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Opinion: Hindutva Is A Political Movement That Intends To Replace India’s Constitution

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The Résumé of Hindutva

They say that Hindutva is a social movement. Little do they realize that they’re absolutely wrong. Plain and simple, it’s a political movement to ‘otherise’ Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Dalits, women and queer people, through its own social contract.

It’s an economic movement too, disguised as dharmic humanism, shunning the material forces of socialism and capitalism, and camouflaging as a spiritual movement, without attempting to introspect on the foundations of ‘Hindu rate of growth’ that is still responsible for the fatal beliefs in the economic structures.

The ‘new’ India under Hindutva is inherently focused on transforming rationalism and scientific temperament into obscurantism and irrational thinking. Representational image.

The year 2014 till now was supposed to maximize liberties and minimise statism, but it lucidly backfired at many core indexes like happiness, free speech, human development, business activities, hunger, environmental protection, construction permit, women safety, internet freedom, etc. Nevertheless, the movement is purely ideological, machiavellian, sadist, xenophobic and racist, and it straight away intends to replace India’s Constitution with the maxims of Manusmriti and Vedas.

Hindutva is a dream of RSS, BJP and other fringe groups associated with the conservative elements of far-right extremism since the 1930s. Historian D.N. Jha in his ‘Against the Grains’ credits Raja Ram Mohan Roy (1772–1833) for primarily using the term ‘Hindooism’ in 1816. He was a modern thinker who used his rationality to reform Hindu society while opposing the expansionism of Christianity. The notion of the vedic period as a ‘golden age’ was thus embodied in the doctrine of the ‘brahmo samaj’ which anticipated the ideas of subsequent religious reformers like Dayananda Saraswati (1824–83).

History used to be a scientific enterprise, during the decades after Independence, but of late, it has become a political tool to rewrite the history and anthropological factors of Indian society. A news report titled “By rewriting history, Hindu nationalists aim to assert their dominance over India” by Reuters (March 2018) highlighted that the Modi government has appointed a committee to amend the history of India. The members of this committee are upper-caste Hindus. No non-Hindu. No women.

Interviews with members of the 14-person committee and ministers in Modi’s government suggest the ambitions of Hindu nationalists extend beyond holding political power in this nation of 1.3 billion people — a kaleidoscope of religions. They want ultimately to shape the national identity to match their religious views, that India is a nation of and for Hindus. The committee’s chairman, K.N. Dikshit, told Reuters, “I have been asked to present a report that will help the government rewrite certain aspects of ancient history.” The committee’s creator, BJP leader Mahesh Sharma, confirmed in an interview that the group’s work was part of larger plans to revise India’s history.

The ‘new’ India under Hindutva is inherently focused on transforming rationalism and scientific temperament into obscurantism and irrational thinking. It is gradually endeavouring to make Hinduism an exclusive religion by excluding others. Going by the NCRB data analysis, there’s an increase of hate crimes against non-Hindus and women up to 300% in the span of the last 6 years.

The data further suggests that India is not a place for Dalit women and tribal girls. The Hindutva elements are brutally keen on establishing a Hindu state and have no regards for ‘India’. It has also generated a spurious debate on nationalism. Muslim mosques and Catholic churches are attacked. Women are unsafe. Muslims and Dalits are lynched on mere suspicion of carrying and eating beef, and all it has the backing of the current sociopolitical landscape.

Unlike Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Dayanand Saraswati initiated the idea of militant Hinduism by starting Gorakshini Sabha in 1882. He regarded Muslims and Christians as enemies of Hindustan. It made him more popular and strengthened his school of thought as a separate identity against that of Muslims and Dalits who were stereotyped as beef killers and eaters.

Unfortunately, Saraswati and modern Hindutva toadies are consciously unaware of beef-eating in ancient India. The verses in Rig Veda, Gopatha Brahmana, Taittiriya Samhita and Atharva Veda vociferously mention about the exercise of killing and eating beef. The verses have been also studied, examined and concluded by Rajendra Lal Mitra, a product of the Bengal renaissance and described by Rabindranath Tagore as ‘the most beloved child of the muse’, unlike today’s pseudo-historians on Twitter and governmental panels.

