Debating India

INDIA

Hindutva, not Hinduism

Friday 26 March 2004, by NOORANI*A.G.

Although Advani tries to increase the level of his acceptability as a national leader by defining Hindutva as a way of life, the difference between Hinduism and Hindutva has been well defined long ago by the propounder of the ideology.

THE Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) ideologue Lal Krishna Advani has hit upon a "clever" solution to the dilemma which he and his party face - how to acquire a majority in the Lok Sabha in the party’s own right while preserving the Hindutva agenda that brought it to power, so that the allies of today can be thrown away as squeezed lemons? That majority cannot be acquired without the support of millions of Hindus who are committed to the Gandhi-Nehru credo of secularism and find Hindutva repulsive. The slogan of Ram Janmabhoomi has now few takers outside the Sangh Parivar. The BJP also needs the Muslim vote in order to acquire a majority. But if it discards Hindutva, it will lose not only its muscle but also its heart and soul, the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), which gave it life and the wherewithal. That is the BJP’s dilemma.

Advani’s personal dilemma is no less acute. After Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s inglorious innings as party president, it was Advani who steered the BJP to success, albeit by recourse to unworthy tactics. The Ram Janmabhoomi campaign was one of them. But the demolition of the Babri Masjid did not add lustre to his name. He knows he will never be able to live it down. It is only at the BJP’s annual session in Mumbai in late 1995, on the eve of the 1996 general elections, that he conceded the crown to Vajpayee; the mukhota (mask) who could be trusted to do the Parivar’s bidding while deploying rhetoric to project a liberal image. Vajpayee is now at the end of his tether. Having been overruled thrice, within a few months at the India-Pakistan summit at Agra in July 2001, on Narendra Modi’s removal as Chief Minister of Gujarat in March 2002, and on Vice-President Krishna Kant’s candidature for the presidency - Vajpayee appointed Advani as Deputy Prime Minister to soothe his impatience; but only to find that the overbearing understudy was more impatient than ever to grab the crown. The BJP’s real candidate for the Prime Minister’s office is Advani, not Vajpayee. Even if the BJP romps home as head of another NDA, Vajpayee will relinquish the post in favour of Advani. Sycophants will rally round him, undoubtedly. But will he command national acceptance? This, then, is his personal dilemma to make himself acceptable to all, without weakening his appeal to the RSS.

He has, therefore, decided to speak with a forked tongue. He will preach Hindutva but give it a special meaning ("a way of life"). He will talk of a Ram temple but plead for consensus; to be forged under duress, no doubt. This will not wash. The public found it revolting that the portrait of Savarkar, a man whom Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and Supreme Court Judge Justice J.L. Kapur held guilty of conspiring to kill Gandhi, should be put up in Parliament in the same place as the man he had conspired to kill. But Hindutva is Savarkar’s creation and he was at pains to make it clear that it was not synonymous with Hinduism. Hence the BJP’s homage to him.

One of the foremost scholars on Hindu nationalism, the French scholar Christophe Jaffrelot writes: "The ideology of Hindu nationalism was really codified by V.D. Savarkar in the 1920s. In 1923, in his book Hindutva: Who is a Hindu?, he defined Hinduness (Hindutva) as the sense of belonging to an ethnic community possessing a territory and presenting the same racial characteristics." He is absolutely right. S.S. Savarkar, publisher of the second edition, emphasised that the author, V.D. Savarkar, "had to coin some new words such as `Hindutva’, `Hinduness’, `Hindudom’ in order to express the totality of the cultural, historical, and above all, the national aspects along with the religious one, which mark out the Hindu people as a whole. The definition is not consequently meant to be a definition of Hindu Dharma, or Hindu religion. It is a definition of `Hindutva’, `Hinduness’. It is essentially national in its outlook and comprehends the Hindu people as a Hindu Rashtra. Hindutva is a new term for a new ideology, the ideology of `Hindu Rashtra’ (a Hindu state)."

Savarkar endorsed the publisher’s understanding in the section entitled "Hindutva is different from Hinduism". He wrote: "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 system. But when we attempt to investigate into the essential significance of Hindutva we do not primarily - and certainly not mainly - concern ourselves with any particular theocratic or religious dogma or creed. Had not linguistic usage stood in our way then `Hinduness’ would have certainly been a better word than Hinduism as a near parallel to Hindutva."

The section "Hindus, a nation" makes Savarkar the first to propound the two-nation theory in 1923. Consider this passage, which is full of hatred and venom: "Everything that is common in us with our enemies, weakens our power of opposing them. The foe that has nothing in common with us is the foe likely to be most bitterly resisted by us just as a friend that has almost everything in him that we admire and prize in ourselves is likely to be the friend we love most." He spoke of the necessity of creating a bitter sense of wrong and invoking a power of undying resistance. The identity of his "foes" is obvious. Advani is wooing it for its votes. His antipathy towards the Muslims is exposed in every other utterance. Jafferelot draws attention to the same point in his essay. It is published in a collection of essays by scholars of note (The Politics of Cultural Mobilisation in India edited by John Zavos, Oxford University Press, pages 268, Rs.495). He mentions another feature of the Parivar’s strategy. It is the yatra - the Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s (VHP) Ekatmatra Yatra in 1983; Advani’s in 1990; Murli Manohar Joshi’s in early 1992; Advani and Joshi’s in November 1992 immediately preceding the demolition of the Babri mosque at Ayodhya on December 6, 1992, where the two met just before the event; and now the yatra which Advani announced on March 2, 2004.

The BJP’s election manifestoes of 1996 and 1998 swore by Hindutva and its corollary "cultural nationalism". The 1996 manifesto said: "With a BJP government at the Centre, the next five years will be devoted to implementing our manifesto based on the four concepts of Suraksha, Shuchita, Swadeshi and Samrasata. Hindutva, or cultural nationalism, shall be the rainbow which will bridge our present to our glorious past and pave the way for an equally glorious future; it will guide the transition from swarajya to surajya."

The 1998 manifesto said: "Our nationalist vision is not merely bound by the geographical or political identity of Bharat but it is referred by our timeless cultural heritage, this cultural heritage which is central to all regions, religions and languages, is a civilisational identity and constitutes the cultural nationalism of India which is the core of Hindutva. This we believe is the identity of our ancient nation `Bharatvarsha... ’ The BJP is convinced that Hindutva has immense potentiality to re-energise this nation and strengthen and discipline it to undertake the arduous task of nation-building. This can and does trigger a higher level of patriotism that can transform the country to greater levels of efficiency and performance. It is with such integrative ideas in mind, the BJP joined the Ram Janmabhoomi movement for the construction of Shri Ram Mandir at Ayodhya. This greatest mass movement in post-Independence history reoriented the disoriented policy in India and strengthened the foundation of cultural nationalism." An unbroken ideological thread binds Savarkar, Golwalkar and the BJP.

It would be interesting to read what the BJP’s manifesto for the Lok Sabha elections of 2004 has to say on Hindutva.

See online : Frontline

P.S.

in Frontline, volume 21 - Issue 06, March 13 - March 26, 2004.

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