BJP’s Majoritarianism

In the Uttar Pradesh Assembly Elections held earlier this year, the Bhartiya Janata Party fielded as many as 403 candidates but only 1 ticket was given to a Muslim candidate. Yesterday, the saffron outfit came out with its list of candidates for the 182 member Gujarat Assembly and unfortunately not even a single Muslim made it to the final list. On both the occasions the BJP came out with the explanation that it does not believe in appeasement.

It’s commendable if a party discards votebank politics and embraces meritocracy while allotting tickets and electioneering but this policy of no appeasement (if it is indeed appeasement) should apply to all and not merely to a particular section of people. In the Uttar Pradesh Assembly Elections, BJP brought firebrand leader Uma Bharti belonging to a backward community to lead it’s campaign in the state in order to woo the OBC’s, in Punjab BJP allied with the Akalis, a party with religious inkling and in Goa which happens to be a minority bastion, more than 20% of the candidates fielded by the BJP were Christians. In the past also, BJP has acted in an opportunistic and sectarian manner to fetch votes. During the 90’s they allied with the BSP and raised the slogan, ‘Hathi nahi, Hanuman Hai’ to consolidate Dalit and Brahmin votes. History as well as the continuing trend makes it clear that the BJP’s ‘no appeasement’ politics only applies to the Muslims. It would rather be apt to say that for the BJP, the Muslims are untouchables because it was opposition to the Muslims which brought their party to national prominence and they are least interested in shedding their image of being an anti-Muslim party because it is this fearless figure of the BJP which helps them in polarizing elections.

This is one fact which will remain true no matter how many times Mr Modi embarks on a Sadbhavna Mission or LK Advani’s reiterates his party’s commitment to secularism by condemning movies like ‘Innocence of Muslims’ because these things are nothing apart from plain lip service. I want to ask the BJP one very simple question. If they could find only a single Muslim candidate in UP (Where over 4 crore Muslims live) and not even a single in Gujarat (Where Muslims, as per the Sachar Committee Report, are better in terms of education and economic well being than the national average, this fact in itself might appear unbelievable to many) where in India will they find Muslims whom they can consider fit to be given a party ticket ? BJP’s actions and its ticket distributing patterns puncture its claims of the inclusiveness of its ideology of Hindutva. This subject needs to be evaluated very objectively and that can only happen when people get over their perverse thinking which makes them feel that if a particular person is speaking against some injustice being done to his community then he or she is indulging in communalism.

What is Hindutva?

‘And God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten son and that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but last till eternity.’ This iconic Biblical verse mentioned in Gospel of John, Chapter 3, Verse 16 has served as the principal plank of Christian Theology since centuries. It happens to be the kingpin of evangelists and Bible thumpers. Similarly, the apologists of the Hindutva brigade continue to chant the same old slogan of it being a ‘way of life of the Indian people and the Indian culture or ethos’ whenever they are pressed upon to define the same. This definition of the term Hindutva was accepted by the Supreme Court in the year 1995. The Hindutva brigade flaunts the Supreme Court Judgement of 1995 as a vindication of the constitutionality of its ideology but what the Hindutva brigade hides from the general public is the result of a review petition filed by Muhammad Aslam in connection to the Hindutva Judgement of 1995 in which the court observed that, “its judgement had been misread and any candidate carrying this misunderstanding to the polls with a communal campaign would have to be ready for an unhappy surprise.” The three-judge bench of Justices JS Verma, MP Singh and K Venkataswami observed, “If it happens, we are here to correct it.” In fact even the 1995 Supreme Court Judgment on Hindutva exposed the unilateral and fascistic tendencies of the Sangh’s ideology by defining it apart from being a way of life as “a synonym of Indianisation, i.e., development of uniform culture by obliterating the differences between all the cultures co-existing in the country” which is the very anti-thesis of the concept of unity in diversity ie unity without uniformity and diversity without fragmentation.  

The word Hindutva (ie Hindu-ness) was coined by Vinayak Damodar Savarkar in his ideological document ‘Hindutva : Who is a Hindu ?’ written in the year 1923. It was in this document that Savarkar opined the concept of ‘pitrabhoomi’ and ‘punyabhoomi’ and described Hindus as those who consider India (A Hindu Rashtra) to be their fatherland as well as their holy land. As per this definition, apart from Hindus, Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs were also to be considered as Hindus whereas Muslims, Christians, Jews etc were to be held as foreigners. On the occasion of his 59th birthday in the month of May, Savarkar wrote to his followers, “Hinduise all politics and militarize Hindudom and resurrection of our Hindu Nation is bound to follow.” He further stated, “Hindus should henceforth test all national and international politics and policies through the Hindu point of view alone. Whatever policy or political event contributes to safeguard and promote Hindu interests must be backed up by the Hindus and whatever is likely to prove detrimental to Hindu interests must be condemned and opposed by the Hindus.” However, Hindutva apologists have mastered the art of evading such words of the principal ideologue of Hindutva and have maintained high standards of euphemism revolving around the same old notion of Hindutva being a ‘way of life’.

