What is Hindutva and will it cause another war in South Asia?

Published 30.09.2019 22:47
Updated 02.10.2019 01:25

Mahatma Gandhi was a nationalist. Yet, he was assassinated by a nationalist shortly after the partition of the sub-continent. Gandhi's nationalism was non-violent. He sought to free India from British colonial occupation. People all around the world have been inspired by his efforts for freedom, human rights and his patriotism.

On the other hand, his murderer, Nathuram Vinayak Godse, who had shot Gandhi three times in the chest, was a member of an organization called Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). The RSS, established in 1925, was and still is an extremist right-wing, Hindu nationalist and a volunteer paramilitary organization. It was banned after Gandhi's assassination. However, the far-right organization got directly involved in politics and founded a political party, Bharatiya Jana Sangh (BJS), the predecessor of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

In the 1930s and '40s, the BJS adopted the Hindu version of nationalism, which is similar to Adolf Hitler's Nazi Party or Benito Mussolini's Republican Fascist Party. The RSS, in the meantime, was like the Schutzstaffel (SS), the major paramilitary organization under Hitler and the Nazi Party in Nazi Germany, and later throughout German-occupied Europe during World War II.

The RSS still stands today and it is the world's largest voluntary organization; its political extension, the BJP party is the largest political party in the world. India's current Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is the first prime minister outside of the Indian National Congress, is a member of the BJP and the RSS.

Imran Khan's speech at the U.N. General Assembly

That is why Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan warned the 74th U.N. General Assembly last week about the RSS and the BJP while trying to wake the whole world up, since India is planning to carry out a "bloodbath" in the occupied Jammu and Kashmir.

"All that I am saying can be verified. This is the time of information revolution. You can Google what I am saying," he told the U.N. Actually, I had googled the RSS, its ideology and its links to the BJP two days before he said it. I visited Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), the Pakistan-controlled side of the disputed territory last week with a Turkish delegation of journalists and all the people I met with were talking about the RSS, its history and its ideology. I had heard about the RSS before, but it was my fault I didn't pay enough attention. What I saw in the AJK was that from the people on the street to the prime minister and president or the former fighters, they were aware of the fact that the RSS is now more powerful than ever.

The RSS' response to Imran Khan's speech was bold. The RSS leader, Krishna Gopal Sharma, said that they wanted the world to see India and the RSS as one and the same, not two separate entities, adding that Imran Khan has done the job very well and that is why they congratulate him.

India's illegal annexation of Jammu and Kashmir

While talking about Kashmir, the Pakistani prime minister said the Indian government is aiming to cause a genocide and ethnic cleansing in Jammu and Kashmir through curfews and other means. He also questioned whether the world would continue to watch what is happening in Kashmir or they will react just like they reacted to Hitler. His words were actually a response to the Indian government's decision to revoke Article 370 and to illegally annex Jammu and Kashmir.

Soon after Imran Khan's speech at the General Assembly, hundreds of Kashmiris came out of their homes shouting slogans in support of him and celebrating with firecrackers, and they called for the independence of their occupied lands. At least six Kashmiri youth were killed by Indian forces that day as India tightened restrictions, fearing demonstrations after Imran Khan's speech.

On Aug. 5, India had revoked Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, which granted Kashmir special status and put Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir under total lockdown. Although India eased the curfew this week, which had been ongoing for 56 days in Jammu and Kashmir, along with severe restrictions in the region, no political figures have been released yet, and the internet, mobile phones and other connection methods are still blocked.

Article 370, along with Article 35A, established special status for the disputed territory and defined a separate set of laws for the Kashmiri people in occupied Jammu and Kashmir. They include limited citizenship, ownership of property and fundamental rights of the current residents of Jammu and Kashmir, which are critical for a plebiscite under the U.N.'s auspices.

