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Defining Hindutva

Updated: September 4, 2010 2:49 pm

There is no clear-cut definition of Hindutva yet many Congressi Hindus, Marxist Hindus, Socialist Hindus and their camp followers keep denouncing Hindutva, and, some BJP leaders too became cold towards Hindutva. Politically, it is a controversial term.

                BJP website declares that Hindutva is its ideology but without defining it. During 1998-2004 BJP placed on back burner its Hindutva agenda in favour of the so called coalition dharma. As a consequence of disappointing its Hindutva vote bank BJP’s share in votes polled has been continuously falling from 1998 general election onwards though one section of BJP believes just the other way i.e. because of Hindutva it is losing votes.

                Share of BJP in votes polled in Lok Sabha elections has been continuously declining from 1998; 25.6 per cent in January 1998, 23.8 per cent in August 1999, 22.16 per cent in April 2004 and 18.5 per cent in May 2009. This decline is also reflected in number of popular votes polled by BJP; 86.56 million in 1999, 86.37 million in 2004 and 78.4 million in 2009. Despite Vajpayee leading the party in April 2004 BJP got about 2 lakh votes less than what it had got in 1999 Lok Sabha election i.e. Vajpayee could not attract more voters during his five years tenure as Prime Minister. And in May 2009 election BJP got about 80 lakh votes less than what it had got in 2004.

                So the bitter truth is that popular vote base of BJP shrunk under Vajpayee by 2 lakh and under LK Advani by another 80 lakh. In May 2009 election, BJP lost most of the metropolitan and urban constituencies showing reduced appeal of its leaders and its policies to middle class Hindus which was its main base during nineties. BJP has lost its urban middle class Hindu constituency.

                In Lok Sabha elections, the Congress party polled 25.8 per cent in 1998, 28.3 per cent in 1999, 26.53 per cent in 2004 and 28.52 per cent in May 2009. In terms of popular votes, Congress got 103.12 million votes in 1999, 103.4 million in 2004 and about 119 million in 2009. So, Congress party has been expanding its voter base.

                In Uttar Pradesh which was once a strong hold of BJP in the nineties, BJP polled 25.31 per cent votes in 2002 Assembly election, 22.17 per cent in 2004 Lok Sabha election, 19.62 per cent in 2007 Assembly election and 17.5 per cent in May 2009 Lok Sabha election. So in UP also base of BJP has been shrinking.

                In 1999 Lok Sabha election, difference between number of votes polled by Congress and BJP was about 16.56 million which in May 2009 election increased to 40.6 million. These data show that [1] decline of BJP started right from 1998 when its leadership started

diluting its commitments to Hindutva and to Ram Mandir, [2] BJP lost about 8 million voters during 2004-09 period, and, [3] Hindu voters are moving away from BJP to other parties.

                In October 2009, Assembly election in Maharastra vote share of Shiv Sena BJP combine fell from 33.64 per cent in 2004 to 30 per cent. SS could win only 44 seats in the Assembly, its worst performance in two decades and BJP could win 46 seats as against 54 in 2004 and 56 in 1999. Therefore, it is desirable to know what is Hindutva.

                Hindutva implies, among other qualities, entertaining warm feelings of camaraderie by a Hindu towards other Hindus irrespective of caste, region, language and country. Where a Hindu has warm feelings of camaraderie towards other Hindus he is known as a Hindutvavadi or full of Hindutva.

                The term Hindutva (Devanagari: fgUnqRo) was first coined by Mr Vinayak Damodar Savarkar in his book “Essentials of Hindutva” which was completed during 1921-22. His 1923 pamphlet [entitled: Hindutva who is a Hindu?] also refers. In his book, Savarkar says that Hinduism is only a fraction, a part of Hindutva. He said that Hindutva embraced all the departments and thoughts of the whole being of the Hindu race. In practical day to day usage Savarkar’s Hindutva implied ek dev, ek desh, ek jaati, and ek jeev. In other words Savarkar’s Hindutva aims at transforming Hindu society which is fragmented horizontally and vertically into one by eradication of castes, abolition of untouchability, and emphasising one culture, one nationality, and one God who is manifested in form of different deities. In fact these are the Vedic norms [RV X.191]. So Savarkar’s Hindutva call aims at restoring Vedic norms of equality and oneness of all Hindus by birth.

                The point to be noted is that Savarkar raised his voice against caste structure in 1920s when it was so entrenched in those days.

