Post-Partition India thankfully opted for a secular state. But since the mid-1980s, Hindutvawadis have worked zealously to steer the country’s polity in the direction of a ‘Hindu rashtra’.
In its most benevolent interpretation, Hindutva is the ideology that proclaims that India is, should be, a Hindu rashtra (nation) where the status of religious minorities should depend entirely on Hindu goodwill. Though not the same thing, Hindutva belongs to the same family as the ideology of an Islamic State wherein at its benevolent best religious minorities may be permitted (within strict limits) to do their own thing so long as they subserviently pay the jizyah tax.
Secularism as enshrined in the Indian Constitution stipulates the equality of all citizens: non-discrimination, equal opportunity, equality before law, equal protection of law. Not surprisingly, the adherents of Hindutva are inherently as hostile to the ideals of a secular state as the Islamists. The “Brotherhood in Saffron” is but an ideological close cousin of the “Muslim Brotherhood”.
The Sangh Parivar and the Shiv Sena are to India what the Jamaat-e-Islami, the Taliban and their ilk are to Pakistan. Though Pakistan has officially been an “Islamic Republic” virtually from the moment of its birth, it still is far from the ideal of an Islamic State where only the Sharia rules. So the Islamists are working overtime to realise their totalitarian fantasy.
Post-Partition India thankfully opted for a secular state. But since the mid-1980s, Hindutvawadis have worked zealously to steer the country’s polity in the direction of a “Hindu rashtra”. With a self-proclaimed “Hindu nationalist” now at the helm, why be surprised if they today feel emboldened to speak and act as never before?
On Republic Day, the information and broadcasting ministry issued an ad using a visual of the pre-1976 amendment Preamble to our Constitution in which the words “secular” and “socialist” were missing. In an article published in a national daily, Sudheendra Kulkarni staunchly questioned the motive behind this attempt to revert to the un-amended Preamble. The significance of his comments lies in the fact that he was aide to the former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee (right man in the wrong party) and subsequently adviser to the former stalwart of the Bharatiya Janata Party, L.K. Advani (the original “Lauh Purush”, “Chota Sardar”).
Mr Kulkarni argues that attempts to defend the controversial ad by the I&B minister of state, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, and comments by the Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut have in effect brought Hindutva’s “hidden agenda” out in the open. But contrary to what he thinks, the controversial ad is no “Freudian slip”. If anything it’s the latest instance of the Sangh Parivar’s Machiavellian mind at work.
The Hindu rashtra ideal is by no means a “forbidden fantasy” lodged in the “unconscious” of its followers. It’s been out there in bold print in the writings of V.D. Savarkar and the most revered “guru” of the Sangh Parivar, M.S. Golwalkar for nearly a hundred years. It’s only the compulsion of democratic politics that forces the Sangh Parivar into keeping its real agenda hidden from the electorate.
The words “secular” and “socialist” are even today embedded in the party constitution which the BJP adopted for itself at its birth in 1980. But who does not know that the politically-expedient bid to loosen its ties with Hindutva was hastily abandoned the moment the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh hit back, switching its political support to the Congress in 1984 (following the assassination of Indira Gandhi and the massacre of Sikhs)?
Perhaps we should be grateful that no one, as yet, has demanded the deletion of the word “democratic” from the Preamble, and its replacement with the word “Hindu” to leave us with just “Sovereign Hindu Republic
Since the mid-1980s, the BJP has done everything possible to make secularism sound like a dirty word. Its former president, Mr Advani, shrewdly coined the term “pseudo-secularism” to demean and rubbish all secular politics as nothing but “appeasement of minorities”. The battle lines today are even more sharply defined: if you are not pro-Hindutva, you are “sickular”. There was no mention of the word secular in the BJP’s manifesto for the 2014 parliamentary elections.
The Republic Day ad is not the first attempt of the BJP and its parivar to banish the S-words from the country’s political vocabulary. At a Sadhu Sammelan following the demolition of the Babri mosque in December 1992, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s Swami Vamdev had publicly demanded that the Indian Constitution be thrown into the dustbin of history, replaced by a Hindu Constitution. “Why only four, Hindu men should be free to marry 44 women if they so desired,” he had thundered.
During the BJP-led coalition’s 13-month tenure in power at the Centre, initiating a debate on a comprehensive review of the Indian Constitution in 1998, the then BJP vice-president and spokesperson K.L. Sharma had talked about deleting the words “secular” and “socialist” from the Preamble.
Leaders from the Sangh Parivar have a long history of double-speak. In sharp contrast, the late Shiv Sena supremo, Bal Thackeray, never minced his words. In an interview to Shekhar Gupta for his Walk the Talk programme (in 2007), he more or less justified the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi by Nathuram Godse (“Godse thought that if this old man lives any longer then he will ruin the country… you have to think… why he decided to kill”); reiterated that what India really needed was a “benevolent dictatorship”; praised Adolf Hitler: “Hitler did very cruel and ugly things (to the Jews). But he was an artist, I love him (for that). He had the power to carry the whole nation, the mob with him. You have to think what magic he had. He was a miracle”.
That’s Thackeray, unadulterated. So different from the patriarchs of the Sangh Parivar who continue to revere “Guru Golwalkar” (the second and the longest serving sarsanghchalak of the RSS: 1940-1973), but find his admiration for Hitler and antipathy to India’s religious minorities so politically embarrassing in today’s context that they claim the book, We, or Our Nationhood Defined (1938), was written by someone else.
That’s why, to make sense of the Sangh Parivar’s frequent double-speak, it’s often helpful to listen to the Shiv Sena’s straight talk on the subject. Listen, therefore, to Mr Raut who spoke thus on the latest controversy: “Balasaheb Thackeray had been saying that India was divided on the lines of religion. Pakistan was created for Muslims, thus, what remains is a Hindu rashtra. The country is of Hindus and belongs to them. People of all religions can live in India but Hindus will dominate.” India, he insisted, was never secular.
Perhaps we should be grateful that no one, as yet, has demanded the deletion of the word “democratic” from the Preamble, and its replacement with the word “Hindu” to leave us with just “Sovereign Hindu Republic”.
(This article was first published in The Asian Age)