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Last decade has witnessed an intensification of social problems. On the one hand we see increase in poverty, hunger, disease, and unemployment. On the other newer dangers in the form of communalism, communal violence & rise of new social-political forces in the form of Hindutva politics. Though a nascent Hindutva ideology was conceived and rooted in certain social segments from last many decades, its palpable offence and aggression became much more menacing in the last decade. This threw up the questions of nationality, community, identity and host of other questions in the social space.

The Hindutva movement presents itself for establishing a strong nation, based on the tenets of `Hindu Dharma', i.e. the overt agenda of establishing a Hindu Rashtra. But this, though highly objectionable and retrograde in itself, hides larger designs which are concealed in this agenda. At the social and political level, this movement derives its strength from upper castes, co-opts some lower castes within its fold and asserts an ideology and programme which suppresses the legitimate and much overdue social, economic and political aspiration of the deprived, disadvantaged and depressed sections of society, who are on the lower rungs of the social hierarchy.
This movement is being spearheaded by a plethora of organisations, the patriarch of which is Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh (RSS), the real controller of all other organisations. Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is its political wing; Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), is the organisation translating Hindutva political agenda on the emotive, religious ground; Bajrang Dal is a group of lumpens, who execute the violent acts against minorities; Vanavasi Kalyan Ashram is engaged in promoting Brahminical norms amongst Adivasis, and Rashtrasevika Samiti is the women's wing, subordinate to the male organisation, RSS. In addition there are other organisations like Saraswati Shishu Mandirs which inculcate the young mind with brahminical version of Hinduism. These all are collectively called the Sangh Parivar (SP).

The initial concern of Hindutva movement (RSS and Hindu Mahasabha) was to counter the politics of Muslim League and to influence the Congress towards a pro-Hindu direction. RSS was mainly focusing on Shakhas, training volunteers for Hindutva movement and Hindu Mahasabha was taking part in electoral politics. After independence the number of cadres of RSS kept on increasing and the Hindu Mahasabha gradually went into oblivion. One of the ex-pracharak of RSS, Naturam Godse, murdered Mahatma Gandhi in 1948, following which RSS was banned for some time. Meanwhile RSS volunteers kept on infiltrating the army, bureaucracy, media and educational institution. In course of time multiple RSS - controlled organisations were started. The RSS became very visible with its anti-communist tirades during the India-China war and projected 'Nationalist, Patriotic' fervour. Its political wing, the Jan Sangh undertook the campaign to `Indianise Muslims'. The RSS tried to wash off the `sin' of murdering Gandhi by joining the JP movement. Its political wing joined the Janata Party, and when it came to power, Jan Sangh got vital ministries and it further infiltrated the bureaucracy. It left the Janata Party on the issue of double membership (Janata Party + RSS). It did not want to leave the RSS, Janata Party broke and Jan Sangh reemerged as BJP on the plank of 'Gandhian Socialism'. After the opportunist 'politics of Indira-Rajiv which led to Sikh Pogroms in Delhi, the Shah Bano fiasco and opening up of the locks of Babri Masjid, BJP started adopting the plank of Hindutva. V.P. Singh's implementation of Mandal Commission recommendations incited a backlash of upper castes, which the Sangh Parivar cleverly polarised around itself through Rath Yatra and various religious symbols. With the Kar Seva of Dec. 6, the upper castes got the final message of the 'right party' for their aspirations, and an outfit which was marginal on the Indian political scene got transformed into `a major player'.

Myth : Hindutva is in line with Indian ethos and culture. FACT : The politics of Hindutva asserts that the Hindu nation has existed for 8,000 to 10,000 years and Hindustan has been in possession of Hindus for at least that length of time. Also, that in India for its proper running the majority community, the Hindus, should have a dominant role. Both these assertions are at the root of Hindutva movement and both of these contradict the Indian ethos and culture.

