“Hindutva rashtra ki sanchetna hai. Is par prahaar mahapralay ko aamantran hai”. This is a statement that figures on the front page of the official website of the new Chief Minister of UP, Yogi Adityanath. I will attempt to unravel and decipher this statement in order to understand its meaning and import better. The first thing that is clear from the above statement, and its appearance on the front page of the official website of the Chief Minister is that this statement reflects the core ideology of the man. Thus, it is clear that he is a firm believer in Hindutva ideology and believes it to be the edifice on which the entire superstructure of the Indian society rests. This ideology essentially wants to establish India as a Hindu nation.
What does a ‘Hindu nation’ actually stand for? In effect, this would mean an official recognition to India being a natural place of abode for all those belonging to the Hindu religion. All the others may be allowed to reside in this nation, provided they accept the principle of India being a ‘Hindu Rashtra’. This would, in turn, mean that the State would no longer remain equidistant from all religions. Any practice sanctioned by the Hindu religion would have to be accepted and respected by each and every citizen of the nation. As an example, cow slaughter could be banned in the nation for the sole reason that the Hindu religion did-not permit it, and each and every citizen would have to abide to by the ban.
Would Hindu nation mean that all the citizens of the nation belonging to any other religion would cease to be Indian citizens? Definitely not. All the citizens of India would still continue to the citizens of the State. However, all the citizens, Hindus and non-Hindus alike, would have to accept that Hinduism was the national religion, that laws and rules that were made to encourage, protect or promote any religious practice of the Hindus would have to be equally obeyed by all as the law of the land and that the State was free to mete out any treatment that it saw fit to other religious denominations. In a Hindu State, if the State made a law that it would henceforth be necessary for all the citizens to practice the Hindu religion, it would have to be followed by one and all, or else they could choose to leave the State. Alternatively, the State could choose to allow everyone the freedom to practice their religion with the caveat that they would respect all the practices of Hindu religion and not come in the way of any such practice or ritual of the religion. In other words, all the non-Hindu religious communities would be at the mercy of the Hindu nation, to be treated as deemed fit by the incumbent powers. Thus, the success of Hindutva ideology may not necessarily lie in mass exodus of non-Hindu religious communities from the nation. The only condition necessary to be fulfilled may be ensuring that the claim of India being a Hindu nation is accepted by all those residing in India, and consequently, any thought or action that is, in the eyes of the State, detrimental to the Hindu religious beliefs, is not performed by any citizen of the nation. In such a situation, the State could, for example, impose beef ban, make Yoga compulsory for all, uplift Bhagvata Gita to the status of the National Scripture etc., and impose fines and punishment in law for not adhering to these strictures, without facing criticism on at least the account of diluting the secular credentials of the nation, because the nation would no longer remain secular (officially).
There would be umpteen difficulties though, if India became a Hindu nation. These would arise out of the complexities associated with the Hindu religion itself, and which were aptly pointed out and elaborated upon by Dr. B.R. Ambedkar in his writings. To begin with, how would one define who is a Hindu and who isn’t? Which scriptures would one choose to follow and adhere to, given the existence of multitudes of them, all with different messages and interpretations of being a Hindu? Which practices would be defined as being the core practices of the religion, and which would be defined to be peripheral and non-mandatory? There would arise many such questions and in all practicality, the interpretation of the ruling power will have to be accepted as the legitimate interpretation and be followed as the law of the land. In such a scenario, the physical presence or absence of the people of non-Hindu religions would not matter. They would be welcome to reside in India so long as they adhered to the law of the Hindu nation. However, if anyone dared to question or raise one’s voice, then the second part of the statement on the front page of the Chief Minister’s website would be the consequence, in his words, ‘mahapralay ko aamantran’.
In the above light, I would like to look at some of the news reports that have been very popular lately, wherein it has been reported that the Chief Minister has been holding a daily ‘darbaar’ since many years. Testimonies of many people from the Muslim religion have been provided, who have testified to the large-heartedness and secular credentials of the man. His one word of recommendation has helped them to solve many of their issues like getting reservations for train journeys, getting a booking for Haj pilgrimage etc. Many have also testified that they have been employed by him since years and have never faced any discrimination whatsoever.
Now, what is it they one can infer from these two seemingly contradictory images of the man? His own statement on the front page of his website declares Hindutva as his core ideology. On the contrary, his actions in his personal, day-to-day life, show him to be a large-hearted, helpful person towards one and all, Hindus and Muslims alike. How do we reconcile these two images of the same man? Is a reconciliation even possible?
Many of my acquaintances, on reading the news reports, have quickly jumped to the conclusion that the image of a Hindutva hardliner, projected by the media, is a purposeful attempt at maligning the man, who is otherwise a man of repute and secular credentials. The news reports have been cited as irrefutable proofs of his innocence and the guilt of the biased media people and pseudo-seculars and intellectuals in trying to tarnish his image. The only reason I beg to differ from this hurriedly arrived at conclusion is that the image of the man in public is not a figment of imagination, but a result of his own public statements, which have never been refuted by him. His website clearly declares his thoughts on Hindutva, and he is known to be very upfront with his views, nowhere trying to cloak or mask them. Why, then, the hurry to ascribe secular credentials to a man who himself is an avowed champion of Hindutva and is proud of it, far from being apologetic? Where does the need arise to try and justify him when he himself does not want to be justified?
Being pro-Hindutva, and at the same time being helpful towards everyone equally, in personal life, might not actually be as contradictory as it seems to be. Pro-Hindutva hardliners know for a fact that the numbers of non-Hindu population is so high in India that they cannot be wished away. That is why various strategies are used to mould the ‘others’ into one’s own idea of rightful existence. Hence, the movements like Shuddhi, ghar wapsi, etc. This may be just another of such strategies. Anyway, harmless and supine members of any religion or community, any number of non-questioning and malleable citizens, let them belong to any religion or caste or creed, are no problem at all for anyone. The problem arises when one starts to question, when one dissents, when one puts forward his/her views, and in such cases the Hindutva ideology is totally non-discrepant. It treats all such cases of dissents with one lens, and brands them all as anti-nationals, irrespective of their caste, creed, colour or religion.
The clash of ideologies here is much deeper. On the one hand is the one for which the Chief Minister openly stands, where one religion and its people are thought of as superior to all of the rest. Majority of the political community and majority of the people of the nation also are staunch supporters of this ideology, some overt and many other covert. This ideology refuses to see the human being behind the cloaks of caste, creed, religion, gender and all such human-made differences. On the other side is the one where a human being is thought of just that, a human being, where there is no requirement of associating a face with a religion, a caste, a region, a gender and all such differences that divide humans. This is the ideology of HUMANITY, and I am its unequivocal supporter.
Nivedita Dwivedi is pursuing MA in Elementary Education from Tata Institute of Social Sciences.