In the mid 1990s, Balasaheb Thackeray said that if he had his way, he would become the next Adolf Hitler. His nephew Raj has also said in many interviews that he is a staunch admirer of the German dictator.
This piece is not about the Thackerays or their policies. This is more about why the average Indian admires Hitler.
I just finished watching Der Untergang - also known as Downfall. The movie is about the final days in Berlin during World War II. Hitler is the protagonist/antagonist in the movie.
The movie is powerful. There are scenes that are disturbing. But the question arises: when you see Adolf Hitler accepting that the war is lost, do you feel sorry for him?
Most of us have never been admirers of what the Germans did during World War II. The holocaust is unforgivable. The whole world knows that. However, when you think of the way a soldier was trained, it makes you think. To be part of the SS, or the secret police, a candidate shared his dormitory with a German Shepherd dog for a year. At the end of the year, to show that he was tough enough to be part of the police, the candidate was ordered to break the dog's neck with both his hands.
The Nazis were ruthless, but a number of Indians admire them. A friend was telling me yesterday that a colleague of his has an Adolf Hitler screensaver and wallpaper on his desktop. A few years ago, Navi Mumbai, a township outside Mumbai opened a bar called Hitler's Cross. This naturally offended the Jewish community in India and suddenly, the bar shut down. The following is there, but the question arises: why?
People will argue that he conquered Europe on his own. He did and at a very fast rate, but Europe was a mess for nearly six years i.e. the time of the war. We tend to ignore that bit.
Indians have taken democracy for granted. You cannot blame them when you look at the current state of events, but a totalitarian state is not the answer. I remember a conversation that I had with a colleague at The Times of India. It was just a day after the general elections in 2009. I asked him whether he had voted. He said that he did not believe in democracy.
It is funny when someone from the fourth estate makes a statement like this. If given a chance, a journalist should try working at a newspaper or magazine that is published in the Middle East or China. And maybe then, the ideals of a democracy will be appreciated more than the ideologies of Adolf Hitler.
But that won't happen overnight. With Balasaheb Thackeray passing away, we just have one less follower. There are many more that come and go.