The BJP’s holy war

So, we’re here it would seem. This past week we’ve seen a historic escalation of tensions between India and Pakistan that will probably, though some would say not assuredly, lead to war between the two countries – a decidedly grim prospect for the region and perhaps beyond considering both countries possess an arsenal of nuclear weapons. Before we get into the main angle I had in mind for this post it’s worth going over just what happened, and it’s worth keeping in mind several developments had been occurring on Tuesday alone.

Ever since the partition of India from the British Empire in 1947, there has been conflict between India and Pakistan at the borders of the two countries, with particular attention paid to the Kashmir territory, but the last few weeks have seen major conflagration on the India-Pakistan border. In February 14th when a Deobandi Islamist terror group named Jaish-e-Mohammed attacked Indian convoys in Pulwama. The Pakistani government denies being involved in the attack, and the group is not obviously connected to the Pakistani government (although the Indian media frequently claims the opposite), in fact the group is officially banned in Pakistan. However, that didn’t stop India from sending its jets over the border in order to strike Pakistani territory, claiming that they were attacking a terrorist camp. In response, Pakistan began firing shells at India, and is even beginning to hint about the use of nuclear weapons.

This, I think, should be a concise enough summation of the surrounding events. Now, then, we can get to the angle I want to postulate – that India is the primary aggressor in the recent standoffs, and that the intent behind this is to wage holy war with Pakistan.

For starters, while the Indian government claims it was striking Jaish-e-Mohammed in Balatok, Pakistani locals tend to say that no damage was done to Jaish within the area. This raises the question of just what India attacked if not a Jaish base. That they attacked Pakistan in response to Jaish-e-Mohammed’s attack suggests that they consider Jaish-e-Mohammed to be an ally of Pakistan or a proxy of Pakistan. Although there is no real evidence that Jaish-e-Mohammed is backed by Pakistan, some scholars and the Indian media like to claim that Pakistan funds them. It is possible that the Indian government assumes this as well, and that this was the rationale to strike at Pakistan in response to being attacked by Jaish forces.

Oh, and speaking of the Indian media, One key thing to remember is that Indian media on the subject of Pakistan, especially right now, is about as untrustworthy as American media is on countries they either don’t like or think should be invaded by the US. In fact, the Indian media is in full spin generating falsehoods about Pakistan’s role in the recent standoff in order to cultivate manufactured consent for war in the Indian population. One Indian Express article for example claims that Pakistan used F-16 aircraft to attack Indian bases, without actually presenting any evidence (despite having “here’s the proof” in the headline). It is entirely possible in my view India is seeing the same type of disinformation campaign that presaged the American invasion of Iraq in 2002.

But why I do I suspect a big religious angle to the coming conflict? Why holy war? Well, the first thing that stuck out for me is how, hours after the airstrikes launched at Pakistan, the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi took a metro journey in Dehli from Khan Market to East of Kailash in order to visit the ISKCON Temple (also known as the Glory Of India & Vedic Cultural Centre), as well as apparently unveiling a giant Bhagavad Gita at an event held there. More starkly, in that same event he gave a speech following the air strikes wherein he said this:

“The power of God is always with us to save the Earth from the enemies of humanity. We are attempting to spread this message with complete authenticity to the evil spirits and asuras. Today is very significant.”

Judging from the context of this speech, it’s very clear that Modi is referring to the nation of Pakistan and its people as demons, as Asuras (the enemies of the Devas) and as enemies of humanity, from whom the Earth is to be saved. This is very explicitly not only a prelude to conflict within the region and a sign of India’s intent to fight Pakistan but also a clear invocation of the Hindu religion in support of the coming war.

It is also worth noting that a major goal of Hindutva ideology is the creation of the Akhand Bharata (or “Undivided India”), an irredentist project aimed at bringing together the whole Indian subcontinent under the rule of India. This of course would require the subjugation of Pakistan by India so that it may come under its rule.

But what is the angle on the part of the BJP for such holy war? In my view, the answer may lie in good old-fashioned political maneuvering. There is to be a general election in India this year, expected to be held between April and May, and from what I understand Narendra Modi has been declining in popularity. In August 2018 his popularity slipped below 50% for the first time, and by the end of the year many Indians began to consider that their lives have worsened under his tenure as Prime Minister. However, the recent strikes against Pakistan have been a source of hope for the BJP, as Indians have been taking to the streets to celebrate India’s attack on Pakistan – which has been interpreted as a sign that Modi’s popularity may be set to grow again just a few months ahead of his potential re-election.

So, while I have no doubt Pakistan is pretty dangerous in this situation as well, I suspect India is acting as the primary aggressor in this mess, seeking to engender a holy war in the region in order to crush Pakistan so that Modi can stay in power for a little longer in order to flex on Islam. Kind of a petty way to send millions of people to their deaths if you ask me.

