Monday, 22 December 2014

More foolishness from Feisal Devji

In an essay for the Hindu, Dr. Devji makes 2 fatuous claims
1) The Indian State is unwilling or unable to monopolize the use of violence in its own name. 
2) Hindu Nationalism has never possessed a theory of the State.
He writes (my comments are in bold)
'We might argue that secularism remains a polemical category because it is deployed in order to capture the state while never fully inhabiting it. We might, indeed, argue precisely this but only if we had not only captured the State but also thrown it down into a pit and were now saying- 'It rubs the lotion on its skin, otherwise it gets the hose again'. 
In other words, if the purpose of 'capturing the State' is to skin it alive to make a body-suit for ourselves, then it makes sense of speaking of 'never fully inhabiting it'. This is because though we wear the skin of that which we captured, the fact that we had to get rid of a lot of messy internal organs means we don't 'fully inhabit it'. 
For as in colonial times, during which its exclusion from state power made for a nationalism grounded in society and its cultural and religious languages, Indian politics today continues to be divided between state and society. Why? There was no Democracy under Colonial rule. There is now and has been for 5o years. Why doesn't this make a difference?  This is nowhere more evident than in the way in which even the most powerful of India’s governments have never been able or indeed willing to monopolise the use of violence in the classical form, as defined by Max Weber, that is meant to characterise nation states. Was Nehru or Patel or Shastri or Indira or Morarji or Vajpayee 'unwilling or unable' to assert the State's monopoly of legitimate violence?Vajpayee sent in the Army after Godhra. Hindus were killed by Army bullets. On the contrary, they tolerate and even rely upon what we might describe as “social” violence, whether or not it is encouraged and even organised by agents of the state. When did this happen? The anti-Sikh riots? But the boy Rajiv scarcely counts as one of the 'most powerful of India's' rulers. Narasmiha Rao, similarly, was a senile has-been who only go the P.M's job after if was turned down by Shankar Dayal Sharma. Congress, latterly, might be totally shite but Patel wasn't shite, Shastri wasn't shite, and as for Indira, she didn't muck around mate. R.A.W was too a State Actor and it had its bumboo up your proverbial just so you'd remember.
This inability or unwillingness to monopolise the use of violence in its own name, I want to argue, illustrates neither the weakness nor backwardness of the Indian state, but instead constitutes its dynamic structural logic, one that has again come into its own after India’s liberalisation in the 1990s, when society, in the form of the private sector and informal economy, re-emerged as an important site of political contestation. Dynamic structural logic? There aint no such beast. You're just making this up.  We know Pakistan has plenty of non-State actors running around creating mayhem. Does the Pakistani unwillingness or inability to crack down on those nutjobs 'constitute its dynamic structural logic'? If so, is Devji saying that, post Bhutto, when the Economy was freed up, Pakistan's 'private sector and informal economy' re-emerged 'as an important site of political contestation'? Is that what the Peshawar School massacre was about? Contestation of private sector Schools? Is Devji completely off his head? Unlike Pakistan, India is not a country where private armies are officially tolerated or sanctioned. There are insurgencies and sometimes there are political settlements but it is not the case that India tolerates, as a matter of 'dynamic structural logic', any violation of State Monopoly of legitimate coersion. In this sense- i.e. nonsense- the non-Weberian character of the Indian state is as linked to neoliberalism today as it had been in the colonial past to the anticipatory politics of a nationalism based in society. India is not a soft State. It's a hard State. It will fuck you up if you try to fuck with it.  At the margin, no doubt, its potency is contested just as Westminster's potency was contested during the hoodie riots a few years back. So what? Like Britain, India has a unitary State with the monopoly of legitimate coercive power. Pakistan is a different story. It had autonomous Federally Administered Territories and then a terrorist State-within-a-State in the shape of ISI backed Lashkars and Talibans. Pre-independence Indian politics wasn't anticipatory at all. It provided rich pickings in terms of graft and had achieved all but its foreign policy objectives prior to 1939. Neoliberalism is a word coined by Marxist fucktards. It doesn't mean anything.And it is the BJP that is now in the position of traversing the path from social to state power, and wrestling, as the Congress once did, with the problem of striking a balance between the two, if one can indeed be found. Right! Coz that's what keeps Narendra Bhai up at nights! How to stop Sushma Swaraj and her crack team of Swatantra Stree Sainiks launching a para-military assault on Holy Angels Primary School. What is this guy smoking?
Hindu nationalism

