Hindutva! There is something uncanny about this term that it leaves some people jittery even merely on its mention. The left-centric academia, which is still struggling to overcome the colonial hangover, has accorded to Hindutva everything it is not- from lack of scientific temper to superstition, from jingoism to religious intolerance, from hooliganism to (saffron) terrorism; innumerable reiteration of such false equivalences by the mainstream media coupled with fear mongering by Leftist propagandist(s), masquerading as public intellectuals, have not only perverted it but also made people preclude that Hindutva, espoused by the Bharatiya Janata Party, is a regressive ideology which has no place in India of the 21st century.
The devastating impact of this propaganda and fear mongering can easily be gauged when you come across people, claiming to be staunch supporters of the BJP, who feel that Hindutva is a hindrance to the development agenda of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, or apprehend that the BJP can easily extend its support base if it, once and for all, discarded Hindutva.
It is, therefore, time to reiterate what Hindutva essentially is in order to shun this propaganda which is slowly yet steadily encroaching minds of some BJP supporters (who thankfully don’t yet constitute a vast majority).
If one goes by the media alone, his attempts to know Hindutva would be reminiscent of the profound story of ‘blind men and an elephant’. The meaning of Hindutva changes from person to person and organization to organization, depending upon the ideological leanings and ulterior motives of that person or organization. As has always been the case with ideologies, Hindutva too has been subjected to revisions and perversions during its journey from the 1920’s to the present date; it is, therefore, imperative to avoid both revisions and perversions while reiterating the essentials of Hindutva.
What Is Hindutva?
As I have said earlier, the meaning of Hindutva changes from person to person and organization to organization. Nevertheless, it would amount to intellectual dishonesty if one tries to understand and then goes on to judge Hindutva, or any ideology for that matter, through any of its revised or perverted version. It is, therefore, incumbent upon me to present the definition of Hindutva which is free from both revision as well as perversion. The bona fide definition, pivotal to cognize Hindutva, is the one compiled by Sri Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, who also coined the term Hindutva.
Savarkar wrote, and I quote: “To this category of names which have been to mankind a subtle source of life and inspiration belongs the word Hindutva, the essential nature and significance of which we have to investigate into. The ideas and ideals, the systems and societies, the thoughts and sentiments which have centred round this name are so varied and rich, so powerful and so subtle, so elusive and yet so vivid that the term Hindutva defies all attempts at analysis. Forty centuries, if not more, had been at work to mould it as it is. Prophets and poets, lawyers and law-givers, heroes and historians, have thought, lived, fought and died just to have it spelled thus. For indeed, is it not the resultant of countless actions- now conflicting, now commingling, now cooperating- of our whole race? Hindutva is not a word but a history. Not only the spiritual or religious history of our people as at times it is mistaken to be by being confounded with the other cognate term Hinduism, but a history in full. Hinduism is only a derivative, a fraction, a part of Hindutva. Unless it is made clear what is meant by the latter the first remains unintelligible and vague. Failure to distinguish between these two terms 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. Here 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 creed. Hindutva embraces all the departments of thought and activity of the whole Being of our Hindu race.”
As is self-evident from Savarkar’s profound definition, Hindutva is neither religious nor spiritual in nature; it is rather a magnificent documentation of the voyage of a spectacular civilization, India, from the ancient times to this date.
How Do We Interpret Hindutva?
In order to distil the ideology from falsehoods and propaganda, it is imperative to interpret Hindutva; and if the interpretation comes from a nonpartisan Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court of India, it bears the utmost importance as well as credence.
Justice Verma Bench has observed: “Thus, it cannot be doubted, particularly in view of the Constitution Bench decisions of this Court that the words
Hinduism' orHindutva’ are not necessarily to be understood and construed narrowly, confined only to the strict Hindu religious practices unrelated to the culture and ethos of the people of India, depicting the way of life of the Indian people. Unless the context of a speech indicates a contrary meaning or use, in the abstract these terms are indicative more of a way of life of the Indian people and are not confined merely to describe persons practising the Hindu religion as a faith. Considering the terms
Hinduism' orHindutva’ per se as depicting hostility, enmity or intolerance towards other religious faiths or professing communalism, proceeds form an improper appreciation and perception of the true meaning of these expressions emerging from the detailed discussion in earlier authorities of this Court. Misuse of these expressions to promote communalism cannot alter the true meaning of these terms.”