                Grammatically, speaking the term Hindutva is a combination [sandhi] of two words [1] Hindu and [2] Tatva (constituent elements). Hindutava, thus, should mean elements which go to constitute the total Hindu psyche. Naturally, it would be a mix of religious, social and cultural ethos of Hindus on one hand, and, their version of their history and politics i.e. their version of their interactions with other communities and other countries.

                Hindutva is a multi-dimensional concept encompassing various factors such as cultural, economic, historical, religious, political, social etc. So for a reformer it is a social term, for a cultural organisation it is a cultural term, for a narrow-minded political party it may be a political term.

                The Supreme Court of India has also rightly ruled that Hindutva is not synonymous with Hinduism. In its judgment dated December 11, 1995 it observed: “Hindutva is indicative more of the way of life of the Indian people. It is not to be understood or construed narrowly. It is not Hindu fundamentalism nor is it to be confined only to the strict Hindu religious practices or as unrelated to the culture and ethos of the people of India, depicting the way of life of the Indian people. Considering Hindutva as hostile, inimical, or intolerant of other faiths, or as communal

proceeds from an improper appreciation of its true meaning.” [AIR1996SC1113]. There are other similar judgments of the Supreme Court.

                Hindutva accepts that all natives of India share a common culture, history and ancestry. It is also known as cultural nationalism. MS Golwalkar, the former RSS chief believed that India’s diversity in terms of customs, traditions and ways of worship was its uniqueness and that this diversity was not without the strong underlying cultural basis which was essentially native. He believed that the Hindu natives with all their diversity, shared among other things ‘the same philosophy of life’, ‘the same values’ and ‘the same aspirations’ which formed a strong cultural and a civilisational basis for a nation.

                In Arabic language all Indians are called al-hindi, in Kiswahili language all Indians are called mu-hindi or wa-hindi and in French indi. In Dubai I was called as consul-al-aam-al-hindia. Foreigners thus treat we all Indians as one. At the 1961 Madurai AICC session, Jawahar Lal Nehru also affirmed this cultural unity of India, an integral component of Hindutva. He told the AICC: “India for ages past is a country of pilgrimage. All over the country, you find ancient places from Badrinath, Kedarnath, and Amarnath in the North to Kanyakumari in the South. It is the feeling of one country and one culture that binds us together.”

                Mr Mohan Rao Bhagwat, RSS Chief also conveyed the same in Jammu: “We have forgotten that Hindus from Rameshwaram to Amarnath are one, and, let us start within our self rekindling/ maintaining this unity among the Hindus.” [Organiser, September 6, 2009]

                Hindutva is not a regional but a global concept embracing all Hindus living in any part of the world. Mr Bhagwat rightly said: “A Hindu is a Hindu till he feels pain about other Hindus living in any part of the world.” [Organiser, September 6, 2009]

                Hindutva is rooted in Hindu ethos of Vasudhaiva kutumbakam and Rigvedic richa of ekam sad vipra bahudha vadyanti [One God] so it is an all inclusive term; it assures equal treatment to even those who follow different paths of worship but owe no allegiance to foreign countries and to foreigners, and, are not hostile either to Hindus or to Bharat. It is not aggressive suo motu but is not submissive to aggressors. It is naturally combative against those who are hostile to it. It does not abdicate right of self-defence. It encourages inculcating martial spirit so as to help the Hindu samaj to defend Bharat better and effectively. This component of inculcating martial spirit among Hindu masses is vehemently opposed by myopic Jaichandi Hindus as well as Hindu baiters who want to see Hindus divided, meek and submissive.

                Gandhiji repeatedly clarified that his non-violence principle was not for cowards as only strong could forgive. In wake of Saharanpur riot of 1923, Gandhiji said: “rather than getting angry with Muslims for their violence I, being a Hindu, feel more ashamed of cowardice of Hindus. Between violence and cowardly submission/escape I would prefer violence.” In Young India of May 29, 1924 Gandhiji wrote: “Should Hindus hold Muslims responsible for their own cowardice? Oppressors go wheresoever there are cowards.”

                In other words Gandhiji again and again exhorted Hindus to give up their cowardice which is what RSS has been attempting independently since its inception by organising them. The Organiser of October 11, 2009 quoted Mr Bhagwat saying that RSS work is to unite Hindus.

                Guru Golwalkar also advised: “The world worships only the strong. Whatsoever the external condition, it is the weak who has to suffer. To remain weak is the most heinous sin in the world as this would destroy oneself and incite feelings of violence in others [aggressors].” [Bunch of Thoughts p 271]. Therefore, Hindutva urges organisation and unity among all Hindus which bring strength.

