Hindutva: A Ghost Story

 

It’s easier battling the living. You can be sure where your weapon falls. The cut it makes. The blood that spills.

But, fighting a ghost is another thing.1 You can’t just begin right away. In order for the fight to be possible, you got to create the ghost. You got to work really hard.

Because, creating a ghost, is a huge issue. After you’ve done your bit, jotted the details, joined the dots, and can almost see the shape emerging before you, there are high chances of your discovering just another dot you’d completely overlooked, a little detail you’d previously missed.

And dots are generally too many. And they are all over the place. And the crazy thing about them is that you can join them to make whatever you wish. The ghost of a pumpkin. The ghost of a cactus. Anything.

And when that ghost is the ghost of Hindutva, things (usually) take a wrong turn. The cactus becomes the pumpkin. The pumpkin then becomes the pie. So, what was in the beginning a thorny plant, is gradually made to appear as a sweet-dish.

In this essay, I would like to un-do the picture a little. Un-join the dots. And then join them once again. To present the cactus as the cactus. The pumpkin as the pumpkin. And the sweet pie as a lie.

Here follows a set of three myths, which combine to create the pumpkin pie, the ghost, the giant myth of Hindutva.  The worshippers of the ghost—they who fly by night, they who chant its name, they who offer up flesh and blood to slake its monstrous thirst—they want us to believe in these myths. I argue against ‘them’. I argue against ‘their’ politics. I go like this—

            Myth Number One: ‘Hindu’ just means ‘Indian’, so chill !

This is kind of cute. Like Juliet calling the rose in ‘any other name.’

Well, to establish that ‘Hindu’ is not just ‘Indian’, but also the chauvinist, patriarchal, masculine Hindu, one must begin etymologically. Arguably, the earliest traceable use of the word ‘Hindu’ appears in Zend Avesta—

The first chapter of the Avestan Vendidad contains an allusion to a portion of Northern India in a list which it gives of sixteen lands or regions…The fifteenth of these domains, was Hapta Hindu, ‘Seven Rivers’, a region of ‘abnormal heat’, probably identical with the territory of Sapta Sindhavas, ‘Seven Rivers’, in the Veda.2

It is interesting that even in this very first instance (possibly) of the use of the word, the religious is not separate from the territorial. It is probably anticipatory of how the word eventually came to bear connotations both regional and communal.

The semantic bifurcation of the word established itself clearly for the first time, as the word travelled to the west and the east.3 In its Persian and Greek acceptation, the word became a signifier of region—‘the-whole-landmass-stretching-between-the-Hindukush-and-the-Hindu Sagar’ (yes, you’re right)—and, in its Chinese acceptation, it possessed a religious dimension—the followers of a religion, Hinduism.

For a considerable time in history, true, that ‘Hindu’ meant Indian. Yet, gradually by and by, the word came to be used (prominently, at least since the sixteenth century) in its religious sense. Ekanath (1548-1600) writes: ‘If I call myself a Hindu I will be beaten up, and Muslim I am not’ (Hindu kahan ta mariya, muslaman bhee nahe).

However, despite its lack of clarity (or because of it) the word Hindu, after a brief period of flirtation with other words, was ‘adopted by the British to characterise all things in India (specially elements and features found in the cultures and religions of India) which were not Muslim, not Christian, not Jewish, or, hence, not Western’, as affirmed by Frykenberg.4 Thus, came about the idea of pan-Indian Hinduism.

Now, the rise of this idea of pan-Indian Hinduism, coincided with the emergence of Indian nationalism. Hence, inevitable questions began to be raised about the relationship between the two: will Indian nationalism (or nationalisms) be territorial or religious in nature?  This issue, which remains unresolved to this day, went back to the ambiguity inherent in the word ‘Hindu’—does it stand for a country or a religion? The fact that both the words: India as well as Hindu, etymologically go back to the same word (Sindhu) dramatised this issue of ambiguity.

One can thus visualise two channels along which the energies released by the emerging nationalist forces in India could play themselves out. One channel was that of territorial nationalism—an aspiration represented by the Indian National Congress. Another was represented by the All-India Muslim League, formed in 1906, more in line with the optional channel of religious nationalism. Although there was an initial Hindu reaction also to move in that direction, it was basically checked by the rise of Gandhian influence in Indian politics from 1920 onwards and the primacy which the Indian National Congress began to enjoy thereafter. However, Indian and Hindu nationalisms did finally begin to diverge. This happened after the collapse of the Khilafat movement of 1919, which ended in a series of communal riots by mid-1920s. The founding of the RSS in 1925 clearly symbolised this vicious breach.5

It was during these times that neo-Hinduism began to emerge, as distinct from the other reformist Hindu movements as the Arya Samaj,6 Brahmo Samaj, and the Ramakrishna Mission. Neo-Hinduism began to display a distinctly ethnic streak and evolved a word to go with it—Hindutva.

