What is Hindutva?
Whatever the actual reasons for the poll results, there are many in the BJP who feel that an erroneous projection of BJP’s Hindutva agenda had something to do with it. Not that there is a consensus within the BJP as to what brand of Hindutva to follow even now, or whether to follow it at all. Or even whether Hindutva played any part in the BJP’s poll results.
What is Hindutva anyway? Is it moderate or extreme? Religious or cultural? And how does the BJP view it?
Let’s first see what the world thinks of Hindutva.
Britannica.com describes Hindutva as an ideology which “defines Indian culture in terms of Hindu values” and mentions that this ideology is critical of the secular policies and practices of the Indian National Congress. Answers.com says that Hindutva is “Hinduness” and that it “refers to the ideology of Hindu nationalists” and that the term has fascist undertones.
The wiki says that Hindutva is “Hinduness,” and “used to describe movements advocating Hindu nationalism.” The wiki has clubbed together all the so-called “saffron” organisations with the BJP, like the RSS, Bajrang Dal, and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad as all those espousing the cause of Hindutva.
Hindutva believers may disagree with this world view of Hindutva and insist that it is not fascist or extreme in anyway but most foreigners and even many Indians think like that. That Hindutva is not moderate.
Unfortunately, while attempting to find out how Hindutva believers defined Hindutva, I came across more sites with negative references rather than positive ones (sites that came up in the first page or two). While hinduarise.com gives a moderate view and says that Hindutva is not a word but a history and culture, there are sites like hindutva.org which claim to analyse “Current Global Politics and History from a Hindutva viewpoint.” They seem to be anti-Muslim. Then there is the Bajrang Dal website which was banned by the Indian government for its views.
Hindurashtra.org calls itself the Hindutva Brotherhood and this brotherhood certainly does not seem moderate. For one thing, they wish to target Karunanidhi (Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu) for his comments about Lord Ram. Also, their “solutions” are something that can only be considered extreme. I am just quoting two:
- Tit for tat is the only solution. Super diabolic counter offensive is the only answer to the Muslim problem. You also force them to accept Hindutva. You also convert Muslim women to Hinduness. You can do this through discussions or even by using power
- We Hindus should militarize and industrialize ourselves. That is the only key for survival now. So industrialize and militarize Hindus as early as possible. In army, navy and air force, Hindus should have majority. Infact the people with double faiths should not at all be allowed to enter Indian Military. This is the only way to keep ourselves safe.
This may not be what the BJP endorses but then with so many websites (and blogs) spouting forth such ideas what are people to think? Then there was Varun Gandhi’s anti-Muslim speech just before the elections and after that the BJP gave him a ticket to contest. If Varun Gandhi espouses a certain brand of Hindutva and the BJP gives him a ticket then people will assume that the BJP has the same ideas.
And as many of the BJP’s allies are saffron parties which veer towards the right, their agenda is often confused with that of the BJP’s. At times these allies, like Ram Sene, which was responsible for dragging girls out of a pub and molesting them, may not even be a political ally, but in many people’s minds the connection is already made.
Today, L K Advani may insist that Hindutva is actually an “inclusive, tolerant philosophy which was not averse to change with the changing times” but it has been reported that this is Advani’s bid to “refashion” Hindutva. A clear indication that the BJP’s earlier version wasn’t like this. But even if they want to “re-fashion” Hindutva, will the extreme elements allow it?
There are intellectuals like Ashish Nandy who view Hindutva as the enemy of Hinduism. As far back as 1991 Nandy wrote that “Hindutva is built on the tenets of re-formed Hinduism of the nineteenth century. Reformed according to the reading of those who saw Hinduism as inferior to the Semitic creeds, in turn seen as well-bounded, monolithic, well-organized, masculine, and capable of sustaining the ideology of an imperial state”.
That is certainly an interesting way of looking at it although I can’t comment on it without a better knowledge of Hinduism and Hindutva. As of now I don’t care enough. But then the word Hindutva rolls off my back without me feeling a thing. I am far more attached to the word Hinduism and my brand of Hinduism is something I would like to practice in private.
Note 1: Some months ago Amit asked me to write a post on “what items from the BJP’s platform” I considered “extremist Hindutva agenda” and why. I did try and write that post but then gave up because for me it wasn’t the items that seemed worrying, but the methods employed. As I have explained in the post above, one doesn’t really know how moderate the BJP is, and what is the distinction between it and the religious parties like the RSS. In fact they now say the BJP itself doesn’t know!
Note 2: Disclaimer. I am not an expert on this subject and therefore you are welcome to add your own views in the matter but please do so politely.