Hindutva….where now ?
The biggest question that we face today in defining the concept of Hindutva unlike the time in the 1990s when the world as we all know ( and as those who grew up in the age of Doordarshan and Ramayana by Ramanand Sagar are so fond of saying) was simple and when everybody thought that Hindutva was about the construction of the magnificent temple of Bhagwan Sri Ram at Ayyodhya and bringing the Bharatiya Janata Party to power would mean creating a state alive to Hindu interests ( remember : Jo Hindu Hit ka baat karega wohi desh mein Raj karega ). But that was before 1998, then NDA happened and all of us realised that what the BJP meant by Hindu Rashtra or Hindu Raj was actually “Suraaj” or Good Governance. While in those heady days of the 13 day government and Atalji’s speeches it was something which we all thought was good enough for all of us however we realised through the long winter of the NDA regime, that Hindutva was an elusive term, which could be turned on it’s head and used for very different purposes then what we had thought of.The incongruous sight of seeing the volunteers of the Vishwa “Hindu” Parishad being lathicharged and arrested in large numbers on the banks of the Sarayu for attempting to start construction of the Ram Mandir, by the ruling BJP government gave a very different connotation to the word “Hindutva”.
When again the BJP seems to be within sniffing distance of power and there is a growing undercurrent of Hindu anger propelling it to power (which may not be as angry as in the 1990s but is still raw, hurt and very substantial) the question which confronts us is what do we mean by the word “HINDUTVA” that is the idea of “Being Hindu”? It is important to define it so that we are not again disappointed and we know just how much to expect. Last time we lacked a definition and therefore an objective standard to judge the performance of political parties on the scale of Hindtuva and therefore we had to witness the misfortune of being sorely disappointed. It is important that we don’t flunk the test this time around, as we all may, because the gullible people that we are, we tend to identify ideas with personalities. We deify persons at the cost of ideas. We did it to Mahatma Gandhiji remember. Very few know what he stood for, and many of us don’t actually care, yet, we treat him as a deity to be worshipped and as a holy object beyond discussion. We do the same with Babasaheb Ambedkar and for Ram Manohar Lohia. The teachings of Dhammapada are far removed indeed from Sahajayana and Kalachakrayana but we all attribute it to the Sakyamuni Buddha.
So many years after Veer Savarkar actually attempted to concretise an amorphous idea and name it in precise ideological framework, we tend to struggle as to what do we mean by it? What are the contours of the idea of “Hindutva” that we are all so fond of supporting? Let’s put it in another way, if indeed it is an idea worth sacrificing for and dying for, what is the idea ?
The answer is obvious but political correctness has come in our way to put our words to it. But what use is political correctness when our very existence as a people is at stake.So here goes:
We all know how the Persians first called us Hindus when both of our civilisations were struggling for dominance in what is now called Central Asia and when statues of the Sakyamuni Buddha were being built in competition to the images of the King of Kings of Persia, the Shah-en-Shah. All of us remember how later the Turki when they came to rule “Al Hind” came to identify all those who lived in the land as Hindus, irrespective whether they were Brahmins, Shaktas, Vaishnavs, Shaivas, Baudha or Jaina. It is also well recorded as to how we reclaimed the term from a derogatory word to marker of our ways and identity and how we as a people fought to assert that identity when great civilisations were washed away by colonialisms of different types. It is also recorded history that at the high noon of European colonialism we as a people resisted the changing of our ways and devised a method which would destroy the very rule which held us in thrall, shaped from our unique customs and our ways, which the colonised everywhere in the world would adopt and replicate. The history of this land is a history of a struggle of a thousand years to uphold our culture, our ways, our norms and our customs as indeed our Dharma. The identity of the people of this land is indistinguishable from that struggle of assertion of our collective vision of the world. It is this struggle which distinguishes us from the rest of the world. It is this struggle which makes us who we are, that is “Hindu”.The ideology that recognises this struggle as an unique part of the identity of the people of the country is the idea of Hindutva.
