A Note On Bombings

There was another bombing in Delhi today, this time at a flower market in Mehrauli. Four people were killed, fifteen people were injured, hopefully no one I know. My heart goes out to them (from a universal? vantage point).

At the same time, I'm disturbed by news coverage of "bombings" or "terrorist" attacks in India. You can consider this post a working draft of sentiment here on the latest in a series of bombings to have happened for which I could imagine myself as potentially the victim. Let me explain briefly:

I know who's responsible in my mind for a bombing in Mehrauli - it's not "Islamists" or whoever is proximately the cause or will be blamed for being the proximate cause- economically it is ethanol subsidies, and WTO TRIPPS agreements; it is fuel price hikes and pollution; it is Reliance and Reliance ADAG; it is SEZs and the IMF; it is the U.S. and it is the British and it is the Indian government and it is you. More narrowly and politically, it is the dream of Delhi as a "world class city" - it is a subway built with Japanese money that is insulated form the reality of the city, it is the idea that the "middle classes" can live with servants in their houses and salaries from MNCs, that having backup electricity while people are literally being displaced from their land a kilo from your house in Gurgaon is sustainable. It is 160 story towers in Gurgaon and the naive belief that a) they'll happen and b) even if they do, someone won't destroy them or take them over in a country where 77% of the people are marginal and have no national political parties to turn to yet (pace CPI (Industrialists)).

I'm not talking about "moral" blame because I don't have time for that; I've read my Nietzsche- so if people want to have a conversation about the morality of violence, please do it elsewhere. I would rather be sad, angry, and aware of the overall political and economic circumstances to the extent that I can understand them, comprehend them, come to a standpoint; - and I was in New York City on September 11, 2001.

I would rather reflect on this escalating social violence, and pretend that the idiotic conversations that are going to ensue shortly about ISI and Pakistan and India and Hindutva and masjids and temples and secularism and civil codes - that all those are non-existent for this one brief second out of political time in which I can be in my own head. Because, for once, I can hear a voice of the other India through the rich people's media; it's sad that it takes a bombing for it to get there, and it's sad it's going to increase in frequency over time. And maybe when I find out more about it, I will realize that I don't like this particular voice. But this is how Indian politics works, so leave the shock at home and learn about it - and its heterogeneity and constant violence.

In the 1960s and 1970s there was massive social upheaval in India by Indian standards. There were lots of bombings, the Naxal rebellion, labor strikes and other agitation, and, eventually the emergency. Notably, this coincides with global trends (e.g. 1968 in Paris, the U.S. civil rights stuff, etc.) - which could be for a variety of factors. But India has existed for probably its entire period of independence at a low level of social violence (by Indian standards) at best. Periodically this goes up, probably following global economic trends and major domestic political events.

We see this trend again here. With the financial crisis, the politics and political order of the last 25 years is broken, and you're going to see an upsurge in violence that affects the "middle class" or "civil society" or however you want to describe it. While you can pitch this in communal terms or identity terms of various kinds (what Wallerstein calls social psychology in disguise), ultimately, this is driven imo by economic factors which are understood in politics through communal and caste-based and other mobilizations, actions, etc.

This trend should already be obvious from a Western vantage point- 15-20% of the state's territory that's already controlled by various insurgent groups, notably including Maoists, but also many other kinds of groups--but then global capitalism needed a place to park its capital, fed by Thomas Friedmans and the Indian press. So you won't hear a narrative context for it like this until the problem becomes too overwhelming a reality for the rich to ignore - their gated communities and domestic security will be thoroughly breached, their power lines will be bombed, and that is when the calls for a fascist reaction will become overt, whether from Buddhadeb or Bal Thackeray.

So you see, the point is, as sad as it is, a bombing in Mehrauli doesn't provoke the same level of outrage for me as a farmer suicide or people starving to death on tea plantations in West Bengal. Maybe it should - I'm not sure. But at least it's noticed. Is the killing of a CEO this week in Noida by laid off workers so difficult to understand? The story can be made simple or complex but what ultimately matters is whether you get to the nugget of the story - or at least a nugget? For me, the nugget here is that the political order of the last 25 years, in India as in the U.S., is quickly dying or dead.

R.I.P. neoliberalism/statecapitalism. Let us hope the eminently predictable social violence that will escalate is not followed by fascism...again (see: Emergency). And of a more virulent, and long-lasting variety this time (see: VHP).

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Comments

[...] The Roti On The Left

[...] The Roti On The Left Side comments on the second bombing incident in Delhi in recent times: “While you can pitch this in [...]

This is an incerdible view

This is an incerdible view point. Discontent for sure is a trigger for these bombings problems. Now that we are witnessing a recession, the next option with US will be to recover the losses by pushing rampant liberalisation and disinvestment in emerging countries. Among these emerging countries India seems to be the keenest to join the US bandwagon, thanks to our Sardar PM. In the next few years we will see rampant liberalistaion which will shake whatever base we had through our license raj times. We will find the gap between the poor and rich growing astronomically. The hindutva comes in to play, a mash up disontent and hindutva will be the worst for ever and it will push us in to endless cycle of violence, on one side we have maoists and on the other we will have the hindu fascists. Oh... yes, some missionaries will spice up the mixture in their attempt at using the discontent to drive herd in to the path og yehovah! This so called nuclear tie up will eventually destroy our country!

Calling Singh your "Sardar

Calling Singh your "Sardar PM" seems not so great.

Anyway, I don't think the nuclear tie-up is as significant as the overall trend you're point to, which I tend to agree with. But I disagree on one point - that liberalization will contineu to move forward in India. The social chaos and violence combined with diminished growth rates will discredit liberalism as it will everywhere else over time (though your point is still interesting because it could be a significant lag between when the elites wake up to the idiocy of liberalization in India - depends how ideological they are or how pragmatic).

On the end outcome - it's impossible to predict - I'm most worried about a Hindutva facist takeover - along the lines of the Emergency, but much worse in duration, ideology, and organization of tactics. but it could be perpetual warfare until there's a newly established order or it could be a Maoist takeover or it could be the development of a third way - a real one - a social democratic position based on the two underpinnings of the Indian state's ideology at birth - social welfarism and political liberalism. That would take some combination of anti-casteist parties, left parties, and political machines like Congress, I think. It's pretty far off.

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