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Can There Be A Case For A Hindu Rashtra In India? – OpEd

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Franz Fanon a Caribbean Marxist philosopher who joined Algerian independence movement was disenchanted with the discrimination by the white’s vis-avis the colored wrote “There comes a time when silence becomes dishonesty. The ruling intentions of personal existence are not in accord with the permanent assaults on the most commonplace values. Particularly in discussing language, he talks about how the black person’s use of a colonizer’s language is seen by the colonizer as predatory, and not transformative, which in turn may create insecurity in the black’s consciousness(WIKIPEDIA). 

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One wonders if Fanon was not echoing the unspoken, during the British Raj, and now openly discussed and analyzed throughout South Asia, more so in India where freedom of speech and democracy is practiced in abandon though in recent years majoritarian theocracy is being pratised and encouraged by the people in power. Indian Congress Party politician Sashi Tharoor in his book Why I am a Hindu wrote–India’s current ruling party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, officially adopted Hindutva as its defining credo in 1989. It is the doctrine assiduously promoted by the Hindu nationalist volunteer organization the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), founded in 1925, and its affiliated family of organizations in the ‘Sangh Parivar’, notably the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP, World Hindu Council), set up in 1964 with an avowed intention of protecting and promoting the Hindu religion. The word Hindutva is widely used by all of them, but what does the term actually mean?

The man largely credited with the invention of the concept of Hindutva—literally ‘Hinduness’—is Vinayak Damodar Savarkar (1883–1966), whose Essentials Of Hindutva (Bombay: Veer Savarkar Prakashan, 1st edition 1923) laid out the concept in 1923. Republished in 1928 as ‘Hindutva: Who Is a Hindu?’, it is in many ways the foundational text of the Hindu nationalist creed. Savarkar chose the term ‘Hindutva’ to describe the ‘quality of being a Hindu’ in ethnic, cultural anpolitical terms. He argued that a Hindu is one who considers India to be his motherland (matrbhumi), the land of his ancestors (pitrbhumi), and his holy land (punya bhumi). India is the land of the Hindus since their ethnicity is Indian and since the Hindu faith originated in India. (Other faiths that were born in India, like Sikhism, Buddhism and Jainism also qualified, in Savarkar’s terms, as variants of Hinduism since they fulfilled the same three criteria; but Islam and Christianity, born outside India, did not). Thus a Hindu is someone born of Hindu parents, who regards India—‘this land of Bharatvarsha, from the Indus to the Seas’—as his motherland as well as his holy land, ‘that is the cradle-land of his religion.’ In keeping with the race doctrines of the times, Savarkar conceived Hindutva as an indefinable quality inherent in the Hindu ‘race’, which could not be identified directly with the specific tenets of Hinduism.

Hindutva, he declared, ‘is so varied and so rich, so powerful and so subtle, so elusive and yet so vivid that it defied such definition’. But of course the concept of Hindutva would have made no sense unless it was explained in relation to the religion of Hinduism.

So Savarkar asserted: ‘Hinduism is only a derivative, a fraction, a part of Hindutva’. To him, the religion was therefore a subset of the political idea, rather than synonymous with it—something many of its proponents today would be surprised to hear.

Savarkar, however, argued that: ‘Failure to distinguish between Hindutva and Hinduism has given rise to much misunderstanding and mutual suspicion between some of those sister communities that have inherited this inestimable and common treasure of our Hindu civilization… It is enough to point out that Hindutva is not identical with what is vaguely indicated by the term Hinduism. By an “ism” it is generally meant a theory or a code more or less based on spiritual or religious dogma or system. But when we attempt to investigate into the essential significance of Hindutva, we do not primarily—and certainly not mainly—concern ourselves with any particular theocratic or religious dogma or creed…’

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In other words, Hindutva is more than the Hindu religion, and as a political philosophy it does not confine itself to adherents of the Hindu faith. Despite this distinction, Hindutva would help achieve the political consolidation of the Hindu people, since Savarkar also argued that a Muslim or a Christian, even if born in India, could not claim allegiance to the three essentials of Hindutva: ‘a common nation (rashtra), a common race (jati) and a common civilization (sanskriti), as represented in a common history, common heroes, a common literature, a common art, a common law and a common jurisprudence, common fairs and festivals, rites and rituals, ceremonies and sacraments.’

