Republic of Hindutva – How the Sangh is Reshaping Indian Democracy

Author – Badri Narayan

Publisher – Penguin Random House India, March 2021

‘There is no exaggeration in saying that the entire destiny of a country depends upon its intellectual class’ – Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar

In this recent book Professor Badri Narayan (Social Historian and Cultural Anthropologist) maps out the political grammar of Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) and its parent organisation Sangh Parivaar. Author informs us that – Sangh has many allied organisation such as BJP, Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Bajrang Dal; but among all members of Sangh family, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh is the ‘Grabhagriha’ (womb) of Hindutva Politics. Although he does not provide any concrete definition to Hindutva, his academic exercise gyrates around the symbiotic relationship between the RSS and ruling regime of India i.e., BJP and their strategies to form Hindutva Republic.

According to Narayan, the new and evolved Sangh remains the powerhouse which has garnered the BJP to be in power twice (2014 and 2019) and has also led to a land sliding victory in state elections of Uttar Pradesh in 2017. This particular understanding is based upon his field surveys (Uttar Pradesh and Bihar) on socio – politico relativism or social politics which ruling party and sangh has established with the people. Narayan defines Social politics as – ‘mobilising communities and society in favour of the values and ideology of Hindutva politics through seva/service to the people’. From social work, to caste and tribes arithmetic, to statues of unsung heroes of past, to the art story telling – Narayan’s studies captures the minute details of sangh’s expansion and how through this particular relativism, under the leadership of Narendra Modi, sangh profess to build up ‘the social capital’. The whole phenomenon according to Narayan remains quite different from their immediate predecessors (late 90’s till 2014); who for him remains ‘armchair politicians’.

No doubt, Narayan’s book duly defines some unique and extraordinary ways of Sangh’s workings and how the BJP with the help of Sangh have channelized a new political phenomenon. But the biggest backdrop of author’s study remains the language, which he uses for analysing the same. He points out that Sangh has evolved and is dynamic, but does not provide any new definition of evolved Hindutva or whether the same can be harmonised with the ‘idea of India’. He firmly believes in the finality of stated values represented by pracharaks/volunteers of Sangh and for the same reason, the work remains a kind of “Hagiography or Prasasthi” of Sangh. Some points to substantiate this particular analysis are as follows:

  1. Author in his first chapter , duly opines that – Mamata Banerjee, like Rahul Gandhi is fighting the shadow of RSS or Old/ Obsolete ideological fort; as Sangh remains ever evolving. But the recent results and humongous victory of Trinmool Congress under Mamata Banerjee remains antithetical to author’s views. Banerjee’s narratives were same against the sangh which we have studied for so long.
  2. Narayan’s study comprehends the communal incidents related to Sangh (directly or indirectly) or ruling party politicians as chaos created by ‘fringe elements’. This very erosion of communal hatred or violence remains very problematic, as various elements remain in public domain.
  3. In similitude with fringe and good elements- polarization and communal incidents are too separated. Author opines that:

Polarization psyche may or may not be converted into full – fledged communal riots. The main stream Hindutva political and social groups want to use polarisation for limited purposes. However, certain fringe elements claiming to be Hindutva organisations try to misuse the conditions prepared by the strategy of Polarisation, which may be seen as a spill over effect. It can be used by both the Hindutva and Non- Hindutva fringe elements simultaneously (Pp.115 -116).

Nothing is spontaneous in history and it has been noted that genocides/ holocausts starts with toxic polarised words and speech. Can we divide the trajectory of polarisation as a ‘means’ from its ‘end’ of communal violence, perhaps it is impossible.

  1. The very strategic and political compromises/ accommodations have been defined as transformation or evolution of whole fabric of Hindutva or Sangh’s ideology and this remains quite problematic to comprehend. The ideological roots of Sangh are same and it is only that they have widened their branches with situations, time and space. And growth remains a natural phenomenon. At one place author himself adheres to an ambivalent view that – ‘whether their (Sangh’s) social politics is inclusive or not, is remains to be seen’. The very probability of inclusiveness substantiates this particular point of ideological roots.
  2. In accordance to the first point: Can the survey of villages/ rural areas of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar be generalized or presented as synonym for entire Indian Democracy and its smooth working. May be the subjective analysis of author has allowed him to have such views; but various Human rights watchdogs and Think Tanks (Indian/ global) are of the view that: our democratic ethos remains in chaotic position. And author duly skips overtaking of elected governments of ruling government by different means other than democratic elections.
  3. Lastly, Can the very utilization of horizontal caste blocs and creation/ establishment of newer identities for tribal population – through icons, sans social or economic democracies be termed as reshaping of Indian Democracy? Perhaps not, because mere political democracy and winning elections through athematic does not define the kind of democracy which our founding fathers and mothers vouched for.

To conclude, winning elections and political democracy was only the ‘means’ to achieve the ideas enshrined in our Constitution. Let’s wait for the day when the ethos of our Constitutional values will be a part and parcel of every citizen’s life, till then shaping or reshaping of Indian Democracy which started in 1950 (as Republic is governed in terms of Constitution of India and the same came into force on 26th January 1950) will remain in continuity. And hope it will only happen through bringing down (whether through Hindutva or left wing or centrist approach) at the microscopic level the ethos enshrined our Constitution. Till then, the academicians and researchers in various time and spaces will utilize their subjectivity to jot down and disclose – the varied patterns and patent disharmonies within the nation, just as Professor Badri Narayan.

Dr Biplove Kumar Assistant Professor, History


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