The current trajectory of Hindu nationalism is taking some dramatic turns and these obviously will have far reaching consequences for already volatile region like South Asia.
Pakistan and India share a bitter history and have fought four wars. Kashmir remained the bone of contention in all wars. With both countries attaining the nuclear capability, now South Asia has multiple flashpoints and any future conflict can lead to a total destruction the impacts of which will surely go beyond South Asia.
Indian foreign policy draws implicit motivations from Hindutva ideology especially under leadership of Narendar Modi, and the relationship with its neighbors are aimed at regaining all the territories that it once ruled, which includes whole of Subcontinent and few attached peripheries. The BJP government has projected internal and external enemies for power consolidation and also for cornering all political opposition and crushing all dissenting voices in the country.
Hindutva ideology was first conceived by V.D. Savarkar in 1923 and the basic idea was to seek dominance of Hindu way of life in India, so the premise of Hindutva was on exclusionist grounds from day one since it was conceived. The followers of Hindutva promoted violence and hatred in order to suppress Muslim and Christian minorities and not allowing them to live an independent life in country. In current scenario the politically tempered history intentionally creates enemy and strengthens the claims by highlighting self satisfying myths with attached emotional frenzies aimed at overcoming centuries of humiliation at the hands of outsiders that is also in great deal totally imaginative.
Another extremist named as Keshav Baliram Hedgewar advocated Hindutva by construing RSS in 1925. They adopted the slogan “One nation, one culture, one race, one religion,” which is Hinduism. Currently, this group contains many regional subgroups such as ruling party Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Bajrang Dal, Shiv Sena etc. Hindutva ideology also asks for establishing regional hegemony on the basis of supremacy of their religion and race. BJP under leadership of Narendar Modi is believed to be realizing this policy. Hindutva was used by Modi to get political control over the nation. The Gujarat riots in 2002 were evident of Hindutva politics where hundreds of Muslims were massacred and Modi at that time was Chief Minister of Gujarat and earned a rather infamous title of “Butcher of Gujarat”.
Hindu majoritarianism accompanied by strong conventional military instigate an expansionist agenda externally in form of Akhand Bharat and Hindu-first agenda internally in dealing minorities with high-handedness Hindutva. The Indian military is also taking motivations from far-right political leadership and is becoming more belligerent as witnessed by recent LOC and LAC skirmishes with Pakistan and China respectively.
Current Domestic Environment
In order to shift the focus of debate from governance issues such as poor economic growth of India, increasing trends of violence, rising poverty and inequality, the BJP government wants its people engaged in religious and emotional discourses by using identity politics and Hindu renaissance and revivalism to glorify its historic past. It created otherness within society by demonizing Muslims and by creating an external enemy in form of Pakistan for ensuring survival of Hindu Rashtra and Modi claimed himself a Chowkidaar or guardian to divert popular sentiments in his favor in 2019 elections and broadened his Hindutva support base.
On domestic front, the culture of intolerance is on the rise in India with societal stress on reconversion under campaigns of Ghar wapsi and those who do not avail such opportunity had to face mob lynching and extreme stigmatization. This history is being rewritten with Muslim rulers presented as morally corrupt and extremely brutal in their operations. In Hindutva’s obsession with Mughal emperor Zaheeruddin Babar, it compared Babar with Raavan after the controversial decision of Babri Masjid came out in Hindu nationalists’ favor.
Hindu nationalism has turned even moderate or neutral Kashmiris against Indian government after it unilaterally revoked Article 370 and 35A that resulted in semi-autonomous status for Kashmir. Moreover, the Citizenship Ammentment Act (CAA) and Indian refugee policies in Assam are clear indication of xenophobic view of India like any right-wing political movement is accused of doing against immigrants and discriminating minorities. In a recent article in Hindustan times, Sonia Gandhi; the president of Indian National Congress, criticized Modi administration for hollowing out Indian democracy.
The dissenting voices are controlled by sedition charges, and termed all political protests as conspiracies against India. The cow vigilantes are increasingly involved in mob lynching of Muslims and the exploitation of Dalit community by upper caste Hindus is on the rise since BJP hijacked political landscape in 2014. The Indian media through fake news phenomenon has become a propaganda machine and a lapdog for the government.
BJP having support from Indian media has surreptitiously and at times blatantly extended support to Hindutva extremist elements. The fact that Hindu nationalism present as religious and national obligation to marginalize minorities by homogenization campaign is the sole reason that we witness proliferation of attacks on Muslims, Christians and other minorities.
Implications for Pakistan and South Asia
This extremist mindset by populist leaders in India is felt by not only Pakistan but other countries of the region and now they are fully aware of Indian hegemonic designs, and weak states such as Nepal, Bhutan, and Srilanka are also realizing the threat and are taking firm stand against Indian assertiveness. India is believed to be supporting insurgencies in neighboring countries as it has allegedly done in past in Balochistan and in 1980s it armed and trained Tamil militants. The more recent instances of Indian brinkmanship can be witnessed during Doklam dispute and recent skirmishes in Galwan Valley that evidently explains Indian intransigence. At both occasion’s restraint and prudent conflict management policies from Beijing saved India from utter embarrasment in front of international community.
There is a strange silence in Western scholarship regarding the threat of transfer of nuclear weapons to extremists Hindu ideologues. It further brings credence to the narrative of selective application of international standards to only those countries that are politically or economically weak. Furthermore, Indian hegemonic designs inflated after United States announced its Indo-Pacific strategy and subsequent efforts from US for helping India getting unique waivers from NSG. The elevated status given to India in the region for counterbalancing China had allowed India to intervene in domestic affairs of neighboring countries with impunity. India is now emboldened to pursue its aggressive agenda against it neighbors and it can take a heavy toll on regional stability.
Prime Minister Imran Khan while realizing the threat Hindutva poses to peace in the region concluded that The recent obsession of Indian leadership with saffronism has put the lives of millions Muslims at risk in biggest democratic state of the world. He asserted “…And I am afraid this is going to pose a threat to not just to Pakistan and the neighbouring countries or to the Indian minorities, but eventually this will be a threat to world peace,”
Modi government due to strict imposition of lockdown in Indian Occupied Kashmir and gross human rights violations using pellet guns against unarmed Kashmiri demonstrators and arresting political leadership has invited homegrown uprising, and the rhetoric of putting blame on Pakistan for promoting militancy is not gaining currency because nearly all South Asia commentators are agreed on the fact that the recent wave is purely indigenous. The Pulwama attack in 2019 against Pakistan was an instance of jingoistic intentions of India that enjoys the support of its war mongering media that is infamous for unjournalistic rants. The entire episode shows the anti-Pakistan proclivities of an aggressive India.
India for decades attempted to create instability in Balochistan province from Chabahar in Iran and in tribal areas of Pakistan from its consulate in Afghanistan. It was highlighted by capturing Kulbushan Yadev who was serving officer in Indian spy agency. The targets, as confessed by Kulbushan himself, were to destabilize CPEC. It proved that India under Modi’s administration is relying on hostility as its major foreign policy posture against its neighbors. In domestic realm, it is radicalizing Muslims and other minorities and particularly Kashmiris, and it has brought the region to a very difficult situation where one mistake can lead to devastating consequences.
At a time when peace in Afghanistan is not a distant dream due to constant efforts from Pakistan’s political and military leadership in bringing Taliban to the negotiation table with United States and then playing a crucial role in kickstarting intra-Afghan talks, India is playing a role of spoiler because the warming of relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan will naturally place Indian homework in Afghanistan in doldrums that was guided by Mandala theory of Chanakiya Kautalliya aiming at destabilizing immediate neighbor by allying with neighbor of your enemy and turning it against your enemy.
The rise of Hindutva surely is a recipe for India’s own destruction, as India is drifting towards Nazi brand of fascism pursuing smear campaigns against minorities, plundering and inflicting great damages to their properties, passing discriminatory laws of citizenship, India has proved that it is no longer a pluralist society cherishing diversity rather, it is directed to homogenize the society under India for Hindu campaign. This situation is disastrous for social harmony and additionally, it will have far-reaching consequences for regional peace. It is important for all neighbors especially Pakistan and China to remain vigilant of Indian hegemonic designs and its misadventures. There is a need for collective diplomatic efforts from neighbors to make India realize that it cannot get carte blanche in its operations in the region. All Indian attempts for dominancy in the region should be delicately balanced by China and Pakistan by deepening their cooperation in economic and security realm. If India is allowed a free passage in the region under leadership that never publicly shied away from its expansionist agenda, the region would face a great danger because appeasing the aggressor never worked, in contrast it always emboldened the aggressor to seek for even greater concessions even if it had to authorize a war for attaining those greater objectives.
About The Author
Hassan Rizwan Chattha is a student of International Relations at Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad. He is focused on changing global Political and security dynamics and their widespread implications. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The views expressed in this article are solely those of the original author and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views of Rationale-47.