Developmental Hindutva

Is the term an oxymoron? Is it possible to balance the two in a way that is reassuring to a majority of people?

Written by Sanjaya Baru | Published:April 14, 2017 12:15 am
Developmental Hindutva, Globalisation, economic globalisation, religious globalisation, cultural globalisation, hindutva, Hindutva BJP, BJP development, Indian Express, Express column Prime Minister Narendra Modi (Express Photo by Javed Raja, File)

Shoji Ito was an Indophile like no other Japanese economist I have known. During the 1990s, he would frequently visit India to keep pace with the changes in the economy. We would always meet and have long conversations about India, Japan and the world. Unfortunately Ito-san died early. Our last meeting, in the late 1990s, was at a conference in Japan on globalisation in Asia. Speakers from the United States and China spoke eloquently in the first session on the benefits of economic globalisation. Ito-san and I were scheduled to speak in the second session.

During a coffee break, Ito-san walked up to me and said, “I hope you will not be like the American and the Chinese. Being Indian you should also speak about culture. Not just economics.” Globalisation is not just about investment and trade, Ito-san argued. It is also about values, ideas, culture. “India has been globalised for centuries. You are the home of so many great religions of the world, and have been open to so many others.” Ito-san implored me to widen the conversation on globalisation beyond economics.

But then, generations of Indian intellectuals and political leaders have done precisely that, arguing that India brings something more to the global table than just a billion, and more potential, consumers; that the rise of India is also about the validation of an idea — the idea of the political, social and economic empowerment of a long suppressed people through the institutions of a plural democracy. India may be a young nation, it has often been said, but an ancient civilisation that has believed in the idea of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam — the whole world is one family.

This much many across the political spectrum are willing to say. Ideological differences arise on defining the idea of an Indian “civilisation”. The Indian National Congress went along with Jawaharlal Nehru’s concept of “composite culture” that many viewed as a clever cop-out, which avoided a direct link between India’s civilisational attributes and its ancient, dominant and in many ways defining religion, namely, Hinduism. The BJP rejects what it views as an unfair glossing over of history. The idea of “Hindutva” was proffered as an explanative civilisational construct. The BJP insists that Hindutva is an inclusive term since Indians of all faiths, including the Semitic ones, have, over centuries, acquired an Indian personality that has come to define the Nehruvian “composite culture”.

With the BJP emerging as an almost pan-Indian political formation and a natural party of government, it has become necessary for it to articulate its political vision more clearly so that the nation and the world feel not just reassured but enthused by India’s rise. In this context, it has often been asked: What does the BJP seek from political power and whether its priority is “development” or “Hindutva”?

Many have recently argued that while Narendra Modi came to power in 2014 on a development rather than a Hindutva plank, Yogi Adityanath rose to power in Uttar Pradesh on a Hindutva rather than a development plank. Is this an artificial and false dichotomy or one that requires further analysis? The fact is that both Modi and Yogi emphasise the importance of development for all (sab ka saath, sab ka vikas) while remaining true to their Hindutva ideology. Is it then possible for the BJP to articulate a vision of “Developmental Hindutva” in a way which shows that the term is not an oxymoron? What does striking a balance between the two mean? If development is defined in social and economic terms, while Hindutva is defined in cultural terms, it should be possible for the BJP to construct a political platform that is reassuring to a large majority of Indians and is respectful to the letter and spirit of the Constitution. Just as the policies and programmes for development have to adhere to the law of the land — respecting the basic principles underlying the Constitution — so too must the idea of Hindutva. Thus, for example, few can object to the teaching of yoga or even the singing of Vande Mataram — aspects of Hindutva that non-Hindus can easily live with. But many non-Hindus may be dismayed by the ban on the consumption of beef. A republic that is understanding of such nuances would truly hold up a lamp to the dark world of religious extremism, bigotry and violence.

In December 2007, as India celebrated four years of uninterrupted annual economic growth of 9 per cent, Singapore’s founder-leader Lee Kuan Yew famously asked: Why has China’s rise created so much apprehension around the world while India’s has not? His answer was that India was a transparent, plural democracy and the global community felt reassured by that fact. The rise to power of the BJP and the decline of the Congress in this past decade has not altered that basic fact. India remains a plural democracy and so the world will continue to welcome its economic rise. However, some have expressed concern about the growing assertion of religious extremism and wondered if this will alter, in any way, the basic character of the Indian Republic. In what manner is the idea of India as a civilisational entity getting altered? Will India’s economic rise be thwarted by the political assertion of ideologies that might weaken the republic? It is in this context that the clarification of the idea of “Developmental Hindutva” would be useful.

Combining the vigorous pursuit of equitable growth, within the framework of a liberal economy and polity, with the reinforcement of civilisational attributes that define the Indian personality can easily be a non-divisive political programme. Of course, there will always be extremist elements on all sides that will never appreciate the idea of building the widest possible consensus on such a programme of Developmental Hindutva. The challenge of leadership in a plural democracy is to construct policies that ensure political stability, social equity and economic progress on the basis of a widely shared ethical and cultural foundation.

The writer is Honorary Senior Fellow, Centre for Policy Research and Distinguished Fellow, United Service Institution of India (USI)

