We must begin with differences because differences are life-giving. Hinduism is a civilisational religion built on syncretism. It is a way of life. Hindutva is an ideology, a political piece of plumbing built as a piece of propaganda. To transform Hinduism to Hindutva is a long journey. With the Gujarat elections, Hindutva reached a major threshold and its milestones need to mapped. In a way, it is a return to beginnings. What began in 2002 returned a full circle in 2017. A 15-year trajectory needs to be chronicled. We are not looking for stories of origin of Hindutva and the RSS. We are analysing how Hindutva became a political religion.
2002 is important as a landmark because it emphasised the legitimacy of majoritarian violence. Murder is an act of voting and not a way of acclamation. 2002 argued that majoritarian violence was a part of democracy. Like 9/11, 2002 was constantly replayed till it became an active consumption, ritual and belief. Majoritarian democracy was only a supplement to majoritarian violence. The complementarity of the two sets the basis for Hindutva.
Once the politics is clear, the history has to be clarified because while Hinduism is civilisational, Hindutva belongs to the Rashtra, the nation-state. Clarifying history is an act of spring cleaning the unconscious. Clarifying history is a ritual of rewriting. One does not merely rewrite the text, one inscribes the text on the minoritarian body. Being Akhlaq or Afrazul makes no difference. In each, what the new syllabus now says is enacted by every believer. Citizen Shambhulal is every political Hindu, he is every man as Shivaji and Rana Pratap. He is every Hindu reversing the battle of Haldi Ghati because India, Bharat can never lose a battle. One needs a new method of invulnerability. Defeat would denigrate it to a lesser religion.
Hindutva inflated the sematic belief in organisation and missionary power. Between RSS, VHP and the sectarian power of Swami Narayan, and the followers of Murari Babu, one has over a million missionaries. They invade schools, they infiltrate media, bureaucracy, the university. Appropriating history is not enough, infiltrating power is equally critical. Hindutva is monotheistic, Hinduism is plural and, to sustain the monotheism of its political gods, dissent and difference of any kind must be eliminated. Dissent, marginality, minorities have to be suppressed and suppressed twice over. First, in the magic land called Hindutva and second, in the quicker magic of development. Hindutva provides the belief systems development as a secular manifestation needs as a belief system has to be fabricated quickly. It demands policing. It demands that the pollution of syncretism and hybridity be cleared up. Ritual, every day ritual as public behaviour is critical. Dress, intimacy, food have to be controlled because the reality of endogamy has to be sustained. To counter secularism one invents antidotes of Love Jihad, rituals like ghar wapasi for the convert returns to his original womb as a Hindu. Being Hindu is authenticity and essence, and which is why Rahul and Sonia are easy targets. Being non-Hindu is like being non-Indian and as non-Hindu and non-Indian one is neither part of the community of belief nor of the community of citizenship. Rahul Gandhi is not a believer. When he visits the temple, he is an affront or a tourist. Non-membership already implies exclusion. The socialism of the chai wala is potentially inclusive, but the belief system of Hindutva is exclusive. The outsider is frozen in time.
One saw it clearly with Archbishop Macwan. Labels are already stuck on him like stigmata. He is Christian, missionary, convert because Hindutva cannot forget the fact that Christianity is older in India than in the West. When Macwan wrote a letter to his flock, emphasising that this election was different, and that participating in democracy was critical, his letter affirmed his belief in religion and his faith in the Constitution. He was dubbed an outsider, a non-Hindu, and was seen as intrusive. He is accused of attacking desh-premis, ‘lovers of the nation’. The nation-state becomes the new Hindutva church and Savarkar, Upadhyaya, and Modi the new prophets.
At every stage, electoral democracy validates Hindutva by sustaining its majoritarian and exclusive impetus. 2019 is thus the holy land when democracy will deliver Hindutva. The establishment of the Ram temple would then be a small matter. What electoral democracy has clearly established is that the word secular is taboo. Secularism was the hypocrisy the authenticity of Hindutva could not suffer. The message is becoming clear that India is a Hindutva state. Non-believers are welcome, but has lesser citizens. The old Indian idea of hospitality is over. The Rohingya crisis is an attempt to clarify it. Modi has already made clear that a Hindu anywhere is welcome but he now emphasises that as policy. The Rohingya as Muslim is not a refugee. He is already classified as alien, infidel, criminal and terrorist. So, his chances of being refugee is remote. Refuge is what India offers to other Hindus.
For Modi, the governmentality that is Hindutva is critical. It is the pollution ritual of cleaning up history, citizenship, behaviour, belief, where the outsider is marked and identified. He is subject to a different civics where democracy clears up and creates new ideals of belief. One sees it in the new trio, the Trimurthy of governance that has become critical – Modi, Amit Shah and Adityanath. Each complements the other by creating a different mix between Hindutva and governmentality. Amit Shah represents the RSS, Adityanath the monk in the ashram, Modi the shakha man and as leader. Modi appeals to history, Shah emphasises politics and Adityanath the new sense of spirituality, also represented by Ramdev, which helps create a different sense of governance. Hindutva as a twin model of governance and development eliminates the syncretic alliance between marginal, minority and the dissenting imaginations. Even nature seems to be subject to its erratic rules. While nature as a resource is Judeo-Christian and secular, a few rivers like the Ganges are treated as persons, as being sacred to the Hindus. Nature, like another minority, is now the outsider, the other to be domesticated, harnessed and colonised.
It is more and more clear that majoritarian democracy is a prelude to the idea of India as a Hindutva state. By 2019, the spring cleaning is over, the juggernaut of electoral democracy has cleared the way for a Hindu society and a Hindu state, without any claims to being an official theocracy. In an imperious way, Hindutva, as a transformative process, allowed India to become like its two major enemies, Pakistan and China, while pretending to hold the moral high ground. Hindutva creates Pakistan as an Islamic state and, as a form of governmentality, allows for authoritarian violence that India, like China, feels is so essential for development. With the Gujarat election, the inevitability of the BJP is clear. India, by imitating a soft path of majoritarian democracy, is on its way to being a hard state. The middle-class, dreaming of security, mobility and dreaming of vanquishing the Muslim minority in the everydayness of battle cannot ask for more. They feel they have the best of both worlds, a sense of civics as civilisation and the best of modern science, where ancient values combine with the latest of technology to create techno-fundamentalism. The future is here.
(The author is a member of ‘Compost Heap’, an ashram for future alternatives)