In 2014, Modi vowed to integrate the state of Jammu and Kashmir into India as part of his party's propaganda for the general elections. The BJP, along with its parent organization RSS, attempted for the abrogation of Article 370 after the election. On April 3, 2018, the Supreme Court of India declared that Article 370 had acquired permanent status. However, in 2019, as part of the BJP's election promise for the next general elections, Modi once again pledged to integrate the state of Jammu and Kashmir into India. Hence on Aug. 5, India revoked Article 370 and illegally annexed Jammu and Kashmir through a series of far-reaching measures.

Gandhi's murderer, Godse, killed him since he considered that Gandhi was making concessions to Muslims. In his court deposition, Godse said he was upset with Gandhi's actions and willingness to ignore non-Muslim interests. He added that Gandhi was reading passages from the Quran despite Hindus protesting it and that is why he wanted to show that a Hindu, too, could be intolerant. Two months before he was assassinated by the Hindu fanatic Godse, Gandhi had said "Kashmir cannot be saved by the Maharaja. If anyone can save Kashmir, it is only the Muslims, the Kashmiri Pandits the Rajputs and the Sikhs who can do so." In the last seven decades since then, Kashmir has never seen a bright day; it floated from one crisis to another.

During his U.N. General Assembly speech, Pakistan's Prime Minister told the audience how the racist ideology of the RSS founders Savarkar and Golwalkar led to the assassination of Gandhi, adding that this hate-inspired Modi and his RSS backers do a pogrom against Muslims in Gujarat in 2002 when he was chief minister of the Indian state in question.

Describing the RSS ideology, Khan said: "They believed in racial purity, racial superiority. They also believed they were an Aryan race like the Nazis believed they were an Aryan race."

As he said, the founding fathers of the Hindu-nationalist RSS believed in the "racial superiority of the Hindu race" over Muslims and Christians in India.

The RSS political philosophy is based on the principles of "Hindutva" that means the supremacy of a religious-ethnic Hindu state and implementation of hardcore Hindu principles. Hindutva is not Hinduism, but "Hindudom." Savarkar's motto was "Hinduizing all politics and militarizing Hindudom." In that sense, the model state for the Hindutvas was Nazi Germany. But they also do today is the same what Israel does to Palestinians or China does to Uighur Turks.

That said it is an oppressive and extremist ideology of imposing the supremacy of Hindus over the millions of people of other religions such as Islam, Christianity, Buddhism and Zoroastrianism as well as other minorities. It is also a threat to Sikhism. Today, in India, around 200 million Muslims, 30 million Christians and other minorities are treated as second-class people.

Golwalkar, the RSS's second Sarsanghchalak (Supreme Leader), said in his book "Bunch of Thought," which focused on Hindu nationalism, "[Nazi] Germany has also shown how well-nigh impossible it is for races and cultures, having differences going to the root, to be assimilated into one united whole, a good lesson for us in Hindusthan to learn and profit by."

The possibility of a war in South Asia

As we know, Modi's first term as prime minister marked years of increasing lynching of Muslims, Christians and other minorities by far-right Hindu mobs. Since his second term started, almost every day, we see the same violence on the streets of India. Besides, there is increased Hindu violence against the Kashmiris in the Indian-occupied Kashmir.

During our visit to Kashmir, the common comments that we heard was that the RSS ideology inspired India would not be satisfied with the illegal annexation of Kashmir, and if the world continues to be deaf and blind, India will try to invade Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal in line with its "Greater India" dream.

Because Pakistan and India are two nuclear powers, experts have already begun to calculate the effects of a possible war in Pakistan such as how many million people will die and how many billion people will suffer in the aftermath. Pakistan is, therefore, trying to mobilize the international community and persistently using diplomacy; but as India gets bolder, the risks increase day by day.

The Kashmiri I met say that they will fight in 2020, as they cannot stand the oppression of India anymore. The commanders on the Line of Control (LOC) between Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir also say that the war is inevitable if India continues like this.

Let me conclude the article with the words of Pakistan President Arif Alvi's words that he uttered during our meeting in Islamabad: "Pakistan will not start a war. But if India resorts to war, Pakistan will not hesitate to fight." Warning that such a military confrontation might lead to nuclear confrontation recalling Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Alvi underlined that its repercussions go beyond control.

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