Republic of India to Republic of Hindutva

August 1947 was a watershed moment in the history of the Indian sub-continent. India – the jewel in the British crown – became an independent nation as it broke away from its imperial past of over 200 years. The joyful moment however was short-lived as independence unfortunately came at a heavy price in the form of partition of the subcontinent. Millions of people lost their lives in the ensuing migration between borders. In those blood thirsty times when neighbours and fellow-countrymen became enemies overnight due, the leaders of independent India led by Mahatma Gandhi, Sardar Patel and Pandit Nehru among others chose to establish a secular, modern, democratic and plural nation. Independent India was created as a nation where people of all faiths, all communities, castes and sects were given equal rights and citizenship. Some of the finest moments of independent India also came during the ghastly post-partition riots on its western and eastern borders where mob fury ran amok amidst mayhem and violence. Noakhali in then East-Pakistan was witness to one such moment when Mahatma Gandhi’s moral authority, courage and commitment to peace and secular ideals forced the seething and rampaging Muslim mobs to lay down arms and stop the slaughter of the minority Hindu community. Similarly, in the national capital of Delhi and Indian Punjab it was Sardar Patel and Pandit Nehru who courageously stopped blood thirsty crowds of Hindus and Sikhs from killing Muslims. These poignant moments were a tribute to the spirit of secularism which independent India and its people embodied. Unfortunately Gandhiji’s life was taken by the very same radical and violent ideas which he fought against all his life. Mahatma Gandhi’s vision and dream however was kept alive by his successors. Republic of India survived the scars of partition because of the liberal outlook of its elected leaders and most importantly the commitment of the people of India to create a pluralistic, liberal and secular society. After all it was “We, the people of India…” who created that majestic and visionary social policy doctrine called the Constitution. India survived and grew because the state did not sanction violence, hate crimes, superstition and irrational practices. In times when India was identified as the land of snake charmers, its leaders pursued a vision of creating rural and urban infrastructure in the form of large dams, mega electrification projects, education institutions like the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) and Indian Institute of Management (IIMs), space missions and job creation by domestic investments. On the other hand India’s break-away brother Pakistan fell into an abyss in which it continues to suffer. The passing away of Jinnah followed by the United States’ pursuit of the cold-war doctrine which used Pakistan as a proxy to counter the Soviet Union created a monster in the form of the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) and a powerful rouge Army that could overrule civilian authority. India’s leaders on the other hand had the vision and courage to not follow a binary approach of raising a military state to counter another one. As India invested in creating social and physical infrastructure, Pakistan invested in weapons, training of mujahedeen and madrasas that preached radical Islam. India chose to look forward to a better future for all sections of society while Pakistan continued to look back into a bloody past and invested its energy and resources in creating an atmosphere of fear, hate and perceived insecurity over the existence of its Islamic identity.