There are many people who have tried to and will try to in future fudge the answer and deliberately and not so deliberately attempt to confuse Hindutva with Indianess. While using them interchangeably may be a great way to get around the attempts of the tyrannical and dictatorial left liberal establishment to ban the very idea of Hindutva it needs to be remembered that it is something that we should not start believing in ourselves. It always needs to be kept in mind that while the allegiance to India is at the most traceable from 1950, our allegiance to Hindutva is from time immemorial. The allegiance to the civic state of “India” created by the Constitution of India, which was framed in two years by representatives who were never elected for the purpose of drafting the Constitution, does not and cannot compare to the primal identification with Bharat Varsha. The allegiance to the Dharma of Bharat Varsha is Hindutva while allegiance to the Indian civic state is Indianness. You can controversially be a believer in Hindutva without being an Indian, just as you can be an Indian without believing in Hindutva. Indian nationalism is distinct from Hindu nationalism as chalk is from cheese. Indian nationalism is as Nehru often said is a work in progress, while Hindu nationalism as everyone of us knows is a lived truth. We aspire to be Indians, we are Hindus.
If that is indeed so, what should be our path for the future ? It should be one which protects, promotes and propagates the ideas of Hindutva through out the world and specially in the Indian governance and political structures. Any action which promotes this value is pro Hindu, while any step which fails to do it or does not do so, is by different grades between Hindu neutral to anti Hindu.
It is natural to expect a political formation which espouses Hindutva therefore to be pro Hindu and expect it to follow up on pro Hindu policies. What does pro Hindu policies look like? It is basically the same that was followed by the Samrats from the Gupta Samrajya to the Deva Rayas of Viyanagara and to the Hindu Padpadshahi founded by Maharaja Shivaji Raje, that is protection, construction and promotion of Hindu deities and temples, promotion of Hindu values in society, the protection of life and property of Hindus, the promotion and use of Hindu Dharma in the actions of the state and in governance. No doubt there should not be discrimination against any person wanting to worship his gods but there should be an implicit acceptance of the overarching nature of Bharat Varsha as a Hindu land. Anything which falls short of that just cannot be acceptable.
Offcourse there is a little question of the Constitution. We all know that the insertion of the word “Secular” in the Constitution, through the backdoor into the Preamble by an amendment made 30 years after the signing of the constitution, like backdating a letter, is a fraud by whichever way one may want to refer to it. Nowhere else does the Constitution say it is Secular. The Constituent Assembly deliberately chose not to insert the word in our constitution and rejected it’s insertion on three different occasions by specifically rejecting attempts to bring in amendments into the draft by inserting the word into the document. The attempt was not rejected at the stage of the drafting committee but actually by the assembly itself. However, the attempt through fifty years has been to scream loud and continuously that it is a Secular Constitution. As Josef Goebells said “If you repeat a lie a thousand times, it becomes the truth”. The Constitution is not a bar for instituting Hindu policies, may be some of the institutions which have misused the Constitution and created vested interests inside it, are.
It is time that such institutions be confronted. Confronted aggressively, with a rupee not spared.It is time that we make our lists of people who have stood against and worked against the Hindu people when these tyrants have exercised power. It is time to bring them to account. It is time, Bhagwan Ram permitting, to bring them to courts of justice where they should be judged for their actions. Does it mean that we indulge in physical violence against these people ? Far from it. Violence would be too tempting and too easy and ultimately fruitless. It is important that these people be identified and exposed for promoting and propagating that pernicious of all ideas “Secularism” as a tool to perpetuate continued rule of “foreigners”. Exposing these vested interests in various institutions and organs of the state to sunlight would themselves be enough to make them whither away. It is said that we Hindus are compromising and accommodating and we may yet like we did last time, attempt to accommodate our tyrants in the new rule. If we do so, it would be like making the same mistake that Prithviraj Chauhan made with Muhammad Ghori after the first battle of Tarain. Chivalry is after all an excuse for cowardice and stupidity.
And there is the other question, which all politicians are so fond of putting forth: Indians are by nature secular and they would not countenance an intolerant idea – thereby insinuating offcourse that Hindutva is not a legitimate demand. The insinuation as we all know is completely incorrect since the demand to protect the claims and way of life of the indigenous inhabitants of the land from foreigners is the duty of the Indian state. Even in practise this is an expedient argument. If given by those who supposedly advocate Hindu politics it shows an inability or at the very least a discomfort of pushing the idea of Hindutva to it’s logical end. Whenever the Hindu political parties have pushed the idea, it has almost become the norm that after a point it has backed out for reasons only known to themselves and then after being worsted in the electoral process effectively falling between both stools, have come out with the strange logic that people do not appreciate Hindutva. People do not appreciate a half way house. People recognise those who are genuinely committed and those who are not so sure or afraid of what they stand for. It is time that our politicians recognise that.
