Why does Hitler’s legacy in India greatly differs from that in the West. More removed from the traumas associated with World War II and the Holocaust
..An innocent question sometimes comes up with very troubling answer(s).
J’admire ( I admire)… a simple exercise given to students to know from them whom they appreciate as a great historical figure or a hero, became a great learning experience for a teacher who taught French at a private school.
Writer and Journalist Dileep D’souza, who has authored many books, and writes on social-political causes shared the experience of his wife who posed the said question before them during a discussion. What she was expecting that they would mention Gandhi or Bhagat Singh or other luminaries of India’s struggle for freedom and progress but none of her predictions came true. There was a lone student whose choice was Mahatma Gandhi but nine out of 25 students in her class admired Hitler as hero or as a great historical figure.
Explaining his choice the 10 th grader talked of Hitler’s ‘fantastic oratory’, how he loved his country, how he was a ‘great patriot’ and how he helped restore ‘a sense of pride’ to Germany which it had lost after the defeat in the first world war. He had not much sympathy for the millions he slaughtered, his response to it seemed to rationalise it, that ‘some of them were traitors’.
Definitely it was not possible for her to raise questions over this portrayal where an individual was being euologised as a great ”patriot” who had led his country to a devastating war which led to millions of deaths of his own country wo/men. How can his struggle be construed as ‘lifting the country from humiliation’ when the deadly war culminated in division of the country and required help from two big super powers – namely USA and the erstwhile USSR – to rebuild it ? What is this ‘self esteem’ which needs ethnic cleansing of millions of Jews – mostly legal citizens of the same or neighbouring countries ?
There are n number of reports which tell you that this particular school was no exception.
‘Hitler’s Cross’ that was the name of a new restaraunt which had come up in Navi Mumbai. It had caused a tremendous uproar then which sort of forced the owner to change it . Commenting on this episode late Praful Bidwai, the left wing journalist and anti-nuclear activist had shared how Hitler’s admirers can be spotted among the modern urban elite as well which dominates corporate jobs, the professions and the administration. And what he said about youth’s opinion about Hitler is worth quoting in toto :
..[F]or instance, applicants for admission to India’s top-rated college, St Stephen’s College in Delhi, are asked at the final interview who’s their hero or role-model. “
A shocking 60 percent of the candidates say it’s Hitler”, college principal Anil Wilson told IPS.
The figure is astounding. The reason most students cite for their choice is Hitler’s fierce nationalism: he gave Germany “self-esteem”, lifting it from the humiliation heaped on it by the Versailles treaty; his butchery of six million Jews was so much “collateral damage”…
A decade and half ago a poll by a leading newspaper in elite educational institutions across the country had similarly revealed how 17 per cent among them favoured Hitler as the kind of leader India should have. The only saving grace was that Gandhi came first with 23 per cent supporters, Atal Bihari Vajpayee – the then Prime Minister – came second with 22 per cent supporters.
In his writeup ‘Hitler’s Hindus : The Rise and Rise of India’s Nazi loving Nationalists’ the author a digital enterpreneur discusses how in present day India, Hitler’s brand of fascism has taken on a distinctly Indian flavour, authenticated with a combination of ethnic hatred and Hindu nationalism, in stark contrast to the principles of ahimsa (non-violence) that accompanied India’s freedom struggle. 8 Digging into social media he says how it
..[r]eveals that there is a large and growing community of Indian Hindu Nazis, who are digitally connected to neo-Nazi counterparts across the world.
Other social media sites and online platforms too had their share of strange, yet fanatical admiration for Hitler, reframed with Hindu nationalism. “Hitler was great,” said “Hindu Hitler” on rediff.com, a popular Indian web portal. “I too love Hitler and am one of his biggest fans! Hail Hitler!” said one comment on a YouTube channel run by NewsX, a 24-hour English-language news television channel in India. I also found India-based WhatsApp groups discussing Hitler’s “positive contributions.” They portrayed him as Germany’s great leader, a “patriotic nationalist,” who “punished the “traitors.”
It could be argued that Indians are not the only people who admire Hitler.
In a speech Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte had likened himself to Hitler and said that he would “be happy”” to exterminate three million drug users and peddlers in the country. Remember within two months of assuming office more than 3,100 people mostly alleged drug users and dealers, were killed in police operations and in vigilante killings.
It was only last year that the Japanese Cabinet led by the Prime Minister Shizo Abe decided that ‘Mein Kampf’ is of great educational value and can be used in nation’s classrooms.10 What educational value it could figure out in its racist diatribe can be a theme for investigation, a sample of which can be shared here (quoting from Chapter 11, ‘Race and People’
All the great civilizations of the past became decadent because the originally creative race died out, as a result of contamination of the blood.”
It is certain that the first stages of human civilization were not based so much on the use of tame animals as on the employment of human beings who were members of an inferior race.”
When concerns were raised about this controversial step it was revealed how in 2013 a deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso had refused to resign when he was forced to withdraw his comments asking the country to follow Nazi example in changing the constitution. Suggesting that Japan needs to learn from Nazi party which had changed Germany’s constitution before WWII before opposition was organized to prevent them.
“Foreign Policy’ a journal from USA had published a story detailing ‘positive perspective on Hitler’ in non-western world. As opposed to his image of a mass murderer and a racist bigot who yearned for world domination prevalent in the western world, he is also seen as an “anti-imperialist rebel” due to his nationalistic struggle against “Anglo-French-American-Zionist domination.” It quotes the then President Mugabe who then happened to be Zimbabwe’s 92-year-old strongman, comparing himself not only to Christ but to Hitler in a speech in 2003
“I am still the Hitler of [this] time. This Hitler has only one objective: justice for his people, sovereignty for his people, recognition of the independence of his people and their rights over their resources. If that is Hitler, then let me be Hitler tenfold. Ten times, that is what we stand for,”
No doubt Indian’s love for Hitler is incomparable to the rest of the world.
Around ten years back attention of the West was first drawn to this phenomenon when London’s Daily Telegraph, published an article with a headline: “Indian business students snap up copies of Mein Kampf”(20 April 2009)
Question arises why Hitler is so ‘popular’ in India – especially among middle and upper middle class youth, professionals, etc ? And this despite the fact that in his best seller book he specifically says that Indians are not capable of self-rule and he would rather see them under British rule than anyone else.
In his only visit to Hitler – during his around two year stay in Germany – when he was trying to cobble up an army to fight Britishers, the legendary freedom fighter Subhash Chandra Bose is reported to have asked him to revise this portion from his book which sort of denigrated Indians and glorified Britishers.
It is a different matter that Hitler did not pay any heed to it…..
( An extract from ‘Hindutva’s Second Coming’ by Subhash Gatade, http://www.mediahouse.online)
Media House, 2019