Was Guru Golwalkar a Nazi

Narendra Modi, Hindu nationalist and Prime Minister of Gujarat State, challenges national politics. Local business people and international investors appreciate the right-wing extremist politician, who ensures an investment-friendly climate.

From Gerhard Klas

The best example of effective Governance and impressive development can be found in Gujarat, ”reads a recent US Congress report on India. Over the past decade, the economy in this Indian state has grown by around ten percent annually. This arouses desire and lets events that could impair the attractiveness of this investment location be forgotten. It seems like an irony of history that this phase of economic growth in Gujarat started with one of the bloodiest pogroms in independent India.

It happened in the slipstream of the 9/11 attacks: on February 28, 2002, a furious mob of Hindu nationalists raped, pillaged and killed more than 2,000 Muslims in Gujarat. The outrage of the world public was limited at that time. Narendra Modi, the state prime minister, held his hand protectively over the perpetrators. He is a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Indian People's Party, the political arm of the radical right-wing Hindu nationalists. Based on the Indian middle class, it was the government in New Delhi between 1998 and 2004.

"India first - everything else comes after", Narendra Modi shouted at BJP rallies during the 2009 election campaign when a new lower house was elected in India. "The greatest thing is the nation, our feeling, our identity - we owe all of this to the nationalist approach of the Bharatiya Janata Party, our Indian People's Party."

Modi is a charismatic speaker. He literally whips his words into the audience. Sometimes there is something threatening in his voice, his gestures, his facial expressions, and he slowly forms his hands into fists, as if he wanted to crush something. Modi never calls his place of residence by the official name "Ahmedabad", but calls the megacity and booming economic metropolis "Karnavati". This is the old name of Ahmedabad when the city was small and insignificant. The current name refers to the Sultan Ahmed Shah, who made Ahmedabad great in the 18th century and the capital of his north Indian empire. Modi also tries to ignore the cultural heritage of Islam in India when it comes to linguistic usage. The Prime Minister, on the other hand, describes the incumbent government under the leadership of the Congress Party in Delhi as the “Sultanate”. He accuses her, among other things, of not acting tough enough against terrorists and neighboring Pakistan with regard to Muslim votes.

To this day, Narendra Modi has not apologized to the victims of the 2002 pogrom and denies any responsibility. He described the pogrom as a legitimate act of revenge and issued the order to allow the marauding mob to go ahead. This has not done any particular damage to his political career: since then, the prime minister has been re-elected with an absolute majority in his state twice. During his tenure, he introduced numerous new laws in Gujarat, including a "law of religion": If a Hindu wants to convert to Christianity or Islam, he must first obtain government approval.

Modi is now considered the most successful politician in the Indian People's Party. Throughout India, the BJP has not performed as well in recent years in elections and polls as in Gujarat.

Hindu nationalism is nourished from various sources

With few exceptions All leading officials of the Indian People's Party BJP come from the ranks of the cadre organization Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, or RSS for short - Narendra Modi has also been a member since childhood. It is considered the backbone of the Hindu nationalist movement and has several million members.

They organize themselves at the meetings of the "Shakas", of which there are around 30,000 in all of India. They take place in the open air, resemble military marches and are the nucleus of RSS.

The RSS was founded in 1925 in the city of Nagpur. To this day, the cadre organization RSS regards the history of India as the constant struggle of the Hindus against external attacks on their religion and culture, for example by the Christian colonial rulers in the 19th and 20th centuries or by the Muslim dynasties that had previously ruled the subcontinent. Unlike Gandhi, the RSS does not emphasize the peaceful and tolerant nature of Hinduism, but pursues a warlike and authoritarian variant. Madhav Golwalkar, "Guru" of the RSS, who died in 1973, formulated a kind of manifesto of Hindu nationalism in his book "We and our Nationhood defined" in 1938. Accordingly, all non-Hindus in India would also have to adopt the language and culture of the Hindus and “respect and revere” the Hindu religion. Citizenship rights should be withdrawn from anyone who refuses.