The rise of Hindu nationalism in India and beyond

This month, the Indian Science Congress Association held its 106th annual summit, as it traditionally does on the first week of January. In this summit, a number of Indian scientists have come out against the theories of Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton, who form part of the axis upon which modern scientific observation and understanding of the universe are based, while claiming that ancient Hindu religious texts are the actual basis of modern science. In one case, the head of a university based in south India actually claimed that stem cell research was already practiced in India thousands of years ago and was described in ancient texts. Another academic, G Nageshwar Rao, claimed that the Kauravas, the descendants of a king named Kuru according to the Mahabharata, were created via stem cell research as test tube babies. He also claimed that the astra and shastra, mythical weapons used by the gods in Indian mythology, were actually pre-modern guided missiles that had been used in India thousands of years before guided missiles were actually developed, and that the demon king Ravana was not only real but also possessed 24 types of aircraft and a network of landing strips in Sri Lanka. One scientist, Kannan Jegathala Krishnan, claimed that Einstein’s theories were “misleading” and that Newton “failed to understand gravitational repulsive forces”. A supposed paleontologist named Ashu Khosla claimed that dinosaurs were created by the deity Brahma, who he also claimed documented such creations in Indian religious scriptures. Essentially, the conference became a platform for Hindu creationism and attempts by religious ideologues to claim the history of modern science as the ancient history of India. There was also a naked appeal to base nationalism, as Krishnan even went so far as to suggest that gravitational waves should be renamed “Narendra Modi Waves”, after the current Prime Minister of India, and that the gravitational lensing effect should be renamed the “Harsh Vardhan effect”, presumably after the Indian politician of the same name.

As absurd as this must seem, and rightfully so, such developments are unfortunately not new to the Indian scientific community or to Indian society at large. In 2017, the junior education minister Satyapal Singh, who also happens to be in the BJP, claimed that planes were first mentioned in the Ramayana and that the plane was first invented in India eight years before the Wright Brothers by Shivakar Babuji Talpade. Such claims, however, remain unverified. The same man also claimed that there existed trees in the kingdom of Ravana (presumably referring to Sri Lanka, I guess) that didn’t need to be watered because they contained a mythical elixir named Chandramani, and that Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection was incorrect. Of course two years before that a man named Anand Bodas claimed in that year’s Indian Science Congress that a Vedic sage named Bharadwaja invented the world’s first plane and that ancient planes had 40 engines. The home minister Rajnath Singh (another BJP politician) claimed that the principle of quantum uncertainity, which was theorized by Werner Heisenburg in 1927, is actually based on Vedic scripture. Rajashtan education minister Vasudev Devnani (yet another BJP politician) claimed that cows are the only animals that inhale and exhale oxygen in order to add “scientific significance” to the belief that the cow is a sacred animal. A BJP lawmaker named Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank at one point claimed that astrology is superior to science, literally calling science “a dwarf before astrology”, that a sage named Kanad conducted the first nuclear test one lakh year (that’s about 100,000 years) ago, and that ancient Indians had the knowledge of performing transplants. Another BJP MP named Shankarbhai Vegad, in his push for a ban on cattle slaughter, claimed that the urine and feces of cows are capable of curing cancer and other ailments. Even Narendra Modi himself once claimed that the Hindu deity Ganesha was the result of the literal attachment of an elephant’s head onto the body of a human boy, supposedly an ancient form of plastic surgery.

Narendra Modi depicted in “‘Chai Pe Charcha” with Ganesha

It’s tempting for me to look at this and be reminded of a sort of popular cult around Hinduism that’s been around for decades now, even among supposedly skeptical, scientifically-minded atheists. In fact, Carl Sagan himself described Hinduism as “the only religion in which the time scales correspond to those of modern scientific cosmology” and in one of his books he said that the Nataraja, the famous icon of the deity Shiva dancing the universe into destruction, represents an ancient understanding of what we now refer to as the Big Bang. He also talked about Hindu cosmology in one episode of his TV series Cosmos: A Personal Voyage. In my day I have seen the idea of Hinduism as an especially scientific religion is often spread by New Agers, as well as Hindus seeking to big up their religion, and I definitely see there being a sort of popular exotic fascination with Hinduism among spiritualists, occult circles, people who don’t believe in Christianity but look for other beliefs, pagans, some agnostics, a few atheists and almost certainly fellow travelers of the Left Hand Path. Indeed, historically I have not been above such exotic fascination myself, and I still see myself reading about Hinduism to this day even though I don’t ascribe myself to the religion, and I certainly don’t endorse any of the creationism and pseudoscience coming from Hindu circles.

However, the phenomenon we are seeing in India is not like the kind of exoticist obsession of Hinduism found in the West. Instead, it’s very likely that the kind of pseudoscience, creationism and revisionism we’re seeing is the product of the influence of Hindu nationalism, which is currently a very powerful movement in India represented by the ruling party.

You may have noticed it already, but there’s a pretty strong link between this broad trend of religious historical revisionism and the Bharatiya Janata Party, all the way up to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who leads the party in the Lok Sabha (the lower house of parliament) and serves as its chairperson in parliament. As many people in India have noticed, this is far from a coincidence. The BJP is a conservative nationalist party, and one of their main flanks appears to be an ideology known as Hindutva. The term Hindutva refers to a particular form of Indian nationalism and Hindu conservatism that stresses the singular importance of the Hindu religion in Indian politics and public life. Like pretty much all nationalist movements they tend to think of the cultural body as the defining body of the nation (a la Andrew Breitbart’s axiom “politics is downstream from culture”), and they believe that Hindu culture and Indian culture represent the same entity. Consequently they frequently pressure the Indian government to push for policies intended to “protect” Hindu culture from perceived threats. This would explain why BJP is so hellbent on introducing a version of scientific truth that aligns with Hindu myth and religious tradition.

It also lends to a particular hostility towards Christians and Muslims, whether they are born, raised and integrated into Indian society or not, because Christianity and Islam represent foreign religions in India, which according to Hindutva ideology represent a threat to the Indian nation. Judaism and Zoroastrianism are also excluded from the Hindutva milieu as foreign religions, while Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism are welcomed because they see them as extensions of the Indian Dharma or religion – the fact that those three religions contradict Hinduism in various areas doesn’t seem to be a problem with them, due to the fact that they all originate in India. This characteristic lends itself to a sense of ethnocentrism on the part the Hindutva movement, with religious identity being an extension of ethnic identity and opposing foreign peoples through their religious identity. Because of this, many commentators have compared Hindutva to the alt-right, and right-wing online movements sometimes embrace Hindutva.