                Vedas inculcate martial spirit too as more than half of richas of Rigveda are on war making. RV (X.83 & 84) are war making suktas. Atharvaveda (V.8.4) commands to attack with speed & force: “Shake your enemy as a wolf shakes a sheep, let him not be released from you alive; shut up his breadth.”

                Atharvaveda (X.1.20) specifically commands that there be swords of best quality metal/iron in our homes. So, it is not correct to presume that Vedas are only about worship or spirituality or that its followers were pacifists. Each deity in Hinduism including female deities is armed; so Hindus are basically a martial race but initially Manusmriti disarmed three-fourth of Hindu samaj (Brahimins, Vaishya and Shudra) and later, medieval Islamic rulers and British disarmed the entire Hindu samaj so as to keep the majority under subjugation and slavery.

                Hindutva implies having self-confidence and pride in Hindu heritage and Hindu culture as well as to have strong urge to regain our glorious past which our ancestors lost to invaders. Hindutva includes undying determination to regain equality in Bharat for realising one’s full potential i.e. a Hindu shall no more be asked to pay higher taxes compared to non-Hindus as his ancestors were forced during the Islamic rule [jaziya, higher land revenue, pilgrimage tax, higher custom duty etc] nor he shall be denied a position simply on ground of him being a Hindu. Spirit of Hindutva does not allow a Hindu to accept inferior or second class treatment. At present, there are thousands of schools and colleges in Bharat in which Hindu students with better marks are denied admissions and Hindu candidates with better CVs are denied appointments. There are many posts under the Government of India created by Congress governments to which a Hindu howsoever qualified or secular cannot be appointed.

                Hindutva thus gives clear support to Articles 14, 15 and 17 of the Constitution of India by giving call for equality by birth of all Hindus and social harmony among Hindus. Hindutva supports gender equality. In brief, the followings are the eight essential ingredients [astayaam] of Hindutva:

  1. The four Vedas [Rigveda, Samveda, Yajurveda and Atharvaveda] are the supreme scriptures of Hindus, therefore Vedas supersede anything and everything contrary to Vedas.
  2. Vedas do not sanction birth- based caste system. One is free to select his profession. Vedas command that all Hindus are equal by birth sharing deities, temples; food and water etc vide {RV. VIII.93.13}, {RV. X.191},{AV. III.30}, {AV.VI.64} and Yajur {26.04} etc. These are the principles of social-equality and social-harmony of Hindutva [i.e. ek dev, ek jaati and ek jeev].
  3. In Vedas the word ‘dravida’ stands for rich, opulence. Rishi Kanva who was revealed many richas of Rigveda was himself a dark-skinned person [RV.X.31.11]. Therefore the Arya-Dravida divide is artificial one invented by Christian imperialists. This is the meaning of the principle of ek desh, ek jaati of Hindutva. Modern genetic studies do not support this divide.
  4. Vedas sanction total gender equality and widow remarriage, the principle of ek jeev. [There are at least 29 lady risikas who were revealed richas of Rigveda. It means God considered women eligible on par with men for receiving divine revelations. There are at least nine richas in Vedas sanctioning marriage of a widow to a living person. There is no richa sanctioning sati.]
  5. Vedas prohibit killing of cows repeatedly declaring it aghanya. Vedas [RV.X.87] inform that agni [God] terminates lifespan of beef eaters so Vedas prohibit beef eating. Now, modern Science admits that beef eating causes deadly mad cow diseases [BSE, CJD, vCJD etc] which are infectious as well as genetic terminating family tree of infected ones at faster pace. Incidence of heart problem in South Indian states is higher than in the North as beef is consumed more in Southern states.
  6. Bharat is the sacred motherland of all Hindus and its sanctity has to be upheld. It is the principle of ek desh implying single nationality. Hindutva does not accept Bharat to be a multinationality country. Word nation [rashtra] does appear in Vedas. Inculcate martial spirit to oppose tyranny & injustice on one hand, and, to defend Bharat on the other hand.
  7. Ill treatment of Hindus in any manner and anywhere in the world shall be opposed by all Hindus.
  8. Laws, rules and regulations which impose unequal treatment on Hindus in Bharat vis-à-vis non-Hindus shall be opposed through ballot boxes and repealed.

 By OP Gupta

The writer is a retired Indian Foreign Service (IFS) Officer

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