The word was first popularised as the title of a book by Vinayak Damodar Savarkar. Hindutva: Who is a Hindu? The book is the real charter of the neo-Hindu ethic, and was written in prison, after he had come in contact with Khilafatists whose attitude apparently convinced him—a revolutionary till then—that Muslims were the real enemies, not the British.7

Savarkar’s stand is very close to the British stance of pan-Indian Hinduism. If you read carefully between the lines of Savarkar’s text, he is talking about an ethnic standardisation. National identity rests for him on three pillars: geographical unity, racial uniformity, and a common culture. Commonness, standardisation and adjustment are the watchwords. There is no place for diversity, difference or multifariousness.

Though in his text he affirms again and again, that ‘we have all along referred to the progress of the Hindu movement as a whole and not to any particular creed or religious section thereof’—never does he show whole-hearted acceptance of Islam or Christianity as valid ways of living. Rather, they are ‘others’ who must be ‘brought in’ and standardised, that is made to shed all differences of culture or community.

He asks, ‘But can we, who here are concerned with investigating into facts as they are and not as they should be, recognize these Mohammedans as Hindus?’ His reply is, ‘they cannot be called Hindus in the sense in which that term is actually understood, because, we Hindus are bound together not only by the tie of the love we bear to a common fatherland…, but also by the tie of the common homage we pay to our great civilization—our Hindu culture…our Mohammedan or Christian countrymen…cannot be recognized as Hindus. For though Hindusthan to them is Fatherland as to any other Hindu yet it is not to them a Holyland too. Their Holyland is far off in Arabia or Palestine. Their mythology and Godmen, ideas and heroes are not the children of this soil. Consequently their names and their outlook smack of a foreign origin. Their love is divided. Nay, if some of them be really believing what they profess to do, then there can be no choice—they must, to a man, set their Holyland above their Fatherland…’8

Thus, even for Savarkar, the subtlest and the most muted of the Hindutvavadis, ‘Hindu’ and ‘Indian’ are not equal. The Hindu is whose ‘Holyland’ (whatever he meant by that) and ‘Fatherland’ (what would Freud have said about his choice of word?) are the same—India. He is the true Indian. But, oh for the ones less fortunate! They are half-Indians, however much they belong to the land, just because they are a follower of a different religion, and because their ‘holyland’ is not in India. He suggests that their only means of integration into this (now) secular democracy is to give up their religious identity. This includes, among other things, an acceptance of Hindu customs, the Hindu system of Caste, and the acceptance of Sanskrit as the one language of the nation.

Please note that this is not a call for secularism. This is not an appeal to citizens to see themselves as Indians first, and then as members of their religion. Because, simply, Savarkar’s advice is not for Hindus. He is not advising Hindus to forget that they are Hindus to qualify as Indians. This is something that the ‘other’ religions must do.

Cute. Isn’t it?

——-

Myth Number Two: Don’t worry, Hindutva is not Saffron Radicalism…

            Rubbish.

Hindutva is Saffron Radicalism. An emotion of a particularly bad sort.

Look up some excerpts from Savarkar’s book, Bhartiya Itihasatil Saha Soneri Paane (‘Six Golden Epochs in Indian History’).9 On pages 390-391 of the above-mentioned book, Savarkar takes to task the Marathas for not taking revenge on Muslims in response to the atrocities committed around the year 1757 by Abdalli. Savarkar would have liked the Marathas to not just take revenge, but to annihilate Muslim religion (Mussalmani Dharma), exterminate the Muslim people, and make India “Muslim-free”. He reports with great approval how Spain, Portugal, Greece and Bulgaria had done a similar thing in the past and ensured the safety of Christianity.

Further (page 392), Savarkar is unrelenting in his criticism of the Marathas for failing to exact revenge, not only on Abdalli and his forces for their atrocities on Hindus, but on those ordinary Muslims who continued to live in Mathura, Gokul, etc. According to Savarkar, the Maratha army should have killed ordinary Muslims (that is, not soldiers only), destroyed their mosques and raped Muslim women. The revenge was to be taken, not on the perpetrators of the earlier atrocities, but on those who had nothing to do with the earlier episodes, on those who were ordinary residents of these places and whose only crime was that they shared their religion with the perpetrators of the earlier atrocities. The above reference from Savarkar’s book indicates that he believed in the collective guilt of Muslims: they were to be punished not for what they had done, but for what their co-religionists had done.

