All Rise! Here Comes the Hindutva Junta!
Man is the only Patriot. He sets himself apart in his own country, under his own flag, and sneers at the other nations, and keeps multitudinous uniformed assassins on hand at heavy expense to grab slices of other people’s countries, and keep them from grabbing slices of his. And in the intervals between campaigns he washes the blood of his hands and works for ‘the universal brotherhood of man’ – with his mouth.
— Mark Twain
Today, one of the headlines in the Indian Express screams: ‘Modi sarkar threatened democracy; that is the most anti-national of all acts’ and The Hindu has an editorial titled ‘State overreach on the campus’. The mainland—it appears from the aftermath of the arrest of a student leader of a premiere university, the Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi—has two types of people: the nationalist and the anti-nationalist. The charge of sedition and criminal conspiracy appears inconsequential with reference to this division.
It is funny. The self-righteous Hindutva followers, or the student-wing members of the ABVP, blame those students of the JNU who are inclined towards the Left for being anti-national and the latter responded that they are patriotic just as any Indian.
The present matter relating to excessive police action and arrest at JNU followed after an event to mark the anniversary of the execution of Afzal Guru, an accused in the 2001 Parliament attack case. The issue has been an outcome of some anti-India slogans made during the event inside the JNU campus on 9th the last.
Observers have maintained that the backlash is not a one-off incident; in fact, there have been a lot of farces, arguments, contestations and deliberations over the intolerance level of the right-wing incumbent government. It is alleged that the Modi-led BJP government has been giving a free hand to Hindu-based organisations and appointing its sycophants in leading institutes of the country albeit provoking controversies that are hard to be differentiated from a comedy.
The news of noted personalities returning their government-sponsored awards in protest against the BJP’s patronage of Hindutva ideologies marked the last year. More significantly, there has been an overt institutionalisation of caste, gender and oppression in the public space ever since the present government has came to power two years ago. While on one hand, the head of the government has been praised for his neo-liberal activities, he has been equally criticised for pathetic dealings on the domestic front, especially in those matters pertaining to religion and culture.
Twenty-five years ago, Ashis Nandy wrote in a newspaper article titled Hinduism Versus Hindutva: The Inevitability of a Confrontation:
Speaking pessimistically, Hindutva will be the end of Hinduism. Hinduism is the faith by which a majority of Indians still live. Hindutva is the ideology of a part of the upper-caste, lower-middle class Indians, though it has now spread to large parts of the urban middle classes. The ideology is an attack on Hinduism and an attempt to protect the flanks of a minority consciousness which the democratic process is threatening to corner.
The writer also mentioned that Hindutva will die a natural death but then apparently there was no Narendra Modi serving tea or inciting communal antipathy in those days, leave alone at the helm of affairs. In fact, the 1992 Babri Masjid demolition under the patronage of Hindu nationalist groups occurred just a year after he wrote about the demise of Hindutva. Meanwhile three years before the demolition, BJP had announced the adoption of Hindutva as its official ideology. Historians attribute its rise to the colonial days in the late 19th century when the traditional India of those days started facing the onslaught of western modernity.
To put it in another way, it has not been the glorification of a terror convict, not even over the consumption of beef or the appointment of inexperienced sycophants. The real issue is saffronisation, which is defined in dictionary as ‘the policies of right-wing Hindu nationalists or the Hindutva that seek to recall and glorify ancient Hindu cultural history, with the main objective of establishing Hindu hegemony’. The real issue is about tolerance and acceptance.
However, in their blind pursuits the followers have failed to see the underlying communal overtones in their politics. But any way, do we ever consider that right-wing organisations are not fascist? What is more impressive is that the government has no worry about the loss of its secular credentials.
Last month, the suicide of Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula had sufficiently proven it but it seems the government cares very little about what these issues would do to its image or worse in electoral politics. In the present context, is the BJP all covered to serve the objectives of its student wing, ABVP? We are not even considering the fascist activities of its branches and frontal organisations like the RSS and Sangh Parivar. By the way, what’s the meaning of nationalism in India?
Footnote About a month ago, a few photos of RSS members in Manipur staging a route march were doing the rounds on social media sites. The joke was on them as they proceeded in full RSS uniform: khaki half-pants, white shirts and sticks, with their underprivileged Burmese looks and sycophantic expressions. Last weekend (mid-Feb 2016), Baba Ramdev also reached the border province to promote his brand image. All of these may be ordinary in the mainland but not so in a region where Hinduism is known for instigating a mass cultural suicide.