"Hindutva" - literally translated "The essence of Hinduism" - is the name of the nationalists' recipe to take one of the oldest religions in the world for their cause. But, unlike Christianity, Islam or Judaism, Hinduism is not a monotheistic religion, but worships tens of thousands of gods and goddesses and allows a highly individual understanding of faith.

So the attempt to define the “essence” of Hinduism in a binding manner initially met with little enthusiasm. The movement received a boost from the “divide and rule” policy of the British colonial government, which played off various religious groups against each other. In January 1948, a year after the founding of the Indian state, an RSS supporter shot Gandhi, the most famous leader of the independence movement, because he would have been too indulgent towards Muslims.

The ones from the independence movement The emerged congress party was seen by many - despite all corruption affairs and intrigues - as a guarantor of the post-colonial consensus that all Indians would at some point participate in prosperity and progress. However, this consensus was terminated at the latest with the opening of the market and the abandonment of planned economy elements. The Indian elites enriched themselves more shamelessly than ever and the social gap continues to diverge today. The Hindu nationalists are, in a sense, the glue that secures power and prosperity for the country's corrupt elites. They suggest to the lower castes an alleged common struggle and divert social dissatisfaction into hatred of other religions and minorities.

The "Hindutva Movement", of which the BJP is the political arm, has many millions of followers in all parts of India. It is organized in trade unions, charities, religious communities and cultural associations. Eighty percent of the 1.2 billion Indians are Hindus. An "oppressed majority," say Hindutva supporters, who are a minority among the Hindus, albeit a large and growing minority. They see themselves threatened by Muslims, but also by Christians and communists as well as all Hindus who do not share their policy of exclusion towards minorities. The founding fathers of the Hindu nationalists admired Adolf Hitler and Italian fascism.

Today is the BJP largest opposition party that rules several Indian states. But above all, Gujarat with its 50 million inhabitants has become a model. Narendra Modi is the economically most successful Indian Prime Minister and has been praised at home and abroad. His state is an investor's paradise and has the fewest number of strike days in India. Nowhere are smallholders expropriated more quickly for the benefit of investors than in Gujarat. No state in India has comparable GDP growth. Ratan Tata, the much-cited Indian darling of the western business press, has the cheapest car in the world - the nano - built there. In 2008 he had gratefully accepted Modi's offer to set up his production facility in the latter's state after protests and resistance against the displacement of the local population had broken out in the left-wing state of West Bengal. The offer was generously garnished: Ratan Tata, the chairman of the family company, received 500 hectares of land, tax rebates and a loan of more than 130 million euros from Narendra Modi, which he can repay in twenty years with only 0.1 percent interest. When the agreement was signed, the chief minister and the group boss embraced each other for a long time.

But also foreign car manufacturers, e.g. Ford, General Motors and Peugeot as well as the German chemical giant Lanxess appreciate the investment conditions in Modi's state. They have built large production units and invested hundreds of millions of dollars. Indian billionaire Mukesh Ambani, one of the richest men in the world, sees Gujarat and its authoritarian prime minister as a role model for the rest of India. "Brother Narendra is a leader with a great vision - and he has the strength to make this vision a reality," said Ambani, praising the statesman who is known as "killer modes" in circles of the victims. In political circles, Narendra Modi is now considered the most important challenger to the incumbent Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

The Indian writer Arundhati Roy cannot share the enthusiasm of Indian and international politicians and investors. “The historical connection between corporations and fascism is known from the history of Germany,” she warns with regard to these political developments in India.

"Only for Hindus" is written on signs in front of some middle-class apartment blocks in Ahmedabad that are guarded by security services. Many Muslims and other minorities, on the other hand, live in seemingly poor neighborhoods on the outskirts of the major cities in Gujarat. India, the much-quoted "greatest democracy in the world," is in the process of sacrificing hard-won achievements - on the altar of sacrosanct economic growth. It offers the largest right-wing radical movement in the world the best breeding ground to continue growing.

Gerhard Klas works as a journalist and author for German-language print media and radio.