Vinod Mubayi


Authoritarian right wing groups belonging to the movement commonly known as Hindutva in India are increasingly perpetrating violence of the classic fascist variety. Recent attacks have occurred on tribal Christians in the state of Orissa, on the New Delhi headquarters of the CPM in New Delhi, and in several other places. This violence could be a prelude to the national elections, which are due within the next year, and offers a glimpse of the grim future that may affect the country if the right wing alliance comes back into power.


The past century witnessed numerous rightwing, authoritarian, majoritarian political parties and movements in different countries, some of which managed to capture power and morphed into fascist rulers.  Although their origin as well as the circumstances and contexts in which they acquired power differed, one common factor united them: a propensity for violence as both a tactic and a strategy to systematically intimidate and crush all opposition to a point where even the most minimal freedoms of speech and assembly disappeared.  The classic examples were European, symbolized by Mussolini’s Italy and Hitler’s Germany and groups like the Brownshirts who formed the early core of the Nazi gangs. Some of their philosophical successors in the movement broadly known as “Hindutva” (or Hindu-ness) have become prominent in India over the last several decades, and wherever they have gained a measure of political power the same violent tactics have reappeared.


One of Hindutva’s founders, Guru Golwalkar, expressed his admiration for Hitler in his autobiography published in the late 1930s. In school textbooks for high school students in Gujarat (education is a state subject in India), a state ruled by the BJP for more than 10 years and which is often referred to as a “laboratory” for Hindutva, the same admiration for Hitler is expressed. Bal Thackeray of the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra, often called “Hindu Hriday Samrat” (emperor of Hindu hearts) also praised Hitler in an interview he gave to Time Magazine some years ago.  This public adulation of a long dead fascist symbol with no other connection to India can be understood only in terms of the Hindu right’s obsession with violence and intimidation at which Hitler was undoubtedly a master.  In fact, the tactics of groups like Bajrang Dal or Shiv Sena directed at those they oppose, minorities, film makers, writers, artists, opposition political parties and figures, etc. closely resemble those of the notorious Nazi groups in 1930s Germany against Jews, writers, artists, communists, etc. especially after the Nazi Party had gained power in elections and Hitler became Chancellor (equivalent of today’s Prime Minister) in 1933.


The Gujarat pogrom directed against the Muslim minority in 2002, when over a thousand innocent men, women, children, and even fetuses, were mercilessly killed by rampaging Hindutva mobs, with full encouragement and connivance of the Gujarat government led by Narendra Modi, is an example of Hindutva’s use of state power in furthering its violent agenda. More recently, the same pattern has repeated itself in different ways in various states.


Christmas 2007 was marked by a violent assault on tribal Christians in attacks led by Hindutva groups beginning December 24 in the mountainous district of Kandhamal in Orissa, a state that is ruled by a party allied with the BJP.  Six poor Christians are believed to have died in the attacks. As detailed in a news article below, March 2008 witnessed a brazen assault by BJP goons on the CPM headquarters in the heart of New Delhi while a party central committee meeting was ongoing.  Several party leaders were seriously injured. While the police arrested some of the perpetrators, who happened to be local BJP politicians, the implications of the fact that such an attack can be launched in broad daylight against another parliamentary party are indeed troubling. BJP goons also attacked a popular leftist lending library in Hyderabad and terrorized and threatened with a knife the wife of a CPM member in her home in Bangalore when her husband was out at work.


On March 13, 2008, a documentary filmmaker Shubhradeep Chakravorty was trying to show a film in the local press club in Jaipur on fake police encounters in Gujarat, which have led to the death of numerous Muslim minority persons.  Jaipur is the capital of the state of Rajasthan currently ruled by the BJP.  In its edition of March 14, the Hindu newspaper reported that Mr. Chakravorty was “hounded out of the city on Thursday on the pretext of threat to peace and public order, much to the disappointment to the civil rights groups that wanted to apprise the people of the dangers of the State violence perpetrated against citizens.”


Such violence, of course, does not simply target minorities, artists, and intellectuals; it begins to extend in ways that often appear irrational to other targets that happen to be “different”. Earlier in February, in India’s financial capital Mumbai, Raj Thakre, nephew of Bal Thackeray, incited his party members to start attacking “North Indians” who happened to be working in low level jobs in Mumbai, Nasik, Pune, and other cities in Maharashtra. Several people were killed in this mindless violence and a panicky exodus of poor people began back to their villages in U.P. and Bihar.


This escalation of violence in recent months in states ruled by BJP or where Hindutva groups have a large presence is not completely accidental.  It is tied to the imminence of national elections, which have to be held within the next year. Many of the independent left activists who were so critical of CPM over Singur and Nandigram would do well to ponder over the fate of the country if the BJP alliance gains power once more.

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