Hindu dharma is implicitly at odds with monotheistic intolerance. What is happening in India is a new historical awakening... Indian intellectuals, who want to be secure in their liberal beliefs, may not understand what is going on. But every other Indian knows precisely what is happening: deep down he knows that a larger response is emerging even if at times this response appears in his eyes to be threatening.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Hindutva is a secular concept

By D.P. Sinha, IAS (Retd.)

Hindutva is manifested in religious tolerance, harmony with nature and the animal world, forgiveness, acceptance of disagreement, non-aggression, brotherhood of mankind pluralism, diversity in unity, etc.

Defining Hindutva is formidable. It is beyond definition. Hindutva is neither Hindu religion, nor a political ideology. It cannot be expressed in concrete terms. It is an abstract value system that manifests itself in behaviour and reactions of Hindus in general. It is a mindset that Hindus have inherited. It represents their collective psyche. It is a way of life for that defines description. Just as fragrance permeates the whole being of a flower, so does Hindutva in relation to Hindu society in particular and Indians in general. An attempt can certainly be made to identify this fragrance.

  • When I was a child, my mother would not let me go to garden to pluck a flower, fruit or leaf at night. Her explanation was that plants sleep at night. They should not be disturbed. Prevention of cruelty not only to animals, but even to plants, is Hindutva.
  • No religious book lays down that Hindus should feed the ants. Yet in many traditional localities, people going on the morning walk may be seen packets of white flour or sugar grains for the ants to feed. What motivates them to do so? Obviously Hindutva.
  • With the occupation of India by the British, the study of English became the only passport for the government jobs and other careers for both Hindus and Muslims. It was a level playing ground for both of them. Why Hindus took to western education with enthusiasm, and Muslims lagged behind? The result is that today the Hindus are educationally far more advanced than Muslims. This differing attitude towards education can only be explained by Hindutva and not Hinduism.
  • No religious book of Hindus lays down that all Hindus should be exclusively vegetarians. In fact, in ancient times, number of animals were killed as sacrifice to appease a goddess in temple precincts. Still this practice is in vogue in certain remote parts of the country. And not all Hindus are vegetarians. Yet vegetarianism is regarded as a virtue by Hindus in general. Even those who partake meat would not be able to suffer cruelty to animals or watch them being slaughtered.
  • On the auspicious occasion of Nagpanchami, there is a tradition for feeding milk to snakes. Symbolically, a bowl of milk is kept overnight in some remote corner of the house in evening and next morning it is presumed that snake has partaken it. This ritual symbolises Hindus respect for all living beings, even for venomous snakes. No Hindu scripture lays down any injunction in this regard. Yet, Hindus do so. Only Hindutva can explain this phenomenon.
  • Till not in too distant past, in most of Hindu households, the first bread baked in kitchen was given to a cow and the last bread was for crows and dogs. No scripture of Hindus lays down such tradition. Yet Hindus did so. Why? Only Hindutva is the answer.
  • It is universally known that Jewish people were persecuted in all countries of the world, wherever they migrated or took refuge, except in India. India is the only country of the world, where Jewish people were not prosecuted. Instead they were respected and given full freedom to build their synagogues and follow their religion. What makes Indians different from other people of the world? It is Hindutva.
  • Before the Arab invasion, people of Iran followed Zoroastrianism. It was a religion founded by their prophet Zarthustra in 1500 BC, with their god’s name as Ahur Mazda. After the Arab invasion and conquest, the Iranians were forcibly converted to Islam. Those who refused were either killed or escaped to the other countries seeking refuge. A group of such Iranian refugees (called Parsis by Indians) sought shelter in India more than a thousand years ago. The Hindu king who had granted the shelter did not put any condition on them and gave them full freedom to pursue their religion. Why did he do so? Obviously he was conditioned by Hindutva.
  • Mohammad Ghori, the Turkish King of Ghazni (Afghanistan) founder of Muslim rule in India, defeated the Hindu king Prithviraj Chauhan in the battle Tarain (1192) and thereby assured the Muslim occupation of the country that lasted seven centuries. The defeated Prithviraj was imprisoned and beheaded. Only a year earlier, the Hindu king had inflicted a crushing defeat on the invading forces of Mohammad Ghori and captured him. But Prithiviraj decided to be chivalrous. He pardoned Mohammad Ghori and released him. Why did Prithiviraj not kill his defeated foe Mohammad Ghori, the way latter killed the former in identical situation? The answer is Hindutva.
  • India was Partitioned in 1947 on purely religious basis. Muslims living in India before the Partition declared under the leadership of Mohammad Ali Jinnah that Hindus and Muslims constitute two different nations and the two cannot live together. Indian Muslims should have a country of their own. To coerce the Hindus leaders of the Congress Party to accede to their demand of Partition of the country, the ‘Muslim League’ unleashed the reign of terror and killing of Hindus. To prevent further bloodshed, the Congress Party, consisting mostly Hindu leaders was unnerved and gave in. Pakistan was carved out of India which promptly declared itself a Muslim theocratic State. Logically India should have declared itself a Hindu State, but it did not do so. Instead it chose to be a secular State. Why? The answer is ‘Hindutva’.
  • At the time of creation of Pakistan, it’s Hindu population was 24 per cent of its total population. Today it is hardly one per cent. Against it, the population of Muslims in India at the time of Partition was 8 per cent. Today it is about 15 per cent. Pakistan got rid of Hindu population by killing Hindus, converting them to Islam or forcing them to migrate and take refuge in India. There was some reaction to Hindu killings in Pakistan in India but the Indian Government, overwhelmingly manned by Hindus, largely contained it and crushed the Hindu retaliation. Unlike Hindus in Pakistan, Muslims in India have prospered in last six decades, numerically and economically. Why did the Hindu leadership of Congress Party in India did not react to Pakistani atrocity on Hindus and pursued a different policy? The answer in Hindutva.
  • The Muslim rule in large parts of India lasted for about seven hundred years (precisely from 1192 to 1857). During these centuries, it was customary for the Muslim rulers to inflict worst possible atrocities on Hindu population. Hindu massacre was a normal feature then. The women were worst sufferers. Thousands of Hindu women were interned in the harems of Sultans and nobility. But when Shivaji, the mighty Hindus rebel of Maharashtra (South west India) revolted against fanatic and fundamentalist Mugal ruler Aurangzeb and conquered the town of Surat, his generals captured the beautiful wife of its Muslim governor following the practice of the Muslim rulers of the day, they decided to repay them in their coins. They presented her to Shivaji. He looked at her for sometime. Then told her—“How I wish you were my mother.” There was an uneasy pause all around. He further said “Then I would have been as beautiful as you are”. He ordered his subordinates to treat her courteously and restore her to her family. Yet Shivaji did as he did. This conduct was guided by the elusive mindset which is Hindutva.
  • After Independence, distribution of land to landless farm labour was a challenge. Before the government could bring legislation, Gandhian leader Acharya Vinoba Bhave came up with a novel idea to the problem and went about the country to appeal to the land-owners to donate part of their holdings to the landless. What inspired him to do so? Obviously Hindutva.
  • According to an estimate, about 30,000 Hindu, Buddhist and Jain Temples were destroyed in over 700 years of Muslim rule in India. Ram, Krishna and Shiva are the most revered deities of Hindu pantheon. Rama Temple at Ayodhya, Krishna Temple at Mathura and Shiva (Vishwanath) Temple at Varanasi where demolished by Mughal emperors. But even in mediaeval times, the Hindu rulers like Shivaji, Rana Pratap, Chhatrasaal, Guru Govind Singh and Vijay Nagar Kings never retaliated by destroying a mosque. Respect of other religions in integral to Hindutva.

