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Hindutva: The Web of Fascism in India
'Militant Hinduism' is a term that existed prior to the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi by a former Rastriya Swayemsevak Sangh (RSS) member but only became widely known after this incident. While the Indian masses were battling their colonial rulers, the British, certain groups amongst them were focusing on a perceived internal conflict. Claiming to be the custodians of Hindu Nationalism, members of the RSS (National Volunteer Corps) were organizing an ideological movement to cleanse their society of foreign entities, specifically the Muslims and any minorities that did not pledge allegiance to Hinduism. After the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi the ruling Congress political party banned the RSS. During this time period a report documenting the ideology and structure of the RSS was circulated within the Congress membership. This report labeled the RSS as a "purely Maharashtrian Brahmin organization." [a] It noted that the RSS was involved in "secret and violent methods which promote Fascism," while disregarding the constitution and the law. In order to understand this ideology we must understand its roots, specifically Brahminism.
Brahmins are the apex of the hierarchical caste system predominant in Indian Hindu society. This system classifies people into four groups with the Brahmins at the throne and the untouchables, or Dalits, at the bottom. Women are not given any recognition in this system, while equating them to mere animals and property of man. This system is in place to secure power for the few in order to socially, religiously and politically oppress the masses of Hindu society. What we are witnessing is Brahminism attempting to spread its wings and control non-Hindu minority groups as well.
The objective of the RSS, a communal militant organization, is to Hinduize India and rid it of any foreign elements. However, according to Madhavrao Sadasivrao Golwalkar (a past leader of the RSS), foreign elements may coexist within the Hindu Nation provided they, "adopt the Hindu culture and language, learn to respect and hold in reverence the Hindu religion, entertain no idea but the glorification of the Hindu race and culture … they must not only give up their attitude of intolerance and ungratefulness towards this land and its age-old traditions, but must also cultivate the positive attitude of love and devotion instead; in one 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 citizen's rights." An analysis of this ideology reveals three major ingredients which are required for its success: a homogenized Hindu community based on Brahmanical scriptural prescriptions; subordination, if not elimination, of the members of other denominations; and the creation of an aggressive Hindu community.
While Adolf Hitlers' fascist regime committed genocide supported by the ideology of race purity, the RSS and its affiliates have adopted a similar philosophy with the exception that they are pursuing religious purity. As noted by Aijaz Ahmad, unlike Hitler, "for whom the crossing over from one race to another was simply impossible, Savarkar (past Hindu Mahasabha leader and much-respected personality in RSS circles) does offer to non-Hindu "races" an alternative, namely that they can re-join this mainstream if they convert to Hinduism and bring up their children as Hindus." [b]
Founded in 1925, the RSS adopted the German and Italian fascist government model to further its agenda. The agenda was implemented by an intricate structure of subsidiary groups, which infiltrated all parts of the social fabric, including education, politics, labor unions and economics. Amongst their affiliates, the most important and influential were the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), Shiv Sena, and their political party the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP), which was formed when the original Jan Sangh party was disbanded to merge with a larger political formation in 1977. Today these groups are collectively referred to as the 'Sang Parivar.' The foundation of the Sang Parivar remains the predominantly upper-caste (Brahmins) trade-professionals while the henchmen are the lower middle-class youth. Italian scholar, Marzia Casolari who draws parallels between Hindutva and the fascist ideology of Italy, exposes the Sang Parivar's doctrine of separatism and supremacy.
Marzia researched numerous publications issued during the early years of the RSS and found that there existed evidence of direct contact between leaders of the RSS and the Italian fascist government and also the German representatives in India at the time. She notes that B. S. Moonje's (founder of the parent of the RSS) trip to Italy in 1931 during which he met Mussolini, was more than just a politically motivated visit.
The highlight of the visit was the meeting with Mussolini. An interesting account of the trip and the meeting is given in Moonje's diary, and takes thirteen pages. The Indian leader was in Rome from 15 to 24 March 1931. On 19 March, in Rome, he visited, among others, the Military College, the Central Military School of Physical Education, the Fascist Academy of Physical Education, and, most important, the Balilla and Avanguardisti organizations. These two organizations, which he describes in more than two pages of his diary, were the keystone of the fascist system of indoctrination - rather than education - of the youths. Their structure is strikingly similar to that of the RSS. They recruited boys from the age of six, up to eighteen: the youths had to attend weekly meetings, where they practiced physical exercises, received paramilitary training and performed drills and parades.
