by Shahid Alam (Special Reports, Crescent International Vol. 48, No. 10, Rabi' al-Thani, 1441)
Fascism constituted a major threat to international peace and security in the last century. It caused a world war and triggered several small-scale genocidal conflicts across the globe. India’s current regime, its ideologues and supporters are deeply inspired by the fascist ideology of Hitler, Mussolini, and their ilk.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a leading fascist, heads the political wing (Bharatiya Janata Party or BJP) of India’s fascist movement that is ethno-religious in nature. This political entity along with its affiliates are jointly implementing a fascist agenda using the vehicle of terror and violence. It is important to understand this threat.
India’s fascist movement seeks to establish a Hindu Rashtra (state) excluding anyone who is not Hindu from qualifying for Indian citizenship. It is marked by genocidal hatred of minorities, particularly Muslims, in India and with a fascist like Modi in power, this genocidal hatred is fully mainstreamed. It is an ugly mix of racism, misogyny, and Hindu chauvinism.
Its ideology and implementation strategies comply with internationally established criteria to determine the presence and perpetuation of fascism in any country and the genocidal craze that it is accompanied with. Like the Nazis, Hindu fascists glorify a mythical past uncorrupted by influences of “foreign” cultures and religions. Hindu fascists use propaganda to undermine facts, defame opposing experts as traitors, and spread conspiracy theories and misinformation. They appeal to the crudest emotions and passions of people. They believe that only Hindus have claim to Indian citizenship; and that they have been the victim of a conspiracy targeting their majority status, their identity, and ancient traditions. Additionally, they consider minorities at the root of law and order problems and involved among other things in seducing Hindu women. They also trivialize the achievements of Indian Muslims and Christians, openly ridicule their faith and traditions as well as their contribution to India’s freedom struggle while building the image of several Hindu religious and political figures in mythical proportion.
Hindu fascists and terrorists are inspired by ideologues who authored Nazi style manuals focussed on theorizing Hindu supremacy and organizing murderous campaigns against non-Hindus. The major ones include:
1. Bankim Chatterjee – his novel Anandamath, written in the 1880s, advocates mob violence against Indian minorities and/or their expulsion from India as a means to “purify” India. Implementing this agenda has been described as a religious and national duty for all Hindus who are devotees of a goddess, which is later equated with Mother India (Bharat Mata). This book proposes purges, genocide as well as mob lynching of India’s non-Hindu population as a means to achieve liberation.
2. Vinayak Damodar Savarkar – a vicious Hindu fascist who defined Aryan racism as a source of Hindu identity through his various books including Hindutva. According to Savarkar, “Nazism proved undeniably the savior of Germany.” He started as an Indian nationalist, was accused of involvement in murder, but later sought pardon from the British colonialists and continued hate projects against India’s minorities throughout his life. He also said, “If we Hindus in India grow stronger, in time these Muslims will have to play the part of German-Jews instead.” He was also accused of conspiring in Gandhi’s murder.
3. K.B. Hedgewar – a follower of Bankim Chatterjee and Savarkar, he also expressed deep hatred toward India’s minorities. Like his role models, Hedgewar theorized Indian-ness as the basis of loyalty to Hindu religion. He fully subscribed to the project of purges and seclusion of Muslims, Christians, and other minorities. Hedgewar established a paramilitary organization called the Rashtrya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and had himself designated as its “Great Leader.” RSS was based on the ideas of Bankim Chatterjee and Savarkar with Nazi style discipline. RSS led anti-Muslim riots, attacked masjids and openly preached exclusion of minorities from the mainstream. RSS produced a highly violent and extremely vicious Nazi-style family of affiliates called Sangh Parivar (family of RSS). Among others, members of Sangh Parivar include terrorist outfits such as Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Bajrang Dal. Collectively, they are Hindu Sturmabteilung or Brownshirts.
4. Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar – another spiteful fascist ideologue, he propagated extreme anti-Muslim and anti-Christian views and designated Indian minorities as “internal enemies” like Hitler’s revolting designations of Semitic and other races. He was the second great leader (fuhrer) of RSS. A book based on extracts from his writings, titled Guruji: Vision and Mission, includes a chapter called “Hindu — the Son of this Motherland,” which claims that Indian-ness does not include Muslims, Christians, or Zoroastrians and that only Hindus can truly represent the term. In his book This is We or Our Nationhood Defined published in 1939, he compares the creation of Hindu culture with anti-Semitic sentiments in Germany, propagating the concept of a purge. For his views and activities, he was referred to as the “guru of hate.” His philosophy is summarized in the following quotation from his writings, “The non-Hindu people of Hindustan must either adopt Hindu culture and languages, must learn and respect and hold in reverence the Hindu religion, must entertain no idea but of those of glorification of the Hindu race and culture… in a word they must cease to be foreigners; or may stay in the country, wholly subordinated to the Hindu nation, claiming nothing, deserving no privileges, far less any preferential treatment — not even citizens’ rights.”
The ideologues of Hindu fascism created RSS with Nazi-style discipline. Millions of RSS workers wore brown shorts (now brown trousers) like the Nazi Brown Shirts. They are regularly trained in militancy and inspired by the genocidal hatred of minorities. One of its members Nathuram Godse assassinated Gandhi in 1948. He is deeply revered by RSS workers and affiliated organizations including the senior leadership of the ruling BJP, currently led by Modi, who was himself an RSS worker.
As chief minister of Gujarat, he supervised anti-Muslim carnage in 2002. His genocidal speeches at that time and even later are enough to put him in the same category as Hitler, Mussolini, and Slobodan Milosevic. After Gandhi’s assassination, RSS tried to project itself as a “cultural” organization.
