Dilip D’Souza in The Daily Beast:
My wife teaches French to tenth-grade students at a private school here in Mumbai. During one recent class, she asked these mostly upper-middle-class kids to complete the sentence “J'admire …” with the name of the historical figure they most admired.
To say she was disturbed by the results would be to understate her reaction. Of 25 students in the class, 9 picked Adolf Hitler, making him easily the highest vote-getter in this particular exercise; a certain Mohandas Gandhi was the choice of precisely one student. Discussing the idea of courage with other students once, my wife was startled by the contempt they had for Gandhi. “He was a coward!” they said. And as far back as 2002, the Times of India reported a survey that found that 17 percent of students in elite Indian colleges “favored Adolf Hitler as the kind of leader India ought to have.”
In a place where Gandhi becomes a coward, perhaps Hitler becomes a hero.
Still, why Hitler? “He was a fantastic orator,” said the 10th-grade kids. “He loved his country; he was a great patriot. He gave back to Germany a sense of pride they had lost after the Treaty of Versailles,” they said.
“And what about the millions he murdered?” asked my wife. “Oh, yes, that was bad,” said the kids. “But you know what, some of them were traitors.”
Admiring Hitler for his oratorical skills? Surreal enough. Add to that the easy condemnation of his millions of victims as traitors. Add to that the characterization of this man as a patriot. I mean, in a short dozen years, Hitler led Germany through a scarcely believable orgy of blood to utter shame and wholesale destruction. Even the mere thought of calling such a man a patriot profoundly corrupts—is violently antithetical to—the idea of patriotism.
But these are kids, you think, and kids say the darndest things. Except this is no easily written-off experience. The evidence is that Hitler has plenty of admirers in India, plenty of whom are by no means kids.
Consider Mein Kampf, Hitler’s autobiography. Reviled it might be in the much of the world, but Indians buy thousands of copies of it every month.