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(First published on March 7th, 2020)

Russia’s powerful President Vladimir Putin recently gave an annual state of the nation address. Whenever he speaks he creates news. That is proof of power and influence he wields in our times. This time too, his speech was followed by an en bloc resignation of the Russian cabinet. But that is small potatoes compared to the broader thrust of his speech. It was about falling birth rates in Russia. You are well within your rights to ask why it is such big news. The answer is because it conforms to a very serious pattern. If you have been paying attention to the discussions and debates on various fora ranging from very formal to extremely unconventional like Western gaming message boards like 4chan and 8chan since 2014, you will notice a surge in the racial panic surrounding birth rates and the median age of natives and immigrants in the West. It was as if someone had planted a new impulse in the mix. The Western media and reports published by high-powered commissions like the Mueller Report have already traced the origins of these debates to various Russian intelligence sources. But if you have been paying heed to the Russian discourse, you will notice that there too this matter came in a sharp focus only recently. It is not as if Russia was infected by a racist bug that got out in the 2016 election cycle.

I say racist because some recent lone wolf white supremacist terror attacks have used the falling white birth rates as an excuse. The Christchurch shooter published a manifesto online before carrying out the heinous crime. It is about the very same thing. Likewise, whenever a similar attack takes place, you notice a similar discussion surfacing.

Personally, I felt that the Christchurch attack was a dead giveaway. When someone attacks a Muslim mosque full of brown immigrants in a city called ‘Christchurch’ with a white population of over 83%, higher than New Zealand’s national average, they are not seriously not trying to hide the impulse behind the attack: they want Huntington’s clash of civilisations to look as real as possible. Great. So now we have two variables, not one to figure out what is going on. Birth rates and the clash of civilisations. If you factor in the two you might be able to locate the source of the outbreak of the ongoing racist illness.

Let me be candid. It was pretty odd to hear the Russian President using a talking point that continues to divide and harm the world. As a dedicated former communist intelligence officer, it is highly unlikely that Putin would have believed in the racial myth. His programming and training wouldn’t allow for such a worldview to survive. Unless he got the bug from the same source recently which is infecting other parts of the world. That would make him a victim, not a source. But then what is the source?

In recent years, attention has been drawn to controversial far-right figures like Renaud Camus. His conspiracy theory called the “Great Replacement” says that with the connivance of the Western elite, the white population of France and Europe is systematically being replaced with the Muslims of Asia and Africa. Now, Camus’ work might be new but the white genocide theories have existed for a long time. What he did is very interesting. Given that before him such theories were primarily popularised by neo-Nazis who made the Jewish population a target. For instance, William Pierce’s The Turner Diaries puts them at the top of the conspiracy food chain. Camus removed the community from his theory. That is why so many conservative Jewish thinkers have risen to his defence. And we know it was a part of Netanyahu’s strategy to stoke anti-Muslim fear in Europe to find allies among the far right. But it does not end here. People like Jean Raspail had made a point of including Indians as a threat. Camus leaves them out as well.

I would have forgotten about Putin’s speech had it not been for a curious headline, “Trump Says Modi Cited Rise in Muslim Population as Testament to Religious Freedom in India”. Yes, Muslims are free because they can still procreate. In fact, this assertion is not new. When the 2002 Gujarat violence took place and Muslim victims had to flee to relief campaigns, Modi reportedly stood in front of such a camp during his election campaign and claimed that these camps were child-making factories. He got elected. The far-right RSS ideologues have constantly complained about the Muslim birth rate and the need to incentivise the birth rate of Hindus. The debate which existed only on the fringes of the Western consciousness was already being mainstreamed in India owing to the rise of the RSS’ political wing, the BJP. Then what a strange coincidence it is that right when Modi seized control of India’s massive and powerful state machinery, the racist conspiracy theories hitherto confined to the Western far-right fringes went mainstream.

Recently a report by EU Disinfo Lab, a Brussels-based NGO, uncovered a pro-India coordinated network of 265 websites and fake think-tanks operating from 65 countries peddling mostly the same kind of propaganda material that you generally ascribe to the Russian sources. The Modi government’s alliance with the European far-right groups was recently on display when a host of far-right European MEPs went to India and its Occupied Kashmir after the abrogation of articles 370 and 35(A) in the erstwhile state. If you start connecting the dots you start seeing a pattern. India is one of the few places where the debate about birth rates and firm faith in the imminent clash of civilisation converge. The problem now is that the Pandora box of racism that was opened has unleashed the demons which refuse to be controlled. If the assumption before this proliferation was that the recently mainstreamed hate groups would spare the Indian and the Israeli diaspora, this proved nothing short of a delusion. The Western racist ideologies stand atop the bedrock of the Nazi and xenophobic worldview. Whatever looks different to them is deemed alien and worth abolishing. Consequently, anti-Semitic violence has dramatically increased. Likewise, people of Indian origin have also been targeted by these groups. And why would they not be? They look and sound like Muslims.

In India it is also clear that this disease has spread unbelievably quickly. One would not have expected such massive violence in Delhi during President Trump’s visit. In the Indian far right’s colosseum of hate only the most hateful rise. That is why Modi’s second term is marked by an unending series of outrages.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 7th, 2020.

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