By ICNA CSJ Team
Part I: Introduction to Hindutva (Extreme Hindu Nationalism/Hindu Fascism)
The current ruling political party of India the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) stems from an ideology similar to Nazism, called Hindutva. Hindutva is a form of extreme Hindu nationalism. The term promoted by Vinayak Damodar who interestingly professed atheism as his prime belief. This extreme form of nationalism is fascist in nature. Many prominent figures of the BJP and its founding members deeply admire Fascism and Nazism and their infamous founders. Senior BJP members had direct links to both Benito Mussolini in Italy and Adolf Hitler in Germany. They greatly admired the method in which Mussolini and Hitler reorganized their respective nations rapidly from the wreckage of war to build a powerful economy and military under the banner of patriotism and nationalism . Principally, Hindutva stands for the extreme authoritarian rule of Hindus of a so-called “Ancient India”, which they describe as their motherland. A dictatorial rule enacted by strong regimentation of society and forcible suppression of other religions and low-class Hindus. Hindutva rejects the portrayal of a diverse India brought together different cultures and faith. It favors upper caste Hindu’s and lower-caste Hindus are subliminally placed as second-class citizens, and non-Hindus are subjugated to violence, bigotry and oppression.
Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) is the main promoter of the Hindutva ideology and the fountainhead of its wing organizations Bajrang Dal, Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP), and Hindu Sena. The VHP and the Bajrang Dal are considered religious militant organizations by the CIA. All these organizations have a major influence in the economy of India and remote villages. Strategically, the RSS targets vulnerable and impoverished populations within India’s rural areas to promote the agenda of Hindutva. With villagers’ commitments to the RSS’s overall goal, the RSS provides its participants with a host of benefits including those that of monetary, education, career, and trade/skills advancement. It often appeals to many villagers to take this offer as it strengthens one’s position in society with the government and its bureaucracy. Furthermore, NGO’s in India often are associated with poverty alleviation and Education for vital communities are often associated with the RSS or one of its many sister/umbrella organizations (these sister/umbrella organizations are known as the ‘RSS family’ or Sangh Parivar in the local language).
An example of these development related charities and organizations that have connections to Sangh Parivar and its leaders are many. A prime example is an organization named Ekal Vidyala Foundation (EVF). EVF is the largest grassroots, non-government education initiative in India with a presence in 57,717 villages providing free education to more than one million children. The Schools are based of a single teacher philosophy of whom works under the EVF to provide health care education and farming techniques. However, the EVF is closely associated with the RSS. With no surprise in 2005, a decade before Narendra Modi’s rise to Prime Minister, the Republic of India’s ministry of Human Resource Development, alleged that in many EVF schools did not provide reading and learning material, and used funds to “generate hatred towards minorities, and condition the minds of children”. The report also claimed that another RSS related charity known as Friends Tribal Society (FTS) was, “misusing these funds, and using the grants for creating disharmony amongst religious groups”. Subsequently, a few months later the Indian Government stopped grants to the schools based on this report.
Additionally, in a 2002 report titled, ‘The Foreign Exchange of Hate – IDRF and the American Funding of Hindutva’ , published by Sabrang Communications and South Asia Citizens Web reported, “VHP- run Ekal Vidyalaya schools mostly funded by its American branch (EKF USA) had the goal of spreading hatred against Indian minorities and allocated money disproportionately directed to Hindutva-affiliated groups”.
It is important to understand how this family of Sangh Parivar operates effectively in India. Swayamsevaks (volunteers) are recruited early in childhood and are taught a specific ideology. The Sangh Parivar has created and propagated organizations in every facet of socio-political life in India—from political parties to children’s centers, trade unions and militias. Moreover, they have made significant efforts to reach the ‘Hindu’ diaspora in America by creating American sister organizations linked to the VHP and RSS that aids their discriminant work in India. This strategic recruitment done at a young age is fed by radical Hindu education and field propagation led by extreme vigilante mobs by proliferating hate of minorities to townspeople and the spreading of anti-minority pamphlets and literature and the sporadic creation of anti-minority programs such as the grabbing of minority land or buildings or the promotion of riots and murder. For these purposes, the Sangh has set up hundreds of smaller organizations all over the country, all supervised by volunteers from the Sangh and centrally coordinated, even though each claim to be independent of the Sangh.
