This year, as we observe Human Rights Day on December 10 – the day on which the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – we discuss how the fascist elements of the RSS have gradually revealed their roots to be embedded within the Nazi ideology. Apart from the parallel modus operandi of alienating a specific segment of the society, such as the Kashmiris and Muslims, the discourse points out the influence of Nazism on RSS’ Hindutva and their oppressive reign in IIOJK.
To comprehend the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s (RSS) militant ideology, it is crucial to investigate its direct linkages with Nazism. The deeply rooted Hindu nationalism in 1930s was based on fascism1, the sole objective of which was to convert ‘different' people into enemies. The founders of modern militant Hinduism embraced the idea of Nazism and expressed their admiration for fascist leaders such as Hitler, who carried out the worst act of holocaust and exterminated millions of Jews and thereby established a fascist model of society. It is this direct connection that influences RSS-BJP to the present day. This exposé presents direct linkages between RSS and Nazism and how the militant Hinduism ideology was operationalized against the innocent Kashmiris in IIOJK.
Defining RSS’ Militancy, Politics and History
Historically, the organization of RSS is defined as undemocratic, with authoritarian, paramilitary, radical, violent tendencies and sympathy for Nazi ideology and practices. The literature that emerged after Gandhi's assassination in January 12, 1948 have shown rising concern about RSS that continues up to the present day with works such as Jaswant Singh’s India at Risk: Mistakes, Misconceptions and Misadventures of Security Policy (Rupa Publications, India, November 2013); Christophe Jaffrelot's The Hindu Nationalist Movement in India (Viking, New Delhi, 1996), the book published on the subject; or the well-known Khaki Shorts and Saffron Flags (Orient Longman, New Delhi, 1993), which came out soon after the destruction of Babri Mosque; Hindutva by V. D. Savarkar (January, 2003); Golwalkar's We or Our Nationhood Defined (November, 2006); Know the RSS: Based on Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh Documents (Hindi edition) by Dr. Shamsul-Islam (January, 2017); Savarkar: The True Story of the Father of Hindutva by Vaibhav Purandare (August, 2019); The RSS: A Menace to India, by A. G. Noorani (September, 2019); In the Shadow of the Swastika: The Relationships between Indian Radical Nationalism, Italian Facism and Nazism by Marzia Casolari (2020); and Messengers of Hindu Nationalism: How the RSS Reshaped India by Walter Andersen and Shridhar D. Damle.
The existing and well researched literature demonstrates the [Nazi ideological] background of RSS has not been taken seriously by the international stakeholders and a systematic analysis is much needed. It is just a fact that many of those who witnessed the growth of the Hindu radical forces in the past decades have already verified the RSS’ Nazi outlook and BJP’s extreme measure to continue to kill Kashmiris and the innocent Muslims of India. Particularly, the acute prejudice, hate speech, violence towards Muslims, Christians and Dalits has deconstructed the militant character of RSS.
Historically, the organization of RSS is defined as undemocratic, with authoritarian, paramilitary, radical, violent tendencies and sympathy for Nazi ideology and practices. The literature that emerged after Gandhi's assassination in January 12, 1948 have shown rising concern about RSS that continues up to the present day.
The conceptual scheme of RSS is remarkably similar to Nazism and thus, by default, it became an extension of Hitler’s ideology in the subcontinent. It has remained controversial whether M. S. Golwalkar had authored the infamous book, We or Our Nationhood Defined, or it is just a translation of a Marathi book written by Ganesh Damodar Savarkar, the elder brother of the famous Hindutva ideologue, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar. Golwalkar, the second sarsanghchalak (chief) of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, who held the post between 1940 and 1973, remains one of the most influential figures in the Sangh’s history. We, published in 1939 under his name, played a key part in making him a prominent figure within the RSS and was considered the first systematic explication of the Sangh’s ideology.2 The ideological position of RSS that emanated from Adolf Hitler’s doctrine asserted that India belongs to the Hindus and that the country’s minorities should be treated along the lines of the Nazis’ treatment of the Jews. The book inextricably tied RSS to the fascist ideology of Nazi Germany.3
The critical analysis of Golwalkar’s disclosure about transforming the nation into “Hindustan” clarifies that his statement was not considered newsworthy, and that part of his speech did not appear in any newspaper at the time – according to D. R. Goyal’s history of the Sangh. However, the historical dream of RSS’ leadership dream came true when Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the political outfit, came to national power in the late 1990s. Since Sangh’s affinity with Nazism has been established on historical grounds and well documented in the RSS’ archives, BJP and RSS have been trying to dust it off and started to distance themselves from Golwalkar’s ideology. The current government’s policies toward the Kashmiri and Indian Muslims suggest otherwise while RSS-BJP continue to affect the lives of all minorities in India.
