians â€“ if this man is guilty, then, as he says, heâ€™s ready to hang from the nearest lamppost. The highest court in the land is on the job. You donâ€™t trust it? Truth be told, it becomes self-defeating after a point when, for someone whose day job it is to believe in reproducible evidence and steadfast logic (or else the Intelligent Designwalas will take over), one has to scream oneâ€™s lungs out in declaring that the only axiom of jurisprudence worth remembering is the following: A man is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. Ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat. But in a crazy nation where car mechanics build bridges and visiting relatives of patients turn surgeons there canâ€™t be much harm in anchors and journalists becoming judges, surely. Why wait for the real judge with real knowledge of law and decades of real experience? Yes, we might not know math but by god weâ€™re all polymaths. Now I am not particularly a fan of Mr Ram Jethmalani â€“ and the man does seem to be a cross between Yoda and Darth Vader himself. But if you find one â€“ just one â€“ wrong or incorrect statement that he has uttered in the following video, I swear on The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life that this is the last youâ€™ll hear from me: [video=youtube_share;SpQNfLdAyg8]http://youtu.be/SpQNfLdAyg8[/video] A system functions when each person who has a stake in it knows his or her role. This is not to be confused with the obsolete and repugnant division of labour dictat in Manusmriti, but rather plain commonsense of allocating expertise. We are all good at what we do and some of us are even experts. The world has moved on from the time when there was no law, to now when there are a million books on jurisprudence to learn and understand. Granted, none of us is sitting on an arm-chair except when we literally are. But we must know our limits. I can wash dishes and run errands but I cannot repair my car engine, cannot defend anyone in a court of law, and cannot pass a judgment. The problem with subjects such as economics and law is that their complexities are not immediately evident to the layman. While a brain surgeon needs to study medicine for a decade to be able to even think of wielding a scalpel and fiddle with all that grey matter, the subject of law appears deceptively approachable to one and all. Of course it is, you say. Whatâ€™s the big deal! Well, in which case Iâ€™d like to see the anchors defend themselves in court as and when the need arises. Ten out of ten times, chances are theyâ€™ll hire the services of Mr Jethmalani. No, this isnâ€™t about the leader; it is about the sixty million who have chosen him. How will they defend themselves against the charges of communalism and bigotry? In which court will their petition be heard? And who will overturn the judgment that has been passed upon them by our intellectuals? Letâ€™s try, shall we? India follows a first-past-the-post electoral system, which means that a candidate is declared a winner even if he gets a solitary vote more than his contender. A party can easily win a majority if of the two-thirds of the seats it has fielded its candidates in, it manages to garner just a handful more votes than the other parties. But for sixty million to be declared certified fascists or communal, one has to look at the total vote share percentage, i.e. how those eligible to vote from among the sixty million have voted. Figure 1 shows the total vote share percentage pattern in every Gujarat election since 1962. For a more accurate portrayal, the Congress vote share is coloured sky-blue â€“ the colour of peace and tranquility â€“ and labelled secular, while, naturally, that of BJP is saffron and labelled communal. Figure 1. Total vote share percentage of Secular (Congress) and Communal (BJP) in Gujarat elections. (Data sourced from EPW, May 2003, and Election Commission, India) Are we going to now say that, as it stands today, 47.9% of Gujaratis are communal while 38.9% are secular? Is no one among that 47.9% secular and, by corollary, none among the 38.9% communal? It would appear to be so, judging by the verdict of our opinion-makers. Now look closely. In 1990, Gujaratis were not communal, as a larger percentage of them â€“ 30.7% â€“ were secular. Indeed, the fascist tendencies crept in not during the last decade as is widely believed, but way back in 1995 (42.5% communal). Thankfully, from 1962 till that tipping point in 1995, Gujarat was completely secular. Surely an aberration, then, that as many as seven major riots took place during this peaceful secular reign â€“ 1965, 1969, 1980, 1981, 1985, 1990, 1991 â€“ the worst being the 1969 riots even though as many as 50% Gujaratis were decidedly secular. The absurdity of branding a whole population as communal and fascist based on who they have chosen as their leader rather than by how they have voted, exposes the brutal truth that in a hegemonic media the force of opinionated thought is infinitely greater than fact-based reasoning. The reporter has turned a lawyer, the anchor a judge, and his panellists the jury. A courtroom drama if ever there was one. In any democracy, a