Samizdat in Soviet Union
‘Samizdat’ is a word that is hardly common in the vocabulary of the Indian youth in 2020. But to someone who was born in the 80s or 90s, who had seen the twilight years of the Soviet Union, it would be familiar. Under the severe censorship of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, it was not at all possible to criticize the Party, the Secretary of the Party, the ideology of Communism, or any article of belief that the Party and the rulers considered sacrosanct.
This is not the place to go into the ‘whys’ and ‘hows’ of the censorship in a communist dictatorship. Any totalitarian regime based on a millennial ideology can only be propped up by massive lies. These lies can only be sustained by constant vigilance of the State. The vigilance, in turn, can only be made feasible by absolute violence. This is what the Soviet Union did.
Thousands upon thousands of poets, writers, artists, dancers, scientists, and sportspersons were sent to the concentration camps of the Soviet Union, called the GULAGs. Their only crime was that they went against the Party to voice their opinion, or at least the regime thought that they did so. Freedom of expression was an unheard concept in the Soviet Union.
All newspapers, all publishing houses and media houses were centralized, nationalized, and every bit of news that circulated in the Soviet Union was Party-approved. Literature was far from immune from this, and even children’s literature was carefully vetted by the Party leaders of the Communist Party.
It did not stop at this. All of these mediums were used to spread the propaganda of the State, of the Party, the Ideology of Communism. The mediums were used as means of indoctrination so that from their very childhood the citizens would be addled on the communist ideological propaganda. The thought behind was that in this way, an overwhelming majority would not suspect the truth, and the minority that dared to question and air the truth would be brutally suppressed by the State. The Communist state had many means available at its hands in those times. Murder, certainly was on the table, but was far from being the most imaginative one. Again, just counting these methods of suppression would need a book-long article.
Some of the greatest authors who were suppressed in different manners such as execution, suppression and exile were Maksim Gorky, Osip Mandelstam, Boris Pilniak, Nikolai Gumilyov, Anna Akhmatova, Maria Tsvetaeva, Ivan Bunin, Yevgeny Zamyatin, Joseph Brodsky, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, etc.
But it was not possible for everyone to migrate to the West. Not every writer was famous, not every journalist had enough money and international connections to migrate to the West. Does that mean that there was no truth that ever found its way to the public? Even the most vigilant of regimes let slip some information. It is human nature to commit mistake. Organizations, even communist, are not immune from this rule.
The citizens of the Soviet Union, even under severe communist repression and censoring, had managed to find a way to circulate true information and original works of literature that were critical of the regime. This literature was actually never published openly, never went to communist-controlled press, but was circulated in hand-written manuscripts to a select number of readers. It was called Samizdat! Many great authors of Russia committed their works to Samizdat, writing for the secret audience, very well knowing that they would never be published. It was called ‘writing under-the-table’. Mikhail Bulgakov wrote his masterpiece The Master and the Margarita as Samizdat.
Even writing samizdat was a dangerous thing to do in the communist regime of Soviet Union. Anyone found writing, reading, distributing or even discussing samizdat was liable to be arrested, exiled, tortured or even executed. Even then many authors such as Mikhail Bulgakov wrote literature in samizdat and kept up their criticism of communism and the Soviet regime. Such is the urge to express the truth.
Samizdat is a brave case of writing secret literature under a repressive ideology, in which the authors, fearing the sanctions, but an insatiable desire to speak the truth, write secretly and sometimes in code.
The Largest Group with No Voice of Its Own
One sees a curious parallel to the phenomenon of Samizdat in modern times in India. The Hindu, ever since losing political power to the Muslims in medieval times, has been eking out the existence of a second class citizen in his own country. What happened during the Medieval Era is the subject of many books. Suffice to say that along with killing individuals who carried knowledge traditions, the Islamic invaders also destroyed the institutions that perpetuated this knowledge.
The British, though less brutal physically, were no less ruthless in intellectually and institutionally destroying the heritage of the Hindus. In every sphere, private or public, educational or political, being a Hindu was a great crime, a great punishment. Hindu philosophy was ridiculed. Hindu art was neglected and left to atrophy at best. Hindu symbols were destroyed and scorned. Everything that was dear to Hindu, as a cultural citizen, was an object of destruction and derision.