Later in the 1940s Mahamahopadhyaya P.V.Kane, a conservative Marathi brahmin and the only Sanskritist to be honoured with the title of Bharat-ratna, in his multi-volume monumental work ‘History of Dharmashastra’ referred to Vedic passages speaking of cow killing and beef-eating.

In 1963, H.D. Sankalia, the father of post-Independence Indian archaeology who possessed a profound knowledge of Sanskrit, drew attention to literary as well as archaeological evidence of eating beef in ancient India.

Synonymously, Laxman Shastri Joshi, a sanskritist of unquestionable scholarship, unequivocally supported the prevalence of the practice of beef-eating in early India. Then came ‘polymath’ Dr Ambedkar who spoke with historical evidence about beef-eating in ancient India in his ‘Who were the Untouchables?’. D.N. Jha’s The Myth of Holy Cow is also a vital ingredient to learn the practice of beef-eating in ancient India.

Today, Hindutva is also centred on the politics of the beef economy. Some BJP leaders in their regional states like Goa, Kerala and North East India are OK with eating beef, whereas for many BJP leaders’ “cow is mummy, not yummy” yet. With the evolution of Buddhism and Jainism, Brahmins shunned beef-eating. Medhatithi (ninth century commentator) clarified that cow killing/eating was normal on ritual occasions. Later on, Swami Vivekananda advised ‘young men in India to eat beef in order to develop muscles.’

Hindu Vahini members at a protest march over cow protection at Parliament Street in New Delhi, June 6, 2016. (Getty Images) The India Today Group

Shown as Vishnu avatar in the middle of 6th-century C.E (Shrimad Bhagvad Gita), 11th-century C.E (Dashavataracarita of Kshemendra) and 12th-century C.E (Gitagovinda of Jayadeva) because Buddha was a challenge to Brahminism and till date continues to be.

Adinatha Rishabh (the first Tirthankara in Jainism) was also considered as Vishnu avatar in Bhagavata Purana. This business of appropriation is an inherent feature of Hindutva philosophy to make itself inclusive and secular. However, it is an incorrect knowledge to nota bene that ancient India was tolerant of the heretical schools. Contextually, ‘Sone ki Chidiya’ is propaganda to dissuade people from questioning the political and social history of India.

It started with Pushyamitra Shunga, a brahmin King, killing Buddhist monks and destroying their monasteries. Patanjali (150 BCE), a contemporary of the Shungas, in his Mahabhasya (2.4.9) stated that Brahminism and Buddhism are eternal enemies. Few Buddhist monasteries at Sanchi in Raisen district, Satdhara (Katni district), Deurkothar (Rewa district), Ghantai, Bhuteshwar, Gokarneshwar and Katra Mound were all vandalised by the antecedents of Hindutva ideology. Fa-hsien, a Chinese pilgrim, visiting India (399 CE-414 CE) during Gupta period, saw a dismal picture. Brahmins appropriated Kushana Buddhist site too. Hsuan Tsang, a Chinese Buddhist pilgrim, visiting India (631 CE — 645 CE) also notes that King Mihirakula, follower of Shiva, destroyed 1600 Buddhist stupas and monasteries.

King Shashanka, a contemporary of King Harsha, also chopped off the Boddhi tree and destroyed the Buddha statue. Then, a Kashmiri King Kshemagupta in his tenure (950 CE — 958 CE) destroyed Buddhist sites too. Kalachuri King Karna (11th century) was also hostile to Buddhism. A report titled “Interpreting Transformation of Material Culture with reference to Stratigraphy” by Swadhin Sen confirmed that Siddheshwar temple was built on the Buddhist stupas.

To add more to the woes, Gokulmedh (Mahasthan) and Birampur (Dinajpur) Buddhist sites were also converted to Brahminical temples around the 12th century. Basudevpur, Bochaganj and Dinajpur also added to the list. At Sirpur (Raipur district), during the reign of Mahashivagupta Balarajuna (725 CE — 786 CE) were appropriated by the followers of Shiva. They took over other monasteries in the area as well. The main temple and attached monastery were built by the Buddhist monk Anandaprabhu. At Chezerla (Guntur district), a Buddhist monastery was converted into Kapoteshvara temple, during the early medieval period. The Gunadharishvara temple too was built on Buddhist ruins.

