This is being written in response to the Statement of the LRS published on October 18, 2020 to mark the 36th Anniversary of the Sikh Genocide. It is a matter of great shame that such an event took place in supposedly modern independent India, which claims to be a socialist and democratic Republic that guarantees the rights of all and purports to be `secular’ and does not discriminate on the basis of religion or creed, and boasts of the longest written Constitution in the world which guarantees fundamental rights including the right to life. However, despite all the wonderful guarantees on paper, life in India is quite different. The most egregious violations of such basic rights occurs from time to time and this Genocide is one such disgraceful event in the history of modern India. The Statement also points out that the Gujarat Genocide of 2002 is another notable event. The significant features of these events are that despite numerous Commissions of Enquiry and so on, nothing is ever done, no one is brought to justice, and except for a handful of petty criminals, no one is prosecuted or punished. In particular, the big names in political parties who have been shown to have direct links to planning and execution of crimes against the People of India have never been punished and continue to hold important posts.
The above said it is important to ask why such events erupt from time to time. I would like to offer my comments on this matter based on my understanding of the political economy of the country and the political system. India is a diverse country with a large number of communities of different cultures and habits and is a differentiated society. On most matters that affect them they come together and there are countless illustrations of this unity amongst them. This unity has also posed a threat to the ruling circles of the country, who preside over a highly exploitative society, where the rich get richer and constitute a minuscule minority whereas the masses are forever condemned to lives of misery and poverty. This fundamental contradiction leads to a situation of great stress in the society. From time to time the conditions become so intolerable that the masses begin to unite. At such times, the ruling circles have resorted to acts of great violence to completely disorient the masses and to stabilise their own rule. In the mid-1980s the Indian economy which relied on the so-called `socialistic pattern of society’ was in a deep crisis, and the ruling elites wished to wriggle out of this and to embark on a new path. In places like Punjab the youth was disillusioned and the Green Revolution had run it’s course and had led to advancement of capitalism in agriculture. Thus, it became necessary to brutally suppress the population, as Punjab was always a region with revolutionary fervour. This led to the rise of State Terrorism as the preferred weapon to crush the masses. The contradictions played out in the Golden Temple attack in June 1984 and the killing of hundreds of persons. And yet, in the coming elections, there was no certainty of a stable government being formed. Against this backdrop the assassination of Mrs. Indira Gandhi, the sitting Prime Minister took place. In the shock and horror of this event, officials of the Congress party launched their bitter campaign as revenge, including Mr. Rajiv Gandhi, who famously said that `when a big tree falls, the earth is bound to shake’. These events galvanized the polarisation in society leading to a landslide victory in the Lok Sabha elections. The government also then launched the first wave of reforms, which is continuing to this day.
The role of violence in stabilising the rule of ruling circles has been discussed in the main political text of European Statecraft by Niccolo Machiavelli namely `The Prince’. In this book written as a guide to the princes who supported him financially, he formulated the theory that the use of violence by the ruler from time to time is justified. This could be also to restore the faith of the ruled in the ability of ruler. Note for instance the words from Machiavelli:
“Violence must be inflicted once for all; people will then forget what it tastes like and so be less resentful. Benefits must be conferred gradually; and in that way they will taste better.”
“So it should be noted that when he seizes a state the new ruler must determine all the injuries that he will need to inflict. He must inflict them once for all, and not have to renew then every day, and in that way he will be able to set men’s minds at rest and win them over to him when he confreres benefits.
Whoever acts otherwise, either through timidity or bad advice, is always forced to have a knife ready to his hand and he can never depend on his subject because they, suffering fresh and continuous violence, can never feel secure with regard to him.”
Such examples actually serve as a template today for ruling circles in countries like India, practically using these as a playbook. This is not surprising because the Indian ruling circles derive their legitimacy as a relic of the British Colonial Rule, which in turn is an entire Eurocentric political school.
In the course of history extreme violence has been used by ruling circles to maintain or restore their rule. Notable examples include the crushing of the French Revolution and what came to be known as the Age of Terror leading to the Restoration of the old methods of rule. More recently such methods were used in Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. Even more recently there have been genocides in countries such as Algeria which are the seat of extreme political instability.
In view of the above, it should be no surprise that in India from time to time such events erupt. Until there is a thorough going transformation of the political life of the country, the cycle of violence will not stop. All those interested in a future for the country should participate in the debate and advanced social and political science to a point where no question is considered too difficult or too complex. Let us join in this debate. Let us not let Bygones be Bygones. Let us face the challenges that history has thrown us.