What would you call this? Hindutva? Saffron Radicalism? Or both?

Or, would you finally say that they are the one and the same thing?

Here’s an excerpt of an interview, published on March 3, 2003, of the famous historian Bipan Chandra—

What exactly does Hindutva mean?

Hindutva is nothing but Hindu communalism. But the word ‘communalism’ is so dirty in our country that even communalists don’t call themselves communalists. The votaries of Hindutva have shifted from their initial stance on Hindu rashtra.10

Yet, the Supreme Court of India, in its Supreme Knowledge and Authority, has sought to define ‘Hindutva’: in its historic 1995 judgement, it conferred upon ‘Hindutva’ the status of a ‘way of life’. Hindutva apologists have, for long, clutched on to this piece of judicial ruling as conclusive philosophy. I will let it go by saying that whichever Hindutva the judgement talks about, it is not Savarkar’s Hindutva. In fact, the judgement doesn’t even mention Savarkar.

It is like delineating Marxism without talking about Marx, or the Gujarat of 2002 without Narendra Modi.11

———-

Myth Number Three: Join your Hands, and Close your Eyes, for Hindutva Rejuvenates Bharatiya Culture.

            Please. The only thing that Hindutva does to ‘Bharatiya’ culture is that it destroys it.

The other day, I read a sketchy post by a wannabe Hindutvavadi. In the twisted, little write-up he desperately sought to get one fact straight: Indian culture is under threat, and Hindutva is the answer.

Yes. Our culture is under threat. But Hindutva isn’t the answer. It is the threat.

Let’s get back to etymology for a while: have you noticed the tendency among Hindutvavadis and Hindutva-sympathisers to call India by the name ‘Aryavarta’? ‘Aryadesa’? ‘Aryabhoomi’?

If Lacan is right, and the unconscious is indeed structured as language, the preference for this particular term has an explanation. The Hindutvavadis often preach that this our Aryavarta has been subjected to invasions by foreign races, and their cultures have engulfed and replaced ours. Our only means of rejuvenating our great Aryavarta is through Hindutva.

This amounts to assuming that ‘Aryavarta’ is India Unadulterated. Its culture is India’s Original Culture.

Let’s begin by saying that when India was Aryavarta, there was no cricket, no chai (let alone chaiwallah), no Doordarshan (‘India ka Apna Channel’), no Tata Salt (‘Desh ka Namak’), no democracy. In other words, there was no India. It was another civilisation. It wasn’t us. Besides, if you think of it, anyway the original inhabitants of this land were not Aryas, not Hindus. Believe it or not, there was life before Hinduism. Perhaps, India’s Adivasi people have a greater claim to being indigenous to this land than anybody else.

On a graver note, this hankering after Authentic Indian Culture has tremendous connotations. Note, that this is racism at its highest worst. Note, that this authenticity was what drove Hitler to the murder of a generation of Jews. No wonder, Gowalkar, the respected RSS ideologue, its second chief after Hedgewar, and a great fan of Hitler, wrote—

In Hindustan, land of the Hindus, lives [sic.] and should live the Hindu Nation…All others are traitors and enemies to the National Cause…The foreign races in Hindustan…may stay in the country, wholly subordinated to the Hindu Nation, claiming nothing, deserving no privileges, far less any preferential treatment—not even citizen’s rights…To keep up the purity of its race and culture, Germany shocked the world by her purging the country of the Semitic races—the Jews. Race pride at its highest has been manifested here…a good lesson for us in Hindustan to learn and profit by.12

To those who say, we need Hindutva to counter cultural invasion, I have just a few questions. Are nuclear bombs Hindu (Indian)? Is corporate-globalisation particularly protective towards what you call Indian Culture? …Yet, these are measures, either taken, or supported by the BJP, a political party that has (at least, had) ‘Hindutva’ as one of its official policies, both written in its manifesto, and publicised by its cadres.13

It’s interesting that just when Manmohan Singh, then the finance minister, was preparing Indian markets for neo-liberalism, Advani went on his first Rath-Yatra.  In December 1992, the Babri Masjid was demolished. In 1993, the Congress government of Maharashtra signed a power purchase agreement with Enron—a contract, disastrous as it turned out, that kick-started the era of privatisation in India. Then, as the Congress whined from the sidelines, the BJP wrested the baton from its hands. The first act of the BJP in office was to conduct a series of nuclear tests. Across the country, sadhus and corporates alike, celebrated the Bomb. The VHP wanted to distribute radioactive sands from the Pokhran deserts as prasad to people all across India.

