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The Hindutva Experiment:
From Lab To Factory?

By Mukul Dube

14 March, 2008

In the months and years following the Gujarat genocide of
2002, many from the camp of Hindutva characterised that
province as the "laboratory" where an "experiment" had been
carried out. They proclaimed that the success of the
experiment meant that the process could be replicated in other
parts of the country so as to achieve their ultimate goal, a
"Hindu Rashtra".

Such talk became restrained after the defeat of the NDA in the
general election of 2004, but it did not cease. Since then,
every success of the BJP and its allies has led to its
resurgence. Not surprisingly, Narendra Modi's victory in the
recent assembly election in Gujarat brought about elation in
the ranks of the Sangh Parivar: for they could claim that the
success of the original laboratory experiment had been shown
to be lasting and to have defied the "anti-incumbency factor"
as well as apparent divisions within the Hindu Right in

The genocide of 2002 has been described, and most
convincingly, as state sponsored. It was not just that the
state apparatus of Gujarat either looked away while the mobs
rampaged, or else aided and guided the mobs, or even on
occasion itself became part of the mob: what was crucial was
that the federal Indian State, whose capital is Delhi, gave
the state of Gujarat and its mobs the freedom and the time to
loot, kill, rape and pillage.

In power in Delhi at the time was a coalition led by the
ideological kith and kin of those who were in absolute power
in Gujarat. Not only did the elders of the Sangh Parivar fail
to use the considerable powers vested in them by the
Constitution of India, they brazenly lied in Parliament. The
key functionary, the Home Minister - who by then was also the
Deputy Prime Minister - said that Narendra Modi was "in
control of the situation." The real meaning of this was not
lost on many: what Advani meant was, "Our boys are in control
and we will let them get on with the job." The media coverage
which caused so much anguish across the land only made the
hearts of Hindutva beasts swell with pride. The Opposition in
Parliament could do nothing.

That Opposition has been, since 2004, the UPA alliance which
has ruled India from Delhi. Before the general election, the
Congress, its leading partner, made loud noises about bringing
Gujarat back to the path of secularism and about righting the
wrongs done to such a large number of Gujaratis. Once in
power, though, it looked the other way while things in Gujarat
remained as they were and, in some respects, became worse.
Possibly the most glaring instance of this was the repeal of
POTA, which was a token repeal in that it was not
retrospective and in that the people who had been arrested
under that law, almost all able-bodied, earning Muslims,
continue to languish in the prisons of Gujarat without trial
while their families starve.

Several commentators have described Gujarat as being, in
effect, no longer a part of India. It is a rogue state which
has achieved the distinction of becoming a "Hindu rajya".
There is much truth in this. However, the rest of India
remains notionally secular and the coalition in power in Delhi
describes itself as secular. What is alarming in these
circumstances is the persistence and rise of Hindutva bigotry
in several parts of the country. It would be understandable if
discrimination and violence against Muslims and Christians
were limited to states ruled by BJP governments: but such
discrimination and violence continue to be seen even in states
in which the BJP is not in power. Certainly they have not
become less in the nearly four years of UPA rule.

Most people attribute this to the "soft Hindutva" of the
Congress and its allies. More than anything else, this seems
to refer to fear of alienating the Hindu voter. The fallacy in
this line of thought is that it implicitly accepts the Sangh
Parivar's claim to represent all Hindus. It equates criticism
of Hindutva with an attack on Hinduism.

A more rational and convincing explanation can be found by
looking at the past. Two things which had long been known were
brought sharply into focus sixty years ago when M.K. Gandhi
was assassinated. One was the large numbers of RSS
sympathisers - and perhaps some members - in the ranks of the
Congress. The other was the extent to which the RSS had
infiltrated not just the apparatus of State - police,
administration, judiciary - but also all or most spheres of
life which are ordinarily secular, that is, without any
relation to religion.

It has been observed that the RSS thinks not of proximate
goals but in the truly long term. It follows a policy of
"Catch 'Em Young" and begins to mould individuals when they
are scarcely more than infants. The inculcation of the core
ideas of Hindutva begins with the games that little children
are made to play and the songs that they are made to sing. The
"education" of those somewhat older, and that of adults,
follows the same pattern: seemingly normal, everyday,
"natural" activities and remarks are the means by which minds
are corrupted. Hindutva is pervasive, there is no part of life
that it does not touch. The proliferation of Sangh Parivar
branches - covering children, women, tribal peoples, culture,
history and so on - is evidence of this.

The RSS and its ideology are now over eighty years old. It can
be said that the work that was begun so many decades ago is
now coming to fruition in that ideology is finally being
expressed through violent action on an almost country-wide
scale. If the phenomenon is seen as an on-going process, it
becomes clear that violence can only increase.

Many people, including this writer, have argued that Gujarat
2002 was possible because the political wing of Hindutva ruled
both in Gandhinagar and in Delhi. The persistence - and,
indeed, the growth - of Hindutva in the period since the
general election of 2004, suggest that that argument is
limited and perhaps flawed. What we are seeing today may well
be the repetition across the country of the successful
experiment, promising lab processes being carried out on an
industrial scale.

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