The Bench then goes on to assert: “It is, therefore, a fallacy and an error of law to proceed on the assumption that any reference to Hindutva or Hinduism in a speech makes it automatically a speech based on the Hindu religion as opposed to the other religions or that the use of words
Hindutva' orHinduism’ per se depict an attitude hostile to all persons practising any religion other than the Hindu religion. It is the kind of use made of these words and the meaning sought to be conveyed in the speech with has to be seen and unless such a construction leads to the conclusion that these words were used to appeal for votes for a Hindu candidate on the ground that he is a Hindu or not to vote for a candidate because he is not a Hindu, the mere fact that these words are used in the speech would not bring it within the prohibition of sub-section (3) or (3A) of Section 123. It may well be, that these words are used in a speech to promote secularism or to emphasise the way of life of the Indian people and the Indian culture or ethos, or to criticise the policy of any political party as discriminatory or intolerant. The parliamentary debates, including the clarifications made by the Law Minister quoted earlier, also bring out this difference between the prohibited and permissible speech in this context.”
The Hindutva Judgment of Justice Verma’s Bench, a constitutional as well as political landmark, not only dispels apprehensions of secularists but also vindicates the BJP and the RSS. The judgment also asserts that Hindutva can be interpreted as promotion of secularism as well. The judgment established it beyond any doubt that contrary to the ill-founded criticism offered by its ideological adversaries and falsehoods spread by political adversaries of the BJP, Hindutva is essentially inclusive in nature. Hindutva is neither jingoism nor religious intolerance; it promotes neither hooliganism nor (saffron) terrorism.
Does Hindutva Mean Lack Of Scientific Temper/Superstition?
One of the oft-repeated criticisms of Hindutva is that it is devoid of scientific temper, promotion of which is a fundamental constitutional duty of every citizen of India. Of all criticisms of Hindutva, I find this particular one not only grotesque but also condescending in nature. As I have said earlier, Hindutva is documentation of the voyage of Indian civilization from the ancient time to the present date. It is, therefore, intelligible that the ideologues of Hindutva would want to promulgate what all was achieved during the course of that voyage. These achievements include scientific achievements as well. This is where the critics of Hindutva glimpse a chance to attack the ideology, in their anticipation that people will discard Hindutva as a religious dogma, devoid of scientific temper.
Ignorance and only ignorance of astounding scientific achievements of the Indian civilization is responsible for this. Unfortunately, the ignorance is equally prevalent among critics as well as some proponents of Hindutva. Ignorance of so called Hindutva supporters, who want to assert their fantasies as achievements of the ancient Hindu civilization, has delivered a severe blow not only to the Hindutva itself but also to serious scholarly attempts to proclaim and celebrate those authentic achievements which truly belong to the ancient Indian civilization. At the same time, critics lose their credibility when they dismiss genuine achievements of the ancient Indian civilization just to score petty political points over BJP.
Recently, when Dr Harshvardhan, in his inaugural speech of the 102nd edition of the Indian Science Congress, asserted that algebra, Pythagoras Theorem originated in India, he was squarely criticized for his ‘lack’ of scientific temper, despite being the Union Cabinet Minister of Science & Technology. This bait of Dr Harshvardhan was not only superfluous but also ignorant and hence dishonest as well as condescending in nature. The criticism was so ridiculous that even his ideological and political adversary, Dr Shashi Tharoor of Congress, too could not fathom it. Tharoor not only defended Harshvardhan but also went on to spell out numerous scientific achievements of the ancient Indian civilization. Poor knowledge of individuals, critics and proponents alike, does not make Hindutva devoid of the scientific temper.
