India: A soft state manipulated by its civilisational enemies – Jay Bhattacharjee

Delhi Riots 2020

Jay BhattacharjeePresent-day India perfectly mirrors all the attributes of the soft state model. – Jay Bhattacharjee

The inferno and mayhem that engulfed the nation’s capital for a few days in late February was tragic and heartrending. The loss of human lives and widespread destruction of both state and private property was appalling. On a purely human level, the magnitude of the losses that individuals and families had to bear was also disproportionately large, since the areas where the destruction took place were clearly underprivileged and less affluent than the rest of the capital city.

Saddened as we are by death and destruction, we owe it to ourselves and to our ancient civilisation to assess the recent tragedy as dispassionately as we can. Mere wringing of hands and even extending a help-line to the victims of the carnage will not do. It is essential to put on our thinking caps and attempt to identify and study the reasons behind this conflagration as clinically and objectively as we can. Yes, murders, arson, killings and violence are heartrending in their impact and very often difficult to digest.

This observer has no hesitation whatsoever in saying as emphatically as possible that the events were merely a disaster waiting to happen—a kettle or a factory boiler left unattended that would have exploded sooner or later. In such cases, it is only the degree of devastation that cannot be precisely estimated before the explosion takes place. In the Delhi outburst, the extent of the violence and destruction clearly surpassed what most observers were predicting. We will get to this issue later on in this essay.

The failures and deficiencies that led to the incidents last week were across the board—every single institution of the Indian Republic (except the armed forces that were mercifully spared in this disaster) were guilty of gross inefficiency, negligence, deliberate obduracy, manic grandstanding and outright malevolence. These crimes and offences are not ranked in any order of gravity.

And neither are the offenders whom I list now. The list comprises the polity (the Union government and the Delhi government, as well as a number of state governments, like West Bengal etc. which gratuitously weighed  in and pontificated on the Delhi events), the majority of the national political parties, led by the Congress and its motley allies, as well as the ruling coalition at the national level, the bureaucracy both at the apex echelon (and lower down), the police forces at all levels (whether the Delhi police or the Central forces based in and around Delhi), the judiciary at the higher level (mainly because the lower judiciary was not involved), the Islamic clergy in Delhi and in the rest of the country that encouraged the squatters in Shaheen Bagh and the rioters in the streets last week and the media (specially the English newspapers and channels), along with their “intellectual” stormtroopers.

We should now look at the role played by each of these actors. When the Shaheen Bagh mass blockade by women and children started, the Union government and its leading functionaries were strangely subdued and ineffective in their attempts to explain the CAA and its provisions. There should have been an information blitzkrieg from Raisina Hill to underline the salient features of the CAA (as enacted), as well as the forthcoming NRC and NPR that are so necessary for the country.  This inertia was actually present even during the initial provocations by the Jamia Milia and Aligarh Muslim University marauding gangs, just after the CAA was enacted.

The West Bengal government under the TMC and a few other state governments were, of course, openly hostile to the major changes in the Indian body politic that the CAA is meant to usher in. The AAP, from the beginning, played a dubious role in the entire affair. Aware of the Muslim vote bank that backed the party strongly, and yet not wanting to be shown as blatantly communal in the eyes of the non-Muslim voters, the AAP did a commendably adroit trapeze act before the Delhi polls. When swept back to power in the capital, it clearly had no desire to confront the Shaheen Bag crowd.

The Congress was the chief agent provocateur. It constantly tried to ratchet up the confrontation and encouraged the anti-CAA rabble to become shriller every day.  This political activism was matched by the complete lethargy of the central bureaucracy and the security forces. If they were actually discharging their duty of keeping the insurrectionary forces under watch, they were very successful in keeping their vigilance under wraps. Because, when the violence broke out and the extent of the resources that the rag-tag protesters actually had at their disposal was revealed, the Indian security apparatus had egg on its face.

The other placid spectator in this sad drama was the country’s judicial system, specifically the Supreme Court and the Delhi High Court, to some extent. Because of the draconian power that the country’s apex judiciary has at its disposal, this commentator, like others, has to be especially circumspect in his observations. Having said this, I must not fail in my duty and should point out that the Supreme Court defied all logic and principles of law when it refused to ask the Shaheen Bagh lot to lift their blockage of a public road that they had closed for more than two months. Instead, it appointed some interlocutors to negotiate with the law-breakers and request them to move to a different location. Sure enough, the protestors refused to do so.

Article 19 (1) (b) of the Constitution indeed provides the right to every citizen to “assemble peaceably and without arms”. Yet, this right is immediately qualified in the subsequent Section (3) of the same Article, to allow the State to make “any law imposing, in the interest of the sovereignty and integrity of India or public order, reasonable restrictions on the exercise” of the earlier right. When a major public artery in the capital of the republic is blocked by protestors for more than 2 months, surely this latter provision rightfully comes into play.

