A Review of ‘The Italian Connection’, by Marzia Casolari. Footnotes ; New Delhi, Price not indicated. 46 pp. ‘Khaki Shorts and Saffron Flags’, by Tapan Basu et al. Orient Longman; New Delhi, price Rs.35/-. ‘The RSS and the BJP- a Division of Labour by A.G. Noorani, Leftword, New Delhi, price Rs. 75.
Since the murder of Gandhi, there have been several works on the RSS and the other religio-political organizations of India. Most of them have labeled the organizations as fascist and authoritarian. This has gone on to the present day.
The first booklet (which was earlier brought out by the ‘Economic and Political Weekly’ on Jan 22, 2000), by unco.vering the historical links of Hindu extremism with Mussolini’s fascisti and with the Nazis shows why they could not be otherwise. Casolari has ferreted out data and produced archival/documentary evidence of the influence of the Nazis and the Italian Fascists on the then incipient forerunners of the present day Sangh Parivar. From the 1920’s Hindu radicalism was interested in Italian Fascism. This inspired B.S. Moonje’s trip to Italy in 1931 after which he tried to transfer its model to Hindu society by organising it militarily.
This admiration and fixation for the Italian regime was shared by different streams of Hindu extremism and their leaders. From 1924 to 1935 the newspaper ‘Kesari’ published several editorials and articles on Italy, on Mussolini and on fascism. The purport of all of them was to say that the shift from democracy to fascism in Italy was like that of from Chaos to Cosmos, or from Anarchy to Order!
It was in 1931 that Moonje met Mussolini and he described the meeting in his diary. He also indicated the Italian system of indoctrinating youth. It is that system which was adopted in the RSS and continues to do so to this day. It is true that the literature of the RSS indicates that it was Dr. Hedgewar who was the builder of the RSS structure, but it is also true that Moonje, was the source of inspiration. Even Subhash Chandra Bose met Mussolini and later had a meeting with Jinnah and Savarkar. It is not understandable why Bose felt the need to meet with these two leaders of the Hindu and Muslim extremists.
By the end of the 1930s Italian representatives in India established contacts with these extremist fringes of Hindu nationalism. The Italian consulate in Bombay started recruiting Indian students for ‘language’ training. On another front, Savarkar searched for contacts especially with Nazi Germany. He tried this by supporting Germany’s position on the Sudeten problem. This was responded to by German newspapers by publishing his views in their dailies. He wrote that, in India, Muslims and Hindus would choose differently given a plebiscite. This is a statement tantamount to the infamous Two-nation theory! In this connection we should remember that the Saffron brigade had always supported the German solution to their Jewish problem! Savarkar was very clear in this when stated that the German movement in Germany was a nationalist one while that of the Jews there was a communal one! Here is a typical lopsided juxtaposition used by the Hindutva writers, opposing a community with a nation instead of with another community. Further, the admiration of these extremist Hindus regarding the way the Jews were dealt with by the German nazis tells us much about what they would like to do with minorities in India. It is true that all the gory details of concentration camps were not yet known then, but those regarding the pogroms were evident. Lenin had warned that the great nation chauvinism can always hide behind the garb of nationalism. So had Nehru.
The two other books which are worth reading on this subject as they go into the ideology and the history of Hindu extremism. After all, we can only clearly gauge the kind of people they are by studying the history and the ideology of their movement.
During the 1890s and 1900s there were strains between the Hindus and the Muslims which were fairly violent in nature. These were followed by tremendous unity moves, witness the ‘Lucknow Pact’ and the ‘Khilafat’ movement. However, after the mid- twenties these unity moves do not recur. It is to be noted that the RSS was formed in 1925.
The fight of Hindu nationalism was most marked with the Communists, the Muslims and the Christians. It was never really with the foreign British rulers. They, the Hindu radicals never participated in any meaningful way in the freedom movement. In fact they were always willing to cooperate with the British, witness the role of S.P. Mookerjee in the Quit India movement, when he offered to cooperate with the governor of Bengal instead of resigning from the government against the call for a mass movement confronting the British imperialist rule.This is the selfsame founder of Jan Sangh, now the BJP. Their most revered book and author are ‘Anand Math’ and Bankimchandra Chatterji. It is noteworthy that in this book, after the sadhus have succeeded in ousting the Muslim rulers and are on a rampage killing hapless Muslim commoners, they give up the struggle and hand over power to British foreigners as ‘we are not ready to rule’!
In their history, the Civil Disobedience of 1930-31 is a non event in that it just does not get reported. Their stand regarding the British rule was known to the rulers. This is all too clear in the reports of the Home Department notes and therefore, like the Muslim League, they were never the targets of British wartime repression. The Congress in general and Nehru in particular are their bete-noires. The Parivar’s hatred for them is visceral. The main reason is that the Congress always took the limelight from them or rather never allowed it to stray towards them. While Nehru never gave them the time of day, Gandhiji did give them some hearings. Yet they did praise Mrs. Gandhi, but only when she was at her authoritarian, and undemocratic worst i.e. during the Emergency. Perhaps it was to ward off the repression unleashed on the opposition including the Sangh Parivar by her. The RSS have all the trappings of fascism. Their membership is exclusively male. A separate wing has been opened for women but it is obviously an after thought. It is only limited to Hindus. Their beneficiaries are seen by them to be only Hindus. On some occasions they have paid lip service to the Jains, Buddhists and Sikhs, but once again only half-heartedly and again only as Hindus of a slightly different persuasion.
