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Home > Communalism Repository > Understanding Hindutva

Understanding Hindutva

by Averthanus L D’Souza, 17 October 2008

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Ramesh Rajaram Vispute, a former Secretary of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad
(VHP) once remarked: "The enemies of the Hindus are the Muslims, the
Christians, the Hindu intellectuals and the media." It is very significant
as well as intriguing that Vispute included the Hindu intellectuals and the
media in his category of the "enemies" of Hindus. It does not take great
intellectual acumen to interpret the meaning of this statement by a very
prominent Hindutva promoter. It is quite obvious that Hindu intellectuals
(nor any other reasonably educated person for that matter) will refuse to
swallow the confused gibberish which is churned out by the Hindutva
propagandists to arouse anger and hatred against Muslims and Christians,
for which the VHP is so notorious. Any thinking person (including Hindu
"intellectuals") will see through the falsity of the arguments which the VHP
advances in its hate campaigns. It is precisely because the position of the
Hindutva campaign is irrational and untenable that the propagandists prefer to recruit uneducated and unthinking followers who can easily be manipulated to believe anything that is fed to them. The Bajrang Dal, which is considered to be the front-rank of the storm-troopers of the VHP is a good example of uneducated youth, with more passion than reason, who are willing to blindly follow orders without thinking, and who are conditioned to believe that heroism consists in slaughtering helpless women and children, and burning innocent people alive. In this respect the Bajrang Dal is no different from the Hitler Youth of Nazi Germany or the youth brigades of the other fascist movements in Europe who were used to terrorize the population into submission. With their saffron head-bands and wielding ’trishuls’, and screaming full-throated war-cries, these rampaging gangs can cause terror anywhere - which is precisely what they are trained to do. They are ’programmed’ to follow orders, irrespective of the morality of the orders or the consequences which follow. B.S. Moonje, a prominent RSS leader, personally met the Italian fascist leader Benito Mussolini in Rome on 19 March, 1931, visited some important military schools and educational institutions and became acquainted with the Balilla and the Avanguardisti organizations. Moonje wrote in his diary that the keystone of the fascist system is the ’indoctrination’ of youths, rather than education. This is the foundation on which the Bajrang Dal is built.

While cultivated ignorance of the youth is one facet which is promoted by
the Hindutva ideologues, deliberate falsification of current facts as well
as of History is another method of indoctrination used. Lal Krishna.
Advani closely studied the system of propaganda developed by Nazi Germany.

He says: "In Nazi Germany, fascism in action developed two other
distinctive characteristics: firstly, adoption of propaganda as a key
instrument of State policy; and secondly, the systematic development of a
demonology to keep the masses in a mood of perpetual tension and hysteria." (L.K.Advani- "A Prisoner’s Scrap Book" ) Advani and his colleagues have tried hard to refine and improve upon the propaganda-cum-terror machinery which was developed by Nazi Germany, specially by Hitler’s most trusted lieutenant Paul Joseph Goebbels, whose name has now become synonymous with high-voltage mendacious propaganda.

One of the more prominent falsifications which the Hindutva protagonists are propagating is that Hindutva is an integral part of Hinduism. No sensible person, (including thinking Hindus) accepts this claim. In fact, the vast majority of Hindus are aghast at this identification of Hinduism with
Hindutva. Hinduism is a highly respected religion of long standing. It
is recognized (even by non-Hindus) as being, perhaps, one of the oldest
religions in human history. It outlived the ancient religions of the
Sumerians, the Etruscans, the Mesopotamians the Greeks and the Egyptians.

Hinduism has always been associated with ’sanatana’ which denotes
timelessness or ancientness. Hinduism has never been associated with any
particular political system; nor has it ever shown a preference for any
particular cultural context. In the broadest sense of the word, Hinduism
is "heterodox" and embraces a vast variety of rituals, beliefs, popular
practices and dietary preferences. In the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna
tells Arjuna: "Through whatever path men come to me, I accept them through that very path."

In sharp contrast to Hinduism as a religion, Hindutva is a clearly
distinguishable "political" ideology which is straining to concoct a
"national" identity based on the Hindu religion. Hindutva is a clearly
fascist political movement, which has drawn much of its inspiration from
European fascism and German Nazism. The most prominent protagonists of Hindutva, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar (1902 - 1966), Madhav Sadashiv
Golwalkar (1906 - 1973) and Shyama Prasad Mukherjee (1901 - 1953) among others, have derived their ideologies from European fascism and modified it to suit Indian conditions. In fact, Pravin Togadia the "International General Secretary" of the VHP explicitly says that India is a Hindu Rashtra since millennia, and that Hindutva is not a religion but a synonym for Hindu nationalism. It should be quite clear, therefore, that the rejection of the claims of Hindutva cannot be construed as being anti-Hinduism. In fact, it is precisely because of the distortion of Hinduism by the Hindutva brigade that the Hindu intellectuals have rejected it.
The Hindutva fanatics thrive on spreading this confusion between Hindutva and Hinduism. They have been able to increase their popularity because they repeat the (false) propaganda that the promotion of Hindutva is the promotion of Hinduism

There are many distortions which the Hindutva fascists have wrought on
Hinduism. Suffice it to indicate only a few blatant contradictions in
their propaganda.