Hindu nationalism, which in the form of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has repeatedly (thrice and very briefly each time) been banned, and thus not deprived of a political life in public institutions, has for a long time now represented the quintessential form that social power takes in India. Rubbish. Caste based Parties are the quintessential form of social power in India. Okay, the Bhadrolok did manage to terrorise Bengal by pretending to be Communists but those senile shitheads are now well and truly in the crapper. Devji isn't Indian. He doesn't know better. Still, the editors of the Hindu, who published this, do know better. What 'social power' does the R.S.S have in Chennai? In Hyderabad? In Kerala? In Bengal? In U.P? Even in Gujarat, an old school LSE type like me has complete impunity for bashing fellow Tambrams like Subramniyam Swamy. Indeed, it is probably the only State in India where I could get away with posing as a 'pravachak' albeit of a most ungodly kind. (Full disclosure- this is because I'm very dark, ugly and put on a hilarious Madrasi accent.)For by the time Indira Gandhi’s premiership came to an end, the once formidable social base of the Congress had been whittled away, as the party chose to concentrate its power in the institutions of the state. Nonsense. Indira split Congress in favor of a dynastic cult of personality. She concentrated power, not in institutions, but loyalist buffoons. Of course it continued to rely upon non-state actors, most violently during the anti-Sikh pogroms of 1984, rely? rely? Are you saying Rajiv needed the Sikhs killed and he had to rely on Youth Congress thugs rather than just send in the Central Reserve Police or some other such bunch of jokers?  but these did not represent the kind of mass base that the Congress had possessed in colonial times. A mass base so small that Congress couldn't chuck the Brits out even with the Japs knocking at the door. Hindu nationalism, on the other hand, augmented its social power while keeping it separate from the fortunes of the BJP as a political party, though this relationship has been placed under strain whenever the latter has been in government. Really? Hindu Nationalism has a strained relationship with Narendra Modi in Gujarat? Are you out of your freaking mind!
More interesting than the shifting balance of power between the BJP and its “family” of non-state Hindu organisations, however, might be the fact that Hindu nationalism has never possessed a theory of state. Unlike the vision of an Islamic state, for instance, with its distinctive if non-egalitarian constitutional structure, Hindu nationalism has no alternative political model, apart from an insistence on the dominance of majoritarian culture and concerns. And this is its triumph as much as tragedy, since the absence of a distinctive theory of state repeatedly casts Hindu nationalism back into a social movement, one that can only make claims on cultural and demographic rather than constitutional grounds. And in this sense it is the most appropriate heir of a concept of secularism that had always been populist in its argumentation. If anyone has recognised this, it is, unsurprisingly, the Muslim “fundamentalists” who support secularism in India, but want an Islamic state where they are in a majority. They deny the hypocrisy of this position by arguing that since Hindu nationalism has no theory of state, and so no critique of secularism, it might be oppressive but is still capable of being secular.
But the fact that Hindu nationalism possesses no theory of state also means that it carries the non-Weberian logic of Indian politics to its conclusion, by refusing to depoliticise social life or condemn its concerns as “irrational” and “superstitious”.  Listen, Devji mate, you're a nice guy. You probably 'lurv' India way more than wot I do. Let me tell you something about 'irrationality'- it is fucking irrational to treat people who clean your toilets as 'unclean' and beyond the pale as far as Development goes. That's a recipe for endemic typhoid. 
Let's talk about superstition. Say you are on your way to deliver a lecture at Oxford or Cambridge or wherever it is that you teach. You see a sanitation worker. You stop in your tracks. You have to go home. You have to cancel your lecture. Seeing a 'bhangi' is inauspicious. You can transact no business this day. 
Is there a way round this? Sure. Indoor sanitation. Toilets for everybody. Modi, at Red Fort, saying 'make in India' was also was saying 'make in the fucking toilet for fuck's sake- not all over the fucking place'. That's Hindu Nationalism.
In doing so, it is not only heir to the whole history of nationalism in colonial India, but at the same time is also best placed to capitalise on the importance of “civil society” activism in our own neoliberal times. Fuck off.  I want an immediate crackdown on 'eve teasing' in my parent's Delhi neighbourhood, who am I gonna call? I want Madhu Kishwar to work the streets and Kiran Bedi to fix the Admin side. Fuck I care about their politics? True Daddy tried to fix me a play date through the RSS helpline after I was diagnosed with Alzheimers, but that's a different story.
Commentary on both secularism and communalism in India has tended to focus too readily on plots and conspiracies that are meant to illustrate the coming together of sinister caste, class and other interests with popular prejudice and fear. But while accurate in some ways, these modes of understanding may be too superficial in others. We should attend instead to the structural and historical factors that define Indian politics, which appear to show a much greater continuity between parties and politics than is usually recognised to be the case.
Wow! Devji is now saying only the BJP can be a Secular Party because...urm... well them Saffron types are stooopid. They don't got a theory of the State unlike those smartypants from Taliban Central.
But Hindu Nationalism does too have a theory of the State- it goes like this 'That which enables our 'Rashtra' (Nation) to quickly grow strong while observing Niti (ethical policy) is the form and content of the State we democratically call into being. Our self-sacrificing celibate leaders need to hold the high offices in the State. Immediately, corruption, weakness, ignorance, slavish attitude to West etc, all such things will disappear. India will turn into a Galactic Super Power. As a great scholar of Indian origin, we will do 'ghar wapsi' ceremony for Devji Sahib before appointing him our first Ambassador to the Horse head Nebula so that it too can speak to us through his donkey's ass.

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