[News] Why the Trump/Modi Relationship is So Dangerous
news at freedomarchives.org
Mon Mar 9 10:43:44 EDT 2020
Why the Trump/Modi Relationship is So Dangerous
by Basav Sen <https://www.counterpunch.org/author/bsen0098/> - March 9, 2020
In May 2019, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led by Narendra Modi was
reelected in India, a development many of us
concerned about social, economic, and environmental justice
denounced as very dangerous
We were wrong. It turned out to be exponentially /more/ dangerous than
we had imagined.
In its second term in office, the BJP government has moved with
unexpected speed and decisiveness to take India down the road to
full-fledged fascism. In this, they’ve enjoyed the apparent support of
the United States.
But before we examine what they did, let’s step back and examine the
understandably loaded term “fascism.”
*The BJP’s Unapologetically Fascist Roots*
The fascist roots
of the BJP run deep.
The BJP is (by its own admission
a political front for an organization called the Rashtriya Swayamsevak
Sangh (RSS), which dates back to the 1920s. B.S. Moonje, a mentor of RSS
founder K.B. Hegdewar, visited Italy and personally met
He was very impressed by what he termed the “military regeneration of
Italy” under Mussolini, and wanted to recreate it in India— but, in
very telling language, he referred to his idea as the “military
regeneration” of the majority Hindu community. The weaponization of
Hindu identity by today’s BJP (and the unquestioned equation of India
with Hinduism) goes back almost a hundred years.
Another early RSS leader, M.S. Golwalkar, praised Nazi Germany
in his writings, asserting that the Nazi purge of Jews was intended to
“keep up the purity of the nation and its culture,” and that this was a
“good lesson for us in [India] to learn and profit by.” Golwalkar never
retracted these views, and the RSS only belatedly rejected
them after nearly seven decades.
V.D. Savarkar, another early Hindu nationalist leader (and the architect
of the conspiracy
assassinate Gandhi), explicitly connected Nazi ideology with Hindu
nationalist views about Muslims. He claimed in a 1939 speech
that “Indian Muslims are on the whole more inclined to identify
themselves and their interests with Muslims outside India than Hindus
who live next door, like Jews in Germany.” Note the identification of
Indian Muslims and German Jews as the “other,” outside the body of the
This history is worth delving into, not for its academic value, but to
fully understand the far-right political project in India as
*Lockdowns and Concentration Camps*
The BJP government’s actions since being reelected last May represent a
fundamental continuity with this ideological foundation. The best-known
example internationally is Kashmir
the Indian government has intentionally escalated a decades-long
conflict driven by Kashmiri demands for self-determination.
The state of Jammu and Kashmir (in which Muslim-majority Kashmir is the
most populous region) has long enjoyed a special legal status in India,
with Article 370 <https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-49234708> of
the Indian Constitution providing the state a certain degree of
autonomy. It’s important to understand that this was the condition for
the state’s accession to India in the first place, not an act of
appeasement, as Hindu rightists portray it.
Last August, the Modi used a parliamentary procedure of dubious legality
to scrap Article 370, sent even more troops to the already heavily
militarized region, and imposed a communications blockade with no
internet, mobile, or landline service — evidently to cover up horrific
human rights abuses, with reports
of deaths, torture, and detention (including detention of children) at
the hands of Indian forces.
The Modi government was even willing to risk a confrontation
with neighboring Pakistan (which could even lead to a regional nuclear
war) with its actions in Kashmir. Both countries have nuclear weapons
have a long history of conflict
much of it revolving around their rival territorial claims over Kashmir.
The BJP government has also embarked on an overtly fascist project of
using ethnonationalist criteria to define who is (and by extension, who
isn’t) deserving of Indian citizenship. In the northeastern state of
Assam, which borders Muslim-majority Bangladesh, the government required
every single resident to prove their citizenship, claiming that there
were large numbers of undocumented Bangladeshi migrants in Assam.
Of the 2 million
people stripped of citizenship because of their failure to provide
documentation (in a country in which many of the rural poor lack birth
certificates), most are Muslim. And a disproportionate number are
— another vulnerable minority who can be conveniently scapegoated and
In a move that will be eerily familiar to U.S. readers, the government
is building concentration camps
house people (including children) rendered stateless by design.
Last December, the government went further down the slippery slope to
full-fledged authoritarianism by passing a bill
<https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-50670393> called the
Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) that provided citizenship to
undocumented non-Muslim immigrants from neighboring Muslim-majority
There are two key reasons why this represents an escalation, beyond what
the government has done in Kashmir and Assam.
First, in Kashmir and Assam, there’s a little bit of plausible
deniability, even if the anti-Muslim intent of the government is clear.
Kashmir is, after all, experiencing a revolt against Indian rule, so the
government can claim that its response is for national security reasons.
Likewise, in Assam, there’s no dispute about the fact that there are
undocumented immigrants from Bangladesh (leaving aside the questions of
how many, how one finds out who is or isn’t undocumented, and most
importantly, how a state that values human rights and dignity deals with
the presence of undocumented immigrants).
