Western legacy media portrays Indian nationalism as fascism, an imminent danger to Muslims and to world peace. What really is their vision for a new India?
COMMUNAL POWDER keg? Protesting attacks on Muslim students of New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), on the outskirts of Mumbai, Jan. 2020.
(photo credit: Francis Mascarenhas)
On July 26, at a press conference in Washington, DC, Indian External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar slammed The New York Times and the Washington Post’s coverage of Kashmir, insinuating that they only report Muslim casualties in the disputed territory with Pakistan. This was not the first time the Times was accused of an anti-Indian obsession.
Ashley Rindsberg, in his book The Gray Lady Winked, traces it to 1911, when the Times lashed out at Swami Vivekananda, one of the founders of New Age culture, for bringing his “strange cult” and “psychic conspiracy” (Hinduism) to America.
But 2014 is far back enough. After Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP – Indian People’s Party) came to power with a resounding electoral knockout of the socialist Congress party, The New York Times went into full meltdown mode, in which it has remained ever since.
As an Indian studies student, I wanted to hear the Indians’ perspective firsthand. I contacted the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) national volunteer organization and toured India for a month.
RSS is the parent organization of dozens of “nationalist” organizations, including BJP. Although RSS insists on remaining an ideological organization that does not endorse politicians, many of BJP’s top leadership come from RSS ranks, including Modi.
Some RSS organizations have millions of members: the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) student organization has three million members; the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) workers’ union has 10 million members. It has many other large volunteer organizations in fields as diverse as women’s rights, village development or religious services for the Hindu diaspora.
I wanted to meet the “brains” of the Indian Right – intellectuals, journalists and researchers. I wanted to hear today’s thinkers on the cardinal questions of contemporary Indian politics and identity.
The most militant and inflammatory texts of RSS leaders – the kind leftist pundits love to showcase as flirting with Nazi rhetoric – were written in the stormy times of the carnage of the sub-continent’s partition in 1947 and have since been officially rejected by RSS leadership. It would be the equivalent of shaming Israel’s Labor Party for its praise of Stalin by long-deceased kibbutz movement leaders.
The two dominant political issues in India are the conflict with Muslims and caste discrimination. Others are the vocal resentment of nationalists for old Congress elites who are entrenched in key bastions of power; the role of religion in public life; and populism and political tribalism among Modi lovers and Modi haters. The most basic of all is: What is the nationalist vision for the future of 1.4 billion Indians?
Campus culture – should we be Indian?Delhi, India’s sprawling capital, is the center of the country’s politics, bureaucracy and media. Suburbs like Gurgaon, Dwarka or Noida would be considered upper class in any Western country, but Delhi’s rundown neighborhoods are the stereotypical India that Westerners dread: filthy, crowded, with choking odors.
A few days after arriving, I traveled north of Delhi to Sonipat, Haryana, to visit a friend at O.P. Jindal University. This is a private university for very affluent Indians, and the best law school in the country. I was not prepared for what I saw.
For a few minutes after entering the university, I was not sure if I was still in India. Not one student was dressed in Indian clothing. Their standard cut-up T-shirts and ripped jeans were a garish imitation of America, almost satire. The dorms are gender-segregated, but couples kiss and caress in public in a way most Indians wouldn’t imagine trying. No house of worship may be built on any public campus, since the law forbids building temples on state-owned land. Jindal is private, but there is no demand for worship.
On the student bus back to Delhi, I sat next to a young law student, whose dream was to make it big as a lawyer. I asked her if Jindal students are foreigners in their own country. She admitted that her upbringing wasn’t typically Indian, since her parents were not religious.
I spent a day at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in Delhi, the best in India for humanities and social sciences, and the most political place in Delhi outside the official branches of government. It was founded in 1969 by then-education minister Nurul Hasan, a communist, and its faculty and curriculum were aligned with his communist vision from the outset. BJP has already seized enough electoral power to begin replacing the socialist deep state entrenched in power since India’s founding in 1947. Universities remain a stubborn opposition, and JNU foremost of all.
Communist student organizations still rule the campus, but even here ABVP has a growing presence. As an Indian diplomat explained: “Kids at JNU are very bright, but they come with no ideology and soak up whatever is offered. It used to be communism, but the new generation isn’t buying it.”
GRAFFITI AT JNU supports the Marxist insurgents in Nagaland, in the ongoing conflict in northeastern India between the ethnic Nagas and the government. (credit: Yeshaya Rosenman)
..read the rest here.