Hindutva Fascism: What It Is and How to Fight It


Analytical Monthly Review, published in Kharagpur, West Bengal, India, is a sister edition of Monthly Review.  The text below is based on the editorial in its September 2013 issue. — Ed.

The parliamentary elections of 2014 are now casting their shadow ahead.  The nationwide elections on a five-year schedule have become a festival, with the decorations manufactured by the media monopoly and the parliamentary parties.  The prospects are dismal for any sign of intelligent engagement with crucial issues.  Instead, we are to be subjected — by the tacit agreement of our rulers — to a mixture of social politics in the repulsive form of communalist agitation, and economic discussions in which “reform” and “development” mean abject subjection to the interests of U.S. capital and its domestic plutocratic satellites.  The recent anointment of Narendra Modi as BJP Prime Ministerial candidate has added momentum as we slide down this path.  The real issue of the Gujarat pogrom of 2002 under the criminal supervision of Narendra Modi as Chief Minister now comes to the fore only to counter the “Vikash Purush” of Gujarat.  It looks as if there will not be much difference from previous experience — either fear of Modi will push a slapdash majority behind another five years of Chidambaram & Co corruption and economic polarization, or a BJP-led government will follow the same “free market” policies accompanied by a small dose of its communal program.  One way or another, the electoral fraud of “choice” will be accomplished.  But looked at from a longer perspective, things may be moving toward more dramatic events.

For the great majority — those to whom the price of onions is a very serious daily concern — life has been increasingly difficult.  The Manmohan Singh-Chidambaram regime is worn out and mired in endless scams and corruption.  For reasons with which we are all too familiar, the real alternative from the Left will not be an available option in the Great Electoral Festival.  The RSS has realized that large sections of people desire change — and would not bother to analyze what is the change that the RSS and its political affiliate BJP stand for.  One should not ignore the recent report of the meeting between BJP veteran LK Advani and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat.  It is most unusual for the RSS to come out with a statement on the meeting between two top leaders.  These relations are normally presented as unofficial.  The BJP is now openly under the control of the RSS.  On this occasion, the RSS forced all dissenting senior leaders of the BJP to acquiesce in declaring Modi as the PM candidate.  The RSS not just appoints the BJP’s leadership but also controls the organisation even in micro matters.  What this means is that all those who expect a new BJP government to follow a centre-right path independent from RSS control are mistaken.  This is not a second version of the Vajpayee experience, when Hindutva initiatives were sidelined in the interest of pushing the “free market reforms” under which we have suffered now for more than two decades.  The lesson the RSS have drawn from the 2004 election is that a new BJP-led national government following the “free market reforms” path will in its turn be rejected; they believe that 2014 offers an opportunity for a long-lasting domination.

Param Vaibhav Ke Path Par (On the Road to Great Glory) written by Sadanand Damodar Sapre, and published in 1997 by Suruchi Prakashan, Jhandewalan, New Delhi, the central publication house of the RSS, lists the many dozens of organisations maintained by the RSS in India.  Many of these organisations have been put together in a true fascist and clandestine manner.  For instance while giving the details of Hindu Jagaran Manch (HJM), the book says, “From the point of view of Hindu awakening this kind of forums (HJM) at present are active in 17 states with different names like ‘Hindu Manch’ in Delhi, ‘Hindu Munani’ in Tamil nadu, ‘Hinduekjut’ in Maharashtra.  These are forums, not associations or organizations, that’s why it is not required to have membership, registration and elections”.  It is clear that these work together to avoid scrutiny by law and government.  Such an organisational mode provides an opportunity for the RSS to disown anybody, as convenient.  BJP, RSS, VHP and other Sangh outfits on 8th September held a meeting to discuss coordination strategy in preparation for Lok Sabha polls.  The conclave discussed the issues that need to be taken to the people from the block level upwards.  They also said that the meeting would “chalk out strategy” for better coordination between Sangh organisations.  The Sangh outfits, it is said, plan to carry out programmes to reach out to all sections — minorities, SC, OBCs, tribals, women and the young — in tandem.  This is a programme that dispenses with “allies” — the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh is preparing to take on the rest of the political parties.

One key to their confidence is belief that they now have the support of key centers of capital, even beyond what Vajpayee was able to achieve.  And there is reason to believe that is the case given the hype from the corporate media on the issue of “Gujarat Model” with the headlines “Modi moves centre-stage!”, “Modi storms in as the BJP’s PM candidate”, “It’s Narendra Modi vs Rahul Gandhi!”, “Modi wants to serve the nation”.   Looking forward, the corporate and financial masters might well prefer the efficiency with which Modi has implemented the neo-liberal policies in Gujarat.  As a review of Atul Sood‘s Poverty Amidst Prosperity: Essays on the Trajectory of Development of Gujarat sums up, the ‘rule of law’ in Gujarat has meant more of ‘political culture of authoritarianism’, which might explain the high incidence of labour unrest in Gujarat, but interestingly “it is this culture of authoritarianism, which gives faith and belief to the investor, to invest in Gujarat, even when this authoritarianism has manifested itself more recently in spectacular form in acts of violence against the religious minorities, scheduled tribes and lower castes.”

