In this paper, I look at some features of Hindutva and compare it to Zionism. As ideological currents that are both powerfully placed with respect to U.S. imperialism’s global ambitions, this comparison is meant to sound a warning to all peace-loving and democratic minded people; fascism is on the rise again, and with alliances developing like those between Hindutva and Zionism, lack of knowledge about either could lead to catastrophic consequences. The struggle of Palestine for freedom and self-determination is tied to the struggle of India for freedom from the neo-colonial order being imposed at the behest of the IMF-WTO regime and its U.S. sponsors and domestic lackeys. Zionism and Hindutva are global movements with a history that is both fascistic and pro-imperialist. Here are some reflections. I use lengthy quotes for the simple reason that it is better to allow authors to speak for themselves rather than paraphrase them; hopefully this curtails monologue and allows for a richer representation of the issues. The sources at the end of the document are to be treated as resources, many of them available over the internet for more in-depth study.
For Palestinians and Arabs interested in why India’s solidarity with the Palestinian cause is under threat, I have gone into some detail about the historic affinities of Hindutva with European fascism, and most importantly, the anti-national, pro-imperialist past and present of Hindutva. For Indians and South Asians, I draw upon the similarities of Hindutva and Zionism because we are caught in wave after wave of imperialist nurtured and sponsored chauvinism, and are yet unable to grasp at the global dimensions of our histories. The longer we are left to the mercies of lunatics like the Hindutvadis (and their counterparts), the more distant any hope for real freedom, and revolutionary change will be. This is precisely what the Yankee imperialists want, and this is why they have always excelled in supporting all sides of fascism simultaneously. Let us meditate on the issues and develop global vision, so that we can more effectively work towards a decent future for South Asia.
What takes place in South Asia is crucial to the Arab world. For decades now, the Arab world is dominated by pro-imperialist regimes standing shakily between their people and their imperialist allegiances. Strangely enough, Saudi Arabia, which is a major U.S. ally, draws no condemnation for its medieval practices against its domestic and migrant population. Israel, which practices apartheid, and commits atrocities on a daily basis with no restraints on barbarity, is called a ‘democratic friend,’ by its U.S. puppeteers. The ability of the great numbers of dispossessed, and marginalized from South Asia and the Arab world to establish effective means to build on their solidarity and confront their common enemies is being targeted day and night by endless attempts by imperialism and its domestic lackeys. One of the means they have often used is by taking advantage of the incredible illiteracy and poverty endemic to great sections of these regions: fundamentalism has been a useful tool for the imperialists, from Talibanism, to Hindutva. Whether people have started growing beards, or whether they have started singing praise to Rama, theirs is a lot that is at the mercies of the global capitalists; and this is what the so-called fundamentalists have to show for their achievements: delivering their peoples to the slaughterhouse of yankee capitalism while torturing their capacity to resist out of them, by directing their suffering towards concocted enemies, almost always, people within our own societies. It is the people who suffer, and sacrifice endlessly. Global capitalists and the prison guards of the new world order (our so called ‘leaders’), make grand proclamations about globalization, but in the same breath, use every means to disempower, dispossess, and disarm their victims.
This paper is part of a continuing effort to demolish the tower of lies and fallacies being built up by hateful and cowardly people and their disgusting institutions, practices and ideologies. I name three of them relevant to this paper: U.S. imperialism, the godfather, Zionism and Hindutva, the running bloodhounds of the former. This paper is copyLefted; meaning, you may freely spread it far and wide to like minded people who are interested in fighting against this monstrosity. Giving credit has the most important function of enabling someone to research by themselves, rather than taking your word for it. So in that spirit, let us embark on this brief, and hopefully fruitful meditation.
Note: Sangh Parivar: The coalition of Hindu extremist organizations who subscribe to the ideology of Hindutva
Brahmanism: pertaining to the culture, ideology and practices of Brahmanism, associated with Brahmins and upper caste Hindus. It is often related to the veneration of the Vedas, the sacred hymns (mytho-poetry) of the Brahmin priests; specifically I use it to denote the chauvinistic, elitist, and racist aspects of the ideology and practice of Brahmanism, or caste Hinduism.
In recent years Israel’s role in the colonization and military occupation of Palestine has been increasingly overlooked and ignored by leaders in several countries of the world. For half a century countries of the global south by and large expressed solidarity with the Palestinian struggle, seeing it as another anti-colonial and anti-imperialist struggle, something familiar to most of the former colonies of the European imperialist powers, and easy to identify with. However in the last decade some countries have seen momentous changes both in their societies as well as in the roles played by their governments in the realm of international issues. India is one such country.
Going back to the very foundation of the independent Indian state and the ideas of Gandhi, there was a clear and principled basis for condemning the dispossession and oppression of Palestine by the newly instituted state of Israel, as practices abhorrent to the idea of secular, democratic and free humanity; these were ideals deeply instilled at least in the minds of the masses of Indians who gave their lives to the struggle and forced the British imperialists to surrender their claims on India. Gandhi’s views on Palestine are well known. In a paper titled "Mahatma Gandhi's Approach to Zionism and the Palestine Question" Professor A.K. Ramakrishnan brings to light some of Gandhi’s views on Palestine and the claims made by the Zionist movement for a separate state. Under pressure by Zionists to make a statement, Gandhi, while expressing his deepest sympathies for the Jewish victims of Nazism went on to say:
Gandhi did not like the idea of a national state founded on a religious chauvinistic basis. He was also firmly supportive of the Palestinian people’s struggle for national liberation against the British colonialists and their Zionists allies.
He also added, "Palestine of the Biblical conception is not a geographical tract," a statement coming from a person who had considerable knowledge of the world’s religions. In other words, he dismissed the religious basis for the claims of Zionism.
Seeing the Palestinian struggle against Zionist claims in the light of the anti-imperialist struggle being waged in India and the colonies, Gandhi stated that,
According to Professor A.K. Ramakrishnan,
Indian foreign policy over the last fifty years maintained a consistent stand in support of Palestine, and opposed to settler colonial Zionism. According to Aijaz Ahmed, one of India’s foremost political thinkers,
However since the rise of the BJP (Bharatitya Janata Party) a political wing of a movement known as Hindutva, whose ideological mother organization is called the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh or ‘National Volunteers Organization’), things have taken an about turn both in terms of India’s progressive heritage of secular and principled foreign policy, as well as the role played by government in the welfare of the people. Since the 1990’s the growth of the Hindu extremist movement has brought tyranny and oppression for India’s Muslims, India’s Christians, as well as India’s oppressed castes and Dalits. The latter make up the vast majority of the Indian people but are victims of centuries of social oppression under the tyrannical caste system. Additionally, women’s rights, the access of tribal people to land and resources, the rights of workers, agricultural workers, peasants, all under threat, while with much nuclear fanfare, the BJP works hard to recast India from the anti-colonial pro-third world nation, to a Hindu Rashtra (nation), under U.S. and Israeli Zionist tutelage. ‘Human rights’ is a term looked at with derision and contempt by triumphant Hindutvadis. And in this process India’s progressive position of solidarity with Palestine has come under attack by these self-proclaimed "nationalists." So we have a two pronged effort: one, against the toiling masses of India, the vast majority of the Indian people: workers, peasants, traditionally oppressed sections such as the Dalits, Adivasis ("tribals"), etc.: at the behest of the U.S. imperialist multinational brigades. Secondly, the ideological enemy, specifically members of India’s religious minorities, specifically Muslims, and Christians, but also Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, and Nastikas (atheists, often called "pseudo-secularists" by the rabid sections of the Hindutva movement). In the context of the second, Hindutva’s pro-imperialist stand takes on an international dimension: all Muslims are seen as enemies, therefore, the enemy of the enemy (ie. U.S. Imperialism/Zionist Israel) is taken as the friend! This is the staggering depth of Hindutva’s worldview, the cesspool of chicanery and spineless capitulation!
More money is being spent today on bombs and weapons, rockets and tanks than on education, health, and the well-being of the growing number of people who live in extreme poverty. While sections of the middle classes have become rich, promoting their worldview and upper caste elite cultural affinities as "Indian" culture to the world, every day we hear of farmers committing suicide, workers losing jobs as factories are sold off to local privateers and multinationals; extreme hardships brought on by the anti-people policies of the Hindu fundamentalist government, which will spare no effort to roll in the dirt for the benefit of U.S. economic and geopolitical interests. When the junior Bush recently announced plans to initiate the so called "son of star wars" plan, the world unanimously rejected it, while India’s pathetic Hindu fundamentalist leaders bowed low and cheered the American president’s plan, a response I am sure his gigantic lack of intellect would have been baffled by, as much as the world was baffled and irritated by the sheer servility shown by the Hindu right leadership. Servility towards imperialism and chauvinistic violence against minorities, qualities that bode ill for the people of India and South Asia.
What happened to the anti-imperialist anti-Zionist pro-Palestinian heritage of India? First, we might want to start with Gandhi. Towards the end of 1947, Gandhi made his statement, in response to a question by Doon Campbell of Reuters.
