Why are Sikhs anti modes


Teesta Setalvad

Teesta Setalvad is a journalist, educator and human rights activist. She publishes the magazine "Communalism Combat" and is director of the organization Khoj, which works for pluralistic education in India. She is also a member of the Central Advisory Board of Education, the government's main advisory body on education.

Translation: Stefan Mentschel

Hindu nationalists stir up prejudice against minorities in India

Hindu nationalism propagates the superiority of a social majority over minorities such as Muslims and Christians. Even more: In the so-called Hindu nation there should be no equal place for others. The Indian People's Party BJP, the political arm of the Hindu nationalists, ruled the country in this spirit from 1998 to 2004 and left visible traces in the process. After the parliamentary elections in 2014, the BJP could return to power.

Youth members of the Hindu nationalist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in Jammu, 2011. (& copy AP)

The term Hindu nationalism encompasses a more complex phenomenon than the two words that make up it suggest. In essence, "nationalism" describes a movement that is committed to the values ​​and symbols of a country, a nation. Like other nationalisms - such as Irish or Kurdish nationalism - Hindu nationalism is also defined along social, cultural, linguistic and religious lines. These are summarized in the Hindutva-Ideology in which concrete ideas of a future India as the "Empire of the Hindus" (Hindu Rashtra) can be formulated.

The proponents of this concept want to change the situation in India permanently: on the one hand through their all-encompassing claim to the terms nation and patriotism, on the other hand through the attempt to provide the entire social and economic order with the "Hindu label". They refer to religious writings in which Hindus themselves - namely the members of the lowest castes - are denied fundamental rights.

Nation of the Hindus: exclusion of "inferior" population groups

The core of this ideology was discovered in 1939 by M.S. Golwalkar in the plant We, or Our Nationhood Defined (analogously: "We or our national identity"). Golwalkar is considered to be one of the most important pioneers of Hindu nationalism and describes in his straightforward and frightening theses the goal of creating a nation of Hindus as homogeneous as possible. Similar to the "superiority of the German race and nation" propagated by Adolf Hitler, he defines the supremacy of the Hindus over "inferior" population groups within India. Golwalkar demands that Muslims and Christians, for example, adopt the Hindu culture and language and worship the Hindu religion. It goes on to say that the "foreign races in Hindustan" would have to give up their independent existence and join the Hindu community or subordinate themselves completely to the Hindu nation - without having any right to civil rights.

The ideological similarities between the construct of Hindu nationalism and German National Socialism go even further. Also in We, or Our Nationhood Defined Golwalkar describes the Holocaust of European Jews as a means to preserve the "purity of race and culture". With this, Germany has proven that it is impossible to form a national unit from population groups with different historical and cultural roots. This, according to Golwalkar, is "a good example for us in Hindustan from which we can learn and benefit". It can therefore be said that Hindu nationalism - which in the 1930s and 1940s was strongly oriented towards European fascism and National Socialism - is by no means based on a peaceful philosophy.

To this day, representatives of Hindu nationalism make no secret of their admiration for Mussolini and Hitler. They are also driven by the idea of ​​creating a Hindu nation different from the secular and democratic Republic of India, which was granted state independence in 1947. One attempt to pave the way in this direction was the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi on January 30, 1948 by a Hindu nationalist. Gandhi was considered a man of peace and nonviolence. In addition, he represented a nationalism consisting of different elements based on the common history and neighborhood of the various ethnic groups and religions of the Indian subcontinent. Radical Hindu nationalists saw these ideals as a threat to their project to make India a "nation of Hindus".

Manifestation of political and religious interests in the struggle for independence

Between 1857 and 1905 the resistance against the British was drawn from all sections of the population - regardless of religion or origin. It was not until the beginning of the 20th century that the religious communities of Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs began to develop their own anti-colonial movements. The creation of Muslim League, Hindu Mahasabha (analogously: Great Assembly of Hindus) and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (National Volunteer Association, RSS) and des Akali Dal the Sikhs in Punjab were a manifestation of political-religious interests in the struggle for freedom, with which the character of the initially unified Indian national movement was permanently changed. Since then, the politics of Hindu nationalism has always developed as a communalist antithesis to the organizations of Muslims.


additional Information

Rhastriya Swayamsevak Sangh

The national volunteer union Rhastriya Swayamsevak Sangh was founded in 1925 in Nagpur, central India. The RSS represents the main institutional carrier of the Hindu nationalist ideology and has the goal of organizing the Hindus according to nationalist points of view and of re-establishing the unity of the Hindu nation, which was believed to be lost. In the years 1927 to 1947, the RSS quickly developed into an important organization of the Hindu urban middle and upper classes in northern India. However, his contribution to the Indian struggle for freedom was very small. From the beginning, the organization's activities were directed more against the Muslims than against the British. Nathuram Godse, the murderer of Mahatma Gandhi, was a member of the RSS.

Communalism is a term that originated in the Indian subcontinent. It can best be described as "manipulating religion and religious symbols for political mobilization and the pursuit of political power". Neither the arguments of the Hindu nationalist movement nor those of the Muslim League for the creation of an independent state in Pakistan were religious in nature. At the same time, clergymen too let themselves be harnessed to the extremists' carts.

In August 1947, the British left a broken subcontinent whose independence was overshadowed by a wave of violence. The number of deaths fluctuates between one and three million, and more than ten million people were forced to leave their homes. But although Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs were equally affected, Hindu nationalist propaganda succeeded in the following decades to brand the Indian Muslims as aggressors and responsible for the partition.

