Is Congress an anti-Hinduism party?
How India has developed since independence in 1947 and why the giant state is redefining its “unity in diversity” seventy years after political decolonization Heinz Werner Wessler.
India's Independence Day on August 15, 1947, marked a great moment in the history of South Asia and the world. But the end of the British colonial era, which lasted around two hundred years, also meant the traumatic division into two states, Pakistan and India. An event that cheered Pakistan's founding generation, mourned the Indian Congress Party and never accepted Hindu nationalists. One thing was clear: since August 15, 1947, decolonization across Asia and Africa was only a matter of time. By 1962 it was practiced almost everywhere.
Until his death in 1964, Jawaharlal Nehru, who is now heavily attacked by BJP circles, remained the incontestable father of independent India. The political foster son of Mahatma Gandhi, who was murdered in 1948, ruled India for almost 17 years, became an important source of inspiration for the anti-colonial struggle and a co-founder of the non-aligned movement.
He converted the Congress Party from a more or less charismatic movement into a tightly organized party that remained the most powerful political force in the Asian country for decades.
The majority voting system inherited from Great Britain, which can be advantageous for a dominant party and extremely disadvantageous for small parties, as well as the fragmentation of the opposition initially provided the Congress party with comfortable majorities in the national parliament and in a large number of state parliaments. It was also forgotten that the conservative and pro-Hindu Jan Sangh party, even if the number of its seats in the parliaments mostly remained below ten percent, was able to win well over 20 percent of the votes in some cases.
Nehru and his party were socialist and centralist oriented. Imported products were subject to high tariffs and all kinds of import restrictions in order to encourage production in their own country.
This policy was followed by Nehru's daughter Indira Gandhi (not related to Mahatma Gandhi), who ruled the country from 1966 to 1977 and from 1980 to 1984. At the height of her power at the beginning of the 1970s, she was able to do whatever she wanted with the Congress Party and also with India. She presented herself as the only reliable guardian of Indian secularism - while her personal astrologer was always at her side. They condemned their opponents as “communalists”, that is, as people who primarily define themselves on the basis of religious, caste or ethnic group interests.
After the accidental death of her son Sanjay in 1980, Indira built up her other son Rajiv Gandhi as Crown Prince of the Nehru Gandhi dynasty. When Indira Gandhi was assassinated by two of her own Sikh bodyguards in 1984, Gandhi had to advance to the post of Prime Minister prematurely.
Capital: New Delhi
Surface: 3.2 million km (World rank: 7)
GDP: $ 2,260 billion
Residents: 1.4 billion
Form of government: Parliamentary federal Republic
Rank 131 (of 188) des Human Development Index (2016)
India is a multi-ethnic state in which more than 100 languages are spoken. According to the 2011 census, around 80 percent of the population are Hindus, 14 percent Muslim, 2.3 percent Christian, 1.7 percent Sikhs.
To this day, caste membership has an impact on people's lives, although there are regional differences. Traditionally there are four castes (Varnas): Brahmins (elite), Kshatriyas (higher officials), Vaishyas (traders, farmers, merchants) and Shudras (artisans, day laborers).
In India, the service sector and industry are the mainstays of the country's economy, with agriculture playing only a minor role. However, almost half of the workforce is still employed in agriculture.
India suffered less from the global economic and financial crisis and is experiencing steady growth. The giant state will probably have problems with the abolition of all 500 and 1,000 rupee bills, which made up the majority of the cash in circulation. Sol
Rajiv was only 40 years old and politically inexperienced, but many people in India saw him as an unspent representative of a new, visionary generation. He spoke of India's way into the 21st century, of computers, of sewage treatment and of the auto industry.
Rise of Hindu Nationalism. The failure of Rajiv Gandhi (he was prime minister from 1984 to 1989 and died in a suicide attack in the same year) in the jungle of intrigue and corruption affairs of his congress party paved the way for the rise of Hindu nationalist forces. Gradually, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) became the most important party in India. The clear victory of the BJP and its top candidate Narendra Modi in the national parliamentary elections in 2014 is likely to mark the end of the power of the Congress Party and thus the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty at the head of the Indian Union.
