An Argument for Banning Mein Kampf in India
This piece was written with the intention of being distributed as a short pamphlet. Please send me translations of it in your local language so that I may make them widely available for distribution. In the spirit of building relationships with antifascists in Israel, translations into Hebrew and Arabic are also matters of some importance. Feel free to also support me on Patreon or Ko-fi.
i. What harm can it do? It’s just a book! Besides, there aren’t even any Jewish people in India.
That isn’t true; there are Jewish communities in several parts of India, including Bombay, Ahmedabad, and several parts of Himachal Pradesh. Particularly in HP, BJP fantasies of a “Himachal Mafia” have taken on an antisemitic character which it has used to justify police repression against the state’s tourist economy and it is not uncommon to see overt nazi imagery, such as the flag of the Third Reich. But in the fascist Bharatiya Janata Party’s telling of Mein Kampf, it is more important that the premise is accepted that it is possible for small minority groups to control the world and represent a threat to the purity of the nation. It’s more often that they consider the Muslims or Christians or other dissident groups for this position — groups that don’t fit their vision of who they want in their Hindu Raj. And besides that, heavily mythologised versions of both Nazi Germany and present day Israel are an important part of RSSBJP’s political vision. That is why it is dangerous to have such a text bought and sold in the open in every city the way it is in India.
ii. What does RSSBJP say about Hitler and the Holocaust?
The RSSBJP more or less openly aspires to create a Hindu Hitler. When demonetisation happened, it was praised not because it was a smart or even a sane policy, but simply because it was a strong policy and Modi was able to successfully manipulate people to such an extent. School textbooks write that Hitler “adopted a new economic policy and brought prosperity to Germany” while a recent childrens’ book entitled “Leaders Who Will Inspire You” lists Hitler among other leaders like Winston Churchill, Aung San Suu Kyi, and current Prime Minister Narendra Modi. When reached for comment, the publisher said that the book does not discuss whether they were good or bad leaders, but was “simply portraying how powerful he was as a leader”.
As for the Holocaust, the RSSBJP oscillates between denial-by-omission and active endorsement. BJP supporters can be easily found online endorsing the Holocaust, especially in response to Israeli crimes in the Gaza Strip; although other RSSBJP supporters support the crimes in the Gaza Strip, and for the same reason. In either case, BJP takes on Israeli politics tend to involve the wholesale genocide of somebody or other. They do not discuss Israel without the aim of legitimising wholesale genocide as a political tool. Who exactly it is that should be exterminated is a matter of less importance.
iii. But if we ban books, aren’t we just as bad as the Nazis, who themselves banned many books?
On the contrary, banning books is not unprecedented in India at all. Books are not uncommonly banned here, usually on the grounds of offending the sensibilities of a religious group. This is certainly a charge that can and should be raised against Mein Kampf! Regardless of how one feels about previous books which have been banned in India, we are not the ones opening this can of worms. The banning of books in India is a fact of life, and one we should turn to our advantage.
iv. Then are you saying that it was legitimate to ban those books, and will remain legitimate in the future?
No. One can be not fundamentally opposed to a law without necessarily supporting every use of the law. Those books were banned because of pressure from right-wing religious organisations. The difference here is that this movement is powered by people, seizing control of the democratic infrastructure, rather than right-wing groups, terrorising the state into capitulation. Ideally, the future of Indian politics will see more of the former, less of the latter. That starts now.
iv. But if people read Mein Kampf, won’t it help them understand how insane dictators are?
Nope. While a critical study of fascist texts is an important part of any antifascist movement, most people are not and will never be dedicated antifascists. Most people are simply not literate enough in the political nuances of Germany in the 1920’s to understand why Hitler is wrong. Mein Kampf is full-on propaganda and lies that Germans in the 1920’s did not know how to react to. Reading only Hitler’s point of view will lead to an understanding only of Hitler’s point of view. Instead, there are many other writings that can and should be read for an understanding of fascism, such as Hannah Arendt, Anne Frank, and many contemporary writers who criticise Hindutva as well as other fascist movements. There are things that Hitler wanted us to know about fascism, and there are things that the past, present, and potential future victims of fascism want us to know about fascism. Which would we rather promote?
Besides, we can’t stop people from reading it. But we can stop people from considering it acceptable to buy, sell, and read openly. We can use this campaign to talk about why it is wrong and begin to seize control of the state from far-right groups.