Hindus, thus defined, constituted the Indian nation—a nation that had existed since antiquity, since Savarkar was explicitly rejecting the British view that India was just, in Churchill’s notorious phrase, ‘a geographical expression…. No more a single country than the Equator.’

Savarkar’s vision of Hindutva saw it as the animating principle of a ‘Hindu Rashtra’ (Hindu Nation) that extended across the entire Indian subcontinent, and was rooted in an undivided India (‘Akhand Bharat‘) corresponding to the territorial aspirations of ancient dynasties like the Mauryas (320 BC–180 BC), who under Chandragupta and Ashoka had managed to knit most of the subcontinent under their territorial control.

In the words of a later RSS publication, Sri Guruji, the Man and his Mission, ‘It became evident that Hindus were the nation in Bharat and that Hindutva was Rashtriyatva [nationalism].’ For Savarkar, Hinduness was synonymous with Indianness, properly understood. ‘Hindutva is not a word but a history. Not only the spiritual or religious history of Indian people as at times it is mistaken to be by being confounded with the other cognate term Hinduism, but a history in full… Hindutva embraces all the departments of thought and activity of the whole Being of our Hindu race. In turn, the Hindu ‘race’ was inextricably bound to the idea of the nation.

As Savarkar put it, ‘We Hindus are bound together not only by the tie of the love we bear to a common fatherland and by the common blood that courses through our veins and keeps our hearts throbbing and our affections warm, but also by the tie of the common homage we pay to our great civilization—our Hindu culture’.

By definition, however, his idea of Hindutva excluded those whose ancestors came from elsewhere or whose lands lay outside India—thereby eliminating Muslim and Christians, India’s two most significant minorities, from his frame of reference. What their place would be in Savarkar’s Hindu Rashtra was not made explicitly clear, but the best they could hope for was a sort of second-class citizenship in which they could live in India only on sufferance.

One should not be surprised that a Congress Party leader would try to label his opponent as a black sheep disguised as a savior who in Bernard Shaw’s play My Fair Lady sang the song “ if you let a woman in your  life your serenity is through, she will redecorate your home from the cellar to the dome, and then get on with the enthralling fun of over hauling you”. 

India has a large number of Muslims in the country. Dismissing propaganda launched by Hindu nationalists against the growing Muslim populace in India, former top bureaucrat and author Shahabuddin Yaqoob Quraishi said Hindus will always remain in the majority in the country. Muslims, who number 172 million as per the 2011 census, will never outnumber the majority 966.3 million Hindus, said Quraishi, who recently published “The Population Myth: Islam, Family Planning, and Politics in India.”

Quraishi, who also served as Chief Election Commissioner, states that Muslims are embracing family planning at a faster pace than Hindus and that high birth rates are due to solely “non-religious factors. Several “conspiracy theories” have been floated, mainly by right-wing Hindu groups, that the number of Muslims in the country – nearly 172 million – would eventually outnumber the 966.3 million Hindus in the country.

Quraishi, added that the Muslim population will never exceed the Hindu population. “It is an established fact that Muslims in India have been rapidly adopting family planning. The National Family Health Surveys have shown that over the past three decades, new-generation Muslim families have done a better job at family planning than their Hindu compatriots”

Quraishi further added that the percentage of the Muslim population in the country increased from 9.8% in 1951 to 14.2% in 2011. But now, they are adopting family planning at a faster rate than Hindus. India’s last census, conducted in 2011, revealed that Hindus make up 79.8% of the population, while Muslims make up 14.2%. This year, the country will conduct one of the most extensive censuses in its history. Regardless of the percentage of Hindu-Muslim ratio that the nest census will reveal one has to remember that the Muslims voted with their feet to remain in India out of their conviction that Indian democracy will ensure a better life for themselves and their children than Pakistan, a Muslim country, but under the rule of successive military dictators can assure them. In an article titled (Have Hindus become less intolerant or less indulgent) published on January 15 2022 B. S. Murthy wrote “What is worse, from the Hindu point of view, the Macaulay education, over time, succeeded in making them have a dim view of the sanatana dharma of their progenitors and skeptical about all things Hindu be it its history, astronomy, medicine, culture etc. If anything, Gandhi in later years, to put it in the Hindi phase, turned out to be Macaulay’s baap, for he professed that “Hindus should not harbor anger in their hearts against Muslims even if the latter wanted to destroy them. Even if the Muslims want to kill us all we should face death bravely. If they established their rule after killing Hindus we would be ushering in a new world by sacrificing our lives.”