It is also important for us to build coalitions, not ideological ones, that we see advocated every day by those who hate and envy us and whose only intention is to ensure dilution of our stand so that our very identity becomes non existent.We need to build social coalitions of groups who have similar beliefs around the idea of Hindu or the pride in the identity of being from the holy land of Bharat Varsha and who value the sanctity of the thousand year struggle to protect this identity.
This will require us to at a social level ensure that Hindutva becomes a broad umbrella not an exclusivist agenda. An umbrella which accommodates various jatis irrespective of their perceived stature in society. An umbrella which allows Bhagwan Sakyamuni Buddha and Bhagwan Rama equal space in our dialogues as two sides of the same coin. We have to combine the message of equality and righteous assertion of our claims. Ram Manohar Lohia thought that the reason for our one thousand year slavery is because we could not hold together as a society and to ensure that in future that what happened to the Kings was as much a concern to the peasant, it was important the differences of jati’s be destroyed once and for all. It is also important to remember that through the history of the battle of protection of the Hindu identity as we know it, the lowest of the low, the jati’s who were the most excluded from ritualist Brahmanism have fought the hardest. We retain our Hindu identity today because of the Marathas, the Sikhs and the Jatts and the unrelenting struggle which they have waged to protect their identity.We have to learn that Brahmanism is not Hinduism, just as Brahmin Dharma is not Sanatana Dharma. It is a lesson that we must inculcate at all costs.
It will require us to also to come out with a version of Hindutva which is region neutral. We all have different conceptions of Hindutva, because our struggles have been fought over a thousand years.In some times, some of us have lead the battle, at other times others. If the Marathas and Sikhs, lead the battle against Aurangzeb and the fanatic later Mughal rulers of Delhi, the Vijayanagar Rayas fought to protect Hindus in a different age, just as the Rajputs did in another time and the Bengalis during the British Rule. We have to realise that in the composite history of Hindu resistance different regions have adopted different strategies to combat and retain their identity. We have to realise that because of this varied and multi layered struggle, over a period of one thousand years our visions of our struggle and the ways to fight foreign rule has taken different shapes. It does not mean that therefore one form or vision is privileged over others. Most importantly, we have to learn to not make the mistakes that the Maharathas made before the third battle of Panipat. It is a lesson of history that irrespective of their regional and sectarian backgrounds, the Rohilla Afghans and the Shia ( even though the Shia Nawab of Awadh, Shuja-ud-daulah enjoyed very good relations with the Marathas) came under the banner of Ahmed Shah Durrani on the calls of Jihad. The Maratha arrogance and the inability to build a coalition ensured that the Sikhs, the Jats and Rajputs actually stayed away from rallying to the side of the Marathas, though they were committed to the Hindu struggle, which was evidenced by their active participation in the defense of the remnants of the Maratha armies subsequent to the defeat of the Marathas at the battle,at great cost to themselves. If we have to struggle to win the next round without compromising on our essential struggle for a Hindu Rashtra, it is most important that we actively show that that the Hindutva that we all fight for will not allow some groups to dominate or be privileged over others. The reason for the success of Mahatma Gandhi is because he managed to create this pan Indian political unity to a remarkable extent. No doubt even that display was not perfect ( and we all know the consequences of that very well ) but it was as close as it came for that period. We have to learn how to combine all the different versions of Hindutva into a whole, just as the Alakananda, Bhagirathi and Jamuna all come together to form the mighty Ma Bhagwati Ganga.We must combine it in a manner so that it becomes relevant for the present age.
