The Rise of The Hindutva Right-Wing In India
Updated: Oct 11
Photo: Supporters of the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP), a Hindu nationalist organization, shout religious slogans during "Dharma Sabha" or a religious congregation organized by the VHP in New Delhi, India, December 9, 2018. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi
By Momin Bin Mohsin
The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and its affiliates (the “Sangh Parivar”) are synonymous with the right-wing in India. The BJP – the party currently in power in India - is not only heavily influenced by the RSS, but also draws its political cadre from the RSS. However, the monopoly over Hindu nationalism is slowly slipping out of the hands of the BJP. This can be attributed to two factors: 1) the role of social media sites such as Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook; and 2) the perceived stagnation of the BJP government in implementing key Hindutva policies.
The BJP government under Narendra Modi portrayed a strong man image from the beginning. Every policy no matter how disastrous was termed a “masterstroke.” The Home Minister, Amit Shah even called Modi as the man with a “56-inch chest.” All this bravado came crashing down when the Modi government had to retreat on a number of significant policy reforms that are key to Hindutva politics. Some examples include the reversal of the farming laws that triggered nationwide protests, the lack of implementation of the CAA-NRC, the failure to enact a Uniform Civil Code, the failure to ensure the return of Kashmiri Pandits back into the Kashmir Valley, and more recently, the BJP’s retreat from the comments made by party spokesperson Nupur Sharma after protests from several Muslim countries.
The Modi government’s failure on the listed initiatives has given birth to a new right-wing in India. This right-wing has no concern over the political calculations of the BJP and owes no allegiance to the RSS. In fact, this new right-wing got extremely offended when the RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat stated that Muslims and Hindus share the same DNA. This right-wing is more radical and more extreme than the BJP and RSS combined and will stop at nothing to achieve its objectives.
This new religious right has benefitted extremely from the use of social media. Sites such as Twitter and Youtube have played a crucial role in expressing dissatisfaction with the BJP and have sometimes been used to put pressure on the BJP to take a much harder stance on its anti-Muslim narrative. An example is a YouTube Channel called “The Jaipur Dialogues,”. Jaipur Dialogues, which has 156 million subscribers, is run by Mr. Sanjay Dixit. Mr. Dixit is no ordinary man. He is a retired Indian Civil Servant, who has served in high positions in the State Government of Rajasthan. Every day, Mr. Dixit uses the platform of Jaipur Dialogues to incite hatred against his opponents. His targets include Indian Christians (for whom he uses the term “rice bag converts”), and Hindus who do not conform to the beliefs of the new religious right. But his main target is the Indian Muslim community. As seen below, in this post he invokes the memory of ancient Indian rulers to imply that the only way to deal with Muslims is to fight them.
Mr. Dixit is also no fan of the current BJP leadership. He believes that the Chief Minister of Uttar Pardesh, the monk turned politician, Yogi Adityanath is the only one who has remained true to his ideals and knows how to “fix Muslims.” An example that Mr. Dixit usually cites of Yogi Adityanath’s handling of Muslims is the UP government's illegal act of bulldozing homes of Muslims that are suspected to be part of protests.
Yogi Adityanath is no stranger to controversy himself. The monk-turned-politician has a long history of hate speech. In a speech before he became Chief Minister, he said: “We are all preparing for a religious war. Only this religious war can fight Jihad. People say, ‘What was the point of creating the Hindu Vahini?’ I say necessity. Hinduism is a different culture, Islam is a different culture, the two cannot coexist. Two cultures can never live together in harmony.”
Mr. Dixit is not solely responsible for the rise of the new right. There are other offenders that use a similar modus operandi. Mr. Tufail Chaturvedi is one of them. A poet of the Urdu language, Mr. Chatruvedi has 18.5K followers on Twitter, while his Youtube account boasts 70K subscribers. Mr. Chatruvedi’s YouTube videos also aim at demonizing Muslims. In a tweet last month, Mr. Chatruvedi stated that, “Muslims should be captured and returned to the temple instead of the mosque.”
The BJP does not have the will to take action against people like Mr. Dixit and Mr. Chaturvedi. While the BJP had a monopoly over the narrative building on social media, this monopoly has been broken by people who believe that the BJP has gone soft. Evidence of this comes from the Nupur Sharma debacle. After Nupur Sharma (BJP National Spokesperson) passed comments about Prophet Muhammad, the BJP had to disown her after protests from GCC countries, and the OIC. The BJP circulated a memo to its spokespersons and asked them to refrain from making irresponsible religious statements. The BJP felt that it could manage the domestic backlash, and control the narrative on social media like it had done previously. However, this time things did not work out as expected. The hashtag #IStandWithNupurSharma started trending, and even the regular trolls that had sided with the BJP before, started going against party policy. The hate that the BJP had unleashed over the years was not out of its own control.
While it is clear that the BJP will never take action against the new right, one must question why websites like YouTube and Twitter continue to host and give platform to people who regularly incite violence against religious minorities. This is not an issue of free speech, but one of hate speech. Threats of violence in the case of India have been backed by actual violence. Muslims have been attacked, churches have been raided, and there seems to be no end to this madness in sight. The international community must remember the effects that one Radio Rwanda and one Radio Television of Serbia had in Rwanda and Yugoslavia respectively. India now has hundreds of these.
Momin Bin Mohsin is a Legal Associate at Genocide Watch.
The views and opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Genocide Watch.