Modi had previously ruled the West Indian state of Gujarat for thirteen years - economically with not entirely undisputed success. Human rights organizations give him joint responsibility for the serious clashes between Hindus and Muslims in Gujarat in 2002, in which more than 1,000 people died, mostly Muslims.
On the one hand, Modi presents himself as a cosmopolitan modernizer who has worked his way up from the smallest of backgrounds, but at the same time he is a "Pracharak" (missionary) of the radical Hindu militia Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), of which he has been a member since the early 1970s. The RSS presents itself as a closed front, internal conflicts of interest are difficult to see through.
Was Modi's personal appointment of the state parliament member Yogi Adityanath in March 2017 as prime minister of the most populous state of Uttar Pradesh a clever move against the radicals in his own party? The anti-Muslim tirades of hatred by the Hindu dignitary caused sheer horror among foreign observers at his appointment, but the people seem to like him. Many people see the celibacy of Modis and Adityanaths as a source of their enormous work performance and political creative power.
Amazingly, even Muslims vote for the BJP - especially women. They are tired of the concrete faction of the conservatives in their own community, which is blocking the urgently needed reform of Indian Muslim family law. The BJP likes to refer to the Muslims in its party bodies. For example, Mobashar Jawed "M.J." Akbar, one of India's most prominent journalists, has been a member of the BJP since 2014 and a member of the national cabinet since 2016. During the 2014 election campaign, he announced that he wanted to modernize India with the Koran in one hand and the laptop in the other and that he would therefore support Narendra Modi.
Since the BJP came to power, posts across the country have been filled with hand-picked candidates with the right Hindu nationalist sentiments.
The assignment of posts after a disposition test is nothing new in and of itself. The Congress Party had also systematically protected its people. In addition to those who believe in conviction, the system also produces a large number of opportunists. As the historian Ranajit Guha analyzed a few years ago as a problem of political discourse in the right-wing camp, the numerical weakness of right-wing intellectuals in India is becoming noticeable.
The Indian community in Austria is growing
In the past few years Both the number of Indian citizens living in Austria and those who were born in India increased. At the beginning of 2003 there were around 5,500 Indians living in Austria, 15 years later there are 8,600. The Indian community offers a diverse, very heterogeneous range of clubs in cultural and religious terms and is active in various business areas - from gastronomy to retail and food imports. Well known beyond the community in Vienna is the Prosi supermarket owned by the Indian Prince Pallikunnel (see Südwind-Magazin 6/2016). Sol
Against the open society. If left-wing intellectuals speak out in public today, they must expect targeted dirt campaigns. In view of the strength of the Hindu nationalist organizations among the students, it is understandable that the reluctance to expose oneself is growing. The accusation of anti-national sentiments in particular is a murderous argument that has been specifically used in recent years.
But what is anti-nationalism? Is anti-national who expresses understanding for the suffering of the population in the still contested Kashmir? Is anti-national who criticizes India's nuclear armament? Is it anti-national who does not want to follow the slogan "Bharat mata ki jay" ("Victory of Mother India!") Which is widespread in Hindu nationalist circles? Is it anti-national who does not attend the officially prescribed yoga in school? These questions cast a spotlight on the wavelength of the interpretive discourse. Often it is all about symbolic politics, which many intellectuals turn away in disgust.
But the challenge goes further and deeper. It includes a real culture war that sees the period of Islamic rule between the 12th and 19th centuries as a history of decline. Perhaps the most important and popular thought leader in this self-proclaimed defensive struggle against the supposed destruction of Indian and Hindu identities is Rajiv Malhotra, a representative of the Hindu diaspora in the USA.
His main work "Breaking India: Western Interventions in Dravidian and Dalit Faultlines" claims on 650 pages a dramatic finding with regard to the national security of the current Indian state. The main actors: Pakistan (Islamism), China (Maoism) and a western network that constructs and promotes a separate identity of the Dalit and the "Dravids" of South India.
