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Edging Towards Dictatorship.

India, Dec. 5 -- Dictators do not just happen. Nor are dictators only those people who stage a coup d'etat and forcefully take over the government of their country. Military dictatorships are well known and clearly recognisable. But dictators who manipulate the public are even more numerous, if not as well known.

Many dictators came to power on a "popular vote" - they were enthroned by the popular support of their people. Caius Julius Caesar was elected because he was a brilliant military strategist and because he expanded the rule of Rome to a large part of Europe and even Asia. He is the best known dictator who could claim that he was "voted" to power by his people. Napoleon was another such dictator, who, because of his promise to extend the influence of the French nation, became a "popular" dictator. Adolf Hitler is the most striking example of a dictator who came to power with the active support of the German people. One can provide many other examples of "popular" Dictators who enjoyed the support of their people.

There are several factors which play a part in the rise of dictatorships: and India is today manifesting some of these, albeit in a subtle way. One of the most potent factors that impel a dictator to political power is an appeal to their spirit of "nationalism" or "patriotism."

No citizen of any country wants to be suspected of lack of nationalism or patriotism. Of course, on closer analysis it will be found that such patriotism or nationalism is not clearly defined by those dictators who appeal to the patriotic sense of their fellow citizens. On closer examination it will be found that the sense of nationalism which is being exploited is an undefined objective. It usually means only what the dictator says that it means.

More relevant to our analysis, however, is the clear drift towards dictatorship in India, which is being pursued by the protagonists of an undefined claim to a particular interpretation of Hinduism being made the basis of Indian nationalism.

Unfortunately, a twisted and deformed notion of Hinduism was proposed by bigots such as Veer Savarkar and Golwalkar. They were careful to insist that the "Hindutva" which they proposed was not a political ideology but a cultural reality.

Even today, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (popularly known as the R.S.S.) is not considered to be a political entity, but a cultural movement. Of course, this cultural movement has given rise to many branches, including the political party which openly owes allegiance to the ideas propagated by the R.S.S. And thereby hangs a tale! When

a particular culture is proposed as the sole instrument which defines the ethos of India, there is bound to be a backlash from those who do not subscribe to this arbitrary imposition of one form of culture to the active exclusion of the others.

The cultural chauvinism expresses itself in many ways: dietary practices, modes of dressing, forms of entertainment, use of language et cetera. A glaring example of this discrimination is the fact that some radical elements of Hindutva seek to prohibit the consumption of beef all over the country - even for those who do not consider the eating of beef to be contrary to their own way of life. Forms of entertainment have also come under attack by these fanatical groups, which, by the way, enjoy the implicit protection of the political establishment.

What is common to all forms of dictatorship is the use of coercion to impose a particular ideology on all the citizens of a country. What people should eat [or not eat] is determined by political diktat. What has come to be known as "moral policing" has become (or is slowly becoming) the norm in India. The State has been made the sole arbiter of how the people should live their lives. This is a form of political messianism which has been adopted by the BJP. According to Prof. J.L. Talmon [ The Origins of Totalitarian Democracy] political messianism "recognizes ultimately only one plane of existence, the political. It widens the scope of politics to embrace the whole of human existence. It treats all human thought and action as having social significance, and therefore, as falling within the orbit of political action." (pg.2).

The citizens of India are today being subjected to a form of totalitarianism which encompasses not only what they eat and how they dress or entertain themselves, but even determines what they should think and how they should behave. The Nation has become the Supreme Good for all citizens, and no one dare challenge the authority of the State. The latest exercise of "demonetizing" high denomination currency notes is a good example of the coercion being exercised by the State to impose its will on the citizens.

The eminent economist Dr. Manmohan Singh has rightly described it as the official plunder of the people. The assumption is that the State determines what is private and what is public. The brunt of the burden, as always, has fallen on the innocent and the poor, who are asked to suffer for the greater good of the country. The entire exercise of demonetization has been proven to be what Dr. Manmohan Singh has called a "monumental mismanagement" of the Indian economy.

All monetary policy has to have a very specific objective. But Arun Jaitley, who pretends to be an economist, has equated money with corruption, with terrorism and also with the illegal circulation of so-called "black money". Even a neophyte in economics knows that money cannot be equated with corruption. Corruption can be promoted and sustained without monetary transactions. The Finance Minister of a country should know this.

The misconceived and malafide exercise to demonetize some currency notes has placed the onus on the common man. The shrewd businessman and the adept at corruption continue to make hay while the sun has set on the legitimate aspirations of the common man. The fact that the government has decided that a citizen cannot withdraw his "own" money from his "own" bank account without showing some proof of his identity is a form of totalitarianism that should not be tolerated in any country which claims to be democratic.

Totalitarianism originates with the emergence of a person who thinks that he can solve all the problems of a country. His closest supporters (chamchas) apotheosize him and very soon he himself begins to believe in his divine powers. He imposes his will on the citizens and asks them to suffer "for the greater good of the country." India has traditionally been a truly democratic country. It is time for the citizens to assert themselves and to remove this impending disaster of totalitarian government from the public life of this great nation.

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Published by HT Syndication with permission from Indian Currents.

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Publication:Indian Currents
Geographic Code:9INDI
Date:Dec 5, 2016
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