A Communalist  Democracy?

I am aware that everything against democracy sounds a species of heresy. I am also aware of Amryta Sen and some other thinkers who claim that every fight for rights or justice can be fought in the name of democracy and thus the democracy remains an Absolute. But let us not forget that any form of democracy would warrant an analysis or possible critique if we are true to the spirit behind democracy which is collective welfare based on justice. Many religious thinkers, especially modernists, Muslim modernists have invoked democracy but let us call it theodemocracy and that makes a huge difference. We know the Left has always been critical of so-called democracy serving the class interests. One can invoke Hebermasian idea of Ideal Speech Community so brilliantly illustrated in a film Twelve Angry Men to emphasize the need for more informed and articulate public for better success of democracy in delivering public goods. One must also consider the argument that the best of ancients – kings I mean when Aristocracy and not democracy reigned  theoretically and often practically attempted to rule through justice and achieved much more than what has been achieved the best of current democracies.  We hardly note universal slavery practised or legalized under another name in the modern democracies. I mean the presence of alienated labour to which not only factory workers but public servants and in fact most of workers are subject to in the interests of Capital/State. Almost all jobs, for most of people, in private or public sector are alienating.

Today  let me appropriate the best of criticism from the  Left and the Right to make few related points here and illustrate them by quoting William Stoddart, a perceptive perennialist writer, on the question of communalism.

1)      Communalism that is currently in ascendency in democratic avatar in India as the Indian State faces tremendous crisis on many fronts and needs a ghost to beat to let the Capital move more firmly to enslave all of us including Capitalis – their souls are in danger as their idol is profit, is logical corollary of democracy as it is currently practised. A democracy that needs campastigns and money power and party politics can’t be by the people or for the people. Communalism can serves this  democracy to destroy both religion and country.

2)      There are all kinds of critics of Hindutva or Modi. But there is hardly a serious analysis of essential connection between modern form of democracy and communalism. A democracy can allow a Modi to become the Prime Minister. And it can also allow a communal majority to impose a communalist agenda through democratic means.

 William Stoddart in Remembering in the World of Forgetting writes:

Communalism, in the form of inter-religious conflict, has today become a world-wide epidemic. But do we know its exact nature? It is the rivalry, to the death, of two neighboring religious nationalisms.

We are witnesses to the war between Azerbaijanis and Armenians, and to the war between Roman Catholic Croats and Eastern Orthodox Serbs. (Each of these rival ethnicities has contributed cruelly to the tragic destruction of largely Muslim Bosnia, and particularly the historic cities of Sarajevo and Mostar). In Sri Lanka the communal rivalry is between Buddhists and Hindus, in the Panjab between Hindus and Sikhs, in Ayodhyâ and elsewhere in India it is between Muslims and Hindus, in Cyprus between Greeks and Turks, and in Northern Ireland between Catholics and Protestants. Each grouping adheres to its denomination and its culture in a passionate but nevertheless superficial and formalistic way, and in a manner which lethally challenges a neighboring and equally superficial and formalistic cultural loyalty.

These groupings are often called fundamentalist, but in their ideology they are invariably modern, progressivist, and collectivist.

Communalism has been well described as “collective egoism”. The last thing that one expects to find in these fanatical groupings is spirituality or piety. Not the Inward, but the outward in its most brutal and superficial mode, is their concern. They defend the form while killing the essence; they will kill for the husk, while trampling on the life-giving kernel. They kill not only their putative religious rival: they have already killed themselves. Communalism, like all shallow—but consuming—passion, is suicidal.

If ignorant people or if communalists are allowed to vote, if believe not qualified to understand difference between faith and belief,  and between Absolute and personal God run movements, inculcate hatred on the religious Other, they will elect a communalist which happens to be necessarily capitalist in Indian scenario. So one cheer for communalism and one cheer for democracy and two cheers for Corporates who manage all these cheers.