The Cultural Narratives of Indian Fascism
The communal agenda beneath the 'developmental face' of BJP is coming out to the fore at a fast pace. The revival of the idea of 'Love Jihad', and the encroachment into public life through moral policing are glaring examples of the strategies that the Hindutva outfits use for pushing their agenda. An analysis of these two ideas reveal the underlying thread that connects them.
Starting from the “shudhi” and “sangathan” movements in 1920s and 30s, “Love Jihad” is a concept which becomes/provides a legitimate form of building communal stereotyping of Hindu women and Muslim men under the Hindutva regime (Gupta, 19201). When it came into public debate in Kerala in the year 2009, the state government conducted an enquiry and reported that far from the forced conversions, what is observed in the state were a matter of choice by the young women(The Hindu, Oct.23 20092). A study by Jyoti Punwani(20143) also holds this fact in UP where the issue of “Love Jihad“ had been a major electoral tool recently. Even the woman, who was at the centre of the whole debate, came out loud saying that she was threatened by the family to present false claims (The Hindu Oct,13, 20144). Yet, unconvinced by the fact that women have a right to choose their partners and which religion to profess, hindutva outfits tend to take the lead on deciding women’s life.
In this context one wonders why, even when there is convincing evidence that some women convert to a different religion out of their 'conscious choice' for convenience after marriage, there is a lot of outrage and interest in stereotyping Muslim men and Hindu women. It stems out of the fear that the patriarchal authoritarian family which strengthens the propagation of their fascist ideology will be rooted out if people are given the freedom to choose who they wish to live and have relationships with. Remember how prior to the 2002 Gujarat Pogrom, the Gujarat state government formed an ‘cell to monitor inter-religious and other forms of mixed marriages’ in the state, and accused Muslim men of abducting Hindu women.(Rege,20035)
If it is the fear of disintegration of the authoritarian family, then it is important to know how the family as an institution helps the propagation of fascist ideology? Family is an institution that holds the authoritarian regime by sustaining the gendered division of labour in the society, and has a significant role in the “reproduction of the reactionary and conservative individual” (Reich, 19466). It is the father/male who decides what women should do and controls their freedom by instilling fear, and affirms their submissiveness to expected roles of duty and honor in the family7. By generating complete loyalty to the family and thereby to the fascist ideology the strengthening of a larger authoritarian structure takes place in this process. The presence of this authoritarian unit at the family level makes it easier for authoritarian regimes to channelize the reactionary and conservative individual to propagate its fascist’s ideas by binding him/her to loyalty and nationalism. It is in this context that an individual’s “conscious choice and freedom” to live the life she/he wants become a threat to the hindutva outfits.
BJP’s Youth wing’s claims of “immoral activities in public spaces” cannot be seen different from that of the motive behind claims of “Love Jihad”. Not containing the interactions of the youth is a threat to the cultural agenda put forward by these outfits for retaining the patriarchal family unit and thereby propagating their authoritarian structure.
The eagerness of these hindutva groups to take control over public spaces and to dictate the social code of conduct reaffirms their ideological stance of controlling individual freedom. Vandalising of Downtown restaurant in Kozhikode by BJPs youth wing Yuva Morcha is the latest in this regard. Here the question however was not really whether Hindu women are lured by the Muslim youth; rather it was that public spaces are not meant for any kinds of passionate expression by young men and women. One might wonder at this point that when most of the “culturally coded” Hindu temples express sexuality so explicitly, why is it a crime to see passionate expressions of men and women in flesh and blood. BJP’s Youth wing’s claims of “immoral activities in public spaces” cannot be seen different from that of the motive behind claims of “Love Jihad”. Not containing the interactions of the youth is a threat to the cultural agenda put forward by these outfits for retaining the patriarchal family unit and thereby propagating their authoritarian structure. Thus both “Love Jihad” and “controlling public spaces” are different faces of the same coin; stemming out of the fear that the absolute loyalty to the authoritarian regime would be hampered if the patriarchal structure is broken and individuals have the freedom over their sexual preferences and choice of life partners.
Therefore to fight against fascism one has to fight patriarchy and also fight for individual freedom. Reclaiming the 'commons' from fascist goons and the so called moral defeneders of society thereby becomes imperative. The scheduled 'Kiss of Love' event at Kochi on 2nd November 2014, as a protest against moral policing is therefore a welcome step. Though the weakness of the protest lies in the fact that it reduced the entire ideological issue into a mere aspect of moral policing, the strength of it lies in the courage of the people to break the chains of morality imposed on the society. The official stance of the Bharatiya Janata Party that 'it will not hinder the kissing protest' and its clearly weaved statement that 'it is for the public to take the necessary action' is to be viewed with caution. The statement is directed at instigating the patriarchal sentiments that are ingrained in our society. Therefore it is important to be cautious about such stances.