The most well known and active organizations of the Sangh Parivar are listed blow with there United States sister organization a graphical representation is noted. (Provided by a report from Sabrang Communications):
- Its parliamentary wing, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP, Indian Peoples Party)
- Its cultural/political mobilization wing, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP – World Hindu Council)
- Its paramilitary wing, the Bajrang Dal
- Its service wing, the Seva Vibhag
Each of these has a US sister which are:
- The Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS) mirrors the RSS with the Friends of India Society (FISI) functioning as its public arm
- The Overseas Friends of the BJP runs the affairs of the BJP in the US
- The Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America does the same for the VHP
- The IDRF looks after the Seva Vibhag’s activities in the US
Moreover, it is important to mention that much of Hindutva ideology-based organizations allocate major funding from Extreme Hindu Coalitions that are partner bases of Sangh Organizations in India right here in the heartland of America. This report will give a detailed explanation of this manifestation in Part III: Radical Hinduism (Hindutva) in American Politics.
Part II: An In-Depth Look: Current State of Minorities in India
Prime Minister Narendra Modi leads the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) and this year the party recorded a landslide win on a campaign that ostensibly targeted Muslim, a population with more than 200 million constituting nearly seventeen percent of India. To put it in perspective, out of the BJP’s 303 lawmakers in Parliament, the party does not have a single Muslim member. The rise of the BJP has been marked by severe electoral marginalization of Muslims with their representation in democratic institutions gradually falling down. The Indian Prime Minister said that the opposition parties “deceived minorities” by not addressing their basic needs such as healthcare and education. “Due to vote bank politics, minorities were crushed, boxed into a corner, subjected to imaginary fears, and exploited during the elections,” he said, addressing the newly elected parliamentarians.
Just hours after the results were declared, Muslims were publicly attacked in many places by those celebrating Modi’s victory. Since the BJP came back into power in April of 2019, at least 5 incidents of hate crimes have been recorded. Incidents have been widespread across the whole country from Delhi to Hyderabad. In Madhya Pradesh state, three Muslims, including a woman, were severely beaten by a mob on the suspicion of carrying beef. Similarly, a Muslim man in Gurugram, a suburb of Delhi was stripped of his prayer cap and made to shout Hindu religious chants. Hindu extremists have particularly been very violent and have carried out lynching’s against Muslims very openly. In the past year of Modi’s rule, 44 people were lynched, most of them Muslim, by cow vigilantes. This specific type of attack has been termed ‘Cow Lynching’, and India is now being coined as ‘Lynchistan’. Hundreds of Muslims were lynched after being accused of consuming or possessing beef or transporting cattle while Hindu slaughterhouses have made India the largest exporter of beef in the world. Hundreds of Muslim youth are forced to spend decades in prison after being falsely confounded of terrorism. These Muslim youth, ultimately acquitted by the courts, after being constantly harassed have had their lives destroyed, while Hindutva bombers and lynchers have been set free in months, and in most cases have never faced the law at all. BJP continued to build fear and hate among Hindus and referred to Muslims as threats. They rallied behind ideas such as building temples over demolished masjids and changing citizenship laws to bar Muslims.
Muslims have become extremely polarized and left out of the Indian society. BJP policies may potentially make Muslims arbitrarily left out of the final list and stripped of all basic entitlements such as healthcare, education and voting rights. Such polarization was last seen during the partition of India and Pakistan. With the election verdict, the majority Hindus have given vent to their unfulfilled aspiration for a BJP ruled India. This process is only going to intensify in the coming decades.
