Hindutva mind games

Print edition : July 21, 2017

To declare India as a Hindu Rashtra has been a dream project of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) for a long time. The National Democratic Alliance government of Atal Bihari Vajpayee had, at one stage, actively considered having a new Constitution, a draft of which the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders were studying then. That project has since been dumped because the RSS believes that with a strong BJP government at the Centre and in many States, India is a de facto Hindu Rashtra and there is no need for it to become a de jure one.

Subramanian Swamy, the BJP’s Rajya Sabha member, had been involved in studying the draft alternative Constitution. He told Frontline that the BJP leadership actively considered working on this draft but he dissuaded them from going ahead. “For one, I told them that the existing Constitution has enough elements of a Hindu Rashtra. I told them that we already are a de facto Hindu Rashtra and there is no need to become a de jure one. In my opinion, adopting a new Constitution is not possible unless there is a revolution. Besides, our Constitution already has enough of Hindutva in it,” he told this correspondent. He said this was his response when he and a few eminent lawyers were asked about their opinion on adopting a new Constitution. “This was shortly after I had joined the BJP [by merging his Janata Party with it at the time of the 2014 Lok Sabha election]. After the government was formed I was asked for my opinion on this issue,” he said. The draft alternative Constitution had been prepared by some Vidyarthi Parishad member in 2000-01, but that document was discarded for now, he said.

However, the fact remains that establishing a Hindu Rashtra is one of the pet projects of the Sangh Parivar. Now the game plan is to establish the concept at the thought level: changing the mindset of people so that the majority community becomes emboldened enough to assert its dominance and force the minorities into subjugation. The process has already started manifesting itself in the form of street vigilantism, resulting in instances of mob violence and lynching. Invariably, the victims are Muslims and the excuse for the attacks can be as trivial as suspicion of eating/carrying/transporting cow meat or issues such as love jehad, not saying Vande Mataram or Bharat mata ki jai, or even cheering for Pakistan in an India-Pakistan cricket match. And is it any coincidence that most of these instances are being reported from States ruled by the BJP?

The thinking in the Sangh Parivar seems to be, why go for lengthy routes involving documents and institutions such as Parliament and political parties when you can simply badger your way through by influencing people’s thought process. Said Manmohan Vaidya, all-India propaganda chief of the RSS: “For us Hindu Rashtra is not about the state. For us Hindu Rashtra is about the nation and the nation is made up of people: the way they think, feel, behave, carry themselves, their sanskaars. So we work with the mind and hearts of people and try and invoke a sense of oneness in them. After all, except for Jews and Parsis, who came from outside, all those who live in Bharat are sons of this soil, but they might have converted to other faiths. So we all have a shared legacy, culture, values, system. We may have our own different religions, but we have a common spiritual connect. This is what is Hindu Rashtra, the feeling of oneness. The feeling that the nation called Bharat is about us, we the people.”

According to him, the meaning of Hindu Rashtra is in the sense of pride in being a Hindu, which has nothing to do with religion, but has to do with culture and civilisation. A Hindu is one who proudly belongs to a particular territory, with a shared history, he says.

By this logic, all minorities, including Muslims, Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists, are Hindus and belong to the Hindu Rashtra, that is, India. However, this premise unnerves the minorities, especially Muslims. “When one is called a Hindu, one gets associated with a particular way of living, dressing, carrying on one’s daily life. This changes with every religion. People who profess a particular religion have a particular way of living, dressing and conducting their lives. These give one an identity. If you co-opt all religions into the Hindu way of life, then slowly we will lose our identity,” says S.Q.R. Iliyas, member of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board and president of the All India Welfare Party.

According to him, the attempt to change the mindset is singling out people who dress differently, eat differently and look different, and treating them with suspicion and hatred. “This suspicion and hatred come pouring out when there is even a minor clash between the two identities. People’s minds are being poisoned,” he says.

According to him, what causes concern is the fact that despite so many such instances, the Prime Minister has remained mum, and there has been no firm action anywhere. He also says that if indeed the BJP wants to convert India to a Hindu Rashtra, they should change it through the proper institution, that is, by amending the Constitution. “At least this will give us the chance to voice our position, state our apprehensions and, if possible, get remedies. But the covert manner in which they are trying to do it is instilling a sense of fear,” he says.

Purnima S. Tripathi

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