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Mainstream, VOL LVIII No 19 New Delhi, April 25, 2020

Reading and Contesting Mass Psychology of Communalism

Saturday 25 April 2020, by Arup Kumar Sen

In his thought-provoking book, Gramsci, Culture and Anthropology (University of California Press, 2002), Kate Crehan reminded us that the Italian Marxist thinker, Antonio Gramsci, posed the question of developing a “national-popular collective will” in the context of a Note “discussing the form a modern revolutionary movement should take”.

The paradox lies in the fact that the Hindu Right in contemporary India is trying to develop a “national-popular collective will”, which has distinct anti-Muslim dimensions. The social media is playing a big role in this process. The young people are the primary targets of this political mobilization. To put it in the words of Ravish Kumar: “…the WhatsApp university gave them the pride of knowing things. Lies and misleading information designed to prejudice them and incite them to violence began to reach their smartphones as personal messages. It was the home delivery of knowledge. The young recipient of such information finally began to feel empowered”. (Ravish Kumar, The Free Voice: On Democracy, Culture and the Nation, Speaking Tiger, 2019)

The strategy of developing an anti-Muslim “national-popular collective will” has got strengthened in the wake of spread of the coronavirus in our country. A former judge, Supreme Court of India, Markandey Katju, has put it on record:

The harassment of Muslims has increased in India lately and the demonisation of the community as ‘terrorists’ and ‘anti-nationals’ has become not just a popular pastime but an obsession with many people…Coronavirus conspiracy theories are targeting Indian Muslims, and not just those connected with Tablighi Jamaat, as spreaders of the disease…Hashtags such as ‘corona jihad’, ‘corona terrorism’ and ‘corona bombs Tablighi’ have trended on Twitter and tweets with the hashtag #CoronaJihad have appeared nearly 300,000 times, and potentially seen by 165 million people on Twitter.(The Wire, April 16, 2020)

The eminent social activist, Harsh Mander, has narrated how the nationwide hate campaign against Muslims in the social media in the wake of spread of the coronavirus, has given birth to an anti-Muslim consciousness at the popular level. To put it in his own words: “The flames of hate against Muslims…spread and engulfed the entire country aided by the dedicated trolls of social media, including members of the infamous BJP IT Cell…I have spoken to many working-class Hindus who are not normally Islamophobic. Almost every one of them is convinced that the spread of the deadly virus was mainly caused by Indian Muslims”. (The Wire, April 13, 2020)

Our ‘constitutional morality’ should propel us to contest the anti-Muslim “national-political collective will” being developed by the Hindu Right.

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