Paving the Way for a Hindu Rashtra
Ridima Gupta, Student, Jindal Global Law School, Haryana
“Didi (Sister), which party did you vote for in 2020 Delhi assembly elections?;
You did not vote for BJP that means you are not a Hindu and you are an Anti- nationalist”
said a 10-year-old to me. It made me think, the word ‘Hindu’ has a unique valence in the context of India. It is the word which forms the part of “Hindu-stan”, “Hindu-ism”, “Hindutva”. Many people are oblivious to the actual origin of the word, and their only conscience lies in what the state tells them. The original term “Hindu” has no religious context, whatsoever. The first mention of the term is traceable to “Zend Avesta”, the religious text of Zoroastrianism, which uses it as an Ethno-Geographical term. Thus, Before it acquired a religious connotation, it only meant “Indians”, living across Sindh. There is no mention of the term in any of the epic pieces of literature such as Vedas, Gita, Purana. Hinduism gained significance when Raja Ram Mohan coined it in 1816-17 as the Sanatana Dharma which regulates the mode of people’s life on the basis of Karma (Deeds), Parmatma (spiritual and intellectual possession), and Gyana (wisdom). Interestingly, the word had never attempted to establish dominance or spread its religion until 1923 when Veer Savarkar published his pamphlet, “Who is a Hindu?” as there was an attempt to establish Hinduism as a part of Hindutva. According to him, Hindutva meant India is the land of Hindus since their ethnicity is Indian and since Hindu faith originated in India, For him, “Hinduness” was synonymous to “Indianness”. He thus kept Islam and Christianity out of the definition of Hindu. The ruling party of India, Bhartiya Janta Party, adopted its ideology as Hindutva in 1989 and it is because of this that the secularism of the nation is being threatened by the ideology of the ruling party and their attempt to blur the distinction between Hinduism and Hindutva. This is evident from the barbarous act of demolishing Babri Mosque and from the violent protests over the enactment of citizenship amendment act.
This attempt to blur the distinction takes place through a process. According to Max Weber, “State is a human community which claims the legitimate use of physical force in a given territory” (moriss 195). However, this force is not always violent or catastrophic; it merely is coercion at times. Coercion and influence in our everyday lives are not possible without the assent of the state. It has the power to distort the public memory and gear it towards its own beliefs and customs. This distortion is a long process which the government and its agencies permit for their gains. It takes place through various media which we do not pay attention to, and such acts are even legitimised by law, re-written histories, wall graffitis, famous slogans and act as a false consciousness for the majority. The working of the state is reflected in the social relations between people. This false consciousness is the ideology of the state, which is manifesting itself through common sense. “Common sense is always already in place and hard at work, long before we make any conscious judgements”(Deshpande 2). These skills are acquired naturally. However, the state makes the majority of the conscious choices for you. Communalism is the product of this common sense, which gears people towards thinking that the ideology of one religious group is superior to other group and gave rise to majoritarian inferiority complex amongst Hindus.
The communal passions of the people are being inflamed by significant organisations such as the VHP, ABVP and others, all Shakhas(Branches) are a part of the Sangh Parivar of the RSS and the ruling party. “The ideology of Hindutva is based on a combination of received trends and active fashioning of these trends”. (Banerjee 97). In, the current climate of the country, BJP polemicists are abandoning the quest for an objective analysis of the past and our believing in the distorted versions of history, glorifying Hinduism and victimhood of its religion by the hands of Muslim rulers. Knowledge of history is being misused to legitimise chauvinistic national identities. Today, a person is Indian only if he denounces Babur and his descendants as the culprits of instigating evil in the subcontinent. History textbooks blame Mughal rulers for temple desecration and for the hurting sentiments of Hindus without mentioning the entire historical circumstances. The annexation of Indo-Muslim states was often followed by desecration of temples. These temples were essential symbols associated with the defeated monarchs (a tradition dating back to the 16th century, followed from much before the arrival of the Mughals) (Eaton 70). Uncorroborated history is being taken as gospel. No wonder the evidence of Babri Masjid being built over Ram Mandir was given to Sangh from B.R Grover, Head of Indian Council of Historical Research, who was close to the Sangh and appointed by BJP (Mehta, Jayal 214). Besides, to qualify as an Indian, one must accept the image of Bharat Mata, who is depicted as the four-armed Hindu goddess in a saffron sari, as the protector of the country. Mother of the country is seen having a lotus by her feet. It is no coincidence that the bearer of Hindutva ideology and its symbol of the lotus is being portrayed as the defender of the state.