In all disputes between Hindus and Muslims in independent India, the loyalty of the Muslim population group to the Indian Union was also called into question. Slogans like Mussalman ka ek hi sthan, Pakistan ya Kabrastan (analogously: there is only one place for Muslims, Pakistan or the cemetery) reflect this mood. It should also be mentioned at this point that previous judicial investigations into communal violence have shown that the Agent provocateur almost always belonged to the Hindu nationalist spectrum. At the same time, the neglect of the judiciary in prosecuting religiously motivated acts of violence has seriously damaged trust in the independent judiciary.

Increasing political influence of the Hindu nationalists

The principle of equal treatment of all religions as well as regional and linguistic minorities enshrined in the constitution was, for decades after independence, political consensus within the framework of the secular and democratic Indian state doctrine. It was not until the second half of the 1970s that Hindu nationalism gradually began to gain influence and legitimacy. One reason for this was the two-year state of emergency imposed by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1975.

In the parliamentary elections in 1977, an alliance of parties from different political currents succeeded in ousting the previously ruling congress party from power. The subsequently formed coalition government - it ruled for only two years - also included representatives of the Hindunationalist Indian People's Association (Bharatiya Jana Sangh, BJS). This political arm of the Hindu nationalists became the Indian People's Party in 1980 (Bharatiya Janata Party, BJP). The politician Lal Krishna Advani in particular is closely linked to the rise of the Hindu nationalists as a political force. In the 1980s, Advani was largely responsible for ensuring that the BJP was able to multiply the number of its lower house MPs from two (1984) to 89 (1989).

However, this success would be for him without the support of the Hindu nationalist network Sangh Parivar (analogously: family of the Sangh) did not succeed. In addition to the RSS as the ideological backbone, this also includes more radical groups such as the youth association Bajrang Dal (analogously: worship of the monkey god) as well as the globally acting Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Council of Hindus, VHP). There are also trade unions, women's and student associations and numerous organizations that are dedicated to educational and cultural work.

Advani reached the peak of his political career at the end of the 1990s. After the BJP had become the strongest party in the parliamentary elections in 1998 and 1999, the Karachi (now Pakistan)-born politician took over the office of interior minister. Until then, he had left his mark mainly outside Parliament. In 1990, as BJP president, he led a campaign aimed at building a temple for God Ram in place of the 400-year-old Babri Mosque in Ayodhya, northern India. With a minibus converted into a chariot of the gods, Advani crossed large parts of central and northern India on the way to the small town and aggressively propagated the construction of temples. As Rath Yatra (Chariot procession), which became known, triggered numerous acts of violence directed against Muslims. On December 6, 1992, thousands of fanatical Hindu nationalist volunteers from all over India tore down the mosque in public view. The riots that followed were killed around 2,000 people across the country.

Narendra Modi and the anti-Muslim pogroms of Gujarat

Another face of the violent rise of the BJP is Narendra Modi. The politician first appeared in 1990 when he gave Advanis the go-ahead in Gujarat, West India Rath Yatra gave. Eleven years later - in October 2001 - the party made him prime minister of the economically strong state. A few months after Modi took office, Gujarat was hit by a wave of anti-Muslim violence. According to surveys by human rights activists, more than 2,500 people died in the pogroms between the end of February and April 2002. Thousands of women were raped. Tens of thousands of people had to leave their homes and seek refuge in refugee camps. Mosques as well as shops and workshops of Muslim businessmen were destroyed in many places.

An independent tribunal subsequently found Modi guilty of having been instrumental in the planning and execution of this state-sponsored genocide. Modi himself denies the allegations and refers to the judgment of a special court that he could not personally prove any wrongdoing. Regardless of this, the United States, for example, has refused entry to Modi for years because of his opaque role during the pogroms. Modi's position on National Socialism is also controversial. In 2005, his government hit the headlines after civil rights activists discovered trivializing depictions of the Nazi era in new school books.

That didn't hurt Modi politically. On the contrary: In the state elections in 2012, he was confirmed in his office as Prime Minister of Gujarat for the third time. The BJP now wants to benefit from Modi's popularity with a large part of the Hindus at the federal level. In the parliamentary elections in spring 2014, the controversial politician will be the top candidate for the office of Indian Prime Minister.

BJP government from 1998 to 2004: Six grueling years

In the past, however, Indian democracy has repeatedly proven its resilience. In the 2004 parliamentary elections, the BJP lost power. During the election campaign, leading Hindu nationalist politicians had massively raised the mood against the "non-Indian" origin, beliefs and gender of the Italian-born Sonia Gandhi, head of the congress party. But the Indian voters gave the appropriate answer.

With the takeover of government by Gandhi's party and the coalition of the United Progressive Alliance (United Progressive Alliance, UPA) ended six grueling years under the leadership of the Hindu nationalists, during which prejudices against minorities were institutionalized in many areas of society.

Between 1998 and 2004, for example, the BJP tried to change the content of teaching at state educational institutions and, for example, to rewrite the history books. She succeeded - as mentioned - in Gujarat, but also in other states. The result: In some of the Indian schools today, children are only given a limited and manipulated picture of the diverse history of the subcontinent. In the areas of music, dance, painting and nutrition, too, the Hindu nationalists deny the centuries-old influence of different cultures and thus directly attack the traditions and feelings of the religious minorities.

However, after taking power in 2004, the UPA coalition was often indecisive in dealing with the policies of the Hindu nationalists, which are based on communalism and hatred. What is more: it did almost nothing to counter the deeply rooted institutionalized discrimination of minorities in the country. She also holds back when it comes to supporting victims of communal violence. Real and sustained resistance to the Hindu nationalists is currently only offered by the political left, civic movements and committed individuals.

After two reigns, however, the reputation of the Congress party has been badly damaged, mainly due to numerous corruption scandals, so that it is threatened with being voted out in the 2014 parliamentary elections. At the same time, it looks as if the political arm of the Hindu nationalists - the BJP - can position itself as the only alternative to the Congress Party and have the chance to regain power in Delhi.