Murad Ali Baig

'India’s cultural heritage is such a complex tapestry of the traditions of so many very different people that no group can claim to be its sole custodian. The word Hindutva was first coined by Vinayaka Damodar Savarkar (1883 – 1966) in a pamphlet he had written in 1923 called `Hindutva: Who is a Hindu.’ His ideas were enthusiastically adopted by several organizations advocating a narrow interpretation of the Hindu identity. It was soon promoted by other organizations who were to later become members of the Sangh Parivar or a family of organisations led by extreme right wing Hindu groups like the Hindu Mahasabha, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and their political wing the Janta Party that that evolved to become the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP). It also had several semi independent radical wings like the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Bajrang Dal who acted as its storm troopers.

M.S. Golwalkar (1906-1973), one of the main proponents of Hindutva, believed that India's diversity in terms of customs, traditions and ways of worship was its uniqueness and that this diversity had a strong underlying cultural underpinning that was native to India. He believed that all Indians shared "the same philosophy of life, the same values and the same aspirations". Savarkar had similarly said that the entire Indian subcontinent including areas where Hindu kings had once ruled were `Akhand Bharat’ or a greater India that was the homeland of all Hindus. They called for the protection of all native traditions, holy structures, rivers and animals like the cow in a unified Hindu society.

The RSS declared that… "The term Hindu, in its conviction as well as is a cultural and civilizational concept as stated in the constitution of the RSS and not a political or religious dogma. The term, as a cultural concept, will include and will always include all including Sikhs, Buddhists, and Jains… inclusive of all who are born and who have adopted Bharat as their Motherland. It also states that Muslims, Christians and Parsis too are Hindus by culture although as religions they are not so."

They advocated a uniform civil code to remove special religion based provisions for different religions from the Indian constitution. This view was strongly opposed by Muslims and secular political parties like the Congress and Communist parties. Hindutva leaders believe that differential laws based on religion violate Article 44 of the Indian constitution (common civil code for all citizens) and sow the seeds of divisiveness between different religious communities. They questioned the existence of different religious laws like polygamy and triple talaq among Muslims.

Despite a thin veneer of political correctness they were hostile to all things Muslim or Christian. Earlier invading tribes of Aryan, Scythian, Parthian, Kushan, Hun, Jats or other foreign tribes had been easily absorbed but the people following the inflexible and evangelical `Abrahamic’ religions were hated. They also criticized the Indian government for being too passive about the expulsion of Kashmiri Hindus from Kashmir and wanted to remove the special constitutional privileges given to the predominantly Muslim Kashmiris.

Critics of Hindutva ideology consider it as a cloak concealing deep communal prejudices. Many Indian social scientists have also described the Hindutva movement as fascist in its ideology and class support especially the concept of a homogenized majority and cultural superiority. They condemn the RSS admiration of Hitler and his violent `brown shirt’ storm troopers. Hindutva supporters however dismiss these criticisms as being the prejudiced opinions of left wing intellectuals.

The foundations of most of Hindutva thinking is based on ancient and revered Sanskrit literature that is founded more on mythology than history. The huge corpus of these writing was almost entirely written by Brahmin scholars in Sanskrit and therefore reflects the Brahmin world view that was strongly skewed to enhance their caste superiority and disparage the people of the lesser castes. This Brahmin bias is also what made them consider the Vedas to be the source of all wisdom at the cost of the rich cultures of numerous other communities that had existed long before the arrival of the Aryans. Indian culture is much richer and more diverse than just the concepts of Hindutva.

The advocates of Hindutva believe their ideology with a passion similar to the Islamists of Pakistan who teach the history of Pakistan as if the country had no history before the arrival of the Muslim sultans. India is and has always been a multicultural country with many widely different religious practices and linguistic traditions and will not easily become a homogenous monocultural society that the passionate proponents of Hindutva desire.

As the BJP have evolved to become a major political party the ideologues are now trying to project Hindutva is the philsophy for the creation of a `Hindu Era’ similar to a British or a Muslim era. An idea of a great Hinduism that will integrate all castes and language groups in one homogenous package.'

Jun 6, 2017

Murad Ali Baig [email protected]

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