Recently Patrick French was invited to CNN-IBN coverage of Indian multi-state elections. During the course of the debate in which Mr French's contribution was scant he made these statements regarding the the Congress Party.
"The thing that the BJP does get, that the Congress does not get, is that India now has dynamic electoral politics. A lot if it has to do with the fact that the average Indian is only 26 years old. You have got young voters who are willing to shift around and back the BJP and I think the big problem that the Congress has made ... is the Idea that we are secular and we are saving India from Fascism, and I think until this recognition that most of the people that you spoke to in UP who are voting for the BJP were not doing it for reasons of Hindutva. They were doing for reasons entirely separate from that"
Mins 41- 42
Anybody with any sense of comprehension will conclude that Patrick has used Fascism and Hindutva interchangeably.
Congress accuses BJP of 'X'. It does not recognise that people are not voting the BJP for 'Y'. If he is not saying that X is same as Y then what is he trying to say here.
On my pointing out this fact to Patrick that he considers Hindutva to be Fascist ideology, he accused me of Xenophbia which I think was nothing but an excuse to avoid scrutiny.
I pointed another of his writings to him. His article in BBC. Published on 6 Dec 2012.
In this article he says.
writing a few months after the events in Ayodhya, the historian Sarvepalli Gopal feared "secularism would be strangled and India would be heading for a fascist take-over… The siege to the basic concepts on which free India has striven to build herself has become more intense"
To this he said to me that he only quoted Sarvepalli Gopal and then went on in the article rebutting him. But even in this article he does no draw any distinction between Fascism and Hindutva. Instead after quoting Mr Gopal he immediately says this.
"In the year following the demolition, there were reasons for fear.
Across the nation several thousand people, most of them Muslim, were killed in riots; a series of bombs exploded in Bombay (now Mumbai), orchestrated by a Dubai-based crime and terror mafia; and minorities (including Hindus in far-away Karachi) became the target of persecution."
I don't see any rebuttal in this. Instead I see another linkage drawn between fascism attributed to Mr Gopal and Hindutva which Patrick mentions in the context of Hindu identity politics.
"Back in 1992, two political impulses appeared to be on the rise: self-assertion by disadvantaged castes and the use of Hindu identity as a mass rallying cry for voters."
"Hindutva has faded away as a significant electoral force. There will always be vociferous people who believe that Hindus are a voiceless majority facing insidious persecution from "pseudo-secularists" - but their influence is declining"
Then he says "Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) politicians who are strongly associated with Hindutva, such as Lal Krishna Advani and Narendra Modi, now spend much of their time trying not to look like extremists."
I don't think there can be a clearer link drawn in one statement between Hindutva and Extremism and if you can comprehend the larger context of the article then the linkage with Fascism.
He then repeats the term Fascism. "Contrary to the fears expressed in 1992, the people of India show little sign of wanting either a religious state or a fascist take-over." Please note he says this again in the context of declining(in his view) political currency of Hindutva when he states "At the ballot box, Hindutva consistently plays badly."
So this is saying that Hindutva and Ramjanma bhoomi movement was a movement leading to religious state or fascist takeover.
So as I have shown Patrick french draws linkage between Hindutva and Fascism, never directly saying that Hindutva is Fascism in one sentence, but drawing a linkage with broad play of words, leaving no doubt in a readers mind that, Hindutva is an extremist ideology, is what Patrick is saying. Which of course, in his view has lost political currency, hence there is no fear of a fascist takeover any more.
The question is why have I gone through the trouble of explaining how Patrick makes these links. Whats wrong if he does and if that is his opinion? The reason why I went though the trouble of explaining this is because he denies that he draws any such linkage. He in fact claims that he has spoken against drawing such a linkage. When I point point out how he does he gets angry and accuses me of xenophbia and dishonesty. Well article from 2012 and the recent TV debate seems to suggest otherwise and readers will decide who is being dishonest and why.
If he says he never meant to draw a linkage then it is only fair to expect from him a clear statement on how Hindutva is different from Fascism. Is it still extremism in his view?
PS: Please be aware that I do not make any claim of knowing what Hindutva ideology is. I don't subscribe to it nor do I oppose it. But what I do understand about it is that it is clearly not fascism which is a supremacist ideology of exclusion of others. Hindutva as is being claimed by the proponent seems to be an ideology of assimilation. Is it by force is it by persuasion? I do not fully know hence I am so far neutral on it.
Also Ram Janma Bhoomi movement in my view was far more complex to be given a short thrift as 'hindu extremism'.