Popular Posts


Indiae: India's search engine

Monday, October 8, 2007

Article by Rakesh Shukla On Fascist Mind (A Case For Going Back To Freud

October-November 2007

In general, India's arid education system; worries about employment;
family pressures to marry, produce children and fulfil duties towards
parents - all of these together leave little space for the
development of an autonomous, well-rounded personality. The
personality of the Indian boy/man is a far cry from the existential
man of Sartre and Camus, who deals with the world's many complexities
and ambiguities, makes choices and takes responsibility for his
actions. The decisions that are considered 'major' and 'individual'
in the Western worldview - those of job, the times and partners for
marriage and children - in Indian society are all taken predominantly
by elders.


Does the suppression of sexuality make men more open to the promises
of fascist thinking?

by Rakesh Shukla

The large-scale massacre of Muslims in February-March 2002 in Gujarat
was a watershed in the history of independent India. So, too, was
what followed. While investigating violations in situations of severe
state repression, from Bastar to Kashmir, human-rights teams in India
had never before been afraid of the masses. But the hostility of the
'ordinary people' that met investigators in Gujarat was palpable,
particularly in villages such as Sanjeli and Anjanwa. These were
agents of neither the ubiquitous state nor of villainous
industrialists: these were 'common people', suddenly on the brink of
attacking human-rights teams perceived as 'minority appeasers'.

Given the collaboration of the state machinery in the killings in
Gujarat, Muslims fled to areas where they came to make up sizable
sections of the population. But there proved to be no safety, even in
numbers. Sanjeli, for instance, in Dahod District, had 500 Muslim
households, constituting about 40 percent of the population. After
the 27 February 2002 burning at Godhra railway station of two train
compartments carrying kar sevaks (volunteers) returning from Ayodhya,
Sanjeli was attacked by a mob of more than 25,000 people - a horde
that, for the first time, included the large-scale participation of
Adivasis. The rallying cries were: Muslims despoil our women! and One
hundred Bhil women violated in Sanjeli alone!

The massacres of Muslims in residential colonies such as
Naroda-Patiya and Gulbarg Society in Ahmedabad were undertaken by
mobs likewise numbering between 20,000 and 25,000, largely with the
approval of the state's Hindu community. This support likewise
manifested itself in the subsequent assembly elections, and the
"peoples' verdict" of returning the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)
government to power. This victory was subsequently used as a
sledgehammer with which to silence critics. In such a situation, it
becomes impossible to refuse to see the participation of a sizable
section of the common people in a fascist agenda.

The agenda is undoubtedly fascist, not merely fundamentalist. Within
any religion, 'fundamentalism' literally connotes the strict
maintenance of orthodox beliefs and fundamental doctrines. Christian
fundamentalism would thus require a literal reading of the Bible,
including a belief in the 'virgin birth' and the second coming of
Christ. Islamic fundamentalism would look to a return to the
principles and practices of early Islam, as patterned on the
7th-century community established by Mohammad at Medina. Similarly,
Hindu fundamentalism could be a revitalisation of sorts - through the
return to an imaginary ram rajya, or a golden age during the reign of
Lord Ram.

Yet, 'fundamentalism' no longer refers to a mere return to
fundamentalist doctrines, and has come to represent the aggressive
promotion of a doctrinaire, rigid and centralised religion,
increasingly intolerant not only of other faiths, but also of any
deviant strand within its own. It also denotes an acceptance of the
use of violent means in pursuit of furthering or protecting the
faith. The Hindutva ideology represents a dogmatic Hinduism, which
shows evidence not only of fundamentalism, but also of fascism.

Although there is no coherent body of political doctrine associated
with fascism, the shared common features of fascist movements have
been: aggressive and unquestioning nationalism; belief in the
supremacy of one national, ethnic or religious group over others;
disrespect for democratic and liberal institutions, which does not
preclude using them to attain power; a profound hatred for socialism;
insistence on obedience to a powerful and absolute leader; and a
strong association with militarism and a demagogic approach, that
appeals to and whips up the basest emotions in a mob, making it
suggestible, hasty in judgement, easily swayed and carried away by
the consciousness of its own force. It is these features of the
movement, spearheaded by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), that
urge comparisons with the Partito Nazionale Fascista (PNF) founded by
Benito Mussolini, Oswald Mosley's Blackshirts in Britain, the Iron
Guard in Romania, the Croix de Feu in France and the Nazi Party in

Since its formation in 1925, it has been the RSS's agenda to
transform a relatively tolerant and pluralistic Hinduism into an
aggressive Hindutva, attacking minorities. Christians have also been
targeted, but special virulence is reserved for Muslims. The Sangh
has a rigidly hierarchical structure, with leaders appointed rather
than elected. Though the Sangh is open to married men, the grihastha
(householder) is considered on a lower footing than the brahmachari,
the virile but celibate son of Bharat Mata embodied in the pracharak
(preacher). The Sangh accepts no women members, although a separate
all-woman Rashtriya Sevika Samiti was founded back in 1936 by K B
Hedgevar and Lakshmibai Kelkar.


After the Allied victory, the West projected fascism as a national
characteristic unique to the Germans and Japanese. In reality,
fascism enjoyed a sizable following in all countries, including the
United States, during the era preceding World War II. A number of
industrial houses supported fascism, and were subsequently able to
prosper both during the war and since.

Unfortunately, the left has offered little insight into the
phenomenon of the mobilisation of people for a fascist agenda.
Marxism defines fascism as "the open terrorist dictatorship of the
most reactionary, most chauvinist and most imperialist elements of
finance capital". Even the German Communist Party - other than using
terms such as "fear psychosis", or stating that fascism had
"corrupted" and "hypnotised" the masses - had little to offer by way
of explanation as to why the German economic crisis of the 1930s had
not led the masses to turn to the revolutionary, rather than the
fascist, forces. The left in India suffers from the same flaw,
offering little more than rhetoric in the analysis of fascism evident
in Hindutva. Indeed, the Indian left appears to be in no position to
devise strategies to counter the menacing shadow of fascism in the

The biggest lacuna of Marxist thought has been its failure to explore
the role played by impulses that do not originate in the conscious
mind. The appeal and growth of fascism cannot be understood without
dipping into the well of the unconscious. Marx was a sociologist, not
a psychologist. In any case, scientific psychology did not exist at
the time, and the so-called subjective factor of history, in Marx's
sense, remained un-investigated. It was not until a half-century
later that Freud's articulation of the 'unconscious' - the
path-breaking postulation that consciousness is only a small part of
the psychic life; the dissociation of sexuality from procreation; and
the recognition of repression of childhood sexuality - finally
created analytical tools with which to explore the irrational in
human beings.

The success of Joseph Goebbels-like propaganda is not based on appeal
to the rational mind, the establishment of facts through scientific
data. There is little factual reality, for instance, behind the
successful implanting in a sizable section of the Hindu community
such beliefs as 'Hindus are being persecuted in their own country',
'Muslims have four wives and 64
children' or 'Hindus will soon be a minority in India'. In the face
of data (including that officially compiled by the government of
India), one particular erroneous conviction held by the majority
Hindus played a crucial role in the post-carnage 2002 Gujarat
elections: the certainty that, in all prior riots in the state, most
of the victims had been Hindus. This explains the encomiums - such as
lauh purush (Iron Man) - that have subsequently been showered on
Narendra Modi, as the first chief minister to have ensured that, in
the 2002 riots, more Muslims were killed than Hindus.

Repression and oppression

The work of Wilhelm Reich, based on the experience of the rise of
fascism in Germany during the 1930s, offers a possible way in which
to comprehend the appeal of the Hindutva brand of fascism for a
sizable section of people in India. Taking psychoanalytical tools
beyond the confines of individual clinical psychology, and building
upon the sociological groundwork of Marx, Reich explored the
sociological reasons for the suppression of sexuality by society, and
the concomitant repression by the individual. He postulated that the
suppression of sexuality could have a crippling effect on both
rebellious impulses and critical faculties, and could eventually lead
to the development of a docile and obedient personality, one that is
attracted to authoritarian order. Such a theory could provide a
pointer as to the phenomenon of Hindutva fascism in India.
Along with suppression of sexuality, there is valorisation in Hindu
society of brahmacharya, which emphasises mental and physical
restraint, including celibacy. Hindu scriptures are replete with
aphorisms extolling the virtues of brahmacharya. But the belief that
a drop of semen is the equivalent of thousands of drops of blood is
not confined to Hindus alone; rather, it is a deeply embedded
cultural belief shared by many in the Subcontinent. The sheer number
of flourishing roadside practitioners of various forms of medicine
geared to treating weakness in men bears testimony to the widespread
prevalence of this belief. Allopathic medical practitioners testify
that, confronted with patients who feel 'weak' after their wedding,
the only options are either to give a placebo or to advise against
having sex for an extended period of time.

In general, India's arid education system; worries about employment;
family pressures to marry, produce children and fulfil duties towards
parents - all of these together leave little space for the
development of an autonomous, well-rounded personality. The
personality of the Indian boy/man is a far cry from the existential
man of Sartre and Camus, who deals with the world's many complexities
and ambiguities, makes choices and takes responsibility for his
actions. The decisions that are considered 'major' and 'individual'
in the Western worldview - those of job, the times and partners for
marriage and children - in Indian society are all taken predominantly
by elders.

