Renowned human rights activist Teesta Setalvad emphasised the need for collective action against Hindutva fascism by building inter-sectional alliances across various oppressed groups and individuals.

Delivering the 11th Balagopal Memorial Lecture online on the topic ‘State of our Republic’, Ms. Setalvad advocated taking a leaf out of the country’s history of Shramanic fight against Brahminism, in order to forge alliances and understanding among various groups to fight what she termed as the ‘proto fascist’ state.

Constitutional values such as equality, right to freedom and right to life are not foreign concepts as denounced by the right wing, but are embedded in the soil of the South Asian sub-continent.

Invoking Buddha, Mahavir, Charvakas, Lokayat tradition, dissenters such as Basavanna, Narayan guru, Periyar, and Sufi and Bhakti traditions, Ms. Setalvad said questioning, resistance, and organising have always been part of the Indian tradition.

“We need to really spend some time in building these deeper understandings and translating these deeper understandings into collective action, long term collective action, where hate propaganda needs to be dispelled within the family, within the mohalla, within the society, within caste, within unions, within farmers’ organisations, within women’s organisations, everywhere,” she said.

Observing that the Indian Constitution and constitutional values are being hollowed out every day and that the attack is on multiple fronts, Ms. Setalvad cited several instances such as the verdict on Babri Masjid demolition, gang rape of a Dalit girl in Hathras, and the state’s response to it in denying her dignified last rites, spree of arrests of activists and students, abrogation of Article 370, passing of CAA in Parliament, attempts to force NRC on people, and orchestration of Delhi riots.

Application of discriminatory governance and law stemmed from a ‘proto fascist’ ideology espoused by the RSS and Hindu Mahasabha, which drew not from more eclectic and inclusive Hinduism, but from the most rigid form of Hindutva advocated by the likes of V.D. Savarkar, who in turn were inspired by Mussolini’s Italy and Hitler’s Germany.

This ideology seeks to convert the Indian Constitutional Republic into an autocratic, discriminatory, theocratic state, by vitiating law and its institutional structures.

Citing passage of money bills, farmers’ bills, labour laws, and environmental laws, she alleged that Parliament is being used to demolish the Constitutional morality and law, thereby thwarting people’s will.

Criminal law is being invoked against Muslims, Christians, communists — all-encompassing term for dissenters — who speak against the Prime Minister or Home Minister or Uttar Pradesh’s Chief Minister. This has never happened in India, she said.

Electronic media is acting as genocide-enabler by becoming the vehicle for targeting specific groups, she said, terming it a Goebbelsian phenomenon.

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