One: Hindutva is supposedly a movement to create a Hindu "Rashtra". The secularism enshrined in the Indian Constitution is violently rejected by the Hindutva protagonists. At the same time they have made a conscious and vigorous effort to create an "international" Hindu community. The
formation of the "World Hindu Council" and the creation of the post of an
"International General Secretary" of the VHP is a clear contradiction of the
claim that Hindutva is limited to the objective of creating a Hindu
"nation." This contradiction is obvious to every sane person, except, of
course, the rabid Hindutva ideologues.

The claim made by Pravin Togadia that Hindutva as a "Rashtra" has existed
since millennia is patently false. By all historical accounts, whether in
ancient or mediaeval India, there were several "kingdoms" or "empires."
Among the more well-known ancient empires were the Mauryan empire of
Chandragupta Maurya ( approx. 326 B.C. to 184 B.C.) and the Asokan empire (approx. 269 B.C. to 232 B.C.) There were also other lesser kingdoms like those of Kushana. In the south there were the numerous kingdoms of Adilshah, the Pandyan and Chola kingdoms, the Chalukyan dynasty and the Vijayanagaran kingdom (1336 to 1567 A.D.) and the better known Maratha Kingdom whose best known figure is Shivaji. In the course of history, all these kingdoms were in conflict with one or another with a view to expand their fiefdom or to retrieve lands which had been taken away by force.

There was never a "nation" called India. Even after the gaining of
political independence from Britain in 1947, it was left to Sardar
Vallabhbhai Patel to consolidate the various major and minor kingdoms into a unified Nation. It is indisputable that it was under Pandit Jawaharlal
Nehru and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel that the so-called "Princely States" were
abolished and integrated into the State of India, which, for the first time
in its entire history adopted a Constitution which was to govern the
"Nation." The falsity of the VHP’s claim that India was always a Hindu
"rashtra" is proven by the very fact that it is still seeking to "create"
the Hindu Rashtra of its dream.

Two: the VHP claims that people who profess and practice other religions
cannot be part of the Hindu Rashtra. This is in stark contradiction to the
repeated statements made by the Hindutva leaders that Hindutva is a
"secular" concept. In fact, they claim that they are secular precisely
because they are Hindu. They accuse non-Hindus of being "pseudo-secular."

They continue to trumpet this obvious contradiction that only Hindus are
secular and the followers of all other religions are not secular. Yet,
they also claim that Hindutva is a "composite" culture which embraces a
variety of religions, cults, languages and ethnic cultures. The Hindutva
ideologues have never been able to reconcile this glaring contradiction in
their position. If Hindutva "embraces" other ethnic cultures, why is it
that they are systematically forcing tribals (who are not, and never have
been, Hindu) to "convert" to Hinduism? On the one hand they have
sponsored so-called "Freedom of Religion" legislation in many States;
because they are ostensibly opposed to conversions by force, fraud or
inducements; yet on the other hand, they themselves are forcibly
"converting" tribals, members of scheduled castes and followers of other
religions. They offer the lame and unconvincing argument that they are only bringing back these people to the Hindu fold. They have called this
movement a "ghar vapasi." The fact is that the tribals have never been
Hindu. They have their own culture, religion and social practices. "Ghar
vapasi" in their case simply does not make any sense. Former Indian Prime Minister, V.P. Singh has rightly pointed out that "ultimately what they are aiming at is authoritarian rule. Then not only will the minorities be
targeted, but also those who do not agree with them. You will be declared an anti-national and treated thus."

One of the more prominent characteristics of any dictatorial political
movement is the systematic creation of confusion in the minds of the
citizens so that they can never be sure of what the truth is. This is done
in two ways. One is to spread rumours through the cadres of grassroots
level workers, and another is to simultaneously issue "official" statements
"clarifying" the official position on any particular issue.

This is a very subtle psychological game which is being played by the top leadership of the Hindutva brigade. Citizens need to be aware of this and not fall into the trap which is deliberately created by the Hindutva ideologues. A glaringly example of this "double-speak" is the fact that the Bajrang Dal leaders in Karnataka have openly stated on TV channels that they are responsible for the attacks against Christian churches, institutions and personnel. At the same time, the BJP government in Karnataka and the VHP leadership insist that the Bajrang Dal had nothing to do with the attacks.

There are too many contradictions in the propaganda arsenal of the Sangh
Parivar to be treated at length in a brief essay, but this short analysis
will, perhaps, help to pinpoint the contradictions:

Hindu Nationalism v/s International Hindu Solidarity.

