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Telangana chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao, has taken up the gauntlet to be a 'Hitler', if required. Has `Hitler-ism’ worked in India? An insight
Hitler means `Fuhrer’, which connotes a ruthless, tyrannical leader. After World War II, the word `Hitler’ has come out from the literal sense of the word (which is a surname) and has metamorphosed into a metaphor that points largely to negativity of the most cruel kind, paradoxically though, ironically and tragically, peppered with a tinge of positivity.
It is in regular use particularly when it comes to a strict `father’ in a family or a stern corporate leader, with again a tinge of admiration contained in it, for the ability to be firm, disciplined and; to be committed to achieve the required goal. This time round, it has been used by K Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR), the chief minister of Telangana, to elevate himself to a pedestal in the public eye, to suggest his high degree of determination to implement several projects and controversial issues which are required after the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh – as if to say, Hitlerism is the ultimate in deliverance!
“One says KCR is Hitler, another says KCR is a dictator; KCR is definitely Hitler for thieves. I want to be Hitler for the corrupt. I don't feel shy. KCR is Hitler to stop injustice. I can even be Hitler's grandfather," Rao told reporters in Hyderabad while defending the Telangana government's decision to carry out a household survey.
On Monday, the Congress party, launching a scathing attack, has called Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat as 'Hitler' over his remarks that India is a Hindu nation and Hindutva is the country's identity. “I thought we had one Hitler in making but it seems now we have Two! God save India!," Congress party's general secretary Digvijay Singh, a known detractor of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, tweeted.
Shiv Sena chief late Balasaheb Thackeray and many other political leaders from India are quite fond of the Nazi dictator, but have not been sure how to correctly decipher and use `Hitler’ for their political benefit. So, they dilly-dally. Apparently, even Bollywood is wary of portraying `Hitler’ for they don’t know who they will hurt and how. As per news reports, noted actor Anupam Kher once dropped his decision to play `Hitler’ after his near and dear ones warned him of controversial consequences. Hitler’s autobiography `Mein Kamf’ is still sold quite well in India, pointing to the fact that the Nazi dictator’s life is still a subject of interest.
In the recent times, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader, Arvind Kejriwal has been brandished as Hitler, in all its negativity. Many see his stern and uncompromising disposition and approach as his party’s miserable failure in the Lok Sabha elections and failure to have command over his followers, in a sustained manner. That’s typical Hitler-ism according to his critics.
During the pre-election Lok Sabha campaign, Narendra Modi as 'Hitler' was one of the trendy nomenclatures on Twitter - to denounce him to the hilt. Paradoxically, amongst his admirers, he as 'Hitler'- connoted a welcome tone in party circles, against the backdrop of non-governance and corruption of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government. I remember one such obsessed admirer of Modi telling me in no uncertain terms, “If Modi is a Hitler, then Hitler is what we need in India!”
In 2006, two entrepreneurs ventured upon opening a new restaurant in Navi Mumbai and named it `Hitler’s Cross’ with the `O’ in the cross designed in a Swastik Motif (the much despised logo of the Nazis but having its auspicious roots in Ancient India). Satish Sablok, one of the owners, publicly stated that they had brainstorming sessions to coin such a name so as to attract public attention, after a public outcry over it. Little did Sablok realised that naming his restaurant `Hitler’s Cross’ would attract international outrage, besides local wrath.
Mumbai, which has a 5,000-odd strong Jewish community, was the first to register its protest against the restaurant’s name.
Further, it compelled the consul generals of Germany and Israel to intervene in the matter, to urge removal of the name. International media carried the story in a big way, besides Indian media, particularly some insightful editorials.
The Times of India in its editorial of 25 August 2006 wrote: “The naming of a new restaurant in Navi Mumbai after one of the world's most brutal mass murderers — changed after a week of public outrage — is a shameful example of the triumph of ignorance…
…Perhaps it would be instructive for him and his patrons to know that the stigma of the Hitler name is so great that the Fuhrer's only nephew, William Patrick Hitler, vanished into a life of anonymity in Long Island and his three sons decided to have no children so that the infamous bloodline could end.”
The story ended with Sablok and his partner apologising to the Chairman of the Indian Jewish Federation, Jonathan Solomon and changing the restaurant’s name to `Cross Café.’
(Vinita Deshmukh is consulting editor of Moneylife, an RTI activist and convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book “To The Last Bullet - The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart - Ashok Kamte” with Vinita Kamte and is the author of “The Mighty Fall”.)