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Mainstream, VOL LV No 23 New Delhi May 27, 2017

Hindu Rashtra: Is it Good for Hindus?

Saturday 27 May 2017

by Ram Puniyani

Hindu Rashtra is the goal of Hindu nationalist politics, which is also called Hindutva. In contrast to Hinduism, Hindutva is politics in the name of Hinduism with Brahmanism as the core of the same. In a nutshell, Hindutva is politics based on the Brahmanical values of caste and gender hierarchy. The concept of Hindutva-Hindu nation is a modern one, which developed as a parallel to Islamic nationalism, and in opposition to the concept of Indian nationalism. Indian nationalism developed during the colonial period as the inclusive nationalism of people of all religions, different castes, languages and regions based on the values of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity.

 Hindu nationalism developed from a section of Hindu landlords and kings with the associated clergy on their side. As Indian nationalism was arguing for equality of all the people, the previous ruling classes felt threatened socially. Now their social privileges were under threat and so they gave a war cry of ‘Hinduism in danger’. This was a cry which was similar to the slogan of Muslim landlords and nawabs who, when their social status started declining, shouted: ‘Islam in danger’.

 Hindu nationalism harped on the ancient glory of the times of Manusmriti and the Vedas when the caste system was deeply entrenched in society. While the national movement was articulating the need for land reforms, though they could never be properly implemented, Hindu nationalism harped on the earlier systems and was hiding its agenda of social inequality. It called for revival of a glorious period, despite the fact that the conditions of women and Dalits in those times were abysmal.

 The needs of a majority of Hindus were expressed in the national movement, which strove for democratic norms and its values got enshrined in the Indian Constitution in the form of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. The Hindu nationalists were opposed to these values and also the drafting of the Indian Constitution, which not only stands for liberation of all people from feudal bondages, but is a path of liberation of large sections of Hindus barring, of course, the upper castes, who stand to lose their primacy. Most of the Hindus participated in the freedom struggle while a handful of them, wedded to the ideology of Hindu Rashtra, kept aloof from this massive process which was to pave the path of liberation of all the people including a majority of Hindus.

 Those standing for the cause of a majority of Hindus opposed the idea of Hindu Rashtra. Ambedkar points out: “It is a pity that Mr Jinnah should have become a votary and champion of Muslim Nationalism at a time when the whole world is decrying against the evils of nationalism... But isn’t there enough that is common to both Hindus and Musalmans, which, if developed, is capable of moulding them into one people?... If Hindu Raj does become a fact, it will, no doubt, be the greatest calamity for this country...” Compare the Sangh Parivar’s view of nationalism with these two conceptions and draw your own conclusions. (https://www.kractivist.org/tag/history/)

 Gandhi, the greatest Hindu of his times, pointed out: “In India, for whose fashioning I have worked all my life, every man enjoys equality of status, whatever his religion is. The state is bound to be wholly secular”, and, “religion is not the test of nationality but is a personal matter between man and God”, and, “religion is a personal affair of each individual, it must not be mixed up with politics or national affairs.” (Harijan, August 31, 1947)

After independence, the followers of Hindu nationalism were very small and they kept on working for breaking the core pillar of Indian nationalism, Fraternity. They kept spreading hatred against the religious minorities. This hatred became the foundation of communal violence in times to come. While the majority of Hindus were going along with the national policies for building modern India through modern education and modern industries, the Hindu nationalists were criticising and opposing these policies all through. While the majority of Hindus are faced with the problems of bread, butter, shelter, employment and dignity, Hindu nationalists have been raising the emotive issues to divide the society along religious lines. The result is that in the din of hysteria, in the name of Hinduism and Hindus, they have been sidetracking the real issues of Hindus and substituting them with identity issues.

 When the BJP-led NDA came to power, it opened the path of restoring blind faith by introducing courses like Paurohitya (priesthood) and Karmakand (ritualism). Hindus need to be liberated from the clutches of blind faith while these policies are intensifying the retrograde, obscurantist values and undermining the real needs of average Hindus as well.

 In the last three years (since 2014) the Modi-BJP-RSS Government has come to power. In this period the identity issues have been hiked up. Attempts have been made to undermine and bypass the issues related to rights for food, education and health. The attempt was made to grab the farmers’ land in the name of land reforms; somehow they could not succeed in that. The attempt to bring in the land reform legislation was against the interests of the Hindus, so to say. The labour reforms brought by the Hindu nationalists have ruined the lives of workers at large. Demonetisation was propa-gated as a blow to black money-holders, but its real victims have been the average Hindus, who have suffered in silence. A series of emotive issues are dominating the social scene, Ram Temple, Bharat mata ki jai, Vande matram, cow protection, Love Jihad and ghar wapsi among others. The vigilante culture is getting promoted due to the Hindu nationalist agenda. The benefi-ciaries of these policies have been the affluent corporate sector, a section of upper and middle classes while the average Hindus are suffering the pain and anguish.

 The society is suffering as age-old values of love and amity are being demolished; the issues of poverty, illiteracy, hunger and health are being relegated to the margins of policy-making. All this is against the interests of Hindus at large. Average Hindus are a big victim of this agenda.

The author, a retired Professor at the IIT-Bombay, is currently associated with the Centre for the Study of Secularism and Society, Mumbai.

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