Temple desecration and campaigns to demolish some 3,000 mosques in India were at the forefront of generating a new wave of Hindu revivalism (Shakoor). This revivalism soon acquired an angle of Hindu militancy. Babri Mosque was razed to the ground on November 9, 1989, by a Hindu fanatic mob. Demolition of the Mosque has been the result of the accumulation of power and the sudden rise of RSS and BJP, giving the politics of Hindutva a foothold in the country. Slogans, such as ‘Mandir Wahi Banega”, associated and propagated by these organisations at that time were household sayings. Martyrs’, as called by these groups, ashes were carried in a procession throughout India, and tens of thousands of videos showing the massacre of Ram worshipers were sold clandestinely,(Mehta, Jayal 211). This speeded the process of manifesting Hindutva Ideology as it claimed to establish that these acts were “revolution for cultural nationalism”. If we see the chronology, the first demand for Babri Masjid started in 1984 with elections in 1985, then before elections in 1989. Thus, it took Babri Mosque as a symbol of uniting Hindu sentiments and kept it at the forefront of its electoral manifestations. “In 1984 elections of Low Sabha, the party only secured two seats, however, after Babri Masjid demolition it bagged 86 and 119 seats in 1989 and 1991 respectively” (Shakoor). Since then, BJP knew its path forward was- playing on the fears of the Hindu population. The issue of one nation, one religion came to light as the ruling party, after using Hindu fundamentalism as stepping stone to politics, implemented Citizenship Amendment Act (2019) and led to a generation of protests.
CAA being arbitrary and discriminatory goes against the very spirit of the Indian Constitution and the International law. It provides Indian citizenship to only six religions that came from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh before December 31 2014. The justification provided by the government to exclude Muslims is that they do not fall under the category of religiously persecuted refugees in Muslim majority countries, instead, they seem to be economic refugees. However, the act and the state seem to ignore that many Muslim refugees like Balochis, Shias, and Ahmaddivas — simply labelled as ‘Non-Muslims’ by Pakistan High court and constitutional amendment of 1974, categorised as Muslims by Kerala High Court— are persecuted in their own countries. There have been many riots against them ever since. Under the principle of non-refoulment, given under article 33 of the Refugee Convention 1951and article 3 of the Convention Against Torture (CAT), no refugee must be sent back to a territory where he would be tortured, or there is a threat to his life or freedom. Though India never signed the Refugee convention or CAT, there are certain rights which achieve the status of Erga Omnes obligations and Jus Cogens. Former meaning obligation by a state towards all other states as a whole and following meaning rights from which no derogation is permitted. Principle of non-refoulment has acquired this status under international law, and the state must uphold it under all circumstances, irrespective of their obligation arising out of a treaty (Von Sternberg 216). A majority of Muslims that entered India from Bangladesh in 1971 war and Rohingyas from Myanmar and Bangladesh will now be deported to areas they escaped due to violence in the first place, going against the spirit of laws meant to protect them.