leader can fool voters once, maybe twice, but not time and time and time again. History shows that leaders of fascist states, while they may have come to power democratically the first time round (like Hitler did in 1933), soon turn dictators, fearing most those very millions who they wrongly thought were also fascists. No nation state, not even Germany or Italy in the 1930s, is ever a majoritarian fascist state provided it isnâ€™t a constitutional theocracy to begin with. Free people, more often than not, vote for a leader and not for ideology. Figure 2, which charts the percentage total vote share in recent Kerala elections, shows you just how. Here, secular 1 is Congress and secular 2 the Muslim League or MUL, the current coalition partner of the Congress-led government, while the communal has been replaced by the communists, shown coloured blood red. Figure 2. Total vote share percentage of Communists (CPI and CPM), Secular 1 (Congress) and Secular 2 (MUL) in Kerala elections. (Data sourced from Party Analyst - An Election Analysis & Management Platform, and Election Commission, India) In 1991, 39.3% of Keralites were certified secular and took power, that they lost to the communists in 1996, who in turn mislaid it to the seculars in 2001, only to snatch it back again in 2006 and, woe befall on them, lose it one more time to the seculars in 2011. Secular-Communist-Secular-Communist-Secular â€“ thatâ€™s how undecided the Keralites are in their predisposition towards an ideology. Even today when the seculars run the government, as many as 36.8% of eligible voters in Kerala are communists. But no, we shall not call Kerala as a breakaway nation of tough-as-nut Marxists Leninists and Stalinists. Keralites (through 36.8%) are not communists, but Gujaratis (through 47.9%) are communal. But maybe I am wrong; maybe this phenomena is India-specific â€“ maybe in the world outside, voters entrenched in a particular ideology always vote for their own kind, thereby justifying this labelling of a particular voting mass as â€œunchanging bigotsâ€ or â€œalways communalâ€ or â€œperennially fascistsâ€. Maybe. Maybe not. Thousands of miles adrift from the countries of Gujarat and India, lies the land originally thought to be Gujarat and India. The United States of America. This land of milk and honey has what is called the Bible belt, a region supposedly full of ideologically entrenched crackers and red-necks, where people are racist and bigoted gun-toting Republicans. States such as Oklahoma and Kansas are the buckle of this Bible belt, forever the butt of cruel jokes by the oh-so-liberal-minded and secular Californians. The US, like India, has a federal structure â€“ every four or so years a state holds a gubernatorial election, or what weâ€™d call the state assembly election â€“ their Governor is like our Chief Minister. Figure 3 shows the total vote share percentage of recent state elections of one liberal state â€“ California, and two die-hard Bible belt states, Oklahoma and Kansas. Figure 3. Total vote share percentage in the US gubernatorial elections. Liberals (Democrats) are coloured Blue while Bigots (Republicans) are Red (Data sourced from www.uselectionatlas.org) Our intellectuals would concur: one would be hard-pressed to find a more fitting equivalence to fascist Gujjus than the Oakies or the Jayhawkers. They are what you might term the original blue-ribbon bigots. But wait a minute â€“ whatâ€™s happening here? The ideologically entrenched Oakies suddenly turned equal opportunity liberals in 2006! Sweet Jesus â€“ how can 42.6% racist bigots (2002 elections) transform overnight into 66.5% liberals (2006 elections)? Now what about the Kansans, the hillbillies who once provided enough grisly material for Capote to write his famous In Cold Blood? Hey Ram â€“ they turned liberal, too, in 2002 and 2006. And whatâ€™s this, for crying out loud â€“ the sanctimonious Californians turned from liberals to bigots in 2002, and then again in 2006?! Rabid dogmas take root when people think with their hearts not minds. For almost a decade now, a population as large as the United Kingdom has been labelled as fascist and bigoted. Nothing can be more farcical in a democracy, and nothing can be more damning to the concept of plurality. To pillory a whole state, to condemn its people, is to bring out oneâ€™s own ignorance in the face of reproducible evidence and steadfast logic. Yankees donâ€™t turn Oakies, seculars donâ€™t turn communal, communists donâ€™t turn Trinamoolists every five years â€“ these are mere labels. They stick because we gladly provide the glue. Real fascists are those who continue to peddle the two-nation theory, the nations being Gujarat and India. ================================================== =============================== Author of The Land of the Wilted Rose, of the The White Mahatma Quartet, Anand Ranganathan studied Chemistry at St. Stephenâ€™s College, Delhi, and went on to pursue a doctorate from Cambridge. A man of varied interests, he is researching dengue and tuberculosis at the International Center of Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology at Delhi. We told you, varied interests!