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More About Hindutva Fascism

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COMMENT: In numer­ous broad­casts and posts, we have high­light­ed Hin­dut­va (Hin­du supremacist/nationalist) fas­cism, the ide­ol­o­gy of Naren­dra Mod­i’s BJP and its par­ent orga­ni­za­tion, the RSS. (Some of these pro­grams are: FTR #‘s 795, 889, 988, 989, 990, 991, 992, 1015, 1018, 1019, 1020.) 

We have a reminder of how deeply the Hin­dut­va fas­cism of India’s rul­ing BJP par­ty and its par­ent RSS group were shaped by the Nazis. It’s also a reminder of how impor­tant ide­al­ized mytho­log­i­cal pasts are for fas­cist move­ments. Final­ly, it’s a reminder of the impor­tant role anti-Semi­tism played in pro­vid­ing a mod­el to RSS on how to suc­cess­ful­ly demo­nize of minor­i­ty group (Mus­lims, in the case of the RSS) and how anti-Semi­tism remains a ‘go-to’ tool for Hin­du nation­al­ists today when deal­ing with non-Indi­ans per­ceived to be ene­mies of the move­ment. Audrey Truschke, a his­to­ri­an of pre­mod­ern India at Rut­gers Uni­ver­si­ty, ruf­fled Hin­du nation­al­ist feath­ers with her schol­ar­ly works on the his­tor­i­cal lega­cy of Islam in India. Her research pri­mar­i­ly deals with the Mus­lim dynasty that ruled much of north and cen­tral South Asia in the 16th and 17th cen­turies. As a result of that work, Truschke has found her­self under attack from Hin­du nation­al­ists upset with her work, and tar­ring her with anti-Semit­ic slurs (despite Truschke not being Jew­ish). 

Hin­dut­va fas­cists are also attempt­ing to infuse sci­en­tif­ic the­o­ry with Hin­du mythol­o­gy, not unlike the atavism that ele­ments of the Nazi regime and the SS in par­tic­u­lar espoused, dis­miss­ing Ein­stein, among oth­ers as a pur­vey­or of “Jew­ish sci­ence.”

1.  “Hin­du nation­al­ists increas­ing­ly use anti-Semit­ic slurs to tar­get me – and that isn’t sur­pris­ing” by Audrey Truschke; Scroll.in; 11/12/2018

Two years ago, I awoke to the fol­low­ing tweet, “I hope anoth­er Hitler comes back and fin­ish­es off your peo­ple”, accom­pa­nied by a pic­ture from 1945 of the bod­ies of dead Jews piled out­side a lib­er­at­ed con­cen­tra­tion camp. Since then, I have been reg­u­lar­ly attacked with anti-Semit­ic lan­guage and tropes on social media, espe­cial­ly on Twit­ter.

I am a tar­get for anti-Semit­ic insults due to my work: I am a his­to­ri­an of pre­mod­ern India. My research pri­mar­i­ly con­cerns the Mughals, a Mus­lim dynasty that ruled much of north and cen­tral South Asia in the 16th and 17th cen­turies and built the Taj Mahal. Most his­to­ri­ans – espe­cial­ly those who work on non-West­ern, pre­mod­ern top­ics – find their audi­ence con­fined to schol­ars and stu­dents. But Indi­ans have a vora­cious appetite for his­to­ry, and the his­tor­i­cal lega­cy of Islam in India has become a sub­ject of explo­sive con­tro­ver­sy in recent years. This potent com­bi­na­tion has made my schol­ar­ship of wide inter­est among Indi­an and Indi­an Amer­i­can read­ers and has also made me a tar­get of vicious per­son­al attacks on the basis of my per­ceived race, gen­der, and reli­gion.

His­tor­i­cal­ly, anti-Semi­tism was not an Indi­an prob­lem. Small Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ties, often traders, have dot­ted India’s west­ern coast for more than a mil­len­ni­um. Pre­mod­ern Indi­an Jews did not suf­fer from the per­se­cu­tion and dis­crim­i­na­tion that often char­ac­terised the lives of their Euro­pean coun­ter­parts. In the 20th cen­tu­ry, many Indi­an insti­tu­tions and inde­pen­dence lead­ers con­demned ris­ing anti-Semi­tism in Europe. For exam­ple, fol­low­ing Kristall­nacht in 1938, the Indi­an Nation­al Con­gress issued a dec­la­ra­tion against Hitler’s Ger­many. Mahat­ma Gand­hi and Jawa­har­lal Nehru, two of India’s most famous Inde­pen­dence lead­ers, con­demned the Nazi treat­ment of Jews.