The entire Hindutva movement is grounded on the principle that India is a
Hindu nation, and that only Hindus can enjoy rights of citizenship in India.
In this view, Muslims and Christians, in particular, but also Jews,
Parsis, Buddhists and Jains, are viewed as non-Indian. Each time a violent
attack is carried out against Muslims or Christians, the Bajrang Dal
terrorists shout that the Muslims and Christians should either become Hindus or leave the country. Islam and Christianity are considered to be
"impositions" by foreign Muslim conquerors or by Western Christian
missionaries. The teachings of V.D. Savarkar and M.S. Golwalkar are very
explicit about this. According to them, non-Hindus cannot enjoy rights of
citizenship. The Muslims are constantly warned that their continued
presence in India is entirely dependent on the "goodwill" of the Hindus and

the Christians are "advised" to form an Indian Church under the complete
control of the Indian Government, similar to the National Church in China.
The so-called principle is constantly repeated that only those who sever
their links with any international community and become entirely Hindu will
be tolerated in (an Hindutva ruled) India.

The stark contradiction in this position is the fact that Hindutva is Not
confined to the geographical territory of India; it is sought to be made an
international religion. Ever since the famous Parliament of Religions was
addressed by Swami Vivekananda, in Chicago the "missionary" dimension of Hinduism was begun with the formation of the Vedanta Society in 1893 in New York. Today there are Hindu "missions" all over the world, in the U.S.A., in Europe, in the Pacific Islands, in the West Indies, and in South Africa.

The claim that Hindutva is a movement to establish a Hindu "Rashtra," is,
therefore, patently false. The comparison with the expansionist movement
of Nazi Germany is too striking to be missed. First it started with the
unification of German speaking countries; then it was extended to include
all people of Aryan ethnic stock. Since racial characteristics could not be
"assimilated" the Nazis began a systematic extermination, first of the
Jewish people and then of other "tainted" races. The Hindutva claim to
form a Hindu Rashtra, is, on the face of it, a huge fraud perpetrated by the
Hindutva ideologues. From a close examination of the literature available,
it is clear that the Hindutva brigade wants to establish a theocratic Hindu
State in India, not dissimilar to the Islamic State of neighbouring
Pakistan.

Tolerance v/s xenophobia.

Another myth which has been created by the Hindutva protagonists is the
claim that Hindutva is a tolerant ideology and is based on secular values.
This is far from the truth. Hindutva is a blatantly intolerant movement
which thrives on spreading hatred and fear among people. In fact it is so
intolerant that it seeks to re-write history, which, according to it, has
been written by "pseudo-secularists." Its distortion of history is so
blatant that it has even created the myth that Asoka and Chandragupta
Maurya were Hindu kings. This is a blatant falsification of History. All
reliable sources tell us that Asoka ruled over a Buddhist kingdom, and that
Chandragupta Maurya was strongly associated with the Jaina tradition. The
Hindutva view of history is not based on scientific research, but on an
imagination running wild. The Hindutva "historians" are worthy disciples
of Goebbels who taught that if you repeat a lie over and over again, people
will soon begin to accept it as the truth.

If Hindutva is a tolerant political ideology which respects secular values,
why is it that in all the States which are ruled by the BJP there is a
systematic attack against Christians and Muslims? Why is it that tribals,
who are not, and never have been, Hindu are being terrorized into converting to Hinduism?

The Hindutva fanatics claim that they are against conversion by force, fraud
or by material inducements. In fact they accuse the Christians of having
converted Hindus by offering such material inducements. Yet, the duplicity
of their claims is starkly evident in the fact that wherever they have
attacked the Christians, independent Commissions of Enquiry have not been able to confirm a single case of conversion by the use of fraud, force or material inducement. The Laws in India are very clear about such
conversions. If the Hindutva terrorists have any evidence of such
conversions, they should have recourse to the Law. Instead, they resort to
violence and terror against helpless, innocent and weak communities. They themselves use force to (re)convert people.

The Hindutva movement is built on the foundations of falsehood, force and
terror. In times of natural calamities, like the earthquake in Gujarat,
they prevented anyone else from assisting the affected people. They sought exclusive rights to dispense aid, but they distributed this aid in a highly reprehensible manner. Muslim victims were carefully and deliberately excluded. Others were given aid only on condition that they swore to remain or to become Hindu. There is voluminous evidence of such discrimination even in times of dire affliction. And these very people
claim that Hindutva is a humanitarian and generous movement.

Citizens need to be aware of the duplicity of the Hindutva movement. They
should examine all their claims critically; and most of all, citizens should not be beguiled into believing that the Hindutva movement has any
redeeming features. It is an unmitigated evil.

The battle lines are very clear. We Indians, of all faiths, varieties of
cultures and languages, are facing a grave threat to the secular,
democratic and pluri-cultural fabric of our society. We need to join
forces to defeat the evil forces of fascism and authoritarianism. The
fight is not between Hinduism and other religions. The fight is really
between secularism and democracy, on the one hand, and fascism on the other.