The Sangh Parivar had better understand that their "Hindu" model is never going to work. The more they drive their supremacist project, the more they would alienate people.
Anand Teltumbde (email@example.com) is a writer and civil rights activist with the Committee for the Protection of Democratic Rights, Mumbai.
Notwithstanding Narendra Modi's passionate appeal from the ramparts of the Red Fort for a 10-year moratorium on casteism, communalism and regionalism, the communal intrigues by his Parivar members have not diminished. On the contrary, these manoeuvres reached such cacophonous levels during the campaign for the recent by-polls in nine states that one thought the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had gone back to its old game of doublespeak and deceit. The party had nominated its controversial MP (Member of Parliament) Yogi Adityanath to lead its campaign for the by-poll of 11 assembly seats and one Lok Sabha seat in Uttar Pradesh (UP), along with the state BJP chief Laxmikant Bajpai, and Union Minister of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, Kalraj Mishra. The young saffron-clad Adityanath – an MP from Gorakhpur since 1998 – has attained notoriety for his communal antics to become the BJP's Hindutva face. Just two days before Modi's Independence-Day speech, he had spewed communal venom in Parliament under approving nods from Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, stressing the need for Hindus to unite against minorities. In fact, Sudhanshu Trivedi, the BJP spokesperson, has said that Adityanath was consciously chosen to be the face of BJP's campaign in UP. It is clear that the BJP wanted to communally polarise the people, repeat what Amit Shah had skilfully accomplished in the Lok Sabha elections.
In a previous column ("Back to Monkey Tricks", EPW, 30 August 2014), I had warned that the monkey tricks of the Hindutva brigade would prove suicidal for the BJP if such antics were not arrested in time. The by-poll results have verily borne this out. The BJP, which had handsomely won just four months ago, had held 26 of the 32 assembly seats in the nine states, but it could retain only 12. The biggest hit was in UP, the state where Adityanath led its campaign, where it lost seven of its 11 seats. In Rajasthan and Gujarat, where the BJP had swept the Lok Sabha polls, it lost three seats each. I had also warned against the unwarranted euphoria in the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) camp by indicating that despite BJP's landslide win, its core constituency was more-or-less stagnant at around 22% as in previous elections; what made all the difference was the 40 million odd votes of the first-time voters it attracted with its development rhetoric and strategically muted Hindutva. This election surely shows this first-time voters' disapproval of its communal politics. While the BJP could ignore this only to its peril, the broader issue it must introspect upon is the very viability of its communal plank in the future.
Notwithstanding its rhetorical posturing on myriad other issues, Hindutva, inherited from its mother organisation, the RSS, constitutes the BJP's ideological core. Howsoever the Sangh Parivar may equivocate about it, Hindutva is nothing but a ploy of the upper caste elites to regain their racist supremacy. India is a land of paradoxes where, at the very basic level, language fails to bear meanings – where freedom could mean slavery, imperialism could signify anti-imperialism, swaraj could convey bondage, national could denote anti-national, and so on, depending on the caste band one identified with.
The fall of Peshwai in 1818 deeply hurt the Chitpawans of Pune, which impelled many of them to take up arms against the British. This was stereotypically taken as anti-imperialist and revolutionary but in reality it was imperialist and reactionary. Essentially, the Peshwas tried to regain their lost kingdom. If they were anti-imperialist, they would have certainly noticed the ubiquitous caste oppression of two-thirds of their own people. Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, the father of "Hindutva", was the last of these "brave revolutionaries", who provided the ideological basis for his people to organise and work for their dream. Muslims and Christians, having largely come from the lower castes, were to be their "Other". The potential threat germinating from the incipient movements of dalits in Maharashtra by the early 1920s also pushed them to group into a fascist form of organisation, the RSS.
Fascism and Nazism in Europe have been the RSS's inspiration. One has only to take a glimpse at Golwalkar's gems of thought to realise how insidious they are. Realising that they could not progress without "brahmanising" the larger masses, the Sanghis created a number of organisations, constituting a continuum, catering to the needs of most social groups. Thus over the years, they succeeded in brahmanising large sections of tribals, dalits, and backward castes. While the other minor dalit castes were easily trapped, the followers of Ambedkar – by far the most bitter critic of brahmanism – were also netted into the "Samajik Samarasata Manch". Today, the BJP has the largest number of SC/ST MPs and MLAs in its kitty. While the Sangh Parivar has succeeded with such subterfuges, its internal contradictions have also grown to limit its rise and sustenance. It does not realise that these contradictions basically stem from the non-definition of its ideological intent. Hindu, Hinduism, Hindutva, Hindustan – its fond lexicon may appear real but is intrinsically unreal and foggy. These words in its vocabulary existed neither in history nor in any other way.
