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Understanding Hindutva: The Supreme Court Judgement [PART 3]

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By Saif Khan:

Looking at the quotations presented in the previous piece, one would certainly want that Hindutva as an ideology should be proscribed immediately but the irony lies in the fact that an equal number of good sayings of Hindu nationalists can be brought forth to prove that Hindutva is a secular and inclusive philosophy. Savarkar opposed the partition and prescribed one man, one vote system, be the man Hindu or Muslim, as summarized by BR Ambedkar in his book ‘Pakistan or Partition of India’. In the year 1998, Bal Thackeray said, “We must look after Muslims and treat them as part of us.” During the BJP’s National Executive Meet in Surajkund, LK Advani, reiterated the party’s commitment to secularism and condemned the movie ‘Innocence of Muslims’ which had angered Mohammedans all across the globe. It is this paradox which adds mystery to the concept of Hindutva.


The Hindutva apologists have over the years strictly adhered to the 1995 Supreme Court judgement which defines Hindutva as ‘a way of life’ while explaining the term. Therefore, it’s imperative to analyze the court’s judgement in order to ascertain the various aspects of Hindutva. The judgement states, “These Constitution Bench decisions, after a detailed discussion, indicate that no precise meaning can be ascribed to the terms Hindu, Hindutva and Hinduism; and no meaning in the abstract can confine it to the narrow limits of religion alone, excluding the content of Indian culture and heritage. It is also indicated that the term Hindutva is related more to the way of life of the people in the subcontinent. It is difficult to appreciate how in the face of these decisions, the term Hindutva or Hinduism per se, in the abstract, can be assumed to mean and be equated with narrow fundamentalist Hindu religious bigotry, or be construed to fall within the prohibition in sub-section (3) and/or (3A) of Section 123 of the R.P. Act.” The apologist’s principal argument rests on this plank.

If one asks a Hindutva apologist to explain as to how is Hindutva a way of life, they proceed to quote another abstract of this judgement which states, “Unlike other religions in the world, the Hindu religion does not claim any one prophet, it does not worship any one God, it does not subscribe to any one dogma, it does not believe in any one philosophic concept, it does not follow any one set of religious rites or performances, in fact, it does not appear to satisfy the narrow traditional features of any religion or creed. It may broadly be described as a way of life and nothing more.” They would go on to explain as to how Hinduism is not merely based on the teachings of one book, one prophet or one religious institution like the Church and this is the point where they falters since they were asked to explain as to how is ‘Hindutva’ a way of life not ‘Hinduism’. The fallacy of the judgement lies in it treating Hindutva and Hinduism as synonymous to one another whereas Savarkar held the opinion that Hinduism was just a ‘fraction’ of Hindutva. The judgement analyzes Hindutva from the point of view of Hinduism and makes references to previous court judgements on Hinduism, none of which had anything to do with Hindutva. In fact, the judgement has not even taken into account any of the writings of Hindutva ideologues, not even Savarkar’s, the man who coined the term Hindutva.

We can’t expect to analyze Marxism without mentioning Marx, Nazism without Hitler, Fascism with Mussolini, Satyagraha without Gandhi. So, how can we understand Hindutva without Savarkar? The justification which the court has given for using the term ‘way of life’ is from the perspective of Hinduism (I repeat) and not Hindutva and it’s hard to agree with the court’s stance that Hinduism is a way of life instead of a religion based on the features elaborated in the judgement. Polytheism isn’t a practice which is solely relegated to Hinduism. Chinese folk religion, Shintoism and Neo-Paganism also subscribe to the ideology in modern times. During the ancient times, Roman, Greek, Egyptian, Armenian, Celtic and a number of other civilizations were polytheistic by nature. If we are talking of acknowledgement of agnostic and atheistic point of views then we shouldn’t forget Buddhism because Buddha’s position on the existence of God remained skeptical all through his life and Buddhism is primarily agnostic by nature.

As far as the question of prophets is concerned, the Bible mentions 75 prophets not merely one. In Islam, there are 1,24,000 prophets whereas the Quran talks about and elaborates on the anecdotes of 25. Talking of religious texts, Buddhism has more than a dozen religious discourses. The King James Version of the Bible happens to comprise of 66 books. There are some 24,000 Gospels in the world. In Islam, apart from the Quran, Muslims go through the various Hadiths, Seerahs and Kalaams. With due respect, we can conclude that these are laudable features of Hinduism but it certainly doesn’t have a monopoly over them and hence it can’t be ruled as a way of life while others continue to be labelled as religions, and if it is indeed ruled as a way of life then so are others. The Sangh Parivar flaunts the judgement of 1995 as a justification of its stand, but in reality, the judgement has tore down the concept of a Hindu as laid down by Savarkar who saw Hindus as those who consider this land as their ‘pitrabhoomi’ and ‘punyabhoomi’.

