Exposing Right Wing extremism in India

A dispassionate person is confounded by right wing extremism. It’s not what they say, but their overall behavior. Whether it’s in India (with Saffron, or Hindutva right wingers), or the US (with Republicans and crazies like Glenn Beck), they all share a few common traits that the rest of us simply can’t comprehend. IP had written a brilliant post on this, but I want to go further. I want to understand why people who are intelligent, educated, and economically well off indulge in this kind of behavior and why they’re so different from the rest of us. But first, here are a few common characteristics:

The Shrill Right wing

The Shrill Right wing

1. Racism. Saffron right wingers in India claim that Hindus are the most tolerant and peaceful people – and then smoothly go on to proclaim that all other religions are are evil, especially the “Abrahamic Religions”. They also vent their fury on Atheists and “Intellectuals”. Muslims become evil slime balls with green goo for blood and “Urban Elites” are weak-kneed party goers who’ve lost touch with reality and only get knowledge by thinking in armchairs. The “West” is also a favorite whipping boy.

2. Conspiracy theories: Right wingers have a talent for picking “clues” here and there which betray a “larger scheme”. When the rest of us see coincidence, or at best incompetence, Hindutva types behold a diabolic ganging up of media, politicians, Muslims and corporations to suppress Hindus who make up over 80% of the population and to destroy “Indian culture.”

3. Vitriol, Hatred, and Innuendos: By themselves, the first two points are not really damning. We all associate ourselves with certain groups (For example I club myself with Atheists), and we’re all worried about threats (such as threats to Freedom of speech and expression). But Right wingers have an additional quality. They’re shrill. They happily use ad hominem arguments and sling mud at even those who speak politely to them in order to understand where they’re coming from. My disastrous experiment in talking to them resulted in a kind of witch hunt that left me dumbfounded.

Racism is a critical component

Racism is a critical component

It’s actually an amplification of the last two points. If you’re racist enough and fearful enough you start believing that everyone who doesn’t agree with you is an evil threat. But what causes this? Why are these people so different from those of us who, though we may disagree with each other, manage to keep a clear head and avoid abuses? What makes educated and economically sound individuals go over the top? I’m not sure, but I think I can identify a few underlying causes.

The need to feel superior

There’s clearly a huge need for the right wingers to feel special about themselves. That’s what racism really is after all. When someone feels worthless, they can get back their worth by identifying with a group and then deifying that group or demeaning the others.

This is also why they “demonize” other groups. Recently, this is what Narendra Modi said:

“The war between nationalists and anti-nationalist demons has started in Gujarat”. — Narendra Modi.

I couldn’t have found a better example. QED.

This makes sense because if you view everyone as equal human beings, then you can’t be racist anymore. One can’t view Muslims as regular humans like you and me and claim that Hindus are superior to all others. So it’s easy to view them as less than human. As demons. As “the evil ones.” Not as people who have feelings and who love their children.

The problem occurs when the rest of us don’t agree with the right winger’s view of themselves. So when we don’t treat them as anything special, they take offense the way Murali Manohar Joshi reacts in this 30 second clip.

The Interviewer is asking him why the BJP supports Sai Baba in spite of the allegations of crimes. Instead of answering the question, he exhibits classic paranoia and the feeling of privilege described above.

When people sense this fake superiority, they respond by mocking them and attempting to pull them back to earth. It’s human nature. And so their paranoia becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. But right wingers are unable to see how they themselves play a role in worsening their situation.

This constant strain to be “dignified” and “superior” renders right wingers utterly incapable of humor. After all, a dignified person can never be seen laughing at a joke or at themselves. I’ve said before that India needs more comedians and this is exactly why. If you can’t laugh at yourself, there’s something wrong with your outlook in life.

Because of the tendency to separate the world into “us” and “them”, right wingers are unable to empathize with anyone not in their group. When you ask them to put themselves in another’s shoes, they either ignore the question or explode.

Watch how 3 mins into this video, Glenn Beck explodes after being asked “What would you do?”

But what causes the complex? A false superiority complex (and it is false because no human is “superior” to another) usually has the reverse at the heart of it. So right wingers in their passionate attempts to feel special betray a strong inferiority complex. I don’t know what causes it.

Maybe our society which denies the worth of individuals and makes them subservient to the family is the cause. It’s very easy then to simply submerge your identity into a group – a nation, a religion, or even family. No wonder “Honor killings” are still prevalent. When you yourself have no honor, you need to manufacture it through your family using excuses like this.

It’s futile to calmly use logic when talking to right wingers. If they listened to logic, they would be forced to admit there’s nothing special about them, their religion, and even their nation. And after that, there’s no escape from the feelings of helplessness and despair against which they’ve built up the defense of superiority.

