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Home > News> Opinion > ‘Shit-skinned’, ‘Turd-eater’—How a novel loved by the US Far Right shows Indians

‘Shit-skinned’, ‘Turd-eater’—How a novel loved by the US Far Right shows Indians

Trump’s immigration policy czar Stephen Miller promoted a grotesque novel that depicts Indians as paedophiles who use their own faeces as fuel to cook

The character of Apu in 'The Simpsons' has been criticized for reinforcing negative stereotypes about Indians.
The character of Apu in 'The Simpsons' has been criticized for reinforcing negative stereotypes about Indians.

The Hindutva brigade has long been in love with the US far-right, visibly so in the spectacles of Howdy Modi and Kem Chho Trump, but the latest suspension of H-1 B visas, spearheaded by the same far-right forces in the Donald Trump administration, shows that this love is one-sided. Pushed through using covid-19 as an excuse, the measures directly hits Indians, who comprise over 67% of the 275,000 electronic registrations for the H-1 B visa. The latest announcement by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on student visas may affect the fate of millions of international students, including Indians.

But to understand the true extent of the racist hate against Indians in white supremacist circles, we have to turn to a bizarre novel that writer Suketu Mehta has called “the Mein Kampf of the contemporary anti-immigrant movement."

Titled The Camp Of The Saints, the book was published in 1973 in French, and translated into several European languages by 1975. The plot paints a dystopia where immigrant-friendly policies of European governments lead to 800,000 Indians embarking for France’s shores on a floatilla of ships. From the very first page, Indians are linked to shit: “the terrible stench of latrines" heralds the fleet’s arrival.

It gets worse. This is how the Indian leader of the flotilla is described, mixing racial and caste hatred: "Untouchable pariah, this dealer of droppings, dung roller by trade, molder of manure briquettes, turd eater in time of famine, and holding high in his stinking hands [his child,] a mass of human flesh. At the bottom, two stumps; then an enormous trunk, all hunched and twisted and bent out of shape; no neck, but a kind of extra stump, a third one in place of a head, and a bald little skull, with two holes for eyes and a hole for a mouth, but a mouth that was no mouth at all—no throat, no teeth—just a flap of skin over his gullet."

And the Indians on board the ship are shown as having a non-stop orgy, one that is explicitly compared to Hindu temple architecture. I have had to censor some parts to help our readers keep down their dinners: "Soon the decks came to look like those temple friezes so highly prized by tourists … And everywhere, a mass of hands and mouths, of [genitals] ... Young boys, passed from hand to hand. Young girls, barely ripe, lying together cheek to thigh … Everywhere, rivers of s**rm … Bodies together, not in twos, but in threes, in fours … Men with women, men with men, women with women, men with children, children with each other, their slender fingers playing the eternal games of carnal pleasure."

Even as Indians join Trump supporters by saying "Ab ki baar Trump Sarkar," this only makes Indian Americans dupes, for a portion of Trump supporters often think about Indians the same way the novel does. Take one chat board linked to the conspiracy-theory-led Trump-supporting group, QAnon. A message on it reads, "Be prepared for blood and poo in American streets very soon. Remember the Frogs [code for the British] have 1.2 billion Poos [code for Indians] sworn to uphold the commonwealth. So many people are afraid of a Chinese swarm, but they were looking too far North." The limited imagination of racist bigots means that Trump supporters are also known to link immigrants to child abuse the way the novel does. Some have been caught on camera openly stating that Mexican immigrants routinely rape teenage girls in Sasha Baron Cohen’s eye-opening Who is America? television series.

Unfortunately, it is not just online trolls and average Trump voters that think like this. Camp Of The Saints was republished in America in 1995 by John Tanton, the founder of policy institutes like the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and think tanks like the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS). The influence of these groups reaches the highest levels of government. Remember Stephen Miller, Trump’s immigration policy czar? Emails have directly linked Miller, the architect of the visa ban, to this novel. He has ties to FAIR and CIS, and the e-mails, leaked late last year to the Southern Poverty Law Center, reveal that Miller recommended to an editor of the far-right media platform Breitbart that Camp be cited in an article about a Papal speech on immigration. Shortly after, exactly such a piece was published on Breitbart, praising the book as "prophetic".

Miller isn’t even the most major figure in the US far right to praise the book. That distinction goes to Steve Bannon. HuffPost has noted the multiple references Bannon has made to the book, going back to 2015. Other right-wing luminaries to have praised Camp include France’s Marine Le Pen, who keeps a signed copy on her desk; founder of the National Review, William F. Buckley Jr.; and even, reportedly, President Ronald Reagan.

But instead of standing up for Indians, our so-called Hindutva nationalists are falling over themselves in their rush to honour these very far-right figures. The Indian ambassador to the US, Harsh Shringla, met with Bannon and christened him a ‘dharma warrior’. Meanwhile, Shalabh ‘Shalli’ Kumar, founder of the Republican Hindu Coalition, has named Bannon the honorary co-chair of his organization, and offered to raise $25 million for Trump’s wall.

The man who wrote this book, Jean Raspail, only died last month. John Tanton died in July of 2019. Unfortunately, their monstrous legacies live on.

Partha P. Chakrabartty is an independent journalist based out of Philadelphia, USA. His first book, on what fascism can teach us about today’s world, is forthcoming in 2021.

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