Anyone who argues, or follows arguments, in India seems to always end up with “but, but what is definition of that “it” is?
And so it is with Hindutva. Apparently no one knows what Hindutva is. After reading the latest salvo against the hitherto undefined Hindutva by Harsh Gupta in a journal published by a thinktank, “but he”, meaning Harsh, “should have first defined what Hindutva is” was one of the first tweet. And so we end up with the circularity of many Indian arguments, which seems to be a peculiarity of most arguments/debates of Indians just as conspiracy is with Islamic arguments and, generally, fact-based, real and made-up, arguments in the west.
Really. How can one beat up something without knowing what it is? Or for that matter how can one support something without knowing what it is?
So should we, trying to take down the argument against Hindutva, define what Hindutva is? Let us give it a shot first before swinging at case against Hindutva. India defining itself as a Hindu civilization is Hindutva, just like the west defines itself as a Judeo-Christian civilization (re-branded from Christian civilization) and Arab land defines itself as an Islamic civilization.
On the face of it, case for Hindu civilization or Hindutva is benign. A “case” against Hindu civilization would be silly, that is to say it is silly to build a case against civilizational history. But liberals, always armed to fight old, and new, conservative demons, and to make up some, if there are none, to prove their liberalism, worry about civilizational ethos. (This is where current liberalism is banded at the hip with radical left wing and destructive, ideologies of Communism and Marxism.) So a liberal case against Hindu civilization, or Hindutva, really is a case against current, and future, continuation of civilizational values. Conversely, a conservative case against liberalism, and other radical ideologies, is a case for the continuation of civilizational values, or for Hindutva.
Proponents of Hindutva fall under several categories but two major strands stand out – one benign and the other more radical. The benign strand simply want acknowledgment of Hindutva, meaning that the civilizational values of India are based on Hinduism (let us ignore the parallel, and a bizarre, circular argument of whether Hinduism is a religion or not). Hindutva-wadis advocating this strand say if and when all Indians, irrespective of current religion they practice, “acknowledge” their Hindutva or Hindu civilizational roots, everything will be okay.
This acknowledgment comes in the forms of applying Uniform Civil Law (this is not a demand for applying Hindu Law based on Hindu religion on other religious groups) to all Indians, repel of Article 370, and banning cow slaughter among other demands. Several prominent individuals, but mainly RSS, fall into this category. By and large this strand of Hindutva is secular minded. Building a case against this is difficult because it is the benign form of Hindutva and because most Indians, including non-Hindus, know this (and practice it) whether they explicitly acknowledge it.
But liberals and left wing radicals ideologies, we will simply call them liberals, are at this difficult job of building a case against it every day because they are against continuation of Hindutva or of civilizational values of India.
Liberals may contest this citing their apparent contrived support for repel of Article 370 or applying UCL. Why contrived? One really has to look at their support for the causes. Which party or organization consistently advocates the causes? It is the BJP and RSS. Yet liberals, at best, keep a distance from these groups or, at worst, have viscerally hated these groups. We are told that these parties have behave at every step of their political life or else will run into the arms of Congress I or some other non-BJP party that created those laws in the first place! While they never vote or express support for BJP, they demand a right to veto BJP (and RSS) actions!
A more pertinent example of liberal’s hatred of Hindutva can be seen through their arguments on cow-slaughter and consumption of cow-meat. To understand where liberals come from on this, let us hypothesis that the west’s daily diet is horse- or camel-meat instead of cow-meat. Would liberals fight as hard banning of cow-slaughter and consumption of cow-meat? Conversely, say, Hindus revere horse or camel, would liberals object to banning slaughter of horse or camel? (Which the west generally has foresworn more recently, specifically horse meat, on humane and cultural grounds) Color us skeptical.
The more radical strand of Hindutva is to unwind the part of history and back it up to some period in the past, to de-traumatize themselves for having lived under rule of Islamic and British/Christian overlords for a millennia. Even within this radical Hindutva, there is a benign let’s settle this through negotiations – you move that huge imposing mosque at Krishna’s birth place in Madhura to another location, allowing us space to worship and we can get along just fine – strand and other more militaristic – let’s dismantle the mosque now – strand.
The negotiate-and-settle Hindutva group is more religious than the benign Hindutva group and also comfortable with secular values of respecting other religious practitioners. This is the largest Hindutva group – a group that has misgivings about historically being imperial subjects of foreign non-Hindu groups and extremely comfortable with the notion of Hindu civilizational values.
While it should be clear that liberals would hate dismantle-and-settle Hindutva group, liberals also hate the benign negotiate-and-settle Hindutva strand as we have seen during the verdict of protracted Ram Mandir-Babri Masjid legal battle.
Perhaps liberals have a reason to suspect negotiate-and-settle Hindutva strand because Babri Masjid was dismantled by dismantle-and-settle group even as negotiate-and-settle Hindutva group watched on. No amount of back tracking and apologizing by negotiate-and-settle Hindutva strand seem to placate liberals. But, as we said, we suspect liberals hatred for Hindutva goes deeper than the methods by which radical Hindutva strand wants to achieve their goals of what they see as correcting historic wrongs, as we have seen from their opposition to the benign Hindutva strand.
It is important to understand that liberals are radicals compared to incremental Hindutva Conservatives. They are always looking to cure real, and perceived, injustices and looking for the perfect system. Hindutva or civilization ethos is an impediment to their liberalism agenda.
Even if Hindutva join the band wagon of separating state and religion, a strange liberal complaint against Hindutva, where the state, with help from liberals, works hard to put down agenda of Hindutva, we doubt liberals would stop there. Even as liberals cite studies that Hindutva is largely a secular, as benign and negotiate-and-settle Hindutva strands are, and that there is no persistent discrimination against non-Hindus, they insist that Hindutva is a hateful agenda. Conflating the fringe but radical dismantle-and-settle Hindutva strand with other Hindutva strands serves liberal agenda very well.
The Right which broadly understands Hindutva as a civilization force should be wary of liberalism because it won’t settle for anything less than dismantling the civilization. The social justice red-meat, which liberals say Hindutva is opposed to, despite any evidence to the contrary, that liberals demand is insatiable. It is up to the Right to deal with short comings of Hindutva and improve. Hindus under constant assault by non-Hindutva civilization forces will have to coalesce around Hindutva, a Hindu civilizational value system as an anchor, to push back on these forces. Liberals with their unhinged hatred for Hindutva will be of no help to the Right in this fight.
Dulam Chandrashekar and Harsh Gupta are friends of CRI.