An inclusive India is necessary for progress
The Narendra Modi government of India tries to paint a rosy picture of the country internationally. He and his articulate party spokespersons keep talking about the idea of tolerance in India, Gandhi’s teachings, and even the secular constitutional principles of the country.
In the core of the BJP’s Sanghi brotherhood lurks the hard-line fascist Hindutva ideologues, leaders and cadres of various levels, and the supporters.
They have developed a laughably narrow yet potentially perilous Hindu centric national, regional, and even world view, much like their Islamic counterparts. The ideology and the world view are irrational, mean, hate mongering, and anything but in consonance with the modern values of equality, freedom, liberalism, and even scientific approach.
India is a country of highest possible diversity in the world. The diversity runs through the lines of language, culture, religion, caste, and even race. Indian National Congress, its leadership and liberal Indian thinkers have gradually articulated the concept of modern Indian nationalism to accommodate all within its modern national boundary, which also runs almost in sync with the geographical boundary of the sub continent.
Pakistan and Bangladesh are the aberrations -- perhaps Nepal and Sri Lanka also. These issues were dealt with and resolved following some important political developments. India retained close to 80% of the land and population and maintained its all-inclusive secular nature in the body and real politics until late 1990s for about four decades or so.
The Hindutva followers had been trying since pre-independence India to impose their ideology on Hindu Indians but with little success. Their endeavour renewed after India’s independence and it started paying dividends after five decades in the late 1980s when they got a boost by entering into alliance with anti-congress secular forces.
Like the Islamists, the Hindutva followers bring out the worst in a sizable section of the Hindus with their relentless hate propaganda primarily targeting Abrahamic faiths, their followers, and the Islamic history of the sub-continent. They put Hindus as the first claimant of the land and the country and the rest as second-class citizens. They are apt in “othering” the minorities like Muslims and Christians, terming their faith as foreign and almost disqualifying.
This particular charge is weird to say the least. Expecting the origin of ancient faith to have followed the modern state boundary isn’t just ludicrous but also insane.
Moreover, two of the world’s four major faiths originated in the Middle East and spread across the world naturally following the historical chronology of mankind and free movement of people. In the process, like other faiths, they moderated a lot in modern times -- although in varied degrees.
It would be laughable if Native Americans questioned, after hundreds of years, the citizenship of European Americans or African Americans. Same is the case with Indian Hindus and Muslims.
Going by modern values, no inequality on citizenship can be created based on history or its biased interpretation. But, engaging in this othering of Muslims is one of the key divisive tools of the Hindu right-wing who aim to consolidate the vote of internally diverse Hindu through this trickery. The Nazis did similar things to the Jews before and in the time of WWII.
Another line of Hindutva propaganda attack is vilifying all the Muslim rulers of India of the medieval ages and glorification of pre-Islamic Hindu rulers and other Hindu rulers of medieval times who fought the Muslims.
The Muslim emperors and sultans of India, in their propaganda, are invaders. However, migrations and conquests were part and parcel of human history in every corner of the world.
Also, the truth is that most of the ancient and medieval rulers, be them persons of any faith, were mixed characters like modern politicians. There had good and bad traits in them of varied intensities. There is no way, in objective historiography, to generalize them as black or white in line of their faith.
The Hindutva followers are critical of orthodox Islam and proud of Hinduism. They point out Islamic terrorism and hate mongering. But they hardly have any principled position. They conveniently forget the orthodoxy and utter irrationality of brute Hinduism, the modern version of which also has imbedded an intense hate element in it. Also, they try to play the Hindu victimhood for no cognizable reason.
Interestingly, Hindus as one community was a British invention or imposition during colonial times, primarily for the purpose of census. It’s from that point that the Hindu identity consciousness has started its journey.
There is nothing ancient to it. Also, the British military might have united or established British India in the 18th and 19th centuries in its boundaries of 1947 as one colonial domain.
Most of it became the state of India after 1947. No one Hindu ruler or ruling class, even in medieval or ancient ages, let alone modern times, ever could have the whole of modern India as one empire or kingdom.
All these are major fallacies of the Hindutva ideology. Yet, the Hindutva followers are eager to promote it as the national ideology of India by causing a great regression to the modern secular republic and cause a division to its diverse yet united broader society.
In the process, they attempt to demean the all-inclusive secular Indian nationalism that modernizers like Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru had carefully woven for nation building.
The destruction of that idea of India by the fallacious Hindutva followers would be a great loss, not just for Indians, but also for the progressive movements of the vast developing world.
Sarwar Jahan Chowdhury is an opinion contributor to Dhaka Tribune.