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A Hard Rain Falling

by Dilip Simeon, 27 June 2012

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(Published earlier as a web exclusive on Economic and Political Weekly, Vol - XLVII No. 26-27, June 30, 2012)

He went to bed, turned on the BBC World News and switched it off again. Half-truths. Quarter- truths. What the world really knows about itself, it doesn’t dare say: John le Carre, in Our Kind of Traitor

A baleful feature of contemporary Indian politics is the subjugation of the mind to partisanship in the narrowest sense. All commentary appears as the standpoint of this or that party, and hence not worthy of consideration by anyone other than the faithful. Serious dialogue fades away, and all we do is hurl ‘positions’ at one another. Communalism is identified with one party, casteism with another, corruption with a third. Conversation is reduced to sloganeering. We forget that the polity as a whole exhibits all these complex phenomena, regardless of which party commands power. And we also ignore the more far-reaching inquiry, into the acceptability of controlled mobs, private armies, vigilante groups and political assassination. These bloodthirsty practices are driven by community honour, party loyalty, caste pride or pragmatic realism. One way or another, they signify a return to a pre-political condition imbued by the dogma that might is right.

The term radicalism (going to the root of things) is usually taken in a positive sense, although ‘root’ explanations can be simplistic. But radicalism cuts across the political spectrum. What Right, Left and ‘marketist’ radicalisms have in common is dogma and fanaticism. It is not a Party but a platform of political moderation that is lacking. I do not wish to gloss over the serious distinctions between various radical doctrines, but will focus here on the similarities. These include the idea that independence is incomplete until their dogma attains power; the view that the Constitution and democracy should be used rather than respected (see below1); sustained attempts towards the ideological infusion of state institutions; a self-fulfilling vision of civil society as a theatre of civil war; and the maintenance of armed groups that can be ‘spontaneously’ deployed when required. This is the ground shared by enemies and it tends to remain unspeakable. All we have is the refrain: ‘my violence is better than your violence’.
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[Full text PDF is attached below]

A Hard Rain Falling [PDF Version]
by Dilip Simeon in:
Economic and Political Weekly, Vol - XLVII No. 26-27, June 30, 2012