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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2867

The Common Root of Supremacists – Part 2

By Habib Siddiqui

Hindutva (or "Hinduness") as a movement, advocating the promotion of Hinduism, was coined by Chandranath Basu (a Bengali essayist) in the late 19th century.It was popularized by Vinayak Damodar Savarkar of the Hindu Mahasabha [a right wing party, which identified India as a "Hindu Rashtra" (Hindu Nation) and dominated by upper caste Brahmins] in his 1920 book of the same name.

When the partition of India was agreed upon in June 1947 after months of failed efforts at power-sharing between the Indian National Congress and the Muslim League, the Mahasabha condemned the Congress and its leader M.K. Gandhi for agreeing to the partition plan.

On January 30, 1948 Nathuram Godse – an activist with Hindu supremacist organizations Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (National Volunteer Organization) and Hindu Mahasabha – shot Gandhi three times and killed him in Delhi. Godse and his fellow conspirators were identified as prominent members of the Hindu Mahasabha. Along with them, police arrested Savarkar, who was suspected of being the mastermind behind the plot. While the trial resulted in convictions and judgments against the others, Savarkar was released on a technicality, even though there was evidence that the plotters met Savarkar only days before carrying out the murder and had received the blessings of Savarkar. The Kapur Commission in 1967 established that Savarkar was in close contact with the plotters for many months.

There was an angry popular backlash against Savarkar, Godse and the Hindu Mahasabha as their involvement in Gandhi's murder was revealed. The Hindu Mahasabha became more marginalized than ever. Its one-time rising star, Syama Prasad Mookerjee, left the party and established the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, the forerunner to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is today the largest political party in India. The Hindu Mahasabha remains active as an organization.

The main beliefs of Hindutva are:

• The Indian subcontinent (which includes the area south of the Himalayas and the Hindu Kush, usually Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, and sometimes Afghanistan) is the homeland of the Hindus.

• "Hindus" are those whose religion is indigenous to India. This includes Buddhists, Jains, and Sikhs, as well as those who are usually accounted as Hindus (or polytheists).

• Hindus have been historically oppressed in their own land by invading forces like the Muslims and the Christians.

• Hindus have become weak over time due to the influence of British colonial and Communist thinking.

• A Hindu state must be established to protect the rights of the Hindus in their homeland.

Interestingly, Hindutvadi supremacists like Savarkar are opposed to Aryan Invasion Theory (AIT) and proposed a modified theory in favor of a continuous, ancient, and sophisticated Vedic civilization. [The rejection of the AIT is motivated by the fact that it justifies the Hindu caste system, which remains the worst form of racism (probably originally as a means of social engineering by the Aryans to establish and maintain a superior position compared to the Dravidians in the Indian society). Secondly all Hindus are Aryans ipso facto, therefore, all Hindus are indigenous and have not come from outside. Thirdly, Sanskrit is the earliest of the human languages and originates in India and the Aryan culture went from India to West Asia, to Europe. So, to them, India is the cradle of the world civilization.

One of the major figures promoting Hindutva during the British Raj was a European by the name Maximiani Portas (1905 –1982) who later took the name Savitri Devi. She was a French-Greek thinker who helped popularize the idea that all civilization had its roots in this Aryan "master race" in India. She was a proponent of Hinduism and Nazism, synthesizing the two.

In common with anti-Semitic thinkers since the 18th century, Savitri blamed Judeo-Christianity for destroying the glory that was Greece and the Aryans' mythical ancient utopia. In 1932, she travelled to India in search of a living pagan Aryan culture, i.e., a living version of Europe's pagan past, convinced that the caste system, by forbidding intermarriage, had preserved pure Aryans there. She converted to Hinduism while there.

