How Hindutva‘s state-sponsored extremist, racist and fascist ideology is a threat to not only India’s minorities but also to the region.
Recently, an Indian magazine, The Caravan, published an investigative piece titled ‘The Believer’, an 11,000 word long article which revealed the involvement and collusion of powerful leaders in India with convicted terrorists, for the purposes of terror attacks targeting minorities in the country. The article led to violent demonstrations and attacks against the magazine by Hindu extremists across India.
However, this is not the first time that state-sponsored terrorism in India has been exposed. Even before the murder of Mohandas Gandhi by Hindu extremist Nathuram Godse, the strong connection between Hindu extremists on the ground and Indian national leaders was well known. But what is the nature of the phenomenon known as ‘saffron terror’? Who are its instigators? What acts of violence have they committed? And what are their plans for the future? This article hopes to shed some light on these questions, and demonstrate that Hindu extremist ideology is a growing danger not only to India’s countless minorities, but also to the peaceful philosophy of coexistence inherent in Islam and the West.
The violent ideology of today’s Hindu nationalist groups can be traced to the origins of Hinduism itself. Hinduism evolved over thousands of years from the animism practiced by the indigenous inhabitants of India. Because it had no concrete religious dogma, locals were free to incorporate or delete new ideas into the fold of the religion. This, as well as encouraging literally thousands of conflicting beliefs and deities, also led to the creation of a dominant class of ‘Hindus’ who claimed superiority over others. This dominant class, calling themselves Brahmins, divided Indian society into many different classes or ‘castes’ according to facial characteristics and skin color. The Brahmins corruptly lorded over the ‘inferior’ castes, enriching and empowering themselves further. To keep power, the Brahmins used violence to subdue the population. It is a historical fact that some of the largest and most brutal of genocides and pogroms have been carried out in the Indian subcontinent under Brahmin rule. This subjugation carried on for thousands of years until a challenge came to Brahmin dictatorship.
This challenge came in the form of Muslim and – later on, Christian missionaries too – who introduced the ideas of liberty and equality for all, regardless of the color of one’s skin, or the nature of one’s profession. Islam in particular liberated the downtrodden masses of India from the tyranny of Hinduism, from the very first entry of Muhammad bin Qasim into Sindh in 711 AD. Hundreds of thousands of persecuted Hindus converted to Islam, and the subsequent era of Islamic civilization in the Indian subcontinent is usually seen as a period of great enlightenment, universal freedom and high culture.
For nearly a thousand years, until the arrival of the British, the defeated Brahmin Hinduvta was kept subdued. But with the coming of the British who needed allies in the region, they were once again able to dream of their lost power. The British Raj funded and propped up tyrannical Hindu Brahmins so that they would provide support against Muslim rule. Over the course of 200 years, Muslim power in the subcontinent waned and India returned to its pre-enlightenment period of discrimination and racism. With the help of the British, the Brahmins seemed to have regained their dominance over the poor Indian population.
But their erstwhile friends, the British, had their own problems and were soon forced to leave India. With their benefactors gone, the Hindu Brahmins tried their utmost through forced conversions and riots to ensure that they would be the dominant power in an independent India. They espoused their philosophy of violent repression to anybody who was not of them, to all who would listen.
But once again, they were challenged, but this time on two fronts. And like before, one of these challenges came from the Muslims, where an enlightened leader called Muhammad Ali Jinnah carved a separate homeland, called Pakistan, for the Muslims of the subcontinent. Couple this loss of their perceived ‘Hindu homeland’ with the secularism advocated by the Indian Congress Party and Gandhi, and the extremists were soon sidelined from espousing their vicious Hinduvta ideology in mainstream politics in the democratic enlightenment of the 20th Century.
Since the partition of the subcontinent and the introduction of secularism to India, countless Hindu nationalist groups have sprung up – direct successors of the Hindu Brahmins. They espouse the same violent and racist ideology that the Brahmins of old did, but this time, they are far more dangerous. The losses suffered in the first half of the 20th century have not undone them, and today they have adopted a far more murderous and fascist ideology whilst their supporters and benefactors sit on the highest rungs of power in India. Over the past 70 odd years, they have been responsible for bombings, assassinations, violent riots, genocides, rapes and forcible conversions within India, as well as across the border in Pakistan.
The most powerful of these organizations is the umbrella group, the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) – a right-wing, paramilitary, Hindu Brahmin ultra-fascist group. Founded in 1925 with an overtly anti-Muslim and anti-Christian agenda, the group took inspiration from the Nazis in Germany in its organizational structure and philosophy as it grew. The group states that its mission is to ‘free Mother India of non-Hindus and to establish a global Hindu Rashtra (nation)’. According to them, this must be achieved using any and all available methods, including violence. During WWII, RSS’ members openly admired the Nazi leader Adolf Hitler. Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar, who became the second supreme leader of the RSS, drew inspiration from Adolf Hitler’s ideology of racial purity. He had said in his book, ‘We, or Our Nationhood Defined’:
‘To keep up the purity of the Race and its culture, Germany shocked the world by her purging the country of the Semitic races—the Jews. Race pride at its highest has been manifested here. Germany has also shown how well-nigh impossible it is for Races and cultures, having differences going to the root, to be assimilated into one united whole, a good lesson for us in Hindustan to learn and profit by.’
— M. S. Golwalkar
Today, this racist organization boasts 6 million members across India, structured into militia-like cells, modeled on the Nazi SS and the Hitler youth. Adolf Hitler’s book Mein Kampf is taught to children as young as six. But most worryingly of all, RSS supporters, members and sympathisers have infiltrated the highest echelons of the Indian government, media and army.
Swami Aseemanand, a senior RSS leader who is currently under trial for organizing multiple terrorist attacks on Muslims and Christians, told The Caravan magazine a story about the aftermath of the tsunami in 2004. ‘A Christian woman came for milk for her child,’ he recalled. ‘My people said no, you cannot have any because you are not Hindu. She said that the kid had not had any food for three days, and pleaded that it would die if we didn’t give some milk. So please give some. Then they said go ask Swamiji. I told her that what they are doing is right. You won’t get any milk here.’ It is a story he likes to repeat.
There are more than 127 such violent Hindu nationalist organizations in India, and their membership and power is growing every day. The RSS itself is closely aligned and funded by India’s second largest political party, the BJP, who are fielding Narendra Modi as a candidate for the Prime Ministership of India in the upcoming elections. Modi is a close supporter and advocate of the RSS, and is accused, among other things, of instigating deadly communal riots in Gujarat state which killed over 2,000 Muslims and injured over 15,000.