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Conflating Hinduism and Hindutva

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By Subhash Gatade

I.

Mr Mohan Bhagwat, the ‘young’ Supremo of an eighty plus year old exclusively male cultural organisation called Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh is in high spirits these days.

It is not very difficult to understand the glee on his face which has to do with the latest developments in the cause celibre of Sangh Parivar . One can even notice that every member of this different kind of ‘family’ also seem to be upbeat , whose representatives can be traced on neighbourhood playground in the morning doing drills, playing games or listening to ‘sermons’ of their seniors which they call Baudhik .

The Ayodhya verdict which deliberated on the sixty plus year old legal dispute over the title of a piece of land where a mosque stood for the last five hundred years and which was demolished by hordes of gangs inspired by the ideas which the Sangh Parivar still espouses has in fact come as a blessing in disguise for Mr Bhagwat. While every peace and justice loving person felt betrayed with the judgement which neither mentioned the criminal act of demolition of the Mosque, or the blows it gave to the Indian Constitution and the crude manner in which it rediscoverd virtues of faith, it has emboldened the Parivar which had never felt comfortable with the rule of law enshrined in the constitution. Any cursory glance at the making of the constitution provides details of the manner in which the then leaders of Project Hindutva opposed the whole process and wanted that newly independent nation adopt Manusmriti – the code of conduct of the Hindus scripted by Manu -in its place. From time to time their fascination for Manu’s edicts , which supports hierarchial division of society based on caste and gender which denies basic human rights to wider populace, has been visible in very many ways. It was not for nothing that when BJP, one of the affiliated organisation of RSS came to power at the centre twelve years ago, it did not waste much time in appointing a commission to review the constitution. Although they could not tinker with it as they lacked necessary majority but still they made their intentions clear.

As any neutral observer would be able to tell that apart from the ‘vindication’ of their ideas the verdict has solved many of the immediate problems facing the Parivar. Gone is the talk of disarray in the fraternity with every other affiliated organisation trying to put blame on the other for the dip in their collective fortunes, gone also is the defensive posture which the RSS had to adopt when recently many of its ‘wholetimers’ (called Pracharaks in their lexicon) were found to be involved in terrorist acts, with sleuths of different investigating agencies raiding their houses and parading these Pracharak terrorists hooded like common criminals. In fact the situation seemed so serious that in June the top leadership of RSS assembled for a five day emergency meeting in Jodhpur to deliberate on the whole situation. Anyone can guess that the overall mood within the Parivar was quite gloomy. The verdict has altered the scene completely. Sensing this opportunity when secular-democratic camp has gone on defensive and is contemplating next line of action, like a true general Mr Bhagwat has decided to strike back. Basing himself on the ageold maxim ‘Offence is the Biggest Defence’ he seems to have decided to take the plunge to take the battle to the camp of ‘pseudoseculars’ themselves.

One is reminded of the manner in which Balasaheb Deoras, the third Supremo of RSS went round the country claiming victory ( Jitam Maya – We have won) after the emergency was over (1977) and Janata Party had come to power. The high moral posture adopted by the likes of Deoras about the ‘valiant struggle by the RSS against Emergency’ did not last long when it was disclosed that the same Deoras had written long letters to Indira Gandhi and tried to persuade Vinoba Bhave to mediate so that ban on Sangh is lifted. The Sangh leadership had even directed thousands of its volunteers/activists lodged in different jails to give an undertaking to the jail authorities assuring them ‘good behaviour’ if they are released from jail. ( For details of the correspondence readers may refer to ‘RSS by D.R. Goyal, Rajkamal, Delhi )

II.

Terrorism, Hindus are oxymoron: Mohan Bhagwat

17 October 2010 , press trust of india

Nagpur, 17 OCT: Taking strong exception to the use of the term ‘saffron or Hindu terror’, RSS chief Mr Mohan Bhagwat today said terrorism and Hindus are “oxymoron” and can never be linked to each other.

“There is only one country left in the world on which you can’t put the blame of terrorism and that country is India . Terrorism and Hindus, terrorism and saffron, and terrorism and the Sangh are oxymoron and can never be related to each other.