Hindu, Hindutva, Hindustan
Mohan Bhagwat, the Sangh supremo, has a simplistic syllogism that India was Hindustan; the people of Hindustan are Hindus, and hence India is already a Hindu rashtra. He hardly realised that it was not only foolish but also self-defeating as it would imply that the RSS's mission has been accomplished and hence the enterprise should be closed. As one can see, the mission of the Sangh Parivar is rooted either in ignorance or in deceit. The identity the Parivar flaunts is, at best, given to it by foreigners and, at worst, it is an abuse. The word Hindu, in the former interpretation, comes from the Persian mispronunciation of 's' as 'h' to mean people living beyond the river Sindhu. Popular though, this uncritical hypothesis is untenable because there are scores of words in the Persian language starting with 's' (e g, shia, sunni, shariat, sahir, sardar) which are pronounced properly. The connotation with which the Persians and Turks used Hindu is found in their dictionaries and could be very embarrassing to Bhagwat and his Parivar. There, the meaning of Hindu is thief, dacoit, waylayer, slave, obedient servant, and also black-skinned as inHindu-e-falak meaning "the black of the sky and Saturn". Another clue for its derogatory connotation comes from "Hindu Kush", the name of the mountain range bordering central Asia, which means killers of Hindus. In any case, the word Hindu is neither found in Sanskrit nor in any of the native dialects and languages of India.
Hindu never had a religious connotation. The ancient Persian Cuneiform inscriptions and the Zend Avesta refer to the word "Hindu" as a geographic name rather than a religious one. When the Persian King Darius I extended his empire up to the borders of the Indian subcontinent in 517 BC, the ancient Persians referred to the people from the latter as "Hindus". The ancient Greeks and Armenians followed the same pronunciation, and thus, gradually the name stuck.
When it comes to the meaning of Hinduism, its protagonists like Tilak and Radhakrishnan provide its non-definition, including practically any and everything. Ultimately it became a matter for the Supreme Court to decide what it is, which it did in 1966 and again in 1995. In a case filed by the followers of Swaminarayan (1780-1830) claiming to be non-Hindus in order to challenge the applicability of the 1948 Bombay Harijan (Temple Entry) Act, which guaranteed dalits access to all temples, the Supreme Court had defined Hinduism by its tolerance and inclusivity, citing the definitions of Radhakrishnan and some Europeans. Interestingly, it was actually inspired by the desire of certain Hindus to exclude other Hindus (dalits) from their temples. Contrary to the contentions of the Sangh Parivar, its claim that everyone in India is (or should be) a Hindu was never true. It was not true during the millennia before the Indus Valley or the Vedas. And, it was not true of most of India even after the early settlements of north India, and certainly never true after the rise of Buddhism.
The Idea of India
It is time the Sangh Parivar came out of its reveries and realised certain hard facts of history. This country they feign a pride in and devotion to is called India or Bharat and not Hindustan. It is the gift of the colonialists; it never existed before in this shape and size. The Muslims that they love to hate have been part of this land since that 17-year-old lad called Muhammad bin Qasim captured Sindh in the eighth century and paved the way for Islamic expansion, not by the sword as they believe but by Islam's egalitarian appeal to the lower castes, who were oppressed by their Sanatan Dharma. This great subcontinent, so richly endowed, was given a history of slavery by their own supremacist obsession, which eventually led to cataclysmic partition. Even then Muslims make India one of the most populous Muslim nations in the world. Muslim input into Indian culture, of which Muslims are unduly proud, is far more extensive than their numbers would imply. As a matter of fact, much of the archaeological treasures of India are due to them. The "arch", which was unheard of in ancient or even early medieval India, was their bequest. Their contribution to the arts and music is disproportionately high. It is the colonialists, who, driven by their own interests, had given India its modernity and infrastructure, whereas it is their native successors who are milking her dry.
The Sangh Parivar must understand that their "Hindu" model is never going to work. The more they drive their supremacist project, the more they would alienate people. It is better they heed the counsel of Babasaheb Ambedkar, whom they consider pratahsmaraniya:
There is an utter lack among the Hindus of what the sociologists call 'consciousness of kind'. There is no Hindu consciousness of kind. In every Hindu the consciousness that exists is the consciousness of his caste. That is the reason why the Hindus cannot be said to form a society or a nation.
The idea of India is based on the plurality and diversity of its people. It is on these terms alone this multinational country can survive.