THE fiendish worldview of Norway’s mass murderer shares a range of features with right-wing ideologues everywhere, not just with Hindu extremism, which he sees as an ally in a delusionary war with Muslims and Marxists.
His hatred of Muslims may betray a narrow communal bias. But then, all religious extremists hate rival religions.
It is Anders Behring Breivik’s hatred of Marxists, not so much of a religious foe, that betrays far more in common with Europe’s right-wing movements of the 1920s and after. And here the root is not spiritual but purely material, the kind that usually finds wide support from a combination of existing feudal and capitalist elites.
In this sense, Osama bin Laden who became a global symbol of religious terror after September 2001 and Nathuram Godse, who killed Mahatma Gandhi in 1948, though imbued with messianic zeal of a high order were both creatures of the modern market, products of modern ideologies even if they were clothed in mediaevalism.
Godse killed Gandhi to stop him from handing over money promised at the time of Partition to Pakistan. His comrades in the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) and the Hindu Mahasabha had a pathological hatred of India’s communists. Thus they had the support of a powerful section of India’s business elite.
Osama served to dismantle communism in Afghanistan amid wide applause but then tragically sought to control the oil resources of Saudi Arabia, which cast him in the role of Frankenstein’s monster as far as global markets were concerned.
Similarly, the barbaric Taliban were acceptable until they fell foul of Washington for failing to impress in a botched Unocal pipeline deal.
However, contrary to the suggestion that Anders Behring Breivik was inspired by Hindutva, a suggestion gleaned by some Indian journalists from his ‘manifesto, the fact is that India’s Hindutva menace is itself a product of the political churnings that took place in Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany in the 1920s.
The history of right-wing Islam and right-wing Hindutva in South Asia was shaped and nudged by material circumstances not spiritual bombast though it provided the cover. Multiculturalists and radical feminists, targeted by Breivik in his ‘manifesto’, provide considerable grist to his nefarious thoughts, but that is a feature the Christian radical has in common with Islamist and Hindutva revivalists.
In short, world capitalism is in a crisis and it spurs rightwing political consolidation. This could take the form of secular motifs of Gen Musharraf, Manmohan Singh or an Obama or the more parochial exhortations of their rivals. The direction of the drift towards war and mayhem is no different.
In the case of India and Pakistan, the militarisation of the political system is happening with an eye on targets within their own borders against their own people. The Norwegian killer’s use of the war idiom is of a piece with his powerful peers elsewhere.
The economics of terrorism has its own momentum and logic. It was no coincidence at all that the Babri mosque was razed within days of an unprecedented crisis when India was teetering on the brink of default and had to deposit its gold reserves in foreign banks. Its energy bill had shot up due to the military situation in the Gulf while its captive markets in the Soviet Union had evaporated with the host country.
That India’s move towards neo-liberal economic policies had no popular basis surfaced twice in a sleight of hand committed on its parliament. Its surest ally has been the upsurge in state-backed religious polarisation between Hindus and Muslims, not because of the religious differences they carry but because of the emotive distraction they provide from the state’s less spiritual agenda.
The method is an old one. For example, Bal Thackeray’s Hindutva hordes were unleashed on communist trade unions in Mumbai to placate the business lobbies. The agenda hasn’t changed except that Muslims have replaced the communist unions as targets.
Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi has a strong endorsement from India’s business captains to be the country’s next prime minister, not because he sponsored the mass killing of innocent civilians in 2002, but because he successfully used religious emotions to divide a popular resistance against a full-blown corporate takeover of the state in which the poor of every shade, not just Muslims, are being ghettoised.
“Breivik’s manifesto isn’t even original, borrowing heavily from the writings of Ted Kaczynski, the US terrorist known as the Unabomber, while his obsession with the Knights Templar is wearily familiar,” wrote an analyst in The Independent. Older role models from Europe began to cast their shadow over South Asia between the two world wars.
RSS founder member and Hindu Mahasabha leader M.S. Moonje learnt his skills when he visited Mussolini and Italy’s Central Military School of Physical Education, the Fascist Academy of Physical Education, and, most important, the Balilla and Avanguardisti, organisations that continue to influence right-wing upsurge in India.