The end result is a non-assertive, amorphous personality - one that
can take the shape of the obedient son, but who can also get pushed
around in the workplace. This personality also has a converse,
authoritarian side, most often manifested in the role of the 'strict
father' and 'master-husband', who keeps his wife and children under
rigorous control and sees to it that they serve his parents well.
Fascism enmeshes with and appeals to both aspects of this
personality. It offers a simple 'good-bad' binary that is well suited
for this personality. This binary removes the individual from the
burdens of independent thinking, the usage of critical faculties, the
formation of personal opinions and the exercise of choices that would
bring with them responsibilities towards action. Instead of
anxiety-causing complexity and uncertainty, there is simplicity and
certainty. Ambiguities are replaced with comforting moral clarities:
Muslims are bad, Hindus are good or Muslims are good, Hindus are bad
or Christians are believers, Muslims are infidels. The burden of
making choices and taking personal responsibility is also lifted, as
the father-fuehrer-leader offers absolution:
Kill the dirty Muslims/Hindus/Jews. We will take responsibility. The
authoritarian aspects likewise receive fulfilment in the degradation
and humiliation of the opposing community.

The manifestation of the good-bad binary can also be seen in the
goddess-whore paradigm, which retains a strong grip on the Indian
psyche. The Sati Savitris are always in sharp contrast to
Surpanakhas, the sister of Ravan who sought to entice Lakshman (and
therefore deserved to get her nose chopped off), or the ubiquitous
non-Hindu 'Lily' and 'Mona' vamps of Indian cinema, who likewise get
their comeuppance in the end. This deeply embedded binary construct
plays a crucial role in mobilisation for a fascist agenda.

'Saving' women

Conservative Indian society, whether in the Hindi heartland,
peninsular India or elsewhere, offers little space for any expression
of sexuality, or for interaction between boys and girls. At the same
time, the reverence for brahmacharya among males, along with beliefs
about loss of semen leading to weakness of the body, mind and spirit,
acts as a block to healthy masturbation. Even when 'indulged' in, the
act comes ridden with anxiety and fears about the consequences.
Sexual fantasies, half-remembered dreams, nebulous near-incestuous
memories involving the 'pure' mother and 'virgin' sister engender
feelings of guilt and perversion. Such anxiety-provoking feelings are
also inevitably suppressed from the consciousness, leading to further
repression in the psyche. In turn, such frustrations can more easily
be projected onto the 'other', who becomes the repository of all that
is 'impure', 'sexual' and 'evil'. Under the right circumstances, this
projection will become violent.

It is no coincidence that riding the Hindutva chariot is primarily a
male phenomenon, barring a couple of notable Sadhvis. This machismo
seems to tap directly into the large masses of sexually deprived and
repressed young men - their energies, it would seem, effectively
channelled towards the larger Hindutva project. The connection
between repressed sexuality and the whipping-up of violent reaction
against other communities was never more apparent than in the spring
of 2002 in Gujarat. Long before any killing began, symbolism over
women's bodies was being used to polarise the Hindu and Muslim
communities. Muslim men were demonised as 'marauding aliens' lusting
over Hindu women. Leaders of the Hindutva brigade in Gujarat would
systematically stir fears about Muslim men carrying away Hindu women
to add to their harems. Over the past decade, public meetings,
speeches, pamphlets, schools, cultural groups, ashrams, philanthropic
institutions, babas, sants and maharajs have all been used by the
Sangh Parivar to spread venom against Muslims. This tendency was
ratcheted up to a fever pitch following the Godhra train burning,
with rumours about Hindu women being abducted, raped and mutilated
playing a crucial role in the subsequent mobilisation.

Between 28 February and 1 March, leading Gujarati dailies such as
Sandesh and Gujarat Samachar carried incendiary and fabricated news
such as: "10-15 Hindu women were dragged away by a fanatic mob from
the railway compartment", "Wicked villains of this mob kidnapped some
ten behno [sisters] whose whereabouts are not yet known", "Helpless
women were struggling to escape from the grip of saitans [devils]",
"Out of kidnapped young ladies from Sabarmati Express, dead bodies of
two women recovered - breasts of women were cut off". As they were
meant to do, such headlines inevitably inflamed communal tensions,
feeding into righteous indignation and moral outrage, and providing
an apparent justification for the massacre of Muslims that followed.

As with the construction of the black male in white-supremacist
discourse, in the Hindutva agenda the Muslim male is projected as an
over-sexed, beast-like creature, lusting after (and, thus,
threatening) Hindu women. The stereotyping of individual women into
the categories of 'whore ' and 'goddess' likewise contributes to
women of other communities (Muslim and Christian) being considered
amoral - enjoying sex, unlike 'dutiful' Hindu women. Sexual violence
against Muslim girls and women thus becomes a righteous moral act to
save the 'honour' of 'our' mothers and sisters; at the same time, it
also emasculates the rapacious Muslim males, 'dishonouring' the
entire community.