The BJP government conducted an extraordinary dual-orchestra. While one arm kept busy, selling off the nation’s assets in chunks, the other, to divert attention, arranged a baying, howling, deranged chorus of Hindutva. The inexorable ruthlessness of one process fed directly into the insanity of the other. Parts of the enormous profits generated by the process of indiscriminate privatisation went into financing Hindutva’s vast army—the RSS, the VHP, the Bajrang Dal, and the myriad other charities and trusts that run schools, hospitals and social services. Between them they created tens of thousands of shakhas across the country. The harted they preach, combined with the unmanageable frustration generated by the relentless impoverishment and dispossession of the corporate globalisation project, still fuels the violence of poor on poor—the perfect smoke screen to keep the structures of power intact and unchallenged.

Now talk about culture-invasion.

———-

Even as I write this, notifications pop up on my laptop screen, showing the rotund face of Uma Bharti. ‘Kuchh saazish nahi, sab khullam khulla hai, Ram Mandir banke rahega. Koi maai ka laal nahi rok sakta…14

Oh, the ghost of Hindutva!

Oh, the worshippers of that ghost!

Tell us something:

Have you heard Ghalib? Have you read the Book of Revelation? Do you know what nehari tastes like? Have you been to Kashmir?

Of course you haven’t.

Stay in your grave. RIP.

Notes—

  1. Jacques Derrida’s invocation of the spectral in Specters of Marx provides the basis for my metaphor of the ghost. In his text, Derrida introduces the figure of the spectre/ghost for its potential for deconstruction. The figure of the ghost suits Derrida’s deconstructive purpose, as well as my own essay, because, it ‘is neither substance, nor essence, nor existence, is never present as such.’
  2. See Jackson, A.V. Williams, ‘The Persian Dominions in Northern India Down to the Time of Alexander’s Invasion.’ In Ancient India, ed. E.J. Rapson. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, pp. 319-344.
  3. The findings about the etymology of the word ‘Hindu’ draw on Arvind Sharma, ‘On Hindu, Hindustan, Hinduism and Hindutva.’

The author, Suchismito Khatua, is a student of English at St. Xavier’s College, kolkata.

THE DEMAND FOR “COMMON” CIVIL CODE

“The Uniform Civil Code maybe described as controversy’s favorite child.”

Article 44 of Directive Principles of State Policy says “The State shall endeavor to secure for the citizens a Uniform Civil Code throughout the territory of India.” But it is a matter of regret that article 44 of the Constitution has remained a dead letter for the Indian judicial system. Article 44 is based on the notion that there is no viable relationship between religion and personal laws in a civilized society. In one hand, Article 25 of the Indian Constitution allows everyone the right to follow, profess and propagate his or her religion with utmost dignity, whereas Article 44 seeks to divest religion from social relations and personal law.

The discussion for having a proper Civil Code for all did take place during Constituent Assembly proceedings, where the then Law Minister of India, Mr. B.R. Ambedkar stood in favour of reforms in the society by having a proper Civil Code. But due to stiff resistance, this proposal was not allowed to be passed in the Assembly and hence was pushed to the category of “non actions” called the Directive principles of State policy. Therefore the meaning of Uniform Civil Code was articulated as a proposal to replace the personal laws based on the scriptures and customs of each major community in India with its own sets of laws governing every citizen.

When we talk about equality before the law to all in society, we cite the criminal laws of the country. But in civil matters such as marriage, adoption, succession, divorce and inheritance, the allowance of patriarchy is on a high. The dilution of gender justice done through ages has not awakened the minds of a common Indian. Therefore the idea of a “Common Civil Code” needs to be well conceptualized so that it can be understood by all. Religion cannot be used as a tool to justify acts of public immorality, public disorder or discrimination. The rightful interpretation of religious texts is essential to counter these draconian laws to the extent possible.

By setting aside the discriminatory aspects of existing personal laws and incorporating modern and progressive aspects, we can move towards a common civil code. The applicability of so many personal laws for different communities has created a deep-seated problem in the Indian judicial system. This fact has been acknowledged by the Honorable Supreme Court of India which has time and again stated that there is a “Total Confusion” when it comes to personal laws governing religious practices.

