Ironically, Hitler continues to find many followers in India, a nation of predominantly brown-skinned people. Here, Hitler’s brand of fascism has taken on a distinctly Indian flavor, authenticated with a combination of ethnic hatred and Hindu nationalism.
Recently, browsing through Facebook threw up an eerie shock. “Hari Om Heil Hitler,” said a post next to an image of a young Hitler, followed by a paean to Aryan values. The cover picture read, “Aum, Hail Aryan, Hail Aryavart,” meaning “Hail Aryans, Hail Land of the Aryans.” On display is his German screen name – “Kemradschaft Jeet.”
His feed is full of Nazi insignia with images of Hitler and graphics of Vishnu, a Hindu god known for several reincarnations. “Adolf Hitler, the ultimate avatar,” said one image. “India’s Swastika God,” said another. Their posts reflect an oft-repeated theory in neo-Nazi web forums, that Hitler was a reincarnation of Vishnu.
Vile anti-Semitic obloquy accompanied it: “Germany is now a Rabbit under the shelter of Jewish Finance,” “With the Hollywood movie industry and the majority of U.S. television networks, newspapers and publishing houses Jewish-owned, for nearly 70 years, the demonization of Adolf Hitler has been almost relentless.”
His friends comment in chorus: “Jai Shree Ram, Heil Hitler” (“Hail Shree Ram, Heil Hitler”), “Nazi the great,” “Hitler was supporter of Indian Nationalist.” Many of them shared a YouTube video with over 100,000 hits, entitled “Adolf Hitler, The Greatest Story Never Told,” alongside the salutation “Jai Hind” (“Victory to India,” an independence-era slogan.)
These posts are a putrid mix of anti-Semitic racism, misogyny and extreme Hindu nationalism. Evoking the widely held myth of Aryan racial superiority (appropriated to refer to “Aryan” Indians) and the Nazi propaganda of the “sacralization of terror, embodied in the Kshatriya code and the Bhagavad-Gita,” these posts reflect the belief that Hitler was born to end Kali Yuga, the dark age of Hindu mythology.
As one post reads: “If we go to North East [of India] we find mixed races of Mongoloids and many more cases where pure Aryan bloodline was lost.”
In 2004, when now-Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the Chief Minister of Gujarat, school textbooks published by the Gujarat State Board portrayed Hitler as a hero, and glorifyied fascism. The tenth-grade social studies textbook had chapters entitled “Hitler, the Supremo,” and “Internal Achievements of Nazism.”
In 2012, when tenth-grade students taking French lessons at a private school in Mumbai were asked to complete a sentence starting with “J’admire” followed by the name of the historical figure they admired most, nine out of 25 students picked Hitler.
Mein Kampf has also gone mainstream, becoming a “must-read” management strategy book for India’s business school students.
This infamous polemic remains a money-spinner for publishers. English-language editions of Mein Kampf are published by a number of reputable Indian publishing houses, such as Jaico, Printline, Indialog, Maple Press, Mastermind, Prakash, Om Books, Rohan, Adarsh, Ajay, Embassy, Lexicon and Wilco. They fill bookshelves at airports, bookstores and online marketplaces, while cheap pirated versions fill pavement stalls in major cities.
In casual conversations, a surprising number of well-read, globe-trotting Indians shared a respectful, almost fanatical, admiration for Hitler. “This country needs a dictator like Hitler,” is a common trope I have heard from well-educated Indians with degrees from some of the best universities in the world. A poll conducted by the Times of India in 2002 found that 17 percent favored Adolf Hitler as “the kind of leader India ought to have.” It is not surprising then, that ice creams, pool parlors, restaurants, clothing stores, home furnishing stores, films and television shows have all chosen to use “Hitler” or “Nazi” as their brand names.