“This (effort to connect the two) was an attempt to weaken the strength of Hindus in India and, at the same time, to appease Muslims, he said ..addressing the annual Dussehra rally at Reshim Bagh ground here. …”These are sinister conspiracies to mislead the Hindus through a campaign of lies and defame Hindu saints and noble citizens,”

Close watchers of RSS know the long tradition within the organisation wherein the Supremo gives a speech on its foundation day (i.e. Dusshera) which is supposed to be a guideline to all the affiliated organisations – ranging from the parliamentary to the extraparliamentary ones . Newspapers tell us that during his speech on the Reshim bagh ground in Nagpur Mr Bhagwat basically raised three points in his speech: One, he welcomed the Ayodhya verdict and hoped that the day is not far off when they would build a ‘Grand Ram Temple’ at Ayodhya ; two, he talked of deteriorating situation in Kashmir and emphasised that coming months it would on the focus of the Parivar ; thirdly, he said that Hindus and terrorism are oxymorons and whosoever is calling Hindus terrorists is stigmatising the whole community.

Nobody can deny that Ayodhya and Kashmir are important issues and every social-political formation will have to devise its own strategy for intervention. And looking at the difference in world view, any truly democratic and secular intervention would be qualitatively different from what Mr Bhagwat’s boys intend to do as part of their ‘nationalist’ duties. Not some time ago RSS had devised a unique plan to tackle the Kashmir situation by suggesting to trifurcate it on religious lines – Leh for Buddhists, Jammu for Hindus and Kashmir for Muslims. It is a different matter that this divisive plan did not get any support from the rest of the polity despite the Saffron dispensation holding the reins of power at the centre.

It is not much difficult to see that the highlight of the speech is the new wisdom which has dawned on Mr Bhagwat. that Hindus and terrorism are oxymorons. Definitely it would soothe the egos of many among the community who have no qualms in rationalising incidents like Gujarat genocide or Kandhamal riots or attacks on Churches or forcible separation of two adults belonging to different religious communities supposedly to defend community honour.

Coming to this new found thesis which emphasises incompatibility of Hindus with terrorism one wishes to ask Mr Bhagwat whether he or his organisation has made any new discoveries as far as the religious affiliations of the first terrorist of independent India called Nathuram Godse is concerned, whose band of terrorists included Madanlal Pahwa, Karkare, Parchure and several others. The same Nathuram who cut his political teeth in the RSS shakhas only and later focussed on his work on the Hindu Mahasabha front. Interestingly during his trial Nathuram formally said that he had left RSS in 1933, but in an interview to the magazine ‘Frontline’ in late 90 s his younger brother Gopal Godse, who was also part of the conspiracy specifically said that none of the brothers ever left RSS. When the reporter asked him pointedly why Nathuram ‘lied’ about his dissociation, pat came the reply : To save the organisation from harassment.

It has been on record that there were five attempts on Mahatma Gandhi’s life during his life time and the last one proved fatal. It is revealing to know that Hindu fanatics were involved in all these attempts who were eager to eliminate the Mahatma – for many ‘the biggest Hindu of 20 th century’.

Of course, it is possible that for many among the Hindu right who yearn to build a Hindu Rashtra of their dreams the death of the Mahatma was not a terrorist act rather it was a ‘patriotic act’. It is an open secret that every year many from the hindu right do celebrate the day Nathuram was hanged as ‘Martyrs day’? And it is not a Pune specific phenomenon where Nathuram lived. A narco analysis of those involved in the Nanded bomb explosion (April 2006) which saw the deaths of Himanshu Panse and Rajeev Rajkondwar – both activists of RSS/Bajrang Dal – tells us how these ‘patriots of a different kind’ use to organise programmes on this day.

And what about Savarkar the pioneer of the idea of Hindutva who escaped conviction in the case of Mahatma’s assasination only on technical grounds. It is a different matter that the Kapoor commission which was formed in the sixties to look into the conspiracy angle of Mahatma Gandhi’s assasination – where many fresh witnesses to the case appeared – rightly concluded that Savarkar was very much a part of that conspiracy. And why did these fanatics killed him, only because Gandhi was trying to practice Hinduism in his own way. And so when independence came, this frail old man – who was called ‘One Man Boundary Force’ by the then Governor General for singlehandedly bringing peace to strifetorn Calcutta by resorting to fast unto death – did not join the celebrations but rather was touring Noakhali to console, help people affected by riots.

