The co-existence of culturally varied ethnic or religious communities has been marred by persistent conflicts and often resulted in the subjugation of one by the other. When the differences become pronounced, the rhetoric reverberates on either side of the conflicting parties. However, the survival of minority is founded on the compromise it makes against the collective conscience of the dominant group but it is in the human nature to push an adversary against their limits of tolerance which results in more intense and sometimes violent confrontations. I will be taking the post First World War Germany as a case here and scoop out some analogy to the contemporary Indian and Nepalese politics.
Though the morals of the world are ever changing, the divide amongst the people on the basis of color, creed, language or nationalities has always found a place to thrive. It seems to be latent in humans which surfaces and is heightened by the fear and insecurities even when they have no rational basis.
Germany lost the first word war and was in the state of an utter destruction. To further add to their humiliation, the Treaty of Versailles compelled Germans to leave claim over some of their territory and heavily restrict the military activities. Soon after what followed in Germany would constitute the matter of prime interest for us.
It was in the year 1933, Adolf Hitler was appointed the Chancellor of Germany and the preceding as well as the succeeding events are testimony to how the use of a categorically crafted propaganda campaign laced with incendiary languages can stir up the irrational passions and drive the deprived masses into a delusional frenzy.
The strengthening of prejudices and the blame-game
After the end of the war, the rumor started doing rounds that the Germans lost due to a Jewish conspiracy. The Communist opposed the war and it was said that Jews were behind the teachings of Communist. The allegation was that the Jews colluded with the Bolsheviks to sign the Treaty of Versailles.
The bias and prejudices towards the Jews had already existed in Germany for centuries which put Jews on unfavorable terms with rest of the German population. Now that the rumors of a Jewish conspiracy against the German nation was circulating unchecked, it helped to solidify the pre-existing beliefs that the Jews were not to be trusted with. With it, the hate crime against Jews rose by many folds after the war. The hyperinflation during early 20s increased the difficulty in day to day life of the Germans and to blame Jews and vent their frustration for the crisis provided comfort to the public.
What is happening in the world mirrors the events of past. In India, Muslims forms the part of the same conspiracy theory whereas Madheshis are blamed as the one advancing Indian agendas in Nepal. Both Muslim and Madheshi community are minority in India and Nepal respectively. In both cases, it follows a similar pattern. There are deep rooted pre-existing prejudices against Muslims in India and against Madheshis in Nepal. The fear of a Muslim takeover in India and a fear of an Indian takeover of Nepal has been exploited to justify the hatred and unfair treatment subjected to these communities in their respective countries. As the dispute between India and Pakistan intensifies, the Muslim community in India faces flak whereas whenever an issue of contention between India and Nepal becomes prominent, a Madheshi conspiracy theory surfaces as an appendage.
The language and the culture becomes subject of numerous attacks and anyone veering off from the popular opinion is deemed the enemy of the nation even when the issue hardly concerns the security of the nation in question. When one analyzes the social media trends, and the speeches of the politicians, one can discern a tacit racism and as the momentum builds up, the hate is expressed explicitly.
The Justification of hate crimes and the complicit nature of the State
The Weimar Republic’s new constitution granted liberties previously unheard of. This gave the ultranationalist a free hand. They went at length to demonize Jews by the use of written and visual propagandas. The lies become truth when it’s fed to you every day and at every place. The constant effort to manipulate the public was advancing with a fervent pace and the result was visible.
The judiciary played a noxious role as well. The court was extremely lenient towards perpetrators of the hate crime against the Jews. There was campaign to discredit Weimar Republic. The ultranationalist labeled it the “Jew Republic” and even the Supreme Court allowed the term to be used, justifying its opinion by maintaing that the formation of the post-war government was chiefly due to the instigation of the German and the foreign Jews. One could murder a Jew and justify the crime as an act of patriotism. Such was the mood of the German Nation. In 1922, the Jewish German Foreign Minister Walter Rathenau was murdered by a group of ultranationalist. In their defense, the perpetrators without showing any remorse justified murdering Rathenau as they thought him to be the part of the Jewish conspiracy against the Germans. This extremely horrifying trend reflected all over the Germany during those years.
Similarly in India the campaign to change the narrative of Muslims is at its utmost pace. The revised curriculum in Indian schools has been made to include inherent bias against the historical Muslim figures. The campaign to replace the “Islamic” names of the historical places has also gained approval from the masses. This is primarily to erase any trace which points towards the Indian-ness of Muslims. Not only that, the Politicians from the ruling party have gone at length in public to justify the lynching of Muslims in various parts of the country. Even the administration and the judiciary has been complicit in this endeavor to some extent. The perpetrators of hate crimes walk free while the dissenters are being locked up.
