Whither Hindutva?

Exclusion of Muslims has Begun!

Bibekananda Ray

The life and ideas of Savarkar throw light on many of the acts and views of the BJP, the RSS and the Shiv Sena. NDA governments, led by Mr Modi are unfolding the ideas of Savarkar and Shyama Prasad Mukherjee and Golwalkar which form a stream running opposite to the Congress stream that culminated in the Constitution; hence the BJP's call to build a Congress-free India. To make Hindutwa vision a reality, they envisage transforming India into a Hindu Rashtra, burying secularism. The abrogation of Articles 370 and 35, giving special status to J & K, was also a step to make real Savarkar's vision of Akhanda Bharat. Right from its birth in 1977 from the ashes of Janata Party, the BJP has been debunking the concept of 'secular India', calling it 'pseudo' and wanting to replace it by a Hindu Rashtra where Muslims and other religious minorities will be second-class citizens. The RSS President, Mohan Bhagavat presumes that India is already a Hindu State and under Hindu rulers, Muslims are better off in India. Except banning 'triple talaq', the NDA governments did nothing to ameliorate Muslims. Not only secularism, the NDA is keen to do away with India's venerated pluralism by imposing one language (Hindi), one tax (GST) etc. in the bigoted sense of unifying India.

Sensing massive opposition and probably stung by recent poll reverses in Manarasntra, Haryana, Jharkhand and three by-polls in West Bengal, Mr. Modi and Mr Shah are soft-pedaling the Hindutwa agenda, wrapping it in the euphemism of 'nationalism'. On Day One of his second term, Mr Modi mentioned it in Parliament as his 'unfinished task', it was a 'bee in the bonnet' too of veteran BJP leaders, like L K Advani, MM Joshi and A B Vajpayee who imbibed it from Savarkar; it has been the common plank with NDA allies too. The BJP and Shiv Sena became allied, 30-years ago, on the "ideological foundations of Hindutwa. The Sena veered to the ideology in the 1970s, as the 'sons of the soil' cause was weakening.

Many of two NDAs' moves in the last 5½ years are muted advances of Hindutwa, e.g., building of a Ram Mandir on the site of the demolished Babri mosque and erecting a sky-scraping statue of Lord Rama on Sarayu river, both in Ayodhya, sponsoring and aiding various Hindu religious festivals like Durga Pujo of Bengalis, Hanuman Barwari, Ganesha Chaturthi, Chhat Puja and so on and spreading the slogan, Jai Shri Ram and killing Muslims who do not chant it. No BJP leader in the Centre or the States is seen to attend Muslim pre-ld Iftar, Christmas, Buddha and Mahavir Jayanti or Sikh festival of Vaisakhi. In fact, since 2014 courts have not been fair to Muslims. In the verdict on Ayodhya, the Supreme Court awarded the disputed site to the Hindus, although the buried (how?) structures beneath it were not undoubtedly Hindu and the mosque was built on a vacant land; it ordered the government to give five acres to Muslims to rebuild the mosque. Except abolishing Teen Talaq, no move by two NDA regimes sought to ameliorate Muslims. Teen Talaq Act, however, has not outlawed the inhuman Muslim practice, it has merely banned such divorce by uttering Talaq thrice in succession. Thus, Muslim ire over Ayodhya and the CAA is entirely justified and may trigger riots and violence against the rulers.

More recent overtures of Hindutwa—the CAA and the NRC- also aim at marginalising Muslims. The CAA unless held up the apex court, will confer citizenship on Hindu and four minority immigrants after Independence—the Buddhists, Jains, Sikhs and Parsis, but not on Muslim immigrants, like the Bahai's who were expelled from Iran and sought asylum in India. In fact, the bill could have avoided the term 'religious' and muted the protests of the opposition; it could simply mention refugees fleeing or expelled by Pakistan, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh; it is only to exclude Muslims that religion had to be made a criterion of citizenship in defiance of the Constitution. Articles 6 and 7 confer citizenship on migrants from and to Pakistan before and after 19th July 1948; therefore, Pakistan could be excluded as a persecuting country. Under the Act, more than five lakh Bengali Hindu migrants from Bangladesh who were excluded from the NRC will become citizens. To recall, over 19 lakh migrants of all faiths were excluded. On the ground, many of them might have been issued EPIC and ration cards and settled comfortably under vote-bank politics of  political parties. The law is a clear warning to Muslims that none of their illegal refugees will be made citizens.