While the role played by Hindu fanatics in Mahatma’s assasination is widely known, not much has been written on the bomb blast in Shikarpur area of Karachi at the time of independence which witnessed deaths of two Sangh Pracharaks namely Vasudev and Prabhu Badlani. Their third accomplice was apprehended by the Pakistani police and had to languish in their jail for quite some time. And how come there was a bomb blast in the residential area in a house owned by one Raibahadur Tolaram which was rented by the RSS people supposedly to run tuitions for kids ? (RSS in Sindh, Economic and Political Weekly, 8 July 2006 ) The plan hatched by a 21 member team of RSS workers was to organise bomb blasts in different places in Karachi and kill as many people as possible. The house served the purpose of storing bombs. Police records reveal that the explosion was so severe that the whole house came literally crumbling down. Anderson and Damle who have penned down a monograph on the Sangh Journey ‘Brotherhood in Saffron’ also provide details of the incident. Perhaps Mr Bhagwat can get few more details of the case from Lal Krishna Advani, who was looking after the work of Sangh in the area. It need to be investigated further whether Mr Advani was in the know of things or not ?

To be very frank, one can quote n number of other examples which can help puncture Mr Bhagwat’s argument that ‘Hindus cannot be terrorists’. The exposure in the Malegaon bomb blast case (Sept 2008) which brought to the fore an elaborate national network of terrorists involving military officers like Lt Col Purohit, religious people like Swami Dayanand Pandey or for that matter Sadhvi Pragya or the likes of Dr R.P Singh, Himani Savarker or RSS activists like Ramji Kalasangra, Aseemanand or Sunil Joshi ( killed by his own people) or the actions by Sanatan Sanstha and Hindu Janjagruti Samity like putting explosives and bombs in crowded places just goes to show that contrary to popular perceptions Hindus can be found to be equally involved in such anti-human actions.

One need not go into details of every incident but the point worth underlining is that terrorism cannot be the sole preserve of a this or that community. One can find terrorists in every community and also sane elements in every community. Just as there are good people or bad people in every community, there are fanatics or sane elements in every community.

Singling out a particular community for the ills of society or for negative traits reflects what is popularly known as a communal understanding of society. Today’s multicultural, multiethnic, multilingual and multireligious world where the world seems to becoming a global village such an outlook definitely sound at variance with the growing intermingling of people, communities, cultures.

Nobody can deny that post 9/11 developments have contributed a lot to further strengthen a warped understanding of history. The manner in which US declared ‘War Against Terror’ as a new strategem to further its influence and gain legitimacy for its criminal actions, effectively got reduced to stigmatising and targetting people, formations or countries owning allegiance to Islam. It was a sheer coincidence that BJP an affiliated organisation of RSS was in power at the centre when US rulers unleashed the ‘war against terror’. Looking back one can say that there was deep resonance between what Bush regime wanted and what was on offer for them here.

III.

The ‘thesis of oxymoron’ has shades of the concept of Supreme Hindu Race emanating from it. In fact it can also be interpreted as an indirect admission that whereas Hindus and terrorism are incompatible with each other terrorism easily gels with all non-Hindu communities. Definitely it is a very dangerous statement not only because it tries to denigrate every other community, it tries to pass on blame to others. It can thus be seen as a poor attempt to deflect attention from the n number of crimes committed by Hindu fanatics.

To avoid confusion of any sort when we are discussing crimes of Hindu fanatics then it should in no way construed as one is soft towards the crimes of Islamic fanatics or Christian fanatics or similar faith based fanaticisms. Fanaticism of every kind needs to be condemned in every possible manner. In fact, history is witness to the fact that religion based fanaticism has killed more innocent people than any other social catastrophe.

Surprisingly Mr Bhagwat’s speech also conveys the deliberate conflation of two distinct terms : Hinduism and Hindutva. According to him all those people who talk of Hindu terrorism are trying to denigrate the whole community. It cannot be denied that few people did describe the role of Hindu fanatics in terrorist operation as ‘Hindu terrorism’. But a large majority of the critics avoided describing it in this fashion and instead talked of Hindutva terrorism.which seems to be a more accurate description of the phenomenon.

All those people who are not aware of the debates in the movement would feel that what is the big difference between Hindu terrorism and Hindutva terrorism. Perhaps it would be better to refer to a book by Savarkar, who is considered to be a pioneer of the Hindu Right or ‘Hindu nationalist movement’. This monograph which is named ‘Hindutva’ has reached classic status and lays down the guiding principles of the idea.