The RSS publications at the time, primarily the 'Kesari,' regularly published editorials and articles about Italy, fascism and Mussolini. Vinayak D. Savarkar (a.k.a. Veer Savarkar), president of the Hindu Mahasabha, a subsidiary of the Sang Parivar, pronounced in front of about 20,000 people in Poona on 1 August 1938 that, "India's foreign policy must not depend on "isms". Germany has every right to resort to Nazism and Italy to Fascism and events have justified that those isms and forms of Governments were imperative and beneficial to them under the conditions that obtained there." It was normal procedure for the Sang Parivar to compare the Jewish problem in Germany to the Muslim problem in India thus embedding the idea of the 'internal enemy' into the Hindu masses who were willing to listen. The Sang Parivar's top priority was to infiltrate all sections of the social and political structure of the Indian Government because they understood that the rise of fascism in Germany and Italy occurred through a combination of street violence (carefully orchestrated by the upper echelons and implemented with great mass support), deep infiltration into the police, bureaucracy and army, and the connivance of political leaders." Sumit Sarkar wrote, after the 1992 communal riots in Mumbai, that "the triumph of Hindutva, 'hard' or 'soft', implies for Muslims and other minority groups…a second-class citizenship at best, constant fear of riots amounting to genocide, a consequent strengthening of the most conservative and fundamentalist groups within such communities." [c]
Partha Banerjee, who has had first hand experience with the Sang Parivar for fifteen years of her life, notes that "the Hindu fundamentalist RSS-BJP-VHP and the Shiv Sena are no different from radical Muslim groups such as the Jamat-e-Islami or the Taliban." In their attacks towards the Christian missionaries, the Sang Parivar influenced the minds of their followers by using violent propaganda. [d]
"Jesus is junk. It is high time for Hindus to learn that Jesus Christ symbolizes no spiritual power, or moral uprightness. He is no more than an artifice for legitimizing wanton imperialist aggression. The aggressors have found him to be highly profitable so far. By the same token, Hindus should know that Jesus means nothing but mischief for their country and culture." [Sita Ram Goel. 1994. Jesus Christ-An Artifice of Aggression. Voice of India, New Delhi. Prominent leader and theorist of RSS]
Ms. Banerjee, who is writing a book about her experience, has witnessed Sang Parivar activists climb the political ladder within the BJP to become high-level politicians, influencing homeland and foreign policies. Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the current Prime Minister, is a life-long RSS member. BJP's political ally Shiv Sena (SS) and its dictatorial leader Bal Thackeray have been openly supportive of social aspects of society that are racist and oppressive. Mr. Thackeray has gone so far as to say that democracy is not for India and what Indians need is a "benign dictatorship."
Mr.Golwalkar's book "We or Our Nationhood Defined" published in 1938 was a testament to the ideology the Sang Privar upholds. His comparison of the Hindutva ideology with the fascist agenda of Germany is alarming. An excerpt is provided below.
German race pride has now become the topic of the day. 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 Hindusthan (i.e., the land of Hindus) to learn and profit by.
In order to implement its agenda, the Sang Parivar requires massive financial support and this it receives from various covert charity groups, which are dispersed throughout India and the diaspora. According to Ms. Banerjee, financial support for the Sang Parivar's activities comes from various charitable groups some of whom collect under the banner of eradicating poverty and social upliftment. However, these funds are funneled to support the activities of the Sang Parivar.
Money is also reportedly pumped in and out by other organizations such as the Overseas Friends of BJP (OFBJP), VHP of America, and the Hindu Student Council or HSC of America. Traditionally conservative, but apolitical Hindu temples in USA and Europe are now targeted by the Sangh in order to mobilize second-generation Indian-American youth through organization of VHP-sponsored Hindu summer camps and various religious conventions of HSC. Under the guise of cultural education, a whole generation is being indoctrinated to be blind, separatists, and bigots. Many Indian immigrants, ignorant of the relationship of the VHP and HSC with BJP and RSS, are being used to further the fascist-like sociopolitical agenda of the Sangh Parivar.
