Ecofascism and Indian nationalism

In our new e book The Rise of Ecofascism, we focus on the local weather politics of the Entrance Nationwide in France, Fidesz in Hungary, and Rodrgio Duterte within the Philippines as variants of those local weather ‘acceptors’. Right here, we have a look at one notably essential and complicated group: the Indian far proper, led by Narendra Modi, Indian Prime Minister since 2014.

Alongside the Indus river lie the territorial claims of three nuclear powers: China (by means of Tibet), India (by means of Kashmir) and Pakistan. The river is without delay one of the vital essential on the planet, notably for Pakistan, whose breadbasket area it irrigates, and runs by means of one of the vital closely contested territories on the planet. Vital parts of Hindu nationalist politics are intimately tied up with management of the river and the broader Kashmir area.


A collection of hydroelectric dams constructed on the Indus by India have been contested by Pakistan, who declare it might permit India to close off the move of the river Pakistan depends on to develop crops, a doubtlessly devastating geopolitical weapon. It’s not but clear how precisely local weather change will change its move, however undoubtedly its variability will improve. This might result in harmful volatility within the area.

Into this advanced scenario steps Modi. Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Get together (BJP) has positioned itself to defend the pursuits of Hindus on the expense of minorities. Modi’s popularity was cemented by the pogrom in opposition to Muslims in Gujarat in 2002, the place the official depend paperwork 790 Muslims and 254 Hindus died – the actual numbers are in all probability a lot greater.

Some have claimed that Modi ‘initiated, inspired and condoned it’. The pogrom in Gujarat was adopted by violence in opposition to minorities in Orissa in 2007 and 2008 and in Muzaffarnagar in 2013.

What’s the social operate of those acts of violence? Anti-caste chief Dr. B.R. Ambedkar wrote in 1936 that ‘a caste has no feeling that it’s affiliated to different castes besides when there’s a Hindu-Muslim riot’. Class battle (and caste battle) in India are suppressed by means of the unification of the disparate teams in anti-Muslim violence.

The second chief of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a big Hindu nationalist group in India with shut ties to the BJP, M.S. Golwalkar, who stays a significant ideological touchstone for the group, argued that there have been three enemies that imperil the Hindu nation: Muslims, Christians and Communists.


These enemies are alike in a single respect: “they threaten to disrupt the supposedly ‘pure’ unity and concord of the Hindu race and Hindu civilization, which stretches again to time immemorial”. In 1939, he recommended that Nazi Germany was an excellent mannequin for Hindu Nationalists to comply with.

A number of the locations the place the RSS’s vigilante ‘ethical policing’ have been most distinguished – resembling ‘cow defenders’ who assault Muslims accused of consuming or slaughtering cows, which is prohibited in Hinduism – concern the human relationship to a spiritualized nature.

Certainly, the rising vigilante militancy of the RSS, mixed with its mobilization round stark non secular and ethnic divisions, makes the scenario in India arguably the closest in kind to classical fascism of all international locations of the modern interval.

If the RSS and BJP are dedicated to the development of a Hindu state, maybe we should always see Modi’s environmental politics as intertwined with this challenge. Modi’s report into Gujarat’s response to local weather change, revealed when he was chief minister, opens with a dialogue of the Rig Veda, the oldest of the canonical Hindu texts.

Modi factors out that the “Rig Veda . . . emphasised on the significance [sic] of Panch Tatvas (5 components), earth, air, water, photo voltaic vitality, and sky.” He goes on, “any disproportionate use of those energies will trigger air pollution and can promote selfishness, instincts of violence, jealousy – inimical to human improvement”.


Elsewhere, Modi has referred to as for “particular consideration to yoga amidst discussions about local weather change”. Explaining local weather change as a religious downside will not be distinctive to Modi, however he’s undoubtedly essentially the most vital individual to take action.

Methods to perceive these remarks? Jyoti Puri has argued that they “derived from established discourses of Hindu spiritualism that had been produced in opposition to, and as a treatment for, Western materialism”.