In Nepal, the police which in normal circumstances is quick to designate any offensive content on the internet as an act of Cybercrime has not acted on the complaints filed for action against individuals preaching hate against the Madheshi Community. In fact, in one case the Nepal Police justified the action of the perpetrator by arguing that the speech was directed against Indians and not Madheshi. However, the video explicitly mentions Madheshi as part of the problems. These are clearly not isolated incidents as the trend has emerged to discredit Madheshi community for the action India takes. The inaction of authorities have only encouraged others who chose to abuse the Madheshi community.
The role of a Crisis and the notion of a glorious past
In the eyes of public, the inaction of authorities to prosecute the one committing crime against the Jewish community was a sign that the Germans need to do away with the Jew. Moreover, the Nazi party explicitly campaigned to exclude the Jews from the German Nationality. The indoctrination of youth by the Nazi further increased their grip on their hate campaign. However, the Nazi Party couldn’t convert its propagandas in to an electoral success early on. It needed a crisis.
The Great Depression of 1929 was the crisis, the Nazi party heavily profited on. The unemployment skyrocketed and subsequently the poverty level worsened. It is in a crisis like this people seek an alternative to a seemingly weak government. Hitler appealed to the public with his eloquence and assertiveness. His theory on how the Jews were to blame for every harm seemed more plausible during the crisis. This elevated status of Hitler propped up the Nazi party to an electoral success and by 1933 Hitler was the Chancellor of Germany and later the Fuhrer of the “Third Reich”.
In India after the World financial crisis, the unemployment and the inflation was on an increasing trend and the BJP seemed to be an alternative to the Indian Congress which was accused of favouring the minority Muslims disproportionately. Though many Muslim leaders were part of the Indian Congress, the accusation of bestowing a disproportionate favour to Muslims was a myth solely constructed to project majority Hindus as the real victims of the state policies. The majority population perceived they have been wronged and with a massive propaganda labelling Muslims as the invaders and Islam as a foreign religion, the BJP consolidated its hold on the Hindu majority and subsequently formed the government. To Indians, the appeal to return India to its past glory was as fascinating as returning Germany to its glory to the Germans during the post war years.
In Nepal, the notion of being always existed as an Independent nation has some traits similar to what I described of the past glories of India and Germany. Since, the Nepalese textbooks fails to mention the history of Madhehsi people living along the southern part of Nepal, they seem to be missing the Nepali-ness which ought to be present in every “dutiful” citizen. As the past glory of Nepal has exclusionary flavor, a return to it would demand to maintain its purity and hence a constant attempt to drive Madheshi culture out of the national interpretation.
Though the situation in India has worsened significantly over the years, Nepal has yet to see a radical or continuous violent movements against any minority. Therefore, it would be prudent if engagements in meaningful dialogues are encouraged to combat to the spread of rumors. While saying this, I would also like to add that it takes almost no time to make a seemingly peaceful co-existence to turn into a senseless confrontation.
Questions to ponder over
The events leading up to 1933 in Germany has numerous other parallels in the contemporary world but I won’t wander over them more in this write up. Now, Let us ask some questions which are essential. Why do we hate? Why do we seem to lose the power of reasoning when it is needed the most? Why does the masses attach as a unit and function as a single brain when the crisis hit. Why someone who speaks for reason becomes the enemy? Why do people go into a frenzy even when it is conspicuously detrimental to their own good? Why do people choose to kill other simply because of their identity even when the other presents no immediate harm to you?
I believe when the narrative is presented as of others munching on the resources you deserve, you instantly long to get it back. The Germans thought they were deprived of their land, wealth, power, dignity and glory. That was a humiliation on their perceived superiority. They heavily resented but at the same time wanted it to be corrected and be compensated. The Weimar Republic didn’t fascinate the public to a degree the Nazis did. Nazis spoke what the public wanted to hear. The Nazi Party was at the political scene of Germany with a message that was simple for public to grasp. When you are reeling with any difficulty, it seems imprudent to ponder over compassion for others. It seems that if you start to think for others you lose some of what little already belongs to you. So you judge it best to rather take from others than to share your own.
However, the philosophy which enabled people to vehemently exclude and murder others for no apparent reasons, destroyed them as well. When you create a fire to burn others and leave it unchecked, there are chances it will burn you the moment unnoticed. Ultimately, it was the German people who suffered from the policies of the Nazi.
Very often the campaign of hate accumulates to usurping of absolute power and the leaders with an ambition to exercise full control over the masses see no other alternative to reach their goal. This is the path where one expends minimum energy of their own but at the same time demands others to invest their life to it. Masses are driven crazy to an extent where the anarchy brought in by the philosophy of hate gets its meaning and what else humans want than to find a meaning in their purpose? You feel complete when you seemingly stumble upon the ultimate purpose of your life. However irrational or unjustified it may seem. You think you are sacrificing yourself for a greater cause, the cause which itself is narrow to start with. The paranoid masses are quick to learn the skills needed to defend themselves which in fact are the skills to attack others. In all, we live with delusion and it’s extremely hard to do away with it unless one press for rational reasons to account for their own actions.