BJP is afraid to take on those who are mocking Hindutva
It is unfortunate that hardcore outfits - the self-proclaimed protectors of Hinduism - are gaining prominence.
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The Hindutva movement in the country tends to play a zero-sum game. But it should not be that way. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), which has been at the forefront of the Hindu social reformation, is getting stronger as a major stakeholder in diverse fields of Indian society.
But, the unfortunate yet worrying reality is that the fringe elements and the hardcore outfits - the self-proclaimed protectors of Hinduism - are also gaining prominence.
They are totally ignorant of the inclusiveness and liberal concepts of Hinduism. They are the ones who terrorise people in the name of castes and sub-castes. They are the ones who advocate anti-women policies in the name of Hindutva.
They are the ones who lament on the use of mobile phones by young girls. They are the ones who demand banning jeans for girls. They are the ones who claim women are raped because of their dressing style imitated from the West.
On one side, the Hindutva cause is able to get acceptance among new-age Indians, and on the other side, it is being targeted for the misdoings of the latter. Whatever is gained by one side is lost by the other.
The fringe leaves the BJP, the political face of the Sangh Parivar, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a catch-22 situation. The BJP is clueless about what it is supposed to do with the Hindu fringe. Dealing with them politically is a challenging task for the party's floor managers. But they need to do it for the cause of Hindutva. Many incidents remind us that some of the mainstream BJP leaders are hesitant to take on the Hindu fringe.
For instance, look at the cold response of the BJP leaders to the recent incident involving Tarun Vijay which hogged the headlines, as the BJP Rajya Sabha member was admitted to a private hospital in Dehradun after being attacked by a mob on May 20.
The mob, which claimed to be Hindu, attacked Vijay as he along with a few Dalit leaders, visited Silgur Devta temple, Chakrata, 180km from Dehradun. A mob of so-called upper castes pelted stones on them when they stepped out of the temple as they believed the temple was not meant for "lower castes".
The RSS has been fighting against untouchability and social discrimination for many years now. But there's something amiss in the BJP's response to the incident when the high profile Sangh leader Tarun Vijay was attacked. There was no social media outrage over the attack on Vijay.
Vijay is a former pracharak of the Bharatiya Vanavasi Kalyan Ashram and a former editor of RSS' Hindi weekly Panchajanya. He has been active in campaigns against caste-based discrimination for many years.
But, the attack was not seen as one that will attract high-decibel TV debates. Going beyond short-term gains, the RSS and its umbrella organisations have the responsibility to take up the issue. Hinduism never calls for caste-based social structures, and many Indologists and historians are of the opinion that the ancient Indian school of thought offered one of the best egalitarian versions of social life.Some of the mainstream BJP leaders are hesitant to take on the Hindu fringe.
The society in ancient India was based on four varnas. But it should be noted that the term "varna" means character, quality or nature. It doesn't mean, and has never meant, caste. The ancient social structure, which was known to the world as the chaturvarna system, offered the so-called secular thinkers material to abuse the Indian culture.
It was basically an ancient stratification of society which was later misinterpreted as the root cause of caste discrimination in India. In the initial phase, the four varnas - brahmins (priests, teachers and preachers), kshatriyas (kings, governors, warriors and soldiers), vaishyas (artisans and merchants) and shudras (labourers and service providers) - were not decided by birth, but by their actions (karma).
According to Bhagavad Gita the four-fold order or chaturvarna was created according to the divisions of quality and work, and birth had no role in deciding one's varna. Anybody can be a brahmin by performing actions according to those virtues. One can assume all the four roles in a single life. So, there's no point in calling or labelling some group as upper caste Hindus and some as lower caste Hindus by birth.
Keshav Baliram Hedgewar, the founding sarsanghchalak of the RSS, nurtured the organisation by instilling the egalitarian values of the Vedas in its cadres. To an extent, they have succeeded in bringing substantive changes in the mindset of Hindus regarding casteism. This has been evident in the lineup of leaders in various Sangh Parivar outfits including the BJP. Many of them, including the prime minister of India, belong to the so-called backward class.
But the social reformation is not over yet. Still, Dalits are being ostracised in the rural villages of Karnataka, Haryana, Rajasthan, Gujarat, and even in "secular" Kerala. Social boycott, honour killings, sexual violence... caste is used as an "incredible" tool to do all these crimes.
According to news reports there are more than 300 temples in Uttarakhand where Dalits are denied entry. The onus of fighting the caste-based system is on the RSS, because Hindutva is not about the khap panchayats, or feudal landlords.