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'Fascism alive in Gujarat'

London Jan. 29. Arundhati Roy, winner of the Booker Prize for her novel `The God of Small Things, says ``fascism is alive and well and living in Gujarat.''

``Gujarat, the only major state in India with a government headed by the Bharatiya Janata Party, has for some years, been the petri dish in which Hindu fascism has been fomenting an elaborate political experiment and in the spring of 2002, the initial results were put on public display,'' she wrote in the inaugural issue of the ``Indobrit'', a quarterly magazine launched here last night.

``We still don't know who was responsible for the carnage in Godhra, but every independent report says the pogrom against the Muslim community in Gujarat has at best been conducted under the benign gaze of the State and, at worst, with active State collusion. Either way the State is criminally culpable,'' she said.

Ms. Roy, who has been highly critical of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, said ``whipping up communal hatred is part of the mandate of the Sangh Parivar. It has been planned for years.

``Hundreds of RSS shakhas across the country have been indoctrinating thousands of children and young people, stunting their minds with religious hatred and falsified history, including non-factual or wildly exaggerated accounts of the rape and pillaging of Hindu women and Hindu temples by Muslim rulers in the pre-colonial period.''

``In states like Gujarat, the police, the administration, and the political cadres at every level have been systematically penetrated. It has huge popular appeal, which it would be foolish to underestimate or misunderstand. The whole enterprise has a formidable religious, ideological, political and administrative underpinning. This kind of power, this kind of reach, can only be achieved with State backing,'' Roy said.

Stating that ``fascism's firm footprint has appeared in India'', she said: ``Fascism is about the slow, steady infiltration of all the instruments of State power. It's about the slow erosion of civil liberties, about unspectacular day-to-day injustices.

``Fighting it does not mean asking for RSS shakhas and madrassas which are overtly communal to be banned. It means working towards the day when they're voluntarily abandoned as bad ideas. It means keeping an eagle eye on public institutions and demanding accountability.''

Conceding that most people in India have been horrified by what happened in Gujarat, she said ``many thousands of the indoctrinated are preparing to journey deeper into the heart of the horror.''

She said historically, fascist movements have been fuelled by feelings of national disillusionment. ``Fascism has come to India after the dreams that fuelled the freedom struggle have been frittered away like so much loose change. Independence itself came to us as what Gandhi famously called a `wooden loaf' — a notional freedom tainted by the blood of the thousands who died during Partition.'' — PTI

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