It is interesting to note that Gandhi recognized the actions of the Zionists in the 1940s as "terrorism." On January 31, 1948 barely months later, a man by the name Nathuram Godse shot Gandhi and committed one of the centuries most heinous political assassinations. Nathuram Godse was a committed member of the RSS or Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the mother organization of the present day BJP, Bharatiya Janata Party. The organization though banned after the assassination of Gandhi, continued to grow in strength partly due to the lukewarm opposition to its activities by the upper caste dominated leadership of the Congress rulers, which used communal and religious strife to attack popular dissent in regions such as Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Assam and Kashmir during its fifty odd dynastic years in power.
During the 1920s and 30s, while nationalist revolutionaries of such stature as Bhagat Singh, Chandrasekhar Azad, Ashfaqullah, Rajguru, Sukhdev, Jatin Das, and thousands of others gave their lives fighting against the British imperialists, the RSS ‘volunteers’ were consistently instructed by their leaders to be ‘apolitical.’ Bhagat Singh’s organization forbade membership to any individuals working with religious fundamentalist groups like the RSS and Hindu Mahasabha. This was clearly an action intended to convey that these Hindu fundamentalist groups were lackeys of British imperialism and were not to be trusted. Yet today proponents of Hindutva shamelessly lay claim to the revolutionary heritage of these great sons and daughters of India, conveniently forgetting that their own organizations were on the wrong side of the struggle during the critical years of the 1920s and 30s.
During the 1942 Quit India movement, one of greatest anti-colonial mobilizations of humanity, when millions of Indians, Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians from every corner if the country, boldly challenged the arrogant might of the British occupiers, the RSS leadership instructed its cadres not to participate, ridiculing the efforts of the oppressed masses and also having the audacity to support the British war effort, when Indians were being crushed under the heels of colonial repression. Yet when the opportunity arose for creating communal, religious disturbances, the ‘volunteers’ were always ready. RSS ideology even during the time of Gandhi was fascist in its leanings.
The following are the words of Vallabhai Patel, a senior Congressman, close to Gandhi and Nehru,
Patel himself was not altogether unfriendly to Hindutva and the RSS. Yet, even such support diminished after the assassination of Gandhi. The RSS plan to whip up religious hysteria backfired and they were confined to "cultural" work for a few years. Yet, one might wonder, without the help and sympathies of leaders and cadres in the Congress, the RSS could not have survived after their trashing in 1948? This is why, the Hindutva movement has to be seen as not merely a fringe fanatic ideological movement, but an important element in a wider betrayal of India's independence. The culpability of the Congressites in placing themselves at the helm of affairs and then rewriting the country's anti-colonial history as one long lesson in 'cheek-turning' ethics, completely diminishing the role played by the masses of India allowed for the enemies of the Indian people to gather strength over the years. Hindutvadis could always condemn the Congressites, since the latter had little or no defences against charges of corruption, nepotism, tyranny, and overall cynicism and paternalism towards the Indian people. The gradual crumbling of the Congress behemoth coincides with the resurgence of the Hindutvadis, as the false democratic pretences of the Congress give way to the blunt and megalomaniacal assertions of the Hindutvadis. It seems India's elites never intended to free India, but only intended and conspired to share power against the people of India.
The RSS leader Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar openly admired Hitler and the idea of the ‘separation of the races.’ He saw an affinity to Nazism in the Brahmanical concept of caste purity, now applied in a religious sense to ‘Hindus’ and ‘Muslims.’ It is rather surprising that the Zionists of today see an ‘ally’ in the Hindutva movement, given the fascist roots of this movement. Marzia Casolari, an Italian scholar has documented archival evidence proving without doubt that Hindu extremist groups like the RSS and Hindu Mahasabha had direct links with the Italian fascist state. I quote Casolari’s conclusions at length:6
The following quote is from a statement issued by the Hindu Mahasabha in 1939:
In a book titled "We, or our nationhood defined," Golwalkar, who became general secretary of the RSS, stated:
Who were the equivalents of the Jews in the estimation of the author of these words? India’s Muslims without a doubt. By extrapolating German racial ideas to Indian society, Golwalkar and Savarkar recast a complex religious-cultural historical identity into blunt European racial terms. Accordingly in their eyes, ‘Hindus’ and ‘Muslims’ became, ‘Germans and ‘Jews.’
The fact that even fifty odd years after the end of Nazism and Italian fascism, the RSS and its various Hindutva offspring like the BJP have neither denied nor repudiated these ties, or the valorization and glorification of Nazism by their founding leaders, speaks volumes about their real character. V.D. Savarkar, a militant anti-colonialist turned proto-fascist leader of the Hindu Mahasabha, regarding the goals of his organization: (quoted by Casolari)
These words from the leader of an organization that refused to participate in the Quit India movement, and which offered its services to the British War Office in support of the colonial occupier in the inter-imperialist war. In a revealing twist of irony, Savarkar in the 1950s was also full of praise for the settler colonialism of the Israeli Zionist state, and saw an affinity between Hindutva ideology and Zionism.
More recently, one Aravind Ghosh, a "Research Associate" with the U.S. based Zionist organization "The Freeman Center." This organization has a magazine called "The Maccabean" in which Ariel Sharon (who currently has cases pending against him in Belgium and Lebanon for war crimes committed in Sabra and Shatilla refugee camps during Israel’s invasion of Lebanon) of Israel is a "frequent contributor." Aravind Ghosh’s title is "Hindu Historian & Publisher." In the center’s own words, "It is his expertize on Moslem behavior and atrocities in the Indian sub-continent that makes him a valuable contributor to the Freeman Center."7
Here is a sample of this self-proclaimed "leading historian:"
As foul and hateful as this lunatic sounds, it is curious that he also hails Savarkar as a pro-zionist in his article. It was Savarkar who praised Hitler’s policies towards Germany’s Jews and saw in it an analogy to his own fantasies. If we were to go with the understanding that Zionism is opposed to Nazism and the holocaust, then one would wonder how come, a pro-Israel Zionist organization like the Freeman Center calls a follower of the Hindutva creed, a valuable contributor to its cause? Would Jewish people not be offended by this alliance? Or is it possible that the legacy of the Jewish people is perhaps secondary to the interests of Zionism?
In that case, Zionism rhymes and sounds like Hindutva: an ideology that makes use of a particular set of symbols and cultural ideas towards ends that not only political and territorial, but also racist and chauvinist. In other words, fascist. The enemy is clearly expressed by this alliance: the Indian Muslims and the largely Muslim Palestinians, and Arabs. If Savarkar’s two views, 1) that Hitler’s policy towards the Jews was commendable and applicable to Muslims in India, and 2) that Zionism’s policy towards the Palestinians is commendable and worthy of emulation, are not logically contradictory views, but part of the same single logic, then the Zionist alliance with Hindutva is one that will certainly offend any Jewish person. Is this an issue being raised by non-Zionist Jewish people? How can the people who suffered so greatly under the tyrannical evil of Hitler allow such an insult to their heritage by those who claim to speak for all Jewish people, the Zionists? As Hindus and Muslims who are opposed to Hindutva mobilize their opposition to this 21st century fascism, which claims to speak for all Hindus, it will be heartening to see that Jewish people also mobilize to fight the evil of Hindutva’s ally, Zionism. Nevertheless, this alliance ties Zionism with a heritage its victims have easily seen, but which Zionists unfailingly deny: that Zionism, is fascism. It is more akin to Nazism, than say to the ideology of liberal democracy. In the latter, pretences notwithstanding, there is at least no explicit assertion that one group of people have their rights enshrined under divine, man-made and whatever other laws, while another group is to be targeted and exterminated as their rights to exist are not only completely absent, but considered inimical to the favored group. There are striking parallels between the assertions made by Zionists and those made by the Nazis. Consider for example the following statements made by Cal Thomas, a Zionist spokesperson masquerading as a journalist/columnist in a 21st century American news outlet and Joseph Goebbels, the unsavoury and bloodthirsty megalomaniac who was Propaganda Minister in the Nazi regime:
To advocate the 'ethnic cleansing' of Palestinians, Cal Thomas resorts to the usual fascistic routine: declare the Palestinians as a problem that only Israeli, and American military brutishness can solve, through murder, and mayhem, in other words, a 'final solution.' This mentality unites all fascists no matter which hole they crawl out of; Hindutvadis claim a false 'victim' status as the excuse to launch a genocide against their enemies, the Muslims and minorities of India, while their buddies in crime, the Zionists dutifully proclaim that theirs is the only humanity worth worrying about since after all, they can always point to the horrors of the second world war and Nazism, even when they continue to terrorize and massacre Palestinians every day. Zionists who claim to represent all Jews should check the history of Zionism and wonder about why for a long time, the Zionists were more interested in taking Palestinian land than in fighting for the survival of Jews in Germany. Why for instance did Zionist leaders acquiese with Hitler's goal of turning a religious minority (the Jewish Germans) into a 'race,' and hence a 'nation within a nation,' the core argument propounded by the Nazis? By putting their stamp of approval on this change of discourse, did the Zionists in effect betray the Jewish people in Germany? Questions like this need to be asked when tyrants and mass murderers rampage and blabber on about their 'Jewish' cause. People of the Jewish faith opposed to the criminal racism of Zionism, must assert the fact that Zionism's reading of Jewish identity as an essentially racist one, is part of the Nazi heritage and completely at odds with the history of the Jewish people. When the idea that Jews are a race goes to hell, then the raison d'etre of Zionism, with respect to the Palestinian people, will crumble. The same goes with the Hindutvadi claim that Muslims are a separate people and that Hindus have always been victims,' arguments that are merely the routine fascistic assertions of ill-intentioned mysognists.