In 2014, newly prime minister, he bordered on outright denial: “Local weather has not modified. We’ve modified. Our habits have modified […] If we alter, it [nature] is already prepared to alter. People shouldn’t battle with the setting. People ought to love the setting. Be it water, air, crops.” Equally, as late as 2019, his setting minister denied that the devastating floods within the nation had been brought on by local weather change.

All through Modi’s premiership, environmental laws have been scrapped. Some 99.82 per cent of business initiatives proposed in forests have been authorized, up from 80 per cent.

Within the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government launched plans to exempt “coal mining, cement crops, chemical fertilizers, manufacturing of acids and pesticides” in addition to these “regarding nationwide defence and safety or different strategic issues” from public session.


Air pollution targets have been scrapped for energy crops and, within the first half of 2016, sixteen new energy crops went on-line with out clear air expertise put in. The Modi authorities has additionally cracked down on environmental NGOs, in late 2014 blocking the move of abroad funds to Greenpeace India due to ‘anti-national’ actions, and in 2020 concentrating on Indian Fridays for Future activists.

It has pushed to additional take away the protections put in place after the 1984 Bhopal catastrophe, by which 1000’s died and over half one million folks had been uncovered to extremely poisonous chemical substances.

This speedy improvement at the price of environmental destruction will not be unconnected to Modi’s non secular discourse: highways to pilgrimage websites have been pushed by means of ecologically delicate websites, in circumstances with out compensation or session.

There have, nonetheless, been some strikes to mitigate local weather change. The measures outlined in Modi’s report from Gujarat are substantial. In 2014, Modi quintupled India’s goal for photo voltaic vitality manufacturing by 2022 after which in 2015, on the eve of the Paris local weather summit, India indicated for the primary time a willingness to decide to legally binding emissions targets.

In 2015, Modi joined requires a framework of ‘Local weather Justice’. Even right here, non secular discourse is intertwined: the decision got here at a Hindu-Buddhist convention the place Modi proposed that Hinduism and Buddhism – though not Islam – had been united of their ecological sensitivity. In late 2020, India signalled its intention to accentuate its mitigation efforts.


Nevertheless, on the COP26 summit, India was famously concerned in watering down the language of the deal from the proposed ‘part out’ of coal to a mere ‘part down’. Some have argued that this have to be seen within the mild of the historical past of underdevelopment in India.

That is undoubtedly true, and far of our new e book The Rise of Ecofascism is devoted to exploring the administration of the local weather disaster within the lengthy period of colonialism. Extra usually, defenders of Modi have argued that speedy improvement is crucial to assist folks escape the ravages of poverty. It’s a potent argument. 

However environmental laws largely defend these residing in poverty, and the BJP has additionally shredded deliberative points of the state, the place they are often heard. Right here, neoliberal marketisation and deregulation, in addition to the dedemocratisation of the state, go hand in hand with religiously inflected reactionary nature politics, which understands protestors as ‘parasites’.

If Modi’s concern had been for the well-being of the poor, or for social justice, then his insurance policies may scarcely be much less acceptable. As an alternative, the Modi authorities’s reckless place on local weather change mitigation will seemingly find yourself as a catastrophe for India’s poor, simply as they are going to be for the world at massive.


What would possibly we count on sooner or later? Given India’s excessive threat of local weather disruptions, the politics of adaptation there are simply as essential as mitigation.

There’s a worrying risk that the tendency in direction of social unification round anti-Muslim violence and exclusion will intersect sooner or later with local weather change disasters.

It’s on this context that the 2019 modification to the citizenship regulation, which offered a pathway for refugees claiming non secular persecution in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh, however not for Muslims, turns into related: it would permit for future denials of the citizenship of Muslims who can’t show their standing, and make it tough to entry catastrophe assist.

As Aranyo Aarjan writes, “ought to a Hindu nationalist authorities which has proven a flagrant disregard for folks’s lives be accountable for the state of West Bengal, which has a sizeable impoverished Muslim inhabitants and shares an extended border with the Muslim-majority Bangladesh, at a time when as much as 18 million folks will doubtlessly be made into refugees by rising sea ranges alone, the potential outcomes are virtually too bleak to think about.”

These Authors 

Sam Moore and Alex Roberts are the authors of The Rise of Ecofascism, revealed by Polity right now. This excerpt has been revealed with permission from Polity.


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