India’s dangerous descent into religious fundamentalism and BJP’s downright plunge into infamy
[dropcap]A[/dropcap]bul A’la Maududi instigated the first religious sectarian riots in Pakistan by attempting to convert Jinnah’s secular Pakistan into a wahhabi caliphate. The right-wing Hindu fundamentalists in India likewise have upped the ante on Hindutva to convert Nehru’s secular India into a Hindu Rashtra. The Sangh Parivar, comprising of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and its progenies, including the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the Bajrang Dal, is determined to assert the absolute hegemony of Hindu dharmic traditions in essentializing the idea of the term “Indian” irrespective of ethnicity, religion or region.Hindutva neologism is defined as “a dharma or way of life” understood to be synonymous with “Indianization” as distinct from Hindu religion. The term has no Hindu credal significance as Hinduism itself being understood as only a part and fraction of it. According to Golwalkar, the word “Hindu has a national character. It is tantamount to the word Indian” connoting “the entire culture and civilisation of the Indian people”. Apart from its pejorative sense, the term Hindutva in itself may not be problematic if it is benignly understood in its depoliticized sense of upholding Hindu culture alone. However, by semantic manipulation of the term, Hindutva has become a clash with the credentials of pluralism, modernity and its liberal and secular ethos. Thus, for the Sangh Parivars, an “Indian” is invariably a “Hindu” either by religion or by cultural assimilation, i.e. the term “Indianness” is to be equated with “Hinduness” and there cannot be an “Indian” without being a “Hindu”.
“Ek bhasha, ek devta, ek sampraday banana hoga (We need to ensure one language, one God and one religion),” said the RSS Chief, Mohan Bhagwat. Hindustan is a Hindu nation, Hindutva is the identity and everybody living in India should consider himself a Hindu because “for unity, we need uniformity”, he proclaimed. It implies that all ethnic and religious minorities, including Mohammedans and Christians, must co-opt Hindu dharmic way of living in order to be true Indians as Hindutva alone is the exercise of true Indian nationalism. Thus, for the Sangh outfit, plural and multicultural India’s “unity in diversity” becomes “uniformity” by assimilation.
With the BJP in power, the fringe elements are emboldened, if not encouraged. In the name of Hindutva ideology, the idea of nationalism is ruthlessly being polemicised. “Modi is Hindutva rakshak (saviour), the Congress was Hindutva virodhi (enemy),” declared a vitriolic VHP worker. Now after “Love Jihad” and “Ghar Wapsi”, Christian Churches and institutions are remorselessly being vandalized in Delhi. In this emotive articulation of dominant “Hindu” identity in the name of uniformity, religious fundamentalism and violence are being senselessly venerated and legitimized.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s complicit silence has brought the BJP’s to its humiliating defeat in Delhi Legislative Assembly election which was a clear verdict against saffronization of Indian politics. BJP, perhaps, naively misinterpreted Modi’s popularity for popular acceptance of Hindutva. The spooked BJP is now in a damage control mode. Prime Minister Narendra Modi was quick to summon the Delhi Police Commissioner hours after the vandalism and theft at Holy Child Auxilium School in south Delhi. In an attempt to placate the mounting criticism, the Union Minister, Rajyavardhan Rathore, dodged in a Press Conference that Prime Minister cannot respond to every remark made by the fringe elements.
If Islamization of Pakistan is dangerous, Hinduization of India is equally dangerous. Secularism is too integral to India’s sense of territorial integrity and constitutional democracy. The Supreme Court in S. R. Bommai’s case has already held secularism as an element of the basic structure of the Constitution which cannot be obliterated even by the Parliament. The concept of secularism is in fact more fundamental than the fundamental rights themselves without which liberating framework, the ideological contours of the Sangh Parivar in practice would render the constitutional notion of freedom, liberty and equality redundant and impotent altogether.
The problem with the Hindutva project of the saffron outfit is the equating of the term “secular” with Nehru-Gandhi and “Gandhi” with Congress on the one, and the idea of “Hinduness” with the notion of “Indianness” and the term “Hindu” with Bharat on the other. The relevance of Hindutva may not be disputed if its discourse is kept within the bounds of preserving Hindu culture and traditions alone. However, so long as it remains an ideological discourse to legitimize imposition of dominant “Hindu” identity on the minorities, communal frenzy is bound to explode from time to time. India can only remain plural and secular as true to its historical diversity and there is no other viable idea of India unless its territorial integrity is to break free-loose.
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