Swami Vivekananda joined the bandwagon and commented “To any man who knows anything about Indian history…the temple of Jagannath [sic] is an old Buddhistic temple. We took this and others over and re-Hinduised them. We shall have to do many things like that yet.

It has been corroborated by another darling of the Hindutva camp. According to him, ‘Rath Yatra’, an integral part of Jagganath Temple, was a Buddhist ritual too, taken from the original Buddhist temple. Bankim Chandra Chatterjee wrote: “I am aware that another, and a very reasonable, account of the origin of the festival of Rath [at Jagganath Temple] has been given by General Cunningham in his work on the Bhilsa Topes. He traces it to a similar festival of the Buddhists, in which the three symbols of the Buddhist faith, Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha, were drawn in a car in the same fashion, and I believe about the same season as the Rath. It is a fact greatly in support of the theory, that the images of Jagannath, Balaram, and Subhadra, which now figure in the Rath, are near copies of the representations of Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha, and appear to have been modeled upon them.

The Buddhist Temple at Puri was not the only one Hinduised. Founder of Arya Samaj, Swami Dayanand Saraswati while describing the heroics of Shankaracharya in Satyarth Prakash, wrote: “For ten years he toured all over the country, refuted Jainism and advocated the Vedic religion. All the broken images that are nowadays dug out of the earth were broken in the time of Shankar, whilst those that are found whole here and there under the ground had been buried by the Jainis for fear of their being broken (by those who had renounced Jainism).

The Jains too are not free from the Orwellian attitude of fascist Hindutva. Recently, in the state of Uttar Pradesh, Hindutva goons replaced Jain Goddess Shruti Devi’s statue with Hindu Goddess Saraswati. Police interfered later.

The condemnation for Jainism is not new. Jain monks in their canonical text Acharagasuttam mention that they had to hide from the Brahminical attacks. Jainism was also portrayed in a bad light in literary texts like Mattavilasa Prahasana and Prabodhachandrodaya. As per the Nambiyandar Namb text, in 7th century CE, a Hindu king killed 8000 Jain monks. Some escaped the violence by converting to Hinduism. It was all prescribed by a Hindu saint Sambandar. Few inscriptions (belonging to 16th century CE) in Srisailam area of Andhra Pradesh also depict persecution of Jains by the Brahminical forces.

The idea to impose Hindutva in democratic India is not a development of the 21st century. The antecedents of Hindutva had been there with their own version and mode, and the epoch since ages have evolvingly developed; the 20th century period organized the landscape of Hindutva, for which India has successfully launched the qualifications of the same, today.

Borrowing inspiration from the brahmin leader Lokmanya Tilak, Vinayak Savarkar published in 1923 ‘Hindutva: Who is a Hindu?’ and endeavored to comprehensively explain the identity of ‘Hindu’. He has been 7 times president of Hindu Mahasabha, a right-wing fascist group, believing the Aryan invasion theory and enunciating that a Hindu is (a) the one who acquired citizenship by paternal descent, (b) born of Hindu parents and thus possessed Vedic Aryan blood, and (c) sharing a common ‘sanskritising’ culture.

He adored Adolf Hitler to a huge extent and made it clear that non-Hindus are not part of Hindu India. His supremacism was best summed up in one premise — ‘Hinduise all politics and Militarise all Hindudom’ and this call has eventually become a rallying cry of Hindu nationalism and Modi government.

Vinayak Savarkar pleaded with Indians to fight with the British Army rather than joining the mission of Subash Chandra Bose.

Two years after Savarkar expounded the concept, Keshav Hedgewar and MS Golwalkar founded a para-military org. with a fascist character ‘RSS’. Golwalkar asserted that “the foreign races in Hindusthan must either adopt the Hindu culture and language, must learn to respect and hold in reverence Hindu religion, must entertain no ideas but those of glorification of the Hindu race and culture…or may stay in the country, wholly subordinated to the Hindu nation, claiming nothing, deserving no privileges, far less any preferential treatment — not even citizen rights”. Savarkar favored territorial Hindutva, whereas Golwalkar favored cultural Hindutva.