The above examples are illustrative of Hindutva-in-action. Hindutva is manifested in religious tolerance, harmony with nature and the animal world, forgiveness, acceptance of disagreement, non-aggression, brotherhood of mankind pluralism, diversity in unity, etc.

Hindutva and Hinduism

The words Hindu, Hindutva and Hinduism are not synonymous. They are different with distinctive connotation. A Hindu is one who is adherent of Hindu religion while Hinduism indicates the religion based on Hindu beliefs, scriptures, gods, after life, rituals and mode of worship etc. All Hindus who follow Hinduism are characterised by certain mindset, distinctive behaviour and attitude which can be called ‘Hindu-ness’. Hindutva is thus ‘Hindu-ness’.

Hindutva is certainly not Hinduism. But Hindutva is a mindset that is based on Hinduism, which itself is imbued with Indian culture. Hindutva is thus representative of Indian cultural ethos, transcending the narrow boundaries of different religions.

Hindutva and Indianness

There is no difference in Hindutva and Indian-ness. It implies that even non-Hindus, living in India have a mindset, to a greater or lesser degree, inspired by Hindutva.

What distinguishes Indian Muslims from rest of the world is their Hindutva (Hinduness or Indianness) inspired mindset.

The Shia-Sunni differences are almost as old as the Islam itself. The strife between the two is a fact of history. In the aftermath of the downfall of Saddam’s dictatorship in Iraq, the bloody conflict between the two Islamic communities is a reality, impossible to be brushed aside. Nearer home, in Pakistan, Shias and Sunnis do not pray in one mosque. They pray in separate mosques. Their communal militant organisations frequently kill each other and put bombs in their rival’s mosques. But it is not so in India. Here the Shia-Sunni divide is not that sharp. They pray in same mosque and the riots between the two are a rarity.

Summing up, it can be said that Hindutva is a mindset shared by all Indians, in larger or lesser degrees, Hindutva can also be defined as an abstract value system bequeathed by Indian culture and shared by all Indians irrespective of their religious affiliations. Hindutva is thus a secular concept.


At 8/21/2008 02:09:00 AM, Blogger gaurav said...

I don't think that the points given by you (towards explaining Hindutva) have anything to do with Hindutva or Hinduism. They all arise out of a humans' 'humane' consciousness, which can be found in any normal individual (irrespective of religion or race), whether expressed or undiscovered by him.

Those points make a whole lot of sense when presented as a manifestation of Humanism. Maybe, that's what you meant: Hindutva = Humanism.

At 8/21/2008 06:44:00 AM, Blogger Jagat said...


Hindutva should not be confused with "religion" and neither Hinduism is a "religion" in the sense Christianity and Islam is. Hindutva represents the Hindu character if India in terms of its worldview in contrast to Judeo-Christian and Islamic worldview. Thus the subject of Humanism, Freedom, Duty, Dharma, Liberty, Spirituality, Righteousness, Truth, Religion, Science, Psychology etc. comes into the domain of Hindutva. Here it means how the Indian civilization defines and understood these idea in contrast to the Judeo-Christian and Islamic. For instance organized conversion activities are projected as a universal form of freedom when its origin is based on Judeo-Christian worldview whereas in the Indian context there is no such thing called "freedom of conversion". Where is the need for conversion when one embraces the entire humanity as your source of knowledge and wisdom? Same goes to Secularism. When Dharmic view is upholded, where is the need for Secularism arising?


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