The Supreme Court of India has been very active on the issue of same Civil Code for all. It has given landmark judgments to support the cause of non biased civil laws in India whether it is in the famous cases of:

  • Shah Bano (1985), which talks about maintenance of Muslim women after divorce.
  • Sarla Mudgal vs. Union of India and Others (1995), which raised three pertinent questions for Courts; first, whether a Hindu husband married under Hindu law by embracing Islam, can solemnize a second marriage? Second, whether such a marriage, without having the first marriage dissolved, would be a valid marriage for the first wife who continues to be a Hindu? And last, whether the apostate husband would be guilty of the offence under section 494 of the Indian Penal Code?
  • Daniel Latifi vs. Union of India (2001), where the court stated that reasonable and fair provisions include provision for the future of the divorced wife with no confinement along the divorce period as stated in Muslim personal laws. This remains the final case law in this regard.
  • Shamim Ara vs. State of Uttar Pradesh (2002) ruling which supported the claim that arbitrary ‘triple talaq’ is invalid. 

These decisions support the view of Shri K. Kannan, a former judge of the Court of Punjab and Harayana that by borrowing from laws of various communities and making judicial pronouncements that assure gender equality, the nation can move towards a uniform set of civil laws in due course.

Assessing the present scenario, the government has asked the Law Commission of India headed by retired justice Balbir Singh Chauhan to formulate a report on the formulation of Common Civil Code. The Law Commission chief has said that people must be educated on this issue. People should know and understand this Civil law reforms from a humanitarian viewpoint to guarantee the equal rights of citizens, rather than from a non-moderate religious attitude. 

Till the time this matter is seen from a religious perspective, from a perspective of curtailing minority rights, then this issue will face the same resistance as other major reforms in India.

This is high time for introspection among citizens of India on whether they would like to continue to enforce principles of the 18th century that destroy the 21st century of India. Rigidity is inheritably imbibed in many of the personal laws of India. It is a fact that there remains greater rigidity in the personal laws of some communities whereas,in others, serious reforms have been introduced, that have contributed to the progress of those communities. But there is lack of comprehensive reforms even in those outdated laws.

Viewing this demand from a macro level perspective, the implementation of this matter will give a global outlook to India in terms of equal gender rights, equal minority rights and of course equal human rights. Moreover, it should not be seen as a concept presented by the Western World. Rather, it is the periphery adopted by the leftist governments in the east, where state and religion are seen differently and where state is above the question of religion.

There is hope that a call for a Common Civil Code will purge the nation of inequality by removing the evils of polygamy, child marriage, and arbitrary divorce, rigid grounds for a divorce, unjustified property rights and disparity in adoption laws. It is significant to note that the personal laws of the Hindus, such as those relating to marriage, succession and other issues, have all a sacramental origin in the same manner as in case of Muslims or Christians. The Hindus, along with Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains have forsaken the sentiments in the cause of national unity and integration; some other communities haven’t; although the constitution enjoins the establishment of a “Common Civil Code” for the whole of India.

Thus in order to generate wide consensus, any discussion on the issue of Uniform Civil Code in India must be cognizant of the undue stress given on the word “Uniform”. Uniformity in civil laws is often linked with majoritarianism  causing sections of society to resist this revolutionary reform. The very concept of complete uniformity in society is a farce and it is therefore essential that the codification of civil laws should encompass every person under its purview. It has rightly been observed by the Hon’ble Supreme Court that

“Justice to all is a far more satisfactory way of dispensing justice than justice from case to case.”

The author, Aditya Poddar, is a student of Commerce at St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata.

From Independence to Indifference

Two hundred years of British dominion in Bharatavarsha was a chapter of maturation of the country. The test of  forbearance from the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre to the Partition of India was instrumental in strengthening unity amidst diversity of the Indian culture. It was a transfiguration of the Indian struggle for Independence into a Revolution emanating from the transformation of the Indian citizens into experienced leaders. There was no prospect of any prolongation of the British rule as their crookedness was forced to succumb to the strong foundation of this Country. Out of this Havoc was born the Indian democracy with the largest written constitution in the world.

However, this was only a momentary subjugation of injustice and corruption. A battle that had been fought unitedly  parted ways, the repercussions of which are still being faced by the Indians. The preamble of the Constitution reads ‘India is a sovereign, socialist , secular and democratic republic’. However, it’s realisation is only a dream of every Indian.It seems that the spirit of nationalism witnessed a demise with the termination of the British colonisation. The democracy, which was supposed to be ‘by the people, of the people and for the people’ became only ‘of the self’. Consequently, the representatives of the natives became flag bearers of fraud and corruption. The curse of poverty and communalism began to take roots in the country because the battle for leadership had changed its form into a battle for authority. When cries of inequality and indifference fell into deaf ears, there began a crusade against crime. Consequently, the homeland of the natives has now taken the form of a battlefield.

