The communal violence in Nuh, where a Hindu march was attacked, and the Gurugram violence, which seemed retaliatory in nature, tells us what is wrong with our approach to the idea of Hindutva or Hindu Rashtra.
Hindutva is a journey to inculcate a sense of Hinduness among disparate groups of Hindus; Hindu Rashtra is a goal where the ultimate idea is to create a non-theocratic Dharmic state that can protect Hindu, Jain, Buddhist and Sikh interests both in India and outside.
Neither Hindutva nor Hindu Rashtra can be achieved by violently responding to attacks on a Hindu yatra in a state of anger.
The road to Hindutva is a long and difficult one; there is no shortcut to Hindu Rashtra either. These are ideas that must be pursued over the long term, by thinking strategically and not giving in to the short-term impulse of hitting out in all directions when wounded.
Hindus must ask themselves what exactly they achieved with the Gurugram violence, which happened in response to the Nuh violence against a yatra, beyond calling the world’s attention to their own alleged intolerance.
Does this move us forward on the journey to Hindu Rashtra or set us back?
At the outset let me affirm that I am no believer in Gandhian pacifism which has, at least partly, been given the credit for achieving India’s independence.
The British probably left when they did because they could no longer afford to run an empire, especially when many Indians were willing to resort to violence to achieve independence.
But look at how strategically they thought through even their hasty exit: they ensured that Hindu interests were buried under fake secularism, and created a permanent enemy for India in Pakistan.
The British understood Hindu weaknesses and Islamist strength. The question is: why don’t we first understand our own weaknesses and strengths before formulating a long-term strategy to achieve Hindu Rashtra?
The average Hindu is poor, and identity matters to him/her only after basic needs are met. This is what Narendra Modi is trying to ensure, but hotheads get angry with this economic focus since it does not directly relate to their understanding of Hindutva or Hindu Rashtra.
Clearly, Modi has a lot of internal communication to do with his core base before he can be sure of their support. He can counsel patience only if he explains where he stands on issues his core voter base is concerned with.
Second, the average Hindu, whether rich or poor, does not always place religious identity above his personal economic interests.
In particular, he will not sacrifice personal interest for group interests unless the threats to identity reach a point of no return. Nor is the average upper class Hindu very comfortable with physical violence.
This was Gandhi’s genius: he used this understanding of Hindus, their unwillingness to engage in physical fights, by elevating passive resistance and non-violence into an end in itself.
Modern-day Hindutva forces should find ways to harness this passivity and hitch it to the active moves that other segments are willing to undertake in order to achieve the goal of Hindu Rashtra.
Third, Hinduism was not created from the top, with a historical founder who then promulgated his divine laws. Hinduism grew from the ground up, with various sampradayas, rural and urban faiths, traditions, rituals and practices developing on their own.
These traditions and ideas often interacted with one another and then evolved a way of dealing with difference and diversity without much conflict. This makes the average Hindu more independent in deciding what his religion is, unlike Christians and Muslims.
Every Hindu is thus Hindu in his or her own way, and hence not amenable to forced collectivisation and aggressive identity-building.
It has to be a gradual process, and cannot be tied to the rise of one Hindu political party to power — in this case the BJP.
Hindutva must engage with other Hindu forces in other parties and social organisations in order to acquire long-term state power. Without access to stable state power, Hindu Rashtra will remain a pipe dream.
Fourth, Hindutva itself needs better definition. It should be about discovering, or rediscovering, our sense of being Hindu despite the outward diversity.
It is also needed to gradually shed any jati-based sense of superiority among some social groups, and abandon overt or covert discrimination.
Hindutva needs several signposts and intermediate goalposts before we start believing that our Hindu identity is more important than the interests of our immediate social group.
For example, can we have mechanisms and fora where varna and jati-based conflicts can be mediated and resolved?
Can we evolve norms on inclusion of non-traditional castes not just for entry, but also governance of temples, once they are freed from state control?
While I am not in favour of divesting control from groups that have acquired worship rights in certain temples, why don’t we create new temples that are more broadly inclusive to provide a better model of governance and inclusion?
One-size-fits-all temple laws make no sense if we are talking diversity. It is these little steps that will pave the way for Hindutva, not a top-down approach.
Fifth, can we create a Hindu Rashtra without knowing what it means and what it will mean not just for Hindus, but the non-Hindu minorities too?
Should we not create, first, a thought process and public debates on the issue to illuminate the pathways?
Should we not be raising issues now rather than after theoretically achieving a Hindu Rashtra through political means?
Should we not be asking a basic question — why Hindu Rashtra? — before we chart a course towards it?
For me the answer to the above questions is obvious. The case for Hindu Rashtra is simple. Every civilisation needs a guarantor state, and Hinduism has none. Hindu Rashtra is meant to protect the Dharmic civilisations that were birthed in Akhand Bharat.
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