Hindutva, Media and Propaganda
May 16, 2019
Since the Narendra Modi led Bharatiya Janata Party came to power in 2014, there has been an increase in the number of incidents of hate crimes, mob violence and hostility towards religious minorities. Written by the journalist-turned-politician Ashutosh, Hindu Rashtra asks if the ideology of the Hindutva hardliners is strong enough to withstand the increasing unrest and discontent of the common Indian and he book gives an insider's view of India's Changing political terrain.
The following are excerpts from the chapter "Hindutva, Media and Propaganda" of the book.
Image courtesy Context
The Point of Propaganda
Hitler started as an ordinary corporal in the army but rose to become the chief of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party. By 1933, he had become the chancellor of Germany and the rest is history. Other than his ruthlessness, his genius lay in creating effective propaganda and making dramatic speeches. He used to say, ‘It [propaganda] must appeal to the feeling of the public rather than to their reasoning powers.’1
The success of propaganda lies in its simplicity. It should avoid being too cerebral. It should also not address too many issues or themes. The matter which has to be impressed upon the minds of the people may be addressed in many forms but the message should always be the same. Hitler writes, ‘Every change that is made in the subject of a propagandist message must always emphasise the same conclusion. The leading slogan must of course be illustrated in many ways and from several angles but in the end one must always return to the assertion of the same formula.’2 Hitler certainly seems to have inspired the Hindutva content producers. They harp on only one theme and that is Hindus are victims in their own country and Muslims are internal enemies—which is very similar to what National Socialist German Workers’ Party used to say about Germans being the victims of the conspiracies of Jews.
In the Indian context, the Jews have been replaced by Muslims. The Hindu fanatic is so emboldened that he will imagine conspiracies against Hindus and go to any extent to target Muslims. A classic example is the Facebook page that used to go by the name of Hindutva Varta. In February 2018, this page released a list of 102 inter-faith couples—Hindu women who were involved in a relationship with Muslim men—with the message,‘This is a list of Facebook profiles of those Hindu girls who are either victims of love jihad or in the process of becoming one. Every Hindu lion is requested to track and hunt such boys.’3 This was an open instigation to violence and the security of such couples was terribly compromised. But this was not the first instance. In the month of November 2017, the same list was published by the Facebook page called Justice for Hindus. The page wrote, ‘Hindu girls are converting to Islam because of love jihad. Wake up Hindus otherwise you will lose your homeland, India. Here is a long list of love jihadis with their Facebook ID link.’4 This page did not overtly incite Hindus to violence but the message was similar: Hindu women were being trapped by Muslim men for ulterior motives and it was up to Hindu men to save them.
Are such abuses and threats a basic attribute of the very nature of social media, or are informal campaigns like these designed and orchestrated by someone behind the scenes? One may also ask why so much hate and bitterness is directed against one particular community—Muslims. Is the liberal space shrinking in India with the spread of the right-wing ideology or has the open space always been a myth? The social-media platforms have undoubtedly opened up a Pandora’s box that has democratised social intercourse, especially for those who could have never imagined interacting with the rich and the powerful, celebrities and legends, on equal terms. In that, these platforms are truly egalitarian. They allow the marginalised to wander into a new, more connected reality that renders them more visible / audible, more powerful. They help the disadvantaged feel equally important as the privileged, engaging with them on an equal footing—an unprecedented journey. Since these are new media, they are still evolving. They will take time to settle down, frame their own codes of conduct and define their own rules. Till then, it is intoxicating and overpowering, even chaotic, something that is being exploited by the smart operators.
I refuse to believe that the hate being spewed on social media is an organic construct. It is artificially designed for a purpose. Modi’s success lies in his capacity to create an atmosphere of hostility in which he is the slandered and vilified martyr. I don’t know if he has read Mein Kampf but he seems to have assimilated what Hitler used to say to his followers: ‘They must not be afraid of the hostility which their adversaries manifest towards them but they must take it as a necessary condition on which their own right to existence is based.’5 Modi has been true to every word. He is the one politician within the Hindutva fold (or indeed, anywhere in India) who has been discussed, debated and derided in equal measure. He is both loved and hated, but never ignored—from his first day in office as chief minister to this very day. When he started his campaign as a prime ministerial candidate, he was the centre of political gravity. The whole election seemed to revolve around him. He alone was discussed. He was the hero and he was the villain, and he played both the roles with aplomb. He never minced his words. He used language which had never been used before in Indian political discourse. Abuses and threats were his adrenaline. Even after becoming the prime minister, he did not change.
1Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf (Houghton Mifflin Company, 1998), p. 159.
2Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf (Houghton Mifflin Company, 1998), p. 159.
3 ‘Hindutva FB Page Publishes List of 100+ Couples in Inter-faith Marriages, Calls for Violence’, Alt News, 4 February 2018, https://www.altnews.in/ hindutva-fb-page-publishes-list-100-couples-inter-faith-marriages-callsviolence/
5 Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf (Houghton Mifflin Company, 1998), p. 294.
This is an excerpt from Hindu Rashtra, written by Ashutosh and published by Context, Westland, 2019. Republished here with permission from the publisher.
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