Priyamvada Gopal writes: Imagine this. A pogrom takes place in a foreign country targeting a minority group, say Christians, with hundreds brutally killed by rampaging mobs, many mutilated and raped, and foetuses removed from pregnant women. Thousands flee destroyed homes. The provincial leader on whose watch these events take place is a politician with open links to extremist Islamist organisations. Three holidaying British citizens are among the massacred. Allegations emerge that this politician’s language helped foment the massacres. With one of his cabinet jailed for her role in the pogroms he becomes the frontrunner to lead this increasingly powerful country. Would you worry?
Yes, is the likely answer, and so you should. In reality, the country is India, the extremists are Hindus, the 2002 Gujarat pogroms targeted Muslims, and the leader in question is Narendra Modi. As the candidate of the far-right Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), in current elections he does not dispute his or its links to the extremist Hindu network known as the Sangh Parivar.
Modi was a leading activist for its secretive and militaristic arm, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) – whose founder expressed admiration for Hitler, ideologies of racial purity and the virtues of fascism. It is an organisation that, on a good day, looks like the British National party but can operate more like Nazi militias. Known for an authoritarian leadership style, Modi’s only expression of regret for the pogroms compared them to a car running over a puppy, while he labelled Muslim relief camps “baby-making factories”.
Hindu extremism is rooted in a macho 20th-century response to British colonialism which mocked Hindu “effeminacy”. It is rarely scrutinised in the west, partly because Hinduism is stereotyped as gentle and non-violent in the image of Gandhi – who, ironically, was assassinated by an RSS activist – and benefits from the disproportionate attention given to Islamist violence, which enables other pernicious extremisms to slip under the radar. [Continue reading…]