Since corruption does not confine itself to any religion or community, the movements for reform are also incentives of integrity. The struggle of Irom Sharmila in Manipur bears a testimony of this fact.Change does not happen by itself nor can it be inflicted upon. A complaint without an action is as meaningless as a life without equality. This is reflected from the conflict of ideas and viewpoints that is inclusive of people from all the strands of the society. The heated debates in the media to the physical protests on roads are clear indications of the fact that corruption stands abated in front of integrity.Even religion cannot be its weapon of mass destruction. The discriminatory practices of both the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and the All India Muslim Personal Law Board are equally criticised by all groups of the society. The joint struggle for the upliftment of the condition of dalits and the venture of combating the gau-rakshaks are all exemplary embodiments of nationalism and humanity. Resignation of the chairperson of the SUM Hospital in Odissa after the fire mishap and the cancellation of the order of bail of Rocky Yadav by the Supreme Court are products of the participation of the public in an effort to wipe out duplicity and Sham.

However, there has been a deep seated skeptimism about this internal skirmish between the ‘good’ and the ‘evil’. Some argue that the so called ‘victims’ of corruption are actually traitors with an ambition to incite disregard for the nation and tear it apart. Moreover, such acts of ‘sedition’ are clear evidences of the fact that corruption has dismantled not only the Political regime of the country but also the foundation of the country as a whole. The notion of integrity has blotted out because egoism and indifference have achieved eminence.

A Mantra from the Upanishads reads ‘Tamasoma Jyotirgamaya’ which means leading from darkness to light. Nepotism has taken such deep roots in the Society that it has apparently expelled the very idea of an egalitarian society. Freedom from  ideological fundamentalism prevailing in the Society is a need of the hour. Failure to enlighten parochial mindsets with righteous and patriotic ideas can both be catastrophic and detrimental to the Society.

The author, Aastha Agarwal, is a student of Political Science at Loreto College, Kolkata.

The Murder of Creativity

‘Censorship’, is not just a word in India. For some fringe groups, in general, and the infamous Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) in particular, it is more of an emotion. The unrestricted use of the tool in the recent times by the CBFC, for the sole purpose of being politically correct, is something that has clamped down on people’s creativity.

It is beyond question that checks and balances (read censorship) are vital when we talk about something as influential as films. The problem however arises when such checks and balances overshadow rationality and deliberately infringe upon the freedom of speech and expression that a democratic state like ours guarantees. The question, thus, is: Is censorship, in the form it is presently practiced, acceptable in a mature democracy like ours?

It was about fifty years ago that there was a major challenge to the constitutional validity of ‘Censorship’. The Supreme Court, in its historic judgment to the case of S. Rangarajan vs P. Jagjivan Ram, talked about the major impact cinema has on people’s minds. The apex court, in its judgment, also established the validity of ‘censorship’ (even pre-censorship) as a tool used by the state to check ‘objectionable’ material from reaching the public. It however failed to ensure that the tool, in the days to come, would be used in a responsible manner.

The Cinematograph Act, 1952 was nothing but a continuation of the colonial era censorship laws which were created for the sole purpose of curbing the freedom of speech and expression of the people. This continuation was made possible because the leaders then believed that the people were ‘very gullible’ (as pointed out by B.V. Keskar, the Union Minister of Information and Broadcasting at that time). To some extent, his argument is valid, because the consolidation of a newly independent country required such measures. Provided that more than 75% of the Indian population was illiterate during the 1950s and 60s, the people were indeed ‘very gullible’. But times have changed, and there has been a steep increase in what we call the ‘visual literacy level’. People today understand the difference between the real and the unreal, and the same logic that was used way back in the 1950s cannot possibly be used in the 21st century as well. So, the necessity of using the instrument of ‘censorship’ frequently, which undoubtedly existed in the initial years of our democracy, ceases to perpetuate in the present scenario.

Having said that, should I not call it an act of grave hypocrisy when the state allows every adult to make a decision as important as voting, but continues to choose for them what to see and what not to? If the people are considered capable of choosing their government, they are definitely capable of selecting which film to watch and which film to avoid watching. Thus, the very idea of censorship in a democracy is paradoxical.