In the 1990s the Sang Parivar invented the 'Ram Janam Bhoomi' platform to build a Hindu temple at the site of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya. This caused severe communal rioting during 1992 in Mumbai killing thousands of innocent Muslims and Hindus. Their contention was that the mosque, known as Babri Masjid (after the Islamic ruler Babar) was built upon the ruins of a Hindu temple that was supposedly demolished by "Muslim" invaders. This temple, the Sangh says, was built to mark the holy birthplace of Rama, the God king. The Sangh contends that a temple with pillars had indeed been there since the eleventh century. However, even a devoted pro-BJP Belgian columnist, Koenraad Elst, in his book argues:
"When that building (the temple) was destroyed, we do not know precisely, there are no descriptions of the event extant anywhere. Mohammed Ghori's armies arrived there in 1194, and they may have destroyed it. It may have been rebuilt afterwards, or it may only have been destroyed by later Muslim lieutenants. So it is possible that when Mir Baqi, Babar's lieutenant, arrived there in 1528, he found a heap of rubble, or an already aging mosque, rather than a magnificent Hindu temple."
Other archeologists plainly assert that there has not been a single piece of evidence for the existence of a temple of brick, stone or both. This entire episode was clearly politically motivated being that Uttar Pradesh (U.P.), where the incident occurred, has the largest number of parliamentary seats and is important enough to sway the outcome of the elections for one party or another. The result was favorable for the BJP. They managed to form a short-lived coalition government in U.P. in 1995, paving the way for a big win in the 1996 elections.
The anti-Pakistan sentiment, which reigns high on the BJP agenda, is nothing new. Its predecessor the Jan Sangh was also anti-Pakistan. According to Bipan Chandra, former Professor of History at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, the "Jan Sangh was strongly anti-Pakistan." According to one of its resolutions passed at the end of 1960s, Pakistan's ``aim is to sustain the faith of Indian Muslims with the ultimate objective of establishing Muslim domination over the rest of India as well." Now with the BJP having significant influence in the Indian polity with a member of RSS as Prime Minister, the anti-Pakistan card is being played repeatedly with everything from everyday crime to communal rioting being blamed on Pakistan along with the militant excursions into Indian Kashmir. The massacre of innocent Sikh Kashmiris during former US President Bill Clinton's visit to India, which was initially blamed on Islamic militants supported by Pakistan, has been exposed as an Indian Government plot by Amnesty International and various other independent human rights groups. The related DNA scandal, which exposed the governments plot to frame certain individuals related to the massacre was spoiled when it was discovered that the men had been dead prior to the incident.
While attempting to understand the psyche of the Sang Parivar, one must not disregard its external influence, the bond with fascism made by its founders, with the objective to convert the average citizen into a soldier. Savarkar introduced the roadmap for the Sang Parivar during a speech he made on August 1, 1938. While referring to the situation in Germany and Italy he said:
Germany has every right to resort to Nazism and Italy to Fascism and events have justified that those isms and forms of Governments were imperative and beneficial to them under the conditions that obtained there. Bolshevism might have suited Russia and Democracy as it is obtained in Briton (sic) to the British people.
Marzia Casolari noted that the "continuous reference to German racial policy and the comparison of the Jewish problem in Germany with the Muslim question in India reveals the evolution of the concept of 'internal enemy' along explicitly fascist lines." This concept is now coming to fruition with the state sponsored communal violence, which is being unleashed sporadically with precision. The henchmen of the RSS and VHP are provided lists of Muslim homes and shops from government offices that are controlled by BJP politicians. Human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International (AI), have documented this fact during their investigations of various violent communal outbreaks. One interesting fact about these outbreaks is that they are unquestionably labeled as 'riots,' which would imply violent public disorder or unrest. However, fatality figures show that a specific minority community is targeted and suffers a disproportionately larger number of losses. Victims who are protecting themselves and their families and property generally cause fatalities on the other side and this is to be expected. Some examples of pogroms, carried out by government sponsored hoodlums armed with knives, kerosene, axes and lists of homes and business of the targeted community, are the killings of innocent Sikhs after the death of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in November of 1984, and the murders of innocent Muslims in Gujarat in March of 2002 after the Godra incident. Some trends of violence that have emerged from these incidents are indicative of the zeal of the Sang Parivar and its followers to humiliate and coerce a group into submission or eradicate them.
