Hindutva and its new dimensions

Samjhauta Express blasts accused

The acquittal of Samjhauta Express blasts accused bears several connotations.

On March 20, Special National Investigation Agency (NIA) Court acquitted the four accused in the 2007 Samjhauta Express Blast case. Among the accused, Swami Aseemanand was an influential Hindutva leader who was earlier tried and acquitted in Ajmer dargah and Mecca Masjid bombings.

Under Modi regime, Indian investigation agencies have a record of losing cases involving Hindutva hardliners. All the efforts of Hemant Karkare, who was known for fighting against Hindutva terror elements, shattered when BJP came in power. Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur and other seven persons were released on all counts in February 2017 because of the lack of evidence in the murder case of RSS pracharak Sunil Joshi. NIA now seems to be diluting Malegaon case.

These developments are not immediate but well manoeuvred. Indian bureaucracy is known for its submissiveness, the colonial codes restrict officials. The recent tussle in CBI, India’s premier investigation agency, supports this argument.

The leviathan cover of present-day jingoism and McCarthyism requires our keen insight.

Nurturing foot soldiers: A soft technique

The stratgy of hardliner Hindutva organisations is to reach out to root levels of society. Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has a strong presence in Hindi heartland. This provides RSS an opportunity to easily peddle Hindutva and establish the hegemony of Hindu religion over minorities.

RSS was earlier an organisation for adults, but the Ramjanmabhoomi movement saw a new ploy in play. RSS founded its educational wing Vidya Bharti. Not surprisingly, the organisation now runs 18,000 schools, 2.2 million students, over 93,000 teachers, 15 teacher training colleges, 12-degree colleges and 7 vocational and training institutions — these schools are affiliated to C.B.S.E. and state boards.

Vidya Bharati sponsors the revision of textbooks which give a Hindu outlook of history, and demands Sanskrit be taught in all schools

Dinanath Batra, a controversial Hindutva ideologue has been appointed by Haryana government to the state education committee. His books form a major part of Gujarat state education curriculum. Prof. Irfan Habib described them as “hilarious but scary”. Prof. Romila Thapar stated that the books contained “not history, but fantasy”. Against these, books are still popular in the Hindutva market — the aim is to deprive the young minds of reality and to produce them as clones of fascist culture.

PM Modi, then chief minister of Gujarat, wrote a foreword to Batra’s books. In 2007, acting on the advice of Batra, the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh Shivraj Singh Chouhan removed sex education from the state curriculum on the grounds that it offended Indian values. Dina Nath Batra also happens to be the former secretary of Vidya Bharti.

The attempt to dismantle the authority of University Grants Commission (UGC) and the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) is visible. Government is planning to replace bodies with common regulator which is being called Higher Education Empowerment Regulation Agency (HEERA). According to the previous version of the UGC Act, there must be a minimum of 4 teachers in the 12 members’ council, but it is being violated by new composition of the commission which will reduce this number to 2.

These chapters stand as a profusion of potential hooliganism and violence against human existence that will debilitate the sanity of education.

Political capital

Hindutva’s footprint in elementary education is an illustration of psychological conditioning which right wing organizations are pursuing to generate a human basis which can be easily exploited for political purposes.

Sanatan Sanstha has been accused of assassinating activists and journalists who were critical of hardliner Hindutva (and its superstitious extremes). But Modi government which has banned many secessionist Islamist organisations in J&K didn’t ban any Hindutva fringe elements. This is because people sympathising with outfits like Sanatan Sanstha also constitute strong political capital which any national party wouldn’t like to lose.

Technological manifestation

The new age of technology has arrived with several repercussions. Fake News is a major drawback in Indian socio-political context. BJP backed by right wing organizations has been accused of spreading fake news about minorities. This was studied as one of reasons behind 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots and mob lynchings in the Hindi region.

Analysts have found that sources of fake news are websites and apps where misleading ideas can be appropriately masked and organically planted. Rising cases of online harassment are the product of this process.

This recent technological manifestation of hate peddling machines is interesting, and it certainly is inimical to Indian democracy.

Questions remain

Violent protests over the recent Supreme Court verdict that allows women of all ages to enter sanctum sanctorum of a Hindu deity in Kerala were backed by Hindutva organizations. They found it as an easy tool to penetrate the southern state with the Hindutva chariot. BJP has no hold in the southern states. And volatile circumstances will be exploited to sentimentally attack voters.

Congress, known for its stand against RSS in Hindi heartland, didn’t oppose this political gamble in Kerala because Congress and Communists there are in direct fight. To add to disappointment, Congress’ MP Abhishek Singhvi advocated for the ban of women in this case. In recent assembly elections, Congress was also seen utilising soft Hindutva tactics to target UC vote base.

At crossroads, India may need to introspect. The country may enter a phase of ethnocracy if majoritarianism is not addressed. In truth, Hindutva is set to remain a political force, either in soft or hard form. It is now entirely up to conscious voters whether they stop this force or not.

Author is a journalist and researcher. He can be reached at [email protected]


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