Hindu Nationalists Pose a Global Problem
Qazi Mizan: India’s Hindu right wing has long advocated for its vision across the world. Overseas off shoots of Prime Minister Modi’s ruling BJP have helped in this, as have allied groups like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad or World Hindu Council.
On 17 September, young Hindu men marched through the streets of Leicester, UK chanting “Jai Sri Ram” – now a Hindu nationalist war cry – and attacking Muslims. In May, a Muslim teenager in Leicester had to be hospitalised after an unprovoked attack by a Hindu crowd.
In August, after India’s win against Pakistan in a cricket match, a Hindu group walked through the streets chanting “Death to Pakistan” before attacking a Sikh man. There were similar reports after a second cricket match between the two countries that India lost.
These events in Leicester suggest that Hindus dream of propagating Hindutva is coming true. There is a long history of Hindu nationalist and Conservative Party collaboration in the UK.
On the eve of the 2019 UK general elections, there were reports that Hindu nationalist groups in the country were actively campaigning for Conservative candidates, since Labour’s then-leader, Jeremy Corbyn, had criticisedModi government’s 2019 crackdown in IIOJK.
Many of these groups have direct links to BJP and their actions represented attempts at influencing an overseas election. Like in the UK, Hindu nationalists have actively campaigned for right-wing, Islamophobic candidates in the US.
Ahead of 2020 US presidential election, PM Modi acted almost as a campaigner for Trump, holding two joint rallies with the realtor-turned-politician – one in Ahmedabad, India, and the other in Houston, Texas.
In the latter event, Modi seemed to give tacit backing to Trump’s re-election campaign, even uttering the phrase “Abkibaar, Trump sarkar (This time, it’s going to be a Trump government)”. In August, bulldozers adorned with posters of Modi and BJP Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Yogi Adityanath, appeared at an Indian Independence Day parade in Edison, New Jersey, apparently celebrating the disturbing trend of local governments demolishing the homes of Muslim activists in India.
In Canada, Hindu nationalists have been making waves. In December 2021, anti-Sikh slogans and Hindu swastika appeared outside a Sikh school. Canadian academics have been harassed and faced death and rape threats from diaspora Hindutva supporters for criticizing the Modi government in India.
Australia too is witnessing an uptick in hate crimes committed by Hindus against Muslims and Sikhs. Attempts have also been made by Indian authorities in Australia to silence critics of Modi and his Hindu nationalist policies.
Thirteen academic fellows resigned from the Australia India Institute at the University of Melbourne citing interference from the Indian High Commission and attempts to censor research and writing that presented an “unflattering” image of India.
Modi’s success in delivering on Hindutva’s promises at home has inspired his supporters in the diaspora to exude a sense of chauvinistic pride abroad. However, world leaders are guilty too, of legitimisingModi, giving this subsection of Hindu expatriates the conviction that their bigoted vision has some global cache.
From Trump to former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and from former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Brazilian President JairBolsonaro, multiple right-wing politicians have presented themselves as “friends” of Modi.Even those Western leaders who do not have a particularly pronounced right-wing agenda have been keen to establish and develop their economic and strategic ties with India while turning a blind eye to the Modi government’s dismal human rights record.