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Is a Hindu Rashtra More Hindu than Rashtra?


When BJP, led by Mr. Modi and his 56-inch ki chhaati came to power in 2014, many Indians, including myself were relieved to see the corrupt, rather scam-y during the end and all over inefficient Congress go. Mr. Modi with his hopeful promises of Achhe Din seemed somewhat of a messiah, 2002 was conveniently forgotten, the Babri Masjid demolition wasn't brought up, the party's links with majoritarian and militant groups like Bajrang Dal were let go, BJP pomised focus on economy, international relations and inclusive growth. In short, BJP promised to excel where Congress had faltered, and to be fair, Congress faltered a lot. It was pretty evident both, in 2014 and in 2019, that BJP would be a significant bidder; The seeds which were sown during LK Advani's 1990 Rath Yatra were to finally bear fruit.

To be fair to Mr. Modi, the early years of BJP administration saw a lot of positive developments. Mr. Modi's numerous foreign trips were hugely successful in strengthening India's relations on a global scale. International politics and populace turned in favor of India. Policies like the Swatchh Bharat Mission were as noble as needed. The government also turned it's eye towards strengthening Indian economy with the Make In India program. It seemed, for a moment that Achhe Din were indeed upon us. (A comprehensive analysis of the work done by the BJP government is beyond the scope of this article, to read more about it, check out Aryan Sarkari's wonderful article on the same, on BlogOut)

But subtly, yet significantly, the priority of the government changed. It's links with the vocally Hindu supremacist establishments, the Sangh Parivar became more apparent than ever. The government's contempt for the "JNU type", the "Award Vapasi Gang", the "Commies" started to become increasingly palpable. Lately, this contempt for the leftist intelligentsia has started to become mired with anti-minority propaganda, with the Prime Minister claiming to identify the protesters through their clothes. All the promises of Achhe Din or a booming economy, were made to take a back seat.



But this sudden change of the party priorities should barely come as a surprise, given the parties history. BJP has historically been intellectually and politically linked to organizations such as the RSS, ABVP, Bajrang Dal, etc. In fact, our dear Mr. Prime Minister was a Pradhan Sancharak of the RSS. These parties have been known to support the idea of a Hindu homeland, a Hindu Rashtra. Hindutva, has been a crucial element in today's politics. The idea of Hindutva, though made popular only after the coming of BJP in power, is an old one. Veer Damodar Savarkar, also a major figure in RSS, made the term "Hindutva" popular. V.D. Savarkar, is an interesting, and surprisingly nuanced personality than political discourse has allowed him to be. To understand the implication of "Hindutva" we must view it not only in the context of socio- politics, but also in that of history. the term "Hindutva" was termed by a certain Chandranath Basu, and it was used as a tool of opposing the colonial imposition of Christianity. Hindutva was incorporated into the RSS ideology because it was thought that the Congress is unable to provide proper opposition to the Muslim League (the irony lol). It is also argued that the inception of Hindutva, and the fact that it has sustained for over half a century, is a hangover from our colonial past; The British followed a policy of divide and rule and pitted the followers of one religion against another, which made the vocalization of your religious identity a necessity.



The idea of a theocratic state, as demanded by many Hindutva hard liners, and the hypothetical power dynamics that may exist in such a state is an interesting thought experiment of our times- but even though we may be able to look at it though the lens of pure speculation, we must not forget that this "fun though experiment" is not mere hypothesis and affects the lives of millions of people in a very real way, thus, it must be regarded with due seriousness and caution. In recent times, starting with victory of BJP in the 2014 polls and the narrative of hate against the minorities it has spun since, has magnified and popularized the demand of a Hindu Rashtra, with certain BJP leaders and Right-wing figures even claiming that India is already a Hindu Rashtra and citing obscure scriptural texts and falsified history to justify their claims.

There are many countries in the world whose political power and policies are dictated by theological beliefs; or putting it more simply, countries with an official religion. These countries range from states like Syria to developed countries like Finland (Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland) England (Church of England), Scotland (Church of Scotland), etc. Because this marriage between the state and religion help the religion in obvious ways, such as, promoting it and offering certain privileges to its followers, etc. it may lead to a relatively peaceful society by the virtue of it being largely homogeneous (as is the case with England and other 'developed' European countries) but this system of discriminatory favors may also lead to unchecked power and extremism (as is the case with middle Eastern countries like Syria and Iraq) and also to alienation of citizens who follow a different religion (as is/was the case with Sri Lanka).

If we take the example of England it is obvious that the religion has benefited but if we look at middle eastern countries’ religion (as is clear by the recent and abundant examples of Islamophobia and extremism) along with the state has undoubtedly suffered. So, what does this mean? What factors play a role in whether the association of nation and religion will be successful or disastrous? Are the aforementioned countries even really developed and if so, can Israel be considered developed, because it too was formed to create a haven for Jews and thus, strives for a Jewish homogeneity? Can this model work for India (so far the answer seems to be No! with a capital N)? How will Hinduism be affected if a Hindu Rashtra, or something close to it, is put into practice.

Let's understand the case of England to determine if a Hindu Rashtra could ever replicate the development standards of the West (however European these standards may be). The Kingdom of Great Britain was formed by the unification of Scotland and England. This unification was a result, not of pooling of sovereignty, but of the domination of culture. The British Parliament was henceforth guided the English culture, populace and politics, while any uprising by the Scots was violently suppressed. Should we consider a nation formed through encroachment, imperialism and subjugation "successful? Umm, yes. However immoral the origins of the United Kingdom may be, it's success as a modern nation is undoubted, but this success is not reflective of any inherent value a theocratic state may have. In fact, it is successful for the opposite reasons, if the British government was focused more on establishing a ethnic homeland over it's economy it would've done terribly. (oh wait, it did focus more on an ethnic homeland over economy, and, oh wait, it wasn't the best of decisions too, i'm looking at you Brexit). We must also keep in mind the definition of a "successful" European nation is completely irrelevant when judging Asian states. Because if we were to judge all countries by the yard stick of euro-centric values, Pakistan would be the perfect Nation. It checks of all points. religious? yes, sir. Homogeneous? yes sir, etc. And we must not forget that the social context of England is immensely different from ours. India needs to not only work towards dismantling inequalities between religions but also do so within each religion. The caste hierarchies, for example, will inevitably get magnified in a Hindu Rashtra.

And since, it is apparent that organizations like Bajrang Dal and even RSS, up till some extent, are motivated not solely by their love for their religion but also by their desire to dominate and form power hierarchies favorable to them, do we have any reason to believe that a “Hindu Rashtra” will be peaceful. Or will the support of government power to troublesome and problematic organizations cause more damage? Will today's Hindu supremaist become Sanatan supremacists and turn to Dalits and other minorities when the imagined “Muslim threat” has been dealt with? Because for many supporters of Hindutva, caste hierarchies are of great importance. And since, India is surrounded mainly by enemy countries, much like Israel, will oppression over a significant portion of India, not lead to escalation and eventually a replication of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, or worse, what if we end up with a Balkanised Bharat instead of a Akhand Bharat? Can we afford to focus on divisive religious majoritarianism instead of economy.

Lastly, I would like the clarify the difference between Hinduism and Hindutva. Hinduism is an ancient and wise religion, and I like to believe that the majority of Hindus are not Rashtravaadi fanatics and the demand for an ethnic homeland by an outspoken minority is not reflective of the paramount aspirations of each Hindu. The politicization of any religion, outside of political representation, can never be fruitful for any country. I believe the Hindus of today see themselves first as Indians and then as Hindus. They still want a booming economy over Ram Mandir's, they still want proper education opportunities over an Akhand Bharat.

It is human nature to hear only what agrees with our prejudices and aspirations, and disregard the rest. Following this trail of thought can it be deduced that the demand for "Hindu Rashtra" by right wingers is due to their desire for a strong religion and not a strong India? Is it that a Hindu Rashtra is more Hindu and not enough Rashtra?

These are the questions I leave you with. Until next time.


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