In Kolkata in the 1930s, Savitri worked for the Hindu Mission, a center for Hindu nationalist campaigning and missionary activity - promoting theories that support privileged caste Hindus' superiority over Christians, Muslims and unprivileged (untouchable/dalit) caste Hindus in the country. She offered her services to the Mission's director, Swami Satyananda, who (like many Indian Hindus before independence) shared her admiration for Hitler and allowed her to mix Nazi propaganda with her talks on Hindu identity. She travelled the country lecturing in Hindi and Bengali, salting her talks about Aryan values with quotations from Hitler’s Mein Kampf.

In 1940, Savitri married Asit Krishna Mukherji, a Bengali-speaking Hindu nationalist and Indian supporter of Nazism who had praised the Third Reich's commitment to ethnonationalism, seeing commonalities between the goals of the Hitler Youth and the youth movement of Hindu nationalism, Rashtriya Sevak Sangh (RSS).

Savitri worked as a spy for the Axis forces in India throughout World War II. In 1945, devastated by the fall of the Third Reich, she returned to Europe under the name Savitri Devi Mukherji using a British-Indian passport to work for its restoration. Her arrival in England is described in her book Long-Whiskers and the Two-Legged Goddess, a children's fable whose heroine is a cat-loving Nazi like herself. She proclaimed Adolf Hitler to have been sent by Providence, much like an avatar of the Hindu God Vishnu. She believed Hitler was a sacrifice for humanity, which would lead to the end of the Kali Yuga induced by those who she felt were the powers of evil: the Jews.

In 1948, Savitri managed to enter occupied Germany, where she distributed thousands of pro-Nazi leaflets, bearing the words: "One day we shall rise and triumph again! Hope and wait! Heil Hitler!" She encouraged the "Men and women of Germany" to "hold fast to our glorious National Socialist faith, and resist!" She recounted her experience in Gold in the Furnace (which has been reedited in honor of her 100th birthday under the title Gold in the Furnace: Experiences in Post-War Germany). In August 1962, Savitri Devi attended the international Nazi conference in Gloucestershire and was a founder-signatory of the Cotswold Agreement that established the World Union of National Socialists (WUNS), a conglomeration of neo-Nazi and far-right organizations from around the world. In mid-1971 she moved back to India from where she continued correspondence with Nazi enthusiasts in Europe and the Americas.

Like Hitler, Savitri was a vegetarian. She supported the death penalty for those who did not "respect nature or animals". She was the first to claim that the Nazi genocide of the Jews was untrue. She despised all forms of egalitarianism. "A beautiful girl is not equal to an ugly girl," she told an interviewer sent by the Holocaust denier Ernst Zundel in 1978.

Savitri died in 1982 in Sible Hedingham, Essex, England, at a friend's home. Her ashes are enshrined next to those of George Lincoln Rockwell (the founder of the American Nazi Party), in Arlington, Virginia. It is to be noted that Rockwell, like Devi, denied The Jewish Holocaust and believed that Martin Luther King Jr. was a tool for Jewish Communists wanting to rule the white community. He blamed the civil rights movement on the Jews. He regarded Hitler as "the White savior of the twentieth century". He regarded blacks as a "primitive, lethargic race who desired only simple pleasures and a life of irresponsibility" and supported the resettlement of all ‘American Negroes’ (Blacks) in a new African state to be funded by the U.S. government.

Savitri’s writings have influenced neo-Nazi fascists. Not surprisingly, recently her theories have also been rediscovered by right-wing supremacist ideologues in the West. She is credited with pioneering neo-Nazi interest in occultism, deep ecology, and the New Age movement, and more contemporaneously has influenced the alt-right, which considers her as an icon.

Savitri still has a strong influence over the Hindu supremacist movement in India. Her 1939 booklet titled A Warning to the Hindus, in which she cautions Indian nationalists to embrace their Hindu identity and guard the country against "non-Aryan" influences, such as Islam and Christianity, is still widely read and highly regarded among Hindutvadis.