The Indian society holds a woman's honor at a high stature, not so much for the well being of the woman but more for the public standing of the family she represents. Thus in order to demean a group the tactic of sexual violence (including gang rape) against the women folk is employed. The HRW report notes that, "tragically consistent with the longstanding pattern of attacks on minorities and Dalits (or so-called untouchables) in India, and with previous episodes of large-scale communal violence in India, scores of Muslim girls and women were brutally raped in Gujarat before being mutilated and burnt to death." The report further states, that "testimonies collected by the Citizens' Initiative, a coalition of over twenty-five NGOs, and submitted to the National Human Rights Commission are replete with incidents of gang rapes of Muslim girls and women." Another trend which was noted during the anti-Sikh pogroms and also recently during the communal violence in Gujarat is the burning of evidence. Victims of rape and other atrocities are burned beyond recognition. The assailants carry cans of kerosene with them for this purpose and also to destroy property.
The report on the Gujarat incident issued by Human Rights Watch (HRW April 2002 Vol. 14, No. 3(C)) cites evidence supporting the conclusion that "groups most directly responsible for violence against Muslims in Gujarat include the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, the Bajrang Dal, the ruling BJP, and the umbrella organization Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (National Volunteer Corps, RSS), all of whom collectively form the sangh parivar (or "family" of Hindu nationalist groups)." The report talks about the formation of the RSS, and states that its agenda is to "propagate a militant form of Hindu nationalism which it promotes as the sole basis for national identity in India." It also notes that the Chief Minister of Gujarat during these events, Narendra Modi, is a former RSS volunteer.
The United States Immigration and Nationality Act defines terrorist activity to mean: any such activity which is unlawful under the laws of the place where it is committed (reference Section 212 (a)(3)(B) of the US Immigration and Nationality Act), clearly, the actions and ideology of the RSS and its affiliates befit the definition of terrorist activity as defined above. They commit unlawful acts of violence against civilian communities. Such acts are considered unlawful in India and would also be considered unlawful in the United States. However, rarely are the assailants brought to justice in India because the ruling polity is either a political branch of the rogue organizations or seeks to benefit from such communal violence with respect to politics. This was evident in the recent, post-Gujarat communal violence, elections in which the culpable Chief Minister, Narendra Modi, won another term based on a platform of communal violence and Hindutva. HRW notes that violence against Christians increased after the BJP came to power in 1998 and then a significant escalation was noted in "the months preceding national parliamentary elections in September and October 1999." (Politics by other means, 1999).
The Sang Parivar and its henchmen use conventional weapons (in some instances use of chemical weapons has also been reported) and sexual violence to spread fear and further their objectives. Destruction of personal and business property and religious institutions is also conducted to displace minority communities and prevent their return. These terrorist activities are funded by donations collected by organizations, which pose as social reform groups working for the betterment of Indian Society. These groups convince Indians in the diaspora, most of whom are unsuspecting, that they should provide financial assistance for the upliftment of their poor brethren back in India. One of the most respectable US based charitable groups linked to the Sang Parivar is the India Development and Relief Fund (IDRF). While on the surface the IDRF claims to be a non-sectarian, non-political charity that funds development and relief work in India, the reality is quite the contrary. A report (Foreign Exchange of Hate) by South Asia Citizens Web (SACW), based in France, documents the links between the IDRF, a Maryland, US based charity, and certain violent and sectarian Hindu supremacist organizations in India. The report cites evidence that the IDRFs tax exempt certificate, form 1023, lists nine organizations, which it supports in India, and all nine are clearly identified by Sangh Parivar literature and websites as member organizations.
[a] - National Archives of India (NAI), New Delhi, Sardar Patel Correspondence, microfilm, reel n.3, undated document entitled "A Note on the RSS".
[b] - The politics of hate by Aijaz Ahmad.
[c] - The Fascism of the Sangh Parivar by Sumit Sarkar.
[d] - In the Belly of the Beast - The Hindu Supremacist RSS and BJP of India - An Insider's Story by Partha Banerjee.
1. India - Politics By Other Means: Attacks Against Christians in India. October 1999 Vol. 11, No. 6 (C).
2. The Foreign Exchange of Hate - IDRF and the American Funding of Hindutva. © 2002, Sabrang Communications & Publishing Pvt. Ltd, Mumbai, India, and The South Asia Citizens Web, France.
3. Hindutva's foreign tie-up in the 1930s: Archival evidence by Marzia Casolari.
4. Towards a Hindu nation by KN Panikkar.
5. Jan Sangh: The BJP's Predecessor by Bipan Chandra.
6. RSS forays into Punjab by Praveen Swami.
7. US congressional record: Hon. Dan Burton of Indiana in the House of Representatives, Tuesday, May 14, 2002.
8. India: Hate speeches on the violence in Gujarat must be stopped - AI Index: ASA 20/019/2002 (Public) News Service No: 183, 16 October 2002.
