Neoliberalism as an ideology emerged in central Europe during early 20th century in opposition to socialism as an alternative to imperial, colonial and capitalist plunder, war and economic crisis. The Department of Economics at the University of Chicago shaped neoliberalism as a strategy to shift the power from workers to the owners of capital by weakening the state and expanding the ideals of free market. These strategies were converted into economic policies and projects to undermine the power of labour by marginalising it both in economic and social terms. Neoliberalism today has become a political and economic project of capitalist classes to pursue their economic interests with the help of ruling classes. Such a project encompasses all spheres of social, economic political, cultural and religious lives of people.
The postcolonial economic and development planning helped neoliberalism to integrate itself slowly within Indian context. From 1980s onwards, neoliberal economic policies were pursued as a strategy of economic growth which helped global, national and local capitalist classes. Such a strategy helped to consolidate capitalist classes and marginalised the masses in India. In the beginning, Hindutva politics used to support nationalistic economic policies and opposed to neoliberal economic policies as part of its populist and so-called nationalist narrative. But from 1990s onward, neoliberalism consolidated its base in India. The national and regional mainstream political parties in India continue to articulate economic interests of the capitalist classes by pursuing neoliberalism as a project of economic growth and development.
The neoliberal economic policies pursued by the Indian National Congress has helped to create the conditions for the growth and consolidation of Hindutva fascists in Indian politics. Hindutva fascists helped the capitalist classes to consolidate their base in India. The undisputed neoliberal economic paradigm is redrawing the nature of relationship between politics, society, state and individuals as citizens in India. In such a context, the state has abandoned its own citizens and becoming a security state to protect the interests of the capitalist classes. The citizens are suffering under hunger, homelessness, unemployment, illiteracy, illness, and hopelessness. The social and economic alienation produces political distrust and historic opportunities for the growth and consolidation of Hindutva politics in India. The abject condition of alienation produced by neoliberalism becomes life and blood of right-wing religious politics of Hindutva forces in India.
Hindutva politics plays two roles in India. It is in government led by Narendra Modi who pursues all economic policies to uphold interests of the global, national and regional capitalist classes. In one hand, Hindutva politics is constitutive part of neoliberal project. On the other hand, it articulates the anger against neoliberalism and its political establishment. It looks like Hindutva politics has a contradictory relationship with neoliberalism. But in reality, the first role is an integral and organic relationship between Hindutva politics and neoliberalism. The second role is part of the half-hearted populist narrative to capture the state power by electoral means to pursue the first role. Therefore, Hindutva forces consolidate neoliberalism and neoliberalism consolidates Hindutva forces position in society, politics and economy. There is no contradiction between Hindutva politics and neoliberal economic policies in India.
The forward march of neoliberal Hindutva politics is in its way to establish Hindutva fascism in India by converting India’ secular state into a Hindu state. In the process of establishing this dream project of the RSS, the Modi government is destroying institutions established by liberal, democratic and constitutional traditions in India. It is not an anarchy of Hindutva politics but a systematic shock doctrine to achieve their goal to establish a theocratic Hindu state. Neoliberalism and theocratic politics move together as twins. It serves each other’s purpose. The theocratic political culture of Hindutva is established by the RSS which produces prejudice and hate. Such a culture diverts people’s attention from real issues of their lives and livelihoods. The diversionary tactics of Modi government helps both the capitalist classes and fascist RSS to implement their agenda.
There are fundamental similarities between fascism in Europe and Hindutva fascism in India. The growing street violence, lynching and killing of Muslims, Dalits, Communists, prejudice against religious minorities, capturing state power by electoral means and infiltration of RSS into judiciary, universities, army, media, police and bureaucracy are some of the similarities between European fascism in early 20th century and Hindutva fascism in India today. There is much resonant here. European fascism took a decade to evolve during 1930s but Hindutva fascism is institutionalised and internalised nearly for a century in India since 1920s. Hindutva fascism is not only populist but also popular beyond the cow belt of Hindi heartland. It has expanded its support base from landed elites and business communities to rural areas of India. The neoliberal economic policies marked the difference between European fascism and Hindutva fascism in India. The all-out onslaught on labour laws and labour movements are common features between neoliberalism and Modi led Hindutva fascist government in India.
Neoliberalism and Hindutva fascism is grounded on the twin idea of spreading fear and insecurities, which helps in the re-emergence of different reactionary religious and regional fault lines in the society. This helps Hindutva fascists to consolidate their power by using security infrastructure in the name of unity and integrity of India and Indian nationalism. Hindutva fascists are also committed to neoliberalism ideology as an economic policy strategy. Neoliberal and Hindutva fascist forces are suspicious of democracy. Both consider the ideals of debate, disagreements and dissents as existential threats. Therefore, there is diminishing support for democratic culture, individual dignity, human rights and individual liberty. Such developments are integral part of neoliberal political and economic culture concomitant with the interests of the Hindutva fascist forces in India.
The disaster that is unfolding in India today is a product of arrange cum love marriage between Hindutva politics and neoliberal economic policies. Such an alliance produces deaths and destitutions. Any search for alternatives in India depends on united struggle against Hindutva and neoliberalism. It is a common battle that can pave the path towards sustainable alternatives. The only option is to struggle continuously for alternatives by fighting against neoliberalism and Hindutva.
Bhabani Shankar Nayak, University of Coventry, UK