Hindutva Offensive Social Roots: Characterisation

By R.R. Puniyani

Introduction: Last decade has seen the Hindutva onslaught going from strength to strength to the detriment of poor and oppressed sections of society. Though Sangh Parivar (SP), RSS and the paraphernalia of its affiliates, is at the core of Hindutva movement some other forces have also broadly contributed to the social and political agenda of Hindutva, the main such associate is Shiv Sena, prior to consolidation of SP, Hindu Mahasabha propogated Hindutva, while variable expression of Hindutva has also taken place through congress as well. The turmoil created by its offensive has disturbed the very fabric of our society, and this has threatened to change the very rules of social politics.

This movement is based on the premise that Hindus alone constitute the Indian nation as they are the original inhabitants of this land and have created this society and its culture. Hinduism, as per their assertion, is a very tolerant and catholic, which makes it superior to all other faiths, but its tolerance has often been mistaken for weakness…… The Hindu nation has been repeatedly conquered by aliens, particularly the Muslims and then the Christian British and must acquire strength through RSS Sangathan to counter all present and future threats. The subsequent entry and takeover by foreigners created the illusion that India was land of many different and equal cultures — `Pseudo Secular’ nationalists like Nehru, who preferred bondage to an alien system of thought, perpetuated it by integrating this notion within the `pseudo secular’ constitution. This must be changed and only a `truely secular’ Hindu Rashtra will afford protection to non-Hindus. The threats remain because the present state is ruled by traitors to the Hindu nation; `pseudo secularists’ who `appeased’ Muslims in their pursuit of a politics of `vote banks’ (1). Its own perception of itself is thus of a movement meant to build a Hindu rashtra (nation) for the Hindus.

Formation of Hinduism as a Religion

Today’s social common sense believes Hinduism to be the religion of all the people in India except those who are specifically Muslims, Christians or Buddhists. It will be interesting to note that contrary to the popular belief the truth is that “Hindus” and “Hinduism” are orientalist constructions originating with late eighteenth century British administrators who believed “the essence of India existed in a number of key Hindu classical scriptures such as Vedas, the codes of Manu and the shastras that often prescribe hierarchical ideas” — a conclusion eagerly “supported and elaborated by Brahmins”. (2) Britishers not only absorbed this understanding, they put an official seal on it “by applying a legal system based on Brahminic norms to all non-Muslim castes and outcastes, the British created an entirely new Brahmin legitimacy. They further validated Brahmin authority by employing, almost exclusively, Brahmins as their clerks and assistants. “(3) ” — this fabrication through repetition of India as unitary Hindu society has — obscured the reality of a segmented society, with Brahmins and other upper castes exercising a monopoly of power, fabricated Hinduism is found everywhere.” (4)

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Acknowledgement

(I am thankful to Irfan Engineer, Jairus Banaji and Vrijendra for the discussions which helped me formulate my ideas. However responsibility and weaknesses of these formulations are entirely mine.)

REFERENCES

1. Tapan Basu, P. Datta, S. Sarkar, T. Sarkar & S. Sen ‘Khakhi Shorts Saffron Flags’, (Tracts for the Times – 1), Orient Longman, 1993, p.37.

2. Haynes Douglas and Gyan Prakash eds. 1991, Contesting power: Resistance and Everyday Facial Relations in South Asia: Delhi, OUP, p.6.

3. Arthur Bonner, ‘Democracy in India: a hollow shell’, The American University Press, Washington, 1994, p.40.4. ibid, p.41.

5. Arun Bose, ‘India’s Social Crisis’, Delhi: OUP, p.56.

6. Jawaharlal Nehru, ‘The Discovery of India’, John Day, 1946, p.66.

7. Hinndls, John and Eric Sharpe, eds. Hinduism, New Caste upon Tyne, Oriel Press, 1972, p.128.

8. Romila Thapar, ‘Syneticated Moksha?’ Seminar, 1987, pp.14-22.

9. Gail Omvedt, ‘Dalit Visions’ (Tract for the times – 8), Orient Longman, 1995, pp.7-12.

10. Jafferlot Christopher, 1993, Hindu Nationalism: Strategic syneretic in ideology building, EPW, March 20, 93, 517-24.

11. Nandy, Trivedy, Mayaram & Yagnik ‘Creating a Nationality Chapter VII, Hindutva as Savarna Purana: OUP, Delhi, 1995.

12. Ram Bapat ‘Religious Fundamentalism as a factor in Today’s National and International Politics’, Paper presented at the Seminar “The Nation, State and Indian Identity: A PostAyodhya Perspective”, MAJLIS, Bombay, Feb. 7-10, 1994.

13. Mark Juergensmeyer ‘Religious Nationalism Confronts the Secular State’, OUP, Delhi, 1994.14. Bruce Lawrence, ‘Defenders of God’, quoted in 3, p.5.

15. Sumeet Sarkar ‘The Fascism of Sangh Parivar’, Economic and Political Weekly, pp.163-168, Jan. 30, 1993.

16. Aijaz Ahmad: Radicalism of the Right and Logics of Secularism, in Religion, Religiosity and Communalism (Eds. Bidwai, Mukhia & Vanaik), Manohar: 96, pp.36-55.

17. Jan Breman ‘The Hindu Right’, Times of India, March 15, 1993.

18. Achin Vanaik ‘Situating Threat of Hindu Nationalism’, EPW, July 9, 1994, 1729-1748.

19. Martin Kitchen ‘Fascism’, The Macmillan Press Ltd. London,1976.

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