With the coming to power of the BJP in 1999, India’s last vestiges of independence have been deliberately handed over lock stock and barrel to western multinationals and the tutelage of a new colonial master, the United States. The BJP has literally sold the country down the river, having little shame in denying basic emergency food distribution to starving poverty stricken people, while government food surplus stocks stored in hygienically challenged storage containers, get eaten by rats at the rate of 10 percent per year. Privatizing at the drop of a hat as per the colonial master’s dictates, thousands of workers are losing their jobs, and the average real income of the Indian worker has been reduced to half of what it was a decade ago.
The only possible explanation for this total subservience to the dictates of the U.S. imperialists is that Hindutva ideology from its early days as a supposedly ‘apolitical’ fringe fanatic group, to its present day triumphant charade, is at the service of and most comfortable with imperialism. It is an anti-people alien ideology having no place in Indian society. What has enabled such a movement to become so powerful? The relentless pursuit of the U.S. imperialists and their lackeys in the service of global capital working hand in glove with sections of India’s capitalist classes. The BJP is the most neo-liberal of all of India’s governments to date. It is also the most U.S. friendly, and Zionist friendly of all governments so far. Its subservience to the U.S. is embarrassing to all self-respecting Indians. Yet, it is bent on both strangulating the population with the imposition of U.S. IMF neoliberal "market medicine," always willing to jump higher than the masters demand, and simultaneously communalizing the whole country in a crusade to divide the working classes who they fear, as do their masters, and creating an atmosphere of paranoia and fear, ideal conditions for fascism.
Meanwhile, politically the BJP has embraced Israel and turned a cold shoulder to the Palestinians, betraying the bonds of friendship shared by the Palestinian and Indian people in this process. Hindutva ideologues are talking about Hindu-Yahudi unity and the need to fight against ‘terrorism,’ a euphemism for Palestine’s and India’s Muslims. Hindu extremist websites gloat about the need to work together with Israel to target Muslims in South Asia. Recently a virulent organization calling itself "hinduunity.org" had its website shut down. It came back without a problem when the virulent Jewish extremist Kahane organization (Haktiva) came to the rescue. Rabid extremists working together for a common cause: Muslims are the targets, but also most importantly, the entire peoples of the Arab and Iranian nations, and the great masses of people in South Asia are targets for these two running dogs of American imperialism. Hindutvadis are happy to see such cooperation, while Israel murders Palestinians with impunity, and India reels under the Hindutva onslaught.
Israel has also been suspected of involvement in the incitement of virulent anti-Muslim activities in India, as has been pointed out by Faisal Kutty, a writer from Kerala state who noted that a meeting took place, shrouded in secrecy between BJP high officials and Israeli officials preceding a completely uncharacteristic violent communal anti-Muslim riot in the normally peaceful and harmonious state of Kerala in 1992. 8
Kerala’s Muslims are the oldest Muslim community in India, tracing their roots to the early Arab Muslim traders who plied the Indian Ocean Arabian Sea trade route. They make up 20 percent of the population in Kerala while Hindus are 60 percent and Christians 20 percent. Kerala has the highest rate of literacy in the country, in no small part due to the work of the ruling Communist Party over the last several decades to build a literate and thriving, secular state. Comparatively, the other South Indian states under the heel of chauvinistic ethnocentric parties have no comparable achievements. Faisal Kutty also notes that the first serious communal clash between Sri Lankan Tamil Hindus and Muslims occurred shortly after the opening of an Israeli interests section in the U.S. Embassy in Colombo. The section was later closed by the Sri Lankan government.
These suspicions cannot be unfounded because of similar reports about Israeli agents wandering in Kashmir as well as the BJP government’s fascination with ‘security cooperation,’ a code word for ‘how to keep the natives in line,’ and the overt statements made by Hindutva ideologues about "Hindu-Yahudi" unity. Recently the BJP has built close security ties with the U.S. and Israel under the guise of "fighting terrorism." It is certain that this is a step towards turning India into a "security" state as both the U.S. and Israel will provide technological support in terms of arms, intelligence and who knows what else. This will most definitely be used in the BJP’s attack on India’s people, especially Muslims, Christians, Dalits, and anyone opposed to Hindutva, those they call with contempt, "pseudo-secularists." The people of Kashmir will no doubt also be targeted by these new alliances, as well as Andhra, Punjab, Assam and the North East where militant struggles for human rights and freedom have continued for most of the half century following the British exit.
Organizations like the Bajrang Dal, a Hindutva version of the Storm Troopers, the same group who last year burned to death an elderly Australian missionary and his children, also find inspiration and who knows what else in Zionist Israel. The Indian Express, June 30, 2000 had an article titled "Desi Mossad is getting ready at Bajrang Dal's Ayodhya camp." In begins: "I, as a member of Bajrang Dal, swear in the name of Lord Hanuman to always remain prepared to protect my country, religion and culture," 150 young men, between 15 and 21 years of age, recite in unison. On several occasions, the cadres and their leaders mention Israel and the Mossad as their inspiration.9
These are words from people who frequently terrorize India’s Muslims and Christians. They are the paramilitary mobs of Hindutva, not boy scouts or martial artists.
In recent years Israeli "counter-terrorism" assistance is also being mobilized, most evidently in (though not restricted to) Jammu and Kashmir, where the government of India sees a political issue as a ‘security’ issue, in the age-old imperialistic tradition of ignoring the human, civil and political rights of the Kashmiri people while making every effort to suppress the voice of Kashmiris.10
The Times of India, Friday 22 September 2000 reports that
So this is the invitation of the Home Minister L.K. Advani, Home Minister, and an important member of the RSS. India is now open to Zionist intelligence intrusion and the various struggles in the country for human, civil and political rights among the millions of oppressed and dispossessed people in India will now be translatable to "terrorism," or the like. Zionist Israel is playing with fire by running alongside Hindutva in its war against the people of India. It is only a matter of time before secular forces mobilize under various fronts and launch an all out struggle against the anti-national and anti-people usurpers.
Uncle Sam wants Hindu fascism as long as it does his bidding, so no problem says the BJP!
Since the 1980’s the United States has encouraged and fanned the flames of Hindu upper caste revivalism. In the U.S. organizations like the "Overseas Friends of the BJP," and others have been working hard to shape the direction of South Asian studies, lending it a chauvinistic, Hindu upper caste, orientalist direction, and mobilizing the opinion and funds of Indian Americans towards what the latter, far removed from their land, often innocently see as their "culture." U.S. officials have been hand in glove with the Hindu right wing as has been evident in the high level meetings afforded to people like Jaswanth Singh, and Murli Manohar Joshi, Hindutva’s leaders, when they came to the United States even before the BJP came to power.
Additionally, Hindu right wingers have also embarked upon a campaign of warmongering that suspiciously falls within the lap of the United States’ imperialist interests in South and Central Asia. As the Times of India reported a few years ago, it is a practice that whenever the BJP’s senior leaders visit the United States, they hold meetings, often secretive, with Zionist groups, ‘experts’ from think tanks such as the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and State Department officials. Conspiracy is the main method of fascism since they cannot obtain the support of the people of India through honest means!
