What is Hindutva? Is it a social movement or a political project? Is it a distinct religion or another name for Hinduism?  The answers to these questions often appear confusing and ambiguous, but one thing is crystal clear that it is the manifesto of RSS and its political wing BJP along with the other member parties of the Sangh Parivar. So, in order to know their manifesto, one must understand Hindutva.

The word Hindutva was coined by V.D. Savarkar, an Indian independence activist, in 1923 in his writing The essence of Hindutva which latter came to be known as Hindutva: Who is a Hindu? Savarkar, in his writing, categorically rejects the assimilation of Hindutva with Hinduism and asserts that it should not be understood as a religion. He writes “… Hindutva is not identical with what is vaguely indicated by the term Hinduism. By an ‘ism’ it is generally meant a theory or a code more or less based on spiritual or religious dogma or system. But when we attempt to investigate the essential significance of Hindutva we do not primarily — and certainly not mainly — concern ourselves with any particular theocratic or religious dogma or creed”. It is very obvious that the notion of Hindutva is not of a religious nature, instead it has a political nature.

To further understand this notion let us consider another passage from Savarkar’s writing, he writes “To every Hindu … this Sindhusthan is at once a pitribhu and a punyabhu — fatherland and a holy land. That is why in the case of some of our … countrymen, who had originally been forcibly converted to a non-Hindu religion and who consequently have inherited along with Hindus, a common fatherland and a greater part of the wealth of a common culture — language, law, customs, folklore and history — are not and cannot be recognized as Hindus. For though Hindustan to them is fatherland as to any other Hindu yet it is not to them a holy land too. Their holy land is far off in Arabia or Palestine. Their mythology and god-men, ideas and heroes are not the children of this soil. Consequently, their name and their outlook smack of a foreign origin”. It is evident that the followers of the religions who do not consider India as their “Holy land” can never become true Indians ;therefore, they should renounce their associations with any religion foreign to India and accept India as their holy land to become acceptable and tolerable unto the Hindutvavadis (followers of Hindutva).

This notion deeply inspired the founding leader of RSS, Hedgewar, and his successor MS Golwalkar who endorsed popularized it under the name of “Cultural Nationalism”. Golwalkar writes in his book A Bunch of Thoughts, “… here was already a full-fledged ancient nation of the Hindus and the various communities which were living in the country were here either as guests, the Jews and Parsis, or as invaders, the Muslims and Christians. They never faced the question how all such heterogeneous groups could be called as children of the soil merely because, by an accident, they happened to reside in common territory under the rule of a common enemy … The theories of territorial nationalism and of common danger, which formed the basis for our concept of nation, had deprived us of the positive and inspiring content of our real Hindu nationhood …”. Therefore, Golwalkar outrightly rejects nationalism based on territorial identity in the favor of one based on cultural identity which obviously means adherence to Hindu values.

Hence, Hindutva is an organized movement to establish cultural hegemony and turn the population into a homogenized majority.

With the widespread prevalence of such an ideology, the “ghar wapsi” (go back to your home) movement by RSS and other such acts of communal discrimination are not just coincidences; rather, they are the result of deep-rooted indoctrination.

Although there are factions in the Indian society (especially the educated class) which strongly disapprove Hindutva but their voices are losing significance with the growing influence and popularity of BJP. Shashi Tharoor in his recent book The Hindu Way asserts that the political project of Hindutva is nothing less than an attack on Hinduism .He further writes expressing his apprehension regarding the consequences of the spread of this ideology that  “The common enemy lies in the forces of sectarian division that would, if unchecked, tear the country apart – or transform it into something that most self-respecting Hindus would refuse to recognize,”. Tharoor is absolutely correct in his observation because if this ideology won’t be constrained India will become a hell for the minorities.


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