Why Hindutva ecosystem is cheering Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine

For Hindutva forces, Vladimir Putin is the model that India should adopt if it wants to defeat external forces and exterminate ‘internal enemies’ with ruthlessness

Representative Photo
Representative Photo


On March 7, 2022, a few dozen members of the right-wing group Hindu Sena took out a rally in Delhi’s Connaught place in support of Russia in the context of the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war.

During this rally, its chief actually demanded that the Indian army should be deployed in the war to support Russia against “fascist” Ukraine.

Previously, the Hindu Sena, in what can only be called a farcical comedy, had shown its support for Russia by putting up posters on a statue of the Russian poet Alexander Pushkin located in Mandi House, New Delhi. This poster read: “Indian Hindus are with Putin and Russia in establishing the Soviet Union. Jai ho Akhand Russia. Jai Bharat”.

As reported by The Indian Express, the chief of Hindu Sena, in response to questions asked about the posters had said: “Russia has always been a true friend of India. We pray and support Russia getting back their old Soviet Union and the country taking all necessary action to safeguard their borders”.

On the surface, these statements and actions might seem contradictory, as a right-wing group expressed support for reestablishment of communist-ruled Soviet Union. In fact, a lot of people were left amused seeing a right-wing group calling for the establishment of a left ruled regime.

But if we break down the statement of the Hindu Sena president and the slogan on the poster, we can see that actually there is no contradiction between what the Hindu Sena said and the ideology it professes.

The keywords to understand this are ‘Akhand Russia’ and ‘safeguarding borders’. In the imagination of the Hindu Sena, and the broader Hindutva ideology, Russia is doing what India should ideally do. The support for so-called ‘Akhand Russia’ is an echo of their own dreams and utopia of establishing ‘Akhand Bharat’.

The action of Hindu Sena is just one example of how Russia-Ukraine is being perceived in India. Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 21, general Indian public opinion regarding the war has been divided into pro-Russia and anti-Russia voices.

The pro-Russia camp is largely dominated by Hindutva voices. Several commentators have cited the historical friendship between India and Russia, of Russia being one of the major suppliers of defence hardware, India’s geopolitical concerns, and alleged racists attacks upon Indian students stranded in Ukraine by Ukrainian security apparatus as the reason for this support to Russia.

But more than these reasons, it is the nature and style of Vladimir Putin’s leadership that attracts the Hindutva supporters. It is his image of ‘strongman’, unafraid and determined to do whatever it takes to consolidate the position and establish hegemony of Russia on global platform that makes him an admiring figure among those who day and night dream of establishing ‘Hindu Rashtra’, taking back Pakistan occupied Kashmir and breaking Pakistan into several parts among other such things.

Social media ecosystem of Hindutva is full of posts and posters calling upon India to learn from Putin on how to deal with Pakistan and China as well as ‘internal enemies’.

In 2014 Putin annexed Crimea from Ukraine. Previously, in 2008 when Putin was Prime Minister, Russia invaded Georgia and annexed South Ossetia and Abkhazia. In the language of Hindutva, Putin broke both Georgia and Ukraine into pieces. It is Putin’s history of ‘breaking the enemy nation in pieces’ that makes him attractive to Hindutva sympathizers.

Vladimir Putin has been at the helm of the Russian Federation for almost eighteen years, that is, for more than half of the period the federation has existed since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. Putin has also served twice as the prime minister of Russia. In his years of power, he has developed a distinctive style of functioning that has been subjected to analysis by journalists, political scientists and sociologists who have called it ‘Putinism’ or ‘Putinist model’ having these underlying characteristics:

  1. The ever-increasing use of administrative resources in elections

  2. Elimination of the system of separation of powers, establishment of control over the judicial system

  3. Monopolization of political power in the hands of the president

  4. Restriction of the rights of citizens and reprisals against civil society

  5. Creating an image of a "besieged fortress", equating opposition activities with hostility

  6. Putin’s strong personality cult through glorification in the media; the image of a "national hero”

  7. Utmost secrecy of power and backstage making of key decision

These characteristics of Putinism are also the defining characteristics of Narendra Modi-led BJP government at the Centre. In the last eight years, we have experienced each and every one of them. We have seen the criminalization of dissent, reprisals against civil society, total control over mainstream media, presidential style of governance, building of a narrative that India is surrounded by external and internal enemy and only one person is capable of fighting against them, of majority community being in danger from minority among other such things.

Perhaps the only difference between Putinism and what can be called Modism is that while the former has consolidated itself, the latter is still in the process of consolidating. The Hindutva forces want that consolidation to happen fast.

In 2020, Vladimir Putin decided (yes, he decided not proposed!) to conduct a general referendum in Russia with the purpose of amending the Russian constitution in order to give himself sweeping powers along with removal of term limit.

In what observers called a managed and fabricated referendum, Putin got over 78% of popular votes. The most interesting fact about the referendum was that even though Russian constitution had provisions to implement the proposed amendments via Russian parliament, Vladimir Putin insisted on a referendum to make his “power-grab” look legitimate.

One of the leaders to congratulate Vladimir Putin for his historic total capture of power was Prime Minister Modi.

The Hindutva forces have repeatedly shown their disdain for the Indian Constitution. The way elections are being conducted in India with full intervention from the ruling government, and consistent building of the narrative that the majority community is in danger, it is not impossible to imagine a scenario where India might see a Russia like referendum to give sweeping power to the incumbent prime minister.

For the Hindutva forces, Vladimir Putin is the model that India should adopt if it wants to defeat external forces and exterminate ‘internal enemies’. Putin is admired in the Hindutva ecosystem for his ruthlessness, his so-called decisiveness and his ambition to expand Russia’s borders.

The current overpouring of emotions for Putin and Russia from within the Hindutva movement are a result of similarity between Putin’s project of ‘Greater Russia’ and Hindutva’s project of ‘Akhand Bharat’. They share similar emotions and ambitions.

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