Who is Religious Bigot: Hindutvawadi or ?

K B Jandial
The current controversy on sudden demand of allowing ‘hijab’ in educational institutions in Karnataka has forced Indian democracy to enter an uncharted area of grave danger and become yet another sensitive issue to target PM Modi and Hindu majority Indian nation. It is viral globally while the relevant order on prescribed School uniform is under legal scrutiny. Some claimed that it is an infringement of religious rights while other consider it as a deliberately orchestrated move to influence the Uttar Pradesh elections as there was a fear that Muslim women beneficiaries of improved public services, like toilets and piped water in the home, brick houses, health insurance and subsidised gas cylinders, etc., might vote for the BJP.

Straight Talk 

Earlier on December 17 last year, hate speeches at a “dharma sansad” at Haridwar and delayed police action against them again lowered the global image of a secular, tolerant and cohesive India. The “sansad” had a bizarre topic for discussion- “Islamic Bharat mein Sanatan ka Bhavishya”. India is not an “Islamic” country but it could be an effort to create a fear among the non-Islamic majority. On the other hand, Akbaruddin Owaisi, MLA of Hyderabad based AIMIM once said that if police is removed for 15 minutes, we (Muslims) will finish 100 crore Hindus.
Last year, another shameful and despicable development had taken place in furtherance of similar hatemongering through use of technology. A group of engineering hatemongering students created two apps- Sulli Deals & Bulli Bai to demean Muslim women by putting a price on their dignity. Bulli Bai was reportedly created by Niraj, 20-year-old second year B.Tech student of a private engineering college in Bhopal, from his residence at Jorhat, Assam.
“Sulli Deals” was an open-source app created by an unidentified group wherein photos of some 100 Muslim women were put up for auction describing them as “deal of the day”. On 9 January 2022, Delhi Police arrested one Aumkareshwar Thakur from Indore, Madhya Pradesh who allegedly created the app to “defame” Muslim women.
All the four accused are the members of the group called themselves as “Trads”, short term for traditionalists. The creators of the app had used Sikh names to mislead people. According to Mumbai Police, this could have caused religious enmity and violence. The group included 21-year-old engineering student Vishal Kumar Jha, 18-year-old woman Shweta Singh & 21-year-old Mayank Rawal, from Uttarakhand and Neeraj Singh MBA graduate from Jharsuguda district in Odisha. The app pretended to offer users the chance to buy a “Sulli” – a derogatory slang term used by some people who troll for Muslim women. There was no real sale of any kind – the purpose of the app was just to ‘malign’ and humiliate Muslim women.
Nothing can justify these fanatic and unacceptable hate speeches, some odd shameful acts and unnecessary religious controversies that had potential of fomenting serious communal divide.
These unsavory developments get compounded when PM Modi, leader of the nation, takes a lot of time to condemn such unacceptable and despicable actions of some fringe elements who do not have any support, whatsoever, among the Hindus or the political, social or religious body which represents them. While no one approves such shameful acts, a quick condemnation and reassurance by the PM followed by prompt action would go a long way in assuaging the miffed sections of population. While the PM often takes time in condemning these, the anti-BJP outfits are quick to use these not only to polarize minorities for political ends but also to create a dangerous narrative abroad that India is becoming an intolerant nation under the present political dispensation. Former two-time Vice President of India, Hamid Ansari joined the fray on this year’s Republic day with his thesis of growing cultural nationalism versus civic nationalism, regrettably under the banner of Indian American Muslim Council, known for links with Pak-based terror groups including LeT, ISI & SIMI. He talked about a new and imaginary practice of cultural nationalism where an electoral majority is presented in the guise of a religious majority and the citizens are being distinguished on the basis of their faith.
The quick exploitation of such isolated wicked acts is when some people for political reasons sought to attribute these to the majority, Hindutva or ‘Hindutvawadi’ unmindful of the fact that such acts are despicable for Hindus as well. These political gimmicks to score some political brownie points tarnish the image of Hindus despite being the most tolerant, secular and nationalists and the Indian nation.
Rahul Gandhi sought to ignite ‘Hindutvawadi’ debate on this martyrs day saying that “A ‘Hindutvawadi’ had shot Gandhi ji”. Shiv Sena reacted by saying that Godse was not a true ‘Hindutvawadi’; otherwise he would have shot at Jinnah for dividing the nation.
This brings the debate as how to make distinction between Hindu, Hindutva and Hindutvawadi. Hindus are under sustained criticism for being either Hindutvawadi or pro Hindutva which is contrary to secularism. While secularism is not the sole monopoly of non-Hindus, there could not be more tolerant than Hindus who worship God in all manifestations and respect all faiths. At every Dargah, Hindus outnumber Muslims. Hindus are tolerant and accommodating by nature and their religious preaching teaches them in non-violence, killing of reptiles, birds and animals as many of them are believed to be associated with Hindu Gods & Goddesses in one way or the other. Jews, Zoroastrians after persecution in Iran, found their safe neighbourhood with Hindus. First mosque came up in Kerala on a large swath of land provided by Hindu Cholla rulers. Oldest Church in India is also found in Kerala. The tradesmen from Middle East used to visit the place for spices and they brought these religions with them.
