Subaltern fascism

“Subaltern fascism”, the project of building fascism in India even whilst accepting subordination to the British Empire, provides an explanation for the strategy of the Hindu Mahasabha, the ancestor of today’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The Mahasabha opposed the national movement for independence proposing that it be rewarded with power sharing, so that it might eventually take over as the successor to the colonial power of occupation. This cadet role anticipates India’s role in world affairs today.

Long before his Mahasabha career, the former revolutionary Vinayak Damodar Savarkar decided that the enemy was not the British but the Muslims and accordingly won increasing privileges during his incarceration for a terrorist assassination. Upon release he was granted a pension, and permitted to conduct anti-Muslim propaganda.

The Mahasabha he came to head set out to arm Hindus against Muslims by recruiting them to the Indian army, and to influence the administration of the princely states including their armies, set out to obtain arms licenses from sympathetic Congress ministers, to put up a munitions factory at Gwalior in the expectation of support from the Durbar and the Birla industrial group, and to explore contacts with European fascists.

All this was done with a measure of tacit support from the British; yet at the very same time the Government of India suppressed anti-Nazi propaganda by left and liberal organizations.

Despite its earlier praise for Mussolini and Hitler the Mahasabha promised the new state of Israel its support in 1949.  The earlier endorsement of attacks on Jews was now offset by its claim that this new state would best combat the Muslim world.


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