So what can be done? This is tricky. Psychologists usually treat paranoid or narcissistic patients not by using logic, but by addressing insecurities. This can’t be done en mass and it certainly can’t be done by you and me. If we tried, they would think we’re threatening their identity and the walls will come up so hard and fast that our heads will spin. Things will just get worse.

I think one can only hope that such people are in a small and shrill minority. One has to hope that the average Indian doesn’t feel greatly threatened in any way. From what I’ve seen so far in the blogosphere, this is more or less true. And it gives me hope.

What do you think of this post?
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  1. Well said Gorki.


  2. Nitin Joshi says

    Dear All,
    Very interesting discussion. I am a right wing nationalist and a Hindutvawadi. However, (and this may come as a surprise to you), I am in no way associated with RSS / VHP / BJP and the many outfits who call themselves Hindutvawadis. I know from personal experience that none of them are truly devoted to the idea of Hindutva. In fact, none of them even knows what Hindutva means. This is the reason of the outbursts in reply to any questions. (They try to hide their ignorance behind their shouts.)
    While I cannot claim to be an expert in Hindutva, I can certainly say this – for me like many others, Hindutva at it’s very basic is nationalism i.e. love for this country and a desire to see this country strong and progressive. I also believe that religion and politics by their very nature are things which cannot be entirely separated especially in a country like India where people tend to see God in everything. This can be used positively but has not been done till now.
    Talking about vote bank politics, the political parties who claim to be secular and claim to unite the nation have in fact divided the nation more than the so called right wing political parties. What they have done is that they have stuck a label on the minorities and ensured that the label sticks.
    Shashank mentioned Veer Savarkar. The only person who really understood the concept of Hindutva was Veer Savarkar. Please read his book ‘Hindutva’ and you will realize that the so called right wings Hindutvawadis are nowhere near his concept of Hindutva. He always advocated a scientific outlook and a practical, logical way of life.
    You speak of forgetting the past and moving on. Agreed, we cannot be hostages to our past. But, the fact is that we cannot shut it out as if it never happened. No nation can do it. The past, the present and the future are not air tight. What is future today will be present one day and will become past after that. So, it is important to know the real past however bitter or unpleasant it might be. When we attempt to censor the past to safeguard the sensibilities of a few, we are playing with the future.


  3. Should the definition of Hindutva be Vedantic based on Vedas the true source of Hinduisim and not on understanding propagated by certain groups. Why cant we take pride in forming a society which is build on very foundation of Love and forgiveness which were the founding stone of Hindutva Philosphy of Intellectuals Like Vivekananda.For sake an argument if I accept that we need the marriage of religion and politics in Indian society than why India can’t become a welfare state whose foundations can be the following Shloka:

    Sarve Bhavantu Sukhinah
    Sarve Santu Nir-Aamayaah |
    Sarve Bhadraanni Pashyantu
    Maa Kashcid-Duhkha-Bhaag-Bhavet |
    Om Shaantih Shaantih Shaantih ||

    1: May All become Happy,
    2: May All be Free from Illness.
    3: May All See what is Auspicious,
    4: May no one Suffer.
    5: Om Peace, Peace, Peace.

    The same Philosophy enlighten the world in form of message of Bhuddha thousand of years ago and showed the world new light. The same Hindutva made Americans to give standing ovation to Swami Vivekananda in Chicago conference in the 18 th century.Why cant the implementation of Hindutva play the same role in the modern world today?
    These are some very thoughtful questions we need to ponder upon.

    I am myself not a Hindu but student of the above philosophy and belief that if larger masses try to ponder upon deeper meaning of religion they will understand greatness dosent lie in distinguishing yourself from others but it lies in mixing with others ,understanding their pain and elevate them from their suffering.



  4. How dare you think that people who are tired of the Islamic double standards and bullshit are racist. We have almost two thousand years of the Muslim pacifists to attest to what they will do. If you are not muslim you are less then they and they have the right to take anything from you they want. many “Good” muslims will not do this but that does not stop the others from doing so or even allow the “good” muslims to change it as they know it is written and true to the Muslim faith. We are tired of our daughters our mothers, and our sisters being raped just because these animals cannot control themselves. We need to separate the people from the religion. By that I mean outlaw this Cult. Of all the beliefs theirs is the vilest. I don’t care what race you are. If your in my country I say leave. I won’t be nice next time. You came to our countries in the past when you had strength and killed our men. Raped and made slaves of you woman and then took our children to make into Muslims. Now that you are weak you try and convert us by moving into our countries and getting welfare.


  5. We need more Bhagwad’s in this country if we want to see it strive ridden prosperous and peaceful and live in a civilized society, what happened 1000 years back does not matter now, the new generation deserves better education , knowledge of science , progress in their lives not bigoted history , who cares what Ghengis khan did or what other mongols did war was economy that era, look at the world wars that killed millions and devasted Europe through same hysteria and bigotry . we need to voice out and reject narrow thinking and cheap politicking


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