Not that women have not been actively utilised by Hindutva militancy,
but overt participation of women in riots and killings is still a
relatively new phenomenon. Maya Kodnani, a female MLA in the Gujarat
Assembly, played a leading role in the 2002 massacres in Ahmedabad.
There were several instances of rapists being supported or even
actively instigated by women in the carnage against Muslims in
Gujarat. Growing evidence points out that militant Hindu nationalism
often offers greater independence and autonomy for women than is
permissible in the general model of domestic femininity. Hinduism's
many references to non-demure goddesses slaying enemies provides
space for training in armed combat, as well as travelling across the
country in the cause of the Hindu nation - ultimately presenting a
life significantly less controlled by family and society.

Motherland lust

As the goddess-whore binary alludes, Hindutva fascism does not focus
on women's sexuality alone. The idea of 'woman as mother' also plays
a crucial role in the shaping of the male psyche, and fits snugly
into fascist ideology. Given the particularly intense and intimate
mother-son relationship in India, the impact of the mother may be
even more significant than in other societies. It also contributes to
evoking particularly strong feelings with respect to perceived
threats to the mother.

The emotional core of the feelings towards both the mother and the
motherland has been used to great effect in the mobilisation for the
Hindutva agenda. The existence of Babri Masjid as a phallic symbol -
which colonises Mother India and emasculates the virile sons who
failed to protect her - was forcefully played upon by BJP leader L K
Advani in order to spread hate during the Ramjanmabhoomi Rath Yatra.
The speeches by various leaders throughout the yatra, as well as at
Ayodhya, went along the following lines: the Invader Babar the Cruel
raped our mothers and sisters, and destroyed the original Ram temple;
the Babri Masjid baitha (a sexually charged 'astride') Bharat Mata is
an insult and humiliation to Hindu virility and manhood. In the
vernacular, these words and phrases sounded even cruder, and likewise
had an even greater emotional impact.

Starting the yatra from Somnath on the Gujarat coast, invoking the
plunder of the temple (the looting and destruction of which had
nothing to do with Indian Muslims), and ending it at Babri Masjid,
was a masterful exercise in invoking past traumas as though they were
occurring in the immediate present. RSS leaders repeatedly emphasised
to their cadre that the existence of the standing, 'erect' Babri
Masjid proclaimed to the world the defiling of Hindu women by Muslims
and the rape of the 'motherland' by Babar - and that the demolition
of the mosque would restore both Hindu male virility and symbolic
Hindu feminine purity. The conflation of contemporary stories with
those of historical Muslim rulers (Taimur, Genghis Khan, Babar)
invading Mother India and violating 'pure' Hindu girls and women
inevitably led to an intensification of anti-Muslim anger - as
attested to by the killings of Muslims in towns and cities along the
yatra's route.

It is no coincidence that Hindutva is currently being propagated as
"cultural nationalism", a not-too-distant cousin of the National
Socialism of the Nazi Party. The attempts to demonise the Muslim
community sound astoundingly similar to Goebbels's propaganda against
the Jews: "If someone cracks a whip across your mother's face, would
you say to him, 'Thank you! He is a man too!' One who does such a
thing is not a man - he is a brute! How many worse things has the Jew
inflicted upon our mother Germany, and still inflicts upon her! He
has debauched our race, sapped our energy, undermined our customs and
broken our strength!"

Almost a century after the rise of the right in Europe, the left the
world over remains closed to the discipline of psychoanalysis,
looking at it solely as a bourgeois pseudo-science. It is equally
unfortunate that psychoanalysis remains largely confined to the
individual psyche and the therapist-patient paradigm. Perhaps it is
time to pull down the walls, take psychoanalysis out of the closet,
and recognise that the irrational in the human psyche influences not
only individual behaviour, but also impacts mass psychology and the
broader canvas of events. It is a little-known but curious fact that
Mohandas Gandhi, in his anguished search for a resolution to the
vexed Hindu-Muslim problem, attended the 1925 meeting of the Indian
Psychoanalytical Society in Calcutta.

bilash rai

Most of us have the anxieties, insecurities, feelings of rage and
anger that are part of human existence. At the other end of the
spectrum, however, remain positive feelings: those of belonging to a
community, of love for the earth and for fellow human beings. It is
the interface of politics and psychoanalysis that can unravel the
processes through which both negative and positive feelings in the
psyche become mobilised for a fascist agenda.


No comments:

Post a Comment

Search This Blog


  • 08
  • 08
  • 08

Blog Archive

About Me

My photo

always want to defend peace, justice, peoples' right to love each other and live with dignity,struggles against parochial visions and hatred;instinctively a defender of socialist and democratic values