Despite various theories about the origin of Aryans one can roughly say that their original abode was somewhere in the northwest, from where they migrated to different areas and all along the way interacted with different cultures -- in Iran, Afghanistan and in South Asia. The flowering of social life was a product of interaction of the Aryans and the native tribes. Though this also resulted in the caste system and other social evils, the interaction led mainly to the growth of mixed culture. As a reaction against many social evils, Buddhism arose as a religion which had wide popularity amongst the untouchables and some sections of society. This development came as a corrective to the uninhibited growth of social evils, and went a long way to enrich Indian culture. It was further enriched with the advent and spread of Islam (through Arab merchants in South and Mughal rulers in North) and Christianity (through traders again, through the Malabar coast and through missionaries coming during Portuguese rule). Thus, India had been a vast social field developing, progressing and marching forward with the interaction of multiple cultural streams. During the rule of the Mughals the `syncretic' culture reached its zenith with the development of the Bhakti and Sufi sects. Both these were very popular amongst the masses for the simplicity of their appeals and unity of their message. People like Kabir, Nanak and Tukaram contributed their soul to the richness of the life of society. All this is a part of Indian ethos which in a nutshell can be ascribed to different facets of Indian culture which stands on the principles of love and understanding for all fellow beings, respect for other's faith, tolerance for other's religion and equal treatment to followers of different paths. In contrast, Hindutva politics is based on upper caste ethos, and aims at the hegemony of one section of society, one type of religion over the whole society. It theorises the subjugation of minorities to the upper caste ethos. It does away with the affirmative action needed for the protection and furtherance of the interests of disadvantaged sections of society. Hindutva contradicts the Indian ethos and culture and is a total break from the 'spirit' of Indianness.

Myth : Unlike Semitic Religions -- Christianity, Islam, etc. -- Hindutva is a purely non-dogmatic religion.
FACT : Islam and Christianity(especially as propounded by the clergy) have shown dogmatism especially when it comes to matters theological. On the other hand, Hinduism in its plural form has been a highly dynamic religion. In its `new avatar' (construction), however, there is a definite attempt to `semitise' the Hindu religion around one diety (Ram), Holy Books (Geeta, Vedas, Smrutis) and Clergy (Shankaracharyas). In this current form it is proselytising the Adivasis into the brahminical mould, constructing a history and dogmatically asserting and acting around that. Demolition of the Babri Masjid is one from the many examples of its `dogmatism-based action'. Though Hindus at large are tolerant and flexible, the self-assumed Hindu religious leaders belonging to the Sangh Parivar are making a number of dogmatic assertions: ban cow slaughter, make sanskrit a compulsory language, abolish the second status language (in some States) of the language with alien script (Urdu), etc. It is also dogmatic about the cultural, aesthetic, economic and social norms, to the extent of imposing its values on the whole of society.

Myth : Hindutva is a set of values and a way of life, that does not conflict with the Constitution of India which nobody can take exception to since it can do no harm.
FACT : This has been encouraged by the recent Supreme Court judgement exonerating Manohar Joshi for his election speech in which he claimed that if elected he will make Maharashtra as the first Hindu Rajya of the nation, the judgement also said that Hindutva is not just a religion, but it is a way of life.

The way of life pertains to multidimensional activities of different sectors of society which are extremely divergent though not antagonistic to each other. So the way of life of the Adivasis in Jharkhand has nothing in common with that of a businessman living in Mumbai's plush Nariman Point; the way of life of a rich peasant of Gujarat has nothing much in common with the way of life of a contract worker living in a slum of Mumbai or a migrant construction worker in the sprawling upcoming concrete jungles of different metros; the way of life of a housewife running the household has nothing much in common with way of life of a woman business executive or a fashion model.
Hindutva is not a religion, it is a political movement which began in the early 20's and has picked up momentum in the last decade. It is a movement for building 'Hindu-Rashtra', Hindu nation which expresses the aspirations not of all the people of this country but only of upper caste Hindus, leaving out the vast numbers of backward castes, Dalits, minorities and women. It has assigned subordinate roles to: (a) minorities, who should live by the ideology of the Hindu nation, claiming nothing and deserving no privileges (b) women who are to cultivate themselves as 'ideal' mothers, 'wives' or 'daughters', subordinate to her husband, father or son (c) workers, who are supposed to treat the employer as the part of their family and to do production for 'national good' dumping their rights in the backyard gutters; (d) Dalits, who are supposed to forgo 'reservations' so that the `merits' acquired by upper castes through education and employment, continues, paving the way for upper caste monopoly on jobs and other social privileges coming along with 'merits'.
The very foundation of Hindu Rashtra is anithetical to Indian Constitution, which upholds the sovereign, democratic, secular character of the republic; stands for equal opportunities for all, for affirmative action for the disadvantaged and leaves no room for religion to influence state policy, while the goal of Hindutva is an Indian state based around the interests of Hindu elite.

