Hinduism or Hindutva?

Growing up in the seventies in an army cantonment during the time of Indira Gandhi was a blissful experience. All religions coexisted peacefully in the army colony.

Transitioning to civilian life in Delhi in the early eighties was no different. My best friends were Muslim and Sikh. Then the massacres of Hindus started in Punjab. Indira’s death led to reprisal killings against the Sikhs.

Arun Shourie in an interview to Madhu Trehan said that by 1984, minorities considered the Hindu effete. Slap his one cheek and he would turn his other cheek. 1984, India’s Orwellian year, would change all that.

Slowly but surely a new aggressive brand of Hinduism was sprouting up. It was led by a man named LK Advani, who was more aggressive then than he is now. The ideology was called Hindutva: Hindu supremacy or Hindu resurgence or even Hindu assertion. Really the ideology had more to do with politics than religion.

Advani decided that his Sangh Parivar would never gain power until he attracted a bulk of Hindus to it. He latched on to the Babri Masjid, and attracted many moderate Hindus to his cause. The masjid coming down in 1992 was seen as a triumph of Hindutva.

Power was still not in the grip of the Hindutvadis. They won national power in 1998, but delayed construction of the temple. The mandir-masjid dispute would still prove to remain a long dispute. By now the inner Hindutva of many Hindus had arisen. No longer did even moderate Hindus want to be seen as effete.

It is instructive that the PM Hindutvadis admired most was Indira, who had split Pakistan into two. Indira was deeply religious, but she had always maintained a secular sheen over herself. She therefore could not be appropriated as a heroine of Hindutva.

Now, whether riots were provoked (anti-Sikh riots of 1984, Godhra 2002) or unprovoked (Mumbai 1992-93), the moderate Hindu would not offer the other cheek. The police was on his side, something he would utilize for his benefit.

History books, which had earlier, and perhaps wrongfully, extolled the benefits of historical Muslim rule were changed. Nehru had protected an insecure Muslim minority after Independence. The minority, secure in his embrace, went on to multiply some six-fold times. This growth irked the rightwing Hindu. Cries of go to Pakistan began to be raised.

Except for 1971, when the treatment meted out to Hindus in what is now Bangladesh was too egregious to be ignored, India forgot about what happened to minorities in Pakistan and Bangladesh. It was as if India was living on an island of its own. It was as if all of a sudden Hindus in India discovered the horrors faced by Hindus in Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Forget what was going on its neighbours, India even neglected what had happened to Hindus in Muslim-majority Kashmir. It was really around this time that the Congress started losing its hold on Hindus. Pushed out of Kashmir, Kashmiri Hindus found themselves to be strangers in a strange land. They were often seen as aliens by the Hindus of the plains. Their tragedy continues to fester.

If the Congress had taken a strong stance in favour of the Kashmiri Hindus, many Hindus would have stayed with it. But now many Hindus were convinced that Muslims in a majority didn’t want to live with Hindus in a minority. P Chidambaram addressed the Deoband seminary and talked up the issue.

By now, the high priestess of the country was Sonia Gandhi, a Catholic who had taken to Hindu ways. Its PM was Manmohan Singh, a Sikh. The Congress started taking Hindus for granted. No Congress leader of any significance seemed to take the side of Hindus. It seemed all they would do was lecture Hindus.

Truth be told, Congress leaders were drunk with power. That’s all they cared about: staying in power. They refused to recognize the tectonic shifts in the Hindu electorate that were happening beneath them. Sonia behaved as she was Nehru, as if she was the grand protectress of Muslims. It didn’t dawn upon her that perhaps Muslims, beefed up by numbers, may not need protection anymore.

By now, everyone in India had heard of Modi and his good deeds and supposed misdeeds. Sonia’s government started sinking in a miasma of corruption. If it hadn’t, Modi would not have assumed such a larger-than-life figure. Sonia & Co. fought Modi’s rise tooth and nail.

They were accompanied by the “secularists”, slang for anti-Hindu Hindus. All the other Hindus—moderate and rightwing—had defected to Modi’s side. Modi’s politics at the national level has been clear from the outset. Muslims in general avoid him; he in turn returns their compliment.

Not even ardent Hindutvadis could scarcely have believed what Modi has done for them. He is getting the Ram temple built at the site of the Babri Masjid. He has taken action to redress the wrongs done to Hindus in Kashmir. And he has provided shelter to subcontinental Hindus who find themselves in a minority. These have all been actions that have not gone down well with Muslims in India.

The Congress is lost today. Its leaders are equating Hindutva with ISIS and Boko Haram. Hindutva has led to much violence, but has that been of the type and the scale of an ISIS’s? Congress leaders are at odds with one another. One day Chidambaram is on Sonia’s side, another day he’s against her.

It is reprehensible that Salman Khurshid’s house has been burnt. Nothing justifies it. But what was he doing equating Hindutva with ISIS? Clearly Hindutva is not Hinduism, but it is not ISIS either. Congress leaders seem to be at a loss on which issues to run on. In the meantime, the Hindutvadis march on and on and seem set to rule India for a very long time. A very long time indeed. That’s the tragedy of India: An India in which both sides freely play communal politics.



Views expressed above are the author’s own.



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