The religious fundamentalism and nationalist agenda of Hindutva has already had a major effect on Indian society for some time now, and the BJP have already set about perverting the Indian education system in order to condition the public to their agenda. In 2001, a BJP MP named Murli Manohar Joshi managed to get astrology taught as a course in Indian universities as part of the national curriculum. But if that wasn’t enough, the BJP managed to get history textbooks altered to suit their political agenda. In 2016, public schools in Rajasthan released new social studies textbooks that removed all information about India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and which renamed the Indus Valley Civilization to the Sindhu-Saraswati Culture, presumably named after the Hindu goddess Saraswati, despite the fact that Hindu culture as we know it did not emerge until some time after the Indus Valley Civilzation. Many Rajasthan textbooks even outright glorify the Modi government. In Maharashtra, new textbooks altered the preamble of the Indian Constitution, replacing the words “dharma nirpeksh” (meaning “religion neutral”, thus implying secularism) with “panth nirpeksh” (meaning “sect neutral”) in order to paint the country as based on a national unity of Hindu sects rather than a secular democratic nation, and the state education board has even gone so far as to remove references to the Mughals from their history textbooks.

The fact that the world famous Taj Mahal was built by a Mughal emperor doesn’t seem to bother Hindutvas for some reason.

It’s here that we see in Hindutva some striking parallels with two other right-wing movements in different parts of the world. First, there is the state sponsorship of psuedoscience and religious fundamentalism, which has strong parallels with the American religious right and their tendency to side with creationism (the current Vice President Mike Pence is on record with his belief that evolution is “just a theory”) and evangelical fundamentalists, not to mention climate science denialists. Second, we have rampant historical revisionism, which is comparable to similar textbook controversies in neighbouring Pakistan based on Islamic nationalism (often to the point of removing references to minority religions), but also more pertinently to the Japanese conservative/reactionary organization known as Nippon Kaigi, which produces and distributes history textbooks written to reflect Japanese national pride at the expense of historical accuracy, particularly when it comes to World War 2 and the Nanking massacre.

But there’s another twist to the Hindutva movement. Historically, the Hindutva movement has also been sympathetic to 20th century fascism, as suggested by the appraisal of German and Italian fascism by Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, the progenitor of the Hindutva idea:

“Surely Hitler knows better than Pandit Nehru [the first prime minister of India] does what suits Germany best. The very fact that Germany or Italy has so wonderfully recovered and grown so powerful as never before at the touch of Nazi or Fascist magical wand is enough to prove that those political ‘isms’ were the most congenial tonics their health demanded.”

In fact, the BJP as a party is said to have emerged from another organization named Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (or RSS), a right-wing paramilitary volunteer organization also based in Hindutva ideology widely viewed as the ideological inspiration for the BJP. Their main goal is to establish India as a Hindu nation, rather than a secular one. This group is probably famous for encouraging the drinking of cow urine, claiming that it has the ability to cure diabetes and about 80 other diseases – another pseudoscientific claim likely meant to be tied to Hindu religious beliefs. However, this group seems to have been enamored with fascism. An example of fascistic sentiment within the group can be found in the writings of Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar, the second leader of RSS, who espoused many beliefs that could be characterized as fascistic. For example, in his book We, or Our Nationhood Defined he stressed the supposed importance of preserving the racial-cultural purity of the Indian nation, citing Nazi Germany as an example of racial pride to draw lessons on racial and cultural unity from:

“To keep up the purity of the Race and its culture, Germany shocked the world by her purging the country of the Semitic Races – the Jews. Race pride at its highest has been manifested here. 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 Hindustan to learn and profit by. Ever since that evil day, when Moslems first landed in Hindustan, right up to the present moment, the Hindu Nation has been gallantly fighting on to take on these despoilers. The Race Spirit has been awakening.”

In Bunch of Thoughts, he described democracy as “to a very large extent only a myth in practice” and he believed individual freedom was merely a high-minded concept that for him “only meant the freedom of those talented few to exploit the rest”. That last point is worth noting as it could easily be interpreted as a critique of capitalism in a sense, however this was decidedly not from a socialist perspective considering both the rejection of democracy and his antipathy towards communism, which along with Christianity and Islam were the main targets of his condemnation who he believed had sinister designs for the Indian nation. Stated rejection of both capitalism and communism is very much a position found in many fascistic movements, with fascism often representing the “third position”.

The movement even had some ties with Savitri Devi (born Maximiani Portas), the infamous French fascist occultist who combined Hinduism and New Age spiritualism with Hitlerian ideology and who remains a powerful inspiration to modern esoteric fascist movements. During the 1930’s, Devi coordinated with RSS along with several other radical nationalist and fascist movements in India in order to promote her ideas about Aryanism to an audience she believed would be adopt them with open arms. At the time, those groups were heavily invested in resisting the influence of Islam in the country, considering Islam to be a threat to the nation. Devi believed the Indian Hindus were the only people on Earth who still worshiped the gods of the Aryan race (which of course would mean that the Nazi master race were devout Hindus) and could end the influence of the Jewish race in the world, and it was after meeting with Srimat Swami Satyananda (then president of the Hindu Mission in what was known as Calcutta) that she came to believe that Adolf Hitler was a mortal incarnation of the deity Vishnu. Indeed, this idea seems to have been surprisingly widespread among wealthy Indian Hindus in Kolkata, as well as in Nagpur where he apparently remains an idol to some Hindu nationalists.