Myth : Muslims need not live in fear: The BJP will not harm. See! There are no communal riots in BJP-ruled states!
FACT : SP's deeper hatred and its electoral compulsions force it to take various schizophrenic position. In the heydays of the Jan Sangh the main slogan of the SP was `Indianise the Indian Muslims'. Is what harms the Muslims community it just communal violence or is there something more? Communal violence is one of the expressions of the problematic situation which the SP creates for the minorities. Basically SP has been communalising the social space. Its `molecular permeation' of the 'doctrine of hatred' constructed to consolidate the upper caste Hindus is the 'core' around which all the other communal activities revolve. Though BJP at times assumes offices in state, it does leave an anti-minority community mark which is deeper and more subtle. Lest we forget, let us recall the `communalisation' of history textbooks in UP and Maharashtra where they are/were in power. In a series of acts of commission, the BJP-Sena government in Maharashtra has demonstrated how a Hindutva combine can continue a subtle, low-intensity warfare against the minorities on a sustained basis. In just one year of its rule it harassed Muslims from West Bengal on the pretext that they are Bangladeshis; abolished minorities commission and abolished Shrikrishna Commission investigating the 92-93 Bombay riots.(Later restored under compulsions). BJP's coming to power in state assemblies unleashes a gamut of moves leading to policies with an anti-Muslim slant, an onslaught on the history books with secular ethos and the like. A long lasting, majority government at the centre will `exhibit' the uninhibited, 'pure' and 'naked' game of Hindutva, in comparison to which the Babri demolition and post demolition riots will start looking like a merry picnic. Thus, the absence of communal violence in BJP ruled states is not a certificate to the SP for its tolerance of minorities. It is a temporary truce being used to sharpen the tools for all round suppression of all the oppressed groups in general and Muslims in particular.
Myth : BJP is dubbed communal/fascist by vested interests. FACT : Hindutva's fascist potential started becoming more visible since the last decade. Many a social scientist especially those of the left had characterised Hindutva as fascist movement earlier also. {Check out the similarities listed below}

Hindutva Fascism
1. Strengthened in post Mandal 1. Came up and became strong
period: after fearing the in the wake of powerful
assertion of lower castes. workers movement.
2. Projects 'National' interests 2. Same.
over the interests of the
3. Has the seeds of expansionism 3. Expansionist: attacked
concept of 'Akhand Bharat' neighbouring countries on
(undivided India: including the ground that they were
Pakistan, Bangladesh, Burma part of earlier German
and Ceylon). Empire.

4. Targetting Jews as the 4. Targetting Muslims as the
cause of ills of the cause of ills of the
country. country.

5. Glorification of the past. 5. Same.
6. Oppressive to workers (produce 6. Oppressive to Jews (sub-
for nation), Dalits (oppose jected them to physical
Mandal in a subtle way of elimination), Communists/
demand for meritocracy), women workers (physical violen-
(they should be ideal wives & ce to reduce their
mothers), minorities (they strength) women (their
should subjugate themselves place is: kitchen, church
to the Hindu Culture) and rearing children.
7. Post-Babri demolition gave a 7. The regime implemented
vision of the social space full its progrom through
of terror and anti-human rights, creation of mass hysteria `pro' national hysteria.
8. Urbanised middle class and rich 8. Urban middle class and
peasants/upper castes the main landed aristocracy the
support base. main social base.

1. Long gestation period, 1. Quick ascendancy to power
Successful communalisation of on the anti Jew plank.
social space in 'cowbelt' region,
Success in polarisation of
upper castes only after imple-
mentation of Mandal Commission.
2. Medium range social crisis from 2. Severe post World War
mid 80's: rising unemployment, economic crisis.
increasing poverty.

Box 1
Fist they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out
Because I was not a Jew
Next they came for the Communists
but I did not speak out
Because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out
Because I was not a trade unionist
Then they came for the Catholics
and I did not speak out
Because I was not a Catholic

Then they came for me
and there was no one left
to speak out for me.
Pastor Martin Niemoeller
A Preist and intellectual and a victim of the Nazi ascendancy in Germany in the 1930s.

