the-south-asian.com August 2003
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HINDUTVA is not HINDUISM (cntd.) by Swami Agnivesh
HINDUTVA is not HINDUISM
The Vedic faith is easily the most universal, tolerant and enlightened spiritual tradition in the world. It was the first to see the whole of humankind as one family. It preached love, compassion, truth and justice, before anyone else did. For centuries Hinduism lived in happy harmony with other faiths. But Hinduism as seen through the hate-filled eyes of Hindutva seems an intolerant, tribal, and oppressive ideology, that can be at peace only if people of other faiths are intimidated and humiliated. It is high time we freed Hinduism from the stifling grip of its hijackers. As long as Hinduism remains a hostage in the Hindutva camp, it will not be able to express its true spirit and glory.
We must wake up to the devastation this holds out to our humanity. The basicpurpose of religion is to enable us to be kind and compassionate human beings. By birth we are all alpatmans or people governed by low interests. Our spiritual destiny is to become mahatmans. Not only a few people like Gandhiji, but every one of us is required to move in the direction of becoming mahatmans. Spirituality is the foremost resource for this. From this point of view, Hindutva is a hindrance rather than a help, a sign of sickness rather than of health. Hindutva threatens to corrupt the seed of our humanity, pervert our tastes and make us proud of acts of cruelty, injustice, and inhumanity. If Hindutva continues to spread its influence on people’s taste and outlook, India could be degraded into a rogue society, marked by social anarchy, communal frenzy, and a culture of hate and spite.
For thousands of years, Vedic spirituality enabled us to hold our own, despite the upheavals and twists of history. We have been a people of goodwill living in a land of peace. This is what we are proud of; and that we must continue to be. If so, we are duty-bound to eradicate communal aberrations like Hindutva from our midst.
Hindutva’s lack of interest in Hindu scriptures is obvious. The Hindutva camp is marked by its total indifference to Hindu scriptures. They do not respond to issues according to the light of the Vedas. Take the case of Narendra Modi. It was not according to the spirit of Lord Ram, Lord Shiva or Lord Krishna that he responded to the Godhra riots. Hitler’s Mein Kampf (My Battle) was the source of Guru Golwalker’s inspiration. Instances can be multiplied. For the militants of Hindutva, there is nothing more to Hinduism than a handful of temples, Saraswati vandana, trishul, and the intimidation of minorities. This is a horrible caricature of Hinduism, against which we must protest. The perception of Hinduism must not be reduced to the crude Hindutva formula.
Finally, corrupting the culture of Hinduism is a key element in the Hindutva strategy to hijack this religion. This is serious, because more than any other religion, Hinduism is a way of life. It is a distinct culture, marked by politeness, hospitality, an intricate web of social courtesies, values, and relationships. The sound and fury of Hindutva are at stark contrast to all this. Rather than run away from a house on fire, let us put out the fire and save the house.
We must insist: Hinduism is a way of life and within that way of life there is no room for communal riots, rape and roguish behaviour. Mercifully, today there are growing signs that more and more Hindus are waking up to this grave danger. The Hindu voice of protest against Hindutva has been rising ever since the massive atrocities in Gujarat. An agonized soul, under the name of Raju, wrote in The Hindu:
"As a social activist from the frontlines of Gujarat told us, "This is not the time for us to feel ashamed of being a Hindu, or a Muslim, or an Indian. It is our silence that we should be ashamed of." Chachaji, don't you think it is time for you and I to break our silence? Shall we make a start by shouting from the rooftops, as loudly as we can, that the Sangh Parivar does not represent us? They profane Hinduism."
Whatever else Hindutva is, it is not Hinduism. In truth it is a project to hijack Hinduism and degrade it into a highway for a communal holocaust in India. To assume that Hindutva has any kinship with Hinduism is to insult our religion and common sense.
Communalism and religious fundamentalism are signs of sickness; they flourish when religions decay and fall into the lap of vested interests. Saving a religious tradition from the corrupting stranglehold of communalists is a greater and more urgent need than defending a religion from its alleged external enemies. Hinduism stayed safe and steady despite every imaginable threat from outsiders. But this is the first time it is facing a massively organized and determined attack from within. When enemies put on the masks of saviours there is a need to wake up and resist them, lest by default a great spiritual tradition is degraded into a call girl at the disposal of communal politicians.
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