But they both favoured British colonialism as well. Golwalkar made it clear that “….fighting against the British was not a part of RSS’s mission. We should remember that in our pledge we have talked of freedom of the country through defending religion and culture, there is no mention of departure of British from here.” Whereas Vinayak Savarkar pleaded with Indians to fight with the British Army than joining the mission of Subash Chandra Bose. And they’re still not certified as ‘anti-national’ in the current political culture because the identity of ‘Hindu’ is a sound excuse to wash off the hypocrisy?

An exclusivist notion for Hindutva was also preluded by Rajnarain Basu (1826–1899), a close associate of Debendranath Tagore, stood for the glory of Hinduism and spoke aggressively for the superiority of Hindu religion in contrast to other religions. He went ahead to state that ‘his Hindu Mahasamiti could not have a place for Muslims’.

Then, Chandranath Basi (1844–1910) in his ‘Hindutva: An Authentic History of Hindus’ in Bengali in 1892 presented a spirited-defense of brahminical ritualism, child marriage, casteism, patriarchal values, etc. His friend Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyaya in his influential novel Anandamath (1882) refers to Muslims as ‘dirty bastards’.

The demonization of Muslims and Christians was a prominent theme also in the works of Hindutva writers outside Bengal. Bharatendu Harishchandra (1850–85), born in Varanasi and considered to be the father of modern Hindi literature, depicted Muslims as cruel, cowardly, treacherous, etc. In 1893, Lokmanya Tilak founded the anti-cow killing society and provoked Muslims. He also asserted that “India was a self-contained nation, during Vedic times, united as a great nation”. He contended that the ‘common factor’ in India society was the ‘feeling of Hindutva’ and that all ‘hindus were one because of their adherence to Hindu religion’.

Unfortunately, Tilak and Hindutva Twitteratis deprive themselves of the knowledge of ancient and medieval India which also saw the killing and destruction of Buddhist monks, shrines and Jain temples by Brahminical India.

Contribution from a famous historian R.C. Majumdar was influential too, in the layout of Hindutva. He was a firm believer in Hinduization of South-East Asian nations too. He disrespected indigenous culture, as any Brahmin would do, and lent ideological support to Hedgewar. In his work, he denigrated non-Hindus that would appease any Twitterati from BJP IT cell.

The same RSS that anticipates non-Hindus to prove patriotism, circumvented Indian flag for 52 years since its inception. In its ‘Organiser’, an editorial piece, in 1947, RSS commented “The tricolour India flag will never be respected & owned by the Hindus. The word three is in itself an evil, & a flag having three colours will certainly produce a very bad psychological effect & is injurious to a country

India saw Ayodhya movement, Godhra riots, Demonetisation, rudest Lockdown, PM-Care-Fund scam, etc. India is contemporarily seeing love-jihad law and intolerance towards non-Hindus and this islamophobia is stemmed from the above historical analysis.

The democratic features and social capital, like never before, are so openly disregarded and downsized that, I think, even God feels helpless to save India from ‘new’ India. The current setup is not a teaser or a trailer anymore. It is simply a circus of dictatorship and fancy euphemisms. The hydra of RSS has also reached US politics and it is trying to project altogether a different sociopolitical impression.

Pieter Friedrich has a story to tell in this regard in his ‘Saffron Fascists’. The syndrome of Hindutva is so socially inured in the cognition of majoritarians today, that there seems no thick line between morality and immorality. The identification of Modi with India or Hindutva is a successful scheme today. In one of my blogs on this subject, I ratiocinated how this syndrome is proving to be perilous for the credentials of constitution, society, and democracy.

The movement of Hindutva has also altered the consciousness of interactions and networking today. The whole process of communication even on social media is filled with trolling, abuses, rape threats, casteist slurs and intimidation.

Magsaysay award winner Ravish Kumar in his ‘Free Voice’ has succinctly put, “The National Project for Instilling Fear in the people has reached completion. Before the promised highways and jobs, everybody has been unfailingly given one thing — fear. For every individual, fear is now the daily bread. We are all experiencing fear; it comes to us in many different forms — from the moment we step out of our homes, with so many warnings ringing in our ears… It is only the lapdog media which is safe in India today. Jump into and snuggle down in the lap of authority and nobody will dare say anything to you.