Respect and regards for centuries old rituals can never be dubbed as superstition. Faith is not superstition, so isn’t mere observation of rituals. Proclamation of archaic beliefs, resoundingly discarded by Science, such as the earth is round, or miracles can heal terminal illness is of course superstition. Hindutva neither preaches nor promulgates any superstition.
Does Hindutva Mean Amalgamation Of Myths With Historical Truths?
One of the major charges often leveled by Leftist academia is that Hindutva essentially seeks the revision of India’s history and amalgamation of certain so called myths and legends with ancient history. Nevertheless, it has to be asserted that rejection of canards, some of which are still hailed as historical truths, e.g. Aryan Invasion Theory (AIT) is inevitable revision in order to defeat and dispel falsehoods spread by the propagandists of India’s erstwhile colonial masters as these were nothing but the techniques devised and adopted to create fault-lines and exploit them to further their colonial and imperial policies. Scholarly and rational efforts to reinstate history are therefore neither revision nor perversion of history.
The historical and etymological genesis of the word ‘Hindu’ is yet deemed controversial in the left centric Indian academia. Although the Aryan Invasion Theory stands discarded, controversy apropos of history of the word ‘Hindu’ still continues to serve the same purpose that India is not one nation and Indians are not one people. A historian of international repute, John Keay, in his book India: A History writes:
“The word for a ‘river’ in Sanskrit is sindhu. Hence sapta-sindhu meant ‘[the land of] the seven rivers’, which was what the Vedic arya called the Panjab. The Indus, to which most of these seven rivers were tributaries, was the sindhu par excellence; and in the language of ancient Persian, a near relative of Sanskrit, the initial ‘s’ of a Sanskrit word was invariably rendered as an aspirate- ‘h’. Soma, the mysterious hallucinogen distilled, deified and drunk to excess by the Vedic arya is thus homa or haoma in Old Persian; and sindhu is thus Hind[h]u. When, from Persian, the word found its way into Greek, the initial aspirate was dropped, and it started to appear as the route ‘Ind’ (as in ‘India’, ‘Indus’, etc.). In this form it reached Latin and most other European languages. However, in Arabic and related languages it retained the initial ‘h’, giving ‘Hindustan’ as the name by which Turks and Mughals would know India. That word also passed on to Europe to give ‘Hindu’ as the name of the country’s indigenous people and of what, by Muslims and Christians alike, were regarded as their infidel religion.”
It is quite clear from Keay’s observation that Hindutva is rooted in the word Hindu that historically referred to people beyond the Indus, but was created into a religious denomination by the British. All it means is, “the way of life of the Indian people and the Indian culture or ethos”, and by no means an anti minority or anti-Muslim potion.
You are naive if you believe that such criticism stems purely from fierce ideological rivalry. As Arun Shourie notes in his book Eminent Historians Of India:
“For fifty years this bunch has been suppressing facts and inventing lies. How concerned they are about that objective of the ICHR — to promote objective and rational research into events of our past. How does this square with the guidelines issued by their West Bengal Government in 1989 which Outlook itself quotes — “Muslim rule should never attract any criticism. Destruction of temples by Muslim rulers and invaders should not be mentioned”? But their wholesale fabrications of the destruction of Buddhist vihars, about the non-existent “Aryan invasion” — to question these is to be communal, chauvinist! It is this which has been the major crime of these “historians”.”
Not only are these “historians” partisan, not only are they nepotists, they are ones who have used State patronage to help each other in many, many ways. The people of India deserve to know true history of India and a party claiming to be the home for Hindu Nationalists must present the accurate narrative of history, consisting of irrefutable historical truths, and not amalgamation of legends and myths as their ideological adversaries allege.
Let me quote a stark example! It is about How history was made up at Nalanda. Arun Shourie nailed omission, distortion, and concoction of historical facts while documenting history of the ancient Nalanda University by eminent Marxist historian D.N. Jha. Shourie pronounced Jha guilty of not referring to primary sources to document history of Nalanda and willfully putting the blame of destruction of the ‘mine of learning- honoured Nalanda’ on some “Hindu fanatics”. D.N. Jha hit back on Shourie in his article how history was unmade at Nalanda. Jha was then taken to the cleaners by an eminent Indologist Koenraad Elst in his article an “eminent historian” attacks Arun Shourie. This was just one example. Imagine how many lies, half-truths, perversions, omissions, distortions would be there in the vast history of India?
Is Hindutva The Nemesis Of Development?
I completely fail to understand why (some TV hitched) people of Indian origin buy the propaganda that Hindutva is the nemesis of development or the BJP would be able to widen its support base if it completely discarded Hindutva. Maybe they are convinced that the opposition parties are constantly stalling important legislations in the Rajya Sabha solely because of ongoing efforts of Hindu organizations, however within the realm of Constitution of India, to reconvert people to the Hindu fold (‘Gharwapsi’) or RSS’ Sarsanghchalak’s remarks on Mother Teresa and would promptly stop doing so if BJP steered clear of Hindutva.
What is so detrimental about the historical and cultural identity of India, which Hindutva essentially is, that the BJP needs to steer clear of Hindutva? More importantly, how exactly is Hindutva the nemesis of development? The Prime Minister, so far, has given in to the opposition and made a statement in the Parliament every time the opposition demanded his intervention. What did such interventions change? Absolutely nothing! Forget everything else, how do you explain the entire opposition slamming the government on the terror boat issue? Was Hindutva responsible for this as well?
The fact remains that the opposition parties simply don’t want any development to take place as it’s detrimental to their brand of socialist politics- the politics of poverty, caste divisions, and divisions based on religion. The opposition would like to cooperate with the BJP in passing legislations only if Modi continued with pre-existing yet flawed and failed policies espoused by them.
Nevertheless, most analysts do concede that people gave the historic mandate to the BJP for comprehensive change. So why should the BJP continue with policies which are flawed and failed? Legislations like The Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Bill, 2014 and The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Amendment)Bill, 2015 are stalled by the opposition in the Rajya Sabha despite the fact that these bills are not only crucial to usher infrastructural development but also beneficiary to the states ruled by those very opposition parties. Are we to conclude that petty political interests are dearer than the national interest to these opposition parties? How come Hindutva becomes the nemesis of development?
That the opposition is stalling important legislations in the Rajya Sabha and not letting the Upper House of the Parliament function bears a testimony to the fact that they are using Hindutva as a proxy to justify their anti-development politics. The opposition will not cooperate on the development front even if the BJP government becomes more ‘secular’ than its predecessor UPA.
In a vibrant democracy, as India proudly proclaims itself to be, is honouring people’s mandate not a sacred duty of the opposition? During the campaign trail, the adversaries of BJP and Narendra Modi relentlessly ranted that the main agenda of the BJP was Hindutva and not development; yet the people gave a clear and decisive majority to the BJP despite all such tall claims. Are we, then, not to believe that the people voted BJP for both development and Hindutva?
Let’s be very clear here that anyone and everyone who wears the saffron robe is not the ‘thekedar’ (custodian) of Hindutva just by the virtue of the colour of his robe; Hindutva just cannot be held responsible for acts of vandalism or hooliganism espoused by a bunch of lunatics. Hooligans belong only to the prison. Hindutva is not the nemesis of development; rather both Hindutva and development are essential for India’s reinstatement as ‘Jagadguru’ (super power).
To sum it all up, Hindutva is one of the important components of the derailed growth story of India which this government is heroically trying to reinstate. Hindutva imparts the much needed self-esteem to the people of a nation which has a long history of being subjugated and enslaved. Only Hindutva has the potential to establish India as the soft power which both Narendra Modi (BJP) and Shashi Tharoor (Congress) often talk about. At the same time, many supporters of the BJP are disappointed because they feel that the BJP government has done nothing apropos of Hindutva. I do not share their pessimism. The first priority of the government is to restore the growth story of India which was derailed during the UPA regime. We must understand that Hindutva will remain a shallow exercise of sloganeering if economic prosperity does not precede cultural renaissance!