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Walkin’ the Snake in India: Supplement to the Hindutva Fascism Series

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COMMENT:In numer­ous pro­grams, we have high­light­ed the Nazi tract Ser­pen­t’s Wal [5]k, which deals, in part, with the reha­bil­i­ta­tion of the Third Reich’s rep­u­ta­tion and the trans­for­ma­tion of Hitler into a hero.

In FTR #‘s 988 [6] and [6] 989 [6]990, [7] 991 [8], and 992, [9]we detailed the Hin­dut­va fas­cism of Naren­dra Modi, his BJP Par­ty and sup­port­ive ele­ments, trac­ing the evo­lu­tion of Hin­dut­va fas­cism through the assas­si­na­tion of Mahat­ma Gand­hi to the present time.

It appears that a Ser­pen­t’s Walk sce­nario is indeed unfold­ing in India.

As the say­ing goes, you can’t judge a book by its cov­er. But there are excep­tions. For instance, when a children’s book is enti­tled “Great Lead­ers” and has a pic­ture of Adolf Hitler stand­ing next to Barack Oba­ma, Mahat­ma Gand­hi, and Nel­son Man­dela, that’s the kind of book cov­er that sug­gests this is a book best worth skip­ping.

Key points of analy­sis and dis­cus­sion include:

1. “Indi­an Children’s Book Lists Hitler as Leader ‘Who Will Inspire You’” by Kai Schultz; The New York Times; 03/17/2018 [10]

An Indi­an pub­lish­er came under fire this week for includ­ing Hitler in a children’s book about world lead­ers who have “devot­ed their lives for the bet­ter­ment of their coun­try and peo­ple.”

“Ded­i­cat­ed to the bet­ter­ment of coun­tries and peo­ple? Adolf Hitler? This descrip­tion would bring tears of joy to the Nazis and their racist neo-Nazi heirs,” Rab­bi Abra­ham Coop­er, asso­ciate dean of the Simon Wiesen­thal Cen­ter [17], an inter­na­tion­al Jew­ish human rights orga­ni­za­tion, said in a state­ment.

Pub­lished by the Pega­sus imprint of India’s B. Jain Pub­lish­ing Group, the book, called “Lead­ers” — but list­ed on the publisher’s web­site as “Great Lead­ers” — spot­lights 11 lead­ers “who will inspire you,” accord­ing to a prod­uct descrip­tion on the publisher’s web­site [18].

On the book’s cov­er, a stony-faced Hitler is fea­tured along­side Barack Oba­ma, Mahat­ma Gand­hi, Nel­son Man­dela and India’s prime min­is­ter, Naren­dra Modi. Also includ­ed on the cov­er is Myanmar’s civil­ian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who has recent­ly come under sharp crit­i­cism for refus­ing to acknowl­edge atroc­i­ties com­mit­ted by the country’s mil­i­tary against the Rohingya [19] eth­nic group.

Ear­li­er this week, the Simon Wiesen­thal Cen­ter, which is based in Los Ange­les, called for the pub­lish­er to remove “Great Lead­ers” from cir­cu­la­tion and its online store, where it is sold for about $2.

“Plac­ing Hitler along­side tru­ly great polit­i­cal and human­i­tar­i­an lead­ers is an abom­i­na­tion that is made worse as it tar­gets young peo­ple with lit­tle or no knowl­edge of world his­to­ry and ethics,” Rab­bi Coop­er said in the state­ment.

Annshu June­ja, a pub­lish­ing man­ag­er at the imprint, said by email that Hitler was fea­tured because, like Barack Oba­ma, Nel­son Man­dela and Mahat­ma Gand­hi, “his lead­er­ship skills and speech­es influ­enced mass­es.”

We are not talk­ing about his way of con­duct or his views or whether he was a good leader or a bad leader but sim­ply por­tray­ing how pow­er­ful he was as a leader,” he said.

In parts of Asia, atroc­i­ties com­mit­ted in Nazi Ger­many are poor­ly under­stood [20] and Hitler is some­times glo­ri­fied as a strong, effec­tive leader.

In 2004, reports sur­faced of high-school text­books in the state of Gujarat, which was then led by Mr. Modi, that spoke glow­ing­ly of Nazism and fas­cism [11].

Accord­ing to “The Times of India,” in a sec­tion called “Ide­ol­o­gy of Nazism,” the text­book said Hitler had “lent dig­ni­ty and pres­tige to the Ger­man gov­ern­ment,” “made untir­ing efforts to make Ger­many self-reliant” and “instilled the spir­it of adven­ture in the com­mon peo­ple.” Only briefly does the book men­tion the exter­mi­na­tion of mil­lions of Jews and oth­ers by the end of World War II.

