Rise of Modi to the helm of power in democratic India is not much different from the rise of Hitler to the power in Germany which also took place under democratic electoral system. But rise of Hindu Fascism is not all of sudden in India. It is a gradual process and from the very beginning Hindu fascism is embedded deep inside construction of Indian nationalism. Only a few pockets of resistances against Hindu fascism remain in Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Odisha and West Bengal.
Rise of Indian Nationalism
As the Hindu ultra nationalism is spreading across length and breadth of India. We will also discuss here how this fascist politics can be dealt with. The term “Hindu” was used to designate anyone from east of river Indus by West Asians and Central Asians since Persians came to India as early as 400 BC. But the name became popular among South Asians only after Turks overran large parts of South Asia by late 12th century AD. Turk rulers called natives of new conquered South Asia as Hindus. Three centuries later the term Hindu began to be used widely to identify people who follow idol worshiping and all other types of native religions.
Hence by 15th century AD, Hindu became a separate religious identity which is different from Islam which came to India from West Asia and Central Asia. Hindu identity became more popular among native non Muslim traders and landlords when rise of British started to destroy the political domination of Muslim rulers across South Asia. In fact, the native class which collaborated with the British justified their collaboration by claiming to fight Muslim domination over “Bharat Varsha” (present South Asia). By 1850s, Muslim domination was gone and different Hindu compradors (i.e. native collaborators of British rule) gradually got united under the banner of Indian nationalism.
Indian National Congress was first step in which Indian nationalism got a distinct objective and motivation. But Hindu compradors had a lot of inter fight as well. Since middle of 18th century Bengali Hindus were most important collaborators with the British. Bengal’s huge agricultural revenue, Bengali Hindus’ rent collecting skills and Calcutta port’s importance made them most important allies of British. Since 1870s, importance of Calcutta declined and Bombay became commercial capital of British India. As British started setting up industries across India, agriculture’s importance relatively declined. Hence, West Indian Hindu businessmen (from Gujarat-Rajasthan-Haryana) replaced Bengali Hindus as the most important collaborators since 1880s. Muslim traders and landlords who already lost their political domination began to collaborate with the British.
From India to Hindustan
By 1920s, Bengali Hindus were weakened considerably and contradiction between West Indian Hindus and Muslims became primary issue. Congress Party under Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi successfully managed to convince the people of Gangetic plain (modern UP-Bihar-Jharkhand-MP provinces of India) to join West Indian Hindu business compradors. This successful alliance between capitalistic West Indian businessmen with feudal Gangetic plain is done with the help of Hindi language and Hindu religion. Despite many differences both people (except Gujarat) accept Hindi as their writing language and Devanagari as their writing script.
So Hindi language was used to make this alliance happening. Similarly, as contradiction between West Indian Business and Muslims grew sharper, anti Muslim sentiment and Hindu identity was propagated to make this formidable alliance. Thus the vast stretch of land from Haryana in the west to Bihar in the east and from Himachal Pradesh in the north to Central province in the south became united under Hindi language-Hindu religion and this region is often called Hindustan. In this way, within Indian nationalism Hindustani (Hindi-Hindu) identity became prominent. As Hindustan politics gained momentum Muslim politics for the creation of Pakistan got advantage under Mohammad Ali Jinnah.
Rise of Hindu Fascism
Gradually more ultra Hindu nationalists emerge under the banner of Hindu Mahasabha who criticized Gandhi’s Congress as weak counterpart of Jinnah’s Muslim League. The failure of Congress to keep Hindu dominated undivided India created permanent mass appeal for Hindu fascism. In the initial years after independence, modernisation of India, socialist philosophies, anti-Western mind set were much more prominent in India. But after fall of USSR in later 1980s and early 1990s socialist dreams were diluted. It is then that Hindu fascist ideology started to resurface. Demolition of Babri Mosque gave Hindu fascism great leap forward. From just two members in Parliament, BJP (electoral political wing of Hindu Mahasabha) reached one hundred and two after the incident. Since then Hindu Fascism was making steady advance. They came in power in 1999-2004. But they reached their point of glory when Modi was elected Prime Minister after having huge mandate. And now BJP is ruling in entire Hindustan and 17 out of 31 states in India. Hindu fascism now is more powerful than ever.
Pockets of Resistance against Hinduism
Hindu fascism has its base in Hindi language-Hindu religion-undivided India. So it is mainly concentrated in Hindi-speaking heartland. As the result all pockets of resistance that still remains is non Hindi area like West Bengal, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Punjab. In other non Hindi area like Maharastra, Seemandhra and Telengana, BJP is in power with the help of regional parties who mainly held regional and often linguistic ideology. Only Gujarat state despite non-Hindi speaking has deep rooted Hindu fascist ideology. North-Eastern seven sisters usually go along with the ruling parties of the centre. So they are now BJP ruled as well. Hence, we can say that if any resistance is expected against rise of Hindu fascism it is from non-Hindi speaking region.
Hindu Fascist Politics
As an important point for discussion is that Hindi region is more populous compared to non-Hindi region. Since, Indian constitution is very much unitary and there is little room for Federalism, more populous Hindi heartland sends more law makers to both houses of legislature i.e. Loksabha (equivalent to British House of Commons) and Rajyasabha (equivalent to British House of Lords). Moreover, non-Hindi speaking southern peninsula, Deccan plateau, Odisha and Bengal are coastal region and more industrialised compared to Hindi-heartland which has no sea connection.
Since these non-Hindi area are relatively developed in industries and commerce, their fertility rate is considerably low compared to Hindi heartland. In fact, most of them have below replacement rate fertility rate (1.7 on average), while Hindi-heartland has above 3 fertility rate on average. Hence, demographically Hindi heartland is not only stronger but their strength is rising compared to others. Thus the cities of non-Hindi speaking area are watching rising migration of Hindi speakers. This can be concluded that rise of Hindu fascism is the result of demographic domination of Hindi speakers. Hindu politics is commanding not only votes of Hindi area but also influence in cities of non Hindi region.
How to counter Hindu Politics
One way to counter Hindu politics is by upholding linguistic identity in non-Hindi speaking region. At the same time, all non-fascist political parties of Hindi-heartland must be united as well. Then alliance between these two forces is needed on the basis of anti fascist ideology. Hindu fascism breeds on the concept of Undivided India and United South Asia (Baharat Varsha) threatening sovereignty of different neighbouring nations. At the same time, it thrives on domination of Hindi heartland over the rest of India threatening all languages and culture other than Hindi. So accepting fully federal constitution must be common minimum program when linguists of non-Hindi region and anti-fascists of Hindi region are uniting to uproot Hindu fascism. Only by federalizing India, the demon of fascism can be defeated.
Hindu identity started as an ideological tool to ally with the British against the then Muslim rule. Then Hindu identity used to project Indian nationalism. Finally due to inter contradictions among Hindu compradors and contradiction between Hindus and Muslims, Hindi-Hindu Fascism came out of Indian nationalism. Now Hindu fascism is stronger than ever. Its expansionist dream of undivided India not only denies the sovereignty of neighbouring countries but also cultural-linguistic heritage of different community within India. The only way to fight fascism is unite all non-fascist elements in India, uphold linguistic identity over religious identity and finally unite both under the concept of future fully federalized India.