9. India - Religious violence reaches unacceptable levels - AI Index: ASA 20/03/99 25 JANUARY 1999.
Fifty Five years of Indian independence.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE August 15, 2002
On August 15, India celebrates 54 years of independence from British rule. India's independence is also popularly known as the partition period. But what was truly partitioned? The partition, which created Hindustan and Pakistan, parted Punjab, the homeland of the Sikhs. The events preceding this period were critical for the Sikhs as they were in a position to secure autonomy for their homeland. This, however, did not materialize due to reasons stemming from the socio-political atmosphere of the time. The dominant political party, Congress, assured the Sikhs that the constitution would not be ratified until it satisfied their concerns regarding the autonomy of Punjab, the sovereignty of the Sikh religion, and the security of the Sikh Identity.
Prevalent leaders of the era, such as Mohan Dass Karam Chand Gandhi and Jawahar Lal Nehru conceded various resolutions to assure the Sikhs that their rights would be safeguarded in the new land. After receiving such seemingly concrete and solemn promises from the Congress leaders, the Sikhs decided to proceed alongside India and did not pursue a separate nation. Today an individual with even a mediocre knowledge of the events, which have transpired amongst the Sikhs and their so-called keepers, between 1947 and today, will declare that the Sikhs were betrayed.
More than 52,000 Sikh political prisoners are rotting in Indian jails without charge or trial. Many have been in illegal custody since 1984. Over 50,000 Sikhs have been arrested, tortured, and murdered by the Indian police and security forces, then declared "unidentified" and secretly cremated. General Narinder Singh has said, "Punjab is a police state." U.S. Congressman Dana Rohrabacher has said that for Sikhs, Kashmiri Muslims, and other minorities "India might as well be Nazi Germany." . Indian security forces have murdered over 250,000 Sikhs since 1984, according to figures reported in The Politics of Genocide by Inderjit Singh Jaijee. The U.S. State Department reported in 1994 that the Indian government paid out over 41,000 cash bounties to police officers for killing Sikhs. Since Christmas 1998, a wave of violence against Christians has seen priests murdered, nuns being raped, churches being burned, Christian schools and prayer halls destroyed, and no one has been punished for these acts.
Militant Hindu fundamentalists allied with the pro-Fascist RSS, the parent organization of the ruling BJP, burned missionary Graham Staines and
his two young sons to death. Recent news reports of DNA sample tampering have confirmed that in March 2000 the Indian government massacred 35 innocent Sikhs in Chithisinghpora to further their haphazard campaign against the struggle for autonomy in the Kashmir region (The Times of India, March 06, 2002 - J&K fudges DNA samples to cover up killings). Amnesty International has also stated that the evidence in the Chithisinghpora massacre points to the Indian State (Amnesty International - Summary of Report - ASA 20/24/00 June 2000 ). The Indian Government continues to use violent methods to quell peaceful political activism, a right of an individual living in a democratic state (18 hurt in Malout firing, Chander Parkash ,Tribune News Service).
When independent Human Rights organizations have attempted to investigate human rights violation in India they have been denied access in order to veil the terror campaigns wielded by India on its minorities. This was the case post 1984 anti-Sikh pogrom and recently after the 2002 anti-Muslim pogrom in Gujrat (BBC South Asia News, Tuesday, 23 July, 2002). U.S. Congressman Joe Pitts has condemned the atrocities committed by Hindu extremists in Gujarat, India, against Muslims and other minority groups (House of Representatives - June 18, 2002). Human Rights Watch has indicted Indian officials for the Gujrat genocide. The Indian polity is aligned with fascist terrorist organizations such as the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the Rashtriya Swayemsevak Sang (RSS) responsible for the oppression of non-Hindus who refuse to assimilate into the ideology of Hindutva. These groups have clearly stated that until minorities in India learn to earn the goodwill of the Hindu majority by accepting Hinduism as the umbrella religion they will continue to be persecuted (Hindustan Times, March 28, 2002). Christians have also been victims of VHP and RSS aggression in Gujrat (No season of goodwill for India's Christians - BBC News, December 28, 1998).
On August 15, 2002, India celebrates 55 years of independence while its minority citizens; the Sikhs, the Christians, the Muslims and the Dalits observe 55 years of repression and state-sponsored carnage.
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