When Israeli filmmaker Nadav Lapid recently called The Kashmir Files, a film about the 1990 expulsion of Kashmiri pandits (Kashmir Hindus) from Kashmir, “vulgar” and state “propaganda,” all hell broke loose in India . Hindutva followers heavily criticized his statements.
Lapid had been invited by the Indian government to chair the jury at the government-organized International Film Festival of India in Goa, where he provided his comments.
It’s no secret that the right-wing Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government had publicly supported the film, with even Prime Minister Narendra Modi applauding the film for showing “the truth” about the Pandit exodus from Kashmir, which he “had been”. oppressed for years.” She has persistently attempted to portray the 1990 expulsion of Kashmiri pandits from Kashmir, the country’s only Muslim-majority state, as Hindu “genocide”.
In a previous article in The Diplomat, I detailed how “The Kashmir Files” was used as a tool by the BJP and the Sangh Parivar, a “family” of right-wing Hindu organizations of which the BJP is a part, to fuel their hatred and Islamophobia in the country.
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When the Israeli director dissed the film, BJP supporters and their army of trolls reacted quickly, prompting Israeli diplomats to rush in to profusely apologise. Israel’s Ambassador to India, Naor Gilon, wrote an open letter to his “Indian brothers and sisters” condemning Lapid’s remarks while rushing to dismiss those (trolls) who doubted the Holocaust and Schindler’s List. Gilon’s letter aimed to ensure the episode didn’t derail the Indo-Israeli ties that have grown over the past eight years of Modi-led BJP rule.
Modi’s association with Israel’s Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu — Indo-Israeli cooperation has increased manifold in recent years, be it on agriculture, defense deals or surveillance technology — has often been dubbed the “Bibi-Modi bromance.” Israel has consistently backed the Indian government’s stance in insurgency-torn Jammu and Kashmir, even as Modi took the controversial step of rescinding his constitutionally granted autonomy.
Not surprisingly, the Hindu nationalist BJP party and Zionist Israel have close ties.
The BJP and its ideological mentor, the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), have long admired the Jewish supremacist policies of Israel, where majority (Jewish) thinking is enshrined in the constitution. RSS ideologue Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, revered by the BJP, in his book “Hindutva” (1923) called for the creation of a Hindu Rashtra (Hindu state) and looked forward to the fulfillment of the “Zionist dream” of Palestine in a Jewish state. Hindutva advocates have long championed Israel’s exclusionary policies toward Palestinian Muslims, who validate their own anti-Muslim prejudices. Israel’s military-state model and muscular state policies have also appealed to Hindu nationalists.
RSS boss Mohan Bhagwat has often praised Israel. He has upheld Israel’s “strong policies” to illustrate how the small nation has won six wars. Israel’s controversial policy towards the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories does not provoke criticism from Hindutva supporters.
The racist ideas of the Hindutva of the Sangh Parivar are inspired by Israel’s policy of exclusion. The Modi government’s controversial Citizenship Amendment Act, for example, which grants citizenship rights to Hindus from neighboring countries while denying that right to Muslims, mirrors Israel’s discriminatory Law of Return, which gives Jews around the world the right to citizenship.
Israel vigorously supported India’s CAA law despite international criticism.
Interestingly, last year Israeli Consul General Kobi Shoshani was the main guest at the RSS’s prestigious annual Vijayadashami celebration, where Bhagwat’s speech expressed his serious concerns about “the growing population of Muslims in the country.” (In a previous article I drew attention to the fallacy of the Hindutva claim by pointing to the sharply declining Muslim fertility rate in India.)
Hindutva hardliner Subramanian Swamy, who is also a member of the upper house of India’s parliament, has hailed the close ties between Zionism and Hindutva. He has repeatedly argued for the need for a strong Indian state, especially as India, like Israel, is surrounded by hostile neighbors.
Hindutva has been the ideological compass for state politics since the BJP came to power in 2014 and Modi, under whose rule as Gujarat’s prime minister anti-Muslim riots took place in 2002.
BJP leaders and senior ministers often incite hatred against Muslims, who make up 14 percent of India’s population. “Goli Maaron Saalon ko” (shoot down those treacherous Muslims), said BJP leader Kapil Mishra in a public speech in 2021. More recently, Home Secretary Amit Shah justified the mass killing of Muslims in Gujarat in 2002 by saying that they “were taught a lesson” and that the BJP has since pacified the state. Encouraged by such hate speech, Hindu leaders have called for genocide against Muslims at Hindu conclaves. Muscular Hindutva nationalism has become the cornerstone of Modi’s government. Narendra Modi is a trained RSS Pracharak (Propagator of RSS Philosophy).
Interestingly, while the Sangh Parivar has an affinity for the Jewish state, its founders also harbored a deep admiration for the Nazi movement in Germany. Hindutva’s early proponents, including Madhav Sadhashivrao Golwalkar, Keshav Boliram Hedgewar, and Savarkar, glorified Adolf Hitler and his advocacy of the supremacy of the Aryan race. In fact, her writings reflect her fervent admiration for Nazi Germany and its “cleansing” of the German nation from an alien race, namely the Jews. Golwalkar stressed that Hindustan (India) had to take a “lesson” from Nazi Germany. Fascist notions of “purity” and superiority of the Aryan race fueled the Hindutva ideologues, who claimed that in Hindu Rashtra, foreign races (Muslims) must embrace Hindu culture.
In We or Our Nationhood Defined, Golwalkar asserted that alien races must be subordinate to the Hindu nation and must “lose (sic) their separate existence in order to merge in the Hindu race.” From his point of view, they are not entitled to civil rights.
It is not surprising, then, that radicalized Hindu youth, including engineering students studying at elite colleges, are using technology and the digital landscape to wage war against Muslims, whom they see as obstacles to their goal of creating a Hindu state . Their xenophobic tirades resemble the rhetoric of white Nazi sympathizers.
Lapid, who is a vocal critic of his own government’s policies, told the Israeli newspaper Ynet: “In countries that are increasingly losing the ability to speak their mind or speak the truth, someone needs to have their say.” As he described Speaking of what he felt after watching The Kashmir Files, he said: “I couldn’t help but imagine its Israeli equivalent, which doesn’t exist but definitely could exist. So I felt I had to [speak out]because I come from a place that is not reformed itself, and I am on the way to these places myself.”
A damning indictment of a Hindutva propaganda vehicle.