Ram Puniyani


The set back suffered by the Hindutva forces  in the May 2009 Parliamentary elections in India has triggered a new debate within the party. Should it or should it not abandon the very reason for its existence- making India a Hindu country?


The resounding defeat of BJP (Bhartiya Janata Party) in the 2009 elections, decline in number of seats and decline in voting percentage prompted various BJP insiders and sympathizers to do some introspection. Where did the party go wrong? In his piece in Times of India 4th June 2009, Swapan Dasgupta feels that BJP has got too much identified with Hindutva, which is no more appealing to large section of Hindus so it needs to come out of this image for a makeover. Sudheendra Kulkarni (Tehelka 13th June 2009), looks at the defeat as a close Advani aide and also as an insider and points out that Advani was not sufficiently backed up by RSS and BJP. He also says that BJP’s implementation of Hindutva looked to be anti-minorities and that its links with RSS need to be given a second look.


Kulkarni projects as if Hindutva is all inclusive, Hindu identity is core of Indian Nationalism, and Cultural nationalism is not meant for Hindus alone. One can infer that Kulkarni basically stands by the core RSS concepts of Hindutva, Cultural Nationalism and Integral humanism and finds BJP practices faulty in this direction. One can point out that Kulkarni is an insider, associated with BJP from the times of Advani’s Rath, nay blood, yatra, and is close to the top echelons of BJP and that he had all the time to point out to BJP leadership as to how their practice is deviating from the genuine Hindutva. One is not sure whether this has been done inside the party forums, any way lets keep that aside.


Concepts and ideologies are not made in the thin air. They reflect the needs of social groups. These terms couched in the language of religion were devised by ideologues of declining sections of Hindu society, the landlords and Brahmins from early nineteen twenties onwards. The term Hindutva in particular came into being as the politics of Hindu Mahasabha and RSS. It stood for politics of Hindus, for the building of Hindu Rashtra. This word was coined by Savarkar in 1920s and was meant to be an alternate notion of politics to the one being articulated by national movement led by Gandhi. Similar concept of nationalism, based on the values of liberty, equality and fraternity were also articulated by Ambedkar, while the third major stream during freedom movement, Bhagat Singh and Communists, dreamt of a Socialist society, based on the notions of substantive equality and state regulating the social relations to ensure this equality.


It must be pointed out that the concept of Hindutva aims at Hindu nation, in parallel to the concept of Muslim nation being propounded by Muslim League, and in opposition to the concept of democratic secular nation, the concept for which national movement was working. This Indian nationalism is all inclusive, inclusive of all religions, castes and both genders. The concepts of Hindu and Muslim nations are exclusive concepts. The second point is that the Gandhi-Ambedkar Nationalism was based on the equality of caste and gender while HIndutva and the ideology of Muslim nationalism were continuum of the feudal values, the harping on caste and gender hierarchy. In the same direction later Deen Dayal Upadhyay the ideologue of RSS-BJP very cleverly put up the concept of Integral Humanism. This concept argues that as any organism is well balanced due to the division of work between different parts of the body, similarly different social groups perform different well defined tasks to provide the equilibrium for the proper social functioning. This in a way talks of status quo in the caste and gender relation prevalent in society.


Similarly Cultural nationalism as propounded by RSS and adopted by BJP stands for the elite Brahminical culture as the synonym for Indianness. All in all this is precisely what RSS defines and BJP practiced so far. There cannot be equal place of dalits, women and non Hindus in this scheme of things. Swapan Dasgupta feels BJP has to drop Hindutva, to provide an alternative based on good governance, non dynasty politics, etc. Kulkarni’s reading of Hindutva and integral humanism is from the world of make-believe, totally off the mark. The simple question is why were these practitioners of Hindutva, cultural nationalism aloof from National movement? It is this National movement which laid the basis of India and achieved India’s independence. These streams which take the cover of glorious traditions focus only on those traditions that are elitist. In Indian context the concepts Hindu nationalism and Muslim Nationalism derive their legitimacy from Brahminical and Ashrafi (Muslim elite) stream respectively. Why can’t RSS-BJP talk that primarily they are loyal to the values of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity and dump all those concepts built around religious identity? It is because these religion based concepts are the best cover for oppression of women, dalits and non Hindus. And in turn these concepts also demonize, intimidate and commit violence against minorities, trying to reduce them to second class citizens.


BJP could come to power only because of harping on identity of Lord Ram. BJP does hold Ram as the symbol of India’s identity. This is one of the expressions of their cultural nationalism. The question arises why only Lord Ram is the symbol of India, why not Shambuk, or Bali or Sita. In nutshell their cultural nationalism picks up those characters which suit the interests, agenda of Hindu elite. Surely, had Ram temple agitation not been taken up, Babri mosque not demolished and Mumbai and Gujarat violence not instigated, BJP would have been on the margin of Indian society. Its very raison d’etre is due to the fact that it is progeny of RSS, to the fact that it is related to VHP, Bajrang Dal etc., whose vagaries it keeps defending most of the time. It is thoroughly exclusionist and that’s why it justifies Gujarat violence, Kandhamal violence, rejects Sachar committee report, etc. It is not a mere coincidence; it is the core of BJP politics. It is not that the concept of Hindutva is inclusionary and practice is faulty, the very concept of Hindutva is exclusionary, in both theory and practice.


Can BJP throw away Hindutva, aim of building Hindu Nation around glorious Hindu traditions of Manu Smriti etc? The question is misplaced as BJP is nobody to decide that. BJP is merely a political arm of RSS; it is RSS which has to decide that. Can RSS cut its own legitimacy off by renouncing Hindutva? The question does not arise. RSS essentially is aimed around these goals. Kulkarni’s confusions and his welcome concern about poor, minorities and dalits are misplaced as those are not the concerns of RSS, they have never been and can never be the concerns of BJP and company at any point of time. Hindutva or integral humanism is cleverly worded disguise to undermine the concept of democracy. Last two decades had been a nightmare where the values opposed to Indian nationhood asserted themselves aggressively, bringing immense miseries. One hopes with the trend of decline of BJP, those striving for democratic struggles, struggles for equality and rights of dalits, women, adivasis, workers and minorities will come to occupy the main social space and protect the nation form the damages done by the politics in the garb of religious identity.


(Issues in Secular Politics, June 2009 III;

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