A recent article published in the Wire titled “South India is the final frontier in the contest between Hinduism and Hindutva” tries to throw off the oft-repeated myth of the anti-RSS movement that Hinduism and Hindutva are mutually exclusive. Expectedly, it pits one against the other – who follow Hinduism to be good, and Hindutva to be bad. That Hinduism is apolitical and Hindutva is political. Hinduism is secular and Hindutva is not. Hinduism is acceptable but Hindutva is casteist and racist! Well, you have the usual suspects to throw in their weight thinking that it adds some credibility to this article by Anoop Sadanandan. Ram Guha retweeting (Was this part of the Wire’s strategy to get this article more eyeballs?) the article with a stamp of “thoughtful, well-argued essay”, seems even more suspicious. Time to deep dive.
— Ramachandra Guha (@Ram_Guha) January 28, 2018
Public affirmations of Hinduism by incompatible politicians is not new. In particular, the CM of Karnataka now professes that he is a believer (he even changed his car after a crow sat on it! So much for the anti-superstition bill of Karnataka) after he probably derived some maturity with the other electoral results. Does the DMK now visit temples and priests based on compulsion? Yes. Krishna Jayanti in Kerala based on a necessity? Yes! Is it good for Hindus? Yes! Why? Because, at last, Hindus are getting their due after years of neglect (just to cite one small flank – looting of temple funds) by a political class, which knew only to kindle the underlying, fault lines of caste. Has it now come back to haunt them? Yes.
The article in The Wire cites the World Value survey for arguing that Southern Hindus are better in viewing co-religionists. I can understand the surveyors’ understanding of Hinduism was minimal and there were compulsions around common questions for the entire world populace when one of the criteria chosen was – “Regularly visits temples” or religious services for that matter. This needs a bit more exploration. Prod any Hindu across India and they shall tell you this is a foolish idea to measure any Hindu’s “Bhakti”. So yes, there are Bhakts, whom the survey grossly misunderstands to measure temple regular visits, by assuming that this is piety based on other Abrahamic faiths. I know of hordes of devout Hindus who rarely visit temples, but treat the idols or photos inside their homes equivalent to a temple and regularly pray. Hindus’ Vedanta teaches an inner enquiry, of which the whole world is in awe. The recent “Lingayats separate from Veerashaivas” split – social engineering by the Congress in Karnataka speak volumes of this amateurish understanding of Basavanna and the great legacy of that movement. Basavanna, very famously mentioned that this body itself is the temple and one rarely needs to look for external reinforcements.
Disagreeing with the results of the survey, regarding how Southern Hindus treat people of other religions better, I must point out that there is hardly any. Why? Because Hindus have experienced the same kind of taunts, belittling of their customs, temple demolitions during invasions, conversion crusades etc. albeit to a lesser degree in duration. In the context of the Kasganj violence, I shall stick to the Islamic generosities. The Vijayanagara, Chozha, Srirangam temples (I am not even quoting the others, as the list is so damn long) suffered the same fate as others in the North. A very relevant example for the moment – repeated waves of Tipu’s conversion along Kerala and Konkan region, with the memorable Melukote killings, is more than apt to fit into the usual Islamic invader narrative, which by the way is no different to the ISIS way. Same “convert or die” choices, beheadings, Kafirs as war winnings and women as cheap ‘vaginas’. Oh, sorry, I remembered Swara Bhaskar and her ilk when I wrote this line! So, yes, this is the real picture which southern Hindus have of the invading Islamists. So all those who identify themselves and praise them as their progenitors are treated the same across India. Again, let me call out that there is a growing trend today of non-Hindus who understand the bigotry that exists within their own communities and outgrow it to identify themselves and their ancestors with India’s civilizational roots. Hence, there is lesser consternation today to praise & identify their community with a Babar or Aurangzeb (despite Audrey Truschke’s best efforts).
If there were a difference in linguistic terms, then it is only in the extent of the influence of other religions, especially Urdu, on the collective cultural moorings of the south. Hyderabad being an exception, everywhere else you would hardly find even Muslims sticking to only Urdu. Now it is changing for the worse, of course. The level of integration of Muslims and Christians in the south was much better in terms of dress and language, including following local customs. I am sure you know Churches in Kerala and other places lighting lamps and singing prayers in the local languages. Again, this is changing for the worse.
