(First appeared on January 16, 2021)
An argument had broken out. A few peers were debating whether India’s Hindutva mob would give the same love-jihad treatment to Kamala Harris and Nikki Haley that was meted out to common Indian citizens, if it could lay its hands on them, of course. One group believed that the mob was so full of hate that it would not spare anyone. The other posited that the Indian elite was too shrewd to fall for this. It would not alienate anyone in a position of power. I sat there inert, silently drinking my coffee and contemplating this moment in history.
To those who still do not know, love jihad or Romeo jihad is a name given to a conspiracy theory that Muslim men, as a part of an international strategy, seduce and convert Indian nonMuslim, mostly Hindu women. Since its origin in 2009, the theory spread as the Hindutva’s definition of the other has broadened. Now it is about Abrahamic faiths.
So, you could say that Harris who is married to a Jewish gentleman, and Haley married to a Christian man could bear the brunt of this hatred. I do not think for a second that the mob would spare anyone if it had the power. The trick is never to let it rise to a position of power. Sadly, of the two, Haley, daughter of a woman wronged by India’s toxic masculinity and majoritarianism, showed us she was ready to legitimise this mob to enjoy a few extra perks.
Ride that tiger even if it devours your sisters back at home. Since its inception, India has been a victim of the dissociative identity disorder previously known as the multiple personality syndrome. It has two distinct but interchangeable personalities. One, inclusive, tolerant, progressive, and secular that wrote India’s Constitution. The other hostile, intolerant, petty, vindictive, and reductive which threatens to dismantle it brick by brick and remake it after its own image. The latter claims the former was just a construct made by the country’s Anglicised elite.
When you look at the man ruling India today, Narendra Modi, the poster child of India’s majoritarian hatred, you find it hard to rebut that claim. India’s regression notwithstanding, the first personality, despite being under growing pressure, does exist. There are Indians who stand for what is right. The rights of the minorities, of women, of the poor, and the oppressed. Their battle for survival may define the future of civilisation. Not a civilisation. The civilisation.
The claims of the majoritarian mob could have been accepted if it really was about religion. It is not. It is about a perverse definition of race. India’s upper castes believe that they are descendants of Aryans and therefore superior to others.
This of course is a myth. One, because there has been quite a while since the purported Aryan exodus took place and it would have been impossible to stop the intermingling of races. Two, because even by the shallow racist standards there is little distinction in the appearance of the Indian upper and lower castes. The neo-Nazis then, despite the Hindutva infatuation with the cause, are unlikely to accept them as their own.
As the works of Louis Rousselet, Arthur Gobineau, Paul Topinard, and Gustave Le Bon show, the Indian Aryan myth is neither an English construct nor German, it was invented by the French in the vain hope of building an empire in India. That ambition is over, but the disease still persists.
So, India’s problem is that the majoritarian mob is in fact a minority. A violent, noisy, bigoted, and powerful minority but a minority nevertheless. Look at it through this prism and you realise that it is neither about a Hindu Raj nor a Hindu Rashtra. It is about an upper-caste raj and rashtra. The same upper caste which like Don Quixote is desperate to be what it is not. Nothing can go wrong then. Right? It is plain that once they are done sorting the Muslims, the Christians and unintegrated faiths out, they are bound to turn on each other.
The depressed castes, a huge population in comparison to the upper castes, would be next. For now, however, the presence of Muslims, Christians, Sikhs (a religious community Haley’s parents belonged to and the Hindutva mob claims it is Hindu while it refuses to accept that characterisation), and other faiths not ready to be swallowed by this mega-integration project makes its task easy.
A question arises then: why did the mob bring Modi to power? Self-confessedly he is not from the upper caste. Then why? Because it is convenient. His narrow mental bandwidth ensures he remains a force of destruction and hate, and his unvarnished ambition keeps him a slave to the upper caste billionaires and the RSS leadership. A Trojan horse.
And while Modi has destroyed India’s economy, especially the poor and the working-class, for billionaires he has been nothing short of divine intervention. Consider him the East India Company, owned and operated by new Indian masters. But the homogenisation project cannot go too far. India’s tragedy is that while it sees itself as a potential counterweight to China, it is too diverse to emulate China’s homogeneity. After every 100, 200 kilometres India’s language and culture change.
The local cultures guard their individuality jealously. When it comes to operational ground realities, secularism and tolerance are essential, existential staples of its economic health. I would hazard a guess that India’s founding fathers knew India better than the current lot and go to the extent of claiming that today’s claims are imaginary constructs. With around 1.4 billion disparate citizens only India’s Constitution can keep it together.
While the neo-Nazi-Hindutva nexus gives the mob a chance to punish the West for the past colonial excesses by exporting destabilising ideologies to Europe and America, its suspended secularism is India and the world’s best hope to survive. Before India fell to extremists, it had exported countless tiny particles of its soul to other parts of the world. These particles live in uncountable folks like Harris and Haley.
Before the civilisation falls, they have to find a way to reclaim India. If they fail, we all are toast. If they succeed India gets a moral leadership that comes after a long experience of victimhood and confronting one’s demons. I have always believed that India has a bigger role to play in world politics.
Sadly, in its current shape, that role can only be one of a destructive power. Given the recent upheavals in the West, the nexus between the Hindutva mob, India’s intelligence community, and the neo-Nazis is coming under increasing scrutiny of Western intelligence analysts. If this trend continues unchecked, it may end up making India a bigger pariah than any of its key adversaries. For sanity’s sake, this regression should stop.