As reported in the Indian Express earlier this year, Anil Ambani, head of India’s third-largest telecommunications company, sitting beside Modi on the dais of Vibrant Gujarat-2013, said “Narendrabhai has Arjuna-like clarity of vision.  Narendrabhai literally is the lord of men, a leader among leaders and the king among kings.”  Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani, who flanked Modi on the other side, described the CM as “a leader with a grand vision”.  Describing Gujarat’s progress as “stunning”, Ron Somers, the president of US-India Business Council, said Modi had set a new benchmark of “progress trumps politics”.  Even the unofficial EU boycott of Modi has now been ended over a lunch in residence of Michael Steiner, Germany’s envoy to India in January.  The boycott stemmed from the 2002 pogroms in Gujarat.  The U.S. State Department is yet to reconsider its 2005 decision to revoke Modi’s visa, but when it does one should not be surprised.

In our mainstream media dissent in Modi’s Gujarat is rarely mentioned.  It would appear that, unlike other states, farmers’ protests or acts of violence by disadvantaged groups do not seem to occur.  As Praful Biswai writes, the reason is the “lionising of Mr. Modi by Indian businessmen and the corporate media.  They depict him as a Knight in Shining Armour who will rescue India from economic stagnation, poverty, and missed opportunities towards ‘progress,’ and promote the ‘Gujarat Model’ of development. . . .  Big Business loves the ‘Gujarat Model’ precisely because it likes imbalances biased towards private industry and because Modi lavishes favours upon capital through huge tax write-offs.”

The RSS also counts on evidence of increasing religiosity.  According to the 2007 IBN-CNN-Hindustan Times State of the Nation poll (conducted by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies), cited by Meera Nanda in her book The God Market: How Globalization Is Making India More Hindu, “[a]mong Indians, the level of religiosity has gone up considerably during the last five years.  While 30 per cent said they had become more religious during the last five years, only 5 per cent mentioned in negative.”  The same survey, says Nanda, “also found that education and exposure to modern urban life seems to make Indians more, not less religious: ‘urban educated Indians are more religious than their rural and illiterate counterparts . . . religiosity has increased more in small towns and cities than in villages.'”

Nanda perfectly assesses the present condition:

Popular Hinduism is undergoing a great resurgence. . . .  [T]he rich and the poor alike are turning to gods and gurus; pujaris, astrologers, vastu shastris, spiritual advisers are all doing a thriving business.  What may seem like a paradox, the resurgence of popular Hinduism is happening not against the grain of Indian secularism, but because of it.  The Indian brand of secularism has allowed the state to maintain an intimate and nurturing relationship with the majority religion.  As the neo-liberal state has entered into a partnership with the private sector, a cosy triangular relationship has emerged between the state, the corporate sector, and the Hindu establishment. . . .  The state-temple-corporate complex is creating new institutional spaces where Hinduism is renewing itself so as to remain relevant to the new social context created by the global political economy.  But in the process of renewing itself, it is also taking on nationalistic overtones by turning rituals into politicized assertions of Hindu identity.  This process of converting ritual spaces into politicized public spaces is so commonplace, so banal, and so much a part of our collective common sense that it passes unnoticed — and unchecked. . . .  [O]rdinary Hindu rituals end up merging the worship of god with the worship of the nation.

To harvest political power on this fertile ground, RSS has now overtly taken control of its political wing BJP and dreams of a far deeper turnover than that achieved in 1998.  They are preparing to say and do whatever it takes to win power now in their own right, using different tactics for different regions, segments of the society — if in some places they are using economic agenda then in other places the core issues of Ram Temple, abolition of Article 370 in Kashmir and Uniform Civil Code.  They are even changing their stand in some cases where the situation is going against their vote bank.  After the brutal murder of Dr Narendra Dabholkar, leading crusader in the anti-superstition movement, suddenly the BJP and Shiv Sena are no longer opposing the Maharashtra Eradication of Blind Faith Bill.  In short we can expect no lie too big, no position too inconsistent, if it brings the RSS closer to power.

Led by the blood-stained Modi, the RSS-BJP-Sangh Parivar is moving on to the next step in seizing power nationwide as a force properly described as fascist, that is “primarily a specific type of politics, involving radical authoritarianism, militarized activism, and the drive for a centralizing repressive state, with a radical-nationalist, communalist, and frequently racialist creed, and violent antipathy for both liberal democracy and socialism”1   Neo-liberal policies and “legal” repression have pulverized the masses away from collective activities to change their life, the only decisive barrier to this development.  In the event of what the mass media would call a “stunning victory” — even if it falls short of Parliamentary majorities — it would be a mistake to expect successful resistance from the totally discredited Congress regime, yet less from regional “secular” corrupt politicians who have collaborated with the BJP in the past and will do so again.

We are describing a course of events that to us seems possible, but by no means certain.  Yet the danger is now clear, and is the result of over twenty years of neo-liberal “reforms”.  What can decent political people do?  The parliamentary Left stumbles toward the futile mistake of unprincipled alliances with corrupt “secular” politicians — but the only correct course is a turn to the left, a mass mobilisation based on opposition not only to the threat of Hindutva fascism but also to the breeding ground of that danger, neo-liberalism.  The RSS, on their own terms, are gearing up for an all-out assault; we must prepare to fight back on ours.

1  Radical Perspective on the Rise of Fascism in Germany, 1919-1945, edited by Michael N. Dobowski & Isidor Wallimann, Kharagpur: Cornerstone Publications, 2003.

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