A dubious game is being played in the nation in the name of Hindutva and Nationalism. In reality it is pseudo-Hinduism and jingoism. A lot of people equate Hindutva with Hinduism but this understanding of Hindutva is flawed since the ancient Vedic religion stands in complete contradiction to Hindutva as Hindutva assaults its fundamental tenets of equality, peace, co-existence and tolerance. Hinduism is the oldest living religion in the world. It can be possibly ruled as the religion with the widest and most tolerant set of beliefs and teachings. Hinduism, unlike other religions, isn’t confined to one Holy Scripture. Its teachings have been enunciated in an array of religious books. Hinduism breaks all ideological barriers and is the only religion of the world whose concept of God encompasses beliefs which include monotheism, polytheism, henotheism, kathenotheism, panentheism, pantheism, monism, agnosticism and even atheism. It was Hindu scholars who preached to the world the great doctrine of non duality which emphasizes on the fact that all religions are true and service to mankind is the greatest act of religiousness. Based on the teachings of this very religion, Mahatma Gandhi coined satyagraha and ahimsa.

Unfortunately, a religion which is so very liberal by its intrinsic nature is being represented by a rigid ideology of Hindutva in modern India which has traits of theocratic fascism, militant nationalism, genetic-racism, retributive colonialism and Islamophobia. The first and foremost feature of Hindutva is a theocratic state which was envisioned by Savarkar himself. He outlined his vision of a Hindu Rashtra as Akhand Bharat stretching across the entire Indian subcontinent. This theocratic state is the anti-thesis of the democratic secular polity which we cherish today and has a very hostile attitude towards religious minorities especially Muslims. MS Golwalkar, the Second Sarsanghchalak of the RSS, wrote the following in his book, We or Our Nationhood Defined, in relation to religions with foreign origins, “They have no place in national life, unless they abandon their differences, adopt the religion, culture and language of the nation and completely merge themselves in the national race. So long, however, as they maintain their racial, religious and cultural differences, they can only be foreigners. In Hindustan exists, and must exist, the ancient Hindu nation, and nothing else but the Hindu nation.  All those not belonging to the national, i.e. Hindu race, religion, culture and language, naturally fall out of the pale of real national life.” He further stated, “The foreign races in Hindustan must either adopt the Hindu culture and language, must learn to respect and hold in reverence the Hindu religion, must entertain no idea except the glorification of the Hindu religion and culture, i.e. of the Hindu nation, and must lose their separate existence to merge in the Hindu race, or they may stay in the country wholly  subordinated to the Hindu nation, claiming nothing, deserving no privileges, far less any preferential treatment – not even citizen’s rights.  There is, at least should be, no other course for them to adopt.  We are an old nation, let us deal as old nations ought to deal with the foreign races who have chosen to live in our country.” On Muslims, Mr Golwalkar commented, “Ever since that evil day when the Muslims first landed in Hindustan, right upto the present moment, the Hindu Nation has been fighting gallantly to take on these despoilers.” Bal Thackeray, a contemporary regional Hindutva leader (Dubbed as Hindu Hriday Samraat) stated in an interview to India Today in 1984, “They [Muslims] are spreading like a cancer and should be operated on like a cancer. The country should be saved from the Muslims and the police should support them [Hindu Maha Sangh] in their struggle just like the police in Punjab were sympathetic to the Khalistanis.” It is this very hostile attitude towards minorities especially Muslims which has made right wing Hindu Nationalist parties a political pariah in mainstream Indian politics. Subramanian Swamy, President of the Janata Party and a Hindutvavadi recently elaborated on the concept of Hindutva in the most atrociously fascistic fashion which smelt of genetic racism. He opined that India should be declared a Hindu Rashtra where non Hindus could vote only if they would accept their Hindu ancestry. He wanted India to be renamed as Hindustan, a nation of Hindus and those whose ancestors were Hindus. Such concepts expose the congruity between theocracy and gene-based racism through Hindutva. Militant Nationalism is another key feature of Hindutva which fantasizes an uncompromising foreign policy based on non interaction, military threats and invasions. This uncompromising approach of the nationalists was born way back in 1950 when Syama Prasad Mukherjee resigned from the Interim Central Government when Jawaharlal Nehru invited Liaqat Ali Khan for the historic Delhi Pact which sought to safeguard minority rights in both the nations and establish minority commissions. Mukherjee saw this as an act of appeasement and resigned from the Cabinet since he held East Pakistan directly responsible for the large influx of Hindu refugees in Bengal. The sole notion of patriotism for Hindutvavadis is Pakistan bashing and jingoism. Most of the times, Hindutvavadis act like a xenophobic bunch of pseudo-patriots. In the year 2002 during his Gujarat Gaurav Yatra, Narendra Modi, another Hindutva poster boy, remarked, “The day Hindu terrorism comes into being, Pakistan would be wiped off the world map.” The annihilation of the neighbouring state of Pakistan seems to be the penultimate aim of Hindu nationalists. Other Hindutva intellectuals like Swamy have even developed an Indianized version of the Nazi Lebensraum (Living Space) as they advocate in favour of India invading Bangladesh and annexing the region from Sylhet to Khyber in order to accommodate illegal immigrants coming from Bangladesh. Others argue in favour of militarily taking over PoK. Undoing the colonization effect has always been a dream of right wing nationalists. It was this ambition which drove Golwalkar to emphasize on the need for reversing the cultural intrusions resulting due to the invasion of colonial invaders like the Muslims and Christians. Keeping this in mind, LK Advani embarked on the Rath Yatra in the 1990s which ultimately culminated with the demolition of the Babri Mosque in Ayodhya and spread riots all across the nation. This mentality further influenced people like Swamy to suggest removing the mosque at Kashi Vishwanath and 300 other mosques with temples. Admiration of Adolf Hitler is another interesting feature of Hindutvavadis. Golwalkar wrote, “To keep up the purity of its race and its culture, Germany shocked the world by purging the country of the Semitic race – the Jews.  Race pride at its highest has been manifested here. Germany has also shown how well-nigh impossible it is for races and cultures having differences going to the roots, to be assimilated into one united whole, a good lesson for us in Hindustan to learn and profit by.” The threat of yet another Holocaust against minorities in modern India never really died since we always had people like Bal Thackeray who once said in an interview, “I am a great admirer of Hitler, and I am not ashamed to say so! I do not say that I agree with all the methods he employed, but he was a wonderful organizer and orator, and I feel that he and I have several things in common. What India really needs is a dictator who will rule benevolently, but with an iron hand.” Even LK Advani, the man who spearheaded the Rath Yatra of the 1990s was not left far behind in praising Hitler. When Sonia Gandhi called Narendra Modi a ‘merchant of death’, Advani remarked that “Narendrabhai can’t be a merchant of death but he can certainly be Hitler.”

