Hindutva, The Threat to India’s Secular Environment

“Fascism is not defined by the number of its victims, but by the way it kills them.” — Jean-Paul Sartre

 

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) is a right-wing Hindu organization formed in 1925 in India, with Hindutva (making India a Hindu Nation) as its ambition. Hindutva is a political stuff dissimilar from Hinduism, the religion followed by majority of Indians since times immemorial.

Since the BJP assumed power in 2014 under Narendra Modi as its leader, the RSS has assumed a singular importance. The ruling party known as the political arm of RSS has steadily pushed towards the goal of Hindutva, notwithstanding fierce opposition from minority communities, secular and rationalist elements in society.

While Hindutva meant to the jingoists a nation of Hindus to the exclusion of others, Hinduism is a tolerant and inclusive religion. More than merely a faith, it has come to be known as a liberal way of peaceful coexisting with all others.

First, let us look at some of the disturbing events that took place in India with Narendra Modi as its PM. (Records of his earlier performance as Gujarat Chief Minister were not less dismal.)

Modi, a known RSS Parcharak (propagator) is also a shrewd politician, elected on his development plank instead of his RSS agenda. Ironically, he came to rule India under the oath of its constitution, whose essence is democracy and secularism, not Hindutva. This is beyond the comprehension of various rookie BJP law makers, ministers and governors, who think the time to convert India into a Hindu Nation has arrived, and have become arrogant and intolerant to any opposition.

Any reasonable voice raised democratically against the apathy and intolerance of the rulers towards minorities, Dalits (“low castes”) and political opponents is noisily termed as anti-national by aggressive crowds of RSS affiliates. This has happened a number of times. In a recent incident, sedition charges were slapped on some students of Delhi’s JNU (Jawahar Lal Nehru University) who expressed their opinion against capital punishment, in line with the vision of Dr. Ambedkar, the architect of Indian constitution. In a rally held on campus, while projecting their issues, student leaders also condemned the hanging of Mohammed Afzal Guru, a Kashmiri separatist convicted over the 2001 Indian Parliament attack.

Soon thereafter, doctored videos of JNU student union president Kanhaiya Kumar raising “anti-national” slogans were displayed repeatedly by various TV channels. This followed complaints by Maheish Girri, a BJP Member of Parliament and by ABVP, the RSS student wing. Consequently, Kumar and a few others were arrested on sedition charges under the Indian Penal Code. RSS affiliates called JNU a den of terrorists, and their shrieks to close the university became violent and louder.

They didn’t stop at that, and decided to punish Kumar themselves before the judiciary gave any verdict. Brought to a Delhi court under police custody in connection with the charges against him, Kumar was rebuked and thrashed on court premises by a number of pro-BJP lawyers. Journalists and media persons, including women, were also manhandled by ruling party hooligans. Video clips of the incident have been watched by many online. Police did not stop the attack, and the government failed to round up the ruffians immediately.

Kumar was released on interim bail on March 2, since no evidence of his taking part in anti-national slogans was presented by the police.

It is ironic that when the government has cracked down on JNU student leaders for condemning Afzal Guru’s hanging, the PDP (Peoples Democratic Party), the BJP’s ally in Jammu and Kashmir, also holds the view that Guru’s hanging was “a travesty of justice.” They have told media they won’t deviate from demanding Guru’s mortal remains, nor will they stop questioning the legal grounds of his hanging. However, negotiations to form a PDP/BJP coalition government in J&K are in full swing, exposing BJP’s opportunism. For the sake of power, the BJP could embrace those who time and again have questioned the legality of Afzal Guru’s hanging, but won’t hesitate to put student leader Kanhaiya Kumar behind bars under treason charges for saying the same thing.

Reinvigorated by the government’s inaction and PM Modi’s silence over their violent acts, the Saffron brigade members have often stormed places and disturbed peace and communal harmony in the country. Many villages, towns, cities and persons have been targeted by the ferocious mobs. Long before the JNU hullaballoo they triggered tragic incidents of communal violence in Muzzafarnagar, and killed a Muslim in Dadri in UP on rumour of his beef eating. They care nothing for decency or civility anywhere, from Delhi court premises to alleys and roads in the towns and cities of India. With the national flag in their hands and full throated cries of ‘Baharat Mata Ki Jai” (Victory to India), they declare themselves Desh Premi (patriots) and opponents Desh Drohi (traitors).

The cow has taken precedence over all other species of life in India, and the concept of Hindutva over the constitution of India!

Tumults and hubbubs are not new to the Indian landscape. Yet never before has the constitution came under such a threat at the hands of those who are under oath to protect it. The ruling party’s leaders feel particularly uncomfortable with its preamble, which defines India as a Socialist Secular Democratic Republic, not a theocratic state. It is a matter of record that the RSS kept away from the freedom fight against British colonial rule, launched jointly by people of all races, religions and regions which envisioned ‘India for all Indians’. The RSS slogan was “Hindustan for Hindus” and they preferred a Hindu nation rather than a free nation. This is their Hindutva, and their greatest predicament in governing India.

But to convert secular India into a Hindu state is easier said than done for the RSS or its affiliates. In order to delete the word ‘Secular’ democratically from the constitution, they need more seats in the two houses of Parliament, and in the plethora of provincial legislatures.

Though alienated and humbled, opposition is trying to stand up against the BJP juggernaut. After recording a grand success federally in 2014, the BJP lost miserably in Delhi and Bihar provincial polls. More provinces are heading towards the polls, while Indians watch the future with fingers crossed!


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Baldev Padam


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