The second question is about the lack of rationality shown by the CBFC in the recent times. The case of ‘Phillauri’, a film starring Anushka Sharma, shows the incoherent nature of the CBFC. Apparently, a scene with ‘Hanuman Challisa’ had to be muted because it ‘failed to scare away the ghost’. During its establishment, one of the principal objectives of the body was to restrict superstitious material from reaching the public. Now, with the ‘Phillauri’ incident, it has transformed into a body promoting superstition. The theatrical release of ‘Lipstick Under My Burkha’ was banned on grounds that “the story is lady-oriented, their fantasy above life.” If the Board is actually so serious about morality, it should also have banned films like ‘Kya Cool Hai Hum’ which objectify women, and undermine the concepts of morality and decency to a far greater extent. These unfortunate incidents manifesting ambivalence and apparent double-standards bring about the inevitable question: Is the CBFC competent to censor our films?

The problem of unnecessary censorship can only be eradicated if the powers of the Board get restricted to Certification, just the way it is in the United States. The responsibility of the Government should only be to ensure that the people understand very clearly the nature of film they are about to watch. Strict certification and regulation of the audience can solve most of the problems faced as a result of irresponsible film-making. Censorship, on the other hand, should be used only under exceptional circumstances and must be looked after by a more capable, reasoned and responsible body, like the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT) that comprises retired judges and people with special knowledge in the field of cinema. Until then, creativity of the individual shall continue to be compromised.

Freedom of speech and expression is something that strengthens the base of a vibrant democracy. Be it painters, poets, film-makers or comedians; unless they can speak their minds without fear, our democracy will not be complete. Limiting people’s right to imagine and create, the way it is being presently done, will only weaken it.

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

What now, UP?

Swapan Dasgupta, a right-leaning commentator, while being interviewed by a journalist from ‘the Guardian’, commented, “He (Yogi Adityanath) has made provocative statements in the past and the question is whether he continues that style of politics as Chief Minister because the new job entails new responsibilities.”

And this question of situational transmogrification keeps Uttar Pradesh’s boiling cauldron coolly interesting!

But this is the guy, whose decisions after assuming power have been no less stirring than his political image –the only point of difference being the degree of sanity.

He banned the illegal abattoirs—this is actually along the National Green Tribunal directives. Uttar Pradesh Police had to form ‘Anti-Romeo Squad’ (although, its way of functioning is as disgusting as dubious its guidelines are!), acid-attack victims are being taken care of- legally, socially and monetarily, stress has been given on sanitation in 30 districts of the state, pan and tobacco have been banned in government offices (will UP lose its desiness?), vigilance has been hiked onto food-grain mafia, attention has been given to speedy construction of roads. To the relief of nearly 2 crore 15 lakh farmers, Rs 30,729 crore worth of farmer loan has been waived off. Interestingly enough, he has shifted the burden of responsibility of some key areas, like illegal mining, ration card distribution, directly on public servants—the list of daddying up is impressive.

But the fact of Adityanath being Adityanath is something which cannot be ditched. The fiery Hindu priest, who praised Donald Trump’s Muslim ban and once likened Shah Rukh Khan for speaking the same language to Hafiz Saeed, was chosen to run India’s most populous and (parliamentarily) most instrumental state, by BJP, which spearheaded by PM Modi, emphasized economic development over communal agenda to win this election. The 44-year old MP Yogi, also known as, Ajay Singh Negi, is the poster-boy of demagogical Hindu assertion. He is facing criminal charges of attempted murder, defiling religious place of worship, instigating riots in Uttar Pradesh, where the Muzaffarnagar Riots and lynching of Akhlaq Ahmed had triggered a quagmire of lawlessness. He had to spend 11 days in jail in 2007 for violating public restrictions imposed in an area at risk of erupting into communal violence. His senses perceive Mother Teresa as a ‘part of the conspiracy to Christianise India.’ His followers get indoctrinated by the discredited idea of ‘love-jihad’—simply, a man of travesty.

So BJP’s decision to make Adityanath queu-jump to the post of UP CM was thought of to be an assault on secularism in India- because he seems to be a confused soul with psychic penury in interpreting ‘Hindutva’ into ‘Hinduism’ (rather, militant Hinduism). BJP’s chest of strategies was pried open. The decision seemed to mock ‘sabka saath, sabka vikas.’

For long he was identified as a vermin of the fringes who didn’t really come in the way of Modi’s policy of inclusivenss. It looked veritable that BJP would form its government on the agenda of governance. But then, in electoral politics victory is the ultimate desire- no matter what comes in its way.