In fact perhaps it’s worth mentioning at this point that Adolf Hitler and his writings, for some reason, don’t have the same stigma in India that they rightly do here in the West. For example, Hitler’s writings and Nazi memorabilia have attracted the attention of young Indians in the not too distant past, with Mein Kampf at one point being a bestseller in the country. In fact just the name Hitler is so uncontroversial there compared to the West that it even appears as the name of various businesses, such as the infamous Hitler’s Den in Nagpur and a clothing store named Hitler in Ahmedabad. It’s even becoming something of a comic trope in Indian politics, as last year an Indian MP named Naramalli Sivaprasad dressed up as Hitler and impersonated him in parliament while demanding more economic assistance to the state of Andhra Pradesh.

Naramalli Sivaprasad, dressed as Hitler for some reason

The RSS movement remains active and powerful within Indian politics, working to promote the BJP in order to get their political interests fulfilled in the halls of Indian power. In fact Narendra Modi himself got his start as an RSS activist before eventually moving on to working as an MP for the BJP. The RSS has also boasted about being involved in the Gujarat riots of 2002, in which up to 2,000 people were killed, most of them apparently Muslims. In 2017 one of their leaders, Kundan Chandrawat, claimed in a public tirade that “Hindu society” killed 2,000 Muslims in Gujarat as vengeance for the Hindu pilgrims who died in a train burning near a railway station of Godhra, and also stated that he would reward whoever brought him the head of Pinarayi Vijayan, chief minister of Kerala, a payment of one crore rupees (that’s approximately $140,000 or about £107,000). He also claimed that communists and Kerala’s Left Front government were responsible for murdering their comrades in Kerala, and he went so far as to say the following in his speech:

“You have killed 300 pracharaks and activists, we will present Bharat Mata with a garland of 300,000 skulls in return.

Leftists, beware.”

What may be the most surprising thing you’ll learn about Hindutva is that Hindutva movements are not only active in India, and in fact they have an extensive network of organizations active in the United States. According to a 2014 report entitled Hindu Nationalism in the United States: A Report on Nonprofit Groups, there are several groups spawned from the RSS and many other Hindutva groups active within the United States of America spreading their nationalist ideology. RSS has a subsidiary group named Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (or HSS), which is active in the US and many other countries. There’s also VHP of America, VHP meaning Vishwa Hindu Parishad – another Hindutva organization, which is also accused of being involved in the Gujarat riots of 2002. The parent organization, VHP, is also considered a religious militant organization by the CIA and is also active in Canada, Germany, Australia, New Zealand and Fiji. VHPA claims to have established their first chapter in New York, following the relaxation of the laws concerning Asian immigration to the US during the 1960’s. Both of them are associated with RSS and serve the purpose of mobilizing young Hindus living outside of India, presumably with the intent of having them become loyal acolytes of Hindutva ideology. VHP is also the cultural wing of Sangh Parivar, serving the function of supplying “the pure spirit of the Hindu way of life”. Sangh Parivar in the US promotes textbooks that stress strict emphasis on the Vedas and upper-caste values, contain stories and quotations from their own leaders, lionized stories of the life of Chhatrapati Shivaji Bhonsle (a 17th century Indian monarch who promoted Indian tradition) and his supposed conquest of Islam, and claims that the increasing mistreatment of women in India can be blamed on “Muslim rule” in India. As of 2014, 140 HSS chapters have been identified in the United States. VHPA also runs several family camps in the US, with 16 chapters established nationwide.

Related to VHP is a group named Bajrang Dal, a radical Hindutva group responsible for carrying out attacks on Christian churches because of the alleged defaming of Hindu gods, getting involved in the 2002 Gujarat riots in which many Muslims were killed, and even attacks on ordinary people for celebrating Western holidays such as Valentine’s Day. There is apparently no tax-exempt equivalent to this group in the US, and they are recognized as extremists by the US State Department. They run a website named Hinduunity.org, which is registered to a New York address and apparently hosts a black list of people judged to have committed “crimes against the Hindu people” ranging from Osama bin Laden to the Pope, as well as various journalists, academics and human rights activists, including Angana Chatterji (an anthropologist and feminist activist who has spoken out against Hindutva groups) and Biju Matthew (an Indian-American Marxist activist who co-founded the Forum for Indian Leftists). The website was banned by the Indian government in 2006.

Bajrang Dal members seen burning a cross-shaped effigy, possibly being used as a symbol for Valentine’s Day

Like what the BJP have been doing in India, Hindutva affiliated movements have attempted to alter school textbooks to suit their agenda, thus placing them at the center of academic controversy. In 2005 two Hindu advocacy groups known as the Hindu Education Foundation and the Vedic Foundation, both of them backed by the Hindu American Foundation, attempted to push for changes in California’s sixth grade history textbooks, arguing that they maligned the Hindu religion by misrepresenting Hindu attitudes towards women’s rights, class (or in this case the caste society), the Aryan conquest of northern India and other subjects. They sought to sanitize or even rewrite history in various ways. The Hindu Education Foundation wanted to sanitize the history of the caste system by removing as many references to class antagonism as possible, especially concerning the Dalits (or untouchables), whitewash the history of women’s rights by replacing “men had more rights than women” with “men had different duties and rights from women”, homogenize Hindu belief by trying to conflate modern Brahmanism with the older Vedic religion, rewrite the history of the Aryan conquests in order to downplay the invasion, and even tried to claim that chariots were invented in India (when in fact they weren’t). The Vedic Foundation meanwhile sought to outright remove any references to Hinduism as a heterogeneous religion containing differing schools of philosophy and the religions affect on the status and labour of people in Indian society, replace any references to polytheism with monotheism, replace “Brahman” with “God” and “unity with Brahman” with “God realization” and also whitewash the caste system. At first, many changes they requested were accepted by the Curriculum Commission in a classic fit of capitulation to religious sensibilities, opposed only by a handful of indologists. However, in 2006, the special committee of the California State Board of Education voted to overturn most of the changes that were submitted.