Over the ensuing decades India’s democracy and pluralist outlook survived an emergency in the mid-70s and the scars of communal polarization. Resentment towards minorities continued to fester since partition and manifest itself through periodic incidents of  riots but the wedge only grew deeper after the Ram Janmabhoomi movement launched by the RSS-BJP combine under L K Advani’s leadership. Pakistan could never really recover from the martial law and Islamization imposed by the General Zia Ul Haq regime in the 70s. Radicalization swept through its society. Science, rationality, justice, law and order, intellectualism and reasoning were all cast aside and replaced by violence, mob vigilantism, bigotry, extremism and a culture of fear and hate. Indian politics and social harmony too underwent a major churning with the rise of the Sangh Parivar forces on the political landscape. Riding on the crest of madness and mayhem created by the Rath Yatra a surging BJP occupied the political void created by a weakened Congress party. Gujarat 2002 marked the creation of a new Hindutva hero for the gullible Hindu voters who were systematically brainwashed into believing that supposed minority appeasement was the root cause of all their economic woes. Since 2007 the phoenix like portrayal of Narendra Modi by corporate India and a subservient media created a messiah like image of a man who could do no wrong. The image of a strong and incorruptible leader was created with clever manipulation of fake news stories, paid news and the increasing penetration of social media. The mythical Gujarat Model was sold as the magic pill for all economic ills. The mishandling of the economy and the inability to control the fallout of scams during UPA-2 by a bungling Congress party was the final nail in the coffin. The Modi wave of 2014 not only swept aside the opposition but also any semblance of reasoning, secular ideals, justice and moral compass among the India’s increasingly polarized electorate. State after state that went to polls in the largely Hindi heartland of north India fell into the BJP’s lap as a clueless Congress did little to change tactics or institute internal reforms to revamp the party. The onset of RSS controlled BJP governments in different states has also co-incided with a systematic rise of vigilantism in guise of gau-rakshaks, anti-romeo squads and love-jihad warriors. Any opinion or idea that is opposed to the RSS view is now branded as anti-national. Food choices, linguistic choices and even cultural practices are now increasingly being dictated by the Sangh Parivar forces. The beautiful Urdu language too has not been spared of this state sanctioned madness. In 2001 it was George Bush who threatened elected governments with his “Either you are with us or against us” comment. In New India it is the gau-rakshaks who treat every opposing voice with the same contempt without any fear of retribution. The Indian state has found its equivalent of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws in the form of cow slaughter bans. Mahatma Gandhi is no longer the hero of independent India. Godse is. Men like Shambhulal Regar are a symbol of that sense of lost pride and chauvinist heroism for New India. Present day India is in an unseemly hurry to abandon its rich legacy of tolerance, social harmony, diversity and communal amity to follow the radical ideas of Hindutva espoused by the RSS since the 1930s. The forces which sided with the British empire during the freedom struggle have now gained significant acceptance in Indian society and control of government machinery. Vigilantism by mobs in the name of cow protection is becoming the new normal. Debates on prime time television channels are no longer about condemning such acts in unequivocal or bi-partism terms. These are instead boiling down to whataboutery and accusations of supposed selective outrage insinuated by ruling party spokespersons and instigated by a sycophantic, sold out media. The ordinary Indian citizen too has now bought into the hogwash and is divided. Take a look around. Our next door neighbours, our office colleagues, relatives on whatsapp groups and facebook friends list invariably support this hooliganism with a “serves them right” kind of argument or a “See what they are doing to (Hindu) minorities in Pakistan” comment. Our childhood acquaintances or friends have now become the “other”. Many from within our own circle are now coming out and openly voicing their prejudiced views. There unfortunately is a Shambhulal Regar in varying degrees within many of us. Move over Pakistan. Anything you do, India can do better. Much better. Nothing showcases it better than the Hindutva Republic.



About pattysmullings

Occasional freelance writer, full time corporate slave. An idealist by choice, pragmatist by compulsion. Generally write on travel, environment, politics, movies and current affairs.
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3 Responses to Republic of India to Republic of Hindutva

  1. sudhiranjan says:

    While I agree the piece is nicely written, I must say that this is an extremely myopic view that you have taken of the events that have unfurled since independence. It presents a biased and one sided view. Whereas, you have waxed eloquent over the machinations of the Hindutva brigade, you have glossed over other pertinent events related to the Emergency period (probably the darkest hour in the history of our “so called” democracy), the sikh carnage in 1984, the unlawful displacement of the kahsmiri hindus and not to mention the tacit approval and invisible hand of the grand old party (and by implication its secular leaders) in all the said events and more. As someone who would like to critique logically, I feel that you do great injustice in laying out objectively, events that have scarred the nation and have time and again posed serious questions to the secular fabric of the nation. I believe you not only need to be unequivocal in your condemnation but also impartial to convey the true picture.

    Finally, one last point about the this entire discussion on the rise of the hindu brigade. May I say, that while the liberals have paid massive lip-service to counter the narrative put forward by the right wing, hardly any serious action has been seen on the ground. The fact is that one may indulge in an arm-chair battle of ideologies, but to emerge as a truly strong, democratic and secular nation, our arm chair theorists will have to do much more (read engage with people at the grass root level and work for them) than just indulging in a sedentary and lazy battle which, if unchecked, will soon be a foregone conclusion.

    However, having said all that, let me say I enjoyed reading the piece (notwithstanding some of the typos that i couldn’t afford to overlook, occupational hazard I guess) 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • There are two parts to your comment here. One is about past incidents and the other is about the resistance to current events that are underway. With regards to the resistance to present day events, I would say its certainly not restricted to paying lip-service or arm chair criticism. Many organizations are working on the ground opposing the anti-people policies of the government besides the political opposition. The churning that we see in universities is one such example of resistance to the whole imposition of Hindutva agenda. You may have a contrary view point on this as well (which is fine) but the on-ground opposition among the student fraternity to the ABVP and other associated RSS organizations has as much to do with the forced imposition of an agenda that is still not in sync with a large majority of the population (whether it is the appointment of RSS background persons in universities or the modification of curriculum or even the unbelievable mixing of mythology, history and science (For e.g. passing of Lord Ganesha as an example of plastic surgery, the supposed existence of inter-planetary drones during the ancient types, the birth of 100 Kauravas as an example of genetic engineering etc). Myhtology has its place in every society but when it is passed of as history and incidents in those mythological tales are passed of as scientific achievements by the highest levels of elected representatives there is something which is seriously wrong. It is this very ground level opposition that is being painted as a “national versus anti-national” debate in the mainstream media which in any case does not even bother to put up any pretense of being neutral. On the ground protests that happen anywhere are hardly covered (Remember the whole sham of Gujarat never seeing protests due to the Gujarat model until it could no longer be hidden beyond a point after 2015 when things exploded). Even the biggest farmers rally that happened recently in Delhi didn’t get covered by the media. So to equate the absence of any coverage in mainstream media with the absence of protests is incorrect. One can hardly distinguish between what is paid news, fake news or even news for that matter. The sell-out of the media obviously has been a process that has been underway since the last two decades and has no direct link to the present day government alone but this process now appears to have reached a culmination with majority of the media houses being controlled by a select few industrialists and even within them a particular industrialist.

