Hindutva in essence is not exclusivist
At a recent lecture series, the Sarsanghachalak of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh(RSS), Mohan Bhagwat, said, “Fraternity is the essence of the Sangh’s activities, and exemplifies our country’s unity in diversity.”
“It is this tradition of fraternity that is referred to as Hindutva,” Bhagwat continued. “And that is why we say that Bharat is a Hindu Rashtra, where Rashtra, stands for people. This does not mean that we do not want Muslims in it. Because Hindutva sees the entire world as one family — Vishwakutumb.” Some in the audience were perplexed by this statement.
Confusions arise because people tend to focus on particular positions that we take in response to prevailing conditions, losing sight of the original spirit that defines us. Hindutva is the view of life that is inherently inclusive and stands for the good of all of creation.
This is why Hindus never identified as Hindu. When they travelled abroad for trade, they were called Hindus, indicating that they came from beyond the river Sindhu. Invaders also called us Hindu, in the same vein. Thus Hindu became the descriptor for all those who live in this region.
While opposing British rule, Hindus and Muslims worked together in the first war of independence in 1857. In 1905, too, while opposing the unjust partition of Bengal, they stood together and succeeded. Subsequently, the British planted the seeds of divisions and hatred between the communities, leading to Partition. In those tumultuous years, the Muslim view completely negated the essence of Hindutva and Bharatiyata. The Hindu opposition to the Partition evolved into an articulation that was against Muslims. If in those years Hindu leaders reflected anti-Muslim sentiments, it was a reaction to the violence and venom: a reaction that failed to reflect the eternal inclusive thought that defines Bharat.
It should always be kept in mind that the Hindu view is not exclusivist and does not believe in otherising. This is why Swami Vivekananda said in his famous speech in Chicago that he was proud to belong to a faith which, in its ancient Sanskrit language, has no equivalent or substitute for the word exclusion.
Semitic thought divides humankind into two groups: those who are believers, and those who are not. Those who do not follow Semitic faiths are shunned and threatened. This exclusivist conception even influences socio-political ideologies such as communism that have roots in societies that subscribe to Semitic faiths. If you do not subscribe to communism, then you are branded a right winger and silenced. The people who subscribe to such thought have hence represented Hindu“ism” as an ism— something that is discriminatory towards those outside its fold. Hence in our opposition to this misrepresentation of an all-encompassing faith, we have also drifted towards this understanding of being Hindu.
Independence came to Bharat alongside a Partition of the British dominion and a transfer of population that was not intended. The people of this subcontinent had been one since ancient times. In one part of Bharat, Bharatiya Muslims comprised a minority and, in the other, what became Pakistan, the Hindus were the minority. Both Constitutions were written at the same time. Pakistan’s Constitution drew from Semitic thought and so a delineation between Muslim and Non-Muslim citizens denied equal rights to all. However, in Bharat’s Constitution, keeping with the Hindu view of life, all religions were given equal rights.
Because Pakistan followed Semitic traditions, it introduced the concept of minorities. However Bharat, followed the essence of Hindutva and preserved a tradition of not discriminating among people on the basis of religion. Hence the concept of minority is irrelevant in the context of Bharat.
In post-Independence India, opposing Hindutva and appeasing Muslims and Christians for votes became the hallmark of party politics. At times, Hindu society had to counter the aggression of violent fundamentalist Muslim elements. As a result, anti-Muslim sentiment grew in the Hindu’s mind. However, the Muslims and Christians of Bharat have a Hindu origin. Because Hindu society was weak, some were compelled to change their faith. Muslims may forget this, but Hindus must not. They must, together with our Muslim brethren, plant the seeds of a prosperous Bharat.
The Sangh’s second Sarsanghchalak, MS Golwalkar, articulated this in an interview with journalist, Saifuddin Jilani.
“Dr Jilani: Much has been said about Indianisation and a lot of confusion has arisen over it. Could you please tell me how to remove the confusion?
Golwalkar: Indianisation was, of course, the slogan given by Jana Sangh. Why should there be such confusion? Indianisation does not mean converting all people to Hinduism.”
Indianisation is the realisation that we all owe allegiance to this land. We share common ancestors, culture and aspirations. It does not mean quitting one religion for another. In fact, we believe that a single religious system for all humans is not suitable.
During his lecture series, Bhagwat said, “As a people, we all have a Hindu identity. Some feel pride in referring to themselves as Hindus while others, due to some material considerations or political compulsions, only say they are Hindus in private. Then there are those who have simply forgotten. All these people are our own and no one is our enemy. There may be those who have declared us their enemies, but whilst we may defend ourselves, we aspire to take them along with us too. This is Hindutva.”
Veer Savarkar had also said, “You are a Muslim, hence I am a Hindu, else I am a Vishwa Manav, a global human.” These lines sum up the essence of Hindutva for me.
Manmohan Vaidya is sah sarkaryavah (joint general secretary), Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh
The views expressed are personal