So what do these groups have to do with Hindutva exactly? Well, the Hindu Education Foundation is a project of Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh USA, the American branch of HSS, which is itself a subsidiary of RSS as was already established. The Vedic Foundation is linked to VHP, which as we’ve also established is another pro-Hindutva group. The Hindu American Foundation, which backed both groups, is also tied to a number of Indian nationalist groups. The group’s founder, Mihir Meghani, was a member of RSS and on the governing council of VHPA. HAF leaders have also served as board members of the Vivek Welfare and Educational Foundation, which donated $10,000 to VHP and $4.2 million to the Hindu University of America, a subsidiary of VHPA. One of HAF’s directors, Sheetal Shah, attended a rally organized by the Forum for Hindu Awakening and a nationalist group named Hindu Janajagruti Samiti. HAF co-founder Aseem Shakula has also written a piece defending Narendra Modi over his visa denial and the group itself lobbied in opposition to said visa denial. Basically, the 2005-6 textbook controversy in California was Hindu fundamentalists who were allies or proxies of Indian nationalist groups looking to spread their ideology in the United States. This is a salient example within living memory of Hindutva groups attempting to spread their ideology outside of India, through dark money as is the tradition of the United States.

But Hindutva is not without approbators within the United States. David Frawley, an American Hindu teacher and writer of several books on yoga and Vedic scripture, recently claimed that people who oppose Hindutva but not Hinduism itself are dishonest because they “have rarely defended Hinduism from Marxist, Missionary or Islamist criticisms or projected any positive image of Hinduism in India or the world”. Of course, this is not such a strange statement on his part when you consider that he often endorses pro-Modi sentiment on his Twitter, and he himself has praised Narendra Modi’s election in 2014 and supports his re-election this year. Frawley also considers groups like Sangh Parivar to be comparable to Native American and Aboriginal interest groups, which given their own post-colonialist ontology does not actually do wonders for them in my view at least – post-colonialism, after all, is essentially just reactionary politics but for minority groups and because of that it’s dressed up in the veneer of progressivism. In September last year, Democratic lawmaker Raja Krishnamoorthi attended the World Hindu Congress, alongside RSS leaders and the Vice President of India, in order to preach the philosophy of Vivekananda, who was himself an ardent Hindu nationalist.

This of course brings us rather nicely to a blue elephant in the room known as Tulsi Gabbard, who this month announced her bid to run for President of the United States in 2020. Gabbard has garnered a mixed reputation in the US: one the one hand seen as one of the few authentically progressive politicians in the country, and on the other seen as a paleoconservative in disguise for her anti-Islamic stance and anti-interventionism (the latter of which is mostly treated as a positive thing). She does have some progressive credentials to her name, it must be said. She supported Bernie Sanders’ campaign for the presidency in 2016, is a supporter of universal healthcare and marijuana legalization, opposes the TPP, supports a $15 minimum wage and is in favor of renewing the Glass-Steagall Act. She also opposed the war in Iraq and US intervention in Libya, wants the US to pull out of Yemen, Afghanistan and Syria, and is opposed to the US providing foreign aid to Saudi Arabia. But she also has numerous problematic positions, such as her support for Israel, her soft stance on torture (in fact, at one point she said that when pressed she would likely approve torture), has an inconsistent position on the Iran deal, her anti-interventionist stance ultimately being contradicted by her hawkish stance on the war on terror (including her willingness to use drones in Middle Eastern countries where she deems necessary), the fact that she opposed same-sex marriage and worked with her father’s anti-homosexual campaigns until 2012, her coordinations with right-wing nationalists like Steven Bannon and, most importantly for this post, her support for Narendra Modi. Gabbard supports establishing close ties between the US and India, and has praised Modi as an inspiration to elected officials. She criticized the US government for denying Modi’s visa to the US over his apparent oversight or involvement in the 2002 Gujarat riots, which she has tried to downplay saying “there was a lot of misinformation that surrounded the event in 2002”. She congratulated Modi’s election in 2014, and she along with the Overseas Friends of the BJP organized his first trip to the US.

Tulsi Gabbard seen presenting Narendra Modi with a copy of the Bhagavad Gita as a gift

But her support for Modi is not her only connection to Hindutva. Although she is styled as one of the few candidates who doesn’t take corporate money, Gabbard has actually received thousands of dollars from a group called the Hindu American Foundation, which as was already established earlier is pro-Modi and has numerous ties to Hindutva-related groups. She also planned to attend last year’s World Hindu Congress with the likes of Mohan Bhagwat, current chief of RSS, but was forced to withdraw on the grounds that it would be a “partisan political event” after significant protest and threats of boycott by progressive South Asian activists. She also has close ties to Sangh Parivar, apparently through sympathetic donors. As such, Tulsi Gabbard can be seen as something of a proxy for Hindutva interests, most likely tied to her geopolitical interests concerning US alliance with India, as well as mutual hatred of Islam. Also, as something of a side-note, it’s worth mentioning that many Hindu nationalists share support for Israel in common with Tulsi Gabbard, and Narendra Modi himself considers Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to be a close friend. Thus, in a broad sense, we may consider that the unlikely event that the 2020 election were to come down to Trump versus Gabbard would amount to nothing more and nothing less than a contest between the interests of Christian and Hindu nationalisms.

