Ranjona Banerji: Fascism is upon us!

21 Jan,2022

Ranjona BanerjiBy Ranjona Banerji


The destruction of the Amar Jawan Jyoti, the eternal flame to every soldier which has burnt for 50 years in Delhi, will now be extinguished by the Narendra Modi government.


This is part of the Modi government plan to erase all vestiges of an India before 2014, an India in which Modi and the political ideology had no role to play. This nation was built by us, the people of India.


And now we find ourselves at the edge of the abyss.


Do I sound overly dramatic to you?


Suppose we in the media excuse ourselves that the pandemic prevented us from objecting to Modi’s appalling decision to break down all of our heritage government buildings in New Delhi and replace them with some new monstrosities in his “Central Vista” project? As bodies lay strewn on the banks of the Ganga, what are a few buildings one might ask.


It’s not a viable excuse, considering that too many of us also failed in adequately covering the pandemic.


And in the same way that some in the media refused to accept that the bodies had other explanations and tried to cover up death and suffering by pushing government press releases, we now have the same set of pathetic excuse-makers being trotted out to explain the extinguishing of the eternal flame of Amar Jawan Jyoti.


A few of the usual suspects showing up early on Twitter this Friday morning are ANI, a Modi mouthpiece and Gaurav Sawant of India Today, a known BJP-toady who somehow thinks that wearing a camouflage vest on TV makes him an honorary field marshal.


Sawant explains to us that an eternal flame is temporary. And ANI adds that the flame is being extinguished and then moved to merge with the flame at the National War Memorial because it is “odd” that there are no names. The stupidity of ANI parroting such sources is matched by the stupidity of ANI in not understanding the symbolism of an eternal flame to all soldiers.


Neither present the underlying reasoning: that Modi wants to erase all history and thus place himself in the centre of the Indian universe.


Any media worth its salt would mention this as well. And remind us of Modi’s own dismissive attitude towards soldiers, whom he once described as being less useful than businesspeople. That contempt was real. Because we see it in the huge profiteering made by India’s top billionaires who used the pandemic to grow richer as the rest of India grew poorer. In a smaller degree, think of how much money contractors will make from the Central Vista project: yesterday’s newspapers informed us that cost estimates for the new Parliament building have already gone up by 29 %!


What we have now is appropriation of symbols that can fool the public and consolidation of those symbols for greater personal glory. It was why Mussolini and Hitler paraded in grand uniforms which they had no actual rights to wear. They were costumes to bedazzle a brainless populace.


Modi has also just said that we in India have “wasted time” fighting for our “rights”. And this focus on rights has made India weak.


This is the prime minister of a Constitutional democracy: who openly says that fighting for rights is a waste of time. Anyone with any sense of history can see where we are heading.




That the media can allow Modi to get away with such statements proves just how little the media in India understands the concept of a Constitutional democracy and how little it treasures or even understands what gives the press its freedom. Modi swore an oath on the Constitution. But as you can see, neither he nor the media nor the people hold anything by that. Empty words in a moral vacuum.


We have all the warning signs. Fascism is upon us.


There may be no time to cry later.



Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist and commentator. She writes on MxMIndia every Tuesday and Friday. His views here are personal.



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