The local police forces (including the central police units posted in Delhi) and their associated intelligence units proved to be total disasters. When the actual disturbances broke out, it was woefully clear to all observers and analysts that the police paraphernalia had miserably failed to assess the extent of the threats and the relentless build-up of material, arms and cadres of the insurrectionists. Indeed, the organisational strengths and the levels of mobilisation that the insurrectionists displayed were of a very high level.

The actual performance of the khakiwallahs at the ground level as they confronted the rioters was ludicrous and risible. They strutted around in army fatigues, their latest designer fad, and dismally failed to contain the prairie fires.  The usual excuses will be proffered that they were waiting for the requisite green signal from their political and administrative masters. Ordinary citizens are entitled to ask them whether they have to wait for orders when they are confronted by a rioter holding a revolver against a police officer’s head. In any other country in the planet, including the most dysfunctional banana republic, other comrades of the besieged policeman would have taken out the criminal gunman with a long-distance head shot.

The only silver lining in this dismal scenario of the khakiwallahs playing out their puerile fantasies in army uniforms is that the actual armed forces have now been compelled to protest to the Defence Ministry that police forces should no longer be permitted to wear clothing that resembles army uniforms.

The dismal role of the English-language media (print and electronic) in these events needs a detailed analysis and assessment on its own. Apart from a few channels and anchors, the whole caboodle of “secular” TV commentators and their assorted “academic” experts sang their usual songs and chanted their normal scriptures.

At this stage, I would like to go back to history and briefly point out to some other instances where countries and regimes were destabilised by foreign countries and their allies, ultimately resulting in the fall of legitimate governments and democratically-elected regimes. The first case relates to the CIA’s coup in Chile in 1973, when the popular government of President Allende was overthrown in 1973 by an armed forces junta. The American President Richard Nixon and his Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, regarded Chile as a potential “second Cuba”. They decided, in the words of one cabinet member, to “make the Chilean economy scream”.

Strikes by lorry drivers financed by the US paralysed distribution of food and essential items, created a sense of chaos and forced Chileans to queue for petrol, food and medical treatment. Official American documents released many decades after the coup in Chile confirmed that  the U.S. was providing weapons as well as funds to the saboteurs. The CIA also used a group of Chileans of German origin, who were rabid pro-Nazis, to drum up discontent in the country, specially among the law-and-order establishment. Readers in India will get the drift of what I am saying.

We have to go back a little further in history to the Spanish Civil War from 1936 onwards, when the rebels under General Franco used the “fifth columnists” to undermine and weaken the legitimately-elected republican government. In socio-political analysis, a fifth column is any group of people who undermine a country or society from within, usually in favour of an enemy group or nation. The activities of a fifth column can be overt or clandestine. Forces gathered in secret can mobilise openly to assist an external attack. Clandestine fifth column activities can involve acts of sabotage, disinformation, or espionage executed within defence establishments by secret sympathisers of an external force. All this will be eerily familiar to people who observed the Delhi events a few days ago.

The origins of the disinformation campaign waged by some propagandists in India in the last few years can be traced back to old Goebbels and his Big Lie concept. Joseph, the Machiavellian villain, actually borrowed the concept from his guru, Adolf Hitler. Between the two of them, they fine-tuned and perfected this insidious technique so well that a supposedly-cultured people like the Germans fell for it. They unquestioningly believed whatever was dished out to them. The basis for all this was the notion that a lie big enough, if it is repeated often, will have people subscribing to it. In our country, the prayers from the mosques and assiduous parroting of their messages by people like the Sardesais and the Javed Akhtars all follow the Big Lie technique.

Finally, I would like to briefly remind my readers about the fundamentals of the “soft state” concept. This is because present-day India perfectly mirrors all the attributes of this model. This important sociological construct was first proposed by the well-known Swedish economist and social scientist Gunnar Myrdal in 1968 and 1970. According to him, a soft state is characterised by “all the various types of social indiscipline which manifest themselves by deficiencies in legislation and, in particular, law observance and enforcement, a widespread disobedience by public officials and, often, their collusion with powerful persons and groups … whose conduct they should regulate. Within the concept of the soft states belongs also corruption.”

In conclusion, let me emphasise what I have said earlier on many occasions. India’s civilisational enemies read the same texts that we do.

The recent events in Delhi are a wake-up call for all of us. – Indian Defense Review, 7 March 2020

Jay Bhattacharjee is an advisor in corporate laws and finance based in Delhi. His other areas of interest include socio-political issues and military history. He has been a commentator and columnist from the mid-1990s.

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