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Hindu Nation, Hindu State and Hindutva

By Ram Puniyani

The debate and politics around these terms keeps coming back to the forefront times and over again. In the context of Gujarat elections and massive electoral victory of BJP, some of these have been the subject matter of debate again. One major point, which has come up in recent times is that RSS family wants a Hindu Nation. It states that India is a Hindu Nation and that they are not out for a Hindu state or a theocratic state based on Hinduism. The other assertion has been around the term Hindutva, confusing it at some level with religion and at other times stating that its latest version Moditva is going to be the plank of BJP politics in times to come. Moditva version of Hindutva goes on to assert that its main agenda is to protect the Hindus from aggressive Muslims, who are allies by Osama bin Laden and Miyan Musharf. Also at another level it is pointed out that Hindutva is our cultural nationalism and that it believes in secularism.

Too many terms, meanings and assertions. Initially it was being said that we want a Hindu Rashtra, nation, then it came to be said that we are Hindu Nation anyway. This rigmarole was not the part of the discussions during the freedom struggle neither were they the part of constituent assembly debates, as the thought during that time revolved around the concept of India, India as a nation in the making, India as a plural democratic republic where religion will be the private matter of the individuals while the state will be guided by the elected leaders and issues of this world (Bread, butter, shelter etc.). It is with the rise of RSS parivar in the political arena that these concepts are being imposed as a new politics, as a politics derived from our glorious traditions.

It was Savarkar who articulated the concept of Hindu Nation. As per him all those who are followers of religions, which are Native, or National are Hindus. He put forward the concept that all those who regard this land as their holy land and fatherland are Hindus. Thus in the concept of Hindu all religions like Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism are incorporated. While the major religions to be left out are Islam and Christianity. Here in a way there is an attempt to define the nationality of religions. Do religions have Nationality? Religions born in one part of the worlds are popular and are followed by people of different parts of the world. Can the religions be foreign or native? How does one look at the Buddhists of Thailand or Shrilanka who constitute the majority there? Is it that they believe in foreign
religion? How does one look at the Muslims scattered in over 50 countries, is it that most of them following foreign religions? How does one look at Hindu Diaspora in US, Canada and far off countries, do they need to have subdued existence as they are having faith in a foreign religion? This very concept of Nationality of religions holds no water, as religions are Universal in their teachings and values. Even the religions, which were local and national, have a universal reach today.

Today geographical use of the term Hindu is invalid. No doubt Arabs coined the term for those living on the eastern side of river Sindhu, but the terms keep changing their meaning over a period of time and in due course the word Hindu came to be used for many a religions which arose in this part of the world. Again all the religions, which arose in this part, do not want to be identified as Hindu religions. Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism are based on precepts, which are diametrically opposed to the concepts of Brahmanism, which is the dominant tradition of Hinduism. By and large Brahminism is identified as Hinduism. Sikhism has a liberal sprinkling of precepts from Islam, which by no stretch of imagination can be incorporated in any Hindutradition so to say. Buddhism is based on the abolition of caste hierarchy, which is the foundation of Hinduism. It is precisely for this reason that Shankarachrya took up his cudgels against Buddhism and in due course the latter was socially and politically wiped out from India. Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism went on to reject the
Brahminical version of Hinduism and Ulema version of Islam to say that, Na main Hindu na main Muslaman, (I am neither a Hindu nor a Muslim). He traveled far and wide to ensure that wisdom of Hinduism and Islam is imbibed and incorporated in Sikhism. Today Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains will not like to be called as Hindus.

The Savarkar formulation picked up by Golwalkar and RSS is invalid as far as different religious streams in India are concerned. If we go on say that India is a Hindu Rashtra, what does it mean? India emerged as a Nation state due to socio-political changes during British rule. It has a lot of continuity from the earlier times and many a changes (socio, economic, political) have made it Indian Nation. Indian Nation is not based on any religion and this distinction became very clear during freedom movement. During this period those wanting Islamic Nation and those wanting Hindu Nation remained aloof to the process of India in the making and also from the concept of Modern Nation state. Surely majority of the people from this land rejected the concept of Islamic Nation and Hindu Nation, but unfortunately due to British machinations the partition tragedy shattered the concept of Unified India. Initially the distinction between Hindu Nation and Hindu State was not very clear. Now it is being asserted that either we are a Hindu Nation already or we want a Hindu Nation. Both ways it is a notion, which has to be rejected. The Savarkars definition is basically faulty as it mixes up geography with religion. To begin with we have never been a Hindu Nation. Savarkar and followers of Hindutva, assert that India is a Hindu Rashtra from last five thousand years. Those who took part in freedom struggle of India said that it is a Nation in the making. Incidentally for Muslim communalists, Muslims are a Nation since the arrival of Muhammad Bin Kisim in Sindh.