RSS supreme leaders Hedgwar and Golwalkar encouraged violence against Muslims in all parts of India including attacking masjids during prayers. Later, this violence was extended to other minorities, particularly Christians. RSS has a number of affiliated organizations; however, two youth organizations — Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP or World Hindu Council) and Bajrang Dal (BD or the Army of Hanuman) — stand out for their terrorism and violence against minorities. RSS offers free education to millions of otherwise deprived Indians. These young men and women are fed on simplistic fascist explanations of their economic and social problems and are prepared for upcoming undefined “wars” against non-Hindu minorities — most of whom are regarded as fifth columnists.
Through careful monitoring, the educated among them are infiltrated into the police, paramilitary forces, army, secret service, legal system, and other important administrative and security institutions. This way, RSS has sympathizers everywhere and it continues to enjoy cross-sectional influence and support in India. This also explains why even the educated middle class of India slides into hateful tirade when it comes to discussing tolerance and co-existence with minorities, particularly Muslims.
Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) is the most important member of Sangh Parivar. Bajrang Dal (BD) is its youth wing. VHP and Bajrang Dal have been involved in cow protection, religious conversion, and the Babri Masjid demolition dispute. Their violent and armed workers were instrumental in demolishing the 16th-century Babri Masjid at the end of a violent march led by the BJP leader L.K. Advani in December 1992. Its workers are the most fanatic promoters of mob violence against Muslims and other Indian minorities. Human Rights Watch has extensively documented the VHP and Bajrang Dal involvement in the carnage of Muslims in Gujarat (2002) under the careful watch of then Chief Minister of Gujarat and now Prime Minister of India Modi. Armed with weapons and government-issued lists of Muslim homes and businesses, they massacred the hapless minority over several days. They staged similar massacres at several other places including Muzaffarnagar in Uttar Pradesh (UP). Their sense of impunity is embedded in the faith that their political mentors will provide them complete protection and if arrested, the Indian courts would dismiss their cases eventually. In addition to mob violence and carnage, they organize mob lynching of individuals, and rape and public beatings of hijab-clad women.
Not merely the political and administrative system, but also the justice system offers them full protection against the law. Akhlaq Ahmed in UP and Pehlu Khan in Rajasthan were killed on suspicion of carrying beef and selling cows. Their murders were video-recorded and shared widely as a victory of Hinduism over Islam, including by killers. But despite strong evidence, the Indian courts set the killers free contributing to prevailing impunity among the murderous followers of these organizations. The leaders of VHP and BD openly threaten Muslims and Christians in public rallies and ask them to leave India or convert to the lowest castes of Hinduism if they want to live. Members of minority communities, particularly Muslims, are frequent victims of mob lynching in the name of cow protection or promotion of Hinduism. On her Facebook page, a leader of BJP’s women wing, Sunita Singh, urged Hindu youth to organize rapw gangs, enter into every Muslim home and gang rape Muslim women while Aditya Nath, Chief Minister of UP, the largest Indian state, exhorted his cheering supporters in a public rally to dig the corpses of Muslim women from their graves and rape them. Similar genocidal views are expressed by retired senior officers of the Indian army such as Major General G.D. Bakhshi.
Jammu and Kashmir is a disputed territory between Pakistan and India. It was forcibly occupied by India in 1947. Recognizing the right of the Kashmiris to self-determination, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) called for a plebiscite in the occupied state to determine its future status. India never allowed a free and fair plebiscite. After decades of Indian misrule and exploitation, the Kashmiri people launched a peaceful struggle against India’s occupation in the late-1980s. India responded to their legitimate demands by brute force. The ensuing repression gave birth to a resistance movement that is still continuing.
On August 5, 2019, the Hindu-fascist Modi regime did away with the charade of Kashmiri statehood accepted by previous Indian leaders in order to legitimize occupation. This Hindu-fascist takeover of Kashmir is considered completion of yet another phase of South Asia’s Muslim surrender to the vision of Hindu supremacy. Far from achieving this objective, this reckless step has intensified tensions with neighbouring Pakistan, which is a party to the dispute and pushed South Asia to the brink of a disaster of unimaginable proportion.
Hindu fascism and Hindu terrorism is a living threat to humanity. Marked by an extreme form of racism, it is mainstreamed in the Indian society. And so, the following represents what should be done sooner than later:
a. It is incumbent on all those who believe in sovereign equality and peaceful existence of nations as well as respect for human rights of all, to raise their voices against this threat and its murderous leaders.
b. In view of the gravity of the threat to the life and property of minorities — in addition to the Indian-colonized Jammu and Kashmir as well as Assam — Genocide Watch should issue a genocide alert for all Indian states, particularly those that are almost permanent theaters of violence against minorities including Haryana, UP, Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Utarakhand, Gujarat, and Maharashtra.
c. The murderous Hindu fascist organizations collect funds from sympathizers in North America and Europe, which are later used for violence against minorities in India. There is a need to not only proscribe these organizations but also closely watch their activities under different names. A permanent monitoring system needs to be established for this purpose.
d. International organizations including relevant structures of the United Nations should strengthen their oversight of Hindutva leaders as their words and actions intensify repression against minorities and incite genocidal hatred against them. Among others, there is a need to carefully watch Modi, his ministers, political associates, chief ministers of various states, and BJP members of parliament with focus on the impact of their words and actions on Indian society. Information about any objectionable speech as well as discriminatory or violent action must be immediately shared worldwide in order to raise awareness about their possible impact. For this purpose, an international observatory needs to be established.
e. Human rights bodies and organizations should submit special reports on the activities of Hindutva leaders and submit their cases for sanctions by the UNSC.
f. Indian-colonized Jammu and Kashmir is a flashpoint for future conflict. It is the responsibility of the international community, particularly multilateral bodies, to take tangible steps to resolve this issue in accordance with justice and equity as well as the wishes of the Kashmiri people.