The idea of secularism set out in the preamble has been reduced only to paper as it is in definite danger by the enactment of such an act. It was added to the constitution by the 42nd Amendment Act. It soon became the basic structure which could not be taken away by the parliament by enacting any legislation, by the supreme court case of Keshvanandan Bharti V State of Kerala. Though the state cannot amend its secular nature, it surely has eroded in practice. According to one of the interpretations of secularism, the state must be utterly religion-neutral as religious life is seen as a private domain of the individual in which the state does not interfere. It is even evident by the Representation of the People Act, where parties cannot appeal to religion in order to gain votes. Despite considerable efforts to separate state from religion, a mixed message is given by the supreme court when it says “Hindutva, the ideologic lynchpin of Hindu right’s effort to establish a Hindu Rashtra, simply represented a way of life in the subcontinent and cannot ever be considered an appeal to religion” in the case of Manohar josh V. Nitin Bhaurao Patil (Crossman, Kapoor 2613). This Myth of separation can also be debunked by history, showing that even though rulers yielded considerable political force, they relied on Brahmins for its legitimacy. Rulers were seen to be the patrons of temples, and the temples were an extension of the rulers (Eaton 74).
Centrist and communist parties’ singling out BJP to be the only party to practice majority communalism has resulted in obscuring the communalism preached by Congress. The failure of Congress to maintain a strong political hold in the country after the Hindutva politics of Ram Janmabhoomi led to the Rajeev Gandhi Government permitting laying the foundation stone of Ram temple in front of Babri Masjid in 1998. In fact, some analysts have also argued he started his election campaign not far from the town of Ayodhya with a call to establish Ramrajaya (Datta 581). The reason for resorting to majoritarianism in politics by Congress has been the fall of its dominant stature. Initial years of Nationalism gave the party an upthrust in the political arena. However, since the new generation emerged, euphemism and patronage of the people connected to the pre-independence struggle and Nationalism waned, leaving the party without a model for people to vote upon. This is where BJP swept in to fill the void by giving ‘Nationalism’ a new meaning. However, This new meaning was associated with the establishment of a Hindu Rashtra. Attempts have been made by various parties to make people succumb to their religious identities because the state has to preserve itself, and that can only happen upon the consent of the majority in today’s political sphere. Even recently, leaders of Congress too have publicised their temple tours, promised revivalism of Vedic culture and establishment of cow shelters if voted back in states of Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.
Therefore, the spirit of Hindutva has gained a foothold in the country due to a false consciousness of acceptance of Hinduism as the only way to prevent India from becoming an Islamic theocratic state ruled by the minority. The state has well played on the majoritarian inferiority complex of Hindus by effective methods of Yatras, slogans, and common sense. Mobilisation of sections of the society based on religious beliefs for political power is central to the spread of communal violence in the country. This violence has given legitimacy to demolishing Babri Masjid and implementing Citizenship amendment act. Rama and Krishna are being portrayed as the national heroes against Christ and Mohamed as it goes a long way in sustaining the political power even if it means thwarting the secular character of the nation.
1. BJP- Bhartiya Janta Party
2. VHP- Vishwa Hindu Parishad
3. RSS- Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh
4. ABVP- Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad
5. CAA- Citizenship Amendment Act
1. Banerjee, Sumanta. “'Hindutva': Ideology and Social Psychology.” Economic and Political Weekly, vol. 26, no. 3, 1991, pp. 97–101. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/4397215.
2. Cossman, Brenda, and Ratna Kapur. “Secularism: Bench-Marked by Hindu Right.” Economic and Political Weekly, vol. 31, no. 38, 1996, pp. 2613–2630. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/4404599.
3. Datta, Rekha. “Hindu Nationalism or Pragmatic Party Politics? A Study of India's Hindu Party.” International Journal of Politics, Culture, and Society, vol. 12, no. 4, 1999, pp. 573–588. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/20019991
4. Deshpande, Satish. Contemporary India: A Sociological View. Penguin,2004.
5. Eaton, Richard M. “Temple desecration and the Indo-Muslim States. December 23, 2001.
6. Mehta, Pratap Bhanu and Jayal, Niraja Gopal. The Oxford companion to politics in India. Oxford University Press 2010.
7. Shakoor, Farzana. “Babri Mosque and India's Secularism.” Pakistan Horizon, vol. 46, no. 2, 1993, pp. 43–54. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/41393425.
8. Von Sternberg, Mark R. “The Evolving Law of Non-Refoulement and Its Influence on the Convention Refugee Definition.” In Defense of the Alien, vol. 24, 2001, pp. 205–223. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/23141409.