Hindu Nationalism Is Rising In The West. The Governments Are Looking The Other Way.

Hindu Nationalism Is Rising In The West. The Governments Are Looking The Other Way.
The West which defeated fascism in the 1940s and established democracies is, unfortunately, shutting its eyes to the rise of Hindu nationalism. Instead Western governments are providing space for this ideology to flourish.

When Rishi Sunak became the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom last month, India went into raptures to celebrate his Indian origin. Many people believed it was an act of sweet revenge against the British who
had colonized the world. But when it came out that Sunak’s family had migrated from Gujranwala now in Pakistan, the celebrations turned from his  Indian origin to glorifying his being a devoted Hindu.

They cited his taking oath on Bhagwat Gita, the holy book of Hindu upper castes when he became an MP and also his frequent visit to temples and seeking blessings from cows.

But what has astonished observers is that Sunak’s ascendence to the top political office coincided with the first communal riot in Britain, when Hindus and Muslims clashed in the city of Leicester after a cricket match.

The situation escalated on September 17 when about 200 Hindu men marched through a Muslim-majority area of east Leicester. Wearing masks, hoodies and balaclavas, they chanted “Jai Shri Ram” (meaning “Hail Lord Ram”), a phrase synonymous with Hindu nationalist violence in India. It now appears not only a prime minister is shipped but South Asia has exported communal riots also to the UK.

Indians make up about 2.5 per cent of the total population of the UK and Sunak’s rise to the top post was appreciated as the symbol of flourishing diversity in the West, where even a member of the minority
community has the opportunity to take over the affairs of the country. Pakistani Muslims comprise 1.8 per cent of the UK population.

It also highlighted that Hindu nationalism has travelled beyond India’s borders. Besides the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS) – a UK offshoot of patron of Hindu nationalists Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), organisations like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) which had played a major role in the demolition of the Babri Masjid in India in 1992 has its presence in the UK.

Savarkar and Hindu colonisers

Father of Hindutva VD Savarkar in his book, Essentials of Hindutva not only coined Hindutva but asked Hindus going abroad to be colonisers. Author Vinayak Chaturvedi in his book, Hindutva and Violence; VD Savarkar and the Politics of History, cites the following: “In Essentials of Hindutva Savarkar argues that the hundreds of thousands of Hindus who had travelled as merchants and traders to farthest reaches of the globe were colonisers. His point was that these Hindus who had settled all over the world had the potential to “own the whole country” and “form a separate state”. In other words, diasporic Hindus had the potential for establishing a new world empire.”

For Savarkar, the only geographical limit of Hindutva is the limits of the earth. His idea was not just a unified India or Akhand Bharat, but to give a greater ambition of colonising parts of the world to establish a new and global Hindu empire. RSS and the BJP are now working on this concept for establishing a global Hindu empire.

While these organizations were active in the UK and elsewhere since the 1960s, they got a fillip post-2014, when Narendra Modi took over power in 2014. Today the HSS and its subsidiary organisations have spread their wings in 48 countries.

“Today seven countries of this world have a person of Indian origin as a head of the state. All this has been possible because of organisations like the RSS that have kept the spirit of Indian nationalism and values alive in the hearts and minds of millions of people living outside India. This is the true spirit of nationalism,” senior BJP leader Vijay Jolly told The Friday Times.

Jolly had been in charge of BJP’s Overseas Affairs. He says starting from Kamala Harris in the US to Rishi Sunak in the UK, today counties including Fiji, Portuguese, Mauritius, Guyana, and Suriname have a head of state who is either a Hindu or that of Indian origin.

What is surprising is that the same West that defeated fascism in the 1940s, and established accommodative democracy has been shutting its eyes to the emergence of the Hindu nationalist fascist ideology.

RSS event in London

Months after Narendra Modi had become the prime minister of Indian in 2014, the HSS had organized a conference in London entitled – RSS: A Vision in Action – A New Dawn. RSS leader Dattatreya Hosabale had
specifically air dashed to London particularly to attend this conference. It was stated that his visit was aimed at energies Hindu diaspora population in the UK.

Priti Patel, an MP and the Prime Minister’s Indian Diaspora Champion, in fact, congratulated the HSS for hosting the event related to the RSS and also hosting the Hosabale, who she acknowledged being close to Modi.
“I commend the leaders of Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh UK and all its members for bringing the Hindu community together to promote the ideals and values that underpin our way of life, particularly in demonstrating good citizenship, charity and social responsibility to benefit our community and country,” she had said in her message.

“To help understand, it is important to learn about the influential people close to him, which includes Shri Dattatreya Hosabale, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh's Joint Secretary General…it is an honour that he has travelled to the UK to speak about the RSS, dispel the myths about it, and contribute his voice to the special UK-India relationship,” she added.

Liberal Hindus in the West support right wing government back home. What is intriguing is the fact that Indians who live in the West support liberal parties, fight against racism and demand rights for minorities, but back at home they support the Hindu right wing elements and even fund their activities against minorities back home.

Recently a report titled ‘Hindu Nationalist Influence in the United States, 2014-2021: The Infrastructure of Hindutva Mobilizing,’ authored by Jasa Macher and facilitated by the South Asian Citizens Web, observes that from 2001 to 2019 several charitable groups, think tanks and political advocacy groups have contributed at least $158.9 million, to rightist groups in India. Around half of this money, nearly $85.4 million, was spent between 2014 and 2019.

Though the Hindu American Foundation has denied having collected any such money, the issue of Indian community funding communal groups has been cropping up from time to time.

Professor Ratan Lal who teaches History at Delhi University’s Hindu College said: “Hindus residing in the western countries want to enjoy the benefits of liberal societies at the workplace. There they enjoy a minority status and milch its benefits. But back home they are deeply rooted in caste traditions and Manu Smriti is like their Bible.”

Referring to Dr BR Ambedkar’s thoughts, he further added that Ambedkar had said the traditions amongst the Hindus are more powerful than the law of the land. Ambedkar had even said that if Hindus will go and live in other countries, over the years the caste system will become a problem there as well. Ambedkar’s vision of Hindus carrying the tradition of caste along with them has now begun to affect western societies.

Radically baptized Indians

Seventy-five years ago, the foundation of India and Pakistan was accompanied by communal riots between the Hindus and Muslims. In India, the tradition is still continuous. However, the recent clash between Hindus and Muslims in the UK over a cricket match raises several questions. The leaders from both communities gave a call for peace and normalcy was soon restored.  And for now, the right-wing idea has made its way into society in the UK with social media platforms and in the universities.

“For the past few years, we have been observing that the students who have been coming from India are ideologically baptized. Their upbringing in India has been under the influence of the right-wing ideology that they carry with themselves when they enter the universities here,” said Kamal Dhaliwal, who is president of the Indian Overseas Congress in the UK.

He also observed that hate-mongering and Muslim bashing are new norms amongst Hindus in the UK on social media platforms.

“Every Indian is in one or the other WhatsApp group fuelling Hindutva propaganda. It is hard to escape,” he adds.

The writer is a journalist based in India.