Understanding Hindutva Neoliberalism in India

Towards A New Dawn...the other voice of the people: Neo-liberal Hindutva:  Era of Indian McCarthyism

by Bhabani Shankar Nayak      18 January 2021

Hindutva neoliberalism in India is a specific variant of capitalism that enforces economic and political oligarchy in the name of ethnic and majoritarian nationalism. It liberalizes the market for a few to establish a dominant corporate monopoly. It does not allow complete free-market competition as a distributive mechanism. It allows few crony corporations to control the production processes, coordinate the distribution mechanisms, and determine the nature of demand and supply in the Indian economy. The laissez-faire led ideological narratives of neoliberalism around ‘free individual,’ ‘freedom of choice’ and ‘free market’ is absent within ‘Hindutva neoliberalism.’ The liberal ideals of market forces within neoliberalism are completely absent within India’s Hindutva variant. It does not completely break away from 19th-century capitalism but continues with its old foundations. It provides a new but robust direction to 21st-century capitalism in which the Indian state, BJP as a political party, and Modi government work together to pursue corporate profit. The cultural nationalism of BJP and RSS is a hoax. It marginalizes the masses by spreading a false sense of nationalist pride with populist electoral democracy shaped by corporate media.

There is a perceived distinction between Hindutva neoliberalism and the worldwide practice of neoliberalism as an ideological project. But there is no contradiction or any confusion between neoliberalism and Hindutva in India. Both the global and national capitalist forces find Hindutva a convenient cannon to capture Indian natural and human resources. The Hindutva neoliberalism led by the RSS and BJP helps break away from the ‘Washington consensus,’ which advocates the framework of limited ‘capital-labor accord’ for capitalism’s growth. The Hindutva neoliberalism helps to strip away all workers’ rights and all protective measures by reforming labor laws before and during this pandemic. The limited welfare state has no place within Hindutva neoliberalism. It neither believes in minimum governance nor in maximum governance, as Mr. Narendra Modi claimed, the poster boy of Hindutva neoliberalism. The fascist and authoritarian character of Hindutva neoliberalism is concomitant with the undemocratic tendencies of neoliberalism. There is absolute corporate consensus between obscurantist Hindutva politics and monopoly capitalism. The Hindutva forces make laws on agriculture, land, labor, water, mineral resources, and the environment to advance and insulate corporate forces from democratic discontents by declaring all forms of progressive political movements as anti-national.

The Hindutva neoliberalism facilitates capitalism in India by establishing political, social, religious, and cultural dominance of the Brahminical caste order. The established caste hierarchy’s majoritarian social relations help neoliberalism pursue its agendas without political and social barriers. The caste system is not only normalizing exploitation but also naturalizing all forms of inequalities in India. Such a feudal and authoritarian ideological framework established by caste and its cohesive order provides breathing space to both Hindutva and neoliberalism in India. Deregulation, privatization, corporate tax reduction, dismantling the state command economy, and minimizing government roles are common features between global neoliberalism and Hindutva neoliberalism. Global neoliberalism believes in trade liberalization, but Hindutva neoliberalism believes in few compliant corporations’ trade monopoly.  Both work in unison despite minor differences between global neoliberalism and Hindutva neoliberalism.

From Hayekians to Keynesians and from the Geneva School of policymaking to the Chicago School of economists and policymakers were responsible for shaping neoliberalism as an ideological project of a capitalist alternative to communism. These ideological adherents have naively believed and afloat the idea that the liberal and welfare path can also defeat fascism and its other authoritarian variants by upholding ‘individual freedom and choice’ as sacrosanct. These neoliberal ideologues have argued that the combination of individual liberties with desire-based capitalist markets can shape the future of democracy and prosperity in society. Such naïve philosophical formulations, economic myopia, and political misunderstandings continue to expose itself, and its utopian outlook as global neoliberalism continues to assault democracies across the globe.

Global neoliberalism has allied with the most illiberal forces in politics, culture, and society today. The Hindutva neoliberalism paves a new path for global neoliberal capitalism, where democracy, state, and governments lost their public legitimacy in the popular imagination. This is the best recipe to establish absolute control over people, the planet, and resources without any form of political resistance. Ethnic authoritarianism is an invaluable means for global neoliberal capitalism to survive and expand itself with the growth of ethnic politics like Hindutva forces in India. The ethnic politics of Hindutva is not only destroying the unity of working people but also diminishing citizenship rights by othering religious minorities in India. Such processes weaken the conflicts between labor and capital.

The Karma theory of reincarnation and salvation provides the philosophical foundation to Hindutva neoliberalism by shaping ideas and naturalizing them to blame their own Karma for their own miseries. Such processes of individualization of ‘self’ and demonization of ‘others’ help Hindutva and neoliberalism pursue their political and economic projects in India. The culture of neoliberal fragmentation and identity-based political mobilization provides a coherent framework for Hindutva neoliberalism to establish itself as a formidable force in India. Both Hindutva and neoliberalism discipline citizens and coverts them as mere customers, who are seeking satisfaction, utility, and pleasure as mere consumers of commodities. The wholesale normalization of consumerism’s culture under Hindutva neoliberalism dehumanizes and dismantles societies, where unities and solidarities are becoming elusive. Therefore, Muslims’ lynching, raping women, sexual abuse of children, violence against women, Kashmiris, Dalits, and tribals are not provoking mass struggles against injustices in India. This callous culture is an outcome of everyday Hindutva neoliberalism, which is practiced and promoted by the Modi led BJP government in India.

The Hindutva neoliberalism marketizes every sphere of life in Hindu cultural nationalism at India and Indians’ cost. Mr. Narendra Modi and his party follow market-led media mediated public opinion management as the human development index falls to the bottom of the international development pyramid. The manipulation of the public mind with majoritarian dominance and reactionary values led by Hindutva neoliberalism has failed to obscure India’s mass miseries and marginalization.  The struggles for citizenship rights, the farmer’s struggle against corporate control over agriculture, the resistance movements against privatization and liberalization, the struggle for justice led by women, students, Dalits, tribals, and workers are hopes to reclaim India from Hindutva neoliberalism and its dehumanizing values. These resistance movements can only help in deepening constitutional democracy. The struggles are the only ways to repair the broken republic shattered by Hindutva neoliberalism.

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