How is religious politics different from the issue of religion and politics
After the disaster of the partition, we are now in India where Hindus constitute 83 percent of the population. The next biggest religious group is that of the Muslims who make up about 11 per cent of the population. Developments among the Hindus, therefore, matter a lot more for the fate of India than among other religious communities. Of the many developments and interpretative changes discussed above, an insight into three or four consequences is needed to understand our present politics.
The first of these was to give monolithic unity to the Hindu community, a body of doctrines held together in a theological whole, quite in the way other religions are. Hinduism as a religion with fluid boundaries was seen as a liability in face of an adversity. There was also a concerted effort, secondly, to give muscle to Hinduism. All the religious thinkers in the wake of revivalism, with the sole exception of Gandhi, felt that Hinduism was weak and effeminate and therefore it was first conquered by Muslims and then colonised by the British. It must, therefore, be masculinised. Otherwise, India will remain threatened by outside powers and internal enemy. This view united such diverse thinkers as Bankim Chandra, Vivekananda, Dayanand Saraswati and many others. The unity and integrity of India was conceived in the unity and masculinity of the Hindus. Hindu history was, over the last thousand years since the coming of Muslims, viewed as a story defeats and misfortune. Before that time was the period of great achievement, which was one of glory. It is the duty of every one, here is the third feature, which united every one of these thinkers, to recover that golden age. They differed only in their means of achieving it. Strategically they were one but tactically differed quite considerably.
The last important characteristic underlying the revivalist thought was a deep suspicion of those features of Hinduism, which to many other conscientious Hindus, like Gandhi or Tagore for example, were the beauty and strength of Hinduism. This had to do with its diversity and ability to generate innovative variety. No other religion had such a capacity, The above thinkers and the movement, e have considered earlier, had deep mistrust about this trait of Hinduism. They were therefore distrustful of local differences, regional variations, mystic cults or the Bhakti movements. These were looked at as enfeebling and therefore to be shunned and fought out. This reached its culmination in Savarkar’s Hindutva (the most important book Sangh Parivar, written in 1923) where doctrine itself is suspect and is replaced by race, blood and the shared history of this sacred land-Punia Bhoomi.
The perception was that those outsides of sharing this blood and tradition, like Muslim and Christian with religions from alien soil, can never be able to ever give fill allegiance to India; they can never treat India as their Punia Bhoomi. Muslims thus are a suspect presence in India. It, therefore, follows that to be a good Hindu, one should combat the Muslims and also the Christian. The question then to ponder over is: is cultural nationalism not communal?
What Hindutva does is to counter the direct identity of the Hindus with the negative similarity of the minorities. We now have the Hindu Self standing in the perpetual conflicting presence of the Other. It is only in getting the better of the Other that the Self can realise its potential. That is what religious politics culminates in. This is what Hindutva is all about.
All this is still in the realm of imagination, the world of thought. How does one make it actual, the politics of the day? What stands between the imagined and the real is the organisation, so thought Hegdewar-the founder of the Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh (RSS). Hedgewar, in Nagpur, founded the RSS in 1925, two years after the publication of Hindutva by V.D. Savarkar. Many attempts to build organisations were made from the beginning of this century. The earliest were prntinidhi sabhas of the Arya Samaj which itself was founded in 1875. Early in the 20th century, the Hindu Sabha was founded. Later on, in 1915, the Hindu Maha Sabha was formed. The efforts were always there but nothing succeeded in a big way.
The RSS was a modest beginning, in a provincial town of Maharashtra, where it still has its headquarters. It was unique and innovative in a simple way. Its organisational principle was based on three things. There was to be a uniform (a klicker and shirt), a salute (to the RSS, but not national, flag) and a drill (with lathis) to give a martial outlook. This was to be followed by a chat with a swayam sevak, on matters considered by him to be “patriotic”. But the important idea underlying this was that it must become a part of the routine of one’s life, The ordinary cadre, the Sevak, is a soldier in the cause of the nation. Like in military, he is bound by discipline, in strictly hierarchical setup. Though it seemed to be farcical in the beginning, it achieved considerable success under its second dictator, Golwalkar. It has a number of affiliates like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, the Bajrang Dal, Durga Bahini, Hindu and Mannini.
The RSS started a political party of its own, having earlier collaborated with Hindu Mahasabha for many years, the Jana Sangh. It was reincarnated as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in 1980, which is now in a coalition called National Democratic Front, the ruling party in the country.