BJP’s public platform is to support a unified India for everyone, their association with extremist organizations and their reluctance to condemn acts of communal violence have drawn comparisons to the U.S. Republican Party’s association with white nationalism under Donald Trump. With the current government of India aligning with Right-Wing Hindu beliefs, this causes orthodox affiliated Hindus to face a similar problem to liberal Christians in the U.S. In both countries, a “religious right” has dominated the public discourse around their respective traditions in recent years. Articulating a faith-based view for social justice invites skepticism, if not ridicule, from potential allies.
This ridicule and bigotry are only increased and solidified by members of Parliament who also are BJP related. Pravin Togadia leader of the VHP exalted, “We should have it in us to take the law in our own hands in an area where we are a majority and scare [Muslims]”.
While Modi has distanced himself from hardline anti-Muslim comments, many hold him responsible for 2002 Hindu-Muslim clashes in his home state of Gujurat that left more than 1,000 dead — most of them Muslim — and hundreds more injured. All these massacres and pogroms that go silent are the main issue at hand. The Indian Government does not speak out or condemn any of the lynching or mob attacks. There are essentially three parts to this violence: Firstly, these attacks are not carried out by the government but rather by mobs connected to the RSS (Similar to the Ku Klux Klan of the United States). Secondly, the government is somehow complicit and rather gives these mobs impunity. Thirdly, Police Involvement have been siding with mobs and does not give proper protection or charges when these attacks and lynches are carried out.
Furthermore, it is important to understand the only violence that is occurring is from the extreme Hindu groups. There does not exist a single non-Hindu organization that openly invites or threatens the safety of any Hindu resident in India.
In Assam state, the BJP based its campaign on the promise that it will rid the state of undocumented Muslim immigrants from Bangladesh while promising to keep the Hindu immigrants in contravention of India’s secular constitution. BJP president Amit Shah had referred to Bangladeshi immigrants as “termites” and “infiltrators.” Muslims form one-third of Assam’s population, but their citizenship has always been harbored with suspicion.
Kashmir has been for the past few decades the CenterPoint for Hindu-Muslim tension in the greater Subcontinent region. Kashmir has witnessed an armed rebellion since the late 1980s during which more than 60,000 civilians have been killed. India has stationed nearly half a million forces to fight the rebels, who either want independence or a merger with Pakistan. Modi has primarily been exploiting the conflict in Kashmir for political gain. On August 5, 2019 the RSS and BJP have heightened their already persecuted Kashmiri minorities. The Indian government revoked articles 370 and 35A, by taking away the regions special status and made all of Kashmir a giant prison by imposing a 24 hour curfew, as more than seven million Kashmiris are confined to their with no access to the outside world. The internet and land lines were cut off and media personnel are blocked from entering. Additionally, the government have allowed citizens to privatize and buy Kashmiri lands, that don’t necessarily belong to them. Such doings, we have seen Modi’s administered government dismiss the economic and population constraints and deepening divisions of social status within already poor country. In essence, Modi and his administration have been using potential nuclear warfare to flex extreme Hindu nationalism.
Part III: Radical Hinduism (Hindutva) In American Politics
Hindutva in the United States has grown systematically ever since the 1980s, experiencing exponential growth in the 90s corresponding with the boom in professional Hindu-Indian migration from India to the United States. Every year, charitable organizations based in the US donate millions of dollars of funding to non-profit groups affiliated with the Sangh Parivar, either in India or overseas. RSS volunteers and supporters have gradually infiltrated the political and economic stage in American. It has taken over a vast number of Hindu temples, professional organizations and cultural spaces of the Hindu and Indian community in the United States. Hindutva followers are the fastest growing Islamophobia group in the US. Every year more than 50,000 hard core Hindutva followers join thousands of highly educated professionals as IT guest workers and students. This adds to the infantry of the widespread Islamophobe network in America. These Hindutva groups are working closely with other Islamophobes to demonize Islam and its history in American public education. Their aim to poison the minds of future generations of Americans against Islam poses a great threat to Muslim children.
