Written by Markandey Katju
[The writer is a former judge of the Supreme Court of India]
To divert the attention of people from problems besetting the country, a scapegoat has to be found, just as Hitler found in the Jews.
Something has happened in India which reminds me of what happened in Germany during the Nazi era. After Hitler assumed power in January 1933 almost the whole of Germany went into a frenzy, with people shouting “Heil Hitler” (Hail Hitler), “Sieg Heil” (Hail victory!) and adoring that despot without thinking.
Germans are such highly cultured people, who produced great scientists like Max Planck and Einstein, great writers like Goethe and Schiller, great poets like Heine, great musicians like Mozart, Bach and Beethoven, great reformers like Martin Luther, great philosophers like Kant, Nietzsche, Hegel and Marx, great mathematicians like Leibnitz, Gauss and Riemann and great statesmen like Frederick the Great and Bismarck.
Nevertheless, when Hitler came on the scene and said Germans were “Herrenvolk” (master race) and Jews were responsible for all their ills, they believed it and did little against atrocities on them, which led to the Holocaust (many supported it).
How did this happen? Surely Germans are not inherently evil? I have always maintained that 99 per cent people of all countries, religions and races are good. Then how could Germans send six million Jews to the gas chambers?
It happened because modern propaganda is such a powerful thing that minds of even the most cultured and intelligent people can be poisoned by it. This is what happened to most Germans of that time. The distress of Germans after their defeat in World War-I and the massive unemployment, inflation and economic crisis following the Great Depression of 1929 was easy fodder for Hitler for his evil propaganda.
The same has happened now to most Indians. Ever since the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a Right-wing Hindu party, come to power in 2014, a huge communal propaganda has been unleashed in India against the Indian minorities through hate speeches, accusing them of killing cows, seducing Hindu girls (love jihad) and so on, poisoning the minds of most Hindus.
The demand for building the Ram temple and lynching of Muslims was a regular feature over the last few years. The air strike on Balakot in Pakistan and the war hysteria whipped up by the pliant media, was part of this campaign and all this paid rich dividends in the form of a landslide spectacular victory for the BJP in the parliamentary elections.
The abolition of Article 370, which to my mind will not solve any real problem, has resulted in most Hindus becoming jingoistic.
The real problems in India — record unemployment (as revealed by the National Sample Survey, a Government organization), appalling child malnourishment (every second child in India is malnourished), huge number of farmers suicides (over 300,000), almost total lack of proper healthcare and good education for the masses, widening gap between rich and poor (seven Indians own more wealth than the bottom half of India’s 1.36 billion population) — were all non-issues in the recent Lok Sabha elections [National polls].
Secularism is a feature of industrial society, like those in North America and Europe. It is not a feature of feudal or semi-feudal societies, as in most Asian countries. Merely mentioning secularism in our Constitution does not make the country secular. India is still semi-feudal, as is evident from the rampant casteism and communalism prevalent here.
Most Indians are deeply religious and since about 80 per cent Indians are Hindus, they are easy prey for communal propaganda. My own understanding is that most Indians are communal. When I am among my Hindu relatives and friends, most spout venom against Muslims. When a Muslim is lynched most Hindus are indifferent, some even happy. One terrorist less!
Communalism (hatred of minorities, particularly Muslims) was always latent among most Hindus, only waiting for a spark from somewhere to turn the powder keg into an explosion. Between 2014 and 2019 the communal fire was stoked by the BJP, which is dominated by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
Now that the BJP and its leader Narendra Modi have won an astounding victory, there will be great pressure on them from the people to create jobs, alleviate farmers distress, reduce malnourishment, provide good education.
But this they have no idea how to do. Instead what has happened is that the economic situation has taken a nosedive, with the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) dropping to five per cent, steep decline in manufacturing, real estate, power and mounting unemployment.
So to divert the attention of the people from these real problems, which are unsolvable within the present dispensation and in fact worsening, a scapegoat has to be found, just as Hitler found in the Jews.
In India this scapegoat will be our Muslims and Christians, and I fear that now there will be recurrent atrocities on them. Just as history was perverted in Nazi Germany, so was it in post 2014 India. And just as Goebbels took over the German media, the Indian media has largely caved in and is saluting our master ‘Ave Caesar Imperator’. Dark days are ahead for India.