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23 August 2013

Hindutva Is Nazism

Hiren K Bose

It happened in 1993, when Bharatiya Janata Party leader L K Advani's rath yatra was straddling across the country that a journalist colleague abandoned his Leftist leanings and hitched his future to Hindutva. It may have been just a matter of color--from red to saffron--a small leap forward for him but it surprised us all. For it was during his days in IIT (Kharagpur) that he came under the influence of CPI(M)'s ideology and eventually became an active member of Student Federation of India, it's student wing. Having graduated; and several years later he came to Mumbai and got a job as a reporter in R K Karanjia's city tabloid. While holding the job he continued his activism-championing the cause of proletariat, namely mill workers, dalits, adivasis etc. through his writings. He didn't miss the dharnas and morchas, and whenever issues surfaced could be found distributing handbills. Like activists, he felt he could change the world! Then came the rath yatra, a defining moment in his life. Taken in by the talk of 'Hindu resurgence' and the 'ushering of Ram Rajya' which Advani and other BJP leaders promised, he became a saffronite. And as BJP gained power in the Centre, thanks to his IIT background and journalism background, he found himself working in the PMO. Some say he is Atal Behari Vajpayee's speechwriter! Many like him, even plain, unlettered Indians who have joined the ranks of VHP, Bajrang Dal and BJP really believe that the 'modern Hindu identity' or Hindutva gives voice to the long suppressed anxieties. The demolition of Babri Masjid in Ayodhaya in 1992 and the killings of Muslims in Gujarat in 2002 has in fact, unmasked the 'real' face of Hindutva.

What differentiates Hindutva from Sanatan Hindu dharma?
Who better to quote, then the foremost 20th century philosopher? This is what Dr. Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan says in The Hindu View of Life: "Hinduism is more a way of life than form of thought, while it gives absolute liberty in the world of thought; it enjoins a strict code of practice. The theist and atheist, the skeptic and the agnostic may all be Hindus… Hinduism insists on a moral life and draws into fellowship all who feel themselves bound to the claims which the moral law or dharma makes upon them."

And Hindutva?

It was with Veer Sarvarkar's book "Hindutva: Who are the Hindus" that the word Hindutva was coined and its concept put forward. Thinkers, like Swami Dayanand Saraswati, Ramakrishna Parmahansa and Swami Vivekenanda succinctly described what Hindu religion was all about while for Savarkar religiosity was never an important issue. In fact, he was far from being a religious person-for unlike others he did not perform funeral rites of his wife and had even insisted that on his death he be cremated in an electric crematorium. Having developed the concept of Hindutva Savarkar changed Hindu nationalism into a community. He strongly believed that until the Hindus were not united against Muslims, Christian and other external influences a strong society would not take birth. Consider this with what he wrote in "India's first freedom struggle: 1857". Published in Marathi in 1907, he equated India's unity to Hindu-Muslim unity and went further stating that by shedding their blood both Hindus and Muslims had given birth to a kind of nationality.

Interestingly, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh since its inception has been stressing that their Hindutva doesn't share its concern with Savarkar's Hindutva but their Hindutva is that of Swami Vivekanananda, Ramkrishna Parmahansa and Dayanand Saraswati! Surprisingly, these Hindu reformist leaders have neither spoken about Hindutva, nor Hindu nation, nor equaled Hindutva to nationalism unlike Savarkar's. Moreover, unlike the Hindu reformists of the past, the Sangh Parivar has never raised any issues relating to the essence of Hinduism or made attempts to bring in any reforms in the Hindu society, attacked the caste system etc.

