Election approaching fast, it is imminent that Hindutva would figure prominently in course of the long and gruelling journey on the campaign trail. But the question is: What is Hindutva? Is it the same as Hindu/Indian nationalism as conceived by the towering giants of the freedom movement when it started its course much before the advent of Mahatma Gandhi on the theatre of the anti-colonial movement? Let us see.
Hindutva as it is now understood in the contemporary political parlance began its journey after Vinayak Damodar Savarkar came up with what can be called ‘the classical text on the ideology of Hindutva’ in 1923. We need not get into the details here of how he became ‘swatantraveer’ in recognition to his daring exploits against the colonial rule. What is important here is that he did not join the Congress though he was a staunch nationalist since his childhood. He remained associated with a relatively unknown outfit known as Democratic Swaraj Party which professed by the concept of Swaraj as propounded by Bal Gangadhar Tilak till he joined the Hindu Mahasabha. He soon was elected its president and remained in the position till 1945 when he went into a sort of self-imposed exile.
He had propounded the concept of Hindu Rashtra the Rashtriya Swayanamsewak Sangha adopted later as its core ideology.
A strong nationalist as he was, he was naturally ill-disposed to the British rule which was, in his view, responsible for the decline of the Hindu civilization and culture. But at the same time, he was inimical to the Muslim rule which had preceded the British advent. He viewed his ‘Hindustan’ as rightfully belonging to the Hindus who were inclined to consider the land as not just ‘pitribhu’ (fatherland) but as ‘punyabhu’ (holy land). He was against recognizing either the Muslims or the Christians as Indians on the argument that they, though not disinclined to accept India as fatherland, were not inclined to take India as the holy land.
His view of Akbar was typical. Though he was not averse to concede the Mughal Emperor’s relative greatness he was categorical that Akbar was from the Hindu point of view ‘foreign, belonging to another religion and mean-minded, as such he should be decried by us, Hindus’. “The Hindus do not want a change of masters, are not going to …fight and die only to replace an Edward by an Aurangzeb simply because the latter happens to be born within the Indian borders, but they want henceforth to be masters themselves in their own house, in their own land.”
Now what is Hindu/Indian nationalism which was an integral part of the Extremist School? The important proponents of the Extremist School propounded the Hindu culture as the fount of the Indian nationhood. There was the least of ambiguity in their mind on the extremely sensitive matter. According to Aurobindo Ghosh, sanatana dharma (perennial Hinduism) and Indian nationhood are identical. The view of Bipin Chandra Pal on the matter is the same as he believed Hinduism is the fundamental core of Indian nationhood. Tilak was convinced that Hinduism is the principal cementing force which can bind together the myriad identities that India as an entity embodies. Lala Lajpat Rai, a staunch follower of Arya Samaj, was one of the leading figures of the Suddhi movement the focus of which was trained on re-converting those who had been converted to non-Hindu religions, particularly Islam, to Hinduism.
But the important thing about them is that they all dreamt of the development of a composite Indian culture in course of time which, though professing by Hindu core of the Indian civilization, would assimilate the non-Hindus, particularly, the Muslims, into a common and indivisible nationhood.
While the Hindutva school, at least in theory, remained un-reconciled to having the Muslims assimilated into the cultural mainstream of India as long as the Muslims were disinclined to consider India as punyabhu (holy land) the nationalist stalwarts belonging to the Extremist School were of the view that the Muslims were the same children of Mother India as the Hindus and they would have to be conciliated in the long run not by flattery or cowardice but by making Hinduism inherently strong and inclusive in both the spiritual and material terms.
Here, it is relevant to quote Swami Vivekananda who remained the guiding star of the Hindu nationalism which remained the soul of the Extremist School. “I shall go to the mosque of the Mohammedan; I shall enter the Christian’s church and kneel before the Crucifix…I shall go into the forest and sit down in meditation with the Hindu, who is trying to see the Light which enlightens the heart of everyone. Not only shall I do all these, but I shall keep my heart open for all that may come in the future. Is God’s book finished, or is it still a continuous revelation going on?” he asked.
Some years later, Aurobindo Ghosh defined the true essence of Indian nationhood and cultural nationalism in an article ‘The Bedrock of Indian Nationalism’ in the nationalist Weekly ‘Bande Mataram’. “The different world religions representing different world cultures that have already found a habitation in India will remain here always, form elements of common national life, and contribute to the evolution of the composite culture of modern India. The Hindu culture, however, on account of its age and superior numerical strength, will always form the ground work of this composite Indian culture and civilization. The dominant note of Hindu culture, its sense of the spiritual and universal, will, therefore, be the peculiar feature of this composite Indian nationality.”
Shashi Joshi and Bhagwan Josh write in a book-“This is not only a complex definition of multi-cultural, multi-religious India’s peculiar nationalism, but also a definition which, in retrospect, seems to be much closer to social reality that actually exists today and has continued to unfold in the last fifty years… Moreover, India of the future was visualized here as one with ‘composite culture’ that would ‘evolve’ through the contributions of ‘different world religions’. This inclusive conception of nationhood cannot be and should not be confused with ‘the vision of India as a Hindu Rashtra’ which forms the very core of the RSS’s existence. For M.S. Golwalkar, the chief ideologue of RSS, the existence of Muslims and Christians was the unsolved agenda of free India and they could never be considered ‘national’.”
However, the Sangh Parivar ideologues seem to believe that though the luminous composite culture is the ultimate consummation to reach the immediate task is to strengthen the Hindus from the roots. They seem to think that until the ‘unsolved agenda’ is decisively settled the composite culture with the comprehensive, assimilative and all-embracing genius cannot find its true manifestation on the Indian soil, besieged as it is with siege within on the communal lines. And the yet unsettled agenda can only be settled if the Hindu society grows strong enough from within to re-conciliate other religions to itself, particularly Islam. They might think that unless Hinduism is dynamic, world-affirming and robust, endowed with an invincible self-confidence, it can never lead things in the direction of making India a broad, embracing and vibrant federation of all the religions — the true mission of the Hindu culture.
Saturday, 09 March 2019 | Romit Bagchi | Dehradun
Author: Romit Bagchi
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