Punam Kadam
This article originally appeared in centreright.in. CRI content has now been subsumed in swarajyamag.com. The views expressed here are personal and do not necessarily reflect those of the editors of swarajyamag.com

 “What is Hindutva?” 

“What is objectionable, what is dangerous about extremists is not that they are extreme but that they are intolerant. The evil is not what they say about their cause, but what they say about their opponents.”

  • Robert F. Kennedy

An overview:

 They say, “If politics is a product of its times, politicians are its brand managers and ambassadors. They are the face on the poster, the smile in the crowd, the promises, the folded hands, the five year wonders of our parliamentary democracy”. In the wake of the crisis hauling up the UPA government for more than two years, the government continues to choose not to be constructive enough, thereby doing a great disservice to their electorate. Many opinion polls have made their ways to check with the scorning ‘aam-aadmi’ whether the government will survive the storm till 2014, and as it occurs, if not the UPA, the ball may actually fall in the court of the two ‘polarising’ figures of the NDA– Mr. Narendra Modi and Mr. L. K. Advani. But it’s apparent that with both of them comes into picture the baggage — the very conspicuous central theme of their ideological agenda viz; The Hindutva. And when the biggest opposition party in the country stoops to the ‘election-eve-patriotism’ and make numerous attempts to fight their elections on the basis of the ideological issue, it becomes crucially weighty to understand the purpose and the intent of the term ‘Hindutva’.

Many of us are still unaware of the fact that the ideology of Hindutva was propounded by Vinayak Damodar Savarkar in 1923 in his pamphlet entitled Hindutva: Who is a Hindu? which is the set of movements advocating ‘Hindu nationalism. True, Savarkar’s ideology gave a false halo of heroism to the bigheads of the Sangh Parivar who champion the concept of Hindutva, often melding and fusing it with ‘Hindu- fanaticism’. The problem with Hindutva is, few understand its essence, what it stands for. It is one of those terms which have been unhealthily garbled to reek of something it does not mean. And as one gets to the length and the breadth of this insidiously sordid term, it occurs to me, it is not all that bad. In fact, I am totally in accord with one of my friend who in a chat conversation once said, “Hindutva is the only answer when someone asks me ‘What does it mean to be an Indian? Is it just the people living within the international border or is it something beyond that?” Going by the famous 1995 Supreme Court of India’s judgement, the word ‘Hindutva’ does not necessarily mean ‘Hinduism’. Hindutva is more about “the way of the life of the Indian people and the Indian culture or ethos.

Its quiet disreputable that the umbrella organizations like Sang Parivar mistake their own ideology for fanaticism, which is quite evident in their public meetings when their followers chant “Hindutva ka josh rashtra ka tiranga, Dono ko saath leke bhagwa vapas aayega” (the tricolor expresses the strength of Hindutva. If the two march together it will ensure the return of the saffron flag). “We are a part of a continuing civilization, which is thousands of years old. Hindutva, in essence means, that we don’t lose touch with it. It is true that the sub-continent was mostly Hindu, more than 95% before coming of Islam to India. So naturally, our culture will have a major component derived from Hindu religion.” says the same friend on the chat.

Essence of Hinduism:

