Hindu Reality

Whither Secular India?

Bibekananda Ray

The Hindutva heartland is the creation of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and is now falling like a sword on secular India. It is mainly a legacy of V D Savarkar (1883-1966), who wrote a pamphlet, "Essentials of Hindutva" in 1923 and envisaged transforming India into a Hindu nation. As a boy, he and his mates demolished a mosque with glee in his village near Nasik by guerrilla attacks to avenge Muslim rioters who later retaliated but were defeated by them in dharma yuddgha. This seed of Muslim hatred grew to a tree in adult life. His ideas began to coalesce, while studying law in England, where he worked for then revolutionary outfit, India House; he founded student societies, like Abhinav Bharat and the Free India Society to preach his beliefs. He was arrested in 1910 for his anti-British activities for the India House. While in prison for inciting war against the British Raj; he wrote:

O Hindus, consolidate and strengthen Hindu nationality; not to give wanton offence to any of our non-Hindu compatriots, in fact to anyone in the world but in just and urgent defence of our race and land; to render it impossible for others to betray her, or to subject her to unprovoked attack by any of those "Pan-isms" that are struggling forth from continent to continent.

His rabid hatred of Muslims is reflected in liberal use of reprisal words, like pratishodh and pratikaar in his prolific prose, poetry and plays to avenge Muslim invasions of India from Mahmud of Ghazni in 10th century. He held that it was always the Muslims who sparked off a riot; when Hindus killed Muslims in revenge, he would dance with joy. To him, Hindutva was an inclusive term of everything India with three essentials—common nation (Rashtra), common race (Jati), and common culture or civilisation (Sanskriti). His role model was Shivaji who fought with Muslim emperors and European traders to save and expand his regime. Hailing from a Chitpawan Brahmin family, he pleaded for return of Brahmin supremacy in a polity where the majority would be Hindus. He enlarged the ambit of Hindus to include all other races who lived in Hindusthan, created by girdling Sindhu river. He took ancient Aryan carriers and weapons like ratha, vana, clairvoyance to be true and urged followers to prove their existence. BJP leaders who are now claiming them to be so, often ludicrously, are paying lip service to him.

Other advocates of Hindutva in diverse forms have been Hindu Mahasabha, Jan Sangha, BJP's piggyback rider allies—Viswa Hindu Parishad, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), Bajrang Dal, Arya Samaj and their leaders like K B Hedgewar, M S Golwalkar, Deen Dayal Upadhyya, Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, Mohan Bhagavat, Sadhvi Rithamvara and Vinay Katiar. Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabhas was formed by Madan Mohan Malavya in 1915 to protect, as he said, the rights of the Hindus in British India after the formation of the All-India Muslim League and to protest against the creation of separate Muslim electorate under the Morley-Minto reforms in 19O9. Subhas Chandra Bose denounced it in an address in Jhargram in 1940 and warned people of its communal venom. It did not support the Quit India movement, led by Gandhi; the Congress swept the 1937 first provincial elections, decimating the Mahasabha. But in 1939, when the party's ministries in the union cabinet resigned in protest against Viceroy Lord Linlithgow's declaration of India as a 'belligerent country' in World War-ll, it perfidiously joined hands with the Muslim League and other parties to form governments in Sindh, NWFP and Bengal.

The Vishva Hindu Parishad, or VHP; a member of the RSS's Sangh Parivar, was founded in 1964 by M S Golwalkar, S S Apte and Swami Chinmayananda "to organise, consolidate the Hindu society and to serve and protect the Hindu Dharma". It builds and renovates Hindu temples, is against cattle slaughter but encourages conversion and reconversion to Hinduism. Another ideological ally of the BJP is Bajrang Dal, founded in 1984, organises camps, called shakhas to train young people in sports, education, and culturally indoctrinate them. The Durga Vahini, founded in 1991 by Sadhvi Rithambara is the "female arm of the Dal". Presently, the most powerful Hindutva ally of the BJP is the Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh, or the RSS whose ever-increasing members are doing 'intolerant' acts like lynching or killing of Muslims for eating or storing beef, selling old and sick cattle and persecuting scribes for criticising the BJP. It was founded by K B Hedgewar (1889-1940), alias Doctorji in Nagpur in 1925, with the aim of promoting a united India, rooted in the Hindutva. Hindu-Muslim riot in 1923 made him ponder over a different model of nation-building, in this he was inspired by the writings of Tilak, Savarkar and B S Moonje. He founded RSS in 1925 and a female wing in 1936. Among his first followers were Babasaheb Apte, M S Golwalkar, Balasaheb Deoras, and Madhukar Rao Bhagwat. He joined the extremists' group, Anushilan Samiti in Bengal, inspired by Bankim Chandra Chatterjee's novel. Anandamath which had an anti Islamic bias. During Khilafat Movement, Hedgewar reportedly said: 'Muslims are Muslims first and Indians only secondarily', Hedgewar was also deeply influenced by Veer Savarkar' Hindutva.

