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Sunday, August 21, 2016

Why Hindutva Doesn't Like Normalcy – And Seems Indifferent To Social Strife?

By AIJAZ ASHRAF | INNLIVE

The RSS wants to reorder Indian society in accordance with its worldview. An endeavour of this magnitude has to generate social tension and conflict.

Over the last 27 months, there has scarcely been a fortnight in which we haven’t had news of conflict from one part of the country or another. It would seem normalcy is anathema to the Sangh Parivar, including the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government, which has consciously triggered many of these conflicts.

From social relations to institutions, to non-government organisations, to centre-state relations, to foreign affairs, every arena has become a site for the government or the Bharatiya Janata Party to spark friction and opposition. It seems normalcy is a condition the ruling dispensation has a distaste for.

This insouciance to the increasing social strife springs from the majority the BJP enjoys in the Lok Sabha – a comfort no ruling formation had since 1989. It has emboldened the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh to introduce policies and initiate actions anchored in Hindutva, all the time aware that social tension cannot but be a natural corollary of these attempts.

This is because the goal of the Sangh is to create a new Indian or, rather, neo-Hindus. It is they who will enable the Sangh to reorder Indian society in accordance with its worldview. An endeavour of this magnitude has to generate social tension and conflict.

The neo-Hindu will privilege their religious identity over caste, linguistic, and regional identities. It isn’t enough for them to be Indian. They must consciously affirm themselves as Hindu, best exemplified through the slogan, Garv se kaho hum Hindu hain (Say proudly you are Hindu).

Hindutva consciously aims to replace the cosmopolitan Indian personality with one which is self-consciously Hindu. In the manner of the Islamists, they must efface those attributes from their personality which are deemed to not be rooted in Hindu culture. Further, they must not tolerate these attributes in others either.
Thus, for instance, it isn’t enough for the self-conscious Hindus to forsake beef and consider the cow holy. They must also ensure the cow isn’t slaughtered and beef consumed in their holy land (cow vigilantism). Since women, from Hindutva’s perspective, are the purveyors of the Hindu tradition to the next generation, their relationship with Muslim men (love jihad) must be opposed.

Then again, the underlying idea behind bringing back Muslims and Christians into Hinduism (ghar wapsi) is aimed at negating the reasons – the weaknesses of Hinduism, so to speak – which led them to embrace Islam and Christianity. Their very presence, for Hindutva, is an indictment of Hinduism, because of which they were lured or compelled to leave. Why else would Hindus leave a superior faith? asks Hindutva.

Hindu privacy
No less inimical is the influence of western, or modern, thoughts, which have spawned the idea that conflict between competing interests is the principal driver of change. No, argues Hindutva, change has to be consensual. It is what guarantees social stability. Hindutva, therefore, looks askance at anyone questioning the existing social arrangement.

This is why the BJP is lukewarm to Dalit assertion. This is why the suicide of Hyderabad Central University student Rohith Vemula did not horrify the BJP. Hindutva’s most favoured strategy to affect social change is to dine with Dalits, as BJP president Amit Shah has been doing in Uttar Pradesh. Or praise their icons, as Modi has been lavishing on Dr BR Ambedkar.

This is also why Jawaharlal Nehru University student leader Kanhaiya Kumar and his friends were charged with sedition. They, as also many non-governmental organisations, believe change is possible only by challenging the hegemony of dominant groups. Their other mistake was to believe a nation is a willing compact among people to live together in a political community. What is to be done should a group want to withdraw its consent to living together? they ask.

No, argues Hindutva, the nation is organic – it was there from time immemorial. It is immutable. It is treacherous to think otherwise. This is why Hindutva followers cheer the killing of Kashmiris in police firing – and those protesting against excesses are charged with sedition.

Hindutva believes harmony will be established, and unity forged, once the primacy of Hindu culture is established. But this cannot happen without the Indians behaving as self-conscious Hindus. It is a gargantuan challenge to turn Hindus self-conscious in a country where they are counted as 80%.

For this reason, it is imperative to inculcate in the Hindus a sense of victimhood. History books must be revised to tell the story of the past as a clash between Hindus and Muslims. The British (Christians) must be pilloried for pitting one caste against the other and undermining the Hindu unity. This is why academicians who think otherwise now find themselves out in the cold.

The sense of victimhood will help create not only a self-conscious Hindu, but also, Hindutva hopes, a militant one seeking retribution. In his writings, the high priest of Hindutva, VD Savarkar, blames Buddhism’s creed of non-violence for enfeebling the Hindu personality. He mocks victorious Hindu kings who didn’t abduct Muslim women to avenge the conversion of Hindu women whom Muslim rulers allegedly took away from the vanquished Hindus.

The process through which an unforgiving, militant neo-Hindu is born cannot be episodic. It has to be a permanent project, for normalcy tends to dilute religious identity, allowing the more functional identity of class and caste to come to the fore. This is why Hindutva must keep the society in continuous ferment, the intensity of which is enhanced or diminished depending on its needs.

If it is not love jihad, then it has to be ghar wapsi. If not that, then it has to be the ferocious vigilantism of cow-protectionists and charges of sedition slapped on protesting students. To prepare for the Uttar Pradesh Assembly election, the theory of Hindu exodus from its towns has been mooted. The minority status of Aligarh Muslim University has been challenged to tell the Dalits and Other Backward Classes that it is a ruse of Muslims and pseudo-seculars to deny them reservations.

The State is central
Obviously, consolidation of Hindus will also help the BJP in garnering votes and deepening the power it wields, making its hold enduring. The State is central in the Hindutva imagination. It is through the state that the resurgence of neo-Hindus will be expressed, enabling India to scale the peaks of glory and power.
Like the neo-Hindu, the state has to be self-consciously Hindu. It will not desist from wreaking vengeance on its tormentors, both inside and outside the country. It isn’t a coincidence that Hindutva is in thrall to the symbolism of the Iron Man. It is besotted by Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel because his conduct as Home Minister during Partition violence wasn’t impartial.

The state is to Hindu society what the patriarch is to the Hindu joint family. Like him, the state is considered wise, just and noble in its intent, the arbitrator of competing interests and remorseless in crushing opposition to it.

This is why the Reserve Bank of India's Raghuram Rajan has to be hounded out. This is also why Greenpeace, Ford Foundation and activists such as Teesta Setalvad must be pilloried. The Chief Justice of India insists on the judicial supremacy in appointment of judges. His shedding of tears publicly will not have the state relent. Since the state knows best, the Chief Justice must acquiesce to it.
This is also why the state will be unmoved by the resignation of public intellectual Pratap Bhanu Mehta from the Executive Council of the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library over the flouting of norms in appointing its director.

Academicians just don’t get it – for Hindutva, the primary purpose of research and educational institutions is to tailor, or manufacture, memory conductive to creating the neo-Hindu consciousness.

With the neo-Hindu willing to avenge acts committed even centuries ago, it is only natural for alarm bells to ring as the Prime Minister added Balochistan to the Kashmir-India-Pakistan-China mix. Whether the Prime Minister will give Pakistan a befitting response, we cannot tell.

What we do know is that the neo-Hindu is nurtured in the abnormality of jingoistic fervour and social tension. This is why normalcy is not what Hindutva pines for, as you and I do.
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