The campaign to demonise the Hindu nationalist movement is indefatigable; it knows no bounds, conforms to no stipulations and defies all logic. When one outlandish theory unravels, another is promptly whipped up, garnished with shocking artefacts to pique public attention and presented as gospel truth. Ramachandra Guha’s article, From IS to RSS: Drawing parallels between Islamism and Hindutva (Hindustan Times, 14 February) is the latest edition of this duplicitous exercise.
For long, Hindutva has been vilified as a neo-Nazi movement; its leaders were ranked with Hitler, communal riots under BJP regimes were classified as pogroms and the BJP was branded as fascist. However, these fabricated concerns and trumped up charges have fallen by the wayside. A special investigation directed by the Supreme Court squashed the wild stories linked to the Gujarat riots; the Indian electorate saw right through these shenanigans and handed the BJP an absolute mandate; and the BJP by its model behaviour has authenticated its democratic credentials.
Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee’s prompt resignation when his government was felled by a single dubious vote (cast by a member who had ceased to be an MP) stands out as the ultimate example of commitment to democracy. In a similar setting, the Congress led by Indira Gandhi chose to impose authoritarian rule.
Today, when the tag of Nazism has shrivelled and imploded, two new-fangled theories have surfaced: majoritarianism and a fantasised approximation of radical Islam and so-called radical Hindutva. The greatest fallacy of Indian intellectuals is the penchant to apply alien concepts to the Indian scene without appreciating the nuances of such transference. The result is erroneous conclusions far removed from ground reality that do more harm than good.
Majoritarianism is a concept propounded by 18th century European philosophers to alert people to the danger of “tyranny of the majority”. Fears of a brute majoritarianism may have some validity in homogenised societies like pre-World War II Europe, which lacked a sound spiritual base. But nationalism in the setting of a society that is traditionally non-violent, tolerant and pluralistic like India produces a totally different end product. Majoritarianism in the India context means plurality and tolerance and does not have a negative connotation.
Guha’s symmetry of radical Islam and Hindutva is also flawed. In fact, he himself appears unconvinced of this correlation: he dismisses outright Irfan Habib’s contention to the same. Nevertheless, he proceeds to weave a long winded narrative that fails to impress.
His pivotal contention of “education and population” being central to radical Islam and the RSS is a simplistic overview that overlooks important, intricate details that differentiate the two.
Education in India has never been a pristine playground devoid of external influences. For over 50 years, leftist historians corrupted Indian history to suit their political agenda. The defunct Aryan Dravidian theory, the whitewashing of Muslim invasions and the erasure of Vedic civilisation are a few of their distortions.
Additionally, the Nehru-Gandhi family ensured primacy of its ancestors. In NCERT textbooks, Bhagat Singh finds no mention, Subhas Chandra Bose is given short shrift and Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel the architect of the unification of India is mentioned as an “also ran”.
Against this background, a charge of saffronisation appears facetious and smacks of double standards.
Coming to the question of population, Guha pooh-poohs Hindu concerns without providing any reasons. It is undeniable that demographic imbalance has consequences. Whenever and wherever the demographic scale has tilted against the Hindu he has suffered. The dwindling Hindu populations of both Pakistan and Bangladesh post partition are testimony to this assertion. Even within our borders, Kashmir with a Muslim majority provides adequate evidence of the fate of the minority Hindu. So explain to me why Hindu fears are “unjustified”?
Finally, Mr Guha’s accusawtion of patriarchy by referring to women being targeted for wearing jeans and not being allowed to choose their partners is a vicious attempt to falsely highlight fringe elements as the prototype. Accordingly, he refuses to acknowledge RSS efforts to endorse women priests and champion the entry of Dalits into Hindu temples.
Ramachandra Guha’s generalisations lack validity—they are factually and logically challenged. They are deliberate obfuscations.
Vivek Gumaste is a US based academic and political commentator.