December 27, 2015

Secularism versus Hindutva

C P Bhambhri

IT is only the ideologues of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, past and present, who have always opposed the idea of secular State because the idea of Hindutva is in antagonistic contradiction with the “basic structure of secular, republican and democratic constitution of India.” It deserves to be clearly emphasised that every controversy around the meaning and concept of Indian secularism has originated from the Sangh Parivar and the RSS swayam sevaks whether Lal Krishna Advani famous for his castigating the secularists as ‘pseudo’ or Rajnath Singh, a loyal RSS swayam sevak and the home minister of India following in the footsteps of his preachers in the RSS observed in Lok Sabha on November 26, 2015 that ‘Secularism is the most misused word in the country. Its misuse should come to an end.’ He further objected and said ‘dharma nirpeksha’ the literal meaning of secularism should be replaced by ‘panth nirpeksha’ (official Hindi translation of secularism.) Further, Singh continued that secularism’s ‘political misuse (has led) to tensions in the country.’ The thrust of the argument here is that public discourse in India essentially and basically should revolve around the idea of secularism and its real antagonist idea of Hindutva and secularists should emphasise this aspect of reality because many gullible sections of society are taken by the false propaganda of the RSS that supporters of the idea of secular India are irreligious atheists and hence a threat to religious belief system of the majority Hindu community.

The RSS has always made an attempt to create hostility towards secularists by projecting them as enemies of religious believer Hindus. This misrepresentation has to be challenged by placing Hindutva of the Sangh Parivar as a special kind of ideology which is anti-Muslim, anti-Christian and which has coined a particular definition of Hindutva not to be confused with Hindu and Hinduism. RSS brand of Hindutva has nothing to do with rich, multiple and diverse traditions of Hinduism.

Hindutva of the RSS presents a picture of monolith and one undifferentiated belief system by describing Hinduism as opposed to Islam or Christianity and it is the crux of the issue that RSS is using ‘religion’ as interpreted by it to capture State power and establish Hindu Rashtra and Hindu Raj. It is quite appropriate to define Indian secularism as a first step to counter the false propaganda of the RSS ideologues that secularists are against Hindu religion. It is essential to turn to history to rescue the concept of ‘secularism’ from its opponents who are ever prepared to interpret it as it seems convenient for their political goals. The first meaning of western secularism is that ‘the State should be separated from the Church’ because the State is a secular institution meant to perform its duties for all its ‘citizens’ irrespective of their religious beliefs or ethnic religious identities and the Church is concerned only with its ‘believers and practitioners of its religion’ This separation between Church and the State was a big achievement for modern State system in Europe because the very powerful Pope and the well organised Church challenged the authority of the emerging monarchical State systems over citizens without reference to the holy sacred Old and New Testament and Bible. The emerging State system in each modern Europe fought battles against the Pope and Church and after winning the war against the papal authority, secular State authority was successfully established over Europe.

The American war of independence 1776, the French revolution of 1789, the Industrial revolution, the birth of powerful working classes and their movements and the Socialist revolution of Russia in 1917 in their own progressive manner established ‘non-theocratic’, or ‘the State without any official religion of its own’ and the sum and substance of this historical joining was that the State distanced itself from religion, priests and Churches. Further, gradually societies in Europe were also becoming ‘secular’ and the hold of Church or priestly classes over citizens was becoming quite marginal and in such a situation secular State in real sense of the term got fully established and governance on the basis of rule of law became the order of the day. The moral of this description is that the speciality of the meaning of ‘secularism’ is historically determined and India has not felt the need to accept the doctrine of ‘separation of Church and the State’ because India’s religious, cultural and political history is quite different from that of Europe. It is important to refer here to the confusion created by Indian scholars who are self-appointed critics of western modernity who have claimed that secularism as an idea is a foreign import and it is not Indian ethos.

Secularism is not Indian because Indian society never had an organisation like one powerful Church for the religious regulation of the whole society. This approach by some scholars is logically fallacious because the secularists are contesting against the ideology of Hindutva by pointing out the fact that India’s peculiarity is in its diversity and plurality and any construction of religious homogeneity is against the very spirit of Indian civilisation. Hence, this inherent logic of diversity and plurality demands that the State should be secular which practices and believes in ‘Sarv Dharm Saman ie, the State practices and ensures ‘equal respect and freedom of all religions’. Secularists believe that the Indian State showed respect to ‘all cultural diversities.’

MS Golwalker of the RSS, observed in the 1940 that ‘one flag, one leader, and one ideology of Hindutva’ is the meaning of India. This ideology has been the guiding principle of the RSS and Mohan Bhagwat, the RSS supremo has repeatedly observed that India is a Hindu country and VD Savarkar said those whose ‘places of worship are in foreign countries’ are not sons of Bharat mata. KB Hedgewar and his colleague Bal Krishna Shivram Moonje, both from Nagpur, established the RSS in 1925 ‘to train Hindus so that they are physically strong enough to defend themselves from Muslims.’ Moonje, one of the founders of the RSS was a ‘votary of impacting military training to the youth’ and for this, he founded Bhosle Military School in Nashik in 1937 with a branch in Nagpur.

Moonje’s idea of Central Hindu Military Education Society was to train ‘the Hindu youth’ and for learning purposes, he in early 1930’s travelled to Italy under Mussolini. Thus RSS is a ‘para-military’ organisation and one of its founder Moonje was a great critique of Gandhi’s non-violence and ‘secularism.’ It is not without reason that the RSS workers, as protectors of Hindus, have been frequently involved in violent anti-Muslim riots. On  November 27, 2015, Maharashtra former DGP SM Mushrif, publically claimed that RSS activists have been indicted in at least 13 terror cases across India and he described the ‘outfit’ as ‘India’s  No 1 terrorist organisation’.

India’s struggle is against the ideology of Hindutva which is violently against Muslims and Christians and the RSS is trained to teach lessons to the religious minorities by targeting their places of worship, Mosques and Churches; target those who are alleged to be strangulating Holy Cow and also target those who are involved in ‘Love Jihad’ or inter-religious marriages. India is witnessing fundamental contest at ideological level between ‘secularists’ who respect all religions and believe in ‘composite India’ where every Indian who is born here has equal rights and the Hindutva of the RSS for whom religious minorities are second-class-citizens because their religion and culture is alien and foreign. The real definition of secular State of India is contained in the preamble and Constitution of India that ‘every Indian is equal and the State shall not distinguish or discriminate against any citizen on the basis of religion or sect or gender.’

Mr Advani, there is nothing like ‘psuedo-secularism’ or Mr Rajnath, there is no misuse of the word secularism’ and there is no vagueness about Hindutva of RSS, Bhagwat, Advani and Rajnath. Indian State is ‘dharm nirpeksh’ and Hindutva is attacking the rich diversities and pluralities of India including pluralities of Hindu culture and religion. Hindutva of the RSS is a perversion of Hinduism and the struggle is at two levels ie, to deepen the spirit of dharma nirpeksha rajya of India to rescue the rich pluralities of Hindu traditions from the Sangh Parivar.

The upshot of the above description is that the Sangh Parivar has created confusion in the minds of the common man that Hinduism, as completely described by it has to be protected and defended and the secular State is partial towards anti-Hindu religious communities. Secularists should not fall in the trap laid down by the Sangh Parivar and expose its Hindutva so that real India which is multi-religious, multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and multi-lingual can be defended by a ‘non-discriminatory secular State’.