India’s dis­taste for anti-Semi­tism began to erode in the ear­ly 20th cen­tu­ry, how­ev­er, espe­cial­ly among Hin­du nation­al­ists. Hin­du nation­al­ists – who believe that India ought to be a Hin­du nation in pop­u­la­tion and char­ac­ter – warm­ly embraced fas­cist ideas. The Rashtriya Swayam­se­vak Sangh, a para­mil­i­tary Hin­du nation­al­ist group found­ed in 1925, mod­elled itself on con­tem­po­rary Euro­pean fas­cist move­ments. The Hin­du Mahasab­ha, a Hin­du nation­al­ist organ­i­sa­tion found­ed in 1915, open­ly sup­port­ed Nazism, includ­ing “Germany’s cru­sade against the ene­mies of Aryan cul­ture”, as a spokesman for the group put it in 1939.

Rise of anti-Semi­tism in India

A key appeal of Nazism for ear­ly Hin­du nation­al­ists was anti-Semi­tism, which they saw as a use­ful mod­el for how to demonise India’s Mus­lim minor­i­ty. Mus­lims con­sti­tut­ed 24% of the Indi­an pop­u­la­tion in 1941, and they com­prise 14% of Indi­ans today (the drop is explained by the Par­ti­tion of Pak­istan and its large Mus­lim pop­u­la­tion from India in 1947). Speak­ing in 1939 in Cal­cut­ta, VD Savarkar, the ide­o­log­i­cal god­fa­ther of Hin­du nation­al­ism, iden­ti­fied Indi­an Mus­lims as a poten­tial trai­tor­ous peo­ple not to be trust­ed, “like the Jews in Ger­many”. In the same year, MS Gol­walkar, a Rashtriya Swayam­se­vak Sangh leader, wrote that Germany’s “purg­ing the coun­try of the semit­ic Race – the Jews” was “a good les­son for us in Hin­dus­tan to learn and prof­it by”.

For decades, Hin­du nation­al­ists con­sti­tut­ed a set of fringe organ­i­sa­tions whose extreme ideas were reject­ed by the wider Indi­an pub­lic. In 1948, a Rashtriya Swayam­se­vak Sangh man, Nathu­ram Godse, assas­si­nat­ed Mahat­ma Gand­hi, which sparked a brief ban on the group’s oper­a­tions. The Sangh expe­ri­enced a remark­able recov­ery in sub­se­quent decades, how­ev­er, trans­form­ing itself from an extrem­ist asso­ci­a­tion known for pro­duc­ing Gandhi’s killer into the lead­ers of inde­pen­dent India. Today, Naren­dra Modi, who has had a life­long asso­ci­a­tion with the RSS, leads India as its prime min­is­ter.

Inde­pen­dent India has devel­oped a strong appetite for aspects of fas­cism, includ­ing Nazi ide­ol­o­gy. Hitler’s auto­bi­og­ra­phy, Mein Kampf, has gone through count­less edi­tions in India and has been a best­seller in the coun­try for decades. The work is espe­cial­ly pop­u­lar among busi­ness­men who see it as a self-help guide for how deter­mi­na­tion and strength can pro­duce suc­cess. Indeed, I was once told by a gen­tle­man in Bikan­er, “Madam, you are a great leader like Hitler.” This was meant as a com­pli­ment.

Grow­ing hate and intol­er­ance

The Indi­an fas­ci­na­tion with Hitler is often explained away as hav­ing noth­ing to do with anti-Semi­tism. Some argue that Indi­ans hard­ly learn about the Holo­caust in school and that they are his­tor­i­cal­ly and emo­tion­al­ly dis­tant from the dark­er sides of Nazism. Oth­ers point out that the Indi­an state enjoys robust rela­tions with Israel.

