Twenty-five years ago, I had edited an anthology of Dalit literature, Poisoned Bread: Translations from Modern Marathi Dalit Literature. In the introduction, I had stated: “In the coming age, India will see religion and politics go hand-in-hand. When that happens, the literati, intellectuals, and thinkers who believe in secular and democratic values will have to be ready to face the challenges that will arise.”
The elevation of Yogi Adityanath as the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh is an instance of this challenge. This mixing of religion and politics results in feudalism. In India, it may not lead to race-based fascism but it can result in authoritarianism centred on religion. The first laboratory for the creation of such a Hindu Nation (Hindu Rashtra) was instituted in Gujarat under the leadership of Narendra Modi; the Sangh Parivar has now initiated the second such laboratory in Uttar Pradesh.
The concept of Hindu Rashtra is not only outdated but also impossible. The last Hindu kingdom, Nepal, has itself done away with the anxieties of the Hindu Rashtra and is now standing strong on the pillars of secularism and democracy.
Supporters of the idea fail to define what a Hindu Rashtra is. Will it have a different Constitution? Will it have a different national flag? Will the national anthem be different?
Well, if the Hindu religion and its followers are not honoured in a country, are unable to celebrate their festivals, or have had their temples demolished, then the idea of a Hindu Rashtra makes logical sense. However, the fact is in post-Independence India, all the elected governments, at the Centre and in the states, have been dominated by Hindus, irrespective of the party in office.
As the notion of a Hindu Rashtra cannot take a tangible form, the Sangh Parivar has been consistently running a hidden agenda, which has produced a strait-laced and dogmatic ideology. As a result, a Hindu Rashtra is being sought to be established by targeting Muslims, Dalits, Christians and other minorities and by demolishing the principle of one man, one vote, one value bestowed by the Constitution. The violent religious frenzy of the “gau rakshaks” is a realisation of the Hindu Rashtra agenda.
Hindu Rashtra and Hindutva, however, are not the same. Hindutva is related to Indian culture, whereas Hindu Rashtra is rooted in caste hegemony. There is no reason to oppose Hindutva because the Constitution provides each one the freedom to practice the religion of his/her choice and follow the lifestyle it entails. The majority of Hindus are not casteist or fanatical. But, knowingly or unknowingly, leftists, progressives, seculars, and Ambedkarites have committed the mistake of targeting the entire Hindu community, while intensely opposing Hindutva. The Sangh Parivar has found an opportunity here to polarise the Hindu community.
My observation may seem similar to the “soft Hindutva” of the Congress. There is a basic difference, however, in the organisational structure of the Congress and the Sangh Parivar. Every party worker in the Sangh Parivar, from the top to bottom, is orthodox and dogmatic. In the Congress and other secular organisations, top officials may be secular and the workers are either followers of Hinduism or Islam.
My concerns are about values. It is the responsibility of the government to protect and preserve values — one man, one value, tolerance, liberty, equality, fraternity, and national integration — upheld by the Constitution. But when one listens to historians, scientists, politicians, judges and saints close to the Sangh Parivar, one is transported to the 18th century. The country is going through a psychological and ideological dialectical phase.
Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Atal Bihari Vajpayee were not just elected prime ministers of India, they were accepted as leaders by Indian society. Why is Narendra Modi, who won a convincing mandate, not regarded as a leader by all Indians? The Sangh Parivar needs to introspect. Why does the Sangh leadership remain silent and provide moral support to the party workers, who make incongruous comments that provoke separatism? It scares me when tolerance, civility, and culture in the socio-political system seem to disappear.
It scares me that the BJP and Sangh Parivar never use the names of their idols, Hedgewar and Guru Golwalkar, in election campaigns.
Instead, they have appropriated those who have worked hard to preserve the values of liberty, unity, fraternity and national integration — like Shivaji Maharaj, Mahatma Gandhi, Babasaheb Ambedkar, and Sardar Patel.
The battle for values is inevitable regardless of the party in power. It is necessary to fight the tendency that endangers liberty, equality, fraternity, tolerance and national integration. It is the duty of writers, artists, intellectuals, and journalists to uproot such a tendency. As a writer-activist, who believes in democracy and who wishes to see the socialisation of democracy, I reiterate what Babasaheb Ambedkar said on November 25, 1949, while presenting the Constitution: “We are going to enter a life of contradictions. In politics, we will have equality and in social and economic life, we will have inequality. We must remove this contradiction at the earliest possible moment. Else, those who suffer from inequality will blow up the structure of political democracy.”