Looking at the quotations presented above, one would certainly want that Hindutva as an ideology should be proscribed immediately but the irony lies in the fact that an equal number of good sayings of Hindu nationalists can be brought forth to prove that Hindutva is a secular and inclusive philosophy. Savarkar opposed the Partition and prescribed one man, one vote system, be the man Hindu or Muslim, as summarized by BR Ambedkar in his book ‘Pakistan or Partition of India’. In the year 1998, Bal Thackeray said, “We must look after Muslims and treat them as part of us.” During the BJP’s recent National Executive Meet in Surajkund, LK Advani, reiterated the party’s commitment to secularism and condemned the movie ‘Innocence of Muslims’ which had angered Mohammedans all across the globe. It is this paradox which adds mystery to the concept of Hindutva.

The Hindutva apologists have over the years strictly adhered to the 1995 Supreme Court judgement which defines Hindutva as ‘a way of life’ while explaining the term. Therefore, it’s imperative to analyze the court’s judgement in order to ascertain the various aspects of Hindutva. The judgement states, “These Constitution Bench decisions, after a detailed discussion, indicate that no precise meaning can be ascribed to the terms Hindu, Hindutva and Hinduism; and no meaning in the abstract can confine it to the narrow limits of religion alone, excluding the content of Indian culture and heritage. It is also indicated that the term Hindutva is related more to the way of life of the people in the subcontinent. It is difficult to appreciate how in the face of these decisions, the term Hindutva or Hinduism per se, in the abstract, can be assumed to mean and be equated with narrow fundamentalist Hindu religious bigotry, or be construed to fall within the prohibition in sub-section (3) and/or (3A) of Section 123 of the R.P. Act.” The apologist’s principal argument rests on this plank. If one asks a Hindutva apologist to explain as to how is Hindutva a way of life, he proceeds to quote another abstract of this judgement which states, “Unlike other religions in the world, the Hindu religion does not claim any one prophet, it does not worship any one God, it does not subscribe to any one dogma, it does not believe in any one philosophic concept, it does not follow any one set of religious rites or performances, in fact, it does not appear to satisfy the narrow traditional features of any religion or creed. It may broadly be described as a way of life and nothing more.” He would go on to explain as to how Hinduism is not merely based on the teachings of one book, one prophet or one religious institution like the Church and this is the point where he falters since he was asked to explain as to how is ‘Hindutva’ a way of life not ‘Hinduism’. The fallacy of the judgement lies in it treating Hindutva and Hinduism as synonymous to one another whereas Savarkar held the opinion that Hinduism was just a ‘fraction’ of Hindutva. The judgement analyzes Hindutva from the point of view of Hinduism and makes references to previous court judgements on Hinduism, none of which had anything to do with Hindutva. In fact, the judgement has not even taken into account any of the writings of Hindutva ideologues, not even Savarkar’s, the man who coined the term Hindutva. We can’t expect to analyze Marxism without mentioning Marx, Nazism without Hitler, Fascism with Mussolini, Satyagraha without Gandhi so how can we understand Hindutva without Savarkar ? The justification which the court has given for using the term ‘way of life’ is from the perspective of Hinduism (I repeat) and not Hindutva and it’s hard to agree with the court’s stance that Hinduism is a way of life instead of a religion based on the features elaborated in the judgement. Polytheism isn’t a practise which is solely relegated to Hinduism. Chinese folk religion, Shintoism and Neo-Paganism also subscribe to the ideology in modern times. During the ancient times, Roman, Greek, Egyptian, Armenian, Celtic and a number of other civilizations were polytheistic by nature. If we are talking of acknowledgement of agnostic and atheistic point