On celebs, just to quote your own examples, Prakash Raj and Sanal Sasidharan are hardly the reference points to talk of Nationalism. I would not term anyone as anti-national for any diverging viewpoints, but when people brand them as one, all of us need to understand the context. It is one of frustration at the apparent injustices and inequalities and is at the end of the line. When Sanal Sasidharan made a movie (Sexy Durga), most people would have brushed it off probably 30 or 40 years ago. Why? Because most people would have only laughed and ignored at Sanal’s ineptitude of quality filmmaking or even choosing a pertinent name. Call it collective disinterest or higher levels of ignorant forbearance. Now, people will not keep still. Does this have something to do with the growing awareness of the selective outrages and assaults that Hindus have faced? Yes. It reminds me of an incident of the late 80s, when there appeared a story in Deccan Herald. This was just a story of a handicapped Muslim youth. Soon there were protests, nay riots, killing four; injuring fifty people in Bangalore, à la Charlie Hebdo threats and the newspaper office almost burnt (Remember the threat to Rohit Sardana?). Can anyone make such a movie at least today? Nope. Because there is no option for discussion and logic in this case. You need your organs above your head spared to see, hear, talk and argue. Little wonder, most people even refrain from venturing into those waters. Let us take Kamal Hassan’s example of begging for mercy during his Vishwaroopam movie. Literally pleading with the Muslim clergy to allow his film’s release (now remember Padmaavat’s protests, while not condoning the violence) due to the financial troubles. This movie was based on a spy who puts to rest Islamic frenzy (again Islamic terror and not Islam, yet he had to backtrack)! Well, some people do not change after such lessons and he is one amongst the many. He is from around in the South and many people do not think very nicely of him due to his ventures into Hindu bashing. Therefore, it is not just co-religionists, but those who mindfully or mindlessly align with them get their due from Hindus in the southern states.
The references you seem to provide about the lunacy of Uttar Pradesh needs to be countered with the ubiquitous Mullah sermons and prayer calls five times a day, which repeatedly disallows the Muslim mind (by saying that Allah is the only God) to accept Hindus as co-travelers in the spiritual journey. I will not even cite you an example, ubiquitous, as it is, will be foolish on my part to provide references. Now, re-read Anant Kumar Hegde again in this context. Of course, nobody supports a generalized rout of Islam, but only its inhuman theology. Have not Hindus moved on from regressive practices? Is it wrong to expect Islam to reform?
If Hindutva (literally Hinduness) is political and repudiated by the actions of the political class, then Hindus are smart enough to see the games politicians play and figure out the politics behind it. Hindutva is neither political nor apolitical. It is beyond politics and pregnant with eternal value systems. It has a larger connotation when compared to Hinduism (limited to a religious connotation in today’s parlance) and is a collective of all the religious and non-religious pursuits of Truth. It is the collective, all-inclusive social personality of Hindus and the essential character of the Hindu civilization, tempered over millennia, resulting in the concept of Dharma (not to be confused with Religion), as also the geo-cultural Hindu Rashtra. By the way, to all the people, who regularly say, that a Hindu Rashtra will be declared soon, well, sorry. Bharat is a Hindu Rashtra and ALL its citizens are Hindus, irrespective of their mode of worship. It will remain so until there is a single Hindu by birth or belief in this geography. All that is necessary is the awareness within everyone that this is a Hindu Rashtra, which is the means and the goal of the Hindu movement in itself. An experience of Hindutva is in order to appreciate, understand and respect it. Hence, it does not need a definition that the westerners or communists etc. so desperately seek, to fit into their narratives of what a theory is or is not. Be a part of it to feel and discern it. Hindutva is for all people who consider themselves as Hindus, born in a geographical part of India or elsewhere. It is for all who believe in its civilizational outcomes.
Therefore, if there were a frontier, then it is the world itself (Krinvanto Vishwam Aaryam), for its own survival, harmony, unity, diversity – the final frontier for Hindutva, a final frontier against bigotry.
Nachiketa is an IT professional based in Bengaluru.