February 14, 2021

Stop Importing American Destructive Right-Wing Extremism to India

B Arjun

IN his inaugural speech, President Biden clearly named “political extremism, white supremacy, and domestic terrorism, as the dangers that need to be confronted urgently. The Biden administration directed its intelligence agencies to take a deeper look at violent white-supremacist groups operating overseas, some of which may have connections to US-based extremists. After seeing the chaos at Capitol no right-thinking politician can remain a mute spectator. The right-wing terrorism has increased by 320 percent in the last five years prior to 2020, says the UN Security Council’s Counterterrorism Committee.

The right-wing terror groups build their support base by using “racism, misogyny, anti-Semitism, anti-LGBTQ sentiments, Islamophobia and perceptions of government overreach,” according to the World Economic Forum.

The Institute for Economics & Peace identifies the ‘Far-right’as a political ideology “centered on one or more of the following elements: strident nationalism (usually racial or exclusivist in some fashion), fascism, racism, anti-Semitism, anti-immigration, chauvinism, nativism, and xenophobia.”

According to Vincent A Auger, “The term right-wing extremism covers a broad range of ideologies that essentially see violence as a legitimate tool to combat a political and ethnic ‘enemy’(including individuals with a different culture, religion, nationality or sexual orientation) seen as a threat to the (sic) own race or nation.”

The United States alone has witnessed 310 right-wing extremist attacks from 2015 to 2019, according to the University of Maryland’s Global Terrorism Database. The data on right-wing violence in the US is important because over the last few years, the US has emerged as the epicenter of global right-wing terrorism, giving it a transnational character.

The 2019 Munich Security Conference placed right-wing extremism in the category of top global security threats alongside space security, climate security, and emerging technologies. David C Rapport who has analysed various waves of terrorism calls the current right-wing militancy the fifth distinct wave of terrorism engulfing the world.

In August last year, hundreds of far-right neo-Nazi agitators invaded the Reichstag, the building that houses Germany’s parliament. This event is seen as a precursor to what happened on January 6 this year at the US Capitol when a group of supporters of president Donald Trump violently attempted to overturn the results of the presidential election.

The insurrection of the Capitol building was similar to the invasion of the German parliament. Both events were led by right-wing extremists who used the “backdrop of raucous demonstrations to sow chaos and mayhem. In both Berlin and Washington, the extremists then methodically breached police cordons and goaded others to follow them.” As is common with right-wing terrorism, on both occasions people were driven by conspiracy theories to plunge into senseless violence.

The shadow of what happened in Washington and Berlin was also witnessed in Delhi’s Red Fort on January 26. The backdrop of ongoing farmer’s protest was used to create chaos in Delhi. Many have alleged that it was a right-wing ‘false flag operation’ (FFO) that was carried out with the connivance of the administration on Republic Day when the security establishment is on the highest alert in the capital. This year the distance covered by the marching contingents was reduced from 8 kilometres to 3 kilometres. Traditionally the parade terminates at the Red Fort but this year it halted at the National Stadium.

Effective social distancing is the government’s justification for the shortened parade route. However, if the government was so concerned about the coronavirus then it would have cancelled the parade because the marching contingents have to stay close to each other during the practice sessions which extend more than a month. The relevant question is, did the government change the route to clear the way for the smooth conduct of the FFO. The new route and security arrangements were discussed during a meeting between Delhi police and the ministry of defence.

Both countries in Berlin and Washington, conspiracy theories – notably QAnon, the now infamous movement that imagines Trump to be rescuing the world from a secret cabal of pedophiles – and the vilification of mainstream media and political elites – played an extraordinary role in stoking the violence.

And much like Trump, prime minister Modi and his troll army are now spreading conspiracy theories to blame liberal protestors and farmers for the chaos in Delhi. What happened in Delhi has followed the standard pattern of right-wing extremist violence which has now assumed a transnational character.

The menace of western right-wing extremism has gained salience over the past few years because it has become a transnational phenomenon to which even the  Hindutva extremism based on majoritarian nationalism is linked.

A few years ago, when the Congress party highlighted the issue of “saffron terrorism” the BJP had retorted that focusing on domestic terrorism was a “dangerous” undertaking because first, it painted Hinduism in poor light and secondly it diluted the threat posed by the radical Islam.

Many in the Congress party were skeptical about raising the issue fearing that it would further fuel Hindu supremacist conspiracy theories or give unwarranted publicity to fringe elements.

After Modi’s rise to power, the Hindutva agenda has been further militarised. Modi and AmitShah's BJP has facilitated the empowering of the “cow vigilante” and “love jehad” groups. It has helped the fringe elements within the Hindutva fold to become mainstream.  BJP now blatantly uses the rhetoric of cultural wars to advance the dubious and divisive Hindutva agenda.

After the defeat of Trump and the chaos he has caused within America, the world is waking up to the dangers posed by various right-wing governments across the world to the very idea of democracy. 

The Biden administration which intends to gather democracies across the world as a fresh foreign policy approach to restore American primacy will find it very difficult to ignore right-wing excesses in India. If Biden is taking on white supremacy in America, he is not expected to shy away from pinpointing the way the Hindu supremacists mistreat all those who raise voice against the Hindutva ideology.

Historically, the Hindutva is intertwined with Italian fascism and German Nazism but Hindutva in its contemporary avatar is networked to Trumpism and the Alt-Right ideology that it promotes. “Hindutva in India parallels right-wing extremism in the West,”  says Agues EvianeLeidig in his paper titled “Hindutva as a variant of right-wing extremism.”  He avers that the “Muslim Otherness” expressed by contemporary Hindutva actors is similar to the reactionary ethno-national discourse employed by the European right-wing extremists. The Indian Alt-right is targeting liberalism in the same manner as it is being done in the West by neo-Nazis.

The Republic Hindu Coalition (RHC) came up in 2015. Its founder is a Chicago-based businessman Shalabh“Shalli” Kumar who donated the maximum allowable amount for Trump’s campaign in 2016. The RHC was co-founded by former house speaker Newt Gingrich, who is considered to be the chief ideologue that changed the course of Republican politics converting the Grand Old Party (GOP) to the Grand New Party (GNP).  The RHC held mega election rallies for Trump mobilising the Indian-American vote. Shalabh Kumar also organised the “Howdy Modi” event in which Modi used the slogan “Ab Ki Baar Trump sarkar”. With such connections, it is no wonder that during Trump’s visit to India in February 2020, Delhi witnessed its worst communal riots. To everyone’s surprise, both the Indian government and the American president’s security remained unfazed by the violence happening a few kilometres away from where the US president was staying.

It is high time that the Indian security establishment woke up to the dangers posed by the export of right-wing extremism from America and other western countries to India. The Alt-right ideology with its insistence on creating cultural wars leading to societal collapse and continuous revolution is a direct threat to the integrity of India.