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PUCL January 2004

Interview with Dr. R.M. Pal on Hindutva and Fascism in India
"Hindutva and Fascism have much in common"

-- By Yoginder Sikand
9 January 2004


Dr. Rai Mohan Pal, a noted Indian human rights activist, used to teach English at Delhi University. He has edited the Bulletin of the People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) and the monthly Radical Humanist founded by M.N. Roy. Here he speaks to Yoginder Sikand about the human rights’ movement and the struggle against Hindutva and fascism in India.

Q: You have been quite active in speaking out against Hindutva. How do you link the movement against Hindutva with the wider human rights movement in India?
A: Hindutva, as I see it, is the modern form of Brahminism. I believe
that Brahminism and fascism share much in common, and just as the
philosophy of fascism is based on the negation of human rights, so, too,
is the philosophy of Brahminism. In fact, Brahminism is a philosophy based
on the gross violation of the fundamental rights of entire social
groups—women, Shudras, Dalits and tribals, as well as groups such as
Muslims, Christians, Buddhists and Sikhs, who, when added up, form the
vast majority of the Indian population. The violation of the rights of so
many mi11ions of people because of the caste system upon which the
Brahminical religion is based is as important a concern for us as the
violation of rights by individuals or the state. Unfortunately, not many
groups in India today, even within the human rights movement, are giving
due importance to this societal violation of human rights.

Fascism is a major source of human rights' violations the world over. It
has its own philosophy which takes different forms and adopts different
methods in different contexts, but the philosophy remains the same. M.N.
Roy, the founder of the Radical Humanist movement, was the first to point
out the fact that the roots of fascism lie in the ancient Brahminical
religion, and he showed how European, particularly German, fascist
philosophers borrowed concepts from Brahminical scholars and scriptures,
concepts such as the Aryan race theory, the supremacy of the strong over
the weak, the concept of the tyrannical superman and so on. In fact, M.N.
Roy issued a' sharp warning to Indians not to fall prey to Hindu
revivalism because he saw that it was nothing but fascism in a different
garb. You can see that for yourself. What was the destruction of the Babri
Masjid and the mass slaughter of the Muslims but naked fascism? Goebbels, Hitler's chief propagandist, wrote in one of his books, 'The
state must have the power to break its own laws'. That is precisely what
happened on 6 December, 1992. The state was actively involved inthe
breaking of the mosque. Goebbels also remarked, 'Repeat a lie- a hundred
times and it becomes a truth'. You can see this Chanakyan tactic in all
the false Hindutva propaganda about Muslims, Christians and Communists.
See what horrendous and baseless things they are writing about Muslims in
the school textbooks now. They have attributed all the ills of India to
the Muslims, painting all of them as immoral.

Q: Could you elaborate further about your claim of the Brahminical roots
of fascism?

A: The social basis of Brahminism has historically always been the caste
or varna system, and so it remains till this very day. And what is the
ideology of varna but a reflection of fascism? The Nazis divided humanity
into five categories: the so-called 'pure' Aryans, such as blonde,
blue-eyed Germans; other Europeans; the Slavs; the Asiatic peoples; and,
lastly, the Africans, whom they hardly considered human beings at all.
Likewise, in the varna system, which is described and prescribed in all
the texts of the Brahminical religion, starting from the Rig Veda,
humankind is divided into five groups or varnas, which are placed in a
steeply hierarchical order—the Brahmins; the Kshatriyas; the Vaishyas; the
Shudras; and others like the so-called 'untouchables' and other
non-Hindus, derisively called Mlecchas, who are described as 'unclean',
because they refuse to recognise Brahminical hegemony, and so are
considered almost beyond the pale of humanity. You can see from this why
so many top RSS leaders so highly extolled Hitler.

Q: How do you view the link between what you call Brahminical fascism and
Hindutva nationalism?

A: M.N. Roy had studied this matter in great detail and dealt with it in
many of his writings. Unfortunately, as events have unfolded over time,
there appears to be a very thin dividing line between fascism, Brahminism
and the dominant form of nationalism in India today. We need to reject
this straight-jacketed nationalism, this enforced homogeneity, and instead
allow for the expression of pluralism, tolerance and secularism. India has
always been a very plural society, but frankly, given the horrors of the
caste system and the way women here have been treated, who can say that India has been a tolerant society, despite all that Hindutva propagandists claim to the contrary?

You just have to see how the Dalits were and still are treated in the most unimaginably cruel way, how women were forced to jump into the funeral pyres of their husbands, and how Buddhism was driven out of the land of its birth by Brahminical revivalism, to realise the hollowness of the claim that India has been the very epitome of tolerance. And this ugly intolerance is not just a thing of the past. I believe that the mass killings of the Sikhs in 1984 was basically due to the fact that the Sikhs had started refusing to be considered as Hindus, stressing that they were a separate community. This could not be tolerated by the advocates of Brahminical supremacy, who felt that the Sikhs should be taught a 'lesson' to bring them 'in line'. What is this if not naked fascism?

Q: Could you elaborate further on your point regarding the relation
between dominant forms of nationalism and fascism?

A: As I see it, the dominant notion of nationalism constitutes as divisive
an ideology as communalism or fascism. It is based on hatred of the
other', so that today the test of being a ,'true' Indian has become the
intensity of one's hatred for Pakistan or China or whatever. In a country
like India, such a form of nationalism becomes a dangerous cult. India, to
reiterate a point I made earlier, has no option but to be secular and
pluralist and tolerant. This means that we must be guided by a philosophy
of humanism.

We just cannot attempt to be a nation-state in the sense of
nineteenth century political science theory. We have to recognise that
although we have been a highly pluralist society, we have never been
tolerant, so the task before us is to retain our pluralism and seek to
develop a climate of tolerance. Now both of these—tolerance and
pluralism—are directly threatened by nationalism as it is articulated and
especially by the ideology of Hindutva. The advocates of Hindutva
talk about protecting pluralism, but that is not a pluralism based on
equality. Their brand of pluralism demands that Dalits and Muslims and
other marginalised and oppressed groups must remain under the Brahminical umbrella as wholly subordinate. This is sheer intolerance.

Q: How do you think the struggle against Brahminism can be carried forward?
A: Unfortunately, we who are struggling for a tolerant and secular society
do not seem very clear about our own philosophical and ideological
postulates. Hindutva fascism has to be fought at the ideological level, by
a superior ideology based on rationalism, and not just on the political
plane. A political party challenging the forces of Hindutva can very soon
be accommodated by Brahminism, as we learn from the events of recent
history. There is no other way out but a philosophical and cultural
revolution. Unfortunately, we have never had a total philosophical
revolution in this country. Buddhism tried to do this 2500 years ago, but
then it was driven out by the Brahmi nical revivalism led by
Shankaracharya, who himself used Buddhist tools and concepts for this
purpose. Reformers like Kabir and Nanak tried to do it by challenging
Brahminism, but soon their followers converted themselves into cultic or
caste-like groups or separate communities.

Kabir and Nanak were converted into cult figures and their radical message of social revolution was forgotten. Instead of revolutionising the entire society, the Kabirpanthis and the Nanakpanthis emerged as new communities, thus adding to the already bewildering number of castes. I am of the firm opinion that unless we have a philosophical revolution in India today, real and meaningful social change in India is impossible.

 

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