Progressive organisations should propagate their ideology through visual media: Aijaz Ahmad

Soft communalism is gaining acceptance in the country, while a worsening economic situation will see hard communal or fascist forces gaining support, Aijaz Ahmad, political commentator, said here on Sunday.

At the inauguration of a two-day seminar organised by Samudaya, Mr. Ahmed said the hanging of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru, not Rajiv Gandhi’s killers, signified a soft communal stance of the government. “While the Congress uses communalism pragmatically to suit its needs, the BJP’s communal stance is defiantly problematic. I see no other difference in the two parties. Both rewrite laws to suit big corporates and the finance capital,” he said.

Mr. Ahmed, a Professorial Fellow at the Centre of Contemporary Studies, Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, New Delhi, said the economic crisis would worsen in the future, and the falling GDP growth would see persons from the information technology class becoming unemployed.

“These are persons who have taken big loans and debts, and when things go wrong, where will they focus their anger? Historically, they turn to fascism, and this is when someone who has hard communal credentials such as [Narendra] Modi or the RSS [Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh] gain popularity,” he said.

The way forward

To counter these, and for progressive organisations to be relevant in the democracy of today, it was essential for them to propagate their ideology through the visual media, Mr. Ahmed said.

“The younger generation is taken up by images of the dominant ideology — that is, capitalist, communal, upper class — through television, which is a powerful medium. Progressive organisations should intervene by taking up this medium, instead of only writing books about it. The Internet is the way forward, where progressive ideas can gain a larger audience,” he said.

Religious structures must be taken on to achieve labour, caste and gender rights, he said. He cited the example of a landless labourer, who though treated like an untouchable, continues to tolerate the injustice as he was brought up to think the caste system was designed by the divine.

Drowned in corruption

Surendra Rao, State general secretary of Samudaya, traced the formation of the organisation during the Emergency, which he described as a “suppression of democracy”. “We need to ask ourselves if the cultural movement has done enough since the end of the Emergency. With all four estates of democracy — legislature, executive, judiciary and the media — drowning in corruption, democracy is in a far worse situation now than it was three decades ago,” he said.

The Kannada translation of Mr. Ahmed’s book Post Modernism was released on Sunday. Ekalavya, an Yakshagana episode, Sultan Tipu, a play, and Namma Bashe Namma Bhavishya, a Konkani street play, were staged.