Freedom of thought not an option

Right wing domination is an expression of Malthusianism. Marx and Malthus were describing the industrial revolution, and so were Mark Twain and Charles Dickens. It was these novelists and journalists who described the ambiguities of how we think of the disparities between rich and the poor.

Interestingly, the idea th­at the 19th century chu­r­ch was monolithic, and for­ced people into poor houses in connivance with capitalists, is not very far from how we look today at the divisive way in which right wing do­mination, in every religion, approaches the question of poverty. The ‘poor house’ involves the hiding away of people, the disposition to charity and philanthropy, rather than introducing reforms, which promote equ­ality and citizenship.

Traders often promote pilgrimages as the way by which the hard labour of life on the road, or up a mountain, endorses their promotion of religious goods, where the free langar or distribution of food at roadside junctions, allows them to feel like minor medieval lords. The fact that a roving group of pilgrims and a pauperised displaced population sometimes gets into fights with the cosmopolitan urban population, who sees their presence as a traffic hazard has been documented often enough. (www. GulamJeelani: Balancing pilgrimage and speedy urban life, July 28, 2016)

Right wing domination sees its own presence as legitimate, and decries the ideologies of others as perverse and illogical. In this context, those who are outside the fold, such as dalits, minorities, and gypsies and tribals are marked as being enemies of the self-proclaimed fundamentalist state. They are targeted for no reason other than that they are different from the dominant disposition. This essentially means that it is not about numbers, it is about legitimating the use of force.

The actual figureheads promoting an ideology that assures their own world as legitimate, deprives every one else of the right to life, or the right to occupation, or the right to property. As a result, the violent brigades set up by the right wing then create spaces of terror, where their weapons, the gaze, the slur, the stick, the gun. may be used effectively to keep people at bay, or submissive. When the police are ideologically complicit in the ruling party’s biases the violence goes unabated.

Women become specially targeted by right wing domination. The assumption is that they will usurp the occupational opportunities that only men should have. Communalists believe that women’s role is at home, and they should be kept away from the work place. The hiding away of women is the fundamentalist project, because this liberates them from guarding their own women, and feeling free to exploit the women of those not from their own group. As a result, the women themselves become the safeguards of religious fundamentalism everywhere, by willingly giving up their rights, to promote patriarchal ideologies, and to rear their children by instilling the values of the group. Daughters are brought up to believe that they may not engage in the work world, and if they do, they must conform to the expectations of the group, which involve giving up these rights in order to bear children, or support the family in an emotional space, where her own rights to work and career are always secondary.

Traditionally, then fundamentalist groups believe that staying ‘out of danger’ (the climate of fear that they themselves have created) is the first obligation of the woman. Those who do go out into the workspace are thought to be courting danger, and the fundamentalist-oriented state does not have responsibilities to these women. The rules begin to be laid down, faster than one can imagine, because everything is tied down by these rules. Freedom of thought is not an option, as the licence to kill is given to men, who exercise them without fear.

Right wing organisations, when they permeate society, speak on behalf of the state. However, it is well known that the political party (parties) only occupy the state for the term to which they are elected. However, this political tenancy is spun with the promise that the party will be back, or are here to stay. As a result, new promises are made, while the old ones were not fulfilled. The power of rhetoric, and the vested interests the party has in promoting its image through lies and vendetta become evident. Renunciants are hired who speak as the master wishes. “There is no lynching, there was no lynching” comes out glibly from the mouths of holy men.

On the other hand, a man like Prof GD Aggarwal, otherwise known as Swami GyanswaruSanand died in a Rishikesh hospital on October 11, because no politician wanted to take responsibility for his demands that the cleaning of the Ganga be prioritised as promised by the present prime minister, and the hydroelectric power projects at Pipalkoti, and others on Mandakini and Alaknanda be stopped.

 The writer is is professor of sociology at JNU, and currently visiting faculty on the Professional Excellence Award Fellowship at Central European University, Budapest

Susan Visvanathan