Dilip D’Souza, an Indi­an jour­nal­ist, wrote in a 2012 edi­to­r­i­al [15] that when 25 most­ly upper-mid­dle-class stu­dents taught by his wife at a pri­vate French school in Mum­bai were asked to name the his­tor­i­cal fig­ure they most admired, nine of them picked Hitler.

“ ‘And what about the mil­lions he mur­dered?’ asked my wife. ‘Oh, yes, that was bad,’ said the kids. ‘But you know what, some of them were trai­tors.’ ”

The state­ment from the Simon Wiesen­thal Cen­ter said that “Great Lead­ers” had been sold this month at the Krithi Inter­na­tion­al Book Fair [21] in Kochi, a city with a long Jew­ish her­itage [22]. The 48-page book was orig­i­nal­ly pub­lished in 2016, accord­ing to the publisher’s web­site, and it was still avail­able for sale online on Sat­ur­day. It is unclear who wrote it.

2. “Hitler’s Strange After­life in India” by Dilip D’Souza; The Dai­ly Beast; 11/30/2012 [15]

Hat­ed and mocked in much of the world, the Nazi leader has devel­oped a strange fol­low­ing among school­child­ren and read­ers of Mein Kampf in India. Dilip D’Souza on how polit­i­cal leader Bal Thack­er­ay influ­enced Indi­ans to admire Hitler and despise Gand­hi. My wife teach­es French to tenth-grade stu­dents at a pri­vate school here in Mum­bai. Dur­ing one recent class, she asked these most­ly upper-mid­dle-class kids to com­plete the sen­tence “J’admire …” with the name of the his­tor­i­cal fig­ure they most admired.

To say she was dis­turbed by the results would be to under­state her reac­tion. Of 25 stu­dents in the class, 9 picked Adolf Hitler, mak­ing him eas­i­ly the high­est vote-get­ter in this par­tic­u­lar exer­cise; a cer­tain Mohan­das Gand­hi was the choice of pre­cise­ly one stu­dent. Dis­cussing the idea of courage with oth­er stu­dents once, my wife was star­tled by the con­tempt they had for Gand­hi. “He was a cow­ard!” they said. And as far back as 2002, the Times of India report­ed a sur­vey [12] that found that 17 per­cent of stu­dents in elite Indi­an col­leges “favored Adolf Hitler as the kind of leader India ought to have.”

In a place where Gand­hi becomes a cow­ard, per­haps Hitler becomes a hero.

Still, why Hitler? “He was a fan­tas­tic ora­tor,” said the 10th-grade kids. “He loved his coun­try; he was a great patri­ot. He gave back to Ger­many a sense of pride they had lost after the Treaty of Ver­sailles,” they said.

“And what about the mil­lions he mur­dered?” asked my wife. “Oh, yes, that was bad,” said the kids. “But you know what, some of them were trai­tors.”

Admir­ing Hitler for his ora­tor­i­cal skills? Sur­re­al enough. Add to that the easy con­dem­na­tion of his mil­lions of vic­tims as trai­tors. Add to that the char­ac­ter­i­za­tion of this man as a patri­ot. I mean, in a short dozen years, Hitler led Ger­many through a scarce­ly believ­able orgy of blood to utter shame and whole­sale destruc­tion. Even the mere thought of call­ing such a man a patri­ot pro­found­ly corrupts—is vio­lent­ly anti­thet­i­cal to—the idea of patri­o­tism.

But these are kids, you think, and kids say the darn­d­est things. Except this is no eas­i­ly writ­ten-off expe­ri­ence. The evi­dence is that Hitler has plen­ty of admir­ers in India, plen­ty of whom are by no means kids.

Con­sid­er Mein Kampf, Hitler’s auto­bi­og­ra­phy. Reviled it might be in the much of the world, but Indi­ans buy thou­sands of copies of it every month. As a recent paper in the jour­nal EPW tells us (PDF [14]), there are over a dozen Indi­an pub­lish­ers who have edi­tions of the book on the mar­ket. Jaico, for exam­ple, print­ed its 55th edi­tion in 2010, claim­ing to have sold 100,000 copies in the pre­vi­ous sev­en years. (Con­trast this to the 3,000 copies my own 2009 book, Road­run­ner, has sold). In a coun­try where 10,000 copies sold makes a book a best­seller, these are sig­nif­i­cant num­bers.

