As elections are about to ramp up in Bangladesh, an old tape that is common in all of South Asia plays its record once again. Stories of violence against the minorities become more and more prominent and political dissent is actively attacked in the garb of preserving “communal harmony.” Currently, members of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party were staging large-scale protests all over Dhaka, demanding free and fair elections in Bangladesh and alleging that the 2014 and 2018 Bangladeshi elections were rigged by the ruling Awami League party. On 7th December, the police fired on members of the BNP, killing one and wounding 60 others.1 More than 1600 leaders of the BNP have already been arrested in the last three days and the situation seems to be only getting worse. In fact, parallelly at the same time in Delhi, students at Delhi University protesting against violence from Bharatiya Janata Party’s student wing, Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, are being detained for protesting against repeated incidents of hooliganism.2 Repression of dissent on such a mass scale is becoming a common situation all over South Asia, as the realities of an incomplete democratic revolution in the countries that emerged here become apparent. The active creation of an “other” to polarize and manufacture a uniform national identity in countries which happen to be prison houses of various nationalities themselves is an ever present feature that is only sharpening as the realities of the so-called decolonial movements settle in and open fascist repression becomes a necessity to maintain order for the sake of the bourgeois classes. Such situations are not occurring in isolation but are propelled and backed by foreign finance capital.
“De-colonization”: A Sham
It is pertinent to question the nature of “independence” offered to countries in South Asia. The so-called decolonization process saw a shift in the way imperialism governed the colonies, in that instead of directly overseeing the day-to-day affairs, the daily governance of the colonies was handed to a section of the bourgeoisie which would remain loyal to the interests of imperialist finance capital, parasitic to the monopoly capitalists in the ‘developed’ world and dependent on an alliance with feudal landlord classes to extend their control outside the small pockets of capitalism in the realm of the largely feudal spaces. The Maruti Suzuki worker’s movement, for one, was not just an isolated incident, it is essentially the summary of Indian peoples’ history after 1947. Landlords attacked the workers’ movement and government used the law to frame all the charges against the workers, while the majority of the factories were themselves built on the lands of marginalized people, who were disposed through the close alliance of local landlords. To control the working class movements, these landlords also provide goons and muscle power, coming from lumpen class backgrounds. The working class of the northern plain areas in metropolises like Delhi, Gurgaon, in Kundli industrial area, are forced into settlements established by landlords, stuck in semi-feudal semi-colonial labour relations which is getting base from fudal support.
This is the nature of the transfer of power in India which occurred in 1947, where so-called national liberation occurred not on grounds of nationality but supposedly on grounds of religion. In the stage of direct colonialism, the British Raj was held together by inter-religious violence which allowed the British to keep the indigenous peoples in check through in-fighting. Such tendencies have not changed post ‘de-colonization.’ India became a predominantly Hindu majority country and Pakistan, which at the time also involved Bangladesh as East Pakistan, as a Muslim majority one. This flies in the face of actual national liberation, since all these countries actually contain various other nationalities at different levels of development.3 To be clear, a nation is a “historically evolved, stable community of people, based upon the common possession of four principal attributes, namely: a common language, a common territory, a common economic life, and a common psychological make-up manifesting itself in common specific features of national culture.”4 This is not true for the territories in the countries in South Asia! This problem intensified and led to various movements all over South Asia aiming for self-determination, with Bangladesh itself being one of them.
As the Bangladeshi national ‘liberation’ movement also sharpened, with Bangladesh becoming a formally recognized country in 1972, it is important to once again see the pattern of a parasitic bourgeoisie in Bangladesh instead of an independent, national one. The Awami League, backed by Indian expansionist forces, would enter Bangladesh armed and equipped with an army of their own to fend off Pakistani control while at the same time, committing mass fascist repression against parties of the working class.5 They would then expose their economy to mass imperialist plunder, characterized by the infamous Bangladeshi sweatshops which produces clothing for Europe and America and dominates the majority of the country’s export revenue.6 Destitution, poverty, hunger and feudal bondage are commonplace in workers serving in industries for imperialist interests. Such results are symptomatic of the lackey character of the Bangladeshi big bourgeoisie, a feature they share with the ruling bourgeoisies of all of South Asia.
