India is an admirable place of exotic beings whose public lives present a chilly picture of both hope and despair. Since its inauguration amidst the horror of 1947, contemporary India is a story of celebrated economic miracles, countless failures and disappointed subjects.
The India that was pillared in August 1947 was different, both in theory and practice, from contemporary India. Nehru’s ‘tryst with destiny’ envisaged an India- inclusive, plural, and accommodating. Amartya Sen argued ‘the definitive idea for deliberative democracy is the idea of deliberation itself’. When people interact, they share ideas, which is vital for democracy. Dialogue, argumentation and accommodation were the guiding philosophy of Nehruvian India. But the post-Nehruvian India took an unusual and ac-customary exclusivist character.
The New India deliberately ignores the cherished values of an India dreamt by Gandhi and practised by Nehru. The end of Congress monopoly and the celebratory victory of regional forces haphazardly altered the course of Indian politics. To uproot the daunting challenge of regionalism, Congress employed, albeit invented, a new political weapon-communalism. My argument is that the BJP and other communal forces have been the brainchild of a father party-the Congress. The communalization of politics gave a new platform, even momentum, to groups and organisations who relied for their base on exclusivist nationalism.
Though communalism is an integral part of organising public life in India, it has been consciously publicised and hindu-ised in the post-Nehruvian era. The unusual and celebratory victory of communal-oriented groups give emergence to a new ideology which is narrower, more exclusivist and more violent. The political ideology of Hindutva intentionally exaggerated the Idea of India and craving for an India that is singular and based its existence on three fascist principles- ek pradhan, ek nishan aur ek vidhan.
Hitler’s fascist tool of statecraft, Nazism, has its prominence and reverence amongst one contending class Germans called Aryan. The fascist Hindutva has its admirability and appeal among fanatic Hindu elite. This elite has strong backing from a powerful Indian diaspora who want India as an economic hub for their (disastrous) experiments. Hindutva is fascist in that it envisaged a nation that is symbolic of hyperbolic Hindu polity which has, what Sunil Khilnani eloquently stated, both God and nuclear weapon on its head.
Hindutva‘s political economy of hatred demeaned India of its reverberation as the land of Buddha, Ashoka and Akbar-pious and plural. India’s millions perished in communal frenzy, sectarian divide and politics of hate. As great Indian cultural critic, Ashis Nandy,stated ‘Hindutva is the end of Hinduism.’ Hindutva, in specific terms, is anti-thesis of Hinduism. It is against the intense consciousness of those who see their religion as a pious and salvatory force for humanity. Hindutva ideologues, Savarkar, Mookarjee and now Narendra Modi, were ardent believers of a nationalism which is totally irreligious and nefarious . The idea of an inclusive, plural, democratic nation is under threat from religious extremism. Hindutva’s extremist and communal politics is against the pluralism and unity in diversity, the only admirable fact about India, and put into question the certitudes of Nehru’s secular India.
India has a rich history of being a unique country with practical secularism and functional democracy. India’s unique history of plural, ideal and democratic society is a synthesis of millennium-old rich traditions and dialogue-oriented community life of both Hindus and Muslims. Akbar’s assimiliationist public policy and non-religious political system is a cornerstone upon which rests the subsequent Institutional building. The Hindu-isation of public life has an inherent binary opposite- the rise of distinct religious identity- most prone are Muslims. Indian Muslims today find their religious identity crushing under state terrorism. Institutionalised discrimination, suspicion and marginalisation of Muslims give rise to distinct and deliberately contrasted identity structures. The violent retaliation of these identity structures heavily impinged on India’s ability of argument, adoption and assimilation. The recent communal riots in Muzaffarnagar is a glaring example of a political economy of hatred. The riots indicate a political ploy to polarise public opinion and an intimate attempt to decry India’s muslim question.
Indian secular forces and civil society must make sense of this rising tide of irrational nationalism and must defeat the warmongers of communal enmity. If nothing is done to stem this irrational nationalism, India, sooner or later, will explode into unimaginable scenes of genocide, hatred and extremism. Hindutva’s practitioners are vehemently influenced by the ideas and practice of,to borrow Hannah Arendt’s phrase, ‘totalitarianism’.
By Bilal Ahmad
Image Source: By User:SKopp [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons