It was a convention that went unnoticed -- a convention that saw New Delhi-based human rights' group Anhad and 90 other organisations debate on the theme, 'Countering fascism: defending the idea of India'.
The lively convention, organised in New Delhi, announced a long list of plans for practical action to be taken to galvanise the struggle against Hindutva fascism.
According to noted social activist Ram Puniyani, the ideology and politics of Hindutva was the Indian form of fascism.
He argued for the need to examine the links between Hindutva terrorism and free-market terrorism represented by Western economic and cultural imperialism, and also to recognise the fact that Hindutva fascism poses a graver danger not just to Muslims and Christians but, in fact, to all marginalised groups in the country, particularly Dalits and Adivasis, since it represents the worldview, interests and agendas of entrenched 'upper' caste elites.
He pointed out that in this regard there was little difference between the 'hard' Hindutva of the BJP and the 'soft' Hindutva of the Congress, and noted the deep inroads that Hindutva forces have made into every pillar of the State, including the bureaucracy and the judiciary, besides in the educational field and the media.
The well-planned attacks on Muslims and Christians, noted historian K N Panikkar pointed out, are characterised by far greater brutality than previously, and no effective action is taken against their perpetrators, whether by the central or state governments. He indicated that although the present government in the Centre had come to power on what it had touted as a 'secular' platform, it has taken no effective action against Hindutva terrorism.
Others who spoke on the issue included noted academic and legal luminary Prof Upendra Baxi, social activist Swami Agnivesh and Magsaysay Award winner Sandeep Pandey.
Fascist terror networks in India
In the second session, Shabnam Hashmi, coordinator of Anhad, spoke about the widespread and deep-rooted communalisation of not just the political sphere but also of popular consciousness on what she called a 'massive and unprecedented scale'.
The Congress is equally responsible, she said, for the rise of Hindutva fascism as the BJP, and she minced no words in claiming that certain actions and statements of the present Union home minister are no different from what one would expect from an RSS leader.
Well-known journalist Subhash Gatade spoke about the involvement of Hindutva terror groups in various bomb blasts that have taken place in different parts of the country. He lamented the fact that in several such cases no action at all has been taken against the perpetrators, and pointed that intelligence agencies and the police have sought to cover up many of these incidents.
He spoke about the 'media's conspiracy of silence on Hindutva terrorism', adding that large sections of the media had failed to highlight the issue at the same time as they are engaged in a concerted campaign to declare scores of innocent Muslims arrested by the police as terrorists.
Fascism and neo-liberal economic policies
To consider Hindutva fascism simply as a religious or cultural or political phenomenon is misleading, suggested medical doctor and social activist Abhay Shukla.
Rather, fascism, including in its Hindutva garb, also has to be understood as reflecting a certain economic agenda of entrenched and oppressive local and global elites, he said, adding that the 'neo-liberal' development policies adopted by the Indian elite are generating widespread and mounting unemployment and pauperisation of the poor, and Hindutva fascism thus serves as a tool to stamp out dissent and resistance of the subaltern classes.
Elaborating on this thesis further, noted development economist Jaya Mehta remarked how increasing economic insecurity caused by the 'neo-liberal' economic policies leads to social psychological crises, which makes it easy for Hindutva outfits, representing the interests of entrenched elites, to play on these insecurities of the poor and the middle classes and whip up anti-Muslim and now, increasingly, anti-Christian hatred and violence.