But it was Nehru, who symbolized the fruition of the Macaulay mission for he not only proclaimed that “I’m English by education, a Muslim by culture, just born a Hindu by accident” but also conducted himself accordingly. It’s thus, when it came to choosing the first Prime Minister of what is left of India it’s no mere coincidence that Gandhi threw his heavy weight behind the Muslim-oriented Nehru and against the Hindu-minded Patel.

Immediately thereafter, true to his character, Nehru strained every nerve to ensure that the Indian Musalmans did not migrate in numbers to Pakistan though the raison d’être of India’s partition was their assertion that they cannot co-exist with the Hindus… Be that as it may, Narendra Modi, on whom the resurgent Hindu multitudes pin their hopes to blind the Semitic demographic eyes that are cast on India, while going about it must take cognizance of Niccole Machiavelli’s  advice in The Prince

That on ascendency to power the Prince should be ready to inflict injury to his enemies. “Whoever acts otherwise” Machiavelli warned, “, either through timidity or bad advice, is always forced to have the knife ready in his hand and he can never depend on his subjects because they, suffering fresh and continuous violence, can never feel secure with regard to him. Violence should be inflicted once for all; people will then forget what it tastes like and so be less resentful”. 

So, Modi must inflict some secular injuries on the communal minded Muslims and the Christians. The question however remains about the status of Muslims who chose to remain in Nehruvian secular India but is now being subjected to slaughter by the overzealous supporters of BJP while the Prime Minister remains silent. Apart from the fact that the status of Kashmir has been dramatically changed through Citizenship Amendment Act and jailing two former Chief Ministers of the State and throwing in the wind the Accession Agreement signed by then Maharaja Hari Singh  (his son Dr Karan Singh at one time held the title Sadr-e-Riyasat) the people of Kashmir are living a life of fear and oppression. Their fault lies in the fact that Kashmir is the only Muslim majority state in India.  

Prime Minister Narenra Modi has full powers as demonstrated recently by the meek   response of the Sadhus at Kumbh Mela who folded their tents and went back home. “The BJP culture war is increasingly vicious, seeking to erase India’s Mughal past and repress Muslims in the present by renaming towns and cities, rewriting and “saffronising” Indian history, and asserting cultural, religious and legal ascendancy, including through beef and alcohol bans. In the Hindutva mind, “their” India has been invaded twice, by the Muslims and then by the British, and both invasions need to be repelled.

A defining event was the BJP-inspired 1992 attack on the Mughal-era Babri mosque in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh. Demonstrators razed it to the ground and attempted to erect a Hindu temple to Rama, an event which radicalized the whole Hindutva movement. This is the backdrop to Modi’s discriminatory social and cultural policies—in 2019, the Supreme Court ordered the site of the demolished mosque be handed over to Hindus to build a new temple—as well as his symbolic gestures, like his scheme to rebuild Lutyens’ colonial complex in New Delhi.       

The big question, though, is whether Modi is not only sectarian, but also an outright inciter of violence and under miner of the constitution. Here four charges are laid. First, that in early 2002, shortly after becoming chief minister of Gujarat, he stoked a Hindu-on-Muslim pogrom in reaction to the murderous attack by a largely Muslim mob on a train passing through Godhra, in Gujarat, conveying Hindu pilgrims from Ayodhya” (LORD ANDREW ADONIS APRIL 8 2021O).