Box 2 : As per VHP - "The secular state, which is part of the conspiracy, must be replaced by a Hindu Rashtra to ensure real toleration. Toleration, to be secure, must then stamp out all that is non Hindu, for what is not Hindu is intolerant". (Bose et. al. : Khakhi Shorts and Saffron Flags, Orient Longman 1993, page 75.)
Box 3 : Mussalman ka Ek hi sthan, Pakistan ya Kabristan (Muslims only place is either in Pakistan or Graveyard), Gohatya Karnewale ki Hatya Karna, Pratyek Hindu ka Dharmik Kartavya Hai (It is religious duty of every Hindu to kill the people who kill cows), Pahle Kasai Phir Isai (First the butchers (Muslims) then the Christians)

Box 4 : What was I doing When
Everyone was saying "Hail"? I was also saying "Hail", And was afraid, as everyone was. What was I doing When Everyone was saying Aziz is my enemy? I too said "Aziz is my enemy"
What was I doing when everyone was saying Don't open your mouth? I also said "don't open your mouth. Say what everyone says"
The shouts of "Hail" have ceased. Aziz has been killed; Mouths have been silenced. Bewildered everyone asks "How did it come to pass"?
As others ask, so I ask "How did it come to pass?"
- Shrikant Varma
Box 5 : BJP Speak
1. It is secular to build a temple: sectarian to build a mosque. 2. It is democratic to be guided by Sants and Mahants, theocratic to listen to mullahs and Kazis.
3. Cultivating a Muslim vote-bank is appeasement, cultivating a Hindu vote bank is nationalism.
4. Hindu places of worship must revert to their original owners, Bodh Gaya and Jagannath Puri need not.
5. It was nationalistic of Rana Pratap to align himself with Muslim pathans, subversive of Akbar to secure Hindu Rajput allies.
(Manishankar Aiyer, Sunday 7-13 Feb. 93) Box 6 : Bal Thackaray's Interview to Time Magazine. Q: Why is Shiv Sena attacking Muslims?
A: Muslims started the riots and my boys are retaliating. Do you expect Hindus to turn the other cheek? I want to teach Muslims a lesson. Our fortitude has gone too far.
Q: Why are you so angry with the Muslims? A: They are not prepared to accept the rules of this land. They don't want to accept birth control. They want to implement their Sharia (Islamic law) in my motherland. Yes, this is the Hindus motherland. Q: But Muslims are fleeing Bombay.
A: If they are going let them go If they are not going, kick them
Q: Is this a stepping stone toward a Hindu nation? A: We don't need stepping stones. This is a Hindu Rashtra. Box 7 : Our image has become one of a Brahminical party. In our party, a basic fact is that a cadre belonging to backward caste is eliminated at the lowest level of organisation.
-BJP, M.P. Uma Bharati (Communalism Combat, Jan.94, page 10) It is not only a question of 30,000 mosques and mazaars. All vestiges of Mughal imperialism whether the name of a city, village or road, building, anything that represents the barbarism of Mughal imperialism - should be removed from this country.
-Swami Muktanand Saraswati: a top leader of VHP's Sant Samiti (Communalism Combat, Jan. 94, page 10).


1. Basu, T. Datta P. Sarkars., Sarkar T. and Sen S. Khaki Shorts and Saffron Flags, Orient Longmans, Bombay, 1993.
2. Omvedt, G. Dalit Visions, Orient Longmans, Bombay, 1995. 3. Engineer, A.A. Communalism in India, Vikas Publication House, 1995. 4. Mehdi Arslan and Ranjan, Janaki (ed) Communalism in India:Challenge and Response.
5. Engineer, A.A.(ed) Towards Secular India, Centre for Study of Society & Secularism, Issues Nos.1 to 7, Bombay,1995-96. 6. Anand, J. & Setalvad, T., Communalism Combat, Sabrang Communication, Mumbai, 1994-96.
7. Peoples' Publishing House, Selected Writings on Communalism, New Delhi 1994.
8. For Your Eyes Only, Media Watch, Delhi 1995. 9. Panikkar K.N.- Communal Threat, Secular Challenge, Earthworm Books, Chennai, 1997.

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Last updated: February 23, 2000 .