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Published in the 1-15 July 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Hindutva’s future trajectory
By Ram Puniyani

The results of parliamentary elections May 2004 were most significant in the history of India's elections so far. The only other one's which had such a massive impact so far have been the results of post emergency elections, which threw out the Congress regime and brought in Janata party to power. The present results on one hand sent a sigh of relief to many while shocking many in various ways. Those committed to the values of Indian constitution, those striving for democracy heaved a sigh of relief that the RSS agenda executed through NDA will be curtailed for the time being. Those within the Sangh combine, those wanting to replace the democratic structure to Hindu Rashtra, and were very sure that they are close to their agenda, felt a great set back by the verdict of the elections.

It is sure that had they returned to power, with whatever majority, they would have taken their agenda to very different level. The processes, which they had begun to erode, the democratic institutions, did signal the dangerous portents. The success of RSS combine lay in the fact that for a large section of population it could equate Hindus with their brand of Hinduism and Hinduism with Hindutva, and Hindutva as synonym with the politics of RSS and its progeny. Any criticism of BJP, RSS and VHP etc. was and is regarded as an attack on Hindus. The fact that Hinduism has various shades and the RSS brand of Hinduism is a mere reiteration of Brahmnical values got relegated in the background. 

The point that Hindutva is not a religion but a politics of Hindu elite, especially the affluent sections of middle classes again got relegated to the background. Those who bought the RSS propagated values became very critical of Human rights activists on the grounds that these activists are pro Muslims, are against Hindus. Not only that this committed core cadre of RSS went on to put more severe allegations against social activists than being mere pro Muslims. This came about mainly due to the propaganda of RSS combine carried through different channels, the center of which is the RSS shakha (branch), which indoctrinates the young in its ideology. Picking from there, this is carried forward by many RSS swaymsevaks in different sections of society, media being one of the powerful one and educational institutions and history books being another.

The occupation of the seats of power by BJP enhanced these processes to no end. Whatever was just accessible to small section now became a part of official strategy, through all the mechanisms available to the state. This is how the communal divide, the emotional distance between religious communities started widening during last six years at a rapid pace. The social space made available to the Sangh combine by the Central Govt., govt. of its allies in states and already existing mechanism added fuel to the fire of communal hatred, the result came forward in the form of burning of Pastor Stains, anti-Christian violence during BJP led NDA regime, the horrific Gujarat violence on the pretext of Godhra and the incidents like Marad in the otherwise secularized Keral community, indicated that communal forces are on the rampage at the social level all over.

With such a fertile situation coming into being how far away can the Hindu Rashtra be? One more stint in power, the central governments resources and policies tilting for the RSS agenda and the helpful hand of NRIs would have done the job and many more such Hindutva laboratories would join Gujarat. Fortunately that was not to be. Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan have joined Gujarat in creating an atmosphere, which is very intimidating. Meanwhile it seems the social engineering, which could co-opt Adivasis into RSS fold, is showing the signs of cracks. It is likely that the same Adivisis who were made to act as the foot soldiers for the Hidnutva rampage in Gujarat may be getting disenchanted and drifting away. This may be one of the factors due to which BJP could not make the sweep, which it was expecting in Gujarat. Social scientists need to burn the midnight oil to tell us how far can the deprived sections remain with the emotive issues of Lord Ram or Mother Cow?

In the light of this the VHP has again intensified its campaign against conversions. Terrorists wanting to kill the Hindu Hriday Samrat (Emperor of Hindu Hearts-II) Narendra Modi are being projected on the faintest of pretext. As all this comes under POTA and draconian acts like that the opposition to the illegal acts of the state machinery are not easy to challenge, and the state machinery does act with impunity in places where swayamsevaks rule the roost.

The coming times seem to be full of bigger challenges for those trying to uphold democratic values, secular spirit and national integration on the basis of Indian constitution. Deprived of the control on state power the RSS and its progeny is likely to assume most rabid forms of offensive against minorities in particular. The hate spewing machines may step up their activities and the result of such activities is well known to the society by now. The defense of Modi by the Hindutva outfit will have severe repercussions. Already Modi is on the overdrive to harass the human rights activists in Gujarat. Those who have voiced their concern against the dwindling liberal and democratic space in Gujarat are being targeted. 

While the differences within the Sang combine are out in the open, it is also clear that it is RSS and its cohorts who call the shots at any point of time. The flip-flop Vajpayee is given importance only when needed for electoral calculation, especially when the liberal and minority votes are to be sought after. Rest of the times the so-called Hindutva agenda will be asserted and brought to the fore. Now there is also a fear that as Ram temple issue no more yields results, one is yet to see how much electoral milk holy cow can deliver, what will be the strategy of BJP? One is yet to see how intimidation of minorities will assume newer and newer forms. Already there is a talk that BJP lost as it abandoned the Hindutva agenda, that it became a poorer version of Congress. The indications are stark and clear that in coming times BJP will resort to hardcore Hindutva.

For social movements the task is clear. One cannot depend only on the state machinery, which so ever government be in power, for preservation of communal amity. Communal amity in turn is the core value, which provides the space for struggles for just society. Time is overdue for social groups to combat the communal poison at the level of society; the need for demolition of myths against minorities, the need for intercommunity committees to promote amity. And this is paramount if we want to preserve the democracy and associated principles. The worsening of the condition of the weaker sections does call for urgent measures to stem the tide. The international scenario is not very heartening with US putting up all the fig leaves to cover its agenda to control the raw materials and for that purpose to demonize Islam and Muslims. 
In that sense the Hindutva's anti Islam and US's anti Islam merge in their goals. Modi and George Bush share a lot in common. Democracy at home can be strengthened only by the democracy between the Nations of the World. The big brother, the big tyrant calling the shots is a shame for the civilized world per se. The challenges for peace movements, democratic movements are there for all to see, the point is how do these movements cope with to ensure that the imperialism globally and Hindutva nationally are fought against within the liberal and democratic space available to us.

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