In India, how­ev­er, grow­ing big­otry and close rela­tions with Israel are hard­ly mutu­al­ly exclu­sive. A prej­u­diced atti­tude against Mus­lims has served as a bind­ing glue between Israel and India over the past decade or two. Hate crimes against numer­ous groups – includ­ing Mus­lims, Chris­tians, Dal­its, and any­body who eats beef – are on the rise in Modi’s India. Such trends are unsur­pris­ing giv­en the Hin­du nation­al­ist pro­pa­gan­da espoused by Modi and his polit­i­cal par­ty, the Bharatiya Jana­ta Par­ty.

Anti-Semit­ic atti­tudes are not a cen­tral sto­ry­line in this larg­er flow­er­ing of prej­u­dice, but they are a ready­made play­book of vir­u­lent hate that can be unleashed against for­eign schol­ars. Aca­d­e­mics, such as myself, often con­tra­dict Hin­du nation­al­ist claims about a pris­tine Hin­du past, in which Mus­lims are seen as bar­barous invaders, by argu­ing that many Mus­lims were embed­ded into the fab­ric of pre­mod­ern Indi­an soci­ety. By virtue of our ded­i­ca­tion to accu­ra­cy, schol­ars also shed unfavourable light on the ori­gins of groups such as the Rashtriya Swayam­se­vak Sangh. Hin­du nation­al­ists lack the his­tor­i­cal evi­dence to counter aca­d­e­m­ic claims on schol­ar­ly grounds, and so they turn to one of their most fine­ly-tuned weapons: iden­ti­ty-based attacks.

One curi­ous aspect of this anti-Semi­tism direct­ed at me is that I am not, in fact, Jew­ish. Per­haps my last name sug­gests a Jew­ish iden­ti­ty to those unfa­mil­iar with east­ern Euro­pean sur­names, but I sus­pect that dark­er rea­sons often lurk behind this mis­tak­en iden­ti­fi­ca­tion. Sev­er­al of my aca­d­e­m­ic advi­sors are Jew­ish and fre­quent­ly maligned as such by Hin­du nation­al­ists. As a result, I am evi­dent­ly per­ceived as a Jew by asso­ci­a­tion. More insid­i­ous­ly, the old anti-Semit­ic trope that Jews con­trol uni­ver­si­ties still sur­faces with alarm­ing reg­u­lar­i­ty. This is a sub-type of the foun­da­tion­al anti-Semit­ic trope that there is an inter­na­tion­al Jew­ish con­spir­a­cy to run the world. In oth­er words, anti-Semi­tism blinds peo­ple into assum­ing that I am Jew­ish, and then pro­vides them with a remark­ably hate­ful set of tools with which to attack me.

India has a grow­ing prob­lem with hate and intol­er­ance. Alarm­ing­ly, in recent years, much of this hate has been spon­sored by groups and fig­ures that are close to the Indi­an gov­ern­ment. With­in India, Mus­lims remain the chief tar­gets of mount­ing big­otry and vio­lent assaults. When attack­ing non-Indi­ans, how­ev­er, Hin­du nation­al­ists increas­ing­ly resort to the vir­u­lent anti-Semit­ic ideas that inspired their ear­ly lead­ers.

2.“India sci­en­tists dis­miss Ein­stein the­o­ries”; BBC; 01/07/2019

Sci­en­tists in India have hit out at speak­ers at a major con­fer­ence for mak­ing irra­tional claims, includ­ing that ancient Hin­dus invent­ed stem cell research.

Some aca­d­e­mics at the annu­al Indi­an Sci­ence Con­gress dis­missed the find­ings of Isaac New­ton and Albert Ein­stein.

Hin­du mythol­o­gy and reli­gion-based the­o­ries have increas­ing­ly become part of the Indi­an Sci­ence Con­gress agen­da.

But experts said remarks at this year’s sum­mit were espe­cial­ly ludi­crous.

The 106th Indi­an Sci­ence Con­gress, which was inau­gu­rat­ed by Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi, runs from 3–7 Jan­u­ary.

The head of a south­ern Indi­an uni­ver­si­ty cit­ed an old Hin­du text as proof that stem cell research was dis­cov­ered in India thou­sands of years ago.

G Nagesh­war Rao, vice chan­cel­lor of Andhra Uni­ver­si­ty, also said a demon king from the Hin­du reli­gious epic, Ramayana, had 24 types of air­craft and a net­work of land­ing strips in mod­ern day Sri Lan­ka.