While they say they speak for all Hindus, they have never tried to lighten the load of the lower castes and lower class Hindus. Considering the phenomenal amount of money at their disposal, they have done precious little for the downtrodden in the shape of charity hospitals, schools, widow remarriage, removal of caste distinctions etc. etc. They certainly have done nothing for reducing the problems faced by the poor especially the recent victims of globalisation. Their reach is only among the uprooted, some lumpens and the upwardly mobile. There is no democracy within the RSS. The top brass is nominated by the outgoing leader and not elected to their posts. Their stand on sati is well known which is indicative of the place of Hindu women in their Ram Rajya to come!
It fantastic, but it is the only ‘cultural’ organisation that controls a political party is which happens to rule India. In fact the RSS members head the VHP and all other such setups. Further it is extremely secretive. The extent and size of the funds that flow into the coffers of especially the VHP are not known to any but a few at the top. In fact a conscientious tax officer had tried to probe their wealth but had to eat humble pie.
The make-shift women’s wing does try to lessen the burden of dowry by sharing among each other, but never by questioning the rights and w
rongs of it. Moreover they work only among same class levels and do not venture into the lower class sections of society as do other womens groups.
Their penchant for violence is high. Being initially formed mostly of the trader class in north India and the Brahmins in Maharashtra their love for violence is only of a voyeuristic kind. However, as already stated, their threshold for bearing pain is abysmal, witness their absence in any movement which is fraught with any danger to their life and/or limb.
Their working methods are such that they spread terror on an unknowing Hindu group. Completely unimportant issues are picked up such as:
(1) The Muslims are increasing in number and soon the Hindus will become a minority in their own land. That it is completely false is not at issue. Further, notice, in the sentence, how they have usurped India only for the Hindus.
(2) Muslims marry 4 times. Once again it is false, there are no statistics with them to prove that Hindus are not equally polygamous, in fact the census figures for Hindu male bigamy are not in their favour. Also note, that only men are the subjects, as Muslim and Hindu women (half the population) are not important to them.
(3) Christians convert so much that they will overwhelm the Hindus. That the Christians have been in India since 60 years after death of Christ when Hinduism itself was still evolving, and that with 200 years of ‘Christian’ rule, there are still only 2 per cent of the population and decreasing (!) should be enough to show that there is no cause for worry, is not the point. It is only to strengthen the sense of uneasiness among the Hindus so that they become fertile ground for a further ideological barrage.
(4) The ancient past was a golden age where there were no problems of stratification among the Hindus, no exploitation.Once again this is only wishful thinking.
(5) Many temples in Jammu and Kashmir were destroyed by Muslims. This was later found to be untrue.
(6) In the case of the debris of the Babri Masjid it is clear that they have been adding stones ‘proving’ the existence of an earlier Mandir. (see ‘The Archaeology After Demolition,’ Orient Longman.)
(7) They raise a hue and cry on relatively unimportant issues like the film ‘Water’ and the like, only to hide other important ones like the passing of the WTO resolution which would impoverish so many poor peasants so that, busy with condemning their stand on ‘freedom of statement’, the debate on vital issues is not carried out.
(8) Initially opposing Enron (only to get kick-backs) and then allowing then in on conditions far worse to the country, shows that even the fruits of Hindutva are for Videshis!
It is only among uprooted peoples that Fascism can flourish. In India due to the Green Revolution in the north-west, with increased money-supply, that youth over there are at a loose end. With increasing small-scale industry, there are clusters of people from the rural areas but with no working class movement they are rudderless. The increasing debts due to higher input prices to be paid by farmers and decreasing procurement prices for their produce leading to anomie and insecurity among them makes them lend themselves as happy hunting grounds for the ‘rootedness’ that religion can provide. That the woes of the poor have been increased manifold by globalisation, is a further cause for the poor and the lower middle-class falling victims to the false propaganda of Hindutva which is increasing by leaps and bounds because of the massive infiltration of the media by the saffron fellow-travellers.
It was Marx who had said that in bourgeois society, Religion was the ‘heart of a heartless world, the sigh of the oppressed, the opiate of the people’. These ‘religious’ fanatics have taken that heart out and have clamped on the sighs of the oppressed even of the Hindus. Verily they are a threat even to the Hinduism of a general Hindu!
These books make one think. They are logical, well argued and well brought out. They are fairly low priced too, along with being important additions to the repertoire of valuable literature for any thinking person interested in the future of the Indian Union.