He examines why debate and dialogue have given way to hate and intolerance in India, and how elected representatives, the media and other institutions are failing us and looks at ways to repair the damage to our democracy. Unfortunately, it’s a new norm now. In one of my blogs ‘Impact of Hindu nationalism on freedom of speech’ (April 2019), I briefly ratiocinated the contemporary feature of how the media as the 4th pillar of so-called democracy has been demoted to the substance of fake news, media manipulation and cognitive intolerance.

In the words of historian DN Jha, author of ‘The Myth of Holy Cow’ (2009), who received a death threat for applying the principles of positive science in his historical approaches towards the deconstruction of Hindutva ideology, concludes, “The Hindutva ideologues and their foot soldiers have been trying to redefine the boundaries of Hinduism, and examples of this can be multiplied to almost any length. They censure anything that does not fit into their scheme. They burn books that do not endorse their view, vandalize objects of art which they consider blasphemous, and demonstrate against films which present a counterpoint to their propaganda. They distort Indian history and religion and nurture a culture of intolerance. They lynch anyone on mere suspicion of beef eating or transporting cows to abattoirs. These traits have become all the more pronounced with the political ascendancy of BJP and its mentor the RSS. Hindu identity has now become a Frankenstein’s monster for all that is truly Indian.

I hope, I pray, I won’t be lynched for this blog. They may threaten me, but they cannot murder the truth with their Trishul.

References

Dermot Killingley, Rammohun Roy in Hindu and Christian Tradition: The Teape Lectures 1990, Newcastle upon Tyne, 1993

John Zavos, The Emergence of Hindu Nationalism, Delhi 2000

Jyotirmaya Sharma, Cosmic Love and Human Apathy: Swami Vivekananda’s Restatement of Religion, Delhi 2013

Chetan Bhatt, Hindu Nationalism, Ideologies and Modern Myths, Berg 2001

Tanika Sarkar, ‘Imagining Hindu Rashtra: The Hindu and the Muslim in Bankim Chandra’s writings’, Delhi 1996

Pralay Kanungo, RSS’s Tryst with Politics: From Hedgewar to Sudarshan, Delhi 2002

M.S. Golwalkar, ‘We or Our Nationhood defined’, Nagpur 1939

M.S.Golwalkar, Bunch of Thoughts, Bangalore 1996

Christopher Jaffrelot, Hindu Nationalism: A Reader, Delhi 2007

Christopher Jaffrelot, The Nationalist movement and Indian politics 1925 to the 1990s, Delhi 1996

R.S.Sharma, ‘Communalism and India’s Past’, Social Scientist, volume 18, 1990

Indo-Aryans, Calcutta, 1891, volume 1

H.D.Sankalia, The Cow in History, Seminar no. 93, May 1967

Laxman S Joshi, ‘Was the cow killed in ancient India?’, Quest, 75 March-1972

D N Jha, The Myth of Holy Cow, London 2002

A.B.Keith, The Religion and Philosophy of the Veda and Upanishads, Harvard Oriental Series, 1925, Indian Reprint, Delhi 1970

G.U.Thite, Sacrifice in the Brahmanan Text, Poona 1975

R.L.Mitra, Indo-Aryans: Contributions to the Elucidation of Ancient and Medieval History, Varanasi 1969

K.T.Acharya, A Historical Dictionary of Indian food

Herman Tull, ‘The Killing that is not Killing’, 1996

Irfan Habib, ‘India: Country and Nation — An Introductory Essay’, Delhi 2005

Nirad Chaudhuri, The Continent of Circe, London 1965

R.C.Hazra, Studies in the Puranic Records on the Hindu rites and customs, Delhi 1975

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Padmanabh Jaini, Collected Papers on Jaina studies, Delhi 2002

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Debiprasad C, Tarantha’s history of Buddhism in India, Delhi 1970

Johannes Bronkhorst, Buddhism in the shadow of Brahminism, Leiden 2011

P.B.Desai, Jainism in South India and Some Jaina Epigraphs, Sholapur 1957

R.N.Nandi, Social roots of religion in Ancient India, Calcutta 1986

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Archaeological Survey of India, Annual report 1906–7

David Wellington, ‘Early forebodings of the death of Buddhism’, 1980

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