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S Balakrishna* | Samvada.Org | Bengaluru | April 6, 2016:: Sometime in March 2016, Ghulam Nabi Azad extracted a vile variant of the perversion that goes by the name of public discourse in India: secularism. Since his predecessors had already set the path, he merely took it to another extreme by equating the RSS with the ISIS. As has been the norm for about five decades, the RSS and other folks sympathetic to Hindu causes lashed out against his perfidy. Although things are changing for the better with powerful, alternative and new voices challenging and countering the Azads of the world, the dominant paradigm of public discourse continues to resist thanks in large part to the institutional control it wields, and the powerful global network it has at its command.
Consider this: even today, it is almost impossible to offer any argument in defence of the Hindu view without embarking on a never ending cycle of justification, rebuttal, and defence. It appears that the Hindu view seems to be articulated from a position of defence, not strength although there are few exceptions to this general phenomenon. It also appears that some of those who posit the Hindu view take care of avoiding the “Hindutva” (and variants thereof) label being applied to them.
Indeed, no one word has been singled out for vicious and sustained attack by so many people, and over such prolonged duration. Hindutva’s ideological opponents certainly have ideological reasons and compulsions for said attack but what about non-ideological folks? That is, people who typically have no opinion or view one way or the other: the office-goers, party animals and the rest? While they’re generally “chilled out” about ideological and other matters, they have a view only when it concerns Hindutva, and that view is, in a majority of the cases, negative. We could argue that this symbolises the success of the Left, and we would be right. Equally, it’s important to always keep in mind that no one has ever argued with the Leftists anywhere in the world and at any point in history and won because Leftists don’t follow rules, not even their own.
So, more fundamentally, we need to examine this question: what exactly is the source of dread and/or disgust on the part of these non-ideological people towards Hindutva? And why, despite being offered tons of evidence to the contrary, do they shut down their critical faculties to see (much less accept) the proverbial other side? Based on several years of interactions with such people, here’s a brief list of the aspects they find appalling about Hindutva:
It is evident that these folks haven’t taken the pains to undertake a reasonable study of Hindutva before reaching these conclusions. It is also evident that their understanding is largely based on the toxic narrative that continues to appear in the English mainstream media. It’s a different matter that the English media stands almost entirely discredited today both on the intellectual and ethical fronts.
In my studies, perhaps the best literature for understanding the RSS is Koenraad Elst’s masterful two-volume Saffron Swastika. At a basic level, we need to understand what exactly does the RSS (and allied groups) stand for, and what causes it espouses. I can illustrate this best from something I heard recently. Talking to a foreign journalist who wanted to learn about the organisation, an RSS member asked him whether his country had a similar organisation. The journalist replied that there was no necessity for such an organisation in his country because all governments—and indeed the body politic itself—were nationalistic.
A survey of the period when the RSS was established until the present time shows the kind of anti-national forces perpetually working to wreck India both with the support of hostile forces outside and from within. No amount of textual or academic or theoretical jugglery will wish away this everyday reality facing India. The latest is the shameful episode at JNU where “students” made no bones of their intent to break India. Put differently: would you rather have a hundred Kanhaiya Kumars and Umar Khalids poisoning our campuses and toxifying our young men and women or would you have the RSS (and similar groups) which regard India as a sacred Motherland working tirelessly and nonstop for over 90 years to preserve and uphold perhaps the only surviving ancient and non-Abrahamic civilisation in the world?
Ghulam Nabi Azad’s third-rated utterance is also a consequence deriving primarily from Leftist literature, which at various points has equated the RSS with “militant Islam,” another theoretical skulduggery not rooted in history, theology and most importantly, in reality.
The term “Militant Islam” is a repetition. From its core doctrines embodied in the Koran and the Hadiths, and throughout its history up to the present, we have a voluminous and vast repository of primary sources that incontrovertibly shows that Islam in itself is militant (For example, see, The Story of Islamic Imperialism in India, and Calcutta Quran Petition S.R. Goel, and The World of Fatwas, Arun Shourie). There is no other variant: the term “moderate Islam” is an oxymoron.
From the ages of the yore, to our own times, a “pure” Islamic state is guided by its religious precepts: its politics, laws, economics, and society stem from the Prophet’s life, words, and deeds (See, Theory and Practice of Muslim State in India, K.S. Lal).
In comparison, there is nothing in the history of Hindu empires or Hindu statecraft that points to a similar phenomenon of being modelled on religious diktats. Hindu kings ruled and dispensed justice in accordance with dharmic precepts (broadly, Raja Dharma, which is a corpus dealing purely with the art, craft and practice of statecraft), an extremely vital distinction. For instance, the fundamental injunction that a king treat all his subjects as his own children is what guided Hindu kings to not treat his Muslim subjects as dhimmis (a concept alien to Hindu ethos), or even as a second class citizen. Non-Muslim subjects enjoyed equal rights under a Hindu ruler. Do we have similar examples of Muslim kings treating their Hindu subjects similarly except perhaps for the likes of Akbar?. More importantly, the Hindu king was the ruler of his subjects but a servant of Dharma. This conception is non-existent in any non-Indian treatise or practice of politics and statecraft.
In our own time, every aggressive/violent act of Hindutvavaadis has been in the nature of reaction to provocations. We need to yet have a record of unprovoked violence on the part of these dreaded Hindutvavaadis. In this regard, it is richly instructive to read Koenraad Elst’s Decolonizing the Hindu Mind and R N P Singh’s Riots and Wrongs. This is yet again both symptomatic and characteristic of the nature of our public discourse which selectively looks at consequences but rarely if ever, at causes. The Gujarat 2002 riots is the most recent, classic and the most infamous instance of this phenomenon of Hindu-baiting on a global scale.
When we set aside some inconsequential demands from some sections of the votaries of Hindutva–no Western music, dance, dress, art, Valentine’s Day, etc–a clearer picture of genuine Hindu grievances emerges:
Other grievances that stem from the Hindutva camp are more or less offshoots of these.
One of the primary aims of Hindutva is to build a strong Indian state based on timeless Hindu civilizational value, with solely the Indian national interest at heart. One wonders how this is dangerous or violent. Delving into history again, most Hindu kings proudly wore their commitment to upholding the Hindu Dharma as their sacred duty. We have no record of these kings ill-treating religious minorities under their rule.
Equally, Secularism of the Western variety was a temporary solution in Europe to centuries of suffering under religious tyranny. We continue to witness its inability to meet the challenge of increasing Islamization in Europe (and slowly but steadily in America) that has fed upon and grown on these very secularist ideals. Even worse, Germany has issued guidelines for illegal Muslim immigrants on the correct way to have sex with local German women, giving an entirely new meaning to the word “succumbing.”
A partial alternative to secularism maybe found in Hindu dharma, which in the past, offered a spiritual solution to a range of challenges in practical life and ensured harmony and well-being in society. There is no reason for us not to draw lessons from this lived past and tailor them suitably to meet the challenges in our own time.
Finally, Hindutva arose as a response to meet the need to defend Hindu interests thanks to the Congress party, which had bent backwards to please ruffians like Jinnah. As we have noted earlier, this need exists till date, which also partly explains its continued appeal to a large section of Indians. What is also interesting is the fact that the harshest of Hindutva critics uphold everything except the Indian national interest, and are also the fiercest anti-nationals. The more vocal of this crowd openly advocate the national interest of alien nations.
(*Sandeep Balakrishna is Noted Author and Analyst based in Bengaluru.)