Some days Ago, the BJP government in Uttar Pradesh organised a “Samrasta Kumbh” in Ayodhya, whose main purpose was to include Dalits and other marginalised communities within the Hindutva fold. While inaugurating the Kumbh, UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath opined that most of the Vedic richas were composed by Dalit rishis, so stopping Dalits from reading the Vedas is unjust.
These efforts may lead to the formation of “samagra Hindutva” — the BJP’s recently-framed strategy for the 2019 election. At a recent Samanvay (coordination) meeting of the BJP and RSS in Lucknow, BJP President Amit Shah said that “samagra Hindutva” is an important instrument to counter the mahagathbandhan in 2019. It seems that Shah coined a whole new concept. Some RSS activists too said that it seems like a novel notion. One of them said: “In the RSS, we talk about samagra gram vikas, samagra samaj but not samagra Hindutva. We use ekatm manavvad as propounded by the late Deen Dayal Upadhyay to denote the oneness of entire humanity. The RSS and Sangh Parivar also talks about uniting the Hindu samaj. Now, they also claim Muslims are those Hindus who converted during the medieval period under the compulsion of Muslim rulers. While explaining ‘samagra hindutva’, Shah suggested that we integrate OBC and Dalits in the Hindutva fold. He also emphasised that the government is working to integrate OBCs and SCs and that we need to continue dialogues with these communities to integrate them into the Hindutva fold. So, he proposed the formation of a social alliance of SCs, OBCs and castes of the general category under the influence of the BJP.” Here, the BJP government is trying to use a symbol of the Kumbha for its samrasta campaign, to create “samagra Hindutva”.
The UP government is going to celebrate the Kumbh at Prayagraj in January 2019. Before that, the government’s organising of five Kumbhs at various places in the state — such as the Sanskriti Kumbh, Vichar Kumbh and Samrasta Kumbh — are essentially attempting to disseminate Hindutva ideology.
The UP government is making varied efforts to showcase the Kumbh, both within and outside the country. There are three major reasons: One, to bring a lot of people to the Kumbh Mela. Two, the Kumbh message would, at least, reach those who do not make it to the mela. Three, creating a grand Hindutva identity by state-supported mega celebrations of Hindu festivals and rituals.
Adityanath is, in fact, planning to write invitation letters to all pradhans of the state and the country to invite them for the “Divya and Bhavya Kumbh”, the tagline for this Kumbh. The RSS and its allied organisations are trying hard to disseminate Hindutva consciousness by using the Prayag Kumbh for their various programmes. Various mobilisational meetings of pracharaks are being organised by the RSS and its allied organisations such as the VHP and Sanskar Bharati, to reach out to the Hindu masses. For instance, the Sanskar Bharati is working to organise a nation-wide programme around the symbolism of the Kumbh. They are also planning to organise public meetings and host cultural performances near the tributaries of the Ganga. These may be read as attempts of the Sangh Parivar to create opportunities of interaction with the people about Hindutva, and revive the ideology.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi also recently visited Prayagraj and addressed a rally before the Kumbh Mela officially starts in January next year. He performed pujas with saints and sadhus and visited the sacred Akshayvat tree in Allahabad fort.
This visit of Modi may be read by political analysts in two ways. First, it is going to help in the preparation of the Kumbh and strengthen the symbolism of the Kumbh. Second, it may also be read as an effort by the BJP to appropriate the symbolic capital that is a part of such religious festivals.
For the BJP government in Uttar Pradesh, the Kumbh is also an opportunity to showcase its skill at good governance by organising such a large festival. It is a golden opportunity for Hindutva cultural and political groups to weave and strengthen Hindu identity.