12. Vulgar nationalism


         A consequence of this lack of self-developed understanding of the forces in the field is that the Sangh is not able to discern objective allies and enemies on the world stage, so that it is unable to make friends.  E.g., after liberalization and globalization became hot items, the Sangh Parivar including the BJP has been multiplying and intensifying its attacks on the USA.  Time and again, Hindutva spokesmen have been presenting the impersonal process of globalization as an American ploy to take over the world (just as Westerners once depicted earlier developments in capitalism as Jewish conspiracies to dispossess the workers and smallholders).  Much of their anti-Americanism could have been borrowed quite literally from Leftist pamphlets of yesteryear, some of it also from Ayatollah Khomeini's speeches; the only thing missing is the "Great Satan" label.  Meanwhile, these Hindutva exegetes of the globalization conspiracy have not even bothered to notice that in the USA itself, globalization is being criticized both from the Left and the Right.  This movement spurns its potential friends.


         A similarly misguided exercise consists in blaming first the British and now the Americans for Hindu society's problems with Islam.  Like the secularists, Hindutva authors systematically exaggerate the British role in the Partition of India.  The simple truth is that the British merely made deals with an Islamic separatism which was very much there before their arrival, and which is intrinsic to Islam.  We can understand that the secularists refuse to face this fact, but in the case of Hindutva spokesmen, this refusal smacks of cowardice.


         Instead of blaming Islam for Pakistani aggression, a whole lot is made of the American arms which Pakistan is using during this aggression; as if it is not the Pakistanis themselves who have chosen to buy and use these weapons.  Instead of focusing on ideological forces, the blame is put on a country; in this respect, the creation of Pakistan comes in handy, because instead of blaming Muslim fellow-countrymen for riots and bomb attacks and Kashmiri separatism, one can now blame "foreign agents".  And when Pakistan feels too close for comfort, the blame can be shifted to a more distant country, like Britain or the USA.  This demonization of a nation may be excusable in wartime fever (though it is itself a major cause of wars), but it is definitely below the dignity of a columnist commenting on world events from his armchair.  Wherever we look in Sangh thinking, we constantly run into this reduction of ideological problems to tribal conflicts between "national" and "foreign" or "anti-national" forces.  What is painfully missing is a keen eye for potentially friendly trends across the borders, such as the increasing awareness in US foreign policy circles that India is the West's natural ally against the anti-democratic regimes in Asia.[1]


         Equally painful is the absence of any serious understanding about Communism, a key player on the Indian and world stages during most of the Sangh's history.  Communist critics of Hindutva take it for granted that the Sangh is anti-Communist, but a perusal of Sangh publications does not support this common belief.  Thus, BJP economist Jay Dubashi, though formerly a staunch critic of Soviet and Indian Communism, has actually blamed the CIA for the break-up of the Soviet Union, a conspiracy theory which is highly unjust to the freedom-loving sections of the former Soviet empire's population and incredibly unmindful of the self-inflicted economic breakdown which forced the Soviet leaders into perestroika.[2]  Any retrospective references to the Korea war, a UNO mission to save South Korea from Communist aggression, routinely describe it as a case of American aggression.  Likewise, references to the Vietnam war ignore the fact that the Americans merely intervened in an ongoing intra-Vietnamese war triggered by Communist aggression; it may be true that the Americans misunderstood Vietnamese nationalism (a non-Communist factor of opposition to the American intervention), but the fact that their motive was the containment of Communism should not be overlooked. 


         All through the Cold War, the BJS/BJP never once developed a global vision of the Communist problem.  The only BJP publication on Communism, the 24-page pamphlet The Great Betrayers by Krishna Lal Sharma (ca.1988), devoted to a critique of the Indian Communist Parties, merely points out the Communists' extra-territorial loyalties and their "misundersta­nding" of nationalism.  Sharma argues convincingly that the Communists do not accept Indian nationhood, and that whenever it suits their purposes, they will twist nationalist discourse to promote "Bengali nationhood" or "Keralite nation­hood".  Indian Communists are attacked for being "anti-national", which is a correct allegation but hardly the whole story of what is wrong with Communism.


         For anyone who has met victims of Communism, it is simply shocking to read what some spokesmen of the (allegedly anti-Communist) Hindutva movement have to say about it.  In the spring of 1996, after the Cuban Army shot down two airplanes of Miami-based Cubans trying to help Cuban boat refugees, and after China fired some shots in the direction of Taiwan in order to intimidate the Taiwanese voters, Organiser columnist and former Illustrated Weekly of India editor M.V. Kamath wrote the following: "The United States has a unique record of grave errors in the last fifty years (...) It tried to prop up Chiang Kai-shek in Formosa and allotted the Chinese Permanent Member­ship in the Security Council to his government.(...) It got into the Korean War and sacrificed the lives of thousands of its young men in pursuit of a futile mission to contain Com­munism.(.­..) The latest example is its support to Cuban ter­rorists making illegal flights over Cuban air space, a brazen example of international lawlessn­ess (...) But nothing fazes the United States which seems determined to break any law, commit any crime for its own selfish ends."[3]  This outburst of crude and obnoxious anti-Americani­sm  calls for some comment.


         The American (in fact UNO) inter­vention in Korea was not a "futile attempt to contain Communism".  It was a rescue mission rendered necessary by Stalin's unilat­eral aggres­sion against South Korea, not by any interven­tionist whim of the USA; and it was relatively successful, in that it achieved its stated goal of freeing South Korea and called a temporary halt to Communist expansionism.[4]  The alter­native to saving South Korea would have been what India did to Tibet at the very same time: when Mao's troops invaded, India treacherous­ly refused help.  Kamath, who is hailed as a “veteran journalist” in the Sangh Parivar did not know or ignored the fact that in 1950 India had voted for the UN resolution for resisting Communist aggression in Korea and sent a medical mission as India’s contribution to the Allied effort. The alternative to saving South Korea would have been what India did to Tibet at the very same time: When Mao’s troops invaded, India treacherously refused to help. Kamath calls American policy "selfish" (ignoring that in the US, interventionism has always been critici­zed by isolationists who argue that their country should be more selfish rather than help other countries out of trouble), but India's policy vis-à-vis Communist aggression in Tibet was worse than selfish: rather than helping a friend and buffer state, it preferred to damage its own interests by exposing its own borders to Mao's armies.  At the time, Nehru's despicable China policy was criticized by the Hindutva circles, but it seems they have changed their minds.


         Com­munist expan­sionism was at its peak, and if the American-led defence of South Korea had not cooled Com­munist cockiness a bit, India would have been the next target (an armed Communist uprising had already started in India in 1949).  Without the rescue mission to Korea, and more generally without the limitations clamped on the Communist powers by NATO vigilance, China would not have retreated after its successful invasion of India in 1962, and most RSS men would have breathed their last in Mao-cum-Namboodiripad's concentration camps.  When China invaded India in 1962, Communist expan­sionism was already hampered by Soviet-Chinese hos­tility; even then, India had to turn to the USA for help.


         The Chinese membership of the Security Council was not "allotted" to Chiang Kai-shek's Republic of China (RoC) by whimsical Americans, as Kamath claims; the RoC held that seat by virtue of being one of the victorious powers of World War 2 and a founding member of the UNO.  As for the free Cubans whose unarmed planes were shot down by Cuban Communists in international air space when they were searching for boat refugees to help, it is simply disgusting that Kamath calls them "te­rrorists".  When RSS spokesmen themselves dole out this label so carelessly, why do they complain when the RSS is black­listed by the ill-informed security forces of some Western countries as a "te­rrorist organization"?


         Kamath ascribes American policies to the "white racist supremac­ists who make policy in Washington".[5]  He does not make clear how this profoundly sinister motive explains the prefere­nce of American officials (some of whom are black) for brown Pakistanis over brown Indians.  Mr. Kamath's allegations are in no way different from those uttered in petty Leftist pamphlets.  Those who were under the impression that the RSS counted itself among the anti-Communist forces, should realize that without too much exaggeration, RSS anti-Communism can fairly be described as a notion invented by the Communists themsel­ves.


         How can an otherwise capable intellectual like Mr. Kamath stoop to this vulgar demoni­zation of a foreign country?  Mindless "patriot­ism", known to be the refuge of scoundrels, reduces complex issues to a question of "national" versus "foreign", rather than analyzing the ideologi­cal forces in the field.  Pretending that problems are essentially non-existent (e.g. Hindu-Muslim hostility), or otherwise at least very simple (viz. due to the evil foreign hand): that has become the focus of Hindutva casuistry.


         Though the BJS used to support the RoC on Taiwan against Communist China, the state with the Laogai slave labour camps, now M.V. Kamath in Organiser supports China's right to take Taiwan by force.  To him, this is merely a matter of "national unity" and thwarting "American designs" to keep China divided, as if he had never heard of the intra-Chinese civil war between opposing ideologies which has created the present division of China (the only American crime in this intra-Chinese conflict was that at the critical moment, military aid to Chiang Kai-shek's legimitate Government was cut off).[6]  Kamath's hateful jibes against the RoC are represen­tative of a tendency within the BJP which concedes Beijing's right to annex Taiwan, the last toehold of the legitimate RoC, by force.[7]  Here, the BJP has thrown all considerations of principle overboard, and settled for Realpolitik vis-à-vis big China and little Taiwan.


         Or rather, it is worse than Realpolitik, it is the product of a grave political aberration.  Any ideological consideration seems to have been discarded in favour of a monomaniacal concern for "national unity": better the whole of China under Communist rule than to allow a foothold to the freedom-loving Chinese at the price of a temporary division.  The Sangh simply refuses to study the problem of Communism except in terms of the Indian Communists' extraterritorial loyalties.  This is a very crude and narrow-minded type of nationalism.  One wonders why the Sangh rejects the Jamaat-I-Islami’s offer of a United India under Islam.




             [1]  It is a different matter that many Hindutva spokesmen fantasize aloud about a clash of civilizations between Islam and the West, in which they expect the West will take care of Islam and relieve the Hindus from the burden of facing Islam themselves.

             [2]  Jay Dubashi: "We don't need foreigners to destroy us", Organiser, 18/2/1996.

             [3]  M.V. Kamath: "A Myopic Policy", Organiser, 14 April 1996; emphasis added.  Remark that while the US never committed any massacre of Hindus, and while Islam has killed millions of Hindus, Kamath nor the Organiser have ever used such strong language about Islam.

             [4]  As any student of history could tell the BJP "anti-Com­munist­s", the only mistake which President Truman made, was that he did not allow General Douglas Mc Arthur to bomb the bases and supply lines of the Chinese "volunteers", in which case the UNO forces might have completed their success by securing the liberation of Communist-occupied North Korea.

             [5]  M.V. Kamath: "The US threat to India", Organiser, 19 May 1996.  One wonders how the so-called "angry white males" would feel about this, the people in the US who feel that their federal government is, on the contrary, biased against whites.

             [6]  M.V. Kamath: "The Question of Taiwan", Organiser, 7 April 1996.

             [7] Though I have not found this confirmed in an official BJP document, this acceptance of Communist China's right to annex the Republic of China is also the BJP's position, according to two members of the BJP's Foreign Policy Cell.








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