There have been different religions flourishing in this country. People adopted and converted all the possible religions. If holy deity, holy books, places of worship, ethics and clergy can define religion, India has been having different religions. Hindu word is definitely a religious category. As such the boundaries of nation have been changing with the rules of Kings, kings of different religions and sects have been ruling different parts of the country and none of those kings symbolizes todays Nationalism, Nationalism which evolved with freedom struggle. Also people have adopted different religions by getting converted in to those, Buddhism, Jainism, Islam, Christianity and Sikhism. So in what sense should we say that India is a Hindu Rashtra? Why should we accept the RSS formulation that we want a Hindu Rashtra here? On all the counts it needs to be rejected.

Hindutva as an ideology began with the crystallization of the political agenda of the declining classes, Jamindars (feudal lords), and Brahmanism. In response to the rising classes political aspiration for a Modern, Industrial India based on Liberty Equality and Fraternity, the old declining classes threw up Hindutva, the concept of Hindu rashtra etc. In similar way Muslim elite cam up with the idea of Islamic Nation state. Again it was Savarkar who crystallized Hindutva into a political ideology. As per Savarkar Hindutva is not just a religion but is a conglomerate of race (Aryan) Language (Sanskrit), culture (Brahminical) and land (Indus to seas). He states, Hindudom (Hindutva, added) is bound and marked out as a people and a Nation by themselves not by the only ties of common culture, a common language, a common history and essentially of a common fatherland as well (Hindu Rashtra Darshan, p. 9, 1984) This Hindutva again was competing with Islamism, Muslim communal Politics which wanted to base its Nationhood on religion.

Muslim communal politics and Hindu communal politics essentially agreed the Nation is based on religious identity alone. While emerging Indian (India is a Nation in the making) ideology, regarded this as the primary identity and religion as the private matter. The Religion as primary identity was common to both the communalists, in a way both these streams were for Two Nations, though the implications of this were different for both of them Also both these streams never took part in freedom struggle and concentrated on spreading mistrust against the freedom struggle and spread hatred against the people of other religion. Hindutva was thoroughly rejected by all the Hindus who overwhelmingly took part in freedom movement. Also the symbol of this movement, the tallest Hindu of current times, Mahatma Gandhi, also rejected this notion of Hindutva. In a way one can say Gandhi adopted the Hinduism of Saint tradition while Hindutva is based on the elite Brahminical version of Hinduism.

Hindutva has been brought to the forefront with the rise of upper caste-upper class reaction to the social changes of caste and gender equality in the decades of 1980s. Hindutva is also supposed to be Cultural Nationalism. Its culture is fixed in space, time and caste. It is the culture of upper caste, the one resorting to Ram Gita and Acharyas. The one having Vedas, Sanskrit (Language of Gods, Devbhashsa) and is wrapped in the new label to perpetuate caste and gender hierarchy. It is not the culture of Dalits, Bahujan, and Adivasis. It has no place for Charvak, essence of saint traditions and the changing life of the people. Peoples culture is an ever- changing entity, it adopts with time and interaction with others. It has no orthodoxy. It can also support social transformation. The culture of Hindutva on the contrary is the one for halting the process of change so the conservative notions are being culled out from Holy books, so the Indian constitution is being denigrated and Acharyas and Mahants are being projected in the public space.

The concept that secularism is a part of Hindutva just demonstrates the level to which the proponents of Hindutva can go to derive the political mileage. Actually we see RSS family smearing Secularism with all the muck possible. Pseudo secularism is the most popular abuse by now. The weaknesses of practice of Secularism by Congress have been turned in to an abuse of the concept of secularism. Also since till now the electoral democracy persists so the votes of minorities also matter so far. And thus the formulation the Hidnutva is liberal, and secularism is a part of it! Nothing can be farther from truth. Secularism is basically a concept, which regards religion as the private matter while Hindutva politics stands on the edifice of Brahminical Hinduism itself!

The concept Hindu state in a way is no different from the concept of Hindu Rashtra. As Hindu rashtra itself is based on the elite culture and Brhaminical values, it does tantamount to theocracy. Its superficial rejection by the proponents of Hindu Rahstra and Hindutva does not mean much. As Hindu Nation itself is the concept, which is a conceited way of putting forward the notion of Hindu elites rule supported by theocracy, albeit in the modern garb. And with Moditva, Hindutva has arrived at the last but one stage of its barbaric worst, a stage prior to the one where gas chambers substitute the trishuls and petrol bombs. As Govindacharya has pointed out there is no difference between the Hindutva given in Goa musings of Vajpayee and the one practiced by Modi in Gujarat. Though the language is different the content is the same. In musings the Hindutva wears
velvet gloves, in Moditva the blood of the weaker section keeps dripping from the claimants of the pride of a state (Gujarats Gaurav). But what is the underlying theme? It is spreading of hatred against the minorities, showing them as the threats. What is common is to create hysteria to hide the basic and deeper issues of society, and to link up the internal threat with the external threats, which in a way have no linkage.

(Author works for EKTA, Committee for Communal Amity, Mumbai)