The fact is that by terming Hindu rashtra as cultural nationalism, the BJP and the Sangh want to operate within the lakshman rekha of Indian constitution. Cunning as they are, for instance L K Advani differentiates between a Hindu state and Hindu nation! For BJP leaders are aware that if they declare their allegiance to Savarkar's Hindutva they would also have to press for awarding secondary citizenship to Muslims and Christians--an act tantamount to the Indian constitution and people's opinion at large. According to veteran journalist and author of 'Hindu Hone ka dharam" Hindutva as a concept is the offspring of a revolutionary mind (reference to Savarkar) who led the latter part of life, thanks to the pardon granted by the British rulers, whose helplessness found strength in Nazism's racist ideas. Savarkar was unlike Bhagat Singh--another equally great revolutionary, who sought sustenance in communism and became a martyr for the cause of India's freedom.

Hindutva, in fact, is nothing but a reflection of a feeling of defeat and reaction against faiths, namely Islam and Christianity. The ideology of Hindutva seems to declare that there is but one God, called Rama, who is the symbol of both Hinduism and Indian nationalism. Hindutva's core message is aggression and destruction of enemies, real or imagined. By their act, the Hindutva brigade has tarnished the popular image of Lord Rama, the maryada purushottam and the embodiment of all Aryan virtues. The one who is symbol of extreme dedication towards his duty, respect for elders, affection towards juniors and compassionate to all beings. Anger rarely touched him and one who was unwilling to attack anybody unless absolutely necessary. For Rama's idols have traditionally been portrayed in abhaya mudra-his right hand raised in a gesture of blessing the believer and with a beatific smile on his face. Traditionally, Rama like Krishna, is never worshipped alone but always with his consort unlike the Rama of Hindutva who stands alone with bow held aloft, ready for aggression.

Hindutva no way represents Hindu dharma's ethos or its magnanimity. For Hindu society is open, self-strong and has remained independent for over 2,000 years and will continue to be so unlike other faiths. Hinduism is difficult to explain-for it doesn't have a Book, a prophet or a common creed. Unlike Semitic religions Hinduism has had no beginning. Its uniqueness lay in its extreme liberalness, tolerance and vision of one Divine Reality residing in all.

The Hindu tradition of co-existence with other faiths is much more ancient, richer and stronger than it has been in Europe. The Hindu faith neither does have a beginning nor an end. Unlike other faiths it doesn't have a Jesus Christ or a prophet. Despite the invasion of brigands, like Changez Khan, Mohammed Ghori, Mahmud Ghaznavi Nadir Shah and others who ransacked the temples and looted the riches, the Hindu society did not close it ranks forcing its co-believers to be bound by communal orthodoxy.

Even the communal riots of 1946-47 could not change it. Like the Muslims the Hindu community too reacted in anger. The Partition affected Indians too but India did not become an orthodox religious State though Savarkar and the RSS would very much like it to become. We opted to become a secular state on our own will. Not because a Hindu is weak, meek but because a Hindu considers his religion, spiritual and social strength invincible, for a country is made by its people and is made and unmade by its belief.

Being born a Hindu one is neither formally baptized in the faith nor can he/she leave it. One is a Hindu because it gives the freedom no other faith can promise. Aware of its weakness and shortcomings, one can fight against them being part and parcel of it. No God can judge me or uplift me. A Hindu is responsible for his/her actions and cannot become free or seek escape from its consequences. This is the only faith, which doesn't claim to be the ultimate and the best, and can lead one to the path to salvation. Though remaining in its fold one is free and responsible for his/her deeds.

Now, Hindus are being told that you need to be scared of Christians and Muslims otherwise they would be outnumbered and even lose their faith--this to followers of a faith, which has prospered since prehistoric times. Though it may not be apt, to quote evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins the champions of Hindutva are like "anarchic viruses, the one that make us sneeze, are the ones that don't agree with each other. They don't care if we die. All they want to do is make us sneeze, or in the case of the rabies virus, make the dog salivate and bite."

By trying to project Hinduism as a self assertive, aggressive, and strictly monotheistic religion, Hindutva is likely to destroy what Hinduism stands for. For Hindutva's lifeblood is in the hatred of the minorities. Their credo: if you are a Hindu, then you need to hate the minorities. This coming from believers of a faith that says that all living and non-living are same, ditto the soul and God.

