Politicians are an unholy lot! They take a “holier than thou attitude” on anything and everything be it religion or riots, scums or scams. All bhaktas of power and fanatics when it comes to protecting their power bases. And what better way than create controversy and pontificate on BJP’s Hindutva vs Congress’s Hinduism.
All over former Congress Union Minister Salman Khurshid’s alleged comparison of BJP’s Hindutva to Islamic terror in his book Sunrise over Ayodhya: Nationhood in Our Times wherein he referred to Sanatan Dharma and classical Hinduism known to sages and saints “being pushed aside by robust version of Hindutva, by all standards a political version similar to the jihadist Islam of groups like ISIS and Nigeria’s Boko Haram of recent years.”
Even as police complaints are filed against Khurshid in Delhi, Mumbai and Jaipur for “hurting religious sentiments”, trust Rahul Gandhi to put his foot in his mouth and air views on difference between Hinduism and Hindutva. “While Hinduism is not about persecuting people belonging to different faiths, Hindutva is. Hinduism is not about beating a Sikh or a Muslim, Hindutva of course is. Hinduism didn’t kill Akhlaq nor does it say you should kill but I see it in Hindutva,” he asserted.
Rueing BJP-RSS “hateful” ideology has overshadowed Congress’s “loving, affectionate and nationalistic ideology,” the Party accuses the BJP for engineering a Hindu majoritarian communal style of politics in India by using tactics like attempting to electorally marginalise Muslims to patronising communal violence, especially around the emotive issue of cow protection and love jihad
Pertinently, senior G23 Congress leaders Ghulam Nabi disagreed with Rahul’s views on Hindutva as a political ideology distinct from composite culture of Hinduism, but comparing Hindutva with ISIS and Jihadist Islam is factually wrong and an exaggeration. Privately many in Congress circles fear Rahul’s take might fan debates which could go against the Party and would help BJP in the run up to Assembly polls, especially in UP and Uttarakhand.
The BJP lashed out at its rival for “weaving a web” against Hindus, calling Ram bhakts demons and working the laboratory against Hindu religion by using terms like Hindu Taliban, Saffron terror. “Typically, the Congress as is its want in indulging in appeasement politics. What has happened to Jehnu Dhari Rahul who visited temples in the run-up to various Assembly polls?” The Congress is a ‘Muslim Party’ part of the “tukde-tukde gang” which protects terrorists and is “working on Pakistan’s agenda” and belongs there.
Undeniably, we are watching cut-throat communalism in the garb of Hinduism against Hindutva at work. Whereby, our netas have made nationalism and the Hindu-Muslim vote-bank the tour de force of politics. With every leader propounding his self-serving recipe of ‘communal’ harmony harbouring the same intention: To keep their gullible vote-banks emotionally charged so that their own ulterior motives are well-served. Never mind, the nation is getting sucked into the vortex of centrifugal bickerings.
Questionably, is Hindutva same as Hinduism? According to the Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Hindutva as defined in the classic statement of its ideology, is the “culture of the Hindu race” where Hinduism is but an element and “Hindu dharma is a religion practiced by Hindus as well as Sikhs and Buddhists.” The Merriam-Webster’s Encyclopedia of World Religions, Hindutva is a concept of “Indian cultural, national, and religious identity. The term conflates a geographically based religious, cultural, and national identity: a true ‘Indian’ is one who partakes of this ‘Hinduness.’
In the early 1920s RSS ideologue Sarvarkar wrote the Essentials of Hindutva whereby he sought to define these as common nation (rashtra), common race (jati) and common culture or civilisation (sanskriti). Indian culture as a manifestation of Hindu values; this concept grew to become a major tenet of Hindu nationalist ideology.
He differentiated between Hinduism and Hindutva. Hinduism, according to him, was only a part of Hindutva. It had nothing to do with religion or rituals. The term in English which came closest to the one he was using, was perhaps Hinduness. As a principle, Hindutva formed the basis of India’s national character, he maintained.
Interestingly, he defined his idea of a Hindu resurgence in political terms, not religious. The nation, he said, was based on the unifying Hinduness of its people. Hindutva refers to “cultural nationalism” and is “not a religious or theocratic concept.” He called as much for a combative spirit as a cohesive one, if India were to retain its essence, which in his opinion was its Hindu civilization and Hindu way of life.
Besides, Hindutva and Hinduism have been a part of several Supreme Court judgments. In 1966 the Court held, “Hinduism is impossible to define and is complex. Historically it has an ‘inclusive nature’ and can be described as a way of life. The theist and atheist, sceptic and agnostic may all be Hindus if they accept the Hindu system of culture and life. Hindutva is not hostility to any organised religion nor does it proclaim its superiority of any religion to another.”
In 1995 the Court further ruled, “Ordinarily, Hindutva is a state of mind and is not to be equated with or understood as religious Hindu fundamentalism … it is a fallacy and an error of law to proceed on the assumption … that the use of words Hindutva or Hinduism per se depicts an attitude hostile to all persons practising any religion other than the Hindu religion … It may well be that these words are used in a speech to promote secularism or to emphasise the way of life of the Indian people and the Indian culture or ethos, or to criticise the policy of any Party as discriminatory or intolerant.”
Further, Hindutva has not been a static and monolithic concept, rather its meaning and context, text and subtext has changed over time. In the colonial era formulation of neo-Hinduism added a sense of “ethnicity” to the original “Hinduness” meaning of Hindutva. Post-Independence, it has aligned two different axes: religion vs culture and nation vs State. Plainly, Indians have tried to align themselves to Hindutva’s culture and nation axes.
Clearly, in a milieu of competitive democracy politics based on religion has better chance of polarising voters. Tragically, our netas seem to suffer no sense of guilt or qualms of conscience by fanning the religious quick sand, forgetting the State has no religious entity. None care if it is destructive and stokes religious ferment thereby not only further dividing people on creed lines but is also antithetical to hope of narrowing India’s burgeoning religious divide.
Our leaders need to remember that India is a mammoth pluralistic society of one billion plus people with a billion views and one cannot curtail people’s political beliefs. Time they thought beyond vote-bank politics, stopped playing political ping-pong with the aam aadmi’s thinking and looked at the perilous implications of their decisions instead of using it to polarize citizens for its vote bank.
Importantly, in this dog whistle politics no quarter should be given to those who fan hatred among people and communities. Be it a Hindutva Pandit or a Hinduism Purohit. In the ultimate, the way forward is to desist from acerbic political slush and reckless pursuit of political nirvana!