Atal Bihari Vajpayee and L.K. Advani created the foundation for Hindutva forces to access power by forming BJP led coalition governments in New Delhi. This duo experimented with the troika of liberal, moderate and hard-line Hindutva slogans during the Babri Mosque-Ram Janmabhoomi movement to mobilise and expand their electoral base among the masses. They happily compromised their so-called RSS ideology of Hindutva as a short-term electoral strategy to gain state power. On such a foundation, Narendra Modi launched his electoral campaign by combining reactionary politics of Hindutva, neoliberal development and so-called nationalism of BJP and RSS.
When Narendra Modi led BJP came to power in New Delhi with absolute electoral majority, RSS started implementing its long cherished racist and fascist Hindutva ideology of hate towards Indian Muslims. The Modi government is a mute spectator of every day lynching, violence and vicious attacks on Muslims in India. The Union Ministers in Modi government are openly garlanding Hindutva vigilante groups and perpetrators of violent crime. There is growing attack on artists, activists, academicians, journalists, intellectuals and rationalists. Modi government arrests leaders of various social, political and human rights movements on false and fabricated charges under draconian laws and puts them in prison. Any opposition to Hindutva forces and policies of Modi led government is branded as anti-nationals.
The common Indians are reacting to these horrifying events, depressing and distressful developments with utter silence, shock and incredulity. Indian urban elites look at such intolerant and hateful climate as dispersed events and have no impact on their tinsel lives. While most of Indian Muslims are reacting to this hateful climate with anxiety, anger, fear, deep dismay and disbelief having assumed their nationalist integrity and embeddedness with Indian way of life. Then Modi government launched the Citizenship Amendment Act, the National Register of Citizens (NRC), and the communalised National Population Register. These are steps in a direction to disenfranchise citizenship rights of Muslim population in India. The idea of India looks gloomy and the future of Indians looks uncertain if Hindutva forces continue to govern India for few more years. It is time to decode and defeat the ideology of Hindutva as a political and social practice.
The Hindutva forces and their ideological genealogy reveals the dangers of Hindutva politics in India. Hindutva political theology is no longer an imagined and isolated cluster of normative ideas about ‘Hindu way of life’ as defined by the Supreme Court of India. It is a pragmatic and exclusionary political practice carrying false claims to marginalisation of Hindus and their representation in history, culture and politics in mainstream India. Historically speaking, upper caste Bengali spiritual leaders and intellectuals created the philosophical foundation on which Marathi political activists shaped the ideological and political narratives of Hindutva forces. The Bhakti movements in north India gave the mass base to Hindutva politics. The colonisers were patrons of Hindutva politics. So, Hindutva forces did not fight British colonialism. They did not participate in the anti-colonial nationalist struggle in India. These Hindutva forces formed partnership with the British to create Hindu Rashtra in India. Such is the anti-national character of Hindutva forces in Indian history but they create havocs in contemporary India in the name of nationalism.
From 1920s to 2020, Hindutva fascist forces managed to spread uncontaminated bigotry, violence and extremism in social, political and cultural life. In economy, Hindutva forces follow neoliberal economic policies to uphold and pursue interests of the capitalism class. There is absolute solidarity and harmony in the arranged cum love marriage between Hindutva and neoliberal capitalism. Such a combination marginalizes rural and urban poor, religious minorities, women, farmers, Dalits and tribal population in India. It spreads prosperity for few rich and miseries for many. The growth of poverty, unemployment, hunger and homelessness are products of economic policies pursued by Modi government. India’s external reputation is tattered by the Hindutva forces.
India is facing many challenges and dangers imposed by Hindutva forces led by Modi. The democratic rise of Hindutva forces by electoral means created a political culture of democratic deficit with the concentration of power in the hands of Narendra Modi. It is an organic outcome of fascist ideology of RSS which is opposed to the ideals of democratic decentralisation of power and empowerment of the masses based on citizenship rights. The representative and distributive function of Indian democracy has diminished further with the rise of Hindutva politics in India. It destroys the idea of India as a civilizational country within all its limitations. It destroys liberal, secular and constitutional democracy in India. The idea of India is meaningless without Muslims as they contributed immensely in shaping of the history and culture of India. The Hindutva forces want to destroy such a diverse and multicultural mosaic of India.
The Hindutva assault on secularism, liberal culture, democratic tradition, reason, science, history and everyday lives in India has started in an aggressive manner which was unseen and unheard in last seven decades of democratic experimentation in India with all its limitations. These dangers are no more early signs but at a maturing stage for the establishment of Hindutva fascism in India. The deadly combination of neoliberal economy, reactionary politics and authoritarian culture is growing. It is going to destabilise constitutional state in India and destroy Indian way of multicultural traditions and life. The political stability of Hindutva breeds social disharmony and economic marginalisation with a false sense of history and nationalist hallucination. The reversal of such a dangerous environment is only possible with collective struggles to expose the toxicity of Hindutva and its ideological practice.
The Hindutva politics has captured the space created by economic disillusionments after the 1991 neoliberal economic reforms which led to the concentration of wealth in the hands of few Indians. The neoliberal development dissatisfaction has accelerated the forward march of Hindutva politics in India. The five decades of Hindutva politics has become integral part of the neoliberal economic development model that it seeks to oppose in its earlier avatar. Hindutva is a democratic and development malaise that falters the secular, liberal and multicultural mosaic of India.
The ideology of Hindutva as a political practice is based on unadulterated hatred and violence against religious minorities. Hindutva is an opportunist Pan-Indian alliance of perverted upper castes and propertied classes in India. Hindutva forces are working to establish social and religious hegemony of propertied and Brahmanical upper caste people and consolidate wealth of higher classes. Therefore, the successful opposition to halt of the forward march of Hindutva fascism depends on decoding and understanding the conceptual core in its ideological praxis. The opposition to Hindutva forces can never be successful with a series of contested dialogues during periodic electoral interventions. It only offers limited alternatives within the binary of electoral victory and loss. It is important to understand the social, cultural and economic base of Hindutva politics to fight and defeat it. The impending mass movement against Hindutva is a compelling need and crucial for the survival of the idea of India and Indians.
Bhabani Shankar Nayak, Coventry University, UK