Friday, March 16, 2012

Meera Nanda against Hinduism and its friends: (3) Breivik, India and National-Socialism

According to Meera Nanda: “India, it turns out, figures quite prominently in this web of hate. So far, the India connection has been limited in media reports to the 100-odd references to India that appear in Breivik’s massive manifesto, including his ringing defence of ‘Sanatan Dharma movements’. The irony of a Muslim craftsman from Banaras embroidering the skull-and-sword badge for his army of ‘Knights Templar’, modelled on the 12th-century Christian crusaders, has also evoked much commentary. But there is a lot more to the India connection than it appears at first glance.”

One of the badges tailor-made in India for Breivik has a dagger cutting through the symbols of Islam, Communism and National-Socialism. Though the laziest pressmen have described Breivik as a “neo-Nazi”, purely out of habit, he actually presents himself as an articulate anti-Nazi. He has taken the trouble of explaining (quite sensibly) that National-Socialism is un-European at heart. Indeed, Europeans and especially Nordic Europeans are traditionally freedom-loving, individualistic and uncomfortable with the purity obsession and racial hyperfocus of the Nazis. In the Germanic pantheon, the different classes of gods, the Aesir, Vanir and Giants, freely intermarried. In real life, the Vikings assimilated into the populations among whom they settled within two generations at most, adopting the local language and religion and intermarrying with the natives.

Breivik has also pointed out that in the larger scheme of things, the Nazis have caused Europe tremendous damage. One of his heroes is Winston Churchill, whom he quotes or mentions dozens of times, because he stood firm against the Nazis as well as warning against Islam. Finally, he keeps his distance from the National-Socialists because ultimately they were losers (he advises nationalists to study winners instead, such as Mao Zedong). Only alcohol-disturbed loonies and police infiltrators join the meagre ranks of the extant neo-Nazi groups, an inspiration a contrario for Breivik to act scrupulously alone and in secrecy.

All the same, few commentators have the discipline to discuss the Breivik case without bringing in their usual cheap shots involving Nazi references. Thus Meera Nanda: “The simple fact is that some of the most revered personalities of the Hindu Right have actively cultivated and nurtured links with the European New Right. We don’t have to go as far back as the Nazi-loving founding fathers of the Sangh Parivar. The Savarkar and Golwalker generation that admired Adolf Hitler for trying to exterminate the ‘Semitic races’ has been replaced by a newer generation of Hindu chauvinists that raves and rants against ‘Semitic monotheistic religions’—Islam, above all. This new Hindu Right has managed to move beyond the old Nazi fixation on racial purity to a new ideology of hate based on cultural and religious purity that is proving to be attractive to ‘crusader nationalists’ such as Breivik and his fellow ‘patriots’ from Europe, North America and Israel.”

We will come to the topic of the contemporary “Hindu Right”, but now let us consider the old “Hindu Right” which Meera Nanda tries to link to National-Socialism. Having written two books on the falsity of the “Hindu fascism” rhetoric (The Saffron Swastika, Delhi 2001, and Return of the Swastika, Delhi 2006), I need not go too deeply into the worn-out Nazi allegations against V.D. Savarkar and M.S. Golwalkar once more. Suffice it to say that what ignorant Golwalkar applauded when he wrote We: Our Nationhood Defined in 1938 was only the intended territorial separation of Germans and Jews as an application of the homogeneous nation-state principle (itself admittedly conflicting with the Hindu tradition of internal multiculturalism, the fatal contradiction of Hindu nationalism). Golwalkar did not refer to any “trying to exterminate the ‘Semitic races’”, which started only in 1941 and in secrecy. Well before that, in September 1939 immediately after Britain’s declaration of war on Germany, Savarkar called on Hindu young men to join the British war effort, a call heeded by hundreds of thousands. Actions speak louder than words, and Savarkar contributed a lot more to the Nazi defeat than the non-cooperators Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru.

A minimum requirement for a Nazi sympathizer should be hatred of Jews. But in fact, in 1938 in the same publication, Golwalkar holds the Jewish people up as his very first example of resourceful nationalism, an example for Hindus to emulate; just as Savarkar had done in his 1924 manifesto Hindutva. On this, admittedly, they don’t differ much from Breivik, who likewise supports Israel against its Muslim enemies and welcomes it as Europe’s natural ally in West Asia.

Meera Nanda admits that “this new Hindu Right has managed to move beyond the Nazi fixation” — as if it had ever been involved with that. The two thinkers of her “new Hindu Right” whom she is about to attack, Ram Swarup (1920-97) and Sita Ram Goel (1921-2003), took their first non-Hindu inspiration elsewhere: from British liberals like Bertrand Russell, George Bernard Shaw, Aldous Huxley and George Orwell. Ram Swarup worked for the American war effort in 1944. Both were active leftists in the subsequent years, and Goel nearly joined the Communist Party of India in 1948. As they gained maturity and better knowledge of ideological and geopolitical realities, they turned against Communism; and as their reflection on the roots of the Communist evil deepened, they started rediscovering their own Hindu civilization. But they were never involved with any “Nazi fixation”, on the contrary.

This much is true, that many politically illiterate Hindus admired Hitler because they had heard he was a vegetarian and a “brahmachari” (celibate), because he had adopted a swastika as his party’s and later his country’s emblem, and because he was the enemy of the British colonizers. In reality, Hitler was entirely in favour of the British empire and its hierarchical relation between a Germanic master race and the subservient darker races, and he had advised Lord Halifax to shoot the leaders of the freedom movement. But fact remains that the war against Hitler bankrupted Britain and greatly contributed to the decolonization of India. Having read a great deal of what Hindus have written about World War 2, both during and after the event, I must say I have never encountered anything remotely resembling a call for exterminating the Jews nor applause for the Nazi extermination policy.

This contrasts with the Muslim world, where many then and later supported the idea of solving the “Jewish problem” by the most radical means. Genocide did not horrify them: in 1947 in West Panjab and again in East Bengal in 1971, South-Asian Muslims did effectively attempt to commit genocide on the Hindus. It is therefore logical for people interested in the problems Islam poses, not excluding Anders Breivik, to focus on the Indian experience.

[to be continued]

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