Orthodox sociological theory states that the substructure ( the method of economic production in society ) determines the superstructure ( the culture, customs, ideas, laws,state institutions, etc ), and when the substructure changes, so does the superstructure.
But in India after independence in 1947 in almost every state zamindari abolition acts were made, which meant that the feudal sub structure was largely abolished. Yet casteism and communalism, which are feudal forces, have remained, and even increased in recent times, as can be seen by the increase of intolerance lately. How does one explain this phenomenon ?.
It is explained by the fact that the formula, that the superstructure changes with change in the sub structure, cannot always be applied mechanically without knowledge of the specific facts..
In this connection the following facts may be noted :
1. The mindset of people and customs prevalent in society often do not change immediately following change in the sub structure, but persist even long after change in the latter. For instance, despite change in the economic sub structure by the advent of the Industrial Revolution, which began in England in the early 18th century, for a long time even thereafter feudal customs, e.g. the aristocracy and aristocratic customs and laws, persisted. It required a long historical struggle before the minds and customs in England changed and became modern. In France though industries had been set up from the early 18th century, great, arduous, ideological struggles had to be waged against feudalism by thinkers like Voltaire, Rousseau and the French Encyclopedists which led to the French Revolution of 1789 which smashed aristocracy, and even thereafter there was a temporary feudal restoration in 1815 under King Louis 18th.
2. In England and France modern institutions ( Parliament, etc ) and modern principles ( freedom of speech, equality, liberty, freedom of religion, etc ) were created in the course of long historical struggles in those countries. In India, on the other hand, these institutions and principles were not the product of historical struggles of our own masses, but were borrowed by a handful of our modern minded leaders ( Pt. Nehru, etc ) from the West, and transplanted from above on our backward feudal society. But our society still had a feudal mindset, and this does not change immediately. The result was that these institutions were gradually feudalized. For instance, voting in elections in most states in India today is on the basis of caste and religion, instead of the merit of the candidate. Was democracy meant to be run in this manner ?
Equality is enshrined in our Constitution. But the caste system discriminates against sections of our people e.g. the dalits. Secularism is enshrined in the Constitution, but communalism is still widespread. So writing things in the Constitution will not by itself change society It will require a long arduous people’s struggle to get rid of casteism, communalism and superstitions.
3. In England and France the state often played an educative role in modernising society. For instance the leaders who came to power in the French Revolution of 1789 were all anti feudal, and propagated anti feudal ideas of liberty, equality and fraternity, and of religious freedom.
In India no doubt our leaders immediately after independence, like Pt. Nehru, were modern minded. But a few decades thereafter vote bank compulsions feudalized our politics, which today largely runs on caste and religious lines.. Also, many MPs and MLAs were former feudal princes, and they naturally brought their feudal mentality into the legislatures, thus degrading and feudalizing them.
In recent times, the party which has come to power has Hindutva as its professed ideology. Far from playing a modernising role, it is doing the reverse by spreading communalism,which is a feudal force. I
t is common knowledge that the BJP is dominated by the RSS which is rabidly anti minority. So how can it play a modernising role ? In fact it is playing a highly reactionary role, e.g by installing RSS minded people in all institutions such as the appointment of Gajendra Chauhan, a BJP member, as Chairman of the Film and Television Institute of India ( FTII ) against which protests have been going on for long, and by spreading reactionary ideas and hate speeches e.g. by Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti and Mahesh Sharma, Union Ministers, Adityanath, an MP, Sangeet Som, an MLA, and Sadhvi Prachi , beef politics, etc thus pushing India backward. No doubt the BJP leaders often try to distance themselves from hate speeches and communal incidents like that in Dadri by saying that the views of such people are their individual ones and communal incidents are not of their creation, and no doubt the Prime Minister sometimes delivers homilies advocating communal harmony ( though usually after a long time of incidents like the lynching of Ikhlaque ), but these are only for public consumption and to assuage the fears of foreign investors. The BJP, like a leopard, cannot change its spots.
4. I believe that some kind of fascism is inevitably coming in India, in a year or two in which democracy, freedom of speech and of the press, and civil liberties will all be totally suppressed.
Consider the facts :
a. The present Indian government came to power on high expectations with the slogan of ‘ vikas ‘ or development. This meant, or at least was perceived as, millions of jobs for the youth, industrial growth benefiting businessmen and others, and general prosperity for the public.
b. We are now one and a half years since the new government came to power, but one can see no traces of vikas ( see my articles ‘ The Shape of Things to come ‘, ‘ Vikas ‘, ‘Healthcare in India’, ‘ Malnutrition in India ‘, ‘Unemployment in India;, ‘ The Trickle Down Theory ‘, ‘ The Dream has evaporated ‘ etc on my facebook page and my blog justicekatju.blogspot.in ). All we have witnessed are stunts like Swatchata Abhiyaan, Ghar wapasi, Good Governance day, Yoga Day, etc. In these articles I have demonstrated that under the economic policies being pursued by this government there is bound to be further economic recession ( in fact recent figures show manufacturing and exports declining ) and further unemployment, malnutrition, lack of healthcare, farmers’ suicides and poverty, though a handful of big businessmen may benefit. Prices of essential foodstuffs like dal and onions have already gone through the roof, and will in all likelihood shoot up higher
c. Consequently this government will become increasingly unpopular day by day, as people, especially the youth, get disillusioned and realize that they were befooled and taken for a ride by our superman who promised a paradise and Shangri-La in India with his accession to power, but have left people in the lurch.
d. This disillusionment and disenchantment, coupled with the terrible economic hardships and distress the Indian people are facing, with rising prices, rising unemployment, widespread malnutrition, farmers suicides, etc, is bound to lead to widespread and massive popular agitations, disturbances, and turbulence all over the country
e. To deal with these, attempts will first be made, as they have already been made, to divide the people on communal lines, and blame minorities for the problems, as Jews were blamed by the Nazis. One may recall that fascist regimes came to power in Germany and Italy in the 1920s and 1930s in he wake of massive unemployment and soaring inflation in those countries and the consequent popular agitations.
f. These attempts to polarize society will no doubt temporarily succeed, because unfortunately the communal poison which was injected into our body politic by the Britishers from 1857 onwards ( see my article ‘ The Truth about Pakistan ‘ online and on my blog ) and continued even after 1947 by some of our politicians, is still deeply entrenched. The truth is that today most Hindus are communal, and so are most Muslims. Since about 80% Indians are Hindus, Muslim ‘bashing’ is quite popular among the majority of our people. But ultimately the people will see through this game because in the long run food and jobs are more important than religion..The Jewish pogroms organized by the Czarist regime to divert attention of the Russian people from their economic problems by putting all the blame on Jews, did not prevent the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. Massive popular agitations against unemployment, price rise, malnutrition, lack of healthcare etc will surely begin in India soon.
g. The rulers, threatened of being toppled and ousted by these agitations, will then impose some kind of fascist rule, suppressing all democratic freedoms and civil liberties, as was done in 1933 by the Nazis, and as was done by Indira Gandhi by imposing a fake Emergency in 1975.
I am afraid dark days are ahead for India
Justice Katju is a former Supreme Court Judge and also headed Press Council of India. Views expressed here are author’s own and jantakareporter.com doesn’t endorse them.