of views then we shouldn’t forget Buddhism because Buddha’s position on the existence of God remained sceptical all through his life and Buddhism is primarily agnostic by nature. As far as the question of prophets is concerned, the Bible mentions 75 prophets not merely one. In Islam, there are 1,24,000 prophets whereas the Quran talks about and elaborates on the anecdotes of 25. Talking of religious texts, Buddhism has more than a dozen religious discourses. The King James Version of the Bible happens to comprise of 66 books. There are some 24,000 Gospels in the world. In Islam, apart from the Quran, Muslims go through the various Hadiths, Seerahs and Kalaams. With due respect, we can conclude that these are laudable features of Hinduism but it certainly doesn’t have a monopoly over them and hence it can’t be ruled as a way of life while others continue to be labelled as religions and if it is indeed ruled as a way of life then so are others. The Sangh Parivar flaunts the judgement of 1995 as a justification of its stand but in reality the judgement has tore down the concept of a Hindu as laid down by Savarkar who saw Hindus as those who consider this land as their ‘pitrabhoomi’ and ‘punyabhoomi’. The judgement states, “The development of Hindu religion and philosophy shows that from time to time saints and religious reformers attempted to remove from the Hindu thought and practices elements of corruption and superstition and that led to the formation of different sects. Buddha started Buddhism, Mahavir founded Jainism, Basava became the founder of Lingayat religion, Jnaneshwar and Tukaram initiated the Varakari cult, Guru Nanak inspired Sikhism, Dayananda founded Arya Samaj and Chaitanya began Bhakti cult and as a result of the teachings of Ramakrishna and Vivekananda, Hindu religion flowered into its most attractive, progressive and dynamic form. If we study the teachings of these saints and religious reformers, we would notice an amount of divergence in their respective views but underneath that divergence, there is a kind of subtle indescribable unity which keeps them within the sweep of the broad and progressive Hindu religion. The Constitution-makers were fully conscious of this broad and comprehensive character of Hindu religion and so, while guaranteeing the fundamental right to freedom of religion, Explanation II to Art. 25 has made it clear that in sub-clause (b) of clause (2), the reference to Hindus shall be construed as including a reference to persons professing the Sikh, Jain or Buddhist religion and the reference to Hindu religious institutions shall be construed accordingly.” The judgement categorically acknowledges the categorization of Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists as Hindus but does not hold the same basis as Savarkar held for categorizing them as Hindus. The only point where the judgement actually discusses Hindutva is where it quotes from Maulana Wahiuddin Khan’s book, ‘Indian Muslims : Need for a Positive Outlook’ and adds another definition of Hindutva, which states, “The word Hindutva is used and understood as a synonym of Indianisation, i.e., development of uniform culture by obliterating the differences between all the cultures co-existing in the country.” This is the point where Hindutva takes an ugly, imperialistic, fascistic and hegemonic turn as it tries to envisage communal harmony by buttressing others to either give up on their culture or pledge allegiance to the Hindu culture under which they shall remain subordinated. It does not believe in unity in diversity. Hindutva’s attempts at decimating the diversity of the country by coming up with slogans like ‘Hindi, Hindu, Hindustan’ are threatening and frowned upon by all those who don’t buy into the idea of uniformity and unilateralism. Tamils and North-Easterners can’t speak Hindi, SC’s/ST’s/OBC’s can’t turn to Brahmanism overnight, Abrahamic faiths can’t turn into Dharmic ones, and nor can India turn into a Hindu Rashtra. A thorough analysis of the Hindutva judgement as well as the review petition filed by Muhammad Aslam clearly proves that the twin judgements were a dampener for the Hindutva forces.

