V Prajapati //
Rising violence and oppression against women, both in rate and intensity, is intricately connected to Fascism. A better understanding of the dynamics of their relationship can be developed by delving into the meaning of ‘fascism’ and the violence it is capable of unleashing over the masses. Georgi Dimitrov defined Fascism, a product of the era of imperialism, the highest stage of capitalism, as a power of finance capital itself which is the organization of terrorist vengeance against the working class and the revolutionary section of the peasantry and intelligentsia. Lawrence Britt’s 12 early warning signs of Fascism such as powerful and continuing nationalism, disdain for human rights, identification of enemies as a unifying cause, supremacy of the military, rampant sexism, controlled mass media, obsession with national security, intertwining of religion and government, protected corporate power, suppressed labor power, disdain for intellectual and the arts, obsession with crime and punishment, rampant cronyism and corruption and fraudulent elections, come in handy in imagining the draconian nature of a Fascist state. The gendered face of saffron fascism in India is beginning to show through rising rampant incidents of brutal rape and murder of women (usually from backward castes and minority religion), sexual assault and harassment, honor killing, formation of ‘Anti-Romeo’ squads and criminalization of inter-faith marriages in the name of Love Jihad. Uttar Pradesh run by CM Yogi Adityanath is an apt prototype of the havoc a fascist state can untether upon women rights. As per latest crime data, the state recorded the highest increase in crime against women at 66.7% in four years to 2019. The state accounted for about 15% of registered crimes against women countrywide.
Crime in India-2019 Report shows a 37% increase in the cases of rape against Scheduled Castes women and a 20% increase in assault cases. In total, crime against women went up by 23.3% and against Scheduled Castes by 18.8%. Despite the reportage of the increased crimes against women, investigation and prosecution were the tardiest among all categories. That the investigation was pending in 33.8% cases and the trial had been completed in only 7.6% of all cases of crimes against women. Dowry deaths, cruelty by husband and relatives, acid attack, sexual harassment, assault, rape, trafficking, kidnapping and abduction constitute some of the major crimes against women. A Scroll.in report states that 2019 saw a 7.3% rise in registered cases of crimes and a 23% increase from 2015. UP alone made up for nearly 15% of all registered crimes against women in India and saw an average of 164 crimes per day! An average of 87 rape cases a day with one rape happening every 16 minutes is the trajectory that the fascist BJP ruled state has pushed us on. It is the same party whose ideologues Hedgewar, Golwalkar and Savarkar believed in legitimising rape as a weapon of war. Violent misogyny is perceived as a tool for establishing control in order to underline fascist Sangh.
Violence against women is not to be solely interpreted in the parochial sense of sexual violence involving physical and verbal abuse but in a wider sense which is inclusive of its psychological, social, economic and political forms. State-inflicted non-physical violence being inflicted by capitalism in the form of economic distress resulting in suicides amongst women, social violence in the form of continuation of upper caste hegemony, patriarchal and aggressive attitudes and political violence in the form of throwing women of all ages, who’ve bravely fought for the rights of minorities, adivasis, workers, students behind bars under charges of inciting acts of terrorism against the State. The broader our reading of the violence, the clearer the picture gets as to what the grip of fascism entails.
While it is undoubtedly easier to raise demands for nabbing an individual (usually from the marginalized sections), booking him under stringent sections of IPC and CrPC, put him under trial and deprive him of his life and liberty through draconian punishments like the death penalty, it is equally difficult to not confine oneself to this immediate and short-term demand, rather vehemently voice as well as wage a decisive and conclusive battle for fundamental transformation of society without which emancipation of women remains incomplete. One can see how mainstream feminism has fallen into the trap of reformism and massively fails in uniting women on demands premised on class issues and tied to the struggle for socialism. They make the repeated mistake of envisioning a world free of sexual violence without concretely analysing the issue of prevailing structural inequalities. At the same time, the state uses the weapon of ‘collective conscience’ (reactionary mass sentiment) to restore faith of the masses in the façade of bourgeoisie justice and more importantly, wash its bloody hands off the social murder it commits each time. One would be erring if uncountable instances where women end up dying, getting paralysed, deformed and mentally scarred due to rape, murder, sexual assault and harassment were attributed to alleged individual perpetrators and not instead to the capitalist State which has successfully dragged women into the market as commodities and objects to be consumed. And now, the fascist powers which has gripped the State is pushing the society even further back to the dark ages through the strengthening of a reactionary mass movement which is naturally anti-woman, anti-minority, anti-Dalit, apart from being anti-working class.
The Hathras case which was an apt example of State’s involvement in terms of wilful commission of upper caste and patriarchal violence, prejudicial investigation carried out by the police, apathetic and discriminatory attitude of the state administration, poor medical facility was reduced to a narrative about caste and gender violence. The act of not targeting the root cause of a problem and not preparing for an indomitable unity of the working class-peasant-women-students-youth under the leadership of proletariat to battle the Fascist state has only intensified subjugation of women and supported fascism in tightening its noose on the bourgeois democratic setup!
In 1909, Russian revolutionary Alexandra Kollantai wrote what proved to be a historic and befitting contribution to the Marxist analysis of women’s oppression in ‘The Social Basis of the Women Question’ where she argued that:
“The women’s world is divided, just as is the world of men, into two camps: the interests and aspirations of one group bring it close to the bourgeois class, while the other group has close connections to the proletariat, and its claims for liberation encompass a full solution to the woman question. Thus, although both camps follow the general slogan of the “liberation of women,” their aims and interests are different. Each of the groups unconsciously takes its starting point from the interests and aspirations of its own class, which gives a specific class coloring to the targets and tasks it sets for itself . . . however apparently radical the demands of the feminists, one must not lose sight of the fact that the feminists cannot, on account of their class position, fight for that fundamental transformation of society, without which the liberation of women cannot be complete.”
The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 is merely a paper tiger. The inordinate delay ridden, fault prone and corrupt criminal justice machinery is even more so no longer a ray of hope for the oppressed women. In light of the same, the magnitude of punishment has failed in being a deterring factor for. It is commonplace to find Police engaging in victim-blaming and showing reluctance in registration of women complainants. Silencing of victims and witnesses should they dare to pursue justice through the courts is rampant, with the Unnao case of 2018 wherein the victim was burned alive by five men while she was on her way to the Court being one of the harshest examples. The direction in which the fascist powers are leading the society towards and the consequences it will have for the toiling and common masses along with women, minorities and dalits, is clear is day. The innumerable Balrampurs, Hathras’, Azamgarhs, Bulandshahrs and Unnaos is laying the ground for the emergence of an all-encompassing women’s movement in solidarity with that of the working class, which would attack at the very soil of the fascism, that is, the crisis-ridden and decaying capitalist system.
[Originally published in The Truth: Platform for Radical Voices of The Working Class (Issue 8 / December 2020)]