Correct the Binary of Hindutva and Secularism

I had noticed a very artistic poster which had “Jai Shri Ram” written in Hindi text and the letters were filled with pictorial narration of Ramayana. This was published by Gita Press Gorakhpur. I had never bought or displayed any “Jai Shri Ram” poster until then. I bought one and put it up in my office. In the aftermath of incidents of December 06, 1992; this display in my office taught me that I was supposed to propagate and exhibit secularism as smarter, more educated, better, happier, and healthier than any symbolism which could be directly or obliquely attributed to Hindutva. More than empowered, I felt scorned at and outcaste amongst my other colleagues – none of whom was a non-Hindu.

Conversations about secularism and Hindutva generally make two interrelated assumptions: that secularism is preferable to Hindutva, and that the two are unambiguously distinct. Efforts to distinguish secularism from Hindutva have been in full swing with pseudo-progressive commentators like Shashi Tharoor who propagating the idea of a “Good” Hindu and a “Bad” Hindu and Barkha Datt who wants a “Uniform Civil Code” for women of India to allow them entry into “Sabrimala.” Anyone who defies the age-old practice and customs of restricted entry to “Sabrimala” is peddling extremist ideology—not gender-justice —and has no business sitting on the Supreme Court.

Conflation of Hindutva with Secularism is not just flat-out wrong, but… anti-India, anti-society and anti-cultural propaganda. The myth that flaunting ones Hindu-credentials are “anti-secular postures” is longstanding anti-choice propaganda, and the reality that political actors—Shashi Tharoor – only the latest—use their platforms to cruelly and intentionally wield that misinformation is frustrating. But I’m also troubled by how vehemently my own Hindu friends separate Hindutva from secularism.

Such fervour has defined the Indian Secularism ever since Jawahar Lal Nehru started playing with the idea of secularism as a tool for wooing the Muslim votes after independence.  Indian constitution already had “secular” characteristic defined in Article 25. So, there was no need for adding this word in the constitution; but Indira Gandhi saw the political advantage of playing with the Nehruvian idea of secularism and guided by the communists, etched the word “Secular” (along with the word “socialist” as communists wanted, thus restricting future generation from choosing an economic model suitable for their need) in the preamble of the constitution through the 42nd amendment in 1976. It was plainly unconstitutional. Indian people gave themselves to the constitution on 26th Jan, 1950 by citing the preamble and by changing the preamble Indira Gandhi had inflicted a new constitution on people. The Father-daughter mechanics helped to shape the stigmatisation of Hindutva. The Nehru-Indira secularism movement struggled to teach people that, first, any conformance to the ideology of Hindutva and the practices of Hinduism were one and the same and, second, that none of the two morally acceptable.

We still live with the binaries that the “secularism movement” of the Congress-Communists alliance worked to create. Whereas Hindutva is labelled as fanatic, dangerous, and irresponsible, Hinduisms is, dogmatic. If Hindutva represents ideology, Hinduisms stands for all that is socially discriminatory and disruptive. We have been indoctrinated to hearing, for instance, that Hindus have historically been the tormentors of other Hindus through caste-divide, and that they need to pay for the sins of their ancestors (No one ever put such conditions on the Muslims and Christians to pay for the excesses by their fore-fathers over the last 1000 years on Hindus).

On the left, the right, and everywhere in between, we still hear about “bad” Hindus and “good” Hindus. “I never would have thought that about you being a fanatic,” my childhood Hindu friend said to me when I told him I am proud of me being a Hindu.

We still live with the binaries that the pseudo-secularists have created. If Hinduism represents disorder, secularism stands for all that is neatly managed and contained.

Although I didn’t want to flaunt my being a Hindu, I found I liked even less the idea that I could not without being branded as a fanatic. Our religious and spiritual inclinations are not always so easy to manage and define. Contemporary poet Safaa Fathy echoes them, writing “Disoriented we have to be, even if the walls are many.”

Hindutva is the RIGHTEOUS WAY OF LIVING which had evolved with the progress of the Indian Society based upon the Vedic wisdom. Of course, the non-righteous like Digvijay Singh or Rahul Gandhi will not find the word ‘Hindutva’ in their lexicon.

Hindutva is not the same as Hinduism. Muslims and Christians will not understand this. There is no -ism of the Hindus. Hinduism is what Muslims and Christians are able to see of Hindutva. Never mind their ignorance or inability to comprehend the essence of Hindutva. Even if one were to see through the eyes of the Muslims and the Christians, religion or faith of the Hindus pre-dates any known religion or –ism in the world and is polytheist by design. The first –ism of the world cannot be polarised against any non-existent –ism in its time. Such privileges or options of being opposed to an existing –ism would be available only to the second or any subsequent –ism coming up.

A Hindu is the most secular of all. Hindutva is a progressive and forward looking way of life… secularism included.


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To ensure the quality of the discussion, comments may be edited for clarity, length, and relevance. Comments that are overly promotional, mean-spirited, or off-topic may be deleted.

Published by

Mukul Gupta

*Educator, researcher, author and a friendly contrarian* Professor@MDIGurgaon

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