Thursday, July 11, 2002

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Hindutva Manufactured

Khushwant Singh
Hindustan Times

Ask any Indian or Pakistani: "Who first propounded the two-nation theory?" The immediate response will be "Mohammed Ali Jinnah". Not correct. The first man to talk of Hindus and Muslims as separate nations was V.D. Savarkar who coined the word 'Hindutva' in a book with the same title in 1923. Other Hindu leaders who accepted the two-nation theory were Dr Moonje of the Hindu Mahasabha, Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya, founder of the Benares Hindu University, Lala Lajpat Rai, Bhai Parmanand
and Swami Shraddhanand. Eminent Bengali writer Bankimchandra Chattopadhyay also supported the notion.

In Hindutva, Savarkar described Hindus as a nation because they acknowledged India as their fatherland and land of worship. Among Hindus he included Jains, Buddhists and Sikhs because their religions were of Indian origin but excluded Muslims and Christians because their religions came from outside. So he concluded that Hindus are a nation,
while Muslims, Christians and Parsis are "communities or numerical minorities".

The stream of Hindu separatism began to flow like the Paataal Ganga (underground Ganga) soon after the British overthrew the Mughal dynasty and established their rule all over India. It gathered strength from reviving and exaggerating memories of all the wrongs Muslim invaders had done to India: humiliations on battlefields, destruction of temples, imposition of the jazia tax and treatment of non-Muslims as lower than
second-class citizens. Hindu warriors like Prithviraj Chauhan, Guru Gobind Singh and Shivaji who resisted them were portrayed as national heroes.

A general atmosphere was created that wrongs done by Muslim conquerors in the past had to be righted. The Indian Freedom Movement was as biased against the British as it was against Muslims. By the time the British decided to quit India, a significant proportion of Hindus felt that they should inherit the legacy of their forefathers, while the vast majority of Indian Muslims felt that they would have no future in the Hindu-dominated India. Hence the partition of the country into India and Pakistan.

India could have declared itself a Hindu State since over 80 per cent of its population was Hindu and all its neighbours had declared themselves religious States: Islamic (Pakistan), Buddhist (Sri Lanka and Burma) and Hindu (Nepal). But under the influence of Gandhi, Nehru, Azad and others, it chose to pursue a greater ideal: a modern secular State where
all religious communities would enjoy equal rights.

It was too good to last. What in Nehru's time were parties of marginal importance, drawing inspiration from Savarkar's concept of Hindutva - the RSS, the Hindu Mahasabha, the Jan Sangh, the Shiv Sena, the Bajrang Dal - gathered strength and became the main opposition to secular forces. After indulging in mosque-breaking, church-burning and attacks on missionaries, they went on to perpetrate pogroms.

They have become the rulers today. However, their days are numbered because an increasing number of Indians have come to realise that if India is to survive as a nation and march forward, it must remain one country, reassert its secular credentials and throw out communally-based parties from the political arena.

This is the theme of Virendra Prakash's Hindutva Demystified (Virgo). He writes: "Hindutva, as articulated by Vinayak Damodar Savarkar and adopted by Hedgewar as the bedrock of the ideology of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), has little to do with the real, noble faith of the Hindus. It is a totally artificial construct, based on a motivated and unsustainable definition of 'Hindu'. Coining a new definition of 'Hindu' to suit his objectives, Savarkar developed a powerful instrument to exploit the emotions and passions of the Hindus against the rest."

Virendra Prakash is a product of Harvard University, a civil servant who held important positions in the government of India. He retired as chief secretary and later headed Delhi's first finance commission. He knows the Sangh parivar like the back of his hand.

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