More recently, the BJP has gone so far as to invite the US armed forces to visit the Indian army’s training facilities, particularly focusing on "jungle warfare," and also holding joint training exercises in "infiltration of enemy territory." What this holds for the future well being of Indians, Pakistanis and South Asians in general is horrific to envision. The United States military is a global imperialist force; by inviting them into India is nothing short of surrendering the sovereignty of India. This is the aim of Hindutva, to crawl at the feet of imperialism so that there may arise a chance to march with jackboots, as after all Uncle Sam loves anyone who marches with jackboots as long as he marches for him. The BJP will open the markets, while the Bajrang Dal and Shiv Sena and VHP will frighten the people into compliance with both violence and the threats of more violence. This is the significance of the nuclear explosions, and not the self-righteous "why should the west stop a third world country from possessing nuclear power?" posture adopted by the anti-third world and pro-imperialist BJP.11
In the short span of time that the BJP has been in power in Delhi, its claims of being patriotic and honest have been thrown in the dustbin. Earlier this year, a team of investigative journalists videotaped a series of bribe taking and bribe negotiating episodes involving people in the highest levels of government including the armed forces. Using a fictitious arms deal the team easily bribed its way into the offices of high-ranking Indian officials in the armed forces and the government. The ease with which it was possible to bribe these officials shocked the country. Imagine what levels of corruption might be possible when very efficient efforts at the same are carried out by international professional arms dealers, mercenaries and other organizations?12
The most damaging episode in this was a videotaped recording of the leader of the BJP, yes, the party leader, taking a wad of money and also mentioning that he prefers dollars! Overnight, the BJP’s never ending charade of patriotism and honesty turned into outright guilt and defensive noises about ‘foreign conspiracy!’ As if the taking of bribes by the highest officials of the land especially for defense related deals, itself does not constitute treason and conspiracy of the highest order! These so-called ‘patriots’ of the BJP are willing to send Indian soldiers as cannon fodder to their stupid warmongering disasters, with equipment that is sub standard, and available only because the officials procuring them were bribed into doing so. Thus the so-called Barak missile found its way from Israel to India, while India’s own Trishul missile, which outperforms the Barak, got pushed out, perhaps because the Indian defense industries couldn’t match the Mossadis in bribery and intrigue!?
The internationally renowned scientist Abdul Kalam, the founding architect of India’s missile and rocket program, got a cold shoulder from these very same ‘patriots’ when he criticized the government decision to favor the Barak. So much for the BJP’s alleged ‘patriotism’ and ‘honesty.’ It proves what most progressives and leftists have been pointing out for years: that the BJP and the Hindutva movement of which it is part, is neither patriotic, nor religious, but really an alien ideology planted and nurtured by imperialism for the destruction and subjugation of the subcontinent. Its open ties to U.S. imperialism and Israeli Zionism confirms this conclusion.
Such developments pose a challenge to freedom loving and progressive Indians, Palestinians and people of all of Asia, to redouble their efforts to thwart the criminal conspiracies of imperialism, in what is now a common struggle against Zionism and Hindutva, the twin agents of American imperialism. Rather than run to a corner and hide behind like minded ideologies of hatred and ignorance, we should strive to increase the common bridges of resistance and renewal between us in this effort and expose the lies and myths of those who intend to destroy our peoples because of their ignorant self-deluding fantasies.
Unfortunately for Hindutva, the Indian people are a very resilient lot. Historically, Indian societies have always exhibited resistance to homogenizing tendencies; while the oppressive system of caste persisted for millennia, growing in strength after the Brahmanic usurpation of Buddhist India, Indian societies have strongly resisted attempts to homogenize their cultural and religious practices. More importantly, India’s masses are overwhelmingly from the oppressed, lower castes and Dalits; the greater involvement and militancy from these true owners of India will eventually turn the tables on the Brahmanists who have foisted an alien and dangerously suicidal course upon India’s people. Secular forces are not going to take the rampages of Hindutva lying down; the 1920s and 30s was a renaissance era in the Indian peoples’ efforts to bring the rulers of India to account. The 2000s should be no different as is already evident from the rumblings from within.13
P.R. Ram succinctly sums up the Hindutva movement:
Drawing inspiration from the Brahmanical religion, Hindutva has no problem dealing with the idea of an openly unequal order in society; thus it is quite well attuned to the notion of a enforcing a second-class citizenry.
The tyrannical Brahmanical caste system has from its earliest days been an inhibiting force in Indian civilization. While most of India’s greatest achievements in the ancient past had their roots in non-Brahmanical movements like Buddhism, this ideology of caste became strengthened after the usurpation of Buddhist influenced India in the latter half of the first millennium C.E , has sanctified a life of immeasurable oppression for great numbers of Indians. Much of what became popular ‘Hinduism’ is the cultural traditions of the oppressed peoples of India, appropriated by Brahmanical movements at various stages, coinciding with the strengthening of rigid caste ideology.
In religious terms, Hindutva neither represents nor contributes positively to the religious heritage of popular Hinduism, the religious practices of the vast majority of those people classified as ‘Hindus.’ It is a concerted attempt to Semitize the religious traditions of the subcontinent under one hegemonic construction which P.R. Ram calls ‘syndicated Hinduism.’ Thus it is their aim to suppress all divergent views, which in India’s case would mean nothing short of chaos since Hindus in almost all parts of the country exhibit incredible variations and emphases in their religious practices. There is no single book of authority in Hinduism like in Islam or Judaism; but there is the Vedas of the Brahmans and Hindutva is an attempt to foist the Vedas and related texts onto the altar of respectability reserved for ‘people of the book.’
Additionally they have targeted historical monuments from the Mughal, and Sultanate era by making preposterous claims that all these monuments were built upon demolished temples. The recent barbaric destruction of the Babri Masjid in 1992 at Ayodhya, took place with the active encouragement and connivance of the BJP, though the persons doing the actual destroying came from a host of fanatical groups linked to the BJP’s mother organization, the RSS. The historical claims made by the BJP on the Babri Masjid have been more than adequately demolished by archaeologists, historians and scholars in India; there is absolutely no evidence of a Ram Temple (alleged to be a temple dedicated to the God-king Rama who in Hindu mythology lived in a place called Ayodhya tens of thousands of years ago). To date there is no evidence to prove anything claimed by the Hindutvadis, as their efforts are clearly an attempt to mythologize history and obscure the past with wild claims, an unsurprising approach given their desire to obscure their own history to begin with!16
Historians of international repute who have pointed to the total lack of any archaeological evidence to suggest any truth to the claims made by the Hindutvadis have been targeted and forced out of national organizations like the Indian Council for Historical Research, and important research programs aiming to develop India’s historical databases and also develop criteria for the analysis of solid, physical data, have been scrapped, as the BJP’s fears that its Hindutva claims, made largely on unfounded assertions and fallacious myths, will definitely be relegated to the dustbin once solid, scientific reason were applied to Indian history. They seek to pull the wool over the eyes of the Indian people!
Hindutva 'Ramrajya' and Zionist 'ancient Israel': contrived myths to legitimate fascist atrocities
In defiance of the total lack of evidence, the fanatics spare no effort to claim that a Ram Temple will be built on the site of the now destroyed 16th century Mughal monument. The temple building business is suspiciously similar to the Zionist claims on the Haram Al Sharif, and needs to be seen in the general context of the semitization of Hinduism that Hindutvadis desire to engineer. While Zionist claims draw from the western intellectual tradition of biblical studies, Hindutva rests on Orientalism, the insulting western myth that India is an essentially spiritual, Hindu country. Zionism cannot expect much help from the discipline of history to support its claims to Palestine, since there is little evidence of an ‘ancient Israel’; however, as Keith Whitelam points out, they rely on Biblical studies, a field that allows for loose religious dogmatic interpretations, especially when evidence is seriously lacking! One important way this Biblical Studies approach can establish the myth of ancient Israel is by arbitrarily using the Jewish biblical tradition as the main source of interpretation; all other sources are welcome only if they confirm what is already in the biblical body of claims! Additionally, the biblical scholars, have arbitrarily excised any historical concerns with the actual ethnography, or archaeology of historical Palestine. They are not interested in investigating the culture and achievements of the people of Canaan for example. In other words, their scholarly focus is merely on legitimating the Zionist claims of the 1948 established state of Israel and its western Christian sympathies.17 On the other hand, their new friends the Hindutvadis are more or less locked within the British imperialist narrative of Indian history. They would rather believe the myths propagated by the colonizers of India than the ample evidence provided by Indian and world historians, archaeologists and anthropologists.
It was British imperialism that constructed an ideological counterpart to their military and political ambitions: the alleged fundamental distinction between Muslims and Hindus, cast as homogenous, monolithic and irreconcilable peoples. Divide and rule, a statement used so much but rarely appreciated for its historical implications. This imperialist, orientalist view of reality is what inspires and sustains Hindutva. In 1857, following the failed revolt, the British embarked on a major effort to snuff out any resistance from the remnants of the Mughal empire. Muslims were banned from the armed forces. The building up of a pliant Hindu elite was seen as a necessary colonial policy. This is the context for the emergence of the nationalists. It was also the period when British policies imposed differences with violence where there was mutual commonality and interaction among peoples. The partition of Bengal is a case in point. European scholars like Max Muller inadvertently gave a veneer of credibility to Brahmanical tradition by translating and making available to western readers the ‘sacred texts,’ of what he erroneously called, ‘the Hindus.’ Most of these Brahmanical texts were traditionally ‘forbidden’ to large sections of those categorized as ‘the Hindus.’
Hindutva is eager to establish a single central ‘holy site,’ a la Zionism’s "Temple Mount," in the city of Ayodhya. A single central ‘holy site,’ is rather silly in Hindu culture because there are literally thousands of ‘holy sites’ everywhere from monuments, to ancient Banyan trees, from sacred snake pits to small animistic shrines, from tombs of great saints to shrines containing relics. What is a holy site to one group within Hindu society might be completely irrelevant to another. Yet what the Hindutvadis want to do is to establish a semitic equivalent to the Jewish temple: a center from which their claims on the subcontinent can emanate and to which these claims can center on. Doubtless, they would equally love to create a new priesthood, a ‘church’ like organization and perhaps even an inquisition to force-march India into the abyss of medieval chauvinism.