But, brilliant raconteurs like Trump happens in this funny world. So happen Adityanaths.

But this doesn’t ensure irreversible despair. Despite his communal and biased background, Adityanath has neither perpetrated any act of repulsion nor spoken carelessly, after becoming the CM. Despite the recrudescence of fake-Hindutva, he has been able to calm himself down to act like a man of rectitude. And we do not know what is coming. This is not to exonerate this monk and waffle into pugnacious polemics, but to glance with inquisition and speculation at the present state of affairs.

Nothing can be of such sensory pleasure to know the replacement of ‘Mandir Wahi Banayenge’ by ‘Vikaas Wahi Karenge.’

But will it happen?

The author, Sambuddha Bhattacharjee, is a student of Political Science at St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata.

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.

License to Kill

A nation known for its democracy in its truest sense, a government which indeed is ‘of the people, by the people, for the people’ and a country which gives due importance to the liberties of its citizens, it is very difficult to imagine a situation where a mockery of basic human rights is made. Initially introduced in the states of Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, and Tripura, The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act popularly known as AFSPA recently triggered off a public debate due to the violence in Kashmir. It is a draconian law which gives unbridled powers to the armed forces which includes the right to shoot to kill based on mere suspicion that it is necessary to do so in order to “maintain the public order” in a “disturbed area”.

The origin of this law was in 1958 when it was adopted by the Indian Parliament to provide legal support for the army operations against the Naga rebels. The main objective of this Act was to establish a localised form of emergency rule which would come to the aid of the people during distressed times and assist the State Governments which were incapable of maintaining any internal strife. During the 1950s and 1960s, the ASFPA-enabled counterinsurgency operations against the Nagas forced relocation of civilians in camps under close surveillance. Even to this day, the ‘search operations, the starvation periods, the regime of curfew and the loss of identity’ sends a shiver down the spine of those who remember it.

If one goes through the provisions of this act, the realisation of how the statute can wreak havoc on innocent citizens will dawn upon him and the fact that people are actually at the mercy of the armed forces and the government. One of the biggest flaws of this law is that the State can be declared as a “disturbed region” for an indefinite period of time and the armed officer need only be of the opinion that an action needs to be taken in order to maintain peace. The AFSPA also provides immunity to the forces in the sense that no legal proceedings can be carried out against them without the permission of the Central Government. In a country where reports about criminal activities precedes every other news, perpetrators of heinous crimes use this provision as a shield and move about freely in the society under the garb of their uniform. The atrocity performed by the security forces is an example of how humanity is getting lost in the world that we have built and how tainted has our soul actually become.

Three people shot by the Indian army at Machil sector in Kupwara district of Jammu and Kashmir; 110 lives of civilians lost in the whole summer unrest of the year 2010; barbarous acts committed by the army personnel to get rewards and remunerations under ‘anti-militancy operations’ and this is just the beginning of how low the officers have stooped in order to violate their rights. These incidents are not even close to the other merciless deeds that the forces have been involved in. In Kashmir, the officers used their power to carry out search operations while the men were held for identification outside their houses, near mosques or in a common ground. Even the basic safety measure of including a women officer was not followed. Similarly, the misuse of AFSPA in Manipur had prompted Ms. Irom Sharmila to go on a fast against the draconian provisions of the AFSPA.

In a country where the democratic voice of “We the People” echoes in every state and in every city, it seems to be getting suppressed under this tyrannous rule. In a land where women are worshipped as Goddesses, there can be no greater sin than exploiting their morale and dignity. In a nation, where every man sleeps soundly having the security that the army is there for protection, it is an utmost shameful act to break their trust and hope. The AFSPA was established as an indispensable tool to counter insurgency in “disturbed areas”. The entire purpose of this act was to give power in the ‘right hands of the right people’. Who would have thought that it would soon turn into a nightmare in disguise and render people absolutely helpless.

What we need is a change, an impetus to completely transform the society to make it a better place to live in. India should not allow the future to be dominated by violent paradigm such as the continuing use of AFSPA. It is time we give space for ‘Democracy’ and its cherished values to re-emerge stronger than ever before so that we can surpass all the evils that have crept into our motherland and rise above such trivialities to truly become a global leader. Quoting Swami Vivekananda, “Arise, Awake and Stop not until the goal has been reached” is the need of the hour. The duty of ever Indian citizen is to repeal acts like the AFSPA and to make sure that nothing, absolutely nothing comes in our way of climbing the ladders of success.

The author, Jaishree Dudani, is a student of Commerce at St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata.