BJP-RSS has taken India on a dangerous path by distorting Hinduism

Aakash Mehrotra
Aakash MehrotraJun 26, 2017 | 16:27

BJP-RSS has taken India on a dangerous path by distorting Hinduism

Is it simply a coincidence that there has been a rise in incidents of violence against the minorities and weaker sections, or does this indicate a deep rot in socio-political system?

Incidents which were once deemed stray and didn’t incite much debate, are now gradually becoming so routine that they corner every major issue. This has obviously caused huge embarrassment to the central government, but it has chosen to maintain stoic silence on this rabidly growing violence and intolerance.


These incidents can no longer be dismissed as small unconnected episodes of little consequences; they display an episodic pattern and design. And all these incidents are in direction of imposing culturally bigoted ideology, dressed as Hindutva in the larger Indian culture and value system. The cultural nationalism as practiced and silently taking roots in the multi-cultural Indian society has potential to erode the very values India stands for.

Birth of cultural nationalism

The ideological mentor of the BJP government, the RSS was established in 1925, as a result of cultural passion, which were themselves products of circumstances of Hindu-Muslim discord and history of communal violence. Since its beginning, the RSS has advocated for cultural resurgence of Hindus and transforming the religious community into a political constituency.

To thrust their ideas, they coined a new slogan, "cultural nationalism", centered on Hindu ideals and very different from Indian nationalism, which was more culturally plural and diverse.

Well, establishing Hindu hegemony in a Hindu majority country may seem like a joke, but that became the core of cultural nationalism. But the realities of India never conformed to the ideational stand of the RSS. India was far more diverse and plural to be tied in one strand. Cultural nationalism required a cultural engineering, which in itself required figures, ideas or myths that could unite Indian Hindus together, irrespective of cultural and linguistic differences.


The RSS and its hundreds of wings have been very consistent and resilient in pursuing their project of cultural nationalism.

The RSS and its hundreds of wings have been very consistent and resilient in pursuing their project of cultural nationalism. But cut to reality – can India ever be tied in a single strand?

This singular approach could be a complete negation of India’s history, cultural value and traditions. It has always been a multi-cultural society, where something considered a taboo in one society is a religious order in the other. The Indian society has developed as a product of its history and the multiple contacts India had with the outside world, where the North and South are different and even the South and South differ on multiple occasions. This continuing pattern of evoking debate on selective issues to tie into a mono-cultural fragment will be nothing short of a death-knell for the idea of India.

The RSS has never tried to conceal its idea of "Akhand Bharat", in which it sees India-Pakistan and Bangladesh as one unit. The fact is that it has never been able to reconcile with partition, for which it hasn’t forgiven Muslims. It sees this in the larger cultural construct deprived of political, geographical and cultural boundaries.


In today’s hyper-nationalistic times, this idea may find many takers, but any attempt to forget the cultural boundaries would bring untold miseries. While these may sound like emotive appeals, but in actuality they construe political and cultural ambiguity.

The disturbing pattern

Minorities are alien in mono-cultural nationalism as propagated and projected. The larger pattern is "anyone not following my ideation is an aberration", giving rise to the theory of "wanted" and "unwanted others". So, no surprise that Dalits were flogged for skinning cow in Una, Gujarat (sacred in Hindu ideals). While the Muslims form the top rank of "unwanted", the list goes further to include Dalits, Christians, liberals, LGBTs and so on.

People (read Indians) are flogged, terrorised and lynched; and the onlookers stare in silence (struck with fear or giving tacit support) for trading cows, while the same state governments which let this happen, run abattoirs to export beef. A silent campaign of violence is running, shattering lives, spreading fear and destroying the culturally established social values and structures. The perpetrators feed on majoritarian insecurity, often manufactured by them.

A month back I was in my hometown in Uttar Pradesh, where rumours of a dead cow being thrown in a Shiva temple was spread and subsequently raised an alarm. By evening the situation was brought under control. Interestingly, the entire area is a Hindu majority, raising enough qualms on the action and the actor.

India has had a history of communal tension and that has provided our political class (irrespective of party lines and ideology) enough space to exploit the fears within communities.

Larger issues are now being raised to bring the multi-plural Hindu community under one umbrella. The cow, beef and Ram are elements of that script, meant to be raised with an undertone of religion to create a mono-cultural Hindu identity. The identity politics shall be brought back into the political spectrum, albeit it will be larger and widely constructed on religious tones than socio-cultural class.

Larger issues are unaddressed

Cultural nationalism is not new. Raja Rammohun Roy, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar and Dayanand Saraswati are some of the tallest names who propagated cultural nationalism, but their ideology was more issue focused and change-oriented. Be it from the then-existing social orders, hierarchy and roles, or an aspiration of value-based social identity within the larger religio-cultural construct.

The cultural nationalism of the present context lacks that, it fails to speak on issues requiring immediate address. The cultural space fashioned by the new-age "nationalists" speaks nothing of social disorders, gender inequalities, patriarchal set-up of society or the never-ending caste wars. It lets these fissures remain, and at times even deepen them.

The Hindu nationalist parties haven’t spoken on class orders prevalent in Hindu society, maintained utter silence on discrimination against women (some places in menstrual cycle) in some temples and ceremonies, shoved aside prevalence of marital rapes stating that rape is impossible in marriage as it is sacred, consider sexual minorities "mentally diseased" who can be cured through yoga and listless such instances.

Instead of focusing on "all", the cultural nationalism as propagated has only looked into creating a constant war between "us" and "them". The propagandists have stayed away from talking about the inherent socio-cultural inequalities in the social structure, and have rather coursed themselves towards achieving pervasive symmetry in homogenisation of the social structure to maintain the pedestal of political identity.

Hinduism as philosophy

Karl Marx wrote about Hinduism’s resilient character. Hinduism withstood philosophical domination when early religions vanquished in other colonies. Hinduism embraced other religions, ideas and philosophies, it stood as an open religion. The ideas of Vedas and Upanishads are imbued with philosophy of treating everyone equal and consider nothing as too sacred (including God and religion) to not be questioned.

Hinduism evolved as philosophy of life rather than a religious practice, which propagated inclusiveness, diversity and provided space for multi-ideas to evolve.

The cultural nationalism as propagated is attacking the very core of this philosophy. Marx was right about the resilient character of Hinduism, it stood against the external factors.

Today it faces war from within, where selected elements of Hinduism have been carved out and being used as political instruments to incite violence and impart a political identity to the Hindus. However well these ideas are presented, they will do more harm to Hinduism and nation than any external force ever had or can.

Last updated: June 27, 2017 | 13:58
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