It is of course terribly inconvenient for them to mention that Brahmanical Hindu temples were historically restricted areas, where the soul of Hindu caste segregation came alive: Dalits, and lower castes were never allowed near the magnificent temples of the Brahmans, except when they had to build them for the priests and warriors who supervised and punished as per their own scriptural obligations. So if there were any temples in India that were destroyed in the course of a rampage by Turkish, Afghan or Mughal rulers, one needs to ask, how much did the Dalits, and lower caste people, the vast majority of Indians suffer? On the contrary, once Masjids came up (if it were the case) in the place of these temples, many Dalits and lower caste people found immensely greater human dignity accorded to them within the walls of these monuments than in the forbidden shadows of the Hindu temples.
Romila Thapar points out that in Mughal, Turkish or Afghan temple-demolishing episodes, religion was a marginal factor compared to more important factors such as temples being centers of immense accumulated wealth, and also being symbols of state power and authority of kings and kingdoms. These factors were more important than religion or religious conflict; to support this argument, there is evidence of firmans issued by Mughal emperors including the much reviled, Aurangzeb, in support of temple construction and maintenance, and also evidence of temple demolition activities going back in Indian history; Hindu kings destroyed other Hindu kings’ temples, Buddhist, Jain and later Muslim religious and cultural monuments for a period of a thousand years before the Turkish and Afghan sultanates.
Iconoclasm, bigotry and oppression were not the privileged domain of even the most tyrannical Turkish, Afghan or Mughal Sultan, as the ample evidence of widespread destruction and oppression of Buddhist and Jain India at the hands of the Brahmanical Hindu revival movement shows.
The desire to semitize Hinduism also belies a deep-seated inferiority complex with regard to the more animistic, multi-dimensional character of religious practices in India. Hindutvadis do not want to bear the shame of being associated with the notion of ahimsa (nonviolence) or the universality of humanity. On the other hand they want Hinduism to be a militaristic, aggressive, mean and chauvinistic neo-capitalist ideology, subordinate to the idea of national purity and aggression against anything that represents a challenge to the grotesque homogenization implicit in their vision. It is an ideology that runs counter to the best traditions in India’s manifold religions.
Buddhism was the most prominent and popular mass based religion in India for more than a thousand years; it made India’s culture traverse the world and influenced a great many nations in Asia. With its simple moral message and its criticism of the caste system, Buddhism quickly became a mass religion with the greatest proportion of its adherents drawn from the lower castes. Brahmanism never had this universalist appeal simply because with its foundations in the caste system, it was not interested in a universal emancipatory ideology. Brahmanism used Sanskrit, the priestly scriptural language, and had explicit laws forbidding Sudras and lower caste people from access to the sacred texts, particularly the Vedas.
There is one ancient Brahmanical document called the ‘Apasthamba Sutra,’ which recommends the pouring of molten metal into the ears of a Sudra (lower caste person) who willingly or unwillingly hears the recitation of the Vedas! In contrast to this, Buddhism was a peoples’ religion, it used Pali the common language of the people of the Indo-Gangetic plains and established learning centers where people from all ranks in society could learn together. While Brahmanism developed a notion of ‘Karma’ along lines of caste duties and predestined caste-fate, Buddhism developed a rich conception of ‘Karma’ as action that begets fruits, a universalistic moral basis for the evaluation of actions, opposed to predestined caste formulae as propagated by Brahmanism. These were only some of the major differences, which highlight that Buddhism was an oppositional force to Brahmanism and that the people of the subcontinent easily identified with its universalism, while rejecting Brahmanism simultaneously. From the 5th century B.C.E. to about the 6th century C.E. Buddhism established the fundamental contours of Indian civilization that today exists often unknown or grossly distorted to Indians caught in a haze of historic forgetfulness.
Brahmanism was opposed to universalistic trends in Indian history ever since the first conflicts between the invading Aryans and indigenous Indians took place about three thousand years ago. In the first millennium C.E., Brahman priests and upper caste warriors worked hard to usurp and overthrow the influence of Buddhism in India. They wanted to reconstitute societies under the rubric of a more orthodox and severely repressive caste ideology, something that had been greatly undermined during the Buddhist era.19
Thus the reversal of the universalization of Indian culture coincided with the return of Brahmin hegemony and the subsequent de-Buddhistification of India. It is also no small coincidence that when the first Turkish and Afghan invaders came to India, there were only weak, inconsequential Hindu kingdoms fighting with each other over stagnating war torn societies reeling under the resurgence of an oppressive caste order. This fact the Hindutva propagandists lament as the disunity of India; it no doubt was true that India’s northern kingdoms were weak and ineffective against the militarily efficient and zealous invaders from Central Asia. In many cases Hindu kings attempted to win favor with the Turkish or Afghan invaders by aligning themselves against a cousin or a neighboring kingdom; this was duly made use of and soon most of Northern India was under the rule of a Turkish Sultanate in Delhi. For instance, Jaichand of Kannauj, allied with Muhammad Ghori against his own cousin Prithviraj Chauhan.
While wars of conquest, plunder, and pillage were the norm of the day, especially given the fact that thousands of Buddhists and Jains were violently persecuted and numerous Buddhist and Jain monuments were destroyed to make way for Brahmanist Hindu temples, Hindutva ideologues only like to point out the excesses of the Sultanate and the Mughal empire which followed.20 This myopia is convenient for them because it is only an excuse to target Muslims in India, and establish Islam as a threat to India in the consciousness of Hindutvadis. The history of Islam in India is being recast by these ideologues as one of total oppression and destruction, a patently false and historical nonsensical idea. While Turkish, Afghan and Mongol rulers in various times committed excesses against the subject populations often in religious terms, this does not represent the totality of India’s thousand year Islamic history. Besides, Brahmanical Hindu kings in those times were neither known for their religious universalism nor were they interested in the emancipation or justice for their own subjects particularly the Dalits (‘untouchables’) or and the toiling lower caste population in general. Abhorrent practices like Sati (forcibly burning the wife after the husband’s death), and child marriage were common and commented upon by various travelers through the centuries.
Sidi Ali Reis, a Turkish Admiral who traveled to India after being shipwrecked, wrote in Mirat ul Memalik (The Mirror of Countries), 1557 CE:21
Thus, Hindu society was under the heel of such cruel practices even under the rule of the Mughal Padishah. The need to paint Hindus as victims of ‘Islam’ as if Hindu society itself was not cruel and oppressive drives Hindutwadis to concoct facetious myths. In actuality, Hindu society greatly benefited from Islam, in many ways. First, Islam came to India initially not through Arab or Turkish invaders but through trade in South India. Arab, Turkish and African traders for centuries had shuttled their goods with their Indian and Malay counterparts along the great Indian Ocean/ Arabian Sea Trade routes. Along with their goods and wares, came their ideas, and aspirations. This was as much a cultural and intellectual trade route as it was one serving the transport of goods. Here were the origins of the transfer of the religious ideas of Arabian Islam into India. Those who converted did so under their own free will, largely in an act of defiance against the cruel and oppressive caste system; the initial converts to Islam came overwhelmingly from the poorest, most oppressed sections of society, just as had been the case with Buddhism a thousand five hundred years earlier.
As a religion Islam provided a new way of approaching the age-old problems of life facing Hindus; to the oppressed lower castes, Islam provided a break with the caste prison that crushed their lives relentlessly, while for the liberal minded upper castes, it provided new ways of thinking about the universality of humanity in the language of the spirit. Islam also brought monotheism to India, an idea that greatly influenced the development of the Sufi/Bhakti movement and the Sikh religion.
Thus Indians from marginalized and oppressed sections continued to innovate and created a renaissance culture that is commonly known as ‘popular’ Hinduism. The most striking aspect of ‘popular’ Hinduism was its explicitly reformist and universalistic outlook. Saints and poets of this tradition emphasized the unity of humanity, opposed oppressive social practices and spoke against the caste system, engendering a creative blending of Hindu and Muslim religious ideas. This took place at the popular level, and there were many great mystic saints and poets who developed powerful new universalistic and humane philosophies. Sant Kabir Das, a mystic teacher who was a Hindu orphan raised by a Muslim weaver became one of the greatest exponents of the Sufi/Bhakti tradition in the 15th century. His followers were largely poor Hindus and Muslims; his teachings went on to inspire the founder of the Sikh religion, Guru Nanak Dev, as well as the great Mughal Emperor Jalal-ud-din Akbar, a monarch who sought to truly understand the religious and cultural traditions of his Hindu subjects.
Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, the great leader of the Dalits was also the framer of the Indian constitution. His works on the historical experience of India’s Dalits sheds light on some of the worst aspects of Brahmanical chauvinism and oppression. While the Congress and Gandhi feared the resurgence of the Dalits, Ambedkar was steadfast in his demands for full equality and rights for the Dalits. Importantly he condemned efforts that did not first and foremost question the foundations of Hinduism as the oppressive bedrock of millennia of tyrannical overlordship by the Brahmins and upper castes. Inspired by him, Dalits adopted Buddhism as their religion of choice in large numbers as a symbol of their opposition to Brahmanical Hinduism.22
Ambedkar’s views on caste Hinduism point out that the idea that Hinduism is essentially tolerant, or universal, in its outlook, is patently false. The change referred to here is to Buddhism.
The framer of India’s Constitution had this to say about the contradiction between India’s modern constitution and its heritage of caste Hinduism.
Indian history therefore is replete with evidence that challenges the dogmas being propagated by the Hindutva movement with regard to the nature of the so-called ‘Hindu Nation,’ as well as the alleged exclusive victim status of Hindus. Therefore we can only conclude that ideologically Hindutva is a movement thriving on mass hysteria for ends that are other than religious. It is not a religious movement, but a movement that aims to create a particular Semitized version of Brahmanical Hinduism to institute a totalitarian, neo-capitalist, pro-imperialist reactionary state in India. Here it is very similar to Zionism. An ideology that is built on fabricated myths, which uses the cultural symbols and idioms of an elitist religious tradition, fusing it with a modernist, totalitarian nationalist ideology.
Israeli Zionism requires the creation of an enemy and the enemy is first the Palestinian native people whose land is usurped and colonized, and the Arab nation, and Muslims in general. The ‘Muslim’ as a ‘bogeyman’ used by Zionism, American imperialism and Hindutva brings the three together into a common cause, an ideologically common cause that accompanies the common cause of imperialism which is to subjugate and plunder the lands of the peoples of the Arab and Iranian nations, the targets of Zionism, and the Muslims and marginalized lower caste Hindus of South Asia, the targets of Hindutva. To this end Zionism and Hindutva seeks to enslave and serve up on imperialism’s table the spoils of treachery, colonization and war, while claiming to be defending the interests of Judaism and Hinduism. Imperialism’s dogs need ‘an enemy’ to seal their unholy alliance in the eyes of their bewildered and confused populations, while the loot flows unhindered, perhaps even accelerated, to the masters’ coffers.
The use of the ‘bogeyman’ is as old as colonialism at least. In the late 18th century, the British fought three terrible wars in Southern India, to subdue the charismatic and courageous Tippu Sultan. Tippu’s father Hyder Ali was a legendary general who fought several successful battles against the British. Tippu’s struggle with the British was one of the earliest sustained efforts of resistance against the British invaders. Eventually in 1799, Tippu fought to death within his fortress of Srirangapatnam. His famous words were remembered by Indian patriots even during the independence struggle: "It is better to live for a day as a lion, than for a lifetime as a sheep." The British popular culture of the day had references to ‘Tippu’ as an evil character in their books and plays; the name Tippu was reviled and the memory was turned into a ‘bogeyman.’ Nevertheless, in 1830 when an insurrection was hatched in Bangalore, one of the leaders of the revolt took the honorary name "Sayid Tippu!"23
The Hindutva ideal is to convert the multiplicity of religious and cultural practices of India into a semitized homogenous neo-capitalist ideology. Since this ideology is averse to the emancipation of the masses of people, the struggles of the various sections of the Indian population are viewed with suspicion and hatred by the proponents of Hindutva. Thus Hindutva lends itself easily to collaboration with imperialists and fascists from outside India. In this regard the United States, well known on the world for its support of despicable and fascist regimes, as well as racist Zionist Israel have emerged as close accomplices of the Hindutva movement.
By establishing an unprecedented closeness with the BJP government and elements of the armed forces, the U.S. and Israel are undermining the sovereignty, and freedom of the Indian people. Israeli arms have been sold to the Indian armed forces through corrupt defence deals that saw the marginalization of even local Indian defence productive industries in favor of the Zionist state’s products. Israeli agents are in India helping the Hindutva leadership to quash rebellious regions where the people are gradually taking matters into their own hands as it is becoming apparent that the state is now a tyrannical accomplice of the imperialists. This has been the case in Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Kashmir, the North East, as well as Punjab, where popular militancy has been relentlessly opposed to the dictates of the corrupt elitist Indian state since 1947.
In short, the Indian people have a dual task at hand: to overthrow the fascist local hegemony of the upper caste Hindutva movement, and at the same time, fight to defeat the imperialist and Zionist masters who pull the strings from behind the shadows while India’s massive army of poor people suffer endlessly one tragedy after another. India’s Intifada is the only way out of this situation, as electoral rituals cannot address the entrenched power of elites who have turned traitors. There are historical precedents for the revolutionary impulse in Indian society. In fact the 1920s saw some of the most intense efforts to raise intensified armed struggle to a level of organized political struggle, a phenomenon that caused the British much anxiety, leading them to the arms of the non-violent liberal minded Gandhi. British intelligence expended tremendous resources to quash rebellious factory workers, farmers, students, and soldiers all over the subcontinent, while nurturing a ‘democratic’ alternative, the Congress movement of Gandhi.
In order to keep any radical tendencies among the more militant junior cadres of the Congress in check, the British also courted and encouraged religious fundamentalists among Hindus and played them against the Muslim League, with the effect that by the 1930’s the discourse of liberation had become dominated by the new religious identity based divisive politics, which the nascent Hindutva movement took to like fish to water. Meanwhile Gandhi’s liberalism went into headlong conflict with the radical socialism of Bhagat Singh and the Socialist Republican movement which was fast becoming more popular than the Congress. In order to avert the possibilities of violent revolution in the 1920s and 30s, Gandhi’s Congress did little to press for open confrontation with the British, and in fact silently and often actively helped fan flames of religious tensions as the upper caste leadership of the Congress saw a threat in the nascent revolutionary tendencies in the Indian people.24
The movement that Bhagat Singh’s organization (The Hindustan Socialist Republican Association/Army) was explicitly non-religious, and had a proud heritage of being militant, committed to armed struggle against the British, as well as against the local agents of British power, and the internal oppression of Indian society too. Bhagat Singh expressed a clear-cut revolutionary ideology at a time when Indians were reeling under the British heel and were being stifled by decades of unfruitful negotiations with the British for demands that were timid compared to what the revolutionaries demanded. Part of the reason why India never fully freed itself from the British yoke was precisely the debilitating effects of the Gandhian Congress movement. While there is no doubt that Gandhi’s own personal views were deeply secular and universalistic, his leadership angered the Brahmins within the Congress as well as the fringe elements in the right wing.
Hindutvadis who neither participated in mobilizations against the British nor were interested in fighting for the rights of the masses of India, hated Gandhi because he was a member of a lower caste, whose philosophy drew more from Jainism (a contemporary of Buddhism, which was popular among the lower castes of India), than from the priestly religion of Brahmanical Hinduism. Non-violence (Ahimsa) is not a Hindu innovation, but an idea that formed a very important part of the Jain and Buddhist view of the world, which was historically popular among the poorer and oppressed sections of India. The fear that India’s masses, a vast majority of whom are historically oppressed lower castes and Dalits (‘untouchables’), would inevitably lead an Indian revolution, drew these elitists to condemn Gandhi, and also adopt a lukewarm attitude towards the British.
The British of course had plenty of uses for the Hindutvadis as they did for the Muslim League; religious conflicts were always useful since at the end of the day the British could always claim to be keeping the ‘communities’ in peace. Extremist organizations that had little to do with the general struggles of the masses were often unleashed on any forces that appeared to be turning the tide against the order. This pattern developed and grew into the virulent tragedies of the partition, with no small help from the ruling elites of British India, both Hindus and Muslims, working in conjunction with British imperialism to maintain and retain privileges for Hindu and Muslim elites through the two-nation concept.
The geography of the partition is an important fact to reflect on. Punjab and Bengal were the primary sites of the partition. Both Punjab and Bengal in the 19th century were two of the largest nations in India (Nations as in a culturally distinct group of people with a political history of state formation and distinct social institutions). The populations of Punjab and Bengal were multi religious (Punjab: mostly Sikh, Muslim, and Hindu, Bengal: mostly Muslim and Hindu) and multi-cultural (for example, Muslim Punjabis use the Urdu-Arabic based script while Sikh and Hindu Punjabis use the Gurmukhi script, and Bengali Hindus use a Saka (Hindu) calendar that was adjusted to the Islamic Hijra over five hundred years ago).25
These two regions during the end of the 19th century became the centers for large-scale anti-British nationalist activities. In Bengal the British educated Indians who served in the British administration or in British institutions, became increasingly radicalized, while in Punjab, militant opposition to the British continued the resistance of the Punjabi people since the British annexation of Punjab by the British in the mid 19th century. In both cases what worried the British greatly was the unity of Hindus and Muslims in the nationalist struggle. This fear was the basis for the development by the British of a class of upper caste elites who with British education and tutelage became the core of the nationalist movement in the latter part of the 19th century. The actual historical events that lay at the core of this was the massive British-engineered famines in which tens of millions of Indians perished by starvation, while mammoth stockpiles of grains were sent to Europe. Sensing the potential for a mass uprising, the viceroy Lytton’s Secretary of Agriculture, one Alan Octavian Hume established the Indian National Congress for British liberals, and Hindu and Muslim elites, in 1885 with himself as the first president. I quote Mike Davis from his landmark exposition of British barbarism during the time of Victoria, an era the west likes to glorify as the ‘Victorian era.’ The work is titled "Late Victorian Holocausts, El Nino Famines and the making of the third world." It is a must read for anybody interested in learning about the basis for the present political geography of the world.