In a piece titled ‘The Sangh is my Soul’, AB Vajpayee wrote, “They [Muslims and Christians] can follow the faith of their own conviction. No one can object to it. We [Hindus] worship trees, animals, stones and what not. We have hundreds of ways of worshipping God. They can go where they want. But this country must be looked upon as the Motherland for them. They must have a feeling of patriotism for this country. But the Islamic division of the world into ‘Darul Islam’ and ‘Darul Harb’ comes into the way. Islam has yet to learn the art of existing and flourishing in a country where Muslims are in a minority. They cannot convert the whole of India to Islam. After all, they have to live here. So they have to recognise this fact. And today it has become a matter of grave concern and deep thinking in the Muslim countries because Quran offers no guidance in this regard. It only talks of killing kafirs or converting them to Islam. But they cannot do it always and everywhere. How can they do it where they are in a minority? If they try to do it, a major clash will take place and only the members of the minority will be killed. But Muslims themselves have to change this state of affairs. We cannot change it for them. Congress has not correctly understood the Muslim problem. They continue to carry on their policy of appeasement. But to what effect ? The Muslims of this country can be treated in three ways. One is ‘tiraskar’ which means if they will not themselves change, leave them alone, reject them as out compatriots. Second is ‘puruskar’ which is appeasement, i.e. bribe them to behave, which is being done by the Congress and others of their ilk. The third way is ‘parishkar’ meaning to change them, that is, restore them to the mainstream by providing them sanskaras. We want to change them by offering them the right sanskaras. Their religion will not be changed. They can follow their own religion. Mecca can continue to be holy for the Muslims but India should be holier than the holy for them. You can go to a mosque and offer namaz, you can keep the roza. We have no problem. But if you have to choose between Mecca or Islam and India you must choose India. All the Muslims should have this feeling. We will live and die only for this country.” Firstly, we need to realize that the terms Darul Islam and Darul Harb are greatly misunderstood. The term Darul Islam is used in the Quran to depict heaven and it literally means an ‘Abode of Peace’. Scholars use the term ‘Darul Islam’ to describe those places or nations where Muslims are given the freedom to freely practise their religion. The term ‘Darul Harb’ literally means an ‘Abode of War’ and is used to describe those places or countries which have declared war on the Muslims. The two terms have got nothing to do with what is generally contemplated by critics of Islam. Muslims aren’t commanded to turn every country into a Muslim-majority nation nor is any country an ‘Abode of War’ ie ‘Darul Harb’ merely because it doesn’t happen to be a Muslim-Majority. In fact there are other terms like ‘Darul Aman’ and ‘Darul Ahad’ which are used to illustrate the conditions prevailing at those places where Muslims have religious freedom and at the same time happen to have treaties or friendly relations with people belonging to other faiths. Secondly, it’s totally wrong to state that the Quran instructs Muslims only to kill Non Muslims or to convert them. Yes, the Quran does contain a number of problematic passages including the two famous Verses of the Sword mentioned in Surah Tauba which if not understood in their entirety and historical background could lead and at times, do lead to radicalized Mullahs exalting people to kill disbelievers but one can point out to endless number of Quranic verses which promote religious freedom, co-existence and tolerance. The Quran states in Chapter 2, Verse 256, “There is no compulsion in religion.” Chapter 22, Verse 67 states, “We have appointed for every community ways of worship to observe. Let them not dispute with you on this matter” and Chapter 109, Verse 4, says, “To you your religion, to me mine.” The question of taking initiatives to ‘Indianize’ Muslims is an erroneous one. It’s been centuries since the Muslims along with other immigrants like the Jews, Zoroastrians, Christians etc started coming and settling in India. They are now a part of India’s DNA. When it comes to assessing the loyalty and patriotism of Indians Muslims, we don’t need to worry much since the Muslims have a religious obligation to be faithful to their associates as commanded in the Quran irrespective of their religion. When the Holy Prophet migrated from Mecca to Medina, a verse was revealed to him which set forth the relationship which was to be maintained between the Muslims of Mecca and Medina and the Jews of Medina. Chapter 8, Verse 72 of the Quran states, “Those who have believed and migrated [Muslims] and struggled for God’s cause with their possessions and persons, and those who have given refuge and help [Jews of Medina] are the friends and protector of one another. But as for those who have to come to believe without having migrated [Muslims of Mecca], you [Muslims of Medina] are in no way responsible for their protection until they migrate. If they seek your [Muslims of Medina] help in the matter of religion, it is incumbent on you to help them [Muslims of Mecca], except against a people with whom you have a pact [Jews of Medina].” This verse clearly puts out the priority for Muslims. Muslims are not allowed to go out of the way and support a Muslim Majority Country against their own country since they have a pact with the people of the nation in which they are living. Islam has institutionalized patriotism and loyalty within Muslims. Furthermore, the Quran states in Chapter 17, Verse 34, “And fulfil every pact, you will be held accountable with regard to the pacts.” The Constitution of Medina which was the brainchild of Prophet Muhammad declared the Muslims, Jews and Tribes of Yathrib as one community to the exclusion of all men. These religious principles and anecdotes clearly prove that there is no reason to suspect the loyalty of Muslims living in India. Another point which needs to be made over here is in relation to the Sachar Committee findings which tore apart the common stereotypes existing about Muslims in India. The Committee’s report stated that the Muslim community as a whole had never indulged in anti-national activities. The findings of the Sachar Committee also proved that no appeasement of the Muslims had taken place over the years. If it had so happened, Muslims would not have been in such a terrible socio-economic state.

However, the most favourite argument of the Hindu communalist is that India is a secular country because Hinduism is a secular religion. Unfortunately, this statement is made not with the intention of upholding secularism but with the intention of ridiculing it. Hindu communalists argue that it is Hinduism which gives India secular colour and had Hindus not been in a majority, India would have never been as diverse as it is today. To portray the extreme magnanimity of the Hindus, the communalists quote the verses of the Quran out of context and on the other hand boast of the message of peace as given in the Hindu scriptures. Little does the Hindu communalist realize that the message of the Vedic saying “Ekam Sath Vipraha Bahuda Vadanati”, (Truth is One, Sages Call it By Different Names) is very much similar to that of the Quranic saying, “God ordained for you the same religion which he enjoined on Noah, and what has been revealed to you and what we enjoined upon Abraham, Moses and Jesus so that you should remain steadfast in religion and not become divided in it.” (42:13). Satyamev Jayate (Mundka Upanishad) is in essence again similar to the Quranic verse, “Truth has arrived and falsehood has perished, for falsehood had to perish.” (17:81). Maha Upanishad’s famous phrase “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” (The Entire World is One Big Family) is similar to Muhammad’s Hadith, “All of God’s creatures are his family and he or she is the most beloved of God who tries to do most good to God’s creatures.” Atithi Devo Bhav (The Guest is God) is same as Ahlan Va Sahlan (You are like my family and so take it easy).
     
