Hindutva and Politics: Time for a three dimensional view

 The importance of Hindutva in the context of nationhood is yet to be understood by many and remains unexplained to the youth. This needs to change.

 At a recent programme we had organised to induct youth volunteers as supporters of the BJP, veteran RSS ideologue M.G. Vaidya and BJP National President Nitin Gadkari presented their view of the specially chosen topic for the day, ‘Hindutva and Politics’. In bringing up a third dimension, I attempted to present the dilemma that is poised before the younger members when they are confronted with the term ‘Hindutva’.

 What emerged was that there is agreement on the need for transliterating Hindutva for the younger set, if not all, although it would seem that there is ample scope for including many more segments within the reference.

 My opening argument was about the conflict and complexity caused around the term Hindutva and how the youth, particularly the more modern in their outlook, were turning diffident about the concept itself under the weight of popular public discourse. The President of the BJP – and a lot of people thought he would duck the issue – made short shrift of any illusions people had of any duality in his mind about the subject declaring with clarity that the spirit of the BJP was an embodiment of the spirit of Hindutva and it was not up for debate. Having got that out of the way, his most remarkable achievement on the day, seen from the viewpoint of the youth present, was to project an integrated vision of the meaning of the term and its relevance in the context of the political outlook of the BJP. His brief remarks came before the redoubtable M.G. Vaidya and yet it did not come as practiced or played to the gallery but with an easy conviction and unpretentious verbiage.  The outcome was deservedly calming, as he concluded that understanding Hindutva in the context of an anti-muslim mindset had to be eroded and the quintessential element of Hindutva – of vasudhaiva kutumbakam – be reinforced within that mind space.

 M.G. Vaidya evoked the essential nature of Hindutva as a ‘joiner’ and reiterated the aspects that make nationhood synonymous with the integral concepts of Hindutva – as derived from the way of life of the people within the geography of what was called ‘Hindustan’. He emphasized the seminal difference between nation and state and his arguments buttressed that a commonality of views necessary on certain issues of critical importance to the nation must not be confused with or be given a communal twist.

 The cumulative impact of the views from three polarities was an interesting exercise in that all of us, almost serendipitously, felt the lacuna in engagement on the issue, and at the same time hit upon the importance of extending these dialogues as its very solution. Both M.G. Vaidya and Nitin Gadkari emphasized the need to carry on this series on the subject.

 The moot point remains that the entire horizon of discourse on Hindutva and its relationship with politics in public discourse for very long has been slave to big media and the pseudo-liberal cartel. Equally, that it will take a long term effort to engage the new youth and reintroduce the subject with an eye on the realities of the time to have some success. Consequently there is now a growing realization among many people within and out of the party that Hindutva must be re-interpreted in the context of the contemporary and that the symbiotic relationship between Hindutva and the BJP must be explained in more rational terms to an increasingly discerning youth.

 The political ramifications of the unprecedented growth of the BJP and its conjoined relationship with Hindutva remain one of the most tenuous arguments of our time. But my early conclusion remains that Hindutva needs to be owned more fully rather than less by the BJP. This would help to speed up the process of denouement that would de-mystify the term, the concept and the comprehensive meaning of the word, and extend to explaining its rationale in political terms.

 Hindutva is the life force of our civilization. It defines us as distinct from the rest of the world – not better or worse, just distinct. This sense of identity is necessary, both for reasons of the concept of nation hood and also as an ideal we give our self. It does not dismiss anyone’s personal faith: it merely posits a practical reality of the general tenor of this land, its philosophical moorings, its largest, most visible and expansive palette of beliefs and belief systems.

 The common weakness, to see Hindutva as an assertion of Hindu dominance is mistaken not because it is patently irrelevant, but because it is a regular feature of newly created nations to struggle with a self image, much like an adolescent. Consequently, what is erroneously called and reviled as Hindu pride is merely a growing political consciousness of a people, as the ideas associated with nationhood leach into the idea of statehood. It is not only a natural process of growth, but actually invaluable in the management, and protection, of the state.

 One of the crucial realities of our times is the fact that national integration is still a work in progress. This is hardly ever attended to but the frequent conflagration of regional and linguistic or geographical demands of identity are only symptomatic of the problem. That allows us only two options as we struggle for an effective means of integration : either a more federal structure that allows increasing freedoms to states, or finding newer points of aggregation. Hindutva is merely the latter until the state figures out what to do with itself on the former.

 But more than just an interim arrangement, as the earlier statement might suggest, investing in the most common denominator of commonality would sound to most reasonable people to be a logical step to take to knit up the tapestry of diversity that we call our country. It stands to reason that a common refrain like traditionally inherited scriptures, or a cultural continuity of mythical beliefs is a sensible palette to try and integrate otherwise distinct people. Hindutva provides just that medium and barring the difficulties that we have in a few states, this applies across the board. It takes a lot longer to make a man in a remote village in Orissa or Jharkhand to understand the idea of India and it takes no time to make him recognize his common Hindu heritage. Hindutva is thus an overarching natural strategy to unite, using the largest common denominator of cultural affinities, that comes out of the lay of the land, not out of any figment of imagined Hindu supremacy.

 But half a decade of cocky secularism and the damage it has done is only now beginning to heal while the essence of Hindutva has begun to take root. It is both, a miracle and a testament to the indigenous religious logic of the common beliefs of the people at large of India that the country has not splintered. Those who would like to place the credit for this feat at the door of a Nehruvian vision or Gandhian thought would do better to remember that both streams intrinsically emanated from the fount of Hindutva as well.


 This blog post has appeared as an article in The Daily Pioneer of the 27th March 2010

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