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The Definition of Hindutva

October 17, 2014

(A work in progress)

I’ve been reading a fair amount in recent times about the definition of Hindutva and its interpretations.

The true and agreed upon definition of “Hindutva” as defined by Savarkar is “an ideology that sought to define Indian culture in terms of Hindu values.” which translated to a simple statement that the Indian subcontinent is the home of the Hindus and the Hindus are those people who live here.

Then came the Supreme Court interpretation of the word, who tried to clarify any remaining misconceptions.

However, since my childhood, the word Hindutva always has a negative connotation. When I read into the definitions and the literature available about Hindutva, I wondered about this connotation given these definitions.

Through the reading, I came across statements made by the current followers of Hindutva. The RSS Leaders, the Shiksha Bachao Andolan members… and therein was the problem.

Any religion, caste, sect or club are left to interpret the laws in their own way. The written text could very well state that “Hindutva is all inclusive” but the way it is actually enforced could be very different.

For instance, the ‘all inclusive’ part could be enforced with a particular standard of behavior that a group of people think is correct and adheres to the Indian culture.

Let us first consider RSS, one of the key proponents of the Hindutva Culture and definition in India.

The history of RSS has been conflicting. I have not particularly been associated with the organization in any manner. I remember some families, including mine, refusing to let their male kids enroll in RSS. The RSS never came recruiting for women in those days, for some reason. It was considered a ‘brahmin’ organization and my parents who were firmly against caste did not want anything to do with the organization.

The RSS might claim to be an all-inclusive party, but majority of their leaders have hailed from Brahmin families. Which probably explains one interpretation of Hindutva. Agreed, there were leaders amongst these who had liberal views and have achieved more development than the political parties of the time.

Consider M.S. Golwalkar, who took over the reins of RSS in 1940.  His views were consistent with the sentiment of the time… India was on the throes of independence. The RSS had staunchly refused to be a part of any political party but did contribute to the freedom movement in their own way. And the ‘Hindu’ sentiment rose high after the ‘divide and rule’ policy followed by the British.

He wanted everyone to revert to a specific definition of ‘Hindu’ – which was defined more by religion than geographical location. I have not delved enough yet into his policies to understand if these were guided merely by the thoughts of those times and what his definition of being a ‘Hindu’ was.

Proceed to his follower Deoras, who had a more moderate view on the Hindutva policy compared to his predecessor, attracting more people towards this simplified definition of the policy.

Now, let’s jump forward to our times – the modern India. Most of our generation is barely aware of the work that RSS did in the initial days or what the policies of any of the older people were. Today, what we do know are the foot-in-mouth habits of its current leaders and known faces, which we believe is a reflection of their policies and interpretation of the Hindutva policy.

Perhaps these statements are truly a reflection of the policy, but it does leave people with a bad vibe about the entire thing.

RSS and its associated members (in the recent past) have consistently tried to rewrite India’s history according to their interpretation.

Example 1: Mr. Dinanath Batra, the founder of Shiksha Bachao Andolan, has raised several petitions claiming that there is wrong information in Indian textbooks (some of which are horrible, to be fair). But his books, which are currently mandatory is Gujarat, enforce a whole load of misinformation on children. And his statements supporting these books reflect the ancient mind that interprets India as a pure, leaning towards Brahminical leadership structure that leaves no place for the hundreds of other castes that have been considered ‘Indian’ for centuries.

He was also the person who was instrumental in getting M.K.Ramanujan’s Essay “Three Hundred Ramayanas” from Delhi University’s syllabus. The essay is a discussion of various essays and interpretations of Ramayana across the world.

Example 2: Numerous statements made by Mr. Mohan Bhagwat, the current RSS Chief, regarding women, the Hindu culture and the ‘destroyal’ of the Hindu culture.

The statements are scary because I read into it a trend of thought. A thought that does not really interpret Hindutva as the way Savarkar meant it to be. It seems to me that it interprets Hindutva as an encompassing policy of Hinduism, which they believe is a religion and not a philosophy.

Because they might say that this is what Hindutva is and the statements that follow go against that statement.

They say that women going out is against our culture… which means their interpretation of culture is dated only to a certain century. They say that they are happy to accept everyone into their culture, but they have issues with people eating meat because it is against our culture. Which means they refuse to accept a huge section of our population (who consider themselves to be Hindu) who do eat meat.

These conflicting statements do leave me wondering about their very intention.

It is a very pious Indian thing… like a merchant who has photographs of 10 gods up on the wall behind me but has no compunctions about cheating a customer. He is pious and follows all the rituals but has none of the humility and grace that the religion preaches.

The ambigious statements made thus far and my reading leaves me confused as to their true intention.

(To be continued…)

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