Why it’s so easy for Modi to appropriate icons he’s opposed to (and why Indians buy ‘Mein Kampf’)
Indians tend to reduce historical figures to mere photographs, stripped of the messages they stood for.
Foreigners are often taken aback to see Hitler’s Mein Kampf sell so widely in India, sometimes even on red lights. Foreign journalists have written the usual stories about this: find and interview a Hitler fan, talk about the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh and its founders were influenced by early twentieth century European fascism, get a quote about the growing Hindu right in India.

Each time I see such an article, I wonder if something is amiss. Surely, nobody here wants Jews exterminated? Surely, they know how Hitler ended, what World War II did.

“Iconophilia,” an art historian friend explained. The love of images and icons. I don’t have evidence to prove this, but I bet most people who buy Mein Kampf in India don’t read it, because most books bought are not read anyway. Mein Kampf is for the bookshelves, for its iconophilic value. Hitler as a human figure fascinates the owner of the book, and they want a symbol of this fascination displayed in the drawing room.

Long live Che

Iconophilia explains why a prominent businessman in Delhi would name his son Che, after Che Guevara, a revolutionary who went around the world, even came to India, as an ambassador of Cuban socialism.

The flashy, Bentley-driving ponytailed businessman had an afterthought. While he saw no irony in him naming his son after a socialist revolutionary, he was worried about the violent connotations of the name, given Guevara’s participation in the Cuban Revolution in the 1950’s. So the businessman decided to give his son a middle name Kabir, the Bhakti saint who was half-Hindu and half-Muslim.