This was the beginning of the Indian National Congress, which later fashioned itself as the leader of the independence movement. Practices such as singing "God Save the Queen," were common in the activities of the "Indian" National Congress, whose upper caste and elite members were neither in touch with the masses of suffering Indians, nor posed a credible threat to British imperialist interests. In order to stifle the growing nationalist militancy in Bengal, the British initiated a partition at the turn of the century. Bengal was dissected into a Hindu and a Muslim Bengal. This was the beginning of the British policy of imposing religion as a dividing line upon their subjects in order to smash their subjects’ capacity to resist. Unfortunately for the British, Bengal became even more militant, with many courageous attempts to strike at the British from within India as well as with help from Indians living overseas in the other colonies. Punjab was also leading the nationalist struggle with militant organizations such as the Ghaddar party, formed by Indian immigrant laborers toiling in the United State and Canada, and in the colonies, and also the Babbar Akalis and other groups. The greatest names among the list of Indian revolutionary martyrs include overwhelming numbers of Punjabis and Bengalis. In Punjab, the British made great efforts to stifle the Sikhs and mobilized the help of Muslim landed elites and Hindu upper castes to isolate and alienate the Sikhs.
What resulted in 1947 then, was the forced trisection of the subcontinent, specifically the dismemberment of Punjab and Bengal. The British destroyed the main centers of popular militancy and handed the keys to the landed Hindu elites of the Congress who no doubt swore by secularism and the unity of India’s Hindus and Muslims, and to the descendents of the ruling elites of the Mughal empire, who established Pakistan as a home for India’s Muslims. The partition and destruction of mainly Bengal and Punjab resulted in millions of lives being thrown into the cauldron of this macabre ‘nation-building’ exercise, and the formation of two states that never succeeded in fulfilling the wishes of their peoples even after fifty years of ‘independence,’ but on the contrary ended up chaining our peoples to the heels of imperialism and neo-colonialism.27
Hindutva was from its beginnings opposed to any generalized mass struggle of a revolutionary character. The British fanned the flames and then when the pogroms shook the country, they claimed to keep the peace. To this day Hindutvadis name "communists" as one of their most hated enemies, an unsurprising fact since after all anybody who resisted the divisive fascist politics of Hindutva was immediately labeled a "pseudo-secularist" or "communist." Another common term with similar connotations is "terrorist." It goes without saying that such a mindset is common to fascism from Nazism, American McCarthyism and Boer apartheid racism and Israeli Zionism. All opponents are labeled as implacable and dangerous enemies, with the object that once political power comes into their grasp, Hindutvadis are determined to physically eliminate those cast as ‘enemies.'
While the Gandhian movement did much damage to the revolutionary impulse gripping India in the 1920s and 30s, it at least openly swore allegiance to the secular ideals implicit in the struggle of the Indian people; this was a minimum they had to concede in order to maintain some legitimacy among the masses. Yet Gandhian liberalism was patronizing and out of touch with the workers and peasants of India, as the words of the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association’s document "Philosophy of the Bomb" make clear in 1930:
These were words written by committed revolutionaries who were infuriated when Gandhi launched a tirade against them and condemned their activities in an article titled "Cult of the Bomb," hence the title of the response from the revolutionaries, "Philosophy of the Bomb." The self-righteous repudiation of violence when it came to actions taken by Indians against the British when thousands were being executed, tortured, and incarcerated, incensed revolutionaries and the ordinary people of India. Ghosh even points out that one of Gandhi's admitted nightmare scenarios was the unity of Hindus and Muslims for a violent overthrow of the British. He feared the rabble! Over endless cups of tea with British officials and reporters, Gandhi could engage in deep discussions about non-violence and the victory of truth, and even the emancipation of the British from British imperialism, and yet when it came to the emancipation of the ordinary Indian, his patronizing call to disarm, and walk towards the British as sheeps to the slaughter insulted most Indians, except perhaps those enraptured by the spiritual charms and saintly aura of the 'Mahatma.' Following the execitions of Bhagat Singh and comrades, Gandhi was met at the Karachi session of Congress, by a massive demonstration. Amazing facts suppressed by unending valorization that even continues today. Interestingly enough, following the executions, Nehru adopted terms like 'socialism' as part of his verbiage, no doubt an indication of reverence and perhaps fear of the revolutionaries and their mass base. Appropriation of the revolutionaries' discourse enabled Nehru to later portray himself as a radical, while towing the Gandhian Congress elitist line without much sweat. Nehru was in effect competing with Bhagat Singh for the hearts of the Indian masses.
Gandhi’s commitment to the emancipation of India’s Dalits and lower castes from the brutal tyranny of the Brahmanic social order was also ambiguous if not patronizing. E.V. Ramaswami Naicker-Periyar, the great civil rights leader from Tamil Nadu, put this aspect of Gandhi’s social activism in the spotlight in a speech in 1958.29
The point I am trying to make here is that India’s people were denied a truly liberating independence movement by the interplay of British colonialism with the elite upper caste liberals of the Congress, and also the role played by the communalist organizations like the RSS in inciting religious conflict as the linchpin that destroyed the progressive character of the independence struggle. India passed on from British hands to the Congress leadership, which through its ties to the landed elites and big business interests in India, established a system that remarkably maintained British colonial institutions without embarking upon a genuinely social revolutionary program. Little wonder then that popular movements opposed to the hegemony of the Indian colonial state never died out, as the peoples of India still await true independence and the rule by the people.
The Congress approach at best was to leave the social structures of India’s exploitative caste system intact, as challenges to this interfered with their strong supporters among the landed elites, the business classes and castes, as well as the right wing. Periyar recalls that the AICC (All India Congress Committee) provided funds for ‘social work’ while explicitly stating that the oppressed Dalits and lower castes were not to interfere with the social order in any way.
Nevertheless, internationally Nehru and his heirs salvaged the best of India’s Congress-Gandhi heritage and spoke openly about the rights of all oppressed colonized peoples. In this context, India always supported Palestine in all international forums. Hindutva on the other hand, has effectively launched a virulent attack on both India’s people, institutions, and the legacy of the anti-colonialist heritage. Therefore it is antithetical to any conception of a free and internationally anti-imperialist India; it is the Yankee sponsored face of reaction, drawn from the same forces that collaborated with British imperialism to shake off the perceived threat of a peoples’ Indian state. Hindutvadis are eager to rewrite the constitution, and march the country into a supposedly ‘presidential’ form of government; a national security state with a constitution that will no doubt enshrine fascism and chauvinism, and extricate all the secular, democratic principles on which the at least marginally progressive Indian republic was established in 1950.
Hindutva is the most dangerous threat to the Indian subcontinent, even more dangerous than the Taliban movement in Afghanistan, especially since it is also blatantly pro-imperialistic and a willing accomplice to the imperialist plunder of India. It is not a religious movement but a political usurpation of the last vestiges of the independent Indian state, which the BJP would like to see converted into a ‘security’ state, in which democracy and freedom of thought will not hinder their objectives of establishing the supremacy of their specific version of semitized Hinduism, the Hindutva state, in which Muslims, Dalits, Christians, secularists, human rights activists, women, tribal communities, will be relegated to a new lower caste status, while a Brahmin minority in allegiance with other members of the upper castes will manage the state on behalf of American global imperialism. To this end, they will seek to use the services of Zionism, and further push India into the abyss of global war and the destruction of the entire subcontinent.
In order to avert this catastrophe, the peoples of the subcontinent, Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Sri Lankans, and Nepalis as well as all progressive forces among the peoples of Afghanistan, Iran, China, Palestine, and the Arab world and South East Asia must use every means necessary to challenge and defeat these pro-imperialist usurpers and thugs. Struggles all over India are erupting among diverse sections of society. The need of the hour is gradually becoming more apparent and will eventually lead to a decisive national struggle to reassert the peoples’ rights over the nation; in this struggle to come, Hindutva, Zionism and U.S. imperialism will be on one side. It remains for the victims of these three bloodhounds to work towards developing an internationalist front that effectively combats them and smashes the power of tyranny on the altar of the people’s will. The struggles of the Arab world are tied to the struggles of the Indian subcontinent; by smashing the myths and lies that form the basis for imperialism’s advances, the peoples of these regions must strive to establish a new solidarity building upon the best traditions and currents of anti-colonialism and anti-imperialism, social, and economic emancipation. Collective feelings of disempowerment can serve the basis for a fresh look at our predicaments, and explore possible means to fight against the forces of imperialism, and its running dogs, Zionism and Hindutva.
