Project Hindu Rashtra has Pitted Indians against India

Project Hindu Rashtra has Pitted

Indians against India

The Hindu identity formation started since late 19th and early 20th centuries in India.

By Syed Ali Mujtaba

In order to understand the pan-India protests currently taking place across the country on the identity and citizenship issue, there is a need to first decode the Hindu political outlook and place it in the contest of the formation of Indian nation.

The Hindu identity formation started since late 19th and early 20th centuries in India the catalyst being colonial rule's system of governance that made communities sharply defined as self-conscious. The first census in 1872 can be the starting point of the identity formation in India. The headcount categorized communities on religious and caste lines and also defined relationship with other communities as 'we' and 'they.'

The colonial policies had a big role to play in developing the identity of the Indians first within the religious groups and then place it in context of other religious groups. While on one hand it united Indians under the banner of Indian nationalism, on the other is it divided the people on the basis of caste, creed and religious identity. The parties and politics further sharpened the identity formation in India.

In this background of identity formation, there emerged different shades of Hindu identity, each competing with other for supremacy. The first shade of Hindu identity was synonym with Indian nationalism taking every entity along in a unified fight against colonialism. This brand of Hindu identity was spearheaded by the Indian National Congress and Mahatma Gandhi being its chief protagonist preaching “Ishwar Allah Tero Nam.” Based on twin pillars of justice and equality, this shade of Hinduism externally made peace with Islam and internally reached out to the Scheduled Castes to ensure they remain in Hindu fold.

The second stream of Hindu identity was represented by figures like Lala Lajpat Rai and Madan Mohan Malaviya. They believed in securing communitarian interests based on the Hindu identity. They did not see Islam as the clear 'Other' but strived to have a Hindu platform to bargain for Hindu political interests.

The third stream of Hindu identity was represented by sections of the Arya Samaj and Hindu Mahasabha. This shade harped on the golden ancient past of Hindus and its dark past during medieval rule under Muslim kings that snatched political power from the Hindus. This shade of Hinduism wanted to revive the ancient glory of the Hindu past and wanted to foundationally make India a Hindu nation with other religious groupings as bystanders and side actors.

The fourth stream of Hindu identity was defined by VD Savarkar, the ideologue of the current rulers in power in India i.e the BJP. Hindu religious nationalism and avoidance of Islam were the mainstay of political thinking of this shade of Hinduism. In his world view Savarkar saw Islam is the main enemy of Indian nationhood and preached sidelining of Muslims to establish Hindu supremacy in India. Muslims should either live as slaves of Hindus or convert themselves to Hinduism to live in India. There is no regard for religious diversity outside Hindu fold, while this worldview permitted diversity within Hindu identity.

These different shades of Hindu identity are not monolithic and water-tight compartments, but have sufficient room for maneuvering to define their identities. One thing that's' common about them is, it has nothing to do with the Sanatan Dharma or Hindu religion and are modern day phenomena with the aim to gain political power in India.

It is for the sake of convenience, we divide the shades of Hindu identity as doves and hawks that have remained in a tug-of-war struggling for supremacy during the period of Indian freedom struggle. The hawks got isolated from the mainstream Indian politics during the last stages of freedom movement and in doing so, minorities, dalits and the left had a seminal role to play.

The doves made huge efforts to pull out India from the colonial rule where hawks had little role to play. The doves helped India achieve all round development and economic liberalization became a catalyst in all round progress.

However, hawks had always been preying on the doves inventing strategies to unseat them from power. They started the project Hindu Rashtra and from late 80's it gained momentum after 'Ram Mandir' became its main plank to stoke Hindu identity.

The first achievement of the hawks clamoring for the project Hindu Rashtra was the demolition of the Babari mosque on December 6, 1992. As a result of this daylight public assault on Indian Islam, they were able to draw first blood to power in 1996 that's just 13 days, then from 1998 to 1999 for a period of 13 months and finally for a full term from 1999 to 2004.

During 1999 to 2004 period of the BJP rule in India, the project Hindu Rashtra got another shot in the arm with Gujarat riots in 2002. The burning of a train in Godhra on 27 February 2002, which caused the deaths of some 'Hindu pilgrims' returning from Ayodhya, instigated a spate of violence against Muslims in several places of Gujarat.

