The (mis)interpretation of Hindutva

The ‘sacred’ in the body politic is a blessing. The ‘profane’ in the body spiritual is a curse. Times millennial the great ‘Aryavarta’ of ours had been subjected to invasions by foreign races, be it Ionians, Turks, Pashtuns, Mughals or the West Europeans. In the initial sense, cultural invasion results in a healthy diffusion of cultural traits and is desirable. However, if a political invasion takes place and, in that case, if the political element is stronger than the civilizational one, then there is a speculation arising from the very fact that a counter-culture seems to have amassed its specter and it can at any time engulf the traditional culture of the land and replace it. ‘Hindutva’, as the name suggests and as orthodoxically theorized, is that stream of consciousness that makes the ‘Bharatiya’ culture rejuvenated. Also, how Hindutva should be differentiated from Hinduism and saffron radicalism in clear terms.


Vinayak Damodar Savarkar coined the term Hindutva during the national movement. Despite being staunch Atheist, he gave the Indian politics an idea of exclusive indigenous political thought when the whole world politics was revolving around Western liberalism and Soviet socialism. According to Savarkar, the word ‘Hindutva’ denotes two elements: ‘Hindu’ as Indian and ‘-tva’ meaning likeness. The very fact that Hindu is equivalent to Indian is derived from the theory that the whole landmass stretching between the Hindukush and Hindu Sagar (Indian Ocean) is known as Hindustan (or in ancient terms, Jambudweep, Aryavarta, Hind, etc.). Any living being born in this landmass is a ‘Hindu’ in the liberal sense. Furthermore, anyone who considers India to be his or her ‘Punyabhoomi’ (Holyland), ‘Pitrubhumi’ (Fatherland) is a Hindu. By this very notion, the Aryans of Persia were the first-generation Hindus by the fact that they were not born in Hindustan and yet became bearers of the great civilization.


Thus, the Hindu culture does not refer to the culture followed by the followers of ‘Hindu dharma’. ‘Hinduism’ on the other hand is a set of coherent belief systems, monotheistic, pantheistic, polytheistic, henotheistic, agnostic, atheistic that conforms to the traditional way of life practised individually or collectively conforming to the laws of Purusharthas (Dharma, Artha, Kama, Moksha) and may regard the Vedas to be the highest spiritual authority. Therefore, it includes other Indian religions i.e, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism into the Hindu fold although they oppose the Vedic authority. Hindutva, on the other hand is a political philosophy and has very little or no connection with Hinduism. Hindutva takes into account the historical and civilizational aspect of the word ‘Hindu’ and not religious one. 

Since Hindutva is a political philosophy and theory, it leaves upon the so-called supporters of this principle to interpret in their own ways and means. This creates confusion when parties confuse the culture with the religion. This gives rise to the ‘saffron radicalism’; why I call them saffron and not Hindu is because of the fact that Hinduism never promotes violence and that this violence is justified under the garb of a saffron flag that mistakenly represents Hinduism. Large-scale genocide of Muslims is not Hindutva, violent activism through cow protection squads is not Hindutva, tumultuous physical attack on any mosque or church is not Hindutva, attacking the intimate couples on 14th February is not Hindutva, coercing people to hail the Bharatmata is not Hindutva. This has been possible only because the body spiritual has been unknowingly paired up with the body politic.


On the other hand, Hindutva professes a separation of the religious element from the State superstructure. This is a reaction to the widespread appeasement of the minorities in India by the left-liberal political parties. The very fact that India has a minority bias is proved from the fact that Muslim personal laws derived from Sharia is still functioning and this is the reason why asserting for a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India has become so indeed vocal. Vices like the triple talaq (which is itself un-Islamic and has been abolished in twenty Islamic nations) or unilateral divorce among the Muslim community still persists. Today if there would have been misogynistic, anti-Sudra laws of Manusmriti functioning among the Hindus, would that have been justifiable? Certainly not.


A nation in order to sustain its cultural identity should necessarily be protective from not only socio-cultural but also political and economic forces. Hindutva, in the theoretical sense at least, provides a remedy to the counter culture prevailing in the subcontinent. Due to its present dogmatic misinterpretation and lack of a clear doctrinal cohesion, it has bound to fail in certain aspect. But our knowledge of Hindutva should not be confused because the truth prevails over the myth and the myth is what we perceive through our eyes and not what is in-depth the real theory behind its foundation. We all are a part of the Cultural War be it in this subcontinent or in Israel or Americas, and it is this cultural nationalism that is the inherent instinct of human nature that needs to be ignited and churned so that we head towards a cultural revolution.

The writer, Avik Sarkar, is a student of Political Science at St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata.


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