I close with a brief note about the execution of Bhagat Singh, who is representative of the best of India’s anti-colonial legacy, and whose popularity, contrary to the muffled historical memory resulting from the loud valorization of Congress and Gandhi, threatened to upstage Gandhi, in the admission of the British colonialists themselves. In 1931, Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru were hanged by the British for their role in the killing of a British officer. They had initially courted arrest by carrying out a protest bombing in parliament, in which no one was hurt as they intended it to be a warning ‘to make the deaf hear.’ The cause of this action was impending legislation that sought to impose severe draconian laws under the pretext of ‘security,’ to crush growing rebellion among the Indian masses, particularly worker and peasant organizations. Bhagat Singh and the HSRA were definitely on the same beat as the Indian masses, while Gandhi and the Congress timidly towed the British line with little significant opposition, while being opposed to any form of militancy outside their restricting ‘non-violent’ purview.
Irwin’s minutes indicate that Gandhi played a more than significant role in the viceroy’s decision to carry out the executions of the revolutionaries. Fearing a backlash from the Indian masses and to divert the revolutionary fervor that was heightened in support of the revolutionaries, Gandhi worked out a deal with Irwin called the Gandhi-Irwin Pact. Suniti Kumar Ghosh points out that Gandhi negotiated with Irwin a preponement of the execution of the revolutionaries while claiming to the public that he pleaded with the viceroy to save the revolutionaries’ lives. This preponement was granted by Irwin and the three revolutionaries were hanged at 7:33 pm, March 23, 1931. Ghosh quotes the official History of the Indian National Congress:
This betrayal of India’s struggle was the clear course being alluded to above. This betrayal has a long history, going back to the colonial roots of the Congress and the ties between India’s ruling castes and classes with British colonialism; the common fear of a peoples’ uprising was the uniting factor while reformist calls for ‘Home rule,’ ‘dominion status,’ were dangled at the people as substitutes for full independence of the kind which fired the inspiration of the revolutionaries. When outright collaboration failed to achieve ends, these ruling classes resorted, as the British did, to divide the people along religious lines and incite communalism. The spiritualism being offered by Gandhi was sufficient to offer a sense of false validation to colonized Indians, as westerners saw and promoted in Gandhi the mystical aura of eastern spirituality, one who appeased the natives and at the same time appealed to the troubled conscience of the west. This Gandhian spiritualism is quite overblown by Indian and western scholars, as the evidence of India’s struggles in the 1920s and 30s suggests. It alienated Muslims and lower caste Hindus as it validated the ideologies and interests of the upper caste Hindus, and the British colonialists.
It was Bhagat Singh and not Gandhi who most closely represented the popular sentiment of the time. It was he who called on the Indian people to rise up against all predators foreign and domestic. It is his legacy that provides inspiration to the struggle ahead for the peoples of India, and the internationalist struggle against imperialism. His words apply to the universal struggle against exploitation, and in these times the linked struggle against Zionism and Hindutva, towards the liberation of South Asia and Palestine. Let us draw inspiration from this great son of India.
Bhagat Singh was 23 when he was executed by the British.
2 The Institutional Composition of Hindutva, The Progressive South Asian Exchange Net, source: http://www.foil.org/politics/hindutva/hindorg.html
3 Mahatma Gandhi's Approach to Zionism and the Palestine Question, Professor A.K. Ramakrishnan. Dr. Ramakrishnan is a senior lecturer, Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam, Kerala of India. He presented this paper to a seminar on Jerusalem and Palestine held in New Delhi on 13 June by the Institute of Islamic and Arab Studies, India. Source: http://www.ptimes.com/issue86/articles.html#11 (The Palestine Times)
5 RSS Politics: Vajpayee Takes The Mask Off, Harkishan Singh Surjeet, General Secretary, Communist Party of India Marxist, source: http://www.ganashakti.com/old/2000/000214/feature.htm
6 Hindutva’s foreign tie-up in the 1930s: archival evidence, Marzola Casolari, from South Asia Documents, section Secularism and Communalism. Source: http://www.ercwilcom.net/~indowindow/sad/godown/secular/fascirss.htm
7 An extremist Zionist ‘think-tank’ with contributors including Ariel Sharon and BenjaminNetanyahu. http://www.freeman.org/ Among the nonsense being manufactured here is a piece comparing Native Americans with the Zionists!
8 Hindu Extremists Seek Ties With Israel and Its U.S. Lobby, Faisal Kutty, source: http://www15.brinkster.com/indiatoday/contents.htm
11 India to allow US army access to counterinsurgency school, June 27, 2001, www.tehelka.com
12 The Tehelka Expose, in which senior officials in the ruling BJP government and individuals in the armed forces were caught on camera taking bribes by Tehelka investigative journalists. The webcast of this episode as well as details about the scam are available at: http://tehelka.zeenext.com/webcast.html
13 To learn more about the Dalit struggle and its centrality to the struggle against the Hindutva movement, please visit, www.dalitstan.org
14 Hindutva Offensive: Social Roots & Characterisation, R.R. Puniyani, source: http://www.foil.org/politics/hindutva/rampun1.html
15 Manusmriti, from www.hindubooks.org, source: http://www.hindubooks.org/scriptures/manusmriti/ch8/ch8_411_420.htm
16 Communalism and History, Romila Thapar, from Indian National Social Action Forum, source: http://www.mnet.fr/aiindex/ch2.html
17 The Invention of Ancient Israel, The Silencing of Palestinian History, Keith W. Whitelam, 1997, Description from Amazon.com, "A controversial and provocative work, The Invention of Ancient Israel chronicles how the true history of ancient Palestine has been obscured. Keith W. Whitelam reveals how ancient Israel has been invented by scholars in the image of a European nation state; one that resembles the state of Israel created in 1948. This book explores the prospects for developing the study of Palestinian history as a subject in its own right, divorced from the history of the Bible, and argues that Biblical scholars, through their traditional view of this area, have contributed to dispossession both of a Palestinian land and aPalestinian past."
18 Communalism and History, Romila Thapar, from Indian National Social Action Forum, source: http://www.mnet.fr/aiindex/ch2.html
19 Hindu Violence against Buddhism in India has no parallel, Dr. M.S.Jayaprakash, The Dalit Voice April 16-30.The author is the Professor of History, Guru Vihar, Punnathala, Kollam District, Kerala, India.
20 Tirupati Balaji was a Buddhist Shrine, Dr. K. Jamanadas, Dalitstan.org, source: http://dalitstan.org/books/tirupati
21 Mirat ul Memalik (The Mirror of Countries), 1557 CE, Sidi Ali Reis (16th Century CE), Internet Medieval Source Book, source: http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/16CSidi1.html
22 Thus spoke Ambedkar, the Quotations of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, source: http://www.ambedkar.org/Babasaheb/quotations.htm
23 History of the H.M. 13th Light Dragoons, source: http://members.ozemail.com.au/~clday/13light.htm#mutiny
24 Freedom Struggle Betrayed, India 1885-1947, Suniti Kumar Ghosh, 1997Available on the web at: http://www.maoism.org/misc/india/rupe/fsb/toc_fsb.htm
25 Islamic Star Over India, Amartya Sen, Nobel Laureate, Economics, This article is excerpted from a UNESCO lecture titled "An Assessment of the Millennium" delivered by Amartya Sen in New Delhi recently. Source: www.littleindia.com
27 India and the Raj, 1919 –1947, Glory, Shame and Bondage, Suniti Kumar Ghosh, available on the web at: http://www.maoism.org/misc/india/india_raj_v2/india_raj_2.htm
28 Philosophy of the Bomb, signed, Kartar Singh, President, Hindustan Socialist Republican Association. In December 1929, HSRA revolutionaries made a failed attempt to assassinate the viceroy, Lord Irwin. Gandhi reportedly "thanked God" for the viceroy’s narrow escape, and condemned the revolutionaries in an article called "Cult of the Bomb." In response, the HSRA issued this statement, the Philosophy of the Bomb. Full text at: http://www.parwhaz.com/shaheed-bhagatsingh/bomb.htm
29 Speech by E.V. Ramasami Naicker-Periyar in Kanyakumari District, Tamil Nadu, 25th and 26th December 1958, source: http://www.periyar.org/mr/20002m8.htm
30 Freedom Struggle Betrayed, India 1885-1947, Suniti Kumar Ghosh, 1997 Available on the web at: http://www.maoism.org/misc/india/rupe/fsb/toc_fsb.htm
31 Freedom Struggle Betrayed, India 1885-1947, Suniti Kumar Ghosh, 1997 Available on the web at: http://www.maoism.org/misc/india/rupe/fsb/chap7.htm