At that time the Chief Minister of Gujarat was Narendra Modi, and he is accused of aiding and abetting the rioters to do violence against the Muslims. He is accused of using the government officials and police force to allegedly help the rioters by providing them information to put down the Muslims. At that time the BJP government that held the power at the Centre under Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee did nothing to stop the Gujarat riots.

The Gujarat mayhem was the catalyst for doves to come back to power in 2004. It remained in office for two terms from 2004-2014. Some semblance of social order, peace and normalcy was being restored during this period but the Indian pendulum again swung to the right from the center when the BJP once again wrested power in 2014.

The work on project Hindu Rashtra, once again started soon after the BJP government came to power in 2014. Muslim Kashmir and Pakistan become strongest mascots for the promotion of Hindu Rashtra. The first thing the government did was to make 'cow' as mascot for Hindu Rashtra. A hyper Hindu religious sentiment was built on the plank of cow protection and Muslims were made villains of this piece. With unofficial state patronage, the cow vigilantes took the law in their hands and started targeting the Muslims by lynching them in full public view. Wariness of Islam prompted some Hindus to kidnap 'Asifa' a Muslim tribal girl and bring her to Hindu temple to rape and murder her.

The lynching of Muslism and Dalits were intended to create fear among the minorities, especially Dalits.

The project Hindu Rashtra further rendered many Muslims unemployed due to government policy related to the meat, tannery, leather industries that are traditionally controlled by the Muslims. The economically hit Muslim were given little protection because this shade of Hindu identity did not tolerate any religious diversity and Muslims and Dalits being their prime targets.

The project Hindu Rashtra further gained speed when BJP came back to power with a resounding victory in 2019. Pakistan, Kashmir and Muslims became the battle cry of the current government.

The Hindu nationalist Prime Minister drummed up support for  teaching Pakistan a lesson or two to shore up hyper Hindu national identity. He conducted land surgical strike against Pakistan to avenge the perpetrators of the terrorist attack on the Indian Army's camp in Uri. This singular act helped the BJP win the UP elections based on Hindu national identity.

Continuing its obsession with Pakistan, the Balakot air force attack was done on Pakistan as an excuse to avenge Pulwama terror attack on Indian Armed forces by allegedly Pakistani terrorists. Even though the successful attack on Pakistan is being questioned as India’s pilot was caught by the Pakistanis and two Indian jets were downed by the enemy, and yet this operation was drummed as unquestioned victory. Later, the BJP came to power with a resounding victory at the center due to this military adventure.

 

The second target of the Hindu Rashtra has been the Muslim majority of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The government hit on the state by bringing in Parliamentary legislation to abrogate its special powers and reduce the status of the state to a union territory. The undeclared curfew continues in the Union territory where Kashmiri Muslims are kept under hostage under the shadow of the gun. The government is repeatedly saying that it has fulfilled its electoral promises and has integrated the Muslim majority province into the Indian Union or the Hindu Rashtra.

In order to operationalize the project Hindu Rashtra, government brought Citizenship Amendment Act and NRC to hit at the identity of the Indian Muslims citizens. It's a ploy to identify multiple layers of Muslim citizens such as; nationalist, moderates, liberals, suspects and hyper-anti-Indian among the Muslim community. The game plan is to create a citizenship register through which it can marginalize Indian Muslims with an effort to subsume their identities under the Hindu fold or render them stateless.

As the project Hindu Rashtra, is traversing its journey, a social unrest has erupted in India. Muslims along with Hindu doves in the country have come on streets to challenge the anti-human designs of the government to buttress the cause of project Hindu Rashtra in India.

There is a vehement opposition to the government's plan and a massive social unrest is taking place all over India. As the din and clatter of the protesters against government's unfavorable policy is reaching its crescendo, it is seriously being debated whether hawks will be sidelined and doves will replace them or hawks will wriggle out from the current public upheaval.

As far as future trajectory is concerned, there are two scenarios emerging from the current social unrest. One is that these noises are going to die down its own death and people will accept the government policies as a fait accompli. The second is the Hindu Rashtra project has triggered a tussle between Indians or between hawks and doves and will usher in a political change in the country.

At the moment the swing in this tug-of-war can be either way or it looks 50:50 chances for the both the sides. If the hawks gain from here, they are further advancing the cause of the project Hindu Rashtra. But given the momentum the public protest is gaining each day, common wisdom sees a political change in the offing and India is heading towards a final countdown. Well, this is a very important development that is developing in the country this is something that needs to be watched as it plays itself out.

The author is a journalist based in Chennai.