A very young friend of mine who is already an internationally acclaimed scholar pursuing his post graduate in a globally reputed University in England and from who I always have learnt a semester worth of knowledge through his posts and shares, has obviously thrown cannon fodder into my thinking about the Muslim question in general. He is a Muslim ofcourse and despite his scholarship, he has remained a conservative Muslim eager to forever draw boundaries of differences whenever he feels vulnerable that such boundaries of his self-identity will dissolve in the face of the wide world which he has been constantly encountering. He comes from a rural background of prosperity and being a West Bengali, where Muslims have turned an indifferent eye towards the communal politics leading to the Partition. The only thing the Bengali Muslims in its many villages know that “they” are “bangals” and identity of the soil which is easily translatable as nationalism inheres the West Bengali Muslim. This is why, the rise of communal politics in the era of Mamata Banerjee who rode the wave of Bengali nationalism seems to be almost wholly out of place, and Bengali nationalism is not only about a communally harmonized Bengal but also Bengal’s imagination that it imagines the new and evolving India as its bounden duty.
My young friend seems to be stoking a certain brand of communal politics which resembles very closely the politics of Partition. Being the brilliant scholar that he is, he has drawn a map of Muslim population, shown those to be concentrated in some pockets, drawn a boundary line around it and dropped unmistakeable hints that these areas could secede. Secession is not too worrying for me, what worries me are two things; one is the provocation of a riot, which being a Bengali Muslim in the villages his family has not seen, but my family being Calcutta Hindus know too well and what it means for the person, property and psyche for generations to come. The other worry is what draws from him, his worry that the girls and women who have benefitted enormously from Mamata Banerjee will still continue to vote for her. So he worries how to control the women, which so quickly will translate into the purdah and eventually to domestic violence on them. He has also posted against Nusrat, a sitting MP and who is the image of a modern Musim woman who dresses like a Hindu Bengali, married a Hindu but still keeps her religion. His attacks against the progressive and successful Muslim woman portends the extent to which secessionist, divisive and communal politics can attack women of the community.
In a few posts earlier in the month, he has created a passion to vote against the TMC. His words seem to echo pretty widely too in some other fringe outfits and there is the all India Hindi speaking Muslim outfit which tries to do a Jinnah. The aim is to demolish the TMC, knowing fully well that it is the only viable barrier against the Hindu right wing fascist politics. So the Bengali Muslim now is transformed to the Partition seeking East Bengali Muslim of 1947, territorial consolidation, secession and an all India domination rather than regional autonomy. The Bengali Muslim is already demolished, separated from his homeland and driven by the interests of Owaisi from elsewhere, the West Bengali Muslim is veering towards a Pakistan. He has learnt a lot from history that Pakistans never survive, for they soon secede again along lines of nationalism and become fragmented nations. That’s the gain he is moving towards, he wants his own little world where he could be king; where his will would be the word, his way will be the way or else you can catch the highway. So India to Bengal to his even little territory; my brilliant friend is looking to shut the doors of his world from the influences from the outside world. The trouble is that when the mind thinks this way, the final unit that might make him safe would be his own dwelling, or else may be his bathrooms, though village homes usually do not have them. Such minds are thus fearful minds. The trouble with fascism is that it is a whole politics based on the carrying of personal eccentricities into the public.
Yet I would wonder why a scholar, so promising, so well brought up with nothing to demand from the world on grounds of deprivations should suddenly move into a proletariat mood, emerge so harassed by social oppression so as to emerge into almost a vindictive violence. Things did not match up well. Just then, this morning, and he was one of the very first ones to respond to the incident of the US where Trump supporters have taken to street violence despite the poll verdict that has dislodged them. While my friends in the US look at the episode with downright disdain, they also shrug this off as saying that they have little energy left to address such aftermaths to a Kurukshetra. Unlike the Uttar Ramayana, the sequel to the Mahabharata goes without an impact because the war leaves even the readers so drained of energy. But my friend has seen in this incident the vindication of his fears, which has constituted his politics.
This fear of physical violence unleashed by the majoritarians/ nativists/fascists soon translates into a contempt, not for the perpetrators of the violence but towards the liberals, whose politics grants them space and freedom. One does not need to explain this further to a woman for a woman, even if she is not a feminist knows this for certain that the fear of violence braces her in every walk of life; this fear the man can never know and hence cannot gauge. By the same token, the fear of violence that the minority lives by cannot be gauged by a liberal, who does not experience this fear as part of her everyday life. Hence, as a liberal I have to understand by friend’s position, who by no means is unintelligent. While I understand his fear very well, what I cannot understand why his anger should be displaced away from the fascist to a liberal. This displacement comes from a strange working of the mind, he feels that there is “someone” who should protect him; women marry compulsively because they feel that they need a man around them for protection, minorities feel that someone needs to protect them. When they feel that the “someone” who could protect them is becoming weaker then they revolt by breaking free. But they do not break free to freedom but to greater vulnerability to violence as the fascists walk easy when liberals are removed. There is suicide in such an act of the minorities because so certain they are that the fascists will attack them and the liebrals will not save them because they are either indifferent or too formalistic to emerge out of the administrative rigidities of propriety to strike the streets in defence against physical violence that minorities often desire to take to armed militancy. Terror funders step in nicely here just as secession does.
There are then two theorems at work here; one is the utter dependence on the political machinery as though it were a feudal machinery, meaning that Muslims have not as yet emerged to citizenship from feudalism. The other is the overwhelming fear of violence upon them. This fear leads them to desire secession, enclosures of fundamentalism, conservative defence against the world to the extent of being denied its opportunities and to be relegated into the darkest hiding places. The movement into hiding, desire to destroy the “feudal lord” and to enter into a suicidal combat with the offender also constitutes the irrationality of fascism. No wonder then every Muslim is a terrorist at heart, there is only Pakistan in their soul and that they can never modernise into citizenship are proved true. Who proves them to be true? Is it not a fearful and an unreflective mind, a mind that cannot reason well? The question is, what is the sociology of such a mind? What conditions create thoughts? The answers to those will emerge into theories of fascism.