Is Hindutva a resurrection of colonial era fascism?
Recently, India has adopted a very controversial, communal, and divisive law called the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), which provides undocumented immigrants of specific religious identities with citizenship but excludes Muslims from the same countries.
The law is being regarded as a part of a plan to persecute Muslims, carried out by Indian Prime Minister and ex-RSS sevak Narendra Modi and BJP, who overtly intend to transform the secular-pluralistic India into a “Hindu Rashtra.”
Last August, the government of India scrapped the autonomy of India’s only Muslim-majority state, Kashmir, and flooded it with troops, in perpetual siege. In Assam, another state with a large Muslim population, the government implemented the National Register of Citizens (NRC), which forced people to prove or lose their citizenship status. Immigrants whose citizenships were stripped by the state are already being sent to detention camps.
Last month, the Indian government declared that the citizenship registry would soon cover the entire country.
The cumulative effect of these moves has been to push India’s democratic character and future into a notorious state, unprecedented in the history of independent India. In response to the CAA and NRC, demonstrations have spread across India. Violent clashes with state agencies have been seen; several protesters have been injured and killed.
Students at JNU, Jamia, and AMU, have met severe police brutality in their respective campuses. Famous historian Ramachandra Guha has been dragged from street protests by the police. The “Kashmirization” of the whole of India is on its way. Internationally acclaimed genocide specialists have expressed that the preparation for genocide in India has been completed. This is a dire situation for the geo-political stability of South Asia.
This has been set out to exclude and demonize the Muslim population of India. But it won’t stop here. Any kind of opposition is labelled “anti-national.” Any form of dissidence is treated as “anti-Indian.” First they came for the Muslims, then they will come for the liberals, communists, Dalits, Christians, Sikhs, and even Hindus who don’t agree with the “Hindu nation” narrative of BJP-RSS.
The right wing ideologues of BJP-RSS are actually driven by the idea of a majoritarian, ethno-religiously unitary Hindu identity of India, which is inherently fascist and exclusionary in nature. The antithesis of this far-right idea of India has to be a highly pluralistic, inclusive, non-communal, and democratic one.
Most importantly, the people of India, especially the students, are the ones who will be the pioneers of liberal-democratic-secular India. They are the hope over despair. They are the winds of spring all of South Asia is waiting for. All power to their fresh, uncorrupted imagination.
As the far-right majoritarian populism marches towards the present and future of India, the idealism of inclusiveness must also take position. The battle against a Hindu Rashtra needs to be fought by all means.
NRC/CAA is more than mere “communalism” as has been historically understood in the context of the Indian subcontinent. It is a fascist move which is based on the systematic and normalized otherization of Indian Muslims. As writer and activist Arundhati Roy has pointed out, this would remind anyone well-versed in history of the Nuremburg racial laws of Nazi Germany. After all, the holocaust did not begin with the concentration camps and gas chambers; it began with moves that legalized racism.
CAA is based on the false belief that Muslims are outsiders in the Indian sub-continent and only Hindus are indigenous to it. It is evident from the slogan “Hindi-Hindu-Hindustan,” which interprets the word “Hindustan” literally as the Land of the Hindus. However, historically, Hindu did not refer to any religious community; it denoted all inhabitants who lived on the plains of the River Sindhu.
Hence, the belief is evidently false, because almost everyone who lives in this subcontinent today is somehow an outsider, except for some Adivasi groups, who are one of the most marginalized communities of this region. The “glorious Hindu past” championed by RSS-BJP has zero historical credibility. This is true about all myth-making. Fascism intentionally makes myths wherever it appears, because it does not bother about logic and facts, it bothers about triggering emotion at any cost.
Dividing Indian history among “Hindu,” “Muslim,” and “British” periods is itself a problematic practice that dates back to the colonial era, which is correctly denounced by post-colonial historians like Romila Thapar and Richard Eaton. Have you ever asked yourself why colonial historians saw pre-modern India in religious terms and modern Indian in secular/nationalistic terms? Why didn’t they ever call the colonial period “Christian?”
RSS-BJP’s Hindutva is a continuation of the colonial project which has nothing to do with ancient Hinduism. Ancient Hinduism isn’t perfect. No religion is perfect, and ancient Hinduism had its own problems (casteism, for example). Hindutva fascism is the resurrection of colonialism. It is colonialism with a Hindu face. Simple as that.
According to a report by India Today, BJP received 75% of its donation from Tata Group’s Progressive Electoral Trust. This is hardly a purely Indian feature. Krupp and Thyssen AG did business with the Nazis. Now they have merged into ThyssenKrupp, and one of their operations is to build elevators for elite Bangladeshis. IG Farben had a chemical plant inside Auschwitz and that concentration camp itself was built with the money of Deutsche Bank.
As of April 2018, this bank was ranked the 17th largest bank in the world by total assets. So, it should be made clear than Hindutva should not be equated with the Hindu religious faith, it is an extreme right-wing authoritarian project which follows the footsteps of Italian fascism and German Nazism.
What would the consequences of NRC/CAA be?
Consider this scenario: Some fanatics from the Muslim community of Pakistan and Bangladesh become inspired by the example set by Hindutva fascism and start demanding their own NRC/CAA in their own nations. In the context of Pakistan and Bangladesh, they start asking for the otherization of Hindus, demanding the cancellation of their nationality. They start pushing this agenda at state-level.
The consequences? A wholesale bloodbath in all three countries.
This cannot be compared to the 1940s. Despite all the savagery shown by communities back then, neither India nor Pakistan were nuclear nations. Today, the stakes are much higher.
Irfanur Rahman Rafin and Sarwar Tusher are members of Rastrochinta and editors of Muktiforum.