Though, both the Hindus and the Muslims were their subjects, the Muslim was always the favorite of the British. His monotheism, his violence regarding his religion, his doggedness, his status as the People of the Book, made him somewhat respectable in the Christian eye. The Muslim was considered a worthy opponent. He shared too many values with the British masters.
The Hindu, on the other hand, was the object of nothing but utter and absolute contempt. His religion was primitive and grotesque, his beliefs superstitious, his gods and books too many, his mythology too ugly, and with no founder, no date, no concept of the message and proselytization. He was an anachronistic survivor of antiquity in modern times. The sooner his beliefs destroyed the better. The more hate reserved for him the better.
That is why, even in the times of the ‘benign British Raj’, the Hindu was already the object of immense and unlimited ridicule. The racist hatred of the Christian West aimed at utter destruction of Hindu Dharma is not an invention of the Left. The Left is simply the latest carrier of that hatred in the sanitized atmosphere of the West. The tradition is very old and long.
In a brilliant historical account by Vikram Sampath, from his book Savarkar, he is trying to tell us how life for Savarkar and any Hindu prisoner in the British jail was infinitely more difficult than the life of a Muslim prisoner. The bigotry against the Hindu, very monotheistic in nature, was carried on even into the jail:
“The first thing that one noticed in the jail was the distinction made between the Hindu and non-Hindu prisoners with regard to their religious traditions. On entry into the cell, the first act that was committed for a Hindu prisoner was that his sacred thread was cut off. However, Muslim prisoners were allowed to sport their beards, as were Sikhs with regard to their hair. It was Barrie’s idea of creating discord between the Hindus and Muslims and hence he placed the Hindu prisoners under the most bigoted of Muslim warders and jamadars. Most of them were fanatical Pathans, Sindhis and Baluchis from Sindh and the North-West Frontier Province. It gave these men a special thrill to brutalize a Hindu kafir. In fact, they belittled their co-religionists from other parts of India such as Madras, Bengal, or Bombay with jibes of being ‘half-kafirs’. These jibes compelled the Muslim warders from the other regions to prove their worth and surpass the Pathans in their brutalities.” (Sampath 272)
In independent India, one would hope that the Hindu, being the majority community, would get fair treatment. But the hope was in vain. Nehru, and then Indira, handed over the Indian media and academia to the Marxists and the leftists who were hell bent upon destroying Hinduism as a religion and Hindu society as a community. In the 70s, almost all media was overtaken by the leftists, under the directive of the communist-dictated government policy. The Indian State under Congress, like the Muslims and the British, remained deeply hostile to Indian culture, ethos and civilization.
Traditional and mainstream media, print or electronic, became ill disposed towards the Hindus. In any riot, or clash, the Hindus would be shown as the perpetrators, while being the victims in an overwhelming number of cases. Hindu signs and symbols would be made fun of and disrespected in every medium from literature to movies, but Islamic signs would not be touched. Hindu practices would be criticized, while Islamic practices would be extolled.
In the age of social media, the Hindus got some voice at first and started voicing the truth at social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia, etc. The Hindu, for the first time, became hopeful that finally his voice would be heard. And it indeed became possible for at least the concerned Hindus to reach other. For the first time, in the age of social media, the Hindus all over the country and the world felt that they were not alone in feeling that Indian secularism was nothing but a colonial, racist and anti-Hindu front to keep Hindus down; that it was nothing but a ploy to support Islamic fundamentalism and Christian missionary activities. But even this small ray of hope would be short lived.
If one would think that the victory of Shri Narendra Modi in 2014 and his re-election in 2019 made the Hindus the mainstream voice, it would be severely mistaken. The BJP government did nothing to support the Hindus who were speaking the truth. Gaining political power, it thought enough had been accomplished. Meanwhile, anti-Hindu racism continued in print media almost unchallenged. While electronic media showed some signs of warming up to truth and honest reporting, it is also still dominated by rabid Hinduphobia.
The international media also reciprocated the print media of India and is so ill-disposed towards the Hindus that not even the worst massacres, the worst hate crimes of Hindus, get reported in the Western media. But, even if a single Muslim dies on a train in India, it becomes the table talk in Washington, London and Paris. The anti-Hindu racism of the West continues. And now, coupled with Islamic fundamentalism and the propaganda machinery of the Left, it is more lethal than ever. Its aim is nothing more than the utter and complete destruction of Hindu society, converting it to respective branches of Islam, Christianity and Communism.