Malhotra contrasts this danger with a discourse that is based on the postulate of a “common identity” and is to be measured against this. In the BJP party program this is called “cultural nationalism” or “integral humanism”. The crux of the matter is the claim to know exactly what is authentically Indian and what is not.
What is "Indian"? The question of what constitutes an authentic Indian identity, which is legitimate in itself, accompanies practically all modernization discourses in India. Is there an independent Indian form of modernization that can fall back on its own cultural resources? The problem is that the spaces are getting smaller and smaller in which questions of identity can be openly discussed beyond the polemics of cultural warfare.
The Hindunationalist organizations active in the background, especially the powerful RSS, are concerned with long-term access to academic institutions. The humanities and social sciences at universities are brought into line.
Especially in the most populous Indian state of Uttar Pradesh with almost 200 million inhabitants, the so-called “anti-Romeo squads” spread fear and horror. These are Hindunationalist groups of young volunteers who often confront or beat up young couples on the streets for allegedly unethical behavior in the presence of the police. Romantic love affairs (“Romeo and Juliet”) have just as little place in the Hindu civilization they imagine as they do with the Taliban. Critics rightly point out that if the god Krishna were to appear today with his playmate Radha in northern India, he would immediately be harassed by the anti-Romeo squads. Hindu nationalists project the causes of sexual harassment into the westernization and individualism of Indian women.
Growth. Everything in India is growing immeasurably - the metropolises, the traffic on the streets, the crowds in public places, places of pilgrimage and train stations. On the upper reaches of the rivers, huge hydroelectric network systems are being built, for which entire landscapes are being redesigned. The cities are being disfigured by more and more traffic overpasses, ruthless structural densification and ever taller buildings.
In many places there is tremendous noise and dirt, the watercourses have been degraded to stinking sewers, air pollution regularly reaches life-threatening levels in many places, especially in winter.
Countermeasures are hardly effective - because they are unsustainable, because they are sloppily implemented or because the exponentially growing traffic immediately destroys all progress. After all, very effective means of public transport have emerged in Delhi and other metropolises in the past 20 years, which prove that there is another way.
Success story education. However, poverty is not disappearing - on the contrary, the gap between rich and poor is widening. At least the spread of education is a success story. Never in India's history have so many people received a basic education, and never have so many people studied. The middle class is willing to invest a significant part of their net income in the education of their children and, despite all the problems, believe that their children will one day have it better.
In contrast to Pakistan, whose intellectuals are deeply pessimistic about their own country, optimism for progress in India is unbroken. The BJP takes up this. Narendra Modi wins his election with the slogan “Sabka vikas”, “Development for all”. His party sees itself in the role of the modernizer, who at the same time wants to tie in with the supposedly golden age of India in antiquity.
The congress party has run down and mainly exists as an electoral association for Rahul Gandhi, the less charismatic crown prince of the Nehru Gandhi dynasty. Hopes that the Aam Admi Party (“party of the common people”), which emerged from the anti-corruption movement in 2012, could develop into a Union-wide opposition party have since become modest. It did not do badly in the state government in Delhi, especially in the areas of health and education.
Powerful modes. Narendra Modi has as much power as Indira Gandhi in her prime. He can choose and appoint prime ministers, he can write development successes on his flags and he can even demand willingness to make sacrifices.
Incidentally, he can bask in the splendor of a nation whose growth the world is following with sympathy - be it as a holiday destination or a spiritual haven, be it as a superpower that can limit China, be it as a buyer of Western export products or foreign direct investment. There is currently no politician of stature who can rival Modi. Everything points to his re-election in 2019. The only question is which card he will play in the long term in view of this apparently incontestable position: that of economic liberalization or rather that of Hindu nationalism.
Both alternatives clearly set themselves apart from Jawaharlal Nehru and most of the other fathers (and few mothers) of Indian independence, for whom distributive justice, anti-colonialism and peaceful development were at the top of the agenda.
Heinz Werner Wessler is Professor of Indology at Uppsala University (Sweden). From 2005 to 2011 he was editor of the magazine Südasien and is a board member of the association Südasienbüro (suedasienbuero.de).
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