In media accounts today, particularly in India, it seems that any group which identifies itself as Hindu or tries to promote any Hindu cause is quickly and uncritically defined as ‘right-winged’.
In the Marxist accounts that commonly come from the Indian press, Hindu organizations are routinely called fundamentalists, militants or even fascists. This may be surprising for the western mind, inclined to think of India as a Hindu country. But not only have states in India like Bengal and Kerala been long dominated by Marxists, most of academia and much of the English-language media has been as well. Their slanted views are often uncritically accepted by the western media as well.
However, if we look at their actual views, Hindu groups have a very different ideology and practices than the political right in other countries. In fact, most Hindu causes are more at home in the left in the West than in the right.
The idea of the ‘Hindu right’ is largely a ploy to discredit the Hindu movement as backward and prevent people from really examining it. The truth is that the Hindu movement is a revival of a native spiritual tradition that has nothing to do with the political right-wing of any western country. Its ideas are spiritually evolutionary, not politically regressive. Let us examine the different aspects of the Hindu movement and where they would fall in the political spectrum of left and right as usually defined in the West.
Hinduism and Native Traditions
The Hindu cause is similar to the cause of native and tribal peoples all over the world, like native American and African groups. Even Hindu concerns about cultural encroachment by western religious and commercial interests mirrors those of other traditional peoples who want to preserve their cultures. Yet while the concerns of native peoples have been taken up by the left worldwide, the same concerns of Hindus are styled right-wing or communal, particularly by the left in India!
When native Americans ask for a return of their sacred sites, the left in America supports them. When Hindus ask for a similar return of their sacred sites, the left in India opposes them and brands them as intolerant for their actions! When native peoples in America or Africa protest missionaries for interfering with their culture, they are supported by the left. Yet when Hindus express the same sentiments, they are attacked by the left. Even the Hindu demand for rewriting the history of India to better express the value of their indigenous traditions is the same as what native Africans and Americans are asking for. Yet the left opposes this Hindu effort, while supporting African and American efforts of a similar nature.
In countries like America, native traditions are minorities and thereby afforded a special sympathy. Leftists in general tend to support minority causes and often lump together black African and native American causes as examples of the damage caused by racism and colonialism. In India, a native tradition has survived the colonial period but as the tradition of the majority of the people. Unfortunately, the intellectual elite of India, though following a leftist orientation, has no sympathy for the country’s own native tradition. They identify it as right-wing in order to express their hostility towards it. They portray it as a majority oppression of minorities, when it is the movement of a suppressed majority to regain its dignity.