Book: Hindutva or Hind Swaraj
Author: UR Ananthamurthy
Translated by: Keerti Ramachandra and Vivek Shanbhag
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Price: Rs 136
People like Napoleon who perpetrate unimaginable violence without any sense of shame become heroes in the eyes of the public. Those who are capable of making their country a great nation are like Napoleon. Or like Hitler. Mao’s great nation China, which invaded Tibet, is on the same path. For countries where money grows no amount of space is sufficient.
I will attempt to weave in another story with Raskolnikov’s. No matter how vehemently Indians declare that we are non-violent, in our movies and our songs we applaud those who come to power through extreme violence. People may practise non-violence in their daily lives but the Indian psyche also admires acts of brutality. Even the names of many Hindu deities would suggest such a reading. Consider the name Murari — one who has vanquished the demon Mura. We do not extol Shivaji for his acts of good governance, but for his skill with counter-offensive tactics. We forget Emperor Ashoka in our political discourse.
It is the same in Europe; perpetrators of violence become rulers. If you go to the Tower of London, you will see that several queens were put to death because they did not produce a male child. Up until now, human history has only recognised heroes who have emerged victorious in battle. We thought that Gandhi’s message of freedom through ahimsa heralded a change. Ironically, this ahimsa was fraught with violence too. Streams of blood flowed during the Hindu–Muslim riots. With a staff taller than himself, Gandhi walked barefoot through Noakhali. India celebrated Independence in the absence of Gandhi.
How did Gujarat produce a pan-Indian hero? The Gujarat massacre took place when he was chief minister. To say that he tried to prevent it but failed would mean he was weak. Nobody can say that. One is reminded of an image used by the poet Adiga. When yajnas are conducted, everyone present is involved in some task or the other. But a mantrajnya, an expert in the mantras, does not participate. He is known as the “brahma”, and is crucial to the ritual. The brahma does nothing.
Modi was the brahma. Whatever happened has happened. Raskolnikov was tormented by the thought that he should not have committed the murder. A hapless prostitute teaches him love. Modi also feels remorse. But of another kind. A remorse that says if a pup gets run over by a car, what can be done? One could say, oh poor thing. If the car had stopped, would the puppy have lived?
Here I will dare to express a thought. Maybe this is why the people of India appreciated Modi; see how he silenced the minorities. On NDTV 24×7, Barkha Dutt invites a prominent Muslim and encourages him to praise Modi. We no longer see the harsh-sounding Modi. This is a Modi beloved of all. Who is this Modi created by everyone, including the media?
We are bombarded with images of Modi offering flowers, paying homage to a small photograph of Gandhi. All our apprehensions are dispelled, and what emerges is the image of a new-age leader with foresight, who works without sleep, wears attractive clothes, a turban, holds a mace in his hand — transformed from the outside but unchanged within. He has kept his wife away, he has liberated himself from his past and his caste, has become the new-age Shivaji and Patel. So what if the country is clouded with the smoke of forgetfulness? So what if we forget Gandhi? Why, we could even erect a statue of Gandhi in London’s Westminster if a trade deal is struck.
In the first budget that the Modi government presented, crores of rupees were allocated for a statue of Sardar Patel. I will hazard a couple of guesses about why no one talks about this. First, to set up Nehru as the prime leader, his followers relegated the popular people’s leader, Sardar Patel, to the background. Because of that, the Congress is not in a position to oppose the proposal. Second, Modi cannot openly install a statue of his real leader, Savarkar. Although Savarkar was acquitted of a murder charge, his name is sullied. There is a photograph of him in Parliament. That is sufficient for now. In any case, in the development agenda, there will be airports, universities, large buildings and textbooks. Whatever Nehru supporters have done, Modi can do too. Advani may also get a place of honour as a stone statue or a plaque.
It seems to me that the Gandhi era has come to an end; Savarkar has triumphed. Perhaps his victory is transient, but for now he has won. We do not want a Hindu religion with its superstitions, its caste system, its sacred rituals and the like. Let all Hindus unite because the Muslims are united.
We will confront them. Let us create a strong Bharat. This is what Savarkar advocated. He didn’t even believe in God. Like Gandhi, he condemned untouchability. Savarkar could interact with Jinnah as an equal. Jinnah was not fettered by religion. Nor was the rationalist Savarkar.
I call Savarkar a rationalist because, for him, what mattered were the factors that unified several states into a single nation. He knew that only if this happened would Bharat gain pre-eminence in the world. We liberals are cautious and view everything with suspicion. We lack the aggressiveness to silence the differences. So some Muslims will keep picking quarrels. As will some Dalits. And the Shudras. Also the cosmopolitan Brahmins. Everyone is constantly engaged in some squabble or other in this great chaos. The problem confronting us liberals is how to resolve these internal quarrels without losing our individual morality and humanism. A tentative, subtle sensibility is, some believe, an undesirable trait in the ruler of a nation.
See how Modi was able to silence the Ambedkarites in Uttar Pradesh. And then pay obeisance to Ambedkar’s statue.
See how he put down the Lohiaite-turned-casteist Yadavs. In the future, will the neo-Brahmins and Manu followers in India’s 24×7 media still invite the liberals who have been mouthing the old tiresome clichés? That too when Modi, who can shut them up, is himself from the “Mandal” caste and the prime minister of the country?
…The liberals, now sidelined, are afraid that the idea of nationhood — if carried to an extreme — can become fascist. There is a good reason for their fear — this was the story of the two world wars. The notion of nationhood is raising its head once again in China too. Our neighbour has given up Mao’s policy of popular consensus, turning instead to global capitalism, and has grown quickly and enormously. Stalin drew Soviet Russia into one nation and eliminated all opposition. This is also how the process of change that began with the French Revolution in Europe ended with Napoleon.
He who does not dream is not human. One dreams of the well-being of mankind, a green earth and a clear sky. A dream of Gandhi’s ahimsa. A dream where man works for a living, uses the benefits of science wisely and makes sure the environment is not destroyed.
Gandhi’s Hind Swaraj envisaged such an India. Modi’s victory is in direct opposition to that dream. His triumph has moved closer to Savarkar’s idea of Hindutva, without actually saying so.