With the parliamentary elections of 2014 casting their shadow ahead, this book is a timely and significant work. It reckons how and why Indian nationalism is giving way to Hindu nationalism. If Hindutva is a way of life, than who are its followers? And for those who are, how necessary is it that its practice should prevail upon all others? These are questions of great relevance in today’s India. Ambassador OP Gupta’s book goes beyond the existing inquiry into Hindu identity, nationalism and culture. Hindutva, an important but much misunderstood idea, has been written and spoken about often in bits and pieces. The book cannot claim to be a comprehensive thesis but it certainly is an attempt to think through Hindutva, a concept which has not only a past and a present but also a future.
Throughout India’s ancient history, the word Hindu was never meant to denote religion. It was a geographic and cultural term used by the Greeks, Persians and Arabs, derived from the Sanskrit Sindhu, to describe the people living by and beyond the river Sindhu. The Greeks modified Sindhu to Indos, and it is said that ancient Persian explorers, for reason of their phonetics, dropped the letter S from Sindhu, and called the people living around the Sindhu River as Hindus.
The book is addressed to every Indian, and shows the way of Hindutva to meet the challenges of the twenty-first century. The ideology of Hindutva is a fractured one, it neither offers a viable and broad form of ‘nationism’ nor enables the Hindus to unite at large. The electoral relevance of Hindutva is discussed separately in the book. Like many Hindu bodies and organisations, the pseudo-secular parties—Congress, Socialist, Communist, BSP, and the like—are operating at the expense of the Hindus. The book emphasises the rise of Hindutva politics in the present liberal era. The fallacies of the two nation theory too are discussed in the book. The Ramsetu and Ayodhya controversies, seen in the Hindutva angle, shed new light. A very interesting exchange of letters between the author and Syed Shahabuddin shows the prevailing mindset of the Indian Muslim.
Today, Hinduism is undergoing a great resurgence. Hindus are turning to gods and godmen; astrologers, vastu shastris, spiritual advisers and yogis are all doing a thriving business. This resurgence of popular Hinduism is happening not against the grain of Indian secularism, but because of it. Ordinary Hindu rituals end up merging the worship of god with the worship of the nation.
A first reading of the book will clear the fact that the core of Hindutva is self-actualisation. Hindutva is not hostility to any organised religion nor does it proclaim its superiority of any religion to another. It is the shield of security and freedom for all religious minorities. If all nations of the world could be influenced by a similar volition, surely the earth would be a more peaceful place. All in all, Hindutva is a many splendoured ideology. No wonder, the Hindu religion did not and does not claim any one doctrine; it does not worship any one God; it does not adhere to one prophet; it does not subscribe to any one dogma; it does not believe in any one philosophical concept; and it does not follow any one set of religious rites or performances The book offers glimpses of this splendour. It is the product of deep reading and research, is written for the lay person and is free of academic exhibitionism. It is a clearly written and accessible account.
By Anil Dhir