A selective nationalism
The BJP is again bringing the priestly class to the centre-stage for political gains.india Updated: Sep 05, 2013 01:50 IST
It is interesting to contrast the alacrity with which the Mumbai Police arrested the alleged culprits in the recent gang-rape of a photojournalist with the way rape-accused Asaram Bapu was allowed to travel from one state to another for more than seven days until he was arrested on Monday. The difference in police action, it seems, stems from the fact that the self-styled godman enjoys the support of legislators of a Hindu nationalist party, the BJP, soaked in obscurantism.
The RSS, the Viswa Hindu Parishad, the Bajrang Dal and the BJP have once again brought the priestly class to the centre-stage of public life for political-electoral mobilisation. It is not the first time that the Sangh parivar has activated its natural allies — the Hindu clergy and theologians — for a revivalist cause like the parikrama. It needs to be understood that the “84 Kosi Parikrama”, from August 25 to September 13, is just one of the many ideological-cultural efforts made by the parivar to revive the mythological great tradition of the Vedic Brahminical brand of Hinduism, in which the moral code of artificially-constructed majoritarian Hinduism is sought to be implemented, as exemplified in Narendra Modi’s statement: “I am a Hindu. Hence I am a nationalist and a patriot”.
Rajnath Singh, a product of the RSS seminary of Hindutva and the BJP president, observed on August 25: “Hindutva ….is an issue of cultural nationalism, a way of life to maintain the identity of India.” Shivraj Singh Chouhan, chief minister of Madhya Pradesh, echoed his value system: “Religion makes me human. My idea of Hindutva includes all.”
All this leads to only one conclusion: the BJP is not a party like any other because unlike other parties, it is a politico-religious formation. A few things may be mentioned to substantiate this.
First, a distinction has to be made between an individual and a conglomeration (or party). An individual, at one time or the other, because of personal beliefs or electoral tactics, sometimes publicly appropriates a Brahmanical ritual and patronises priests or godmen. If former President Rajendra Prasad participated in the purification ritual of the Somnath Temple or decided to take a holy bath at the time of the Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, or if PV Narasimha Rao was a disciple of godman Chandra Swami, these can be dismissed as individual preferences. But the BJP, as a collectivity and without exception, is firmly committed to the ideology of religion-based politics. A rath yatra is an action of the Hindu collectivity.
Second, the parivar is actively and aggressively involved in catching people of an impressionable image to teach them Vedic Brahmanical values and a distorted interpretation of Indian historical traditions through shishu niketans and prescribing books and inculcating Hindu values in schools wherever the BJP is in power. Third, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat recently said, “Education is to develop feelings and dedication for the country, meaning Bharat Mata of the Hindus”.
Fourth, India has a tradition of enlightened leaders such as Raja Ram Mohan Roy. The Sangh parivar and the BJP do not appropriate them. Has any comment of condemnation come from the parivar on the killing of anti-superstition activist Narendra Dabholkar in Maharashtra? I have not heard any. The BJP is blind to the plight of exploited widows of Varanasi, Mathura, Haridwar, Vrindavan et al. Nor does the party’s Hindutva agenda include the eradication of the practice pursued by devdasis. The upshot of this narrative is that the Hindutva of the Hindu rashtravadis is not only reactionary, but also the greatest threat to the process of the scientific modernisation of India.
CP Bhambhri taught politics at Jawaharlal Nehru University
The views expressed by the author are personal