Assam has been plagued with the foreigners' issue since it became a separate province in 1912. Foreigners in the region were mainly Bengali immigrants—legal and illegal—from East Bengal (up to 1947), East Pakistan (1947-1971) and later from Bangladesh since 1972, which made the native population insecure. AGP, AASU and other student organisations launched Bangali Khedao in 1977 but the most sensational anti-foreigner mayhem was Nellie massacre in 1983. To pull out the thorn, several legislations were implemented—'Immigrants (Expulsion from Assam) 1950 (repealed in 1957), Census of 1951, the NRC of 1955, Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunals) Act and the Assam Accord of Rajiv Gandhi in 1985 (with 25th March 1971 as cut-off date) and finally the NRC, August 2019, at the behest of the Supreme Court. More than 19 lakh Bengali immigrants can appeal for review through tribunals which may reduce the number of the-excluded. Besides, over 3.30 crore migrants have applied for inclusion. A BJP minister of the State, Himanta Biswa Sarma has cried foul and alleged that the NRC list, prepared at the cost of ample State resources and manpower, is 'erroneous', reflecting the 'impetuosity of the government and its shifting political agenda'.

Making India a Hindu Rashtra legally will be a Himalayan task; after having been passed in both Houses, it is also validated by the Supreme Court, it will open a Pandora's box. Muslim immigrants will agitate for inclusion; the excluded among them may convert to other faiths to qualify. The present Constitution will have to be abrogated, drastically amended or rewritten, which will have complex ramification. True to Rabindranath's homily to 'India Pilgrimage' (Bharat Tirtha, 1910) and Swami Vivekananda's assertion in Chicago Parliament of Religions, India has traditionally been a shelter and home for foreigners. New Delhi accepted Dalai Lama and accompanying Tibetan refugees, those from East -Bengal, East Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Bahai's from Iran without any religious discrimination. Even Muslim invaders and their progeny from central Asia have merged in the native fabric. Mr Shah gave no reason for this exclusion, saying the bill does not have a word on them. Boiled down, as Mamata Banerjee says, the CAA and the NRIC are two sides of the same coin, aiming to marginalise Muslims. She is adamant not to allow exercises under either in West Bengal but it is doubtful how she would defy a Central legislation.

In the essay and lectures on nationalism in 1916 and 1917 in Japan, China, Germany and the USA, Tagore differentiated nationalism from patriotism; patriotism is emotional attachment to the place of one's birth, nationalism is an ideology, based on the idea of the nation. India was a country of communities, not a country of a nation; therefore, to build a nation in India was like building a navy in land-locked Switzerland. The ideas of nation, nationality and nationalism were alien to Indian civilisation and hurdles to India's unity.

NDA-II, unless reined by courts, is determined to push Savarkar's vision. If brute and manipulated majority in the two Houses and BJP's bulldozing tactic ultimately triumph, the Hindu Rashtra will be a totalitarian regime, where Savarkar's ideas will be enshrined. NDA-II is considering to censor social media and trample on privacy under the new Data Bill. The RTA will be annulled on the plea that it was unnecessary in view of ample facts disclosed by the government. Charak, Susruta and Manusmriti will be resurrected; medical students will create test-tube babies, applying technique that bred Seetamaiya in a pumpkin or bowl and learn plastic surgery from Susruta, by which a baby elephant's head was seamlessly joined on the severed body of Lord Ganesha. Ayurvedic medicine will dislodge Western. Women will be confined to homes and barred from studies and jobs outside to avoid rape and molestation. India will be isolated in the world community, no longer venerated as the world's largest democracy and will be a theocratic State like Pakistan, Iran, Iraq and Bangladesh.

Back to Home Page

Vol. 52, No. 36, Mar 8 - 14, 2020