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Widening the Frame of Reference

Dhrub Kumar Singh

Edited by Jairus Banaji
Three Essays Collective, Gurgaon, 2013, pp. 233, Rs. 250.00


Few realize that the dynamics of the emergence of nations and nationalism in Europe and elsewhere butchered and wiped out many societies and communities. Fascism as a product of this dynamic as it unfolded and clouded the horizon from the last quarter of the nineteenth century, emerged from the burial grounds of failed liberalism in Europe. Nationalism, which covers a wide range of possibilities and inclinations, is the ‘principal ideological ground of fascism’ (p. 155). In the colonial South Asian context, although the Indian national movement had immense blending and wielding capacity, strong Right-wing tendencies did clash in the wake of colonial retreat. Partition took a colossal toll and the festering sore of communalism remained. Communal violence and communalism are not to be treated merely as spontaneous outbursts and aberrations; on the wider canvas of fascist aspirations and culmination of Right-wing politics, it becomes a process of seizing power and undermining democracy irreversibly. There is a sophisticated, tested and tried method behind the madness of communal frenzy. All the contributors to this volume repeatedly remind us that in the context of communal turns we are not to ‘brush aside the fascist nature of these ideas merely because communalists have not (yet) overpowered the state. Fascism does not become fascism only when it attains total power. There is always a contestation underway, to which there is no foregone conclusion’ (p. 168). The book under review intends to ‘dispel apocalyptic theorizations of fascism, and point instead towards the dynamic interplay of ideas, movements, outbreaks of violence and state complicity’ (p. 205).   The elevating emotions of patriotism and political aspirations of exclusive and extreme nationalism premised on chosen communities’ claim becomes a weapon to demonize communities deemed ‘unpatriotic’ by the ‘real inheritor’ communities of the country. ‘The authoritarian trend in Indian politics emerged in the openings provided by this fluid connection of the ‘nation’ and the ‘community’ (p. 164). In this context, the book not only widens the frame of the communal problem which our country faces by placing and tracing its linkages to Right-wing politics and its culmination into fascism and fascist ways of nation building, but on a moral plane, helps us drop such condition-ings and common sense which make us receptive to many essentialized interpretations of our polity and culture. The lessons from the essays help to sublimate and refine the emotions of patriotism which feed into exclusive, non-accommodative and rigid forms of nationalism. ...

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