Hindutva's main plank is to consolidate the Hindu society as a vote bank and its tool--hatred of the minorities. Meghnad Desai, member of the Britain's House of Lords and professor in London School of Economics wrote in article titled Gujarat and its Bhasmita (Seminar May 2002) "In democracy the equation of minority and majority does go on. India has 82 crore Hindus but an organization which supposedly represents it they are perpetually scared of minority complex."

But the Hindutva followers continue to harp on the theme that "though we are Hindus and in a majority in this country, we are under threat". Hate is a powerful weapon, history has taught us. Hitler used it to unite the Germans against the Jews. In recent years the American media has used similar sentiments to rationalize President George Bush's attack in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Pratap Bhanu Mehta, a professor at the Center for Philosophy at Delhi's JNU tries to put the issue into the right perspective when he says, "Hindus seem to be suffering from insecurity. It's linked to the crisis of self-esteem about India. A crisis connected to India's well-being and place in the world. There is a feeling that we have been left behind and lost out in the globalized world. So, they look for scapegoats and the convenient one is the Muslim."

The truth is that a group of fundamentalists have hijacked the Hindu agenda leaving out the mainstream Hindus, who by their ambivalent silence acquiesce to the overt politicization of religious symbols and spread of myths.

Remember the "Hum paanch, unke panchees" slogan of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, which talked of polygamy among Muslims. In fact, it is far from the truth. A recent survey in eight block of a Muslim majority area in Ahmedabad revealed that only two people had four wives, two other people had three wives and 279 people had two wives. As opposed to this there were 20,950 cases of "maitri karar" (friendship agreement) registered by Hindus with the Collector in a single district. This a term specific to Gujarat and is essentially a method to bypass the stringent provisions of the Hindu Marriage Act and enter into an "undeclared second marriage."

In 1971 Hindus comprised 82.7 per cent of the population whereas Muslims were 11.2 per cent and the figures reached 82.6 per cent and 11.4 per cent, respectively in the year 1991. A comparison of growth rates reveals that while the population of Hindus increased from 23.71 to 24.42 during the year 1961-71 and 1971-81 the respective figures for Muslims were 30.85 and 30.20 respectively, according to Anil Chamadia and Subhash Gatade in Poison Myths (November 18, 2003 The Indian Express). Which means that population of Muslims actually decreased as compared to Hindus. Interestingly, a report published by the Baroda -based Operations Research Group in 1981 found that the rates of contraceptive use between Hindus and Muslims were comparable.

Similarly, Hindutva's saffron agenda in education is to erase one central truth about Indian culture and civilization for 2,000 years-namely its pluralistic, multi-ethnic, multi-religious character. As Amartya Sen says: It is futile to try to understand Indian art, literature, music, food or politics without seeing the extensive interactions across barriers of religious communities. These include Hindis and Muslims, Buddhists, Jains, Sikhs, Parsees, Christians… Jews.. and atheists and agnostics. Sanskrit has larger atheistic literature than exists in any other classical language."

Remarking on the NCERT (National Council for Educational Research and Training) concerted effort to rewrite history as evident in the history books published by the same, columnist Praful Bidwai says: (it) will make whole generation ignorant. They will breed hatred and hubris-as Hitler did with Master Race myth. Under the BJP's "leadership", India seems headed that way-and at least towards the destruction of secularism and pluralism. Nothing could be more dangerous."

Interestingly, the threat to Hindu Sanatan Dharma has an external face too, the NRI's. As political psychologist Ashis Nandy recently stated in an interview that the uprooted NRI is more troubled by India than the average Indian here. "Fanatic torchbearers of Hindutva are more numerous in America than in India. Just as there is more fanatic Muslims in America than in Pakistan or Saudi Arabia. … 90 per cent of NRIs abroad are religious zealots. They support extremist parties here (India) in an effort to hold on to their identity by electronic means. The real ideologues are VHP and Bajrang Dal leaders. Their constituency: 'modern' Indians and well-to-do technocrats in the USA-the IT professional who lives in America, makes decent money, sees himself being McDonalidised and does soul searching on Sundays. To atone for their sons marrying young Christian women, producing Eurasian children they look for an ideological package. This package is simplified by the VHP and Bajrang Dal who tell them to continue to make their dollars, join yoga, listen to bhajans and sermons on hi-fi systems and contribute $100 monthly to these organizations to reinforce their Indian roots."