The operationalization of RSS’ ideology has primarily been led by India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, who is a trained “pracharak” (worker) of the RSS and an ardent supporter of the Hindutva ideology. Modi would aggressively move to implement pro-Hindu policies; the reality of which has been far more complicated.4 It, therefore, is no surprise that since 2014, with the rise of Bharatiya Janata Party, India has fast drifted towards Nazi inspired Hindu nationalism or the Hindutva ideology. (Hafeez, Mahwish 2020).5
Nazism, Holocaust6 and the Ideological Base of RSS
The Nazi-led government governed on the basis of existing beliefs and prejudices and thus created a racial militant ideology, which resulted in the persecution and murder of millions of Jews in Europe. Ostensibly, anti-Semitism proved to be a catalyst leading to the Holocaust, building an environment in which prejudice, hate speech and violence could unjustifiably implement the ethnic cleansing designs on the Jews. The history of anti-Semitism and its role in the Holocaust is being applied here to better understand how prejudice and hate speech has been contributing to violence, mass atrocities, and genocide against the Muslims and other minorities in India. More importantly, the RSS has also developed an anti-Muslim rhetoric and its ideology provides sufficient historical connections to Nazism in learning about the origins of hatred and prejudice against the Kashmiris in the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK).
It is assessed that the political evolution of BJP is dependent on Hindu radicalism, especially post-Babri Mosque, and one should also never forget the systemization of influences and ideological practices of Bal Thackeray's most outrageously anti-Muslim and racist stances11.
Further empirical evidence is provided by the British Broadcasting Corporation in a candid three-part documentary entitled Rise of the Nazis. It assesses how the digital age potentially helped bring to light the horrors of Germany under the abominable Adolf Hitler. The ensuing analysis of the documentary reflects the dangerous similarities between the Nazi’s criminal brutality and gross abuses of human rights, and how the RSS-BJP alliance has been excessively dehumanizing Kashmiris under its banner led by Prime Minister Modi. The RSS raised the slogan of “Bharat mata ki jai” in a bid to promote “ghar wapsi” (re-conversion)7. Nazi slogan to purify German society and establish supremacy of Aryan race, exterminate Jews, despise intellectuals, and “make Germany Great” resonated with the Germans. Hitler espoused ultra-nationalism banished Jews to concentration camps, ultimately exterminating some six million of them.
One of the crippling effects of the Nazi campaign was to infiltrate the judiciary. Crucial evidence in cases against them mysteriously disappeared8. An important assessment with regards to the judicial decisions against the RSS militants is that: most of them were released either after political pressure or violent protest in addition to death threats given to judges and law enforcement agencies. The RSS-BJP nexus has taken over the so-called democratic society and is casting a dark shadow of criminal brutality over its institutions, its courts, much of its media, its investigative agencies and its election commission9. The judicial decision-making process has been pressured to fall in line with Prime Minister Modi’s policies, which clearly defies the Indian Constitution. The political opposition is withered and infirm. More is in the offing: the idea of Hindutva, in its fullest expression, has ultimately involved the undoing of the constitution and unravelling the fabric of liberal democracy10. Since the passage of the Citizenship Act and abrogation of Articles 370 and 35-A, relating to IIOJK, the ferment gripping India and the protests against the brutality of the police and the political viciousness has become an existential threat to India’s territorial integrity.
RSS, Nazism and Kashmir
The ensuing analysis shows that historically, RSS’ ideology is embedded in the Nazi doctrine with the intention to ethnically cleanse India, especially demographically changing the Muslim majority in IIOJK. Moreover, at the ideological level, the most lethal effect of the Nazi influence has been represented by the way in which BJP identified Kashmiris and Muslims as internal enemies. Nevertheless, the continuous reference to the German racial policy and comparison of the Jewish problem in Germany with the Muslim question in India reveals the evolution of the concept of the 'internal enemy' along explicitly fascist lines.
It is assessed that the political evolution of BJP is dependent on Hindu radicalism, especially post-Babri Mosque, and one should also never forget the systemization of influences and ideological practices of Bal Thackeray's most outrageously anti-Muslim and racist stances11. It is a mere fact that since the state constituent assembly dissolved itself without recommending the abrogation of Article 370, almost one million Indian military personnel continue to create concentration camps inside IIOJK.
India is on a confrontational trajectory with the Hindustan of RSS and BJP, the implications of which are becoming obvious, that are: RSS militants attacking government officials, police (who do not agree with the RSS ideology), journalists, film actors, writers, liberals, politicians with other political ideologies, imposing ethnic curfew on university campuses (e.g., Jawaharlal Nehru University incident) and expelling Muslim students from hostels and forcing them to leave the main cities.
The clinical effect of the policy of dehumanizing Kashmiris is interconnected with the fact that the residents of Jammu and Kashmir live under a separate set of laws, including those related to citizenship, ownership of property and fundamental rights, as compared to the residents of other Indian states. The abrogation of Articles 370 and 35-A has granted Indian citizens the right to purchase land or property in Jammu and Kashmir. It has also been decided that central law could be directly implemented in IIOJK. On August 5, 2019, the Government of India issued a Presidential Order superseding the 1954 order, and thus making all the provisions of the Indian constitution applicable to Jammu and Kashmir12.
