Hindutva Brigade’s Undeclared War on the Idea of India
THE idea of India as a secular democratic and culturally diverse nation was a result of the broad consensus between the representatives of all major classes in the Constituent Assembly. The Constitution, which was a result of this broad process of negotiation, guaranteed certain fundamental rights such as the freedom of expression and religion as well as equal opportunity for historically exploited social groups. The attack on this idea has been growing. This is reflected in the growing social and political interventions by the so-called fringe Hindutva organisations such as Sri Ram Sene and Sanatan Sanstha. Their actions reflect the intensification of an unfettered social counter revolution that has been taking place within, after the recent accelaration of neo-liberal policies which have reversed the limited aim of social reform and redistribution that were an objective of the welfare State. Of particular importance is the attack of these organisations on scientific reasoning and anti-superstition that formed the very basis of the idea of India. To this end it must be remembered that the promotion of scientific temper is itself a declared fundamental duty within the Constitution and the Modi government is abdicating its responsibility by covertly giving space to anti-rationalist organisations.
MAINSTREAMING OF ‘FRINGE’
The arrest of Samir Gaikwad in the murder of rationalist ideologue Kalburgi and the links between his murder and the assasination of Dhabolkar and Pansare has focused attention on the sudden rise of Sanatan Sanstha. The Sanstha was founded by Jayant Balaji Athavale in 1990 with the stated aim of spreading Hindu dharma through scientific spirituality. Its main objective is to propagate: “spiritual practice for the sake of society includes propagating spirituality, undertaking the mission of "social upliftment", national security, rekindling righteousness, protecting "seekers" and destroying "evil doers". The prime targets or the evil doers are considered to be people spreading the scientific temper and challenging the dominance of Hindutva forces. To this end its managing trustee and office bearers have frequently boasted that they provide martial art and firearm training to their sewaks so that they can defend themselves and the religion.
The criminal history of the Sanstha and its members can be traced to Vashi and Thane bomb blasts in 2007. The Vashi bomb blast took place outside a mosque, whereas the Thane bomb was thrown at a theatre where a play targeting Hindu mythology was to be staged. Though the Sanstha and its office bearers denied their hand in the blasts, they nevertheless refused to condemn these blasts as they were done with the aim to ‘protect the dharma’. Following this, the members instigated and planned the Madgaon bomb blasts in 2008 in Goa where the sprawling ashram of the Sanstha is housed. The actions of the Sanstha forced the organisers of the film festival to drop the screening of a play on MF Hussain. Thereafter systematic warnings were issued to the supporters of the anti-superstition bill as well as activists like Dhabolkar and Pansare. On the death of Dhabolkar its news paper the Sanatan Prabhat wrote that everyone should get the fruits of “his karma” thereby implying that Dhabolkar was killed because of his opposition to the Sanstha. Similarly, on the death of Pansare, the Sanstha’s lawyer openly stated that though the Sanstha was against violence “Pansare had to be exposed”, thereby justifying his assassination. Significantly Dhabolkar’s murder took place a few days after the Mumbai anti-terrorism squad appealed to the court to ban the Sanstha.
It may be recalled that militant opposition to the enemies of Hindutva was earlier undertaken by the political activists of the Shiv Sena and the youth wing of BJP, the Bajrang Dal. But the assumption of power by the BJP at the centre and in many states like Rajasthan and Maharashtra has now restricted the activities of these groups. The common ploy being employed by the Sangh Parivar is that its organisations should maintain a ‘moderate’ and ‘development oriented’ stance to protect the mass base of the government. At the same time the open support to organisations like the Sanatan Sanstha by the Shiv Sena and other ideologues of the BJP is being used by the Parivar to propogate its ideology and oppose (even exterminate) its enemies. These so called fringe organisations are espousing social conservative and morally retrograde values that are in fact supported by many parliamentarians and ministers of the Modi government. In this way this phase of politics represents an assault on reason and the growth of a militant and violent form of Hindutva that forms the bedrock of the communal fascism threatening the democratic principles of our nation.
SCIENCE & THE DEFENSE
OF THE IDEA OF INDIA
The development of scientific temper or a rational method of knowing the presently unknowable world, is central to the idea of nationhood and nation building. The Indian nation is described in terms of its past traditions, a continuous adaptation of old ideas to the present situation, representing a continuity that defies sharp cultural breaks in history and thereby creates a spirit of tolerance and flexible mind. For Gandhi, Nehru, Ambedkar and Bhagat Singh, the relationship between science and religion will change, but only through a process of social reform. All of them believed that the past has two elements: the forms that have become hierarchical and cultural exclusivity of the caste system on the one hand, and the traditional freedom of thought and tolerance on the other hand. Science, scientific enterprise and the efforts to cultivate scientific temper are embedded in social relations of production. The promotion of reason to empower the oppressed and to reduce inequities in order to create the basis of a different type of morality is the need of the hour. The use of violence to propagate the morality that the organisations associated with religious nationalism is entirely unconstitutional.
Therefore, it is the urgent need to appeal to the masses to exercise reason and ask the religious people to bring sanity around them by standing firmly against the activities not only of fringe elements but also against the silence of central and state governments led by the BJP. However, it also needs to be realised that how the resistance to the forces of Hindutva is also a struggle for the defence of democracy, freedom of thought and expression and cultivation of critical thinking in the Indian society. Socio-economic deprivation and crisis of political legitimacy of the ruling classes contribute to religious nationalism or its downfall depending on the conditions that the democratic forces can create for the weakening of capitalist, neo-liberal State. Alternate pathways and politics need to be pursued for the building of an egalitarian State, availability of tools of political mobilisation, humanism and leadership. There is an urgent need to counter religious activism, religious statism, religious nationalism, and religious terrorism and defend the composite and pluralist culture of India.