What does the monograph say ? Its key contribution is the way in which it differentiates between Hinduism and Hindutva :

Hinduism is only a derivative, a fraction, a part of Hindutva. Unless it is made clear what is meant by the latter, the first remains unintelligible and vague.Failure to distinguish between these two terms has given rise to much misunderstanding and mutual suspicion between some of those sister communities that have inherited this inestimable and common treasure of Hindu civilisation.[..] Here it is enough to point out that Hindutva is not identical with what is vaguely indicated by the term Hinduism. By an ‘ism’ it is generally meant a theory or a code more or less based on spiritual or religious dogma or system. But when we attempt to investigate into the essential significance of Hindutva, we do not primarily and certainly not mainly concern ourselves with any particular theocratic or religious dogma or creed. Had not linguistic usage stood in our way, then ‘Hinduness’ would have certainly been a better word than Hinduism as a near parallel to Hindutva. Hindutva embraces all the departments of thought and activity of the whole being our our Hindu race[..] It is imperative to point out that we are by no means attempting a definition or even a description of the more limited, less satisfactory and essentially sectarian term Hinduism.

(V. D. Savarkar, Hindutva ( Delhi : Bharti Sahitya Sadan, 1989 ; sixth edition}, 3-4)

It is imperative that before getting confused with what Mr Bhagwat wants to convey , it would be definitely helpful if one refers to this classic monograph and understand for herself / himself that when we say Hindutva terror then it is does not at all mean all those people who have deep faith in principles of Hinduism. Just as Islam and Political Islam cannot be considered equivalent, Hinduism and Hindutva cannot be measured on the same scale.

Looking at the emphasis on action as opposed to contemplation (which involves reading also) in the whole Hinduva movement, it can easily be presumed that a large majority of those people who today owe their allegiance to the ideas of Savarkar, Hedgewar and Golwalkar and who want India to usher into Hindu Rashtra must not have bothered to even read Savarkar’s monograph. And this cannot be said to be an exaggeration There have been instances when RSS-BJP people had to withdraw books which were published under their own aegis or withdraw articles from textbooks which they themselves had ratified.

A newsitem is worth taking note of :

Mystery surrounds the sudden withdrawal of one of the 16 volumes of an official account of the Jana Sangh-BJP history, four months after it was released as part of the silver jubilee celebrations in Mumbai. The series, written by historian Makhan Lal under the supervision of senior BJP leader J P Mathur, carry a foreword by Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha L K Advani. (Indian Express, 9 th May 2006)

But perhaps the Orissa experience truly shows the mental abilities of the plethora of activists of the Hindutva brigade who needed around five years to notice ‘discrepancy’ in a textbook when the person in charge of education department was a hardcore RSS pracharak called Samir Dey himself. It was the period when BJP was sharing power with Biju Janata Dal.

In its report on its front page captioned ‘In NDA Orissa, a textbook equates BJP with Lashkar’ (Indian Express, Delhi, 2 nd February 2007) the paper gave details about the manner in which a textbook on ‘Indian Polity’ for second-year degree students in Orissa clubbed Lashkar-e-Toiba with BJP. According to the report

The chapter on the ‘Existence of Terrorist Organisation’ says : “Terrorist organisations create tension in the country. Communal parties like the BJP, RSS, Bajrang Dal, Hurriyat Conference and Lashkar-e-Toiba are responsible for fomenting violence..leading to the killing of hundreds in the country and especially Kashmir .”

It is worth noting that the said textbook – which was written by one Amarendra Mohanty and Shyama Charan Mohanty, teachers of political science was taught since 2003. The matter could come to light only after a BJP worker in Salepur, about 60 KM from the state capital, noticed it and lodged a FIR. And as expected to remove the egg on its face members of the Hindutva brigade did lot of things which can be bracketed as ‘taking law into their hands.’

Mr Bhagwat who is in high spirits these days, would do his organisation a great favour if he could inculcate some reading habits in his people who believe more in action.

India’s Occupation of Kashmir to end soon

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By: Rohit Kumar

Despite its insensitivity and total ignorance to facts on the ground, Indian security apparatus is less than three months away from a disgraceful retreat from the occupied valley.

The Union Government of India sent a heavily constituted all-party delegation to Kashmir to assess the on-ground situation, meet with all strands of society in Kashmir, and to devise ways and means to overcome the current crisis faced by the Valley. It failed to do all three.

