If white supremacism is the basis of right-wing politics in America and Europe, Hindu supremacism is in India. Both have their roots in the concept of the "Master Race" and the "Chosen Land", writes Amulya Ganguli for South Asia Monitor
Hate was the prime motivation for Donald Trump’s supporters to attack the majestic US Capitol building – hate against the Democrats for “stealing” last year’s presidential election from the Republicans – but that was not the only cause for their anger.
The events of January 6 were the culmination of four years of the Trump presidency which saw immigrants, blacks, leftists and liberals being targeted for being outside the national mainstream. These labels only underline the kind of divisive right-wing politics which thrives on the “us” versus “them” categorization which identifies the latter as the nation’s enemies.
In the eyes of Trump’s followers, the nation is visualized essentially as the home of the whites where the people with different skin tones will have to live as second-class citizens. But that is not the only distinctive attitude of the right-wingers.
No less important are their other major attributes such as insularity which glorifies the mother- or fatherland and frowns on globalization, militarism which extols violence in aid of the “right” cause chosen by self-appointed patriots, and contempt for civil liberties and individual rights which are derided as effeminate concepts.
It is obvious that the propagation of these combative ideals cannot be conducted by means of sober analyses and articulation. Since a measure of indignation and tub-thumping is needed to assert a viewpoint that highlights the nation’s inherent greatness and cuts it off from the rest of the world, the presenter has to be utterly convincing as he brands his opponents as crooks and charlatans.
He also has to function within an ecosystem which is totally under his control. It is the opposite of a free-wheeling democracy where contrary views are usually encouraged rather than suppressed.
It is not surprising, therefore, that some of the terms which were used by Trump’s critics against him following the anarchic events on Capitol Hill were demagoguery and captive media. There is little doubt that both these elements are crucial for the success of a right-wing agenda.
While a powerful orator casts a spell on the audience – as Hitler did – a servile media has to unquestioningly carry the message to every nook and corner to ensure that it is not forgotten or excoriated. Hence, the dubbing of critics as "anti-nationals".
However, it is a deeply shocking event such as the one which occurred in Washington D.C which emphasized the need for sobriety and moderation in public life lest the fomenting of animus against targeted and usually vulnerable groups should poison the national psyche.
But temperance and reasonableness cannot be achieved without eschewing hate. As long as rancour and hostility constitute the bedrock of a doctrine that is cynically used to capture the popular imagination and win elections, society and politics will not lose its toxins.
It is worth noting that it is not only the rightists who are venomous, but also their opposite numbers on the left. As is evident from the dictum of the India ultra-left Naxalite leader of the sixties, Charu Mazumdar, that a true communist is one whose hands have been reddened with the blood of class enemies, insensate hate is a primal element in left extremism as well.
Mercifully, while the threat from this feral brand of politics has receded, except in isolated parts of India, right-wing groups are ruling the roost in parts of Europe and in India even as they have suffered an electoral setback in the US. But, as the insurrection on Capitol Hill, as American TV journalists have called the January 6 mayhem, shows, there are sizeable numbers who thrive on and peddle ethnic animosity.
If white supremacism is the basis of right-wing politics in America and Europe, Hindu supremacism is in India. Both have their roots in the concept of the "Master Race" and the "Chosen Land". While dislike of the black and brown immigrants drives the right-wingers in America and Europe, Islamophobia is the motivating factor in India as it is also in some of the white countries.
It is in this context that the value of secularism in India becomes apparent because its main purpose is to defuse the bitterness against Muslims for entering India in medieval times, destroying temples and carving out a part of the country to set up their own purported homeland.
It is the constant reiteration of these charges by the Hindu Right which keeps the anti-Muslim sentiments high and helps the electoral cause of the right-wing politicians. Secularists, on the other hand, explain the destruction of temples as an attribute of unenlightened times whose follies cannot be laid at the door of today’s Muslims who have chosen to make India their home.
But a multicultural “Idea of India” and a composite culture – Ganga-Jamuni (syncretic) tehzeeb (ethos) as it is known in certain parts of India – cannot make headway in an atmosphere of hate and bigotry fomented by the rightists. What the Capitol Hill chaos has shown, however, is that only secularism can ensure peace among all the communities.
(The writer is a commentator on current affairs. The views expressed are personal)