There are a few fundamental characteristics that define Hinduness or Hindutva. We would do well to begin with these. Let me call these the mool-siddhantas or fundamental principles of Hindutva. Any debate or discussion on Hindutva would be rendered useless if these fundamental principles were to be ignored. The anti-Hindutva narrative that has been built over decades in India by most leftist-liberal thinkers and commentators is primarily premised on two fallacies: One, that Hindutva is only a political ideology aimed at Hindu hegemony; and two, Hindutva has nothing to do with Hinduism, its culture and spiritual values. Both these fallacies have resulted in a skewed and bigoted understanding of Hindutva. Over the years, this has also tragically resulted in a distortion of the narrative even amongst rational and moderate Hindus, Hindus who would have otherwise happily embraced Hindutva as a legitimate force in Indian national life. Therefore, the immediate and urgent need to correct the narrative, to bring things into the right perspective, to restore Hindutva to its rightful place in Indian thinking and national life.
The new or revised narrative must begin with a broader and more sympathetic understanding of Hindutva as a natural expression of Hinduism and Hindu civilizational values in the cultural, social and political existence of the nation. This indeed is the idea of Hindu nationalism and nationhood in the Hindutva perspective. To deny this would be an act of deliberate mischief.
Hindutva, being a natural outward expression of Hindu dharma, is necessarily catholic and all-embracing. Hindutva, by its very nature, cannot exclude. Nor, by its very nature, can it push itself to proselytize and expand. Hindu hegemony is oxymoronic. Hinduism has always been inward-looking, contemplative and largely uninterested in mundane or worldly affairs. The Hindu has been historically content in being left to his or her own dharma and hardly bothered with the mundane details of political ideology or sovereignty. Dharma has always been the foremost concern of the Hindu, and remains so to this day. It is this characteristic of the Hindu that defines Hindutva. Even as a political ideology, Hindutva never seeks to exclude other faiths and thought systems. In Veer Savarkar’s concept of Hindutva, there is, in fact, no primacy of religion, it is nationalism built around the principles of Hindu dharma.
Hindutva, in its present form and force, began as a movement to consolidate the Hindu dharma and way of life against the increasingly aggressive advance of nation-states and the monopolistic and proselytizing Abrahamic religions. It is fine to be inclusive and regard all religions and nations as the varied expressions and manifestations of the same Divine and therefore consider this whole world as one spiritual family, vasudhaiva kutumbakam. But the scenario changes entirely when one is confronted with uncompromising aggressive faiths premised on the theory that the whole world must belong to one God only and must follow one religion only. How should the catholic, all-embracing Hindu with his belief in vasudhaiva kutumbakam deal with the fact that his or her dharma is dismissed as primitive and false, and he or she is a kafir or a heathen who will burn in eternal hellfire for his or her faith and his or her only redemption is either to be converted or killed?
This was the historical situation that gave rise to the necessity of Hindutva as a force to consolidate Hindu dharma and protect it for future generations, so that at no point in time is the Dharma itself endangered and its civilizational values irretrievably lost. Our leftist-liberal critics still condemn Hindutva of being confrontational and not inclusive enough. But the truth that needs to be understood is that Hindutva simply confronts attacks on Hindu dharma and resists with all its light and might. If it were not for such resistance, the dharma would be left wide open to attack and serious disruption. It is an unfortunate fact that the ordinary Hindu is not much interested in standing up for his or her dharma. There is a deep tamasic cloud that hangs over the Hindu consciousness. Swami Vivekananda observed this long ago and spoke strongly against it — he clearly felt that the Hindus needed more rajas, more strength and force. Hindutva is that force that has arisen to remove this pall of tamas. Hindutva has one single and focused objective: to protect and strengthen dharma.
None who has studied history impartially will deny that Hinduism has had to contend continually, over centuries, with the combined forces of Islam and Christianity, intent on proselytizing and expanding throughout the world; and equally, no one who objectively follows current global developments and trends will deny the continued existence of these same threats. The Islamic clergy has certainly not softened its kafir stand and continues to hold the belief that all humans must be finally converted to Islam for their own good. The Christian missionary too continues to hold the belief that his religion is the only true religion and all those who follow the Hindu faith are primitive and superstitious and need desperately to be converted and brought to the redeeming Christian faith.
Add to this the rapidly growing threat of the Chinese Communist Party intent on eliminating all faiths and religions from earth and converting all humanity to an atheist Communist global society. They have, in fact, even banned the native Chinese Falun Gong movement because it is spiritual.
Just as the Islamist fundamentalist destroys all forms of art and aesthetics indiscriminately because art, music and aesthetics are not acceptable in Islam, the Chinese Communist Party destroys all religious forms and practices indiscriminately because it contradicts the Communist manifesto. Tibet bears living testimony to this kind of wanton destruction.
So what does the hapless Hindu, confronted by continual Islamist and Christian fundamentalism and Communist aggression, do to protect his dharma, his way of life? And not just the Hindu, this applies equally to the Buddhist, the Sikh, the Jain and the Zoroastrian, and indeed the hundreds of smaller religious denominations and movements spread over the earth.
The future, in many ways, will be a deep and intense battle of all dharmic forces against the forces that threaten to disrupt and destroy dharma, anywhere on earth. Hindutva is a first robust stand against these disruptive forces. Hindutva is needed and must grow in strength. It is as necessary to establish Hindutva as a cultural and spiritual force as it is to establish it as a political one. Politics, like wealth, is a force and must be used for the higher purposes of dharma. We cannot deny Hindutva a strong and wide political platform, but it must not be limited to just a political platform. Hindutva, to be fully effective, must be made into an integrated multi-pronged platform to take on all opposing and hostile forces, whether from outside of the Hindu community or from within it.
Hindutva needs intellectual heft and it needs wealth force. In the coming weeks, we will consider these aspects in greater detail.