The delegation failed to assess the situation on the ground as it was heavily protected by military, police and Indian J&K government functionaries. It was totally protected from the rioters, the youth of Kashmir which was out on the streets demanding its rights – respect, autonomy, self-determination and the chance for a peaceful life without indiscriminate violence. The delegation, comprising 39 members and led by Union Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram, met with Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, a spiritual and political leader of the Valley’s majority Muslim population, while the latter was in forced house arrest. Why? Because the Mirwaiz refused to meet with the delegation. So he was forced to stay inside his home, while the delegation paid him a visit there. And everyone is aware of divisions within this delegation over its meeting with hardline Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Geelani, who proposes the independence of Kashmir. The BJP claimed that it did not want to meet Gilani, while CPI-M’s Sitaram Yechury said that the decision was a delegation-based one and approved by the delegation’s head, Mr. Chidambaram, who himself could not meet Geelani as it would violate procotol. Of course. How could the Union Home Minister acknowledge a separatist as a political leader of Kashmir? Finally, the delegation was unable to devise ways and means to rescue Kashmir from the current chaos, even though Mr. Chidambaram claimed that the future of Kashmir is secure as part of India. What wishful thinking, even as his own delegation crumbled and scrambled for any semblance of a unified position on the Kashmir issue.

The fact remains that Kashmir can never be an integral part of India unless and until atrocities committed by Indian forces (military, paramilitary and civil police) are atoned for and unless and until the murderers in uniform are held accountable. The repeal or withdrawal of Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFPSA) has now become a thing of the future, and the past is yet to be reconciled with. The CPI-M’s Gurudas Dasgupta perhaps has the most sound understanding of the Kashmir situation: he stated that the Centre needed to take “calculated risks” to defuse it, and that the anger of the people of the Valley was not “unsubstantiated”. He also held that “the special position of the State has been gradually diluted”, adding that the use of weapons for crowd control was unjustified, whether it was guns, teargas shells, lathis or water cannons. In response to Army Chief Gen. V. K. Singh’s referral of AFSPA as an “enabling provision”, Dasgupta said that “the Army should not be allowed to make political statements. Democracy does not allow it”.

Dasgupta, a leftist MP, in an ominous tone, said “I have no hesitation in saying that the rest of India does not know what is happening in Kashmir and the people of the Valley feel that Indians do not show concern. There is a critical degree of alienation and if we still do not realise that we all need to do something, Kashmir may be lost to India”. An astute observation, but one that will fall on deaf ears.

The Union Government, who was in alliance with leftist parties till its proximity to the US became all too apparent with the nuclear deal, should pay attention to the same leftists who urged Mr. Chidambaram to allow the delegation to meet separatist leaders, including Geelani. While the delegation has fallen woefully short of its expectations, and has left unrequited hope and greater fears in its midst, it has at least interacted with all leaders of the Kashmiri people – including the jailed Shabir Shah of the Democratic Freedom Party. Yet, it remains aloof to the demands of autonomy, of freedom, of ‘azadi’; it has shut its ears to the slogans of ‘Go India, Go back’ and is willing to spill the blood of its own soldiers and troopers as far as the territory of Kashmir remains within the confines of the Indian confederation – whether any Kashmiri is left to claim Kashmir or not is a “non-issue”, and whether Kashmir becomes a ghost state or not is irrelevant.

The Indian Government must cease this blood-letting immediately. However, instead of taking a rational approach, the Indian government is preparing to counter Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi at the UN General Assembly despite multilateral calls (including by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon and the OIC) for concern over the situation in Kashmir, and urges directed towards the Indian establishment to exercise restraint against Kashmiri civilians – which PM Manmohan Singh has called “Indian citizens”. Yet I do not see Indian citizens being shot at anywhere else. I do not see Indian women raped by army officers, soldiers and paramilitary jawans. And I do not see Indian citizens throwing stones at Indian authorities.

Maybe I need new glasses, or maybe the Union Government has actually blinded itself with fake visions of being a superpower that can not and will not “fall prey” to subnationalist motivations.

While more than 400 million Indians suffer in debilitating poverty, a report by the CIA claims that India is (or will be) the third most powerful country in the world. Let me survey a Kashmiri or a Maoist rebel to ask them if they agree with this CIA report. Let me ask a Dalit, or a Muslim in Ahmedabad, Gujarat.

India must wake up before it breaks up.

A well-read Indian daily has the most precise, most succinct statement to make regarding the Kashmir situation. It says that Kashmir has become the proverbial hen and egg story: Peace cannot be restored here unless talks are held, and the talks cannot be held unless peace is restored. In this cyclical debate, violence will only beget violence, ignorance will only inflame tempers, and guns can only silence some voices while ten cries are raised for every fallen one.