“History does not repeat itself but it often rhymes.” Mark Twain
In 2014, a former poverty-stricken tea seller became India’s 18th Prime Minister. Unlike his opposition, Narendra Modi did not belong to India’s political elite. He was the underdog of Indian politics. Over 80 years before him, in 1933, a former poverty-stricken artist became Weimar’s 15th Chancellor in 1933. Unlike his opposition, Adolf Hitler did not belong to Germany’s political elite. He was the underdog of Weimar politics.
Both leaders abandoned their constitutions’ pluralistic ideals. Both leaders thrived off of the pre-existing sectarian fervor amongst their people. Hitler demarcated his nation by race while Modi does it by religion. Neither had ignited the fire but simply aggravated it. Around 80 years later and almost 6,000 km away, history seems to be rhyming.
At Nuremberg in 1935, Hitler announced a law that laid the groundwork for the systematic persecution of Jews in Germany - the Reich Citizenship Law (RCL). The statute excluded Jews from German citizenship. Hitler was simply validating the anti-semitic platform upon which he gained power.
He was conscious that the Germany’s role as the host of the 1936 Olympics would bring global scrutiny. As a result, he needed to introduce his persecution gradually. It was only 6 years later, in 1941, that the ‘Final Solution’ was drawn up. Regardless of his political rhetoric, his contemporaries failed to predict the Nazi genocide.
The Holocaust aside, Weimar’s political elite did not expect him to remain in power for long. In 1933, Hitler’s Vice-Chancellor was heard saying, “we'll have pushed Hitler so far into the corner that he'll squeak.”
Modi’s CAA is, at its core, an Indian and 21st century adaptation of the RCL. As the world has globalised, pluralism has become the yardstick with which a government’s morality is measured. Modi cannot bring India to the same fate as Myanmar; a nation crippled by international sanctions for their mistreatment of religious minorities. As a result, he needs to introduce his persecution gradually.
Thus, he introduced a policy that he can assert with his own twisted rationale. Exactly like Hitler, Modi is simply validating his Hindutva platform upon which he gained power. Do Indian Muslims have the same destiny as German Jews? Only time can tell. However, the CAA sets a dangerous foundation to turn this nightmare into a reality. As history has shown us, with regimes such as Hitler’s and Modi’s, one should expect the unexpected.
The RCL aspired to make German citizenship exclusive to those of the Germanic race. The Nazi doctrine of nationalism fantasised a nation that consisted exclusively of ethnic Germans. In eastern European nations such as Czechoslovakia and Poland, ethnic Germans were the largest minorities. Hitler’s rhetoric comprised of demonising the attitudes towards these Germanic minorities to fuel support for his pan-Germanic dream. The Nazi dream capitalised on a predicament that surpassed the burden of boundaries. This desire was culminated in the policy of Heim ins Reich.
While Hitler’s dream is rooted in racial divisions, Modi’s dream is rooted in religious divisions. BJP’s vindication of the CAA is entrenched in the virtue of rescuing Hindu minorities abroad from the plight of persecution. Interestingly, the Act itself does not mention ‘persecution’ anywhere. As a result, exempting immigrants from the obligation to prove religious persecution as grounds for obtaining citizenship.
Comparable to Heim ins Reich, Modi strives to use immigration as a tool to fulfil his fantasy. A trivial distinction between the two leaders is that Hitler ventured to attract a particular race. With over 2,000 ethnic groups, India’s national identity can not be based on ethnicity. Hence, Modi is attracting those of a particular religion. With a majority of over 80% Hindus, an identity embedded in religion is conceivable.
Similarity between the BJP and Nazism is not unique to the 21st century. BJP’s ideological brain, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), was heavily influenced by Nazism. RSS’ founder, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, lauded Hitler’s treatment towards Jews. While Savarkar himself was not anti-Semitic, he proposed similar measures against Muslims in India. Modi is placed perfectly to deliver on the mandate of BJP’s ideological godfather. With his personal islamophobic leanings and a remarkable majority in the Lok Sabha, he not only desires it but is also capable of doing so.
Germany may have escaped the dark shadows of Nazism, but India is tunnelling towards it. The world has already borne the poisonous fruit of the Nazi M.O. that augments apathy, ignorance and indifference and nurtured one of mankind’s deadliest crimes.
From a very young age, children are told that we learn history in order to learn from our past mistakes. Yet, a nation of almost 1.4 billion have ignored it until recently. With nationwide protests against the CAA, the common man’s expression has become the nation’s best hope to circumvent a travesty of Indian values. In order to prevent the crime, we need to end the rhyme.