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Books written by B G Verghese

The country can do with a moderate right of centre party and the BJP has many good men and women who can play an honourable and worthwhile national role in that capacity. It is time for the BJP to stop shadow-boxing and face both the facts and the future.

A Moment of Truth

While there is room for a moderate Right, nothing will change for the BJP unless it gives up Hindutva and breaks free of the RSS bondage.

By B G Verghese

Deccan Herald, 14 June, 2009

IT WAS always expected that there would be a moment of reckoning for the BJP and the Left. The