In the world’s largest so-called democracy, you wouldn’t expect to see signs of rising fascism and a dark, morbid side to a religion that prides itself on being pacifistic. You wouldn’t expect to see the ideology that led to one of the most horrific stains on humanity blended in with a country that values community above all else. So, from an outsider’s point of view, the intertwinement of Hindu Nationalism and Nazism is shocking, at the very least. However, to someone who understands the deep-rooted intergenerational conflict between Pakistan and India, Muslims and Hindus, Kashmiris and their oppressors — this isn’t anything new. Since the re-election of Narendra Modi, leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party (the BJP), it seems as if all this nationalistic greed erupted at once. That isn’t the case. To fully understand how we’ve gotten to this point, we have to know where we currently are. The BJP (won this election in a landslide), is a far-right Hindu extremist group. Founded in the 1980s, after it broke off another far-right political organization known as the Akhil Bharatiya Jana Sangh (the BJS), which was a political arm of another nationalist organization commonly known as the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh), the party holds radical views concerning religious minorities and those below the upper class in India.
Hindutva — Hinduness in English — is the popular form of ethnonationalism in India, popularized by a Nazi sympathizer, a co-conspirator in the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, and hero of India’s right-wing, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar. Hindutva organizations, such as the RSS and its sibling parties (The BJP, the VHP, etc.), have been called out for their Nazi and fascist undertones since their inception. Some like to shy away from the label of fascism, and others prefer to simply call it “a more radical form of nationalism.” Whatever they choose to name the hatred they hold, it doesn’t change the fact that Hindutva, at its core, is rooted in fascist thinking. It does not attempt to conceal its influences in its correspondence while filling the heads of Indians still bitter about the Islamic rule during the Middle Ages with anti-Muslim sentiments.
What is the RSS, if they don’t hold any political power like the BJP, or the BJS did? Founded in 1925 by Keshav Baliram Hedgewar, a man who was staunchly pro-independence from the British Rule, and pro-segregation between Muslims and Hindus, the RSS is an alt-right volunteer organization and works as the leader to the “Sangh Parivar” (the family of the RSS), who are involved in every facet of Indian society. Rejecting Mahatma Gandhi’s willingness for unity between Muslims and Hindus, they took responsibility for his assassination, and the multiple riots that were incited between the faiths in the early twentieth century, claiming it to be a display of “Muslim aggressiveness and Hindu self-defense.” The morbid fascination that senior members of the organization held with fascist regimes, especially those of Mussolini and Hitler, is apparent in the propaganda they spread to the youth of India, the policies they control, and their plots to eradicate anyone considered impure. A radical and dangerous organization such as this shouldn’t hold the power it does, but without the RSS, there is no India.
The Venn diagram between Hindutva and the European alt-right is practically a circle.
This is apparent in the obsession with Aryan purity, the attempted cleansings of anyone deemed inferior (Dalits, lower caste Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims, and Christians), and the coming to power democratically. As German and European societies had been antisemitic long before the arrival of Hitler, one can argue that the idea of Brahminical supremacy, ethnonationalism, and hate had been lodged into the minds of Hindus before India had even existed. Though the roots of Hindutva lie in Nazi ideology, there was no explicit anti-Jewish sentiment in India beyond respecting Hitler’s extreme methods to preserve the Aryan race and hoping for a similar fate to come upon the Muslims when the Anti-Jewish legislation in 1938 had passed. RSS leaders, notably Golwarkar, had gone onto even giving support for the state of Israel, contradictory to how he admired Hitler’s purging of the Semitic races — and believed “Hindustan” should follow in his footsteps. A spokesman for the Hindu Mahasabha in 1939 had once said, “Germany’s solemn idea of the revival of the Aryan culture, the glorification of the swastika, her patronage of Vedic learning and the ardent championship of the tradition of Indo-Germanic civilization are welcomed by the religious and sensible Hindus of India with a jubilant hope.”
The concept of Hindu superiority isn’t only limited to India but spreads wherever there are Hindus. In the West, religion gives Indian people, especially those of darker skin, a secure method of self-identification that dodges systemic racism where we have a world of whites on top, and forces Black people below. Hinduism to white people is associated with an orientalist, hippie, free love vision of ancient civilizations, while Islam is demonized in their eyes, and India is seen as a poor and developing country. Profiting off anti-Blackness, Indian people begin to thrive economically in the country and are made to associate themselves with something outside their culture, to become the perfect model minority. Religion is used to outmaneuver the race-based system by becoming the face of the “progressive society” title and rearranges the identities of immigrants of color, burning them into the melting pot that is the Western world.
This story was originally published in reclamationmagazine.com . Read the full story here