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  1. R
    Ram
    Apr 18, 2017 at 4:47 am
    Is this a stani newspaper? also proponent of gundaraj.
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    1. S
      sahil
      Apr 15, 2017 at 4:52 am
      Congress & rss are the parents of bjp
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      1. V
        Vinu Krish
        Apr 14, 2017 at 11:21 pm
        Hindutva IS Development!
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        1. A
          Ajay G
          Apr 14, 2017 at 11:13 pm
          “composite culture” was a route to dynasty. “Developmental Hindutva” is a route to Vote Bank politics. Bl o o d y b a s t a r d s.
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          1. D
            Dr Harish
            Apr 14, 2017 at 9:35 pm
            The apprehension created by media and vested interests about present NDA government is totally misplaced. The same set of people attempted similar doubts about NDA government headed by Bajpayee but nothing of that kind happened. . Having said this, the organizations like RSS and VHP should channelize their energies on vital issues like clean India, green India and for a more inclusive and equitable social and economic order across the country. This will be strengthen the true spirit of Hinduism. Instead of giving vent to norrow sectarian issues, the need of hour is to work tirelessly for the lofty ideals which form the core of Hinduism-like the w world is a family, let noble thoughts come from all directions, truth alone prevails etc. Let no one misread the victory plank of BJP both at national level and in UP. It was - Development, development and development only.People we fed-up with SP and BSP and have given BJP a chance. Non-performance will only be total betrayal.
            Reply
            1. S
              S. Gowrishankar,
              Apr 14, 2017 at 10:11 pm
              Well said. This author has forgotten the fact that he has a brain and he should use it. This article appears to have been written without brain.
              Reply
            2. Y
              yousef
              Apr 14, 2017 at 8:02 pm
              Nehru's economic policy achieved what was called by Bhagwati as Hindu growth rate. Clearly from 1991 we are seeing non Hindu growth rate in India. And that has been the case under BJP as well as under non-Nehru Congress. Then what is the point of your article? In any case Hindu has nothing to do with economics. Hindu consists of six schools of philosophy. Politics and Political economy is another say seventh branch of Philosophy. All seven are independent schools and can have separate or common followers.
              Reply
              1. S
                Seshubabu Kilambi
                Apr 14, 2017 at 7:50 pm
                Communalism impedes economic and socual growth
                Reply
                1. S
                  Shailendra
                  Apr 14, 2017 at 7:14 pm
                  Nothing can come in the way of Hindutva. Not even development. This is not a wave but tsunami. More than others, Hindus want development.
                  Reply
                  1. K
                    Kalikutty
                    Apr 14, 2017 at 4:57 pm
                    A futile effort by person who had biased political views for his own reasons. There will be no equitable or fair play under the BJP. The antipathy or hostility to Muslims, cow protection etc are all deceptive diversions to hood wink the the lower casts.Dalits and OBCs.Under these decptions the Brahmanical lobby corners all the wealth and power of the nation. Sanjaya Baru being a part of the Brahmanical cabal cleverly avoids the real issue.
                    Reply
                    1. K
                      Karan Thakur
                      Apr 14, 2017 at 4:22 pm
                      India has been a tolerant country welcoming every faith. That basic truth has been proven time and again over last so many centuries. Hindutva is a bogus lobby. And Developmental Hindutva is an absurd term
                      Reply
                      1. S
                        shurkumishra
                        Apr 14, 2017 at 4:08 pm
                        Dear Sir, you are a senior and respected journalist. i do not understand the motive behind your column. But one thing I am certain that you have seen Modi's rule in Gujrat which has a considerable Muslim po tion. You have also seen other bJP ruled states in the country. Do you want to say that the Muslims have been selectively excluded in the process of development? Is eating beef is absolute and one cannot survive without beef. Cow has an emotional issue with the Hindus. Banning of cow slaughter will not adversely affect any one except politicizing the issue. I was not aware but, being a journalist you must have been aware that there are so many Muslims working in Gorakhpur Mutth and I understand majority of the shop owners in the mutth campus are Muslims. By the way do you honestly think that Muslims are being discriminated against in India or the other way round. are you aware of the conditions of Hindus in Muslim majority States/region
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                        1. M
                          Murthy
                          Apr 14, 2017 at 3:57 pm
                          Almost every American President has said that the USA and the American Cons ution are based on "Christian Values". Many British and European leaders have said very much the same about their respective countries. Why should Hindus not say, "Basis of India's plural society, 5,000 years old,, is Hinduism and Hindu Values. No Islamic country is as plural or as tolerant as India. Why old Congress men, like this author, are shy to admit this FACT?
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                          1. S
                            surendra s
                            Apr 14, 2017 at 3:30 pm
                            Simply put, he is propagating soft hindutva. Majority of Indians do share this view. Hindu way should be respected without offence to other Indians.
                            Reply
                            1. S
                              Shudhanshu Agrawal
                              Apr 14, 2017 at 2:20 pm
                              Disclosure: Writer is a formal adviser to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. It would have been better if Indian Express has disclosed this fact. I have few questions for the writer, who is close to INC, which are mentioned below: 1. What changed between 2009 and 2014? Was the voter who voted in 2009 to MMS changed drastically in their ideologically in 2014? Or was INC responsible for it? 2. Why appea t policy was given too much importance? Even Hindu started feeling discrimination. 3. Why the term Hindu terrorism was invented when Hindu's never used the word Islamic terrorism? 4. If any ideology replaces previous ideology then it is also possible that the latter one was responsible for its own fate and rise of new ideology. If you ask any normal Indian about why they are giving vote to PM Modi, still answer will be development. What is more shocking is the hate towards Hinduism and Hindutva ideology which is helping PM Modi to consolidated his vote banks.
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                              1. S
                                Shashichandra Desai
                                Apr 14, 2017 at 1:55 pm
                                It is exploring that educated Hindus like Baru question Hindutva.Hinduism is the oldest and richest religion of the world.Vedas have been appreciated and considered to be most advanced in philosophy,science,medicine etc Yet Hindus like Baru question Hindutva which has sheltered even enemies of Hinduism.Westerners would love to learn Sanskrit and have established departments of Hindu philosophy in many universities.
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                                1. A
                                  Arun Sharma
                                  Apr 14, 2017 at 1:32 pm
                                  We may become Like stan if we force too much rules in the name of Hindutva on Indian po tion. There should be a lot of freedom to live as you want. And this is the true Hindu religion giving all kind of freedom. Hindutva backlash is happening now because Muslims are practicing their religion in India now more rigidly than ever before and due to Kashmir and stan terrorism problems. Also it is a political game to garner votes by appeasing majority while other parties are appeasing minorities.
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                                  1. G
                                    Gurvinder
                                    Apr 14, 2017 at 4:28 pm
                                    Very well said. 30 Years was appea-s-e-ment of minorities and now it is of majorities.
                                    Reply
                                  2. K
                                    kane
                                    Apr 14, 2017 at 1:30 pm
                                    I was wondering when you are going to apologise for the demonizing of Modi during the demonetisation discussion, when every article of yours were venom against Modi. I haven't seen that written apology yet. When are you going to admit you - as well as the eminent folks like Amartya Senji (Modi is a despot....on demonetisation) and Mr. Manmohan Singh (India will end up as a third world country) - were wrong.
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                                      Anuradha Kalhan
                                      Apr 14, 2017 at 1:07 pm
                                      Most definitely we can make Pure Vegetarian Capitalism in India!! Nothing stopping us Hindutava helps in fact.
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                                      1. J
                                        Jibran
                                        Apr 14, 2017 at 12:57 pm
                                        YOU MUST BE CHILLING & ENJOYING THIS,Since you put all your efforts to bring MODI in Power. My esment of Hindutva Rising in India is that taking india towards Disaster.You may not feel it now,But You Will surely soon realise the effects of Playing with Sentiments of Muslims.
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                                          Ashok
                                          Apr 14, 2017 at 1:35 pm
                                          Disaster we see in most of the Islamist countries have no role in Indian Politico or Socio environment.
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                                          1. M
                                            Murthy
                                            Apr 14, 2017 at 4:00 pm
                                            Please read Khalil Jibran to understand Hinduism better. And / Or, read A.L. Basham, "The Wonder that was India"
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                                            1. S
                                              Shailendra
                                              Apr 14, 2017 at 7:15 pm
                                              That is a wonderful book.
                                              1. A
                                                Ajay G
                                                Apr 14, 2017 at 11:17 pm
                                                A L Basham is indeed good.
                                            2. K
                                              ksp
                                              Apr 14, 2017 at 12:44 pm
                                              Dear Sir Narendra Modi is a man of people and reads their pulse. Be it demonetization, cow vigilantism or getting rousing reception at the Madison square. Looking back at history, he very well knows that only development brings you vote. Rather the perception that you can usher development is important than the talk of development. India got freedom on the back of a spate of draughts and war driven economic catastrophe. Nehru offered a vision of planned economic development and succeeded in getting votes. Indira hi also offered cheap rice to get votes. The point is none of them, Nehru or Indira hi got votes for their secular credentials. People followed these chauvinistic concepts, secular vs. non-secular, while enjoying the fruits of development. It is but logical that Modi's India would follow and support Hinduism as long as he delivers on his developmental goals. He knows that and sincerely working towards that. But anti romeo, cow vigilantism are some distractions for now.
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                                              1. M
                                                Mayur
                                                Apr 14, 2017 at 12:37 pm
                                                Most Hindus in India have never really thought of this "I shall protect cow till I die" manner. The BJP, to come into power, found this as the best and easiest ground to evoke people's emotions and get votes. The reason is same as when the British helped create the Muslim League in 1906 under the pretext that Islam is under threat under the Hindus-led Congress, which never was. Violent form of religious practice is the real danger, be it Islam or Christianity or Hinduism. 'Developmental Hindutva', yes, is be an oxymoron. And also, just like Islamic terrorism is real, so is Hindu terrorism.
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                                                1. M
                                                  Murthy
                                                  Apr 14, 2017 at 4:05 pm
                                                  You may be an old Congee who has seen your life turn upside down, since 2014.. Face the facts. Most Anti-Cow Slaughter Laws were p ed by your Dynasty and their Bhakts. Read Modi's speeches again, all his speeches that he ever made. No, he never relied on any such "Hindutva" platforms. You, like most lib-lefties, are making up your own interpretations, which are not supported by facts.
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