With the CAA, though, the mask has come off, with explicit exclusion of
Muslims from citizenship written into law. Many
argue that it’s a clear violation
of India’s secular constitution
declares all people to be equal regardless of a number of criteria,
including religious belief. Secular politics had been foundational to
India’s national identity
before Hindu nationalist ideology started undermining it.
Politically, though, there’s another factor at play. Both Kashmir and
Assam are border states on India’s periphery, far from its major
population centers. A large majority of Indians don’t live there, have
never been there, and likely don’t know anyone from there. But when the
government targets Muslims more broadly, the distant suddenly becomes
real for Muslims throughout India, as well as for countless others.
This includes other religious minorities such as Christians, as well as
Dalits (Hindus who are lowest in the caste hierarchy), who, along with
Muslims, have been targeted for violent attacks
by Hindu nationalist hate groups. It includes all Indians who care about
human rights of people with a different identity, or about secular
constitutional principles and the idea of a pluralist state.
*Trump Comes to Modi’s Rescue*
In a hopeful sign, the CAA has been the proverbial last straw and
sparked massive protests
throughout the country. Protesters have faced vicious attacks from
right-wing Hindu mobs
with the police acting as hapless spectators (or worse still, joining in
the attacks). But the intimidation and violence haven’t stopped the
In this climate of growing dissent in India, and growing
of the grave human rights situation
in the country, the Modi government may have been feeling under siege.
But a powerful figure on the world stage recently came to the
U.S. President Donald Trump, in his recent visit to India, clearly
indicated that he was on the side of the fascist government, making the
preposterous claim that the BJP government “worked very hard to have
great and open religious freedom
Trump shared the stage with Modi at a campaign-style rally
125,000 supporters, demonstrating a level of support that goes way
beyond the usual formalities of a state visit. And just to drive home
the point, the U.S. signed a $3.5 billion deal
with India for advanced military equipment.
Words matter. Barely after Trump left India, Hindu nationalist mobs
started openly attacking
homes, businesses, and places of worship in Delhi, the national capital,
chanting that India belongs to Hindus.
Hate crimes and pogroms against Muslims
(as well as Dalits
and others) often occur in India, and Modi has been implicated in
one such pogrom when he was the leader of Gujarat state years ago. What
makes this recent upsurge different is that it happened in the national
capital while the global media spotlight was still on Delhi because of
Trump’s visit. Clearly, the support of the president of the world’s most
powerful country has emboldened Hindu fascist leadership.
As fascism takes hold of India, it will be with active U.S. support. The
“friendship” of the Trump regime with the Modi regime is disastrous for
*An Omen for the U.S.*
People in the United States should be very concerned about the
Trump-Modi friendship as well, and not just because it represents an
egregiously unethical foreign policy choice by the U.S. Of course it is.
But it also has ominous implications for domestic politics in the U.S.
The Trump-Modi friendship is not just a cynical decision by the U.S. to
support an oppressive but powerful country with the world’s fifth
and a lucrative domestic market for U.S. businesses to export to, or
invest in. Sure, that’s a factor. But there’s more to the story.
At its core, the friendship is about a shared far-right ideology. The
U.S. and India are part of a growing number of authoritarian far-right
governments in the world, whose members include Brazil, the Philippines,
Hungary, and more, as my colleague John Feffer has articulated so
clearly in a recent report
The parallels between the BJP’s Hindu supremacist politics in India and
Trump’s white supremacist politics in the U.S. are many — and
frightening. These include writing Islamophobia
<https://www.aaiusa.org/the_muslim_and_refugee_ban> into law and policy
undocumented immigrants (including children
against ecologically destructive resource extraction
(and even conflating
movements with “terrorism”).
The dangerous political agendas of Trump and his Indian fascist friends
do not stop at the boundaries of official government policy. In the
fashion of demagogues throughout history, both the U.S. and Indian
regimes are adept at encouraging
open violence by hate groups
in their political base against those perceived as “other.”
The particular significance of these parallels for people in the U.S.
lies in the fact that the Modi government in India became a lot bolder
about pursuing its exclusionary ethnonationalist agenda in its entirety
in its second term, viewing reelection as a mandate to fulfill the
fevered fascist dreams of ideological forebears such as Golwalkar and
In the U.S., we should be similarly concerned about the Trump regime
being reelected in November. Yes, we have a government that detains
children in concentration camps
writes anti-LGBTQ hate
<https://transequality.org/the-discrimination-administration> into law,
and openly rewards
politically favored oligarchs
in their pursuit of profit at the expense of most of humanity
<https://report.ipcc.ch/sr15/pdf/sr15_spm_final.pdf>. But as the
experience in India shows, things could get dramatically worse here if
the Trump regime returns to power.
For the sake of humanity’s future, the “wider alliance between
authoritarian and far-right political formations across the world” (as a
politically astute protester in India
said to the media) must be stopped in its tracks – in the U.S.
elections, and in global solidarity to isolate and defeat the Modi
regime in India, the Bolsonaro regime in Brazil, and everywhere else
that the new fascism has reared its ugly head.
/*Basav Sen* directs the Climate Justice Project at the Institute for
Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415
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