My dad is the odd one out in his family. While the rest of the family are devout, fundamentalist Hindus who support Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party, my dad is a staunch atheist and absolutely loathes Hindu fascism. As the BJP has consolidated political power, I have watched my dad furiously rave about how much he despises the BJP and how fascism and religious fundamentalism are destroying India. Despite his admirably strong convictions, he is extremely reluctant to confront his BJP-supporting family members back home, likely because he wants to avoid stirring tensions.
The BJP, India’s ruling political party — whose founders praised Hitler and Mussolini in the party’s early days — espouses the fascist ideology of Hindutva. Hindutva equates Indian national identity with Hindu identity and enables the forcible suppression of non-Hindus and low-caste Hindus. Recent policies put forth by BJP supporters include the Citizenship Amendment Act, passed by parliament in December. It provides a path to citizenship for refugees of every South Asian faith but Islam. Under the disguise of patriotism, Hindu fascists politically persecute and subject minorities who do not fit their Hindutva profile to violence.
Hindutva has inspired terrorism and mob lynchings of marginalized people across India, especially targeted against Muslims and Dalits (low-caste people). There are some Indian Americans who have been protesting BJP fascism and the Delhi pogrom, as rallies of hundreds of people have been held across the country in the last week, including a protest organized by NYU’s South Asia Society — but this is not nearly enough. A crowd of about 50,000 Indian Americans showed up at President Trump’s “Howdy Modi” event held in Houston in September of last year, cheering and applauding raucously as the two far-right leaders who have both invoked anti-Muslim sentiment held hands and embraced.
Far too many Indian Americans, especially Hindus, have been complicit in the BJP’s fascism through their support of Modi and their utter silence on Hindutva terrorism.
But there is no room to be silent anymore. The last week of violence in New Delhi, India’s capital, was akin to a pogrom, a state-sanctioned week of riots and mob lynchings committed against a marginalized religious group and historically a precursor to genocide. Hindu mobs burnt down mosques and planted flags of Hindu deities on the ashes, set fire to Muslim-owned businesses and homes and beat and killed Muslims openly in the streets. These mobs were comprised of BJP supporters and even police themselves.
Hindutva has deep roots in the Indian diaspora. Prime Minister Modi, the leader of the BJP, and his Hindu fascist agenda have long been supported by many Indian Americans. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, a terrorist organization according to the Terrorism Research and Analysis Consortium, who some call the paramilitary wing of BJP, has its largest overseas presence in the U.S.
As Hindu fascist terror escalates, particularly in the wake of the Delhi pogrom, it is important to challenge Hindutva in every way possible — from confronting family back home to mobilizing in the streets. It is essential that diaspora Indians also challenge BJP-aligned organizations such as the Overseas Friends of BJP, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America, and the Hindu Swayamsevak Sanghin, the international wing of RSS, in their efforts to help legitimize and spread Hindu fascism.
Ethnonationalism against immigrants and refugees along with Islamophobia and anti-Semitism as well as other factors seem to be fueling fascism’s rise globally. Common themes such as racism, xenophobia, misogyny, and militarism underlie the increasing popularity of the far-right and right-wing terrorism in countries such as India, Brazil, the U.S. and the Philippines. The BJP is part of the international rise of politicians weaponizing religion and nationality to foment hatred against marginalized communities to the point where hundreds have been attacked by its supporters.
If Modi supporters in the U.S. can turn up by the tens of thousands, even as the Indian government commits barbaric acts of violence in Muslim-majority Kashmir at the same time, how is it that demonstrations against BJP only draw hundreds in the U.S.? Resistance is so weak because Islamophobia and Hindu fascism are pervasive. With Hindu fascist violence threatening the lives of Muslims more and more each day, it is more urgent than ever to reject Hindutva, organize against BJP-aligned groups in the U.S. and stand in solidarity with the Muslim community.
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A version of this article appeared in the Monday, March. 9, 2020 print edition. Email Asha Ramachandran at [email protected]