May 08, 2022

Neo-Fascist Gangs on the Rampage Time to Rethink our cities

Tikender Singh Panwar

IN The Origins of Totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt, the famous political philosopher, author and Holocaust survivor, wrote: “Only the mob and the elite can be attracted by the momentum of totalitarianism. The masses have to be won by propaganda,” referring to how the Nazi gangs unleashed fascism with ferocity in Germany in the early decades of the 20th century.

A parallel example in India is the ‘Mob, Elite and the Big Media Houses’, who don’t only ensure attacks on minorities but also justify them with perverted logic. The dangerous trend was witnessed at the recent Ram Navami and Hanuman Jayanti processions that symbolised the high-pitch propaganda of the Hindutva gangs.

The mode of operation followed a general trend. The trend was/is: Their gangs in the guise of kirtans(singing processions) would enter Muslim neighbourhoods and colonies; start using provocative slogans; abuse the minorities by slandering them and denigrating them; try to enter the mosques and raise a saffron flag; vandalise as much can be done.

When some resistance is shown in a few neighbourhoods, there, the state governments run by BJP then use the police force and bulldozers to raze down buildings that belong mostly to Muslim minority communities. And invariably in all the cases, the reason for demolishing such buildings is universal- “illegal structures”.

Madhya Pradesh chief minister, Shiv Raj Chauhan said in a press briefing: “Rioters won’t be spared”. In Khargone in Madhya Pradesh buildings of minorities were razed down. 121 people were arrested and all of them belonged to the Muslim minority. In another statement, it was revealed that 21,000 acres of land were freed from the mafia in a BJP run state.

Later, through media reports, it was revealed that some of the houses were constructed under the much tom tommedPMAY(Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana) scheme in Khargone. In another revelation, it came to light that one of the accused in the MP story, an ‘arsonist’  is in jail for the last many months and had nothing to do with the recent incidents. This is a complete alibi. Still his name figures in the list of the accused.

Terming Wasim Shaikh a stone pelter, whose house was razed by the Khargone administration, did not realise that their(administration’s) part of the story is completely cooked up with botched up investigations. Wasim Shaikh’s hands were amputated in 2005 after he sustained injuries from an electric current. Father of two, Shaikh has a family of five to feed, yet the administration razed his shop. How can a man without hands be a stone pelter?

Likewise, in JNU, Delhi, a Hindutva gang entered a hostel and beat up students asking them not to consume non-vegetarian food. Meanwhile, the gang was also prepared enough to project lies and term it as an attack by the Left-led JNUSU on a Ram Navami havan. None so far is arrested belonging to the gang.

The latest addition is the riots in Delhi’s Jahangirpuri on Hanuman Jayanti. After the riots usual to the gameplan, bulldozers were brought out and shops and a mosque were demolished despite the supreme court injunction asking the North Delhi Municipal Corporation-run by BJP to maintain the status quo. After the active intervention of the CPI(M)’sPolit Bureau Member, Brinda Karat and other members of the Party, could the demolition drive be stopped.

All these riots and attacks and then the role of the State is not just a spontaneous exercise. All of this is planned at the highest levels. The official patronage is not clandestine, it is quite unequivocal now. The point is unambiguously clear. And that is that the BJP wants to exhibit unprecedented fear and scare in the minds of the minorities and all those sections of the people who oppose them. Or who are not prepared to accept their version of a Hindutva Rashtra. The attack is not just on humans but also on their assets. The message is that we will rob you of whatever you have if you do not follow the diktats of the ruling ideology. We find this happening in various spheres and to many sections of the people, from writers to cartoonists and comedians, none are spared.


A Netflix run series called Leila is a fantabulous version of what a Hindutva Rashtra could mean in case Hindutva communalism has its way forward. It shows a combination of technology and communalism and as they say, "the current period of the BJP is wedlock between communalism and technology”.  

The question of legal and illegal is relative according to the current regime. All that the minorities have constructed is illegal. In a study done by students of the School of Planning and Architecture (SPA), Delhi, (of which I was a guide) on the ghettoization of Muslims in Delhi there are revealing realities.

This study pertains to three localities in Delhi and demonstrates how in the period of the last century the Muslims were ghettoized by the State apparatus thus forcing them to live in shanty colonies and occupy land where ever it was available.

It is not just the Muslims but large sections of the urban working people who were/are pushed into slums because of the highly exclusive form of the city development process, also face the similar challenges. With BJP ascending to power in 2014, the problems have accentuated more for the poor and the Muslims in particular.

The most revealing statement showing how the migrant poor were being "pathologised" comes from a DDA pamphlet (1977) on the Delhi Squatters Resettlement Project: “The urban poor live in dilapidated settlements that cling precariously to hillsides, line smelly canals, block roadsides, or crowd inner-city alleys. In their tattered misery, they mock the aspiration of all those who yearn to make their cities sophisticated and modern. Furthermore, these human beings are unwelcome because they build shacks on urban land to which they have no legal right and for which there is little or no infrastructure of public services. It is only in the context of this magnitude and complexity of the problem that the Delhi Squatters Resettlement Project can be understood.”

The archives of the Slum Development Department of Delhi Municipal Corporation have another important revelation: “The massacre in Turkman Gate, a Muslim stronghold is one of the infamous tragedies committed in the state of Emergency(1977). The sterilization campaign started at the Dujana House initiated by social worker Ruksana Sultana had led to unrest among the residents. As fear spread, a delegation of local residents approached Jagmohan, then Vice-chairman of the DDA asking, if the Turkman Gate people might be resettled together in a single colony: 'Welcome'. Jagmohan, angered by the idea of displaced Muslims building up their strength by huddling together, is said to have replied, 'Do you think we are mad to destroy one Pakistan to create another Pakistan?” So, this was and continues to be the outlook of the ruling discourse, now even more blatant, towards the poor and the Muslims in particular.

This graph amply shows how the poor and the marginalised have been pushed to the fringes of the city through the development processes.


Gazala Jamil in Accumulation by Segregation: Muslim Localities in Delhi, rightly points out the reasons for Muslim ghettoization range from the neoliberal onslaught of developmental strategies to the persecution of Muslims. Hence anything that a Muslim creates as an asset is deliberately being termed illegal and justifies its demolition by the State. It is not just the structure that the Hindutva philosophy wants to demolish it is the idea of creating and owning an asset that they want to hit at. It is, apart from the physical removal of their assets, an emotional attack on them.

Rising pressures and brutality, expanding Islamophobia, encounters of prohibition and differential citizenship, and the profound entrenchment and talks of security, have driven numerous Muslims to look for cover in areas of small ghettos further alienating them from the city making processes; and this is exactly what the Hindutva gang want!