The gains that the Hindus made in social media were soon annulled by the concerted and focused campaigns of unprecedented hate-filled propaganda against the Hindus by the usual suspects. The social media was soon full of paid anti-Hindu accounts spreading racist hatred against everything Hindu. Moreover, the very social media platforms, which the Hindus had taken as a ray of hope, soon proved that they were no different than the colonial racists of the West. They showed their anti-Hinduism in no uncertain terms.
The West which had once colonized India, still carries the colonial racism against Hindus in many ways. In the 21st century, after the fall of the Soviet Union, most media in the West is controlled by left-leaning neo-elite which plays hands-in-glove with Islamic fundamentalism all over the world. The Muslims are very vigilant about their issues, and thus being the most intolerant minority of all, enforce a virtual Shariat compliance over social media platforms mentioned above.
This is why Hindu accounts that try to voice the facts are often deleted or banned for life. R. Jagannathan of Swarajya is only the latest victim in this long story of persecution of Hindus on social media. Many famous Twitter handles that post nothing but historical truth, like ‘True Indology’, are regularly banned by Twitter, their accounts deleted again and again. In the recent Delhi riots, the Hindus watched shockingly as the horror unfolded in front of their eyes where an anti-Hindu massacre was carried out by Islamic terrorists and their collaborators on the streets of Delhi in the last week of February.
But what was more horrible for the Hindu was to see that it was the Hindus who were vilified in global media as nothing short of mass murdering armies of neo-Nazis who were bent upon killing all Muslims. Most of the major newspapers like the ultra-leftist rag The Guardian did not even mention a single Hindu death, while pinning all the blame on Kapil Mishra, the BJP and the Hindus, even though Muslims have been destroying properties and Hindu lives for months now in India on the issue of CAA.
When the conscious Hindus try to balance the view on Internet, they find themselves banned and their posts deleted. On Wikipedia, the Hindus were barred from editing and registering the massacre of Hindus, while a one-sided openly racist account was told by the left-driven Islamists in the West.
Once again, the Hindu found that he had no voice, not even on social media. Once again, the Hindu found that he is still dispossessed. Once again, he found that the Hindu still has no freedom of expression. Once again, he watches helplessly as his culture, his symbols, and his beliefs are ridiculed. The censorship that was imposed on him during the Middle Ages; the censorship that continued under the British, under the Nehruvian anti-Hindu state of independent India, still continues despite the Narendra Modi government. The censorship in this age is imposed not by the State, which itself is a helpless party, but by India’s media, world media, NGOs, the global Left, and the Islamist lobby at the United Nations. The Hindu finds in 2020, with much horror, but no shock, that he is still the largest group in the world with no voice of its own.
The Hindu Samizdat
The social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter still allow Hindus to post and they can continue until they become too big. However, in order to escape the pro-Islamic and anti-Hindu censorship of Facebook and Twitter, the Hindu has adapted to the challenge by adopting a kind of samizdat literature and deliberate Misspeak which helps them escape the censorship of the enemies of Hindu society.
Islam, Muslims, Hindus, etc. words are not used in their original form. Some euphemism is substituted for these words. Sometimes the words of insult are adopted by the Hindu as badges of honor and used as an identity. Sometimes, the words are deliberately misspelled with special characters to avoid algorithms. I will try not to discuss too many of these tricks, as their need is more primary in these difficult times.
But these examples will suffice to make the point, that even in the age of social media; the Hindu stands voiceless, and is forced to adopt secret language and code words in order to send his message to those who share that code. He deliberately distorts his language so that the truth can spread in whatever small way possible.
The state of affairs remains sorry. But the Hindu, like always, marches on, however timidly, and however gradually. Finding ever new tricks to bide his time as a second class citizen of the world and in his own country, he hopes and works for a time when he will be able to express about his culture, society and dharma freely, without any fear of censorship, violence or suppression.
- Sampath, Vikram. Savarkar: Echoes from a Forgotten Past. 1883-1924. Penguin Viking, 2019.
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Pankaj Saxena is a scholar of History, Hindu Architecture and Literature. He has visited more than 400 sites of ancient Hindu temples and photographed the evidence. He has been writing articles, research papers and reviews in various print and online newspapers and magazines. He currently works as the Asst. Professor, Centre for Indic Studies, Indus University, Ahmedabad. He has authored three books so far. He maintains a blog at http://literaryfalcon.wordpress.com/