But Hindus have become suspect in the only country where they are in majority. Apart from victimhood of Indian politics where politicians hoodwink voters by visiting places of worship, there are some “ultra-religious” elements who lower their guard of sanity and indulge in hate speeches that are used to paint the entire religious community and the nation in bad light. What are their compulsions to go in for hate speeches or despicable acts like mock sales of women of other faiths even when their acts put other co-religionists in to shame?
Hinduism is the name given to the most ancient and persistent religion in the Indian subcontinent while Hindutva is the ideology of a political party by the name of BJP supported by Hindu cultural body known as RSS which is considered its major feeding channel. Ever since the rise of the BJP on the Indian political scene, the relationship between Hinduism as a religion and Hindutva as a political ideology has come to the fore, albeit under target, mainly because “Hindu” is common to both.
Dr. S Radhakrishnan in his book ‘The Hindu View of Life’ defined Hindus as “The people on the Indian side of the Sindhu were called Hindu by the Persian and other western invaders. That is the genesis of the word “Hindu”. When we think of the Hindu religion, we find it difficult, if not impossible, to define Hindu religion or even adequately describe it… It may broadly be described as a way of life and nothing more.”
But normally, the people treat Hinduism as a ‘religion of India’ (Hindustan name was because of it), an ancient tradition that does not distinguish between religion and culture, and is just one of the religions found in India that has coexisted with many others without any problem. Hinduism along with Sikhism, Jainism and Buddhism has its origin in India while Christianity, Jewish, Islam & Zoroastrianism didn’t. Incidentally, India is home to all the 72 ‘firkas’ (sects) of Muslims, which no other country has. Despite such unparalleled forbearance and respect for other religions, still many self-seekers & politicians denigrate India as an intolerant nation.
Now, Indian politics has coined another name- Hindutvawadi. Who is a Hindutvawadi? If anti-BJP parties to be believed, he is fundamentalist, communal or extremist. But anyone who follows practices and professes Hindutva can be called Hindutvawadi. But anti BJP leaders prefer to project Hindutva & Hindutvawadi as fanatics. They overlook the historical fact that over the centuries Hindus were converted into Islam and Christianity under coercion and sops. Hundreds of pious Hindu temples were vandalised or demolished as part of subjugating the Indian people. Demolition of Babri Masjid is perhaps the only incident where Hindus have shown their pent-up anger by taking law into their hands.
The Supreme Court had ventured to interpret Hindu, Hinduism and Hindutva. In a first reference to ‘Hindutva’, in its judgment in the case of ‘Ismail Faruqi’ challenging the validity of the 1993 central law on acquisition for the disputed area in Ayodhya, Justice S P Bharucha, one of the Judges of the Bench said, “Ordinarily, Hindutva is understood as a way of life or a state of mind and it is not to be equated with, or understood as religious Hindu fundamentalism”.
Hindutva as ‘a way of life’ was analysed by another three-judge SC bench in Ramesh Yeshwant Prabhoo vs Shri Prabhak Kashinath Kunte case in 1996. Justice J S Verma relied on numerous past constitution bench judgements and held that those decisions “indicate that no precise meaning can be ascribed to the terms ‘Hindu’, ‘Hindutva’ and ‘Hinduism; and no meaning in the abstract can confine it to the narrow limits of religion alone, excluding the content of Indian culture and heritage. The Bench also indicated that the term ”Hindutva’ is related more to the way of life of the people in the sub-continent. It is difficult to appreciate how in the face of these decisions the term ‘Hindutva’ or ‘Hinduism’ per se, in the abstract, can be assumed to mean and be equated with narrow fundamentalist Hindu religious bigotry…”.
The Supreme Court also dispelled the notion, being given currency by politicians of different creeds, that terms ‘Hinduism’ or ‘Hindutva’ per se cannot be construed to depict hostility, enmity or intolerance towards other religious faiths or professing communalism. Such an apprehension, the SC said, proceeded from an improper appreciation and perception of the true meaning of these expressions emerging from the detailed discussion in earlier authorities of this Court.
It held that “Misuse of these expressions to promote communalism cannot alter the true meaning of these terms. The mischief resulting from the misuse of the terms by anyone in his speech has to be checked and not its permissible use. It is indeed very unfortunate, if inspite of the liberal and tolerant features of ‘Hinduism’ recognised in judicial decisions, these terms are misused during the elections to gain any unfair political advantage”.
The fact remains that Hindus have lost their pristine secular and tolerant identity and are unsure of their status in the only country where they are in majority. Fearing displeasure and criticism of friends of other religions and the liberals & ultra-liberals from their own community as communal, extremist, bigots and intolerant, they kept on balancing their actions and utterances. Not only that, they have always restrained themselves from openly talking about centuries old wrongs inflicted to the religion and rebuilding up temples at the pious sites of demolished places of worship. Do ‘liberals’ want Hindus to forget these wrongs and ‘eulogize invaders’ actions as ‘proud heritage’ to prove their Secularism?.
Opposition leaders may target PM Modi in whatever manner they like but the unquestionable fact is that it is he who has given Hindus for the first time, a feeling of being the important and right part of Indian nation, of course without exclusion of other religions. There cannot be anyone more secular and tolerant than Hindus, shameful acts and hate speeches of a few hoodlums and ultra-Hindu sadhus notwithstanding. The only regret is that PM Modi doesn’t crack down (nakel) them straightaway to allay fear of minorities, if any. This would enhance his global image besides depriving oxygen to Modi-bashers.
(feedback: kbjandial@gmail.com)