The Times newspaper reported in the summer of 2019 that extremist Hindu groups in India have been offering “money, food and alcohol to mobs to kill Christians and to destroy their homes.” The allegations were followed by the British government’s refusal to grant visas to members of Hindu radical groups, as they were “linked to the worst anti-Christian violence”. The violations of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) by India and its security forces in IIOJK have held India responsible for violations of the Common Article 3 of IHL. The hermeneutical inquiry of the Kashmir conflict under the prism of IHL has explained that India is intentionally trying to misinterpret the IHL to promote its RSS ideology. Indian forces’ actions against the civilians in Kashmir is a pure act of aggression13.
International law is the law which governs the states, however, in case of India there is no concept of international law and morality. India‘s decision on the unilateral revocation of Articles 370 and 35-A of the Indian Constitution are an attempt to obstruct the Kashmiri people’s lawful exercise of their right to self-determination. The war crimes committed by India are not only war crimes but are also individual crimes for which India is responsible individually. The Indian vandalism in Kashmir has accused India of violating the international law as well as the United Nations Charter. The first Article of the UN Charter deals with the concept of human rights and equality. Modi’s fascist ideology has breached the basic notion of the UN Charter.14
The preceding analysis and discussion has shown that: (a) RSS’ militant ideology has direct linkages with Nazism; (b) that the main leaders, especially Prime Minister Modi, hold Hindu nationalism’s flag, and his anti-Muslim policies demonstrate a distinctive and sustained interest in encouraging the ethnic cleaning of Kashmiris and reflecting psycho-political ideology of Nazism; (c) Nazi ideological influences across India and its negative impact across periphery countries in South Asia is a testament of the presence of “neo-Nazism” elsewhere (e.g., Germany and other parts of Europe); and (d) by all accounts, these influences are being channelled through direct contacts between RSS and BJP government, and being practiced in IIOJK along with the overall Indian society.
No doubt, especially since 2014 and up to now, RSS has successfully militarised the Indian society and has been creating a militant mentality among the Hindus. If Western countries’ appeasement policies toward India and its leadership continue, not only will it eat the Western peace in the end, but India’s current liberal and so-called secularism will be witness to a new militarised society. A similar pattern within the international community existed prior to the Nazi extermination of 6 million Jews. Many British and French political leaders had staked their hopes on appeasing Hitler to avoid war. Appeasement was a fatally flawed policy. Churchill condemned appeasement as the strategy of feeding a crocodile in the hopes it would eat you last. He recognized that Hitler was insatiable, and each meal only made the crocodile more dangerous15. This exposé, therefore, concludes that the RSS militant ideology and its historical nexus with Nazism has only increased the risk of wider wars and a complete disregard for International Human Rights.
The author is the Director General of Pakistan House (www.pakistanhouse.net), an Islamabad-based think tank of International Affairs. He is also an International Security Program Fellow at New America, a Washington-based think tank, and a visiting faculty at NATO Centre for Excellence – Defence against WMD Terrorism, Ankara and Istanbul, Turkey.
1. Marzia Casolari, Hindutva's Foreign Tie-Up in the 1930s: Archival Evidence, Economic and Political Weekly, Jan. 22-28, 2000, Vol. 35, No. 4 (Jan. 22-28, 2000), pp. 218-228, Published by: Economic and Political Weekly.
4. Jaffrelot, “Gujarat.” As Jaffrelot argued in a later piece, the RSS faced a dilemma with regard to Modi. “On the one hand, the Sangh which works collegially and insists on the merger of egos in the organization resents Modi’s style and, on the other hand, he’s one of their best winning cards.” See Christophe Jaffrelot, “Gujarat Elections: The Sub-Text of Modi’s ‘Hattrick’—High Tech Populism and the ‘Neo-middle Class,’” Studies in Indian Politics no. 1 (June 2013): 79–95.
8. Roy Ashis, RSS and Hitler, https://www.nationalheraldindia.com/opinion/nazi-germany-and-rss-india
11. Marzia Casolari, Hindutva's Foreign Tie-Up in the 1930s: Archival Evidence, Economic and Political Weekly, January 22-28, 2000, Volume 35, No. 4 (Jan. 22-28, 2000), pp. 218-228, Economic and Political Weekly.
14. Hussain, N., Khawaja, A.S. and Fayyaz, S., 2020. Hermeneutical Inquiry of Human Rights Violations in Kashmir: International Humanitarian Law Perspective. Journal of Indian Studies, 6(2), pp.155-170, http://pu.edu.pk/images/journal/indianStudies/PDF/1_v6_2_20.pdf
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