The ruling party in India, Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), emerged from an older movement called the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), something the BJP doesn't deny. Modi himself remains a long-time member.
RSS visionaries were driven by European fascism. Moonje was the mentor of RSS founder K.B. Hegdewar. He had previously met with Italy's fascist ruler Mussolini, toured its fascist youth indoctrination camps leading him to popularize an Indian version of these camps. Golwalkar was another early RSS leader, wanted to create a Hindu nationalist India based on the ethnonationalist, militaristic vision of Nazi fascism.
This isn't just history as this very violent ethnonationalism the RSS leadership admired in the 1930s is embedded in the BJP's ideology.
This ideology sees Muslims as antithetical to India's national identity, resulting in Muslims targeted by the BJP government's politics of violence and repression.
1. The BJP government's escalation of the decades-long conflict in Muslim-majority Kashmir by cancelling the constitution's Article 370. It had provided for a degree of autonomy for the Jammu and Kashmir state. Article 35A, a provision of Article 370, limited land acquisition by outsiders. In August 2019 the government unilaterally scrapped Article 370 via dubious means, leading to an increased militarization of an already heavily militarized territory, a communications blockade and growing violence against Kashmiris and detention including that of young children.
The aim? Reengineering the state's demographics akin to Israel's policies in occupied Palestine. Doing so would be completely consistent with the BJP's ethnonationalism.
2. The BJP government's Islamophobic campaign to strip citizenship of Muslims of Bangladesh descent in the state of Assam unless they can prove citizenship through appropriate paperwork. Most in India, especially the rural poor, don't have birth certificates. The government is building camps to detain people who are stripped of their citizenship. Mass detention of a population based on ethnic, or religious grounds fits the definition of 'concentration camps'.
3. Extractive industries are pushing for the criminalisation of opposition to extractivism, particularly by Indigenous peoples. Modi's close ties with Indian billionaires like Gautam Adani, who has benefited from public subsidies and deregulation for his fossil fuel, mining, and other business interests, sees them as vocal supporters of Modi, including when the latter faced scrutiny for his role in concealing anti-Muslim pogroms when leading the state of Gujrat. Adani's company also has a sordid record of destroying ecosystems and violating Indigenous rights wherever it operates. The Modi government is also criminalizing Indigenous resistance to extractivism by equating it with terrorism.
Exploring these parallels isn't an academic exercise. For movements to successfully challenge ethnonationalism backed by corporate interests, a shared understanding of the common ideological foundations sharpen our understanding and make our work for change more effective.
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