Why Imperialism Needs Polarization
Given that imperialism, through its agents in the big bourgeoisie and the feudal landlords, is the most reactionary and backward element in South Asia, the more it plunders the more destitution and paupers it creates. Imperialism actively fends off true democratization, since that would mean the overthrow of these backward elements. Instead, it uses the language and institutions of democracy to create a façade through which it maintains order. Yet, as resistance intensifies and the realities expose themselves to the masses, it cannot help but defend itself through fascist measures. An important feature of maintaining this control is obfuscation of who truly is the cause of oppression. As previously established, the countries created in South Asia are prison houses of various nations but gained “independence” by claiming a uniform national identity. Since this identity is inorganic and not truly national, the agents of imperialism must manufacture one so as to legitimize their reality. This requires a national “other”, an alien who is not part of this manufactured national identity as well as an enemy to target for the constant crisis that imperialism plunges the third world into. In India, the manufactured nationality is that of the Hindu national, and the other is the Muslim. In Bangladesh, this is the reverse where Hindus are in the minority. In fact, the repression against Hindus in Bangladesh and Pakistan is also helping the various big bourgeoisies of these countries in further fueling their project of othering. The Pakistani big bourgeoisie decries the persecution of Muslims in India, while doing the same to minorities within their own territories, even using the Indian persecution as further excuse to incite violence. Similar actions are undertaken by the Indian and Bangladeshi big bourgeoisies.
The Indian Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 and the incidents that occurred after its passing are a clear testimony to this. The act, claiming to be a law to protect interests of refugees, only focused on allowing non-Muslim individuals from South Asia into India, using the repression carried out by other big bourgeoisies in South Asia as an excuse to exacerbate their position that Muslims are outsiders to India. In Bangladesh, in contrast, since 2013, 3600 recorded attacks against Hindus have taken place.7 In fact, the protesting BNP itself has a history of meting out such repression. In 1990s, BNP was openly supported by the reactionary anti-Hindu section of Bangladesh. They formed an alliance against Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League and attempted to draw emotional responses and support from the people based on communal lines. After 30 years of military rule, Bangladeshi people showed their faith on parliamentary democracy but were summarily betrayed. A similar story plays out in India.
The Political Economy Behind Developing Fascism
Close analysis of the Awami League government since 1999 showed a clear turn of Bangladeshi economy towards dependence on foreign investments, especially through infrastructural projects. This heavy turnout of foreign investment had a great share of Indian expansionism involved, particularly through the Ganga Barrage Project deal, a project worth 4 billion USD. This was the period of neo-liberal penetration in Bangladesh. India went on a similar trajectory since the liberalization, privatization and globalization project introduced in 1991 which started to reap its results with the Vajpayee-led BJP government in 1999. But the crisis in imperial capital that occurred in 2008 had a profound impact on global relations of production. An economic change of this level demands more concentric decision making to create more rapid space for expansion of foreign finance capital. Such crises also expose the obfuscated contradictions within society and lead to emergence of resistance. To counter such situations, today’s economy of Bangladesh demands a more fascistic regime to control the mass movements against state.
Furthermore, K. Murali talks about the various contradictions that hinder the formation of an ‘Indian’ national character. He says, “the first of these is its extreme social fragmentation with its abundance of castes, communal groupings, nationalities, ethnicities and regional identities. The second one is the absence of a dominant nationality or cohesive social group that could be made the social base of the state. Neither the ‘Hindi belt’, nor the Savarna Hindus, or even the Hindus as a whole can satisfy this need. Each of them is riven with divisions. Greater doses of Brahmanism only go to harden them, even as they join up against the ‘other’, the Muslims.”8 If we analyze the changes that occurred during first regime of BJP in the 90s, we can draw a pattern which goes hand-in-hand with the agenda of fostering brahmanical Hindutva Fascism. With the proliferation of foreign finance capital in India and the anti-working class legislative amendments, the contemporary government intensified the liberalization tendencies in India. Various ‘smart city’ plans, Special Economic Zone initiatives, foreign arms trade deals, land grabbing of marginalized persons and dispassion-en-masse are some initiatives taken by the government to serve the imperial capital. Therefore, with the need to create more footholds for foreign capital’s proliferation, fascism is necessary to both curb the resistance that emerges as well as centralize power in a manner that ensures power is absolutely centered in the hands of the agents of imperialism.