As mentioned above, Savitri Devi’s views are reaching a wider public, thanks to American alt-right leaders such as Richard Spencer (president of the National Policy Institute, a white supremacist think tank, as well as Washington Summit Publishers) and Steve Bannon, former Trump chief strategist and chair of Breitbart News, who have taken up the account of history as a cyclical battle between good and evil — a theory she shared with other 20th Century mystical fascists.

However, as aptly noted by some experts, the current connection between far-right groups in the West and Hindu nationalists is limited neither to Devi's teachings nor the old myth of the Aryan race. Today, the two groups share a common goal in eroding the secular character of their respective states and a common "enemy" amongst the minorities – which often times are the second largest group (e.g., Muslims and Jews) next to the dominant religious group. This is why they often act in coordination and openly support each other.

According to Aadita Chowdhury, in the US, the Republican Hindu Coalition, a group with strong links to the Hindu nationalist movement in India, has been very supportive of President Donald Trump's controversial immigration policies, like the Muslim ban and the border wall. Trump's campaign strategist and prominent alt-right figurehead Steve Bannon once called India's Hindu-nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi "the Reagan of India".

She observed, “Meanwhile, in India, a far-right Hindu nationalist group named Hindu Sena (Army of Hindus), which has been linked to a series of inter-communal incidents in India, has been throwing parties to mark Trump's birthday. The group's founder even claimed that "Trump is the only person who can save mankind." In Canada, far-right Islamophobic organisations such as Rise Canada, which claims to "defend Canadian values" and combat "radical Islam", are popular among Hindu-nationalists. The group's logo even features a red maple leaf rising out of a lotus flower, which is often associated with Hinduism.

In Britain, the National Hindu Council of Temples (NHCTUK), a Hindu charity, recently caused controversy by inviting far-right Hindu nationalist Tapan Ghosh to speak at the parliament. Ghosh has previously suggested the UN should "control the birth rate of Muslims" and said all Muslims are "Jihadis". During his visit to the UK, Ghosh also attended celebrations of Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, with cabinet ministers Amber Rudd and Priti Patel, and met the former neo-Nazi leader Tommy Robinson.” [Al Jazeera, 13 December, 2018]

On top of their shared Islamophobia and disdain for secular state structures, the destructive actions, protests and aggravations of Hindu nationalists and the Western far right are also very much alike.

In November, the government of the state of Uttar Pradesh in India, which is led by the BJP, proposed to build a statue of the Hindu god Ram in Ayodhya, where the historic Babri Masjid was illegally demolished by Hindutvadi fascists in 1992. Only a month earlier, the same government pulled off a massive spectacle, having a helicopter drop off individuals dressed as Ram and Sita at the Babri Masjid site to mark the start of Diwali celebrations. As noted elsewhere, in Modi’s India the lynching of Muslims in the name of protecting cows has become a regular spectacle that has wide support amongst many Hindus.

The sentiment behind these apparent attempts to intimidate Muslims and increase tensions between communities was in many ways similar to the far-right, white supremacist rally that shook Charlottesville in 2017. The neo-Nazis chanted "You will not replace us" as they marched through the streets of Charlottesville. Similar are the cases in India where Hindutvadis chant anti-Muslim hate-filled slogans, calling them traitors, terrorists, etc. [See, e.g., statements from Hindu Sevak: “Those Muslims who are against Hindus are all terrorists. ... We do not want to leave a single Muslim alive in Gujarat.”]

Succinctly put, Savitri Devi's work forms part of the history of both India's Hindu and the European and American supremacists. Her eccentric writings contain all their key ideas: that human beings can be divided into "races" which should be kept separate; that certain groups are superior to and more entitled than others; that these groups are under threat; and that the dark times in which we live will only end when they again take power, returning us to a mythical golden age. Such poisonous views are responsible for so much carnage in our time from the lands down under – Australia and New Zealand - to what was once Gandhi’s India to what is morphing to be Trump’s America, thus, shaming the memories of Abraham Lincoln.

- To be continued.

- Asian Tribune -

The Common Root of Supremacists – Part 2
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