This Hindutva must also take up issues which matter today.Dharma as they say is eternal but there is an “avataar” for every age to communicate Dharma in the language understandable to the people of the age. Similarly though the identity of Hindutva is eternal, the articulation would have to change with time. Obviously the famous issues would remain and it is important that they be fought for. After all those issues still matter and are relevant even today. However it is important that we start taking up issues which are new and have resonance with the youth today. Half committed calls to construct the Ram Mandir during election time just do not sell any more. We need to compliment the core issues with others which reflect the present age and it’s concerns. We need to calibrate our demands to present circumstances. Just a suggestion : What about genuinely opening up Hindu priesthood to all jatis in all temples ? What about ensuring that the earnings made from Hindu temples do not go into the coffers of a supposed secular state (which cannot reinvest it into the Hindu population) but is invested in genuine Hindu religious causes ? What about the formation of a Panel of eminent persons from the Hindu community to decide on changes to the personal law of the Hindus of any region ? What about allowing protections to Hindu educational institutions on similar lines as those extended to religious minorities ? What about stopping and reversing illegal immigration from Bangladesh ? What about rehabilitation of Hindu religious refugees in the Kashmir valley ? What about even more stringent anti conversion laws ? Most controversially what about a law which makes it illegal to defame Hindu Bhagwans and Hindu Dharma and a law protecting Hindu icons and temples from desecration? There are I am sure many more issues. We have to work out our agenda on those which there is the maximum consensus.
What about power? Some may ask. Is it possible to come to power without espousing Secular values? I would venture to say “Yes”, “yes, if we are brave enough” and “fight long enough”. Change is not for the weak hearted and change does not come easy. It has it’s ups and downs.It’s victories and it’s defeats. We should also recognise that in the defeats lie the seeds of victories and in victories the seeds of defeat. The Ram Mandir movement succeeded because it was about righting a historical defeat of our inability to protect one of our holiest shrines. And on the other hand, it is only after the stunning electoral victory of Indira Gandhi in 1972, that she became so powerful, that she was fearless enough to let loose the forces which would eventually result in her spectacular defeat after five years in 1977.
As for “us” it is doubly difficult for Hindus wear a burden of history. History has not been kind to Hindus for the last thousand years, depriving us of victory again and again, every time we have come close to finally asserting our identities. Remember Hemu Vikramaditya at the second battle of Panipat. Remember the Marathas at the third battle of Panipat. And every time, we have been consistently been betrayed by our ruling class, who just did not seem to have the stomache for the fight. Who probably thought that it was not worth risking what they had gained and what they could keep, as against Hindu identity. Every time they have compromised with those who were working against us. Every time the enemy has been lead by traitors from our midst who while espousing the gospel of Sanatana Dharma fought for the tyrants who were out to destroy it. Remember that on the last occasion, when Hindus were on the verge of creating am Hindu dominant state in Bharat Varsha, deposing the Mughal finally in Delhi, Ala Singh the Maharajah of Patiala aided Ahmed Shah Abdali in his battle with the Marathas at the third battle of Panipat, and, Mirza Jai Singh lead Aurangzeb’s forces against Shivaji Raje, when he took up the battle to create a Hindu dominant state in Bharat Varsha . Both Maharajah and the Mirza were traditional in following their religious doctrines, yet both were anti the forces of which stood for struggle for the establishment of Hindu rule.In the oncoming battle there would be numerous Mahrajah Ala Singhs and Mirza Jai Singhs. We have to be ready for them and not disappointed with them. It is the weak who have the luxury to complain about the perfidy of their enemy, the strong win inspite of them.
The time may yet come, when we are again faced with the same choice and dilemma. It is important that we chose our fight and stay in it and most importantly force our generals to not desert the battle for a share of the kingdom or for petty personal reasons, like so many Jai Chands. Our leaders may warn us about “electoral consequences”, but it is important for us to realise that we are not fighting this only for the next five years but for posterity. We may indeed as a result lose a few “elections” to electoral arithmetic, but in the long run victory would have to be ours, if we organise ourselves and do not lose our patience and our faith in the struggle to establish our Dharma Rajya / Hindu Rashtra. Mahatma Gandhi’s most important political discovery was that political victory was possible if the people really wanted it, inspite of their leaders.
There are therefore those yet, who may be saying, that leave out Hindu rage, fight against humongous corruption, lack of growth, unemployment, lack of security and inability of this UPA government to provide physical and economic security, find common ground with others, therein lies the secret of creating coalitions and thereafter eventual victory. With greatest of respect, it is time for us to differ. Offcourse all the above are extremely important issues and they show the moral depravity of the present government. If however we don’t stand up for our demands and our views now, some years down the line, we may become too irrelevant to get ourselves heard. After all in the Apartheid South Africa, no one doubted that the blacks were in a majority in the country, yet no one cared since the blacks were so far removed from the political power structure in the country, that they did not matter. It is this trap we should avoid at all costs. What use of winning the war if in the end the war is not worth fighting for.