Anoth­er sci­en­tist from a uni­ver­si­ty in the south­ern state of Tamil Nadu told con­fer­ence atten­dees that Isaac New­ton and Albert Ein­stein were both wrong and that grav­i­ta­tion­al waves should be renamed “Naren­dra Modi Waves”.

Dr KJ Krish­nan report­ed­ly said New­ton failed to “under­stand grav­i­ta­tion­al repul­sive forces” and Einstein’s the­o­ries were “mis­lead­ing”.

Crit­ics said that while ancient texts should be read and enjoyed – it was non­sense to sug­gest they rep­re­sent­ed sci­ence.

The Indi­an Sci­en­tif­ic Con­gress Asso­ci­a­tion expressed “seri­ous con­cern” at the remarks.

Pseu­do­science moves from fringe to the main­stream

Analy­sis by Soutik Biswas, BBC News, Del­hi

India has a mixed rela­tion­ship with sci­ence.

On the one hand, it has a rich tra­di­tion of out­stand­ing sci­en­tists – the Hig­gs boson par­ti­cle, for exam­ple, is named part­ly after an Indi­an physi­cist and Einstein’s con­tem­po­rary, Satyen­dra Nath Bose. Par­ti­cle physi­cist Ashoke Sen, mean­while, is the recip­i­ent of Fun­da­men­tal Physics Prize, the world’s most lucra­tive aca­d­e­m­ic award.

But it also has a long tra­di­tion of replac­ing sci­ence with myths, lead­ing to a fringe cul­ture of pseu­do­science.

Many believe under Naren­dra Modi’s Hin­du nation­al­ist BJP par­ty, pseu­do­science has moved from the fringe to the main­stream.

Mr Modi him­self set the tone in 2014 with his out­landish claim that cos­met­ic surgery was prac­tised in India thou­sands of years ago.

Many of his min­is­ters fol­lowed suit with sim­i­lar claims. India’s top sci­ence sum­mit also start­ed invit­ing aca­d­e­mics with Hin­du nation­al­ist lean­ings who have made equal­ly bizarre claims.

Such claims usu­al­ly hark back to an imag­ined glo­ri­ous Hin­du past to bol­ster reli­gious nation­al­ism. The BJP and its hard line allies have for a long time mixed mythol­o­gy and reli­gion to bol­ster polit­i­cal Hin­duism and nation­al­ism. Adding sci­ence to the mix, say crit­ics, will only help prop­a­gate quack sci­ence and erode sci­en­tif­ic tem­per.

Also, as econ­o­mist Kaushik Basu says: “For a nation to progress it is impor­tant for peo­ple to spend time on sci­ence, math­e­mat­ics and lit­er­a­ture instead of spend­ing time show­ing that 5,000 years ago their ances­tors did sci­ence, math­e­mat­ics and lit­er­a­ture.”

Oth­er claims made by Indi­an politi­cians and sci­en­tists:

* India’s junior edu­ca­tion min­is­ter Satya­pal Singh in 2017 said that air­planes were first men­tioned in the ancient Hin­du epic, Ramayana. He added that the first work­ing plane was invent­ed by an Indi­an named Shiv­akar Babu­ji Tal­pade eight years before the Wright broth­ers
* Also in 2017, the edu­ca­tion min­is­ter for the west­ern state of Rajasthan said it was impor­tant to “under­stand the sci­en­tif­ic sig­nif­i­cance” of the cow, claim­ing it was the only ani­mal in the world to both inhale and exhale oxy­gen
* In 2014, Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi told med­ical staff at a Mum­bai hos­pi­tal that the sto­ry of the Hin­du god Gane­sha – whose ele­phant head is attached to a human body – showed cos­met­ic surgery exist­ed in ancient India
* Geol­o­gist Ashu Khosla said that Hin­du god Brah­ma dis­cov­ered dinosaurs and doc­u­ment­ed them in ancient Indi­an scrip­tures while pre­sent­ing a research paper at the Indi­an Sci­ence Con­gress on Sun­day
* Law­mak­er Ramesh Pokhriyal Nis­hank prompt­ed out­rage in 2014 when he said that “sci­ence is a dwarf in front of astrol­o­gy”. He added that astrol­o­gy was “the biggest sci­ence” and that India con­duct­ed nuclear tests more than 100,000 years ago



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