It would not be impossible to prove with sufficient repetition and a psychological understanding of the people concerned that a square is in fact a circle. They are mere words, and words can be molded until they clothe ideas and disguise.
Adolf Hitler became the chancellor of Germany in 1933 and held on to power until he had wreaked havoc and poured devastation over all of Europe for almost a decade. Before the Second World War, the National Socialist German Workers Party a.k.a. the Nazi Party changed Germany under extreme pretexts and tried to implement the same radicalized framework on the rest of Europe.
The concerted effort of Nazi Germany resulted in the mass scale persecution of all people who were considered racially inferior to the self-proclaimed pure Aryan race of Germany. This racially flawed yet socially strong sentiment pivoted the actions of Nazis and poisoned the German social structure.
Almost eight million Jews were sent to concentration camps, regardless of age or gender. They were blamed as the reason for the problems that were plaguing Germany i.e. poverty, economic downfall, unemployment and national humiliation. Hitler came forward with a plan and he had a faction to blame for all of the misfortunes. He presented his ideas with such profound confidence and convincing power that everyone, ranging from the liberal left to the conservative right, agreed with him at one point or another. Nationalism had resurged, and it was more ferocious than ever.
Patriotism is, fundamentally, a conviction that a particular country is the best in the world because you were born in it.
–George Bernard Shaw
The German public, under the leadership of Adolf Hitler, went on a spree of purification. Anybody who was not an Aryan was considered as impure and unworthy of living in Germany. Jews were declared the root cause of all evil and their removal from everything in every form became the innate agenda of the government.
Hitler succeeded in his plans because there were people who believed in him. Had the people seen him for the tyrant he was, they would not have joined his cause. But his agenda was appealing because it made the people special. It made them believe that it was their manifest destiny to lead the humankind.
“What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or in the holy name of liberty or democracy?”
Let’s draw parallels of this thinking with the present world.
The Bharatiya Janata Party ousted the Congress from power in 2014. Being a right-wing nationalist party and having open links with the Hindu Nationalist organization Rastriya Swayamsevak Sangh, it covertly and overtly propagated and promoted the supremacy of Hinduism over other religions, especially over the largest minority religion Islam.
Narendra Modi became the Prime Minister in 2014. His political career was marred by anti-Muslim activities such as the intercommunal Gujarat riots of 2002 in which almost 1000 lives were lost, most of them Muslims. His open remarks and opinions degrading Muslims and projecting Hindus as a superior being flamed the fire of social unrest.
Under his administration, India, which hosts almost 1 billion people, lost its feeble secular footing and set itself on a path of jingoistic nationalism. These sentiments displayed themselves in full swing when Modi’s government entered its last quarter. Modi blamed Pakistan and went on a campaigning spree of maligning Pakistan and manipulating the emotional public for electoral gains. It had already been clear since 2014 that Modi was a mere politician and not a statesman who could lead India with diversity; but the situation before the 2019 election turned downright ugly. It had become clear to all that India had become a dangerous place to be a Muslim. So these elections were supposed to be a watershed moment for the Indian nation, a chance for them to reject a narrow-minded Hindu supremist. Things, however, would unfold for the worst.
The largest elections in the world, spanning more than a month, came to an end with an absolute victory and a second term for Narendra Modi; this was along with the near to absolute obliteration of Congress which was the only potential credible opposition and second option for Indians. Modi’s genius is that he gives the people what they want to hear. The otherwise apolitical and somewhat ludicrous act of adding ‘chowkidar’ (‘watchman’) to his twitter handle might have seemed unreasonable for the middle and upper class; but the lower class, which constitutes the largest portion of the Indian population, was completely sold out with this purported gesture of care and humility.
The minorities and Muslims in India are under extreme duress because of this unexpected turn of events. The BJP’s previous term was botched with the RSS’s cow-vigilantism and its humiliation of Muslims and their religious values. Arundhati Roy aptly puts the current situation of Indian politics and nation in context by saying that India is fighting for its soul.
The parallels drawn between the Nazi Party in Germany and the BJP in India are not less than shocking. The Germans did not suddenly persecute millions of innocent people. Such drastic actions are the meltdown of a collective institutional memory, triggered by self-righteousness. In these moments of destructive nationalism, criminal acts that would otherwise be despised by the state and society are accepted as being necessary for the preservation of one’s nation and country.
The line between patriotism and assertive nationalism is blurred and should not be stained with the blood of the innocent and the weak, because foundations built on innocent lives come crumbling down, sooner or later. The Indian public had the chance to reject this dark fate, but the beauty and horror of a democratic system is that you end up with making choices you do not necessarily like. However, the sweep of the Lok Sabha, bagging more than 300 seats out of 500, implies a real problem which is deeper than Modi alone. India might have lost the battle for its soul already. The scale of propaganda the BJP pulled after Pulwama and how it flamed pro-Hindu nationalism has worked. The dream for a more inclusive and neighbour-friendly India has become more distant with this act. But politics is a strange game. Everything depends upon rhetoric and building a strong rhetoric can move mountains, either for better or for worst. Take the example of Egypt; removing Hosni Mubarik was supposed to be a democratic turn of events, but they ended up with another dictator.