The India Development and Relief Fund, based in Maryland, USA: According to a 2002 report by Sabrang Communications and South Asia Citizens Web, 50% of IDRF disbursements between 1994 and 2000 went to Sangh Parivar groups in India. From 2002 to 2012, the organization has disbursed more than $17.3 million to hundreds of recipient organizations in India, most of them Sangh-affiliated development and relief groups such as the Akhil Bharatiya Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram, the Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation of India, Param Shakti Peeth and Sewa International.
Lobbyists of the Hindu American Foundation (HAF), also play a vital role in covering up RSS’s violent action in India. Known as the front of the RSS here in America. In the monthly meeting of the International Religious Freedom a committee under the Department of State, headed by US Ambassador Sam Brownback, the HAF makes it a concealed mission to hide the actions of RSS influenced mobs in India.
India is currently listed as a Tier 2 country. Meaning that they are currently listed in a ‘watch list’ but not to a level that would designate them to be a ‘Country of Particular Concern’, but requires close monitoring due to the nature and extent of violations posed by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). The HAF has vehemently tried to convince stakeholders to remove India from this group, and often use the occurrences of religious violence in Afghanistan and Pakistan as cover ups. An example of this is when the HAF presented United States Ambassador Sam Brownback with a ‘peace’ award for protecting the rights of Hindus in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, they called this award the ‘Mahatma Gandhi Peace Award’. Ironically, the members of the RSS were the murderers of Mahatma Gandhi. The HAF also has close ties with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), and are very connected to them. Furthermore, HAF works closely with another close Zionist organization named Anti-Defamation League (ADL), to remove any clause or victimization of groups affected by Hindutva groups on both social media and elsewhere.
Part IV: Empirical Solutions to the Conflict at Hand
The most tangible solution for most residents in America is to inform their Hindu friends of the current situation of Indian Minorities. The purpose of this is to create peaceful and harmonic alliances to stop extreme Hindu groups in India and these related coalitions in America. An example of a group like this is Sadhana, a hindu group, whose mission is to reclaim the word ‘dharma’, which blends personal duty with civic responsibility. They practice to promote sadhana, or faith in action, by advocating for those social justice principles that are at the core of Hinduism. This is the beginning of removing and reclaiming Hinduism from far-right politicians who have visions of distorting a peaceful faith in an effort to polarize India. Essentially, it is important to note principles of the Hindu Religion of Mahatma Gandhi who led one of the greatest freedom movement against the then strongest nation of the world, and these RSS groups are keen in killing that ideology.
Furthermore, just as it is important for Hindus to fight Hindu extremism, it is essential for society to understand that Hindutva is an attack on India’s Constitution, and the largest democracy in the world. This is the narrative we have to take for such a diverse country. It is crucial that religious tolerance is a key component for Indian society and its stability. Consequently, it is significant to get American legislature involved and influenced to take a stance against Hindutva. The byproduct of this increase persecution defeats the own self/geo-political interest of the USA. A weakening of India leads to strengthening of China and its already invisible hand in global trade. Americans as a nation must petition and ask members of the House of Representatives to take a firm stance against this both for moral and economic reasons.
Another item of importance is for Imran Khan (Prime minister of Pakistan) is to switch his main focus from mainly Jammu and Kashmir to support the rights of just not Muslims but every minority in India. This will likely lessen the pull Modi can have on Kashmir. Hence, if Imran Khan wins the support of the citizens of India, this cancels any legitimate proposition enacted by Modi or any of his future bigotry, statements, and plans due to the gaining trust of his political rival Imran Khan from Indian minorities residing in India. One method is that Prime Minister Imran Khan can start by doing this is by allowing Hindus and Sikhs visiting important holy sites revered by these minorities that are in Pakistan.
Lastly, it is important to expose these Hindu Coalitions and there perpetual funding of RSS related groups in India. It is important to reach out to the government and track there public spending and funding. The RSS cannot take direct donations due to there restrictions as an already known threat since 2002 genocide in Gujarat. Therefore, to maintain a steady pressure against there funding and management is pivotal in America.