The pretentious secularists in the country provide a for-instance of their jaundiced eyes when false pride is taken in mentioning the caste label every now and then. “Even our President was Muslim”, “Our Prime Minister is Sikh”. They never fail to degrade even the people of eminence with the likes of the President and the Prime Minister, by the distorted version of this pseudo- secular hypocrisy. What they tend to forget is that the religions of the world – Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism – are the great binding forces. Interestingly, unlike any other religion mentioned above, there isn’t any ‘ism’ — a distinctive doctrine, system or theory attached with ‘Hindu-ism’. Neither do the major scriptures of Hinduism The Vedas, The Upanishads, The Purāṇas, The Mahābhārata, The Rāmāyaṇa, The Bhagavad Gītā and The Āgamas
coerce the
heresy on its followers. Hinduism is uniquely all-welcoming, all-embracing faith around the world, so to say. In one of his books ‘The Elephant, The Tiger and The Cellphone’ sharing his ‘Ideas of Indianness’ Shashi Tharoor says, “Ever since the days of antiquity, there have been two distinct attitudes with Hinduism about the nature of the faith. One was steeped in ritual, superstition and exclusion, with a tightly knit priestly class who preserved themselves the prerogatives of control over the tenets and the institutions of the faith. The other was questioning, exploring, reformist, acknowledging the wonders of Creation and welcoming all attempts to stretch out one’s hands and minds to the Divine. The former led to the construction of a religious tradition so stepped in iniquity and obscurantism that is directly promoted the challenges of Mahavira Jaina and Gautama Buddha, both of whom essentially started as Hindu reformers. The latter school learned from the challenges, absorbed their beliefs within the Hindu fold, and elaborated the doctrine of ‘sarva
dharma sambhava‘. This was Hinduism of Vivekananda, who argued that the essence of both worship were equally valid — indeed that all religions were true. This is why there is no compulsory Hindu dogma, no single Hindu holy book, no Hindu Pope.”

Likewise, great people with the likes of Sri Ramakrishna Paramhamsa, Swami Vivekananda, Guru Nanak Dev, Santh Kabir, Gandhi, regarded all religions as different paths to the same goal, “My religion is Hinduism which, for me, is religion if humanity — I am being led to other religions through truth and non-violence i.e. love in the broadest sense… we are all sparks of the Truth, I am being led nearer to it by constant prayer”, said Gandhi. He believed in no dogma or rituals wherever you are, you hear the echo: “Raghupati Raghava… Ishwar Allah Tero Naam!” says Gandhi who epitomized ultimate secularism.


The curious case of Savarkar and Dr. Subramanian Swamy:

A lot has been said and gone down the drain when it comes to the interpretation of V.D. Savarkar’s brain child ‘Hindutva’. While Savarkar’s notions of ‘Hindu’ loyalty to the ‘Bharatvarsha‘ are often gauged as a ‘prototype’ of criticism of Muslims and Christians, it becomes of gravely important to see how the scholars, historians and the politicians have been looking at him. R.K. Dasgupta, an eminent scholar and former Director of the National Library of India argued about giving him a halo of a national figure. According to him it’s absolutely preposterous to sense him that way more than 50 years after the attainment of the freedom. He goes on to add, “Which Historian of India has called Savarkar a national figure? He has no presence in the serious political and historical literature of the country. There is no mention of him in the 945-page Oxford History of India published in 1958. Nehru does not mention him in his Autobiography and Subhas Chandra Bose too does not mention him in his two autobiographies. There is not a word on him in R.C. Majumdar, Hemchandra Raychaudhari and Kalikinkar Datta’s 1,222- page An Advanced History of India published in 1946. There is not even a passing reference to Savarkar in the 940- page The Role of Honour: Anecdotes of Indian Martyrs edited by K.C.Ghosh and published by the National Council of Education in 2002. Savarkar has, however, a strong presence in our books on communalism an instance of which is David Ludden’s Making India Hindu (1996)“.

Similarly, there have been instances in which Savarkar has often questioned the allegiance of the Muslims and Christians to the country. It has been a well known fact that Savarkar went on to claim that the Muslims and Christians don’t qualify to be as Hindus because merely living in the Indian Territory and being an Indian citizen is not sufficient for the membership to the ‘Hindu’ lot. Interestingly, according to him, even if their family has been rooted in the same village for centuries, they don’t capacitate as Hindus. Instead, he regarded them as the threat to the integrity of the country. Now this reminds of the very infamous DNA piece by Dr. Subramanian Swamy, How to wipe out Islamic Terror in which Swamy speaks of Muslims in the similar lines of Savarkar. To quote him, “We need a collective mindset as Hindus to stand against the Islamic terrorist. The Muslims of India can join us if they genuinely feel for the Hindu. That they do I will not believe unless they acknowledge with pride that though they may be Muslims, their ancestors were Hindus. If any Muslim acknowledges his or her Hindu legacy, then we Hindus can accept him or her as a part of the Brihad Hindu Samaj (greater Hindu society) which is Hindustan. India that is Bharat that is Hindustan is a nation of Hindus and others whose ancestors were Hindus. Others, who refuse to acknowledge this, or those foreigners who become Indian citizens by registration, can remain in India but should not have voting rights (which means they cannot be elected representatives). While I detest Swamy’s vague solutions to combat terrorism through his five goals enlisted, I find it more farcical when he proposes the removal of the Masjid in Kashi Vishwanath temple and the 300 masjids at other temple sites. It high time he realizes that when he asks the non-hindus to acknowledge their Hindu ancestry, he negates the Freedom of religion which in India is a fundamental right guaranteed by the country’s constitution