      On your first point, I do agree that the erstwhile ruling Congress dispensations have a lot to answer for about the wrongs that have been done over the last six decades. As a party that has ruled for a majority of the period since independence, the Congress bears responsibility for the good initiatives that were undertaken as well as all the wrongs that were done. But this piece is not so much about “corruption” or “riots”. Do note, I have mentioned the secular state having survived an emergency and many riots intermittently until 1992. Clearly, the Congress party has to share a the blame for events prior to 1992 including the anti-Sikh riots just the way BJP and Modi have to answer for 2002. Likewise, the killings and subsequent exodus of Kashmiri Pandits is another blot on our democracy. When in opposition, the BJP cried hoarse over the appeasement policies of centre and their unwillingness to rehabilitate the Kashmiri Pandits. Today, they are in power both at the state and the centre. Why don’t they make the requisite efforts to rehabilitate them? While the trepidation and fear of the Pandits to back to the valley is understandable it is the government’s duty as well to ensure the adequate ground-work is done to ensure their peaceful return. Why the lack of any sincere efforts on the part of the current dispensation now to rehabilitate them? Keeping an issue alive is probably much more beneficial than resolving it.

      The current threats we face today are not just a specter of rioting or arson similar to those that have occurred in the past. The RSS and its fraternal organizations have openly claimed their inspiration comes from the Nazi ideology. Today in 2017 we are facing an emergency like situation of 1975 (which remains a blot on our democracy) or something probably worse than that. When the emergency happened in 1975 people (both political parties and the apolitical citizens) opposed it in their own ways and raised their voices against injustice then. Many even went to jail. Similarly in 2017 when a different generation faces an entirely different challenge and threat to their freedoms, people and opposition parties are again rising up in protests. If you expect the current lot of protesters in 2017 to protest the 1975 emergency as well or to voice condemnation to the current threat of fascism by saying “We protest the RSS and Modi government agenda and at the same time we also protest the 1975 emergency that was imposed by Indira Gandhi” it really doesn’t make sense. Let’s just say even if those alive today did not protest in 1975 (many of us were not even born then), does it mean they cannot protest any other wrong that is happening around them anymore ? This amounts to saying – if people made a mistake once, they should keep repeating it for the rest of their lives. This “where were you tone/whataboutery” I presume does not amount to a myopic view. The whole pitching of past incidents with current events in binary terms is incorrect in the first place because we are not just talking about stray incidents of political violence here (where an RSS worker gets killed by workers of opposition parties or vice versa). Today we are dealing with a threat of violence to ordinary apolitical citizens who have no direct link with any political parties and still they end up being lynched by a mob that comprises of neighbors that have known them for years. Elected representatives of the ruling party give open threats of violence and killing today and such statements emboldens the mob frenzy subsequently. The mere spread of rumors over some food kept inside a fridge sparks off a violent backlash against unarmed citizens. To equate the lynchings of an Akhlaq or Afrazul with political killings that have occurred earlier are a false binary. In an ideal democratic society there should be no political killings. But we clearly are thousands of miles away from being ideal. However, now these killings are not just restricted to political workers. One fake whatsapp message or rumour is all it takes to gather a mob and lynch a couple of unarmed and clueless citizens. Our fridges also can be raised anytime by a mob which dictates what you should or shouldn’t eat. The cops like always (similar to the old Congress times) will come in much later to conduct a postmortem of the food sample !

      Also, the next time in 2018 and beyond when I write anything critical about the present dispensation I shall make it a point to criticize the emergency of 1975, the riots that happened during the earlier Congress regimes, the Bofors issue, the shootings of innocent farmers in Singur and the anti-Sikh riots to retain my democratic right to protest/oppose.


  2. sudhiranjan says:

    Haha…that would be tantamount to coercion (in your eyes, of course). I just see that as the art of persuasion…should you chose to be genuinely detached…


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