Hindutva’s foreign acolytes and allies are not limited to the US, either. The French journalist Francois Gautier has also openly expressed his admiration for Narendra Modi, claiming that he was a great ecologist who “wanted to make Gujarat the greenest, most investor-friendly state of India”, and is generally a strong supporter of Hindutva movements. He has also claimed that India has been weakened by Buddhism as well as foreign religions, and has attacked the pacifism and liberalism of both Gandhi and Nehru. Gautier even likes to spread the dubious claim that the Kaaba stone in Mecca is actually a Shivalingam. Canadian conservative pundit Tarek Fatah participated in a number of summits hosted by BJP-linked organizations, is beloved by the Indian right-wing for his strident attitude towards Islam and Indian Muslims, and sometimes echoes talking points similar to Hindutva ideology through his Indian ancestry. He even goes so far as to claim himself to be of Indian identity, while attacking his opponents as being affiliated with Pakistan despite being born in Pakistan himself. The Belgian indologist Koenraad Elst is also a noteworthy supporter of Hindutva, and has received praise from the BJP for his book Ram Janmabhoomi vs Babri Masjid, where he apparently attempts to make a case for Ram Janmabhoomi being the actual birthplace of the mythical Rama, thus strengthening ideas of an authochthonous Hindu tradition and of Hindu revivalism.

Furthermore it’s possible that some Hindutva ideas may even have spread to Norway, inspiring the terrorist Anders Breivik. In Breivik’s manifesto, 2080: A European Declaration of Independence, India is referenced in 102 pages – that’s out of a total of 1,518 pages, but you could argue it’s still more than you might have expected. He accused the Indian government, at the time ruled by a liberal coalition referred to as the United Progressive Alliance, of relying on appeasing Muslims, Christian missionaries and communists, praised Hindu nationalist movements who rioted and attacked Muslims (while reflexively deeming such behaviour counter-productive), said that the goals of the Hindutva movements are “more or less identical” with his own, and cited India was one of a number of countries where he hoped his successors would carry on his mission – the others being Russia, the Philippines, China and Thailand. He also listed a number of websites for numerous Hindu nationalist groups. The groups listed are Bharatiya Janata Party (the current ruling party), Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the National Volunteers’ Organisation, Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad and Vishwa Hindu Parishad. Breivik also cites the works of authors like Shrinandan Vyas, who claims that Muslims killed millions of Hindus in religious genocide, and Kishori Saran Lal, who is often accused of being a spokesperson for RSS (to which he responds, rather conspicuously, by accusing his critics of having a left-wing bias), in order to advance his narrative of Muslims being a genocidal threat to India and the West. Breivik even ordered a badge of his own design (a crusader’s sword piercing a skull marked with the symbols of Islam, communism and Nazism) from India.

The badge that Anders Breivik ordered from India

So what does all of this mean? Well, broadly speaking, it means that Hindutva is nowhere near the insular force that, to the average Westerner, it may seem. Ironically for a nationalist movement, one centered around India no less, Hindutva is not simply an idea confined to India. In fact, it can arguably be said to be a global movement at this point in time, albeit one centered around the interests specific to the Indian nationalist movement, one that has its eyes set on Hindu diaspora across the world and will come out against anyone who dares criticize the Modi government. The foot soldiers of Hindutva are present in the United States in the thousands, and there’s the very real prospect that one of their proxies could become President of the United States. Given Tulsi’s harsh stance towards Pakistan, this could have major implications for India-Pakistan relations, and may even affect the possibility of confrontation going forward. But in a broader sense, it represents a current of radical conservative nationalism with a global presence, or even fascism – the latter being rather hard to deny considering both the RSS’ Hitlerian inspirations and in turn their influence on Anders Breivik.

Hinduism is being used as a vehicle by religious fundamentalists, the Indian bourgeoisie, various petty-bourgeois forces, and reactionaries (and their network of think tanks) for their political purposes, possibly as just another effort to stop any kind of socialist or even social-democratic movement from gaining power in a time characterized by widespread economic instability in the world, but also India’s possible transformation into a new global superpower. It would be wise to keep tracks of the Hindutva movement as India undergoes this transformation, not least due to its infiltration of American society.

Remember when I said we’re probably doomed? Well we might actually be doomed.

Back in February 2016 I gave my first take on the British referendum to leave the European Union. It was a deeply cynical take on both fronts, one that I’d sort of renege on two months later when I went from neutral to full-blown supporter of the Leave campaign. Since I voted Leave, the process of Britain leaving the European Union has been incredibly tumultuous. No sooner than we began the negotiations, we have had the Eurosceptic right see some of its key proponents bow out and leave things to whoever’s there to take over. Not only did the pro-Remain PM David Cameron resign, only to be replaced by the single worst Prime Minister I think of. Nigel Farage of UKIP left his party believing his work was done, leaving his party to practically die as a result of revolving door leadership, infighting and general irrelevance in the face of a seemingly confident Tory government, in order to spend his days on Fox News as that guy they have on whenever they talk about Britain (though he swears he’s coming back, any day now).