The judgement states, “The development of Hindu religion and philosophy shows that from time to time saints and religious reformers attempted to remove from the Hindu thought and practices elements of corruption and superstition and that led to the formation of different sects. Buddha started Buddhism, Mahavir founded Jainism, Basava became the founder of Lingayat religion, Jnaneshwar and Tukaram initiated the Varakari cult, Guru Nanak inspired Sikhism, Dayananda founded Arya Samaj and Chaitanya began Bhakti cult and as a result of the teachings of Ramakrishna and Vivekananda, Hindu religion flowered into its most attractive, progressive and dynamic form. If we study the teachings of these saints and religious reformers, we would notice an amount of divergence in their respective views but underneath that divergence, there is a kind of subtle indescribable unity which keeps them within the sweep of the broad and progressive Hindu religion. The Constitution-makers were fully conscious of this broad and comprehensive character of Hindu religion and so, while guaranteeing the fundamental right to freedom of religion, Explanation II to Art. 25 has made it clear that in sub-clause (b) of clause (2), the reference to Hindus shall be construed as including a reference to persons professing the Sikh, Jain or Buddhist religion and the reference to Hindu religious institutions shall be construed accordingly.

The judgement categorically acknowledges the categorization of Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists as Hindus but does not hold the same basis as Savarkar held for categorizing them as Hindus. The only point where the judgement actually discusses Hindutva is where it quotes from Maulana Wahiuddin Khan’s book, ‘Indian Muslims : Need for a Positive Outlook’ and adds another definition of Hindutva, which states, “The word Hindutva is used and understood as a synonym of Indianisation, i.e., development of uniform culture by obliterating the differences between all the cultures co-existing in the country.” This is the point where Hindutva takes an ugly, imperialistic, fascistic and hegemonic turn as it tries to envisage communal harmony by buttressing others to either give up on their culture or pledge allegiance to the Hindu culture under which they shall remain subordinated. It does not believe in unity in diversity.

Hindutva’s attempts at decimating the diversity of the country by coming up with slogans like ‘Hindi, Hindu, Hindustan’ are threatening and frowned upon by all those who don’t buy into the idea of uniformity and unilateralism. Tamils and North-Easterners can’t speak Hindi, SC’s/ST’s/OBC’s can’t turn to Brahmanism overnight, Abrahamic faiths can’t turn into Dharmic ones, and nor can India turn into a Hindu Rashtra. A thorough analysis of the Hindutva judgement as well as the review petition filed by Muhammad Aslam clearly proves that the twin judgements were a dampener for the Hindutva forces.



How to wipe out Islamic Terror — Subramanian Swamy
The Guru of Hate — Ramachandra Guha
Conceptualizing Hindutva Fascism — Ram Puniyani
The Sangh is in my Soul — AB Vajpayee

We or Our Nationhood Defined — MS Golwalkar
Bunch of Thoughts — MS Golwalkar
Confessions of a Secular Fundamentalist — Mani Shankar Aiyar
Bible (King James Version)
Quran (Translation by Maulana Wahiuddin Khan)
Rig Veda (Translation by Ralph TH Griffith)

Bal Thackeray — India Today (1984)

Hindutva: Who is a Hindu? — VD Savarkar

1995 Supreme Court Judgement
Savarkar’s Message on 59th Birthday
Vajpayee on the eve of Babri Masjid Demolition
Review Petition on Hindutva
Shiv Mahimna Stotaram

Technical Session (India Today Conclave) — Narendra Modi, Dgvijay Singh & Farooq Abdullah
Gujarat Gaurav Yatra (2002 – Rallies)

You must be to comment.
  1. Ishita Trivedi

    That was a really well argued and researched article! Though, I know nothing significant about theological debates in India and am rather indifferent to the conversations around it, this has certainly piqued my interest!

  2. Rohit

    First i thought why this article is criticizing the judgement and hindutva. Then i read the name of the autor and understood.

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