BJP’s stratagem:

It is nothing new that BJP leaders are prone to circumlocution in their public speeches when asked about VHP’s Hindutva strategy that usually overshadows BJP. Be it the VHP’s failed attempt to demolish the tomb of Mughal general Afzal Khan, an enemy of Chhatrapti Shivaji at Pratapgadh in my home district, Satara, or be it the reconversion of around 200 Christians in Orissa to Hinduism which happened back in 2004, BJP has been seen denying its association with VHP. This self-contrasting mood of BJP when it comes to acknowledging the Sangh Parivar and VHP leadership is quite evident when issues like destroying the any place of worship, Babri Masjid for that matter, spreading hatred against other religions are mistaken as Hindutva.

In a bid to promote Narendra Modi, BJP is often seen to throw the Hindutva element, which is unfortunately considered as their ‘comprehensive’ game plan against the UPA government. Sonali Ranade, a famous trader in her piece on rediff ‘Hindutva is largely irrelevant to economic reforms‘ sums it up quite well. According to her “The BJP’s notion that we can take politics for granted while we push towards economic reforms by whichever means possible is questionable. The fact that the secularism is the bedrock of our constitution, its existence cannot be threatened through such polarization along religious faultiness of BJP”. Moreover she goes on to add, “When peace and normal politics is challenged, as being done by the Hindutva forces to mobilize its cadre, the issue becomes central and everything else, including reforms recede to insignificance. Although secularism doesn’t guarantee reforms, championing Hindutva to promote reforms will be utterly self- defeating. How Modi’s success in Gujarat translates into Hindutva per se being conducive to economic reforms remains an unexplainable mystery”.

With the national elections coming up in 2014, and the BJP and its associates found confounded with the Bhartiyata
Agenda, it would be interesting to see if the BJP’s principal focus would be on development issues and the ‘misrule’ of the Congress, for elections can never be fought on ideological issues. Hindutva in a larger picture cannot translate the tactics on the ground level. Like once Pramod Mahajan said in an interview “I am of a firm opinion that the ideological issues give you reasons to be in party and stay in that party. But you don’t fight elections on the ideological issues. Elections are fought, unless it is an abnormal election, on normal daily problems- bijlee, pani, sadak (electricity, water, roads). If there is something like Emergency or Ramjanmabhomi andolan, at those times’ the normal issues subside and emotional issues takeover. ”


The Road Ahead:

For over 65 years India has struggled to overcome the self-imposed impairment of prejudice and discrimination based on social class, religion. This is repugnant to the Gandhi’s visualization of India where there is no division by the virtue of religion, caste or language. To quote A. G. Noorani, “The last word must belong to Gandhi. At the famous Quit India Session of AICC on Aug 8. 1942 Gandhi said that the Hindus who, like Dr, Moonje and Shri Savarkar, believed in the doctrine of the sword may seek to keep the Musalmans under Hindu domination. For he does not represent that section. This is the fundamental divide between Gandhi and Savarkar’s heirs, the BJP”. Let us all take back the Hinduism from the fanatics, shape our society abolishing the bigoted caste practices, let us be ‘godless’ enough to avoid the intrusion of the Gods and Prophets in our lives, let us protect the principle of secularism enshrined by the constitution. Let us give the biggest tribute to the Hindutva by safeguarding the ‘principle of equality and opportunity’. Amen.