But for a while, things were going somewhat smoothly for the first half of 2017. The government seemed to be confident, and the economy wasn’t crashing like the Remainers said it was going to. Then, out of nowhere, Theresa May called a snap election in order to gain an even larger majority than she already had, believing it would secure the ultimate mandate for her government to leave the EU. In reality though, the opposite happened: while the Conservative party ultimately defeated Labour, they failed to gain a majority and were forced to form a coalition with the DUP, and her position as a negotiator and as a leader were greatly weakened afterwards. The once confident new leader overplayed her hand and showed herself to be nothing more than a weak, hubristic fool.

This year it was starting to look like Brexit was taking a turn for the worse. For all of our rhetoric concerning national sovereignty, a Brexit delivered to us from the right seems to be a case of shifting from one set of capitalist masters to another, as our government’s plan for a “more global Britain” means being more dependent on China. On the other hand, we could also be set to become vassals of the EU, technically leaving the European Union but still remaining subservient to their laws as though we never left at all. And now, it kind of looks like we are heading down just that path. It has recently been announced that the UK would be kept under European Union laws until December 31st 2020, despite us leaving the European Union. Theresa May also seems to be taking over the negotiations with Brussels as the main negotiator, which to me does not strike me as a positive move considering her incompetence over the last year, and is attempting to exercise her dominance in that regard by threatening a no deal Brexit if her fellow MPs don’t line up in support of her plan. Furthermore, the prospect of a no deal Brexit is leading to concerns of Britons having to stockpile food as though they were preparing for the end of the world following Dominic Raab’s comments on the subject.

Put simply, I feel like we’re getting the bad ending, the worst of both worlds in some sense. Without a plan for leaving the European Union (which, let’s be honest, David Davis seemed to suggest there wasn’t a plan at all), the Conservative government has put us in a situation where we have been making up the program for Brexit as we go along, leading up to a scenario where we are independent in name only. Despite the rhetoric of national sovereignty, we will remain subservient to the very foreign entity we struggled to break free of. And all the while there is the very real sense that the whole thing is going to fall apart and screw everyone over. It’s like Paul Mason was right all along in some respects. Meanwhile there is talk among liberal/social democratic Remainer circles of a second EU referendum, and talk among right-wing Brexiteer circles of replacing the Prime Minister who they view as a traitor to the country. But of course, the Conservatives are trying to assure us that everything is going to be just fine.

I still oppose the European Union (I think it should be destroyed and replaced by something along the lines of COMECON 2.0), I value national sovereignty, but I believe I’ve made the case that it is because of my value for national sovereignty that I have become deeply cynical about our current path. At this point my mind turns to the prospect of Welsh independence, if only because I think the EU issue won’t matter because the EU probably won’t let in an independent Wales or Scotland or the European Union will probably collapse within the decade. Funny, with America going down a horrible path of its own and England in a sorry state, I kind of feel lucky to be in Wales to an extent, and not necessarily for nationalist reasons (strange as that may sound). But of course, to speak of national liberation without socialism would be an empty exercise, for the simple fact that – and I think the current Brexit otucome is proof of this – the goals of national liberation, or even simple populism, cannot be fulfilled within a capitalist order which drives all things toward the globalization of capital and the value of profit and money over liberty and sovereignty.

All I can do at this point is to sit in my corner of South Wales, going about my life, waiting to see what happens next.

A note on Brexit and Europe

You know, in my post about my personal political development I talked about what I’ve seen of the right wing as a movement and what has led me to become fed up with it and instead move to the left – the actual socialist left; not a bunch of liberals whining about how Bernie Sanders could have won, or a pack of social democrats gassing on about how great Jeremy Corbyn is – but I neglected to comment on how this has related to issues in my own corner of the world; or, more specifically, Britain. So I’d like to write a bit about my current thoughts on the Brexit situation, with perhaps a nod towards British politics in general as well as the wave of European populism that I forgot to talk about in earlier months.

I’ll keep this is as simple as possible: the waters are looking increasingly shaky and uncomfortable at the moment. Given the numerous concessions my government seems to be making, the many times that Parliament has had to get their say on the vote despite this being a matter of the democratic will of the people rather than the political class, and then the European Union consistently trying to basically gerrymander the process so as to get it running all on their terms, I get the feeling that we might not get the hard Brexit that people like me wanted. However, this is not my only gripe. In fact, my primary gripe is increasingly to do with what the country is going to look like after Brexit, assuming we leave the European Union. Last month I heard that our current Prime Minister Theresa May refused to rule out selling off the NHS to private owners in the USA. Think about what that means for a moment: for all of its faults, the national healthcare system is a part of our national apparatus. We created it to serve our people. For it to remain under our control is an extension of our sovereignty as a nation. Simply privatizing it within our own country is one thing, but to sell it off to foreign buyers is completely different. Because if you do that, then guess who owns it? Not us, not our government, but private owners in another country, that will never be accountable to us. If we sell it off, we are giving away part of our national sovereignty to foreign corporate powers. This is almost literally no different from signing it away to the European Union, that giant capitalist trade union from beyond our borders.

Not to mention, it’s looking increasingly likely that we’re going enter into a situation where we’re basically going to be cucks to China. What do I mean by this exactly? Well for starters we are probably going to embrace China’s One Belt initiative, which is effectively just China opening up new markets at the cost of effectively undermining the sovereignty of the countries that initiative is getting involved with through economic dependency, and if that’s not enough, if Chinese media is any good indication of how they view us, if we take too long to do things that China likes they may chastise us, which I’m inclined to believe will not go down very well for us. The whole notion of “a more global Britain” that the Conservative Party likes to go on about it comes across as simply us transferring from one set of capitalist masters to another.

