Several of those whom I would put in the “right wing” camp in Indian politics have expressed their dislike for the term. Perhaps they feel it’s too poorly defined, or that it’s well defined and doesn’t fit them, or that it’s used in an insulting way. Maybe all three. While it’s true that those on the opposing side are as, or more likely to be insulted by words such as “commie” etc, that’s no reason to continue using something which a certain section of people find insulting. After all, the purpose of debate is constructive dialog and not insults.
Though the phrase “right wing” is already pretty well defined [wikipedia.com] so far as such things can be nailed down, it’s clearly not serving its purpose when the target audience takes offence or feels that the label is unjustified. So I write this post to invite ideas for new phrases that accurately describe the views of a large number of Indians. It’s important to have a phrase since it makes talking about a certain set of views easier in conversation instead of having to recite the traits from scratch. Pure convenience.
I think it best to start at the fundamentals by listing out the exact traits which the old phrase “right wing” was supposed to indicate. Then those who wish can decide whether or not they subscribe to the following views and if they do, they mustn’t take offence when someone describes them as such. Liberals for example never feel offended when someone calls them a “liberal” even if its meant as an insult since the word is so well defined that it could only be a compliment! After all, who could take offence at being told that they support equality, believe in human rights and democracy?
So here are the traits which I consider those on the “right wing” to possess.
Note: Until we find a suitable replacement for “right wing”, I’ll be using that phrase withing quotes when appropriate here – don’t take it as an insult!
Great Pride in the past and belief in a “Golden age”
One thing which I find very common is that those on the “right” take great pride in the history of their religion, community, or country. Now we’re all interested in the past to varying degrees and especially our own, but the kind of attachment I’m referring goes beyond mere interest. Those on the “right” take a lot of pride in their history and are apt to praise it above other cultures. So if we’re talking about the Hindu “right,” we hear phrases like “India was the greatest culture in the world at one time etc.”
Also, there is a belief that at some time in the past, everything was “perfect” during a “Golden age” and that we’ve fallen from grace since then. So we have references to a “Raj Dharma” and the “Vedic times” when people were good, kings were righteous and everything was at peace.
So that is the first trait of what the “right wing” consists of. A great pride in history, and a golden age when everything was perfect.
But then everything changed and this paradise was shattered by Islam. Which brings us to the next trait.
A belief that Islam is a threat
The second trait of the Indian “right wing” is a feeling of hurt and personal loss that Islam came and destroyed the peaceful Golden age. There is also a fear that history will repeat itself and that if left unchecked, Islam will overrun India and will make Hindus outcasts in their own land. Along with this, is a belief that all (or most) Muslims are silent supporters of violent acts like terrorism and that Islam itself is a violent religion which by definition makes all Muslims potential threats.
Strong sense of Nationalism, Religion, or Community
The final trait which I consider those on the “right” to possess is a powerful identification with a group that is determined by their birth. Religion, and nationality are not something most people choose and in my opinion, the “right” adopts the identity which birth has given them. This identification is very strong and is infused with a sense of pride and a tendency to raise that particular identity above all others. Descriptions such as “Proud Nationalist”, “Proud Hindu” and “Patriotic Indian” are common. Sometimes posts or comments will end with a “Jai Ho!” or something similar.
So these are three traits which I believe the “right wing” possesses. The challenge now is to come up with a phrase to describe those who think like this. Clearly many are uncomfortable being called “right wing,” and so I throw an open question to those to whom the above three traits apply. What phrase or word would you be happy with if “right wing” is unacceptable?