The annexation of Indian Occupied Kashmir by the government of PM Modi signifies the onset of a new dynamic of power in the Subcontinent that could have serious consequences for global security as much as for the political structures of India and, possibly, Pakistan.
In this the first of a three-part series of articles we will discuss the ideological roots of this fateful Modi move to indicate the tendency of his government for another military adventure against Pakistan.
Unlike any other political leader in post-independence India, PM Modi’s political thinking – as indeed his national security policy – emanates out of the vision of an Akhand Bharat and the associated ideology of Hindutva. The phrase ‘Akhand Bharat’ means Undivided India. This term arises from the belief that the whole of the Indian subcontinent is sacred land, meant for and to be restored to the Hindus.
The term Hindutva refers to the concept of a homogenized majority that establishes cultural hegemony. Professor Prabhat Patnaik formerly at Cambridge University and now at Jawaharlal Nehru University, and India’s foremost left-wing intellectual, suggests that “The Hindutva movement as it has emerged is, almost in a classical sense, Fascist in its ideology, Fascist in its class support, Fascist in its methods, and Fascist in its programme.”
We would argue that the Hindutva ideology has four features which it shares with 20th century German fascism:
The first is the notion of race superiority. In the context of the RSS-based BJP ideology, as in the case of the ‘Master race’ in Nazi Germany, Hindus are considered a superior race whereas the other communities of the Subcontinent are to be subordinated to Hindu rule – hence, the pursuit of Indian hegemony over other countries of South Asia. The attempt to demonstrate Indian military dominance through what turned out to be a botched air strike across the international border in Balakot on Feb 26, 2019 is one example. Pakistan’s more effective counter-strike the following day added to the frustration of the BJP government and fed the desire to demonstrate their regional dominance and to redeem their military pride.
The second feature is the concept of racial purity. When carried to the extreme, this involves ‘ethnic cleansing;, that is, exorcising Bharat Mata (Mother India) the sacred land of the Hindus, of the ‘inferior races’ through genocide. Examples of this are the roving gangs of RSS militant extremists who organize lynching of Muslims and arson attacks on their homes. There is the earlier terrible example of a pogrom when over a 1000 Muslims were killed in Gujarat in 2002, by RSS cadres during the watch of the then CM Gujarat Modi.
The venue of ethnic cleansing is sometimes the body of a woman belonging to the ‘inferior race’. Tariq Ali, the celebrated socialist activist and author, has cited a terrible incident reported by Professor Angana Chatterji of UC Berkeley, in her fieldwork in Indian Occupied Kashmir: “Many have been forced to witness the rape of women and girl family members. A mother who was reportedly commanded to watch her daughter’s rape by army personnel pleaded for her child’s release. They refused. She then pleaded that she could not watch and asked to be sent out of the room or else killed. The soldier put a gun to her forehead, stating that he would grant her wish, and shot her dead before they proceeded to rape her daughter.”
The third feature is that militarism is integral to the idea of a superior race and its political culture. Hence, the militaristic parades of RSS cadres wearing brown shorts and black caps. The former reminiscent of the youth wing of the German Nazi party, and the latter replicating the headgear of Mussolini’s fascist cadres in Italy during the 1930s. The celebration of physical prowess is also an aspect of the idea of a ‘superior race’. Examples of this are the physical training sessions for RSS cadres, the pride taken by the Indian media in PM Modi’s broad-chested machismo and the latest launching by PM Modi of the ‘Fit India’ movement.
Finally, the last feature is the manifestation of racial superiority through territorial expansion, as a form of restoring a mythical glorious past empire. The projection of military power through the systematic development of military weapons for a war machine by Hitler and the subsequent invasion of Czechoslovakia and later most of Europe, was an essential aspect of this idea: the ‘Master race’ could establish hegemony over neighbouring countries and ‘inferior races’.
The annexation of Indian Occupied Kashmir by the Modi government is symptomatic of the same tendency. Indeed, it is specifically mentioned in the BJP Manifesto 2019 document: “We reiterate our position since the time of the Jan Sangh to the abrogation of Article 370.”
The purpose of analyzing the nature of the ideology that had moulded the mind of Modi and his associates and is now shaping their policy is to suggest that the annexation of Indian Occupied Kashmir is only the first step in the Hindutva project. Unless Modi is challenged effectively, the fait accompli he has tried to present to the Kashmiris and to Pakistan will be established by the passage of time.
The next step in the pursuit of the Hindutva project is to restore Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan into the mythical lap of Bharat Mata. The intent of this further territorial expansion was made explicit in the Indian parliament by their Home Minister Amit Shah when he declared in Hindi, “PoK also falls within Kashmir. We will give up our lives for it”
The writer is a dean at the Information Technology University Lahore.