The rise of the Hindutva Movement can be attributed to those Hindutvavadis who tried to portray themselves as protectors and saviours of Hindus who had been marginalized and turned into second class citizens in their own country due to what they considered to be the politics of minority appeasement.  This anger, discontentment and disillusionment with the system aren’t relegated to the Hindu community. Muslims and Sikhs have felt the same since a long time and so have Tamils, North-Easterners, Uttar Pradeshis and Biharis. Muslims and Sikhs feel dismayed and insecure because of the large Hindu population. Muslims even hold the view that they are being widely discriminated against and are considered to be supporters of Pakistan. North-Easterners are angry over them not being treated as equal citizens of India by fellow Indians. Tamils protest over attempts being made to impose the North Indian language of Hindi over them while Uttar Pradeshies and Biharis remain angry over the rest of Indians looking down upon them as backwards and illiterates. Each group has its set of grievances and different parties have emerged from time to time and have played up on such emotive concerns to strengthen their votebank while making no concrete efforts to change the ground realities. Same is the case with Hindutva parties. However, what is clear is that there are certain pet issues of Hindutvavadis, namely construction of a Ram temple at Ayodhya, Abrogation of Article 370, Enactment of a Uniform Civil Code, etc a slight change in the position of which could lead to repositioning of Hindutva as a blessing instead of being a threat for India. 
 
As far as the Ram Temple is concerned, the right wing parties, BJP, in particular, need to come out with an unequivocal condemnation of the demolition of the Babri Mosque which took place on the night of 6th December, 1992 in the presence of top Hindutva leaders. They need to stop justifying the heinous act of razing the mosque to the ground in the name of Lord Ram and make no extra-judicial efforts to construct the Ram Temple while simultaneously letting the law take its own course. This would be tough for right wing parties as the demolition served as their claim to fame but in a secular polity, no one can be spared for such antics. Political history will never forget the Hindu Nationalist Parties for the demolition since their participation in the conspiracy is self evident. One day prior to the demolition, Vajpayee, the most liberal face of Hindutva, exalted his supporters to perform kar seva at the place by saying that ‘rokna ka toh sawaal hi nahi hai’. He further stated, “zameen se nukele pattthar nikal rahe hai, unpe toh koi baith nahi sakta, zameen ko samthal banana padega” a statement which was seen as a tacit approval to the act of demolition which took place the next day. Repenting for this historical mistake would make parties like the BJP more approachable in the future.    

Abrogating Article 370 is a principle demand of the Hindu Nationalist parties but the reason why this demand is looked upon with suspicion and scepticism is because the Hindu Nationalist parties merely look at the ill-treatment meted out to Kashmiri Pandits while they keep mum on the atrocities which have been unleashed on innocent Muslims living in the Valley. The right wing needs to support the idea of scrapping AFSPA from the state of Jammu and Kashmir and they should ask for an independent probe into the human rights violations carried out by the Indian Army in the valley right through the days of insurgency since 1987. The premise that normalcy would return to the Valley if Article 370 was removed is put to death when the same Hindu Nationalists parties advocate in favour of draconian laws like the AFSPA which haven’t helped in containing militancy but have led to innumerable injustices and excesses which have given rise to the feeling of secessionism.

A secular and uniform civil code for India is a must for it to achieve gender equality and social justice. Hindutvavadis have been raising the issue since the days of the Shah Bano Verdict which came during the premiership of Rajeev Gandhi but they have failed to capitalize on the issue and drum up support for it since they have communalized the issue by solely talking of the need for the abolishment of Muslim personal laws. The enactment of a uniform civil code will not only mean the abolishment of the Muslim Personal Laws but also the personal laws of other communities including the Hindu code Bills (like the Hindu Marriage Act). It’s totally wrong on the part of Hindutvavadis to try and impose Hindu Code Bills on Muslims, Christians, Jews etc as they were on Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains since the roots of the Hindu Code Bills lie in the Dharamsastras which are Hindu religious texts not literary pieces of secular jurisprudence. Secondly, Abrahimic faiths have a completely different background and history. Attempting to include them under the ambit of the term ‘Hindu’ as the indigenous Dharmic faiths were would prove detrimental.

Illegal immigration into the territory of India is a cause of concern for everyone but the reason why Hindu Nationalists have failed on this front is because of their evident hypocrisy in dealing with it. Over here they have again tried to cash in on the Hindu-Muslim clash by selectively picking on illegal immigration from Bangladesh and turning a blind-eye towards infiltration from Burma and Nepal. Pitching the majority against the minority is the modus operandi of racism. What is worse is that in Kashmir, Hindu Nationalists stand in opposition to separatists but in Assam they take a complete U-turn by sloganeering in favour of Bodi outfits many of which still hold separatist dreams and are working towards maiming India by trying to carve out a separate nation for Bodos or a separate state for Bodos free from Assamese control. This duplicity of Hindutvavadis in relation to condemnation of Kashmiri separatists and coronation of Bodo secessionists needs to be done away with.

Communalization of education is another charge which has been thrown up on the nationalists ever since Murli Manohar Joshi as HRD Minister tried to rewrite the syllabus of History textbooks under the banner of ‘Indianization, Spiritualization and Nationalization’. It’s true that an unbiased account of history is extremely important since modern India has a rich and glorious past but what needs to be kept in mind is that when we talk of religious persecution, we don’t merely talk of the brutality meted out by some of the barbaric Muslim invaders on Hindus but also of the brutality which the Buddhists had to face at the hands of fanatic Hindu emperors and the testing days of both Hindus and Muslims under the British Raj. To portray Hindus in history textbooks as the sole persecuted community of ancient India is not only factually fraudulent but is also capable of flaring up communal sentiments. To have an unbiased account of history it is also important to not let academic debates and researches on issues like cow slaughter and beef consumption be subverted just because the truth doesn’t suit somebody’s political goals. As far as the question of Hindu pride is concerned, the nationalists have every right to raise their voice in relation to preserving Hindu culture by cleaning up holy rivers like Ganga and safeguarding sites like Ram Setu which they consider to be pious. Razing of mosques purportedly created at the sites of Hindu temples and the intolerant act of pleading everyone to either accept their Hindu ancestry or reconvert need to be trashed since they are not sustainable secular pleas. The false propaganda of extensive Muslim population growth, rejection of family planning by Muslims and preference given by them to Madrasah education over private and government schools was dampened by the findings of the Sachar Committee which found a decrease in fertility rates as 20 million Muslim couples were found using contraceptives and only 4% of Muslim students were found going to Madrasas. All these issues need to be dumped once and for all. It’s true that India is no exception to historical blunders but as Sitaram Yechury very rightly pointed out that, “if the process of undoing historical wrongs is unleashed then there are no limits that can be set for going back into the history. The son cannot be punished for the father’s crime; leave alone crimes committed by generations ago even if these charges can be substantiated.”

I would like to sum up by saying that if Hindus are being victimized or oppressed just because they are Hindus or because of evident minority bias then everybody needs to stand up for them but the idea of establishing a dictatorial Hindu state in a country which is currently being governed in a democratic fashion is simply unacceptable. The most important task infront of the nationalists is to define Hindutva. The BJP, which is the largest Hindu Nationalist Party in India, doesn’t have the word ‘Hindutva’ in its party constitution. Not only does it need to incorporate the word ‘Hindutva’ in its party constitution but it also needs to define it as ‘a way of life of Indian people’ where Indians are not simply those whose ancestors were Hindus or those whose religion was born over here but an Indian should be defined as ‘anyone who wishes to be one’ as beautifully said by Mani Shankar Aiyar. The nationalists need to understand that recognition of India’s ancient past is necessary for establishing a feeling of cultural nationalism but trying to define everything as per Hindu terminology is not an act of nationalism but of supremacism and cultural hegemony. As Indian Nationalists we should all hold in great reverence the contributions of various communities in building this great nation and hang our heads in shame and be remorseful about the 1984 Anti-Sikh Riots, Ethnic Cleansing of Kashmiri Pandits in 1989, Babri Mosque demolition in 1992, Post Babri Masjid riots, Godhra Train Burning Incident, Gujarat Riots of 2002 and Kandhamal Riots of 2008. If we can do this without any excuses, no one can accuse us of being fundamentalists, pseudo-secularists or appeasers. The solution to the dilemma which we face today can be found in the words of Robert F Kennedy, “We have learnt to look at our brothers as aliens, men with whom we share a city but not a community, men bound to us in common dwelling but not in common effort, the question is not what policies we should seek to enact, the question is whether we can find in our own hearts that leadership of humane purpose which will recognize the terrible truths of our existence. We must realize that this short life can never be enriched by hatred or revenge.”      


The Spirit of Secularism

Communalism, casteism, regionalism and all sinister ‘isms’ have created preposterous and unnecessary ripples and tussles in the society. The vast presence of inequality and intolerance has given way to a gigantic amount of despondency which seems to indicate that insanity is ruling the roost but even amidst all this gloom, one is overawed with optimism when an institution named after an orthodox Hindu emperor who banned cow slaughter invites a Muslim as Chief Guest on its Annual Function and in his keynote address, the Chief Guest talks of Goddess Saraswati before honouring and giving away prizes to all meritorious students irrespective of their religious or regional affiliations. One starts believing in co-existence when a Professor hailing from Purvanchal openly denounces the political separatism being propagated by Purvanchali leaders with the intention of polarizing voters in East Delhi and one starts believing in togetherness when a UP’ite, Kashmiri and Punjabi sit down together, talk of contentious issues like separatism in Kashmir and insurgency in Punjab during the 80’s, listen to each other peacefully, are humble enough to disagree without being in disagreement and sign off with hugs and handshakes. Proud to be a part of an institution which practices what it preaches. A big salute to Maharaja Agrasen College, a bonafide beacon of secularism.

