A few weeks after Narendra Modi’s election as the prime minister of India in 2014, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat had proclaimed India as a Hindu nation saying "the cultural identity of all Indians is Hindutva".
It is no secret that the RSS since its inception in 1925 has been working to declare India as a Hindu Rashtra. But, the 2014 General Elections results added extra impetus to this plan.
Narendra Modi declared himself as a "Hindu nationalist" while promoting his candidature for the most powerful position of the country. Even the chief minister of UP, Yogi Adityanath, has openly endorsed the idea of India becoming a Hindu Rashtra. Encouraged by these utterances, 150 right-wing Hindu groups came together in June 2017 in Goa to plan to convert India into a Hindu Rashtra.
As everyone knows Narendra Modi draws his ideological mooring from the RSS, which he had joined at age 21. His education in shakhas has made him to see Indian and Hindu are synonymous and any non-Hindu as “the other”. Modi is a Hindutva devotee and his political ideology continues to unnerve India’s minority groups. Under his patronage, the Hindutva forces have been regularly mocking at India’s secular constitution.
Minorities are witnessing increased attacks on their places of worship. The ruling party is openly and actively promoting "ghar wapsi" programmes and vigilantism against the so-called "love-jihad". There have been increasing incidents of violence involving gau rakshaks, mostly in BJP-ruled state.
Not just with cow, the obsession with cow urine and dung has also reached an absurd height. India, if not a declared "Hindu Rashtra" yet, is threatening to become one for all practical purposes.
Edmund Burke, Voltaire and Alexis de Tocqueville had argued in the past about the importance of religion for a well-functioning society of a nation. Similarly, votaries of Hindutva see Hinduism as the necessary glue for keeping the nation together and the society stronger.
'Narendra Modi draws his ideological mooring from the RSS, which he had joined at age 21.' (Credit: Reuters photo)
At the same time, they find India’s adherence to principles of secularism since independence as the reason for all societal ills and manifestations of misery and underdevelopment of the country.
Is secularism so bad for the health of a country?
It is a very important question to ponder upon since it has global significance and implications. Recent studies have clearly shown that world is presently experiencing an unprecedented wave of secularisation, while religion is in decline. There are more secular societies in the world now than the religious ones. Even in Asian countries such as Japan, religion is declining; in Japan while 80 per cent population consider themselves secular, in China the number is higher than 50 per cent.
The increasing secularisation of societies is not weakening the societies or breaking up the nations. Rather, many studies have convincingly shown that most social problems correlate more strongly to religious population than the secular population.
Moreover, religious societies not only experience more population growth, as studies have found out religious children are also meaner compared with those from secular households as their religious belief is a negative influence on being kind towards others.
As a report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in 2014 shows the top five countries with the highest quality of life in the world are the secular countries, Australia, Norway, Canada, Sweden and United States.
If you compare within the United States, ultra-religious states such as Mississippi, Arkansas and Alabama are in the bottom of the quality of life index while secular states like New Hampshire, Minnesota and Vermont are on the top.
It is absolutely wrong to presume that a secular nation falls apart. On the contrary, it has a better possibility of being safe and healthy in 21st century.
While all evidence show that a society is more likely to be strong, and a state is more likely to be developed by being secular rather than being religious, in India, Hindutva forces are not only forcing India to discard its secular character, they also want to convert this multi-religious country to subscribe to one and only religion.
The religious zeal of the RSS and the BJP to convert India to a Hindu nation is not only taking India away from the secular path, which developed and successful nations have adopted in recent decades, it is unfortunately pushing the country to be a Hindu theocracy.
A theocratic India not only will make the leader of the country the chosen favourite of Hindu god(s) endangering country’s struggling democracy, it will also put the freedom of religion of more than 20 per cent of country’s minority population under serious threat. The target of the Hindu chauvinism will not remain limited to Muslims only. History has shown withdrawal of religious freedom of one minority will lead to discrimination of other minority groups.
For a highly segmented country like India, the two major providers of the nation’s stability are democracy and religious freedom. The very notion of "Hindu Rashtra" is antithetical to these key two pillars of sustaining Indian nationhood.
As Barack Obama has very rightly warned, "nations that do not uphold these rights sow the bitter seeds of instability and violence and extremism."
A Hindu India will not only push the Kashmir conflict to a new level, Punjab and the northeastern states are also most-likely to witness the return of separatist insurgencies.
Not only internal peace and stability, a Hindu India will also adversely affect country’s ability to protect itself from external threats. India’s military is one of the most diverse and secular institutions in the country. Large number of minorities have served and are serving in secular India’s armed forces admirably.
It will be foolish to expect similar commitment and sacrifice from them for the territorial integrity of a "Hindu Rashtra". Not only in hard power, the conversion from secularism to theocracy will cost India its hard-earned soft-power among the community of nations as well.
The Hindutva groups’ design of "Hindu Rashtra" is very likely to spiral out of control and threaten the actual fabric of the country. The actual transition of secular India to Hindu India remains fraught with high uncertainty and potential danger to the unity and integrity of the country.
India needs to recognise this threat soon to survive.