Sunday, 22 September 2013

Fascist chatter

The Hindu nationalists have brigades of internet activists who chatter constantly to each other. There are thousands of them and some tweet tens or hundreds of times a day. Who are they and what can be heard amidst the chatter? I scanned about on Twitter for some insight. First, some of the cast with their self-descriptions...
  • @nimeshchandra: Hindu,Hindutva-vadi ,Proud Bharatiya ,Patriot, Invester & trader , nonpracticing Homeopath, aspiring Politician
  • @DrShobha (Internet Hindoo): Mother,Edn Professional, Dreamer@TheArtOfLiving, Blessed wid a Master,Humble Nationalist;
  • @truevirathindu: Love My Mother COW who feeds us with richness till she lives. Wanna Save her till my last drop of blood is there.
  • @DabanggHindu: whole of Hindu community has to be united polarized consolidated to save Hinduism, sadhu saints,sadhvis from false cases jail liquidation of Hindutva RSS BJP
  • @Meedana: journalist, writer, poet, artist, film director, philantrophist. My dream is an India headed by Narendra Modi and Swamy
  • @DrPravinTogadia: Renowned Cancer Surgeon ; International Working President, VHP

Now we've met a few, what do they do? They converse with each other:
@Meedana: "for votes con goons will burn, kill and rape hindus as they don't need them" 
@truevirathindu to @Meedana: "Now after voting, we hindus will literally rape & kill them in the results"
and with their enemies:
@faraznamah to @DrPravinTogadia: "y u divide hindu n muslim.Y cant u say its human beings who got killed.were u born communal.Atleast respect ur profession"

@DrPravinTogadia to @faraznamah: "You just shut up. The whole world now knows how YOU guys kill everyone else who are not like you. Hindus only self protect."
And they offer insights...
  • On women's rights: @ShoneeKapoor: "#Women #rights have become the means of subordinating society to whims of the few misdirected #feminists." @yashna_chawla: "what about justice 2men whose life n families are destroyed coz of the misuse of women centric laws?"
  • On the economy: @DrPravinTogadia: "Simple! Let us change the PM & the new PM will surely order piddly US to stop the US - Syria war Then the rupee will go up."
  • On electoral strategy regarding caste: @Prabodh7Singh: "I working to unite Hindus irrespective of their caste's in patna.PEHLE DHARM PHIR JAAT."; @nimeshchandra: "@narendramodi u r wasting time and energy for votes of muslims-NRIs instead focus on st sc obc votes"
  • On victimisation: @DrPravinTogadia: "Media busy targeting Muzaffarnagar Hindus!", "all blame on Hindus. Sick!", "All over Hindus are made targets. Gvt busy arresting Sants at Ayodhya!" @AdvRoopKaur: "this is pseudo secularism, majority suffering" @ranjeetnatu: "Grave danger to human rights of Hindus in UP.", @DrShobha: "We have become so accustomed to blaming Hindus that we could be missing something insidious and very dangerous."
  • On the new (golden?) dawn that awaits: @DrShobha: "O son of Bhaarat,arise,awake and lead us till we achieve a India of our dreams..tis not merely d B'day of @narendramodi,tis dawn of New Era." @anilkohli54: "I hv jnd BJP,Iam available on d net n on d street,am a sepoy bldng nation's might,modi is my leader n a gr8 India is my future" @DabanggHindu: "When Hindu gets angry they starts a huge backlash no power on earth can control them its called majority retaliation strike"
So, is there something to learn from the hatred, the whining and the self-congratulation? Certainly the chatter is social grooming: the big family constructing and consolidating its bonds and its identity, keeping its energy and optimism high, waiting for the day... But we also see some tensions in the family, and the fragility of this identity constructed around victimhood and threatened masculinity. We see how crucial the external enemy is: I've omitted the endless references to Pakistan and Islamic terrrorism and so forth as I commented on this in a previous post - in these snippets the enemy is mainly the minority-appeasing state. But perhaps above all what we see is the centrality of violence, in metaphor and in reality, for binding the group together. It will not be a surprise if we see more before election day.

Friday, 20 September 2013

The great enemy Pakistan?