For the RSS not only the Hindutva intellectual inspiration comes from the West but also the financial help. It is funded by charitable trusts of American MNCs. Britain's Channel 4 had reported in December 12, 2002 that Indian religious organizations Sewa International, a branch of RSS was misusing the funds. On the initiative of In November 2002 secular and partisan Indian residing in Europe and US report, The Foreign Exchange of Hate: IDRF and the American funding of Hindutva" had bared the ways and means of how the Sangh Parivar was collecting funds in America. India Development and Relief Fund registered in 1989 have been using its funds to terrorize minorities. For instance in 1999 IT giant CISCO had contributed $70,000 to IRDF. In fact, CISCO was among the top five donating money to them. It would be natural to mention that Nobel-winning organization Doctors without Borders received $2,500 in the same year, IRDF received thrice that amount.

In fact, IRDF floated by Indians having sympathies with Sangh Parivar donates nearly 82 per cent of its raised funds to different Sangh related organizations, namely Seva Bharati, Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram, or Sri Vivekananda Rural Development Society while the rest goes to other Hindu organizations not related to Sangh. In fact, funds received by VHP are routed through Bharat Kalyan Pratisthan. In fact, both VHP and BKP share the same office address in India.

Necessarily it is a matter of concern that sympathizers to the Hindutva cause is raising its heads in America and Europe. Ultimately, one needs to understand as to why a community considered to be tolerant and secular is metamorphosing into something different.

It may be stated that those residing away from their country but supporting fundamentalists is not limited to Hindutva forces but has been observed even among Jews and Muslims too. For it was Yasser Arafat who once said that he "can handle the Israeli Jews but the real problem is the American Jews."

In the beginning of 80s Benedict Anderson in his book 'Imagined Communities' had shed light on long distance nationalism and had concluded that how immigrants were so caught up with their attraction and love for their homeland. Recent history is testimony that NRIs and Sangh sympathizers residing in Europe and America do get attracted to religious and terrorist organizations. Remember the support to the Sikh cause in the 80's among Sikh NRIs living in America and Europe. It's natural that living in an alien culture they feel alienated and are attracted to traditional culture, which in fact, is narrow and governed by psuedo religious relations. For this exclusionary behavior leads them to support terrorist and fundamentalist outfits.

Since the nineties, the influence of Hindutva brigade has increased in Indian politics and found similar expression in NRIs too. For instance, Bajrang Dal's parallel organization Hindu Unity openly talks about violence against minorities and has even prepared a 'hit list' of its opponents and regularly undertakes smear campaigns. Since 90s the influence of VHP's American student branch, Hindu Student Council has increased and it has presence in Harvard, MIT, Columbia University, Boston University, Carnegie Melon and Princeton. Hindu Student Council branches are run by second generation NRIs who have links with VHP America.

Can we leave custody of the Hindu society in the hands of Singhal, Togadia, Katiyar and Ritambaras who are guided by the mission to make it more orthodox? Should we go the Muslim way? Not give the freedom of opinion to its co-religionists. Should we allow the same to happen to Hindu society what Islamic fundamentalists have done to the Muslim society and Sikh terrorists did to the Sikh society in the recent past? If we do, the Hindutva brigade will not sit contended by what they did in Ayodhaya they would again raise their heads in places, like Baba Budangiri mosque (Bangalore) or Krishnajanambhomi (Mathura) or Haji Malang (Kalyan). Rather than seek strength from VHPs slogan "Garv se kaho hum Hindu hain" we need to be a true Hindu: tolerant and respectful of other faiths.

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