Golwalkar was born in a rich Marathi Brahmin family at Ramtek, near Nagpur. While studying in Bishop College Nagpur, he took exception to 'open advocacy' of Christianity and denunciation of Hinduism by missionaries. In 1931 when Hedgewar visited Varanasi, he was drawn to his asceticism. He was made Secretary (karyavah) of Nagpur branch and when he began practising as a lawyer, Hedgewar made him the manager of the Akola Officers' Training Camp. ln 1938, he published abridged Hindi and English translations of Savarkar's Rashtra Mimansa (Nationalism) in his name. In 1939, Hedgewar appointed Golwalkar as the next 'general secretary (satkryva of the RSS).He remained RSS's supreme leader for over three decades and made it a strong religious-political organisation; its membership rose from one to ten lakh and made inroads in political, social religious, educational and labour fields through 5O organisations. It extended to foreign counties too, where Hindus were recruited into Hindu organisations. It veered to an anti-socialist ideology with slogans like "Not socialism but Hinduism". which endeared him to wealthy Indians. During World War-II, it spread in north India and present-day Pakistan. He did not support the anti-British struggle, led by the Congress. When Gandhi was assassinated on 30th January 1948 by Godse, many people deemed the RSS involved in a conspiracy. Golwalkar were arrested with 20,000 swayam sevaks on 4th February 1949 and the organisation was banned. He was released on 5th August, 1949. His concept of Hindutva as different from Savarkar's; according to him, 'Bhartiya' includes only those who have followed faiths rooted in pluralism and that India faith followers represent this in India, since it accepts all approaches towards spirituality.

As Karl Marx said, religion (in India especially) is truly the opium of the people; religious mania and excessive dependence on divinity stem from poverty. Poorer a person, more is his or her trust in God's mercy for survival and well-being. BJP is taking advantage of this mass opiate. Instead of alleviating poverty and eradicating superstitions, it is trapping poor people, promising exclusion and eventual expulsion of a minority race, i.e., Muslins whom Hindus have always hated. If Hindus were majority in J & K, could Mr Modi & Mr Shah have abrogated Articles 370 and 35A? If they sensed that the excluded in the NRC for Assam would turn out to be mostly immigrant Hindus, would they have gone ahead with the head count? Hindutva, as Amartya Sen observed, is an obsession of the rich among -the Hindus, not of the poor.

Countries which are ahead of others in science and technology are mostly secular. China, as Arthur Dunkel said, is virtually a capitalist country; other communist and Islamic countries are backward in both. Reason is not far to see. Secular states are not hamstrung by irrational religious practices and Mumbo Jumbo, like cow milk turning into gold if put in the sun, Lord Rama's arrows had missile-heads, Seeta was born in a bowl/pumpkin in IVF (test tube) technology, Sanjay narrating the Kurukshetra War to Dhritarashtra, via internet and so on. If Mr Modi and Mr Shah succeed in making India a Hindu Rashtra, these claims will have government seal and probably researches will be sponsored to prove their veracity. Modern medical sciences, now in acme in developed countries the USA, Europe, Russia and Japan, will have a back seat and Hindutva will have full sway all over India, unless the opposition and students succeed in reining it.

The way the BJP is losing in almost every poll since May 2019—probably a fallout of the cumulative effect of its unpopular moves—is diminishing its prospect of return in 2024 but if they succeed in burying 'secularism', introducing uniform civil code and ing castes (their next agenda), they will have rewritten India's history. These moves are like the 'fire & sword' prophet Mohammad had ordained in the Quran for Islamic conquest of the world. It is a pity that a large number of India's electorate are opiated by the venom in BJP's ideology and gave a huge mandate in its favour in 2014 and 2019.

The triumph of Hindutva will marginalise minorities. India's time-tested 'pluralism' will be a casualty and the age-old unity in diversity that has endeared India to the rest of the world will be a thing of the past. If India's governance ceases to be secular in a Hindu Rashtra, the vision of Gandhi, Rabindranath and Iqbal will evaporate.

Back to Home Page

Vol. 52, No. 38, Mar 22 - 28, 2020