The legendary Indian film actor Dilip Kumar (born Muhammad Yusuf Khan in what is today Pakistan) recently had a heart attack but is, at the time of writing, recovering. One may recall that he received, amongst countless other honours and awards, the Nishan-e-Imtiaz from the Pakistani government in 1997 - the highest civilian award in Pakistan. The Shiv Sena predictably objected, but Dilip Kumar decided to accept the award anyway.

In India, the forces of communalism need nothing more than a permanent Pakistan-hating frenzy. If you doubt how important this is for the Sangh Parivar, visit the twitter page of VHP head Pravin Togadia. In August, VHP and Bajrang Dal activists were arrested for vandalising an Ahmedabad art gallery displaying work by some Pakistani artists. Togadia tweeted condemning the arrests, suggesting this was about getting (presumably Muslim or secular) votes. But after some prolific VHP tweeters started sounding sulky about Modi, Togadia had to reassure his supporters: in allowing some Brownshirts to be arrested, Modi was not really turning against his core fanbase. "We [Modi and the VHP presumably] are ONE & the same", he explained, and "let him [Modi] add secular votes". So in the run up to the elections there may be some mild bickering in the Hindutva camp, but their bigwigs understand the need for a bit of realpolitik at this important moment when the RSS finally has another shot at getting to the top.

Returning to the question of Pakistan, I'm sure most people know instinctively that people of the subcontinent are all much the same, even in our foolishness (for example, getting worked up over religion). Sure, Pakistan has its nutters and terrorists. As does India. If speaking rudely of Pakistanis was unacceptable in India - even considered a form of communalism - it seems likely the Sangh Parivar's power would wane. This highlights the importance of events like the Pakistan India Peoples' Forum For Peace & Democracy's recent seminar in Delhi: Talking peace in the times of war mongering.

Here are some other initiatives which seem to be in the right direction:

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Search engine optimisation (SEO) and the propaganda war

If you google "Narendra Modi", it's depressing how far down the list you have to go (at the time of writing) before you come to anything critical. It seems that the forces of communalism know more about SEO than their opponents. I don't know much about it, but the key seems to be Google's PageRank algorithm (named after a co-founder of Google, Larry Page, and not after web-pages). The details are rather complicated, but in short it works like this: if you want your site or blog or facebook page to appear high up in searches you need a lot of other sites to link to yours. This pushes up your ranking - it gives your site points, if you like. Moreover, if you can get sites which themselves have a good ranking to link to your site then that ups your site's ranking even more. So web-people opposed to communal fascism in India in the run up to the 2014 election: even if you have strategic differences, please link to each other's sites.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Why do young people love Narendra Modi?

Apparently Modi has "rock-star appeal" and young people love him. If it's even half true, what's that about? Perhaps they swallow the nonsense his PR machine spews out, but that doesn't seem enough to explain it.

So here's a nice simple-minded theory. We have a complicated relationship with authority and power in India. Pecking orders are everywhere and many people switch easily between fearful respect towards one person, and haughty superiority towards another. Grovelling and terrorising in quick succession. (Sometimes it's not clear cut - two people meet and they both think, "is this a grovel moment or a terrorise moment?") The fear and respect starts early, with parents; and teachers; and elders; and the police; and the military; and other representatives of the state; and people with power and money; and so on. Since it starts so young, maybe we end up so emotionally confused that love and fear are nearly indistinguishable. We resent our weakness and long for a higher power to come along to torment our tormentors. The hero film-star rescuer.

Maybe that's what Modi is to some people. A fantasy born of general impotence - the father you're supposed to love - benevolent and kind, provided you are sufficiently fearful and respectful. The people who claim to love him are then mostly just afraid, however cheerfully they announce their adoration. The Modi love-fear certainly transcends class - a quick trawl through the web shows that Modi has a significant "educated", middle-class following. It also transcends all reason, since the grubby, bloody reality of his rise to power is no superhero story.

One lesson could be that there's not much point being earnest and reminding people about the Gujarat violence of 2002 or encounter killings or the historical links of the RSS to Nazism - this just reinforces the love-fear. Maybe the careful and precise analysis you'll find on Kafila is mainly for the converted. More hope perhaps of toppling the idol in other ways like they try at the recently created, a website which makes a point of "cussing" him - attacking him irreverently with cartoons and satire. And even if such attacks just wind the Modi-maniacs up, that's good enough for me. Well done to those who conceived it.