Sri Lanka, Another Similar Tale
Further evidence of the same is observable with the Sri Lankan economic crisis, a crisis created with this nexus of imperial capital. Popular media narratives would compare the share of foreign capital invested by US and China in Sri Lanka, some even seeking more FDI while the progressives would find fault within such foreign capital investments but none would scratch beyond the surface to expose the real nature of the enemy, foreign finance capital and the ruling classes that serve its interests. This downturn is historical and started from Rajapakshe’s absolute fascist regime. Sri Lankan land record shows that “over 80% of all land is state-owned, including waste, forest, unoccupied or uncultivated lands. Initially the lease was for thirty years but after the lapse period, the Sri Lankan government came with a land ordinance and extend this period up to 50 years more.”9 Sri Lankan government has also sold majority of their resources in the interest of imperial capital of China and USA. Rising Sinhalese Buddhist religious chauvinistic trends against Tamils and Muslims are not therefore not an alien phenomenon. This tragic historical reality is the demand of the imperial capital to diverge the contradiction of Sri Lankan working class on the line of religion and community. As established, this trajectory repeats all over South Asia, a situation where the state machinery and foot solders of fascism are marching hand-in-hand against the oppressed and exploited masses of India.
This contradiction, even when portrayed by progressive media, only looks at the situation from the communal lines once again, unable to expose the political economy behind it. The current role of progressive media is therefore insufficient to fight against fascism. We must understand why these media houses rely on the line of identity and do not enter in the arena of class-based solidarity. Such a position will be the point where they need to betray their class positions and enter in a direct class struggle against the brahmanical hindutva fascist regime in India. If they did so, they would also have to reveal the classes who were persecuted in the Delhi Pogrom or the class of people who suffered in Una.
The anti-CAA NRC protests of 2020 and the subsequent response in the Delhi riots in 2020 acquired genocidal character against the Muslims in Delhi, with the origin being the organized effort against the CAA. At the same time, the Indian population suffered massive socio-economic losses, where lakhs of sections of proletariat and semi-proletariat were forced to migrate back to their villages as urban life became economically impossible to live in with loss of daily income due to COVID-19. In this unprecedented situation, once again, the Indian state chose to blame the Muslims in India, pinning the spread of COVID-19 all over India on the 2020 Tablighi Jamaat congregation in Delhi. Imperialism therefore consistently requires polarization, to legitimize its manufactured reality and to maintain its dominance among the masses it brutally exploits.
by Rahul, student of linguistics at Delhi University,
Nishant Anand, student of law at Delhi University,
and Shri Rishi, student of law at OP Jindal Global University
- Rahman, Shaikh Azizur. “Bangladesh Arrests Thousands of Political Activists Ahead of Opposition Protest .” VOA, December 7, 2022. https://www.voanews.com/a/bangladesh-arrests-thousands-of-political-activists-ahead-of-opposition-protest/6867314.html.
- Maktoob Staff. “ABVP Attacks Delhi University Students Campaigning for GN Saibaba’s Release.” Maktoob Media, December 2022. https://maktoobmedia.com/2022/12/01/abvp-attacks-delhi-university-students-campaigning-for-gn-saibabas-release/.
- Ghosh, Suniti Kumar. “Nationality vs. Partition.” Aspects of India’s Economy 50 (August 2011). https://www.rupe-india.org/50/ghosh.html
- Stalin, Joseph. Marxism and the National Question. Marxists.org, 1913. https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/stalin/works/1913/03.htm
- Sikder, Siraj. “Six Mountains’ Lackeys Disguised As Patriots.” Marxists.org, October 1971. https://www.marxists.org/archive/sikder/1971/october-b.htm
- “Sweatshops in Bangladesh .” War on Want, January 2011. https://waronwant.org/news-analysis/sweatshops-bangladesh.
- Bose, Joydeep. “Bangladesh: ‘Over 3,600 Attacks’ on Hindus since 2013, Rights Groups Concerned.” Hindustan Times, October 22, 2021. https://www.hindustantimes.com/world-news/bangladesh-over-3-600-attacks-on-hindus-since-2013-rights-groups-concerned-101634868827734.html
- Murali, K. “Democracy and Fascism in the Indian Context .” Frontier 55, no. 21 (November 2022). https://www.frontierweekly.com/articles/vol-55/55-21/55-21-Democracy%20and%20Fascism%20in%20the%20Indian%20Context.html
- Hayward, Daniel. “ Sri Lanka – Context and Land Governance.” Land Portal, June 2021. https://landportal.org/book/narratives/2021/SriLanka
Leave a Reply