And this brings me to my main point: under the circumstances afforded to us by the capitalistic economic establishment, we’re not going to recapture the idea of national sovereignty and independence in any meaningful sense, because we are either still going to be dependent on the true economic incentives at play in the current system, hence we will always have new masters.

As I mentioned in my rant against Trump, I also see this reality at play within the political system of the United States of America. Consequently, I believe there is also reason to believe that this is how it will play out in Europe as a whole, except in their case it might arguably be worse. If people like Marine Le Pen or Geert Wilders, the unfortunate reality is that, whilst they may succeed in destroying the European Union by destabilizing it politically, the people of the nation states themselves may end up living in a more authoritarian countries. Not only have you got Geert Wilders who wants to outright ban Islam, thereby effectively sacrificing freedom of religious association, you also have Hungary: their president is an outright champion of the idea of “illiberal democracy”. He’s also been using this new anti-globalist current to elevate his political career and demonize his political opponents as being the allies of George Soros, conspiring to erode the Hungarian borders. In the absence of the EU, people like these could well make up the new political establishment in parts of Europe, and their answer to the tricky problems of the world is simply to give the state an iron hand while not address the root economic incentives that created the globalist phenomenon to begin with.

In closing, let me illustrate my position by using a quote attributed to Marine Le Pen, the right-wing populist candidate of the French elections, last year:

“They’ve made an ideology out of it. An economic globalism which rejects all limits, all regulation of globalisation, and which consequently weakens the immune defences of the nation state, dispossessing it of its constituent elements: borders, national currency, the authority of its laws and management of the economy, thus enabling another globalism to be born and to grow: Islamist fundamentalism.”

This is, whether she likes it or not, a description of capitalism. It is an economic ideology that is based on infinite growth and accumulation of profit, and to that end it must invariably transgress the boundaries of the nation state and its values, rejecting all limits to its growth and its ability to access new markets across the world, undermining the will of the nation states (which, funny enough, is kind of what the IMF does by pushing for its economics in third world countries that don’t necessarily want it, but the right never talks about this with regards to globalism even though it is clearly an example of economic globalism), and as a consequence it cannot remain a national grassroots system. It is at the heart of what the right now identifies as globalism, and funny enough the left has a somewhat longer of opposing the effects of economic globalization than the right does, just the mainstream left has now gotten on the globalist bandwagon and ceded the populist energies that once belonged to the left, allowing right-wing opportunists to hoodwink those energies from it.

Thus, I repeat my point: if you support the restoration of any kind of sovereignty, of popular democratic will, indeed of the nation state over the interests of globalism, then logically your true enemy is not the left, but capitalism. In fact, I say it’s high time the left regain the energies of populism and anti-globalism that the right has stolen from them.

The fascists who dare to manipulate the emotions of the people

You know who’s been popping up on Facebook lately? Fucking these guys:

Yep, these assholes who vomit on and on about “preserving British and Christian morality”, neither of which they seem to know anything about. All they want to do is make Britain a fascist nation where British citizens Anglo-Saxon white people are put first above everyone else and no one else would be allowed to live there, especially not Muslims (seriously, it’s always Islam with these far-right types). And recently they have been trying manipulate the emotions of the people with their Facebook content. All they do is put up images of various atrocities committed on children, animals, old people and some such, and caption it with some story of the person who did it and the phrase “like/share if you think this person should swing/be destroyed”.

This is clear and obvious manipulation of people’s emotions. Obviously people would agree who who attack or abuse animals, children, and old people should be punished as possible, so obviously people who don’t know any better about Britain First would like or share the posts. People are being played like rubes and tricked into supporting the people who desire nothing more than a fascist country in modern days. They must not win over the minds of the people, or doom will be upon this country.

Think about it, these guys are far-right anti-immigration nutjobs and Christian fundamentalists to boot. If you let them run the show, you’d be lucky if they don’t turn it into the Norsefire regime. Think how many people wouldn’t be safe. Think of everyone who lives outside their idea of Christian values on a daily basis. How safe are they? Think of people who aren’t British by birth but choose to live here while committing no crimes. How safe are they? And what about people who want to some day leave Britain to live out the rest of their days in another country? Is there any guarantee they’ll be safe from whatever they have in store for us?

Don’t worry though, I’m sure they’ll never get elected into office, unless something stupid happens…

Christian hypocrisy and American pride

One thing I noticed about American Christians is that many of them (or at least all of them who are of a conservative persuasion) are very patriotic in the sense that they have a large sense of nationalistic pride towards America, while simultaneously view the country as filled with “sin” and “immorality” (no doubt referring to everything they don’t seem to like, such as gay marriage and women’s rights to have abortions). It seems to me like Christians in America don’t really like America that much, unless by America they mean America as the Christian theocracy they think it should be.

They also seem to think America is a Christian nation (which is nonsense), and if they don’t think that way then they want America to be Christian nation, despite the fact that this blatantly goes against America’s constitution, which states that Congress shall (or should) make no law that impedes the religious freedom of individuals to choose their own beliefs or express them. Thinking about it, as long as any Christians in America are fighting against the freedoms that should be guaranteed by the Constitution, and thus seeking to defile constitutional liberty, one could make the case that they are in fact guilty of treason, not for any beliefs, but for campaigning and lobbying against the liberty of the nation. Of course, that’s just my side of the story anyway.