And the approval goes beyond just sales. Mein Kampf is avail­able for sale [23] on flipkart.com, India’s Ama­zon. As I write this, 51 cus­tomers have rat­ed the book; 35 of those gave it a five-star rat­ing. What’s more, there’s a steady trick­le of reports that say it has become a must-read for busi­ness-school stu­dents [24]; a man­age­ment guide much like Spencer Johnson’s Who Moved My Cheese or Edward de Bono’s Lat­er­al Think­ing. If this undis­tin­guished artist could take an entire coun­try with him, I imag­ine the rea­son­ing goes, sure­ly his book has some lessons for future cap­tains of indus­try?

Much of Hitler’s Indi­an after­life is the lega­cy of Bal Thack­er­ay, chief of the Shiv Sena par­ty who died on Nov. 17 [25].

Thack­er­ay freely, open­ly, and often admit­ted his admi­ra­tion for Hitler, his book, the Nazis, and their meth­ods. In 1993, for exam­ple, he gave an inter­view to Time mag­a­zine. “There is noth­ing wrong,” he said then, “if [Indi­an] Mus­lims are treat­ed as Jews were in Nazi Ger­many.”

This inter­view came only months after the Decem­ber 1992 and Jan­u­ary 1993 riots in Mum­bai, which left about a thou­sand Indi­ans slaugh­tered, the major­i­ty of them Mus­lim. Thack­er­ay was active right through those weeks, writ­ing edi­to­r­i­al after edi­to­r­i­al in his par­ty mouth­piece, “Saam­na” (“Con­fronta­tion”) about how to “treat” Mus­lims.

On Dec. 9, 1992, for exam­ple, his edi­to­r­i­al con­tained these lines: “Pak­istan need not cross the bor­ders and attack India. 250 mil­lion Mus­lims in India will stage an armed insur­rec­tion. They form one of Pakistan’s sev­en atom­ic bombs.”

A month lat­er, on Jan. 8, 1993, there was this: “Mus­lims of Bhen­di Bazar, Null Bazar, Don­gri and Pyd­honie, the areas [of Mum­bai] we call Mini Pak­istan … must be shot on the spot.”

There was plen­ty more too: much of it inspired by the failed artist who became Germany’s führer. After all, only weeks before the riots erupt­ed, Thack­er­ay said this [26] about the führer’s famous auto­bi­og­ra­phy: “If you take Mein Kampf and if you remove the word Jew and put in the word Mus­lim, that is what I believe in.”

With rhetoric like that, it’s no won­der the streets of my city saw the slaugh­ter of 1992–93. It’s no won­der kids come to admire a mass-mur­der­er, to ratio­nal­ize away his mas­sacres. It’s no won­der they cling to almost com­i­cal­ly super­fi­cial ideas of courage and patri­o­tism, in which a megalomaniac’s every ghast­ly crime is for­got­ten so long as we can pre­tend that he “loved” his coun­try.

In his acclaimed 1997 book Hitler’s Will­ing Exe­cu­tion­ers, Daniel Gold­ha­gen writes: “Hitler, in pos­ses­sion of great ora­tor­i­cal skills, was the [Nazi] Party’s most force­ful pub­lic speak­er. Like Hitler, the par­ty from its ear­li­est days was devot­ed to the destruc­tion of … democ­ra­cy [and to] most espe­cial­ly and relent­less­ly, anti-Semi­tism. … The Nazi Par­ty became Hitler’s Par­ty, obses­sive­ly anti-Semit­ic and apoc­a­lyp­tic in its rhetoric about its ene­mies.”

Do some sub­sti­tu­tions in those sen­tences along the lines Thack­er­ay want­ed to do with Mein Kampf. Indeed, what you get is a more than ade­quate descrip­tion of … no sur­prise, Thack­er­ay him­self. . . .


3.“Shiv Sena;” Wikipedia.com [16]

 . . .The par­ty has a pow­er­ful hold over the Bol­ly­wood [27] film indus­try.[13] [28] It has been referred to as an “extrem­ist”,[14] [29][15] [30] “chau­vin­ist”,[16] [31][17] [32] as well as a “fas­cist [33] par­ty”.[18] [34][19] [35] Shiv Sena has been blamed for the 1970 com­mu­nal vio­lence in Bhi­wan­di [36], the 1984 Bhi­wan­di riot [37] and vio­lence in the 1992–1993 Bom­bay riots [38] . . .

. . . . The par­ty has been in coali­tion with the Bharatiya Jana­ta Par­ty (BJP) for Lok Sab­ha [39] as well as Maha­rash­tra Assem­bly [40] since 1989. The two formed a gov­ern­ment in Maha­rash­tra between 1995–1999.[23] [41] The Sena was the oppo­si­tion par­ty in the state along with the BJP from 1999 to 2014. . . .