Hinduphobia Among India’s Liberals

On my way back to Allahabad, I grabbed two copies of the magazine, ‘Frontline’. Frontline has historically had the reputation of being a magazine of the ‘intellectuality elite’ and over the years, it has pioneered hardcore journalism in nearly all its issues. The former copy was dated ‘11-24 February’ and the latter one was dated ‘25 February-9 March’. The cover stories of the both the issues had a striking similarity. They were both related to the realm or ambit of the ideological philosophy of Hindutva politics.

One cover story was on how the RSS was carrying forward its Hindutva agenda on a milder basis by putting its core issues or demands of the construction of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya, abrogation of Article 370 and enactment of a uniform civil code on the backburner and instead, putting a forth a new agenda based on communalization of education and cow slaughter. The second issue was based on the 10th anniversary of the Gujarat riots which elaborated on how the riots were executed during those turbulent days and how many individuals are still trying to get the guilty behind bars. The prevalence of the poll season made me immediately suspect the timing and selection of both the cover stories. I realized that their contemporary compatibility wasn’t up to the mark. Doing a story on Gujarat riots on its tenth anniversary made sense to me but I wasn’t able to figure as to why did they do back to back stories on two similar themes which is certainly not the ideal business or journalistic practice?

I read one of the stories and came across excessive Hindutva bashing. In a few minutes I realized the pro-UPA leanings of the magazine which was evident because of its open admiration for 10 Janpath and 23 Akbar Road. It appeared as if Frontline was bent upon thwarting BJP’s campaign in the Assembly Elections by accusing them of majority communalism and by bringing to light their past faults and current communal activities. The bias was obvious but still I went ahead and read one copy which was related to the RSS’s new agenda. I had already read too much about the Gujarat riots and was no longer in a mood to take any more of it. In the cover story I found excessive Hindutva bashing as I mentioned earlier. I thought it was absurd and unreasonable.

The cover story said that the Sangh Parivar had instructed its political arm ie the BJP to make use of the anti-corruption crusade of Anna Hazare at the Union level and its State Governments to take up the cause of Hindutva by means of communal legislations. The magazine wrote on how the RSS was communalizing education by making children sing Hindu hymns, perform Surya Namaskar and by making reading of the Gita compulsory in schools run by it. I do not find this move communal at all. I am myself a product of a protestant school and for twelve years I remember repeatedly reciting the Lord’s Prayer of the Christians and also sung many carols. When one studies in an institution with religious affiliation, he must be ready to follow some of their traditions in schools and should not object to it. Another aspect that was highlighted was the Sangh Parivar’s missionary activities. This again sounded very ridiculous. The conversions were voluntary and not forced by the activists of the Sangh, so the question of indicting the Sangh did not arise. Another fact was brought to the table and that was of the various BJP State Governments trying to revive and promote Sanskrit. I did not find anything objectionable in this. Sanskrit is a dying language and if state governments belonging to the BJP are trying to resurrect and revive it by means of promotion then there is no need for anybody to be irked by it.

But yes, there were certain portions of the story which were indeed very alarming. The RSS can undertake any sort of teaching in its schools but they should not be of hateful nature. The article quoted an NCERT report which stated that the content in the books prescribed by the Sangh’s schools promoted bigotry and religious fanaticism. What was even more alarming was the fact as to how the BJP’s State Government in Madhya Pradesh was trying to communalize education in the schools of the state government. India happens to be a secular state and therefore, no government institution should make activities or practices belonging predominantly to the Hindus, compulsory in schools. For example in many government schools the Government was trying to make performing of Surya Namaskar, singing of Hindu hymns and reading the Gita compulsory as was prevalent in RSS’s schools. This is not acceptable because government institutions are not supposed to have religious bias. This sort of a curriculum can be made optional for students but they cannot afford to make it mandatory for all.

Another example which was very worrying was the one related to Gujarat. In Gujarat, government schools have introduced a chapter which traces Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s life journey to further strengthen his popularity. Government schools cannot be used as propaganda tools and this needs to be stopped. This move of the Modi Government is as shameless as Mayawati’s habit of erecting her own statues from the funds of the State Exchequer. The report said that the State Government in Madhya Pradesh was acting communally by making beef consumption a crime and by passing draconian laws to supplement their agenda. This law would empower police officers of the lower cadre to search, seize and arrest individuals on the suspicion of cow slaughter or beef consumption. This agenda of the RSS is bound to fail. It’s an open secret that the Hindus are among those set of communities who consume beef the most. Hindu scriptures also suggest that the sacrifice of cows for religious purposes and their consumption for sustenance was prevalent during ancient times. The issue has lost its relevance and would backfire. People cannot be put behind bars for consuming beef which is indeed one of the most affordable kinds of meat.

The cover story was highly critical of the Sangh, its ideology, activities and agenda but was far from being a balanced report. The magazine appeared like Congress’s mouthpiece and even though it raised many critical questions, it lost its credibility because of its over-excessive Hindutva bashing and its fanatical exaggeration of the threat posed by community-centric teaching in RSS schools but the fact that the same kind of exercise cannot be tolerated in secular government schools stands uncontested.