To quote again Lord Andrew Adonis  BJP’s war against the Muslims is becoming more vicious  by  seeking to erase India’s Mughal past and repress Muslims in the present by renaming towns and cities, rewriting and “saffronising” Indian history, and asserting cultural, religious and legal ascendancy, including through beef and alcohol bans. In the Hindutva mind, “their” India has been invaded twice, by the Muslims and then by the British, and both invasions need to be repelled.

A defining event was the BJP-inspired 1992 attack on the Mughal-era Babri mosque in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh. Demonstrators razed it to the ground and attempted to erect a Hindu temple to Rama, an event which radicalized the whole Hindutva movement. This is the backdrop to Modi’s discriminatory social and cultural policies—in 2019, the Supreme Court ordered the site of the demolished mosque be handed over to Hindus to build a new temple—as well as his symbolic gestures, like his scheme to rebuild Lutyens’ colonial complex in New Delhi.       

The big question, though, is whether Modi is not only sectarian, but also an outright inciter of violence and under miner of the constitution. Here four charges are laid. First, that in early 2002, shortly after becoming chief minister of Gujarat, he stoked a Hindu-on-Muslim pogrom in reaction to the murderous attack by a largely Muslim mob on a train passing through Godhra, in Gujarat, conveying Hindu pilgrims from Ayodhya.

Despite Narendra Modi’s anti-Muslim position, he has taken so far there is no denying the fact the Narendra Modi has the Midas touch in domestic politics. He remains unquestionably the most popular politician in India. Analysts are perplexed in trying to find out the real Modi. Which country does he see himself as leading: India or Hindu India? Is he saving Indian democracy or is he subverting it? And is he, as he insists, a true economic modernizer – or a fanatical religious nationalist for whom modernization is a tool to assert supremacy, with reforms proposed, chopped and changed for sectarian advantage? 

Analysts cannot resolve the quiz unless Narendra  Modi   himself does it himself . A fervent Hindu militant in his teens, he now operates within a quasi-western political framework he half accepts and half rejects but has not sought to appease the West in condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine which remains at the top of global agenda. 

As Michael Krugman writes in Foreign Policy( January 27th 2022) “India’s friendship with Russia harks back to the early years of the Cold War. Officials in New Delhi consider Moscow a time-tested and reliable partner. During India’s devastating COVID-19 surge last year, many Indian observers noted that it was Russia—not the United States—that immediately came to India’s aid.

Tellingly, India was silent when Russia invaded Ukraine and annexed Crimea in 2014, and it abstained from a United Nations resolution upholding Ukraine’s territorial integrity. This time around, New Delhi will also be hard-pressed to push back against Moscow—and not just out of nostalgia. Russia is a top arms supplier to India, which risked U.S. sanctions by purchasing a Russian S-400 missile defense system that began arriving last month.

To New Delhi, Moscow also makes a major contribution to a multipolar world order with power dispersed beyond Washington and Beijing. This, too, makes India more likely to stay quiet about Russia’s actions in Ukraine and elsewhere. Like many countries, India won’t call out the excesses of other governments if doing so could damage its interests. Its reaction to last year’s coup in Myanmar was muted, seeking to avoid jeopardizing relations with a military regime that cooperates with India on border security and infrastructure projects.)”

Another analyst Nayanima Basu pointed out the problem India faces in abstaining in condemning Russia in the UNGA  resolution condemning Russian invasion of Ukraine. US Statement Department informed India that it saw Indian abstention as being in “Russian Camp”. One has to remember that Indo-Russian relations date back many years and in times of Indian need the only P5 member that came with veto was then Soviet Union. India explained that its abstention reflected Russian need for security when the West with total disregard of Russian objections  went ahead with its agenda for expansion of NATO.

On the home front, however, Prime Minister Narendra Modi remains undefeatable despite his silent support of anti-Muslim campaign conducted by BJP stalwarts calling for genocide of the Muslim population on unsupported allegations of “rape” of Hindu women by the Muslims.   Whether Narendra Modi can continue his march towards winning the next elections remain to be seen. At present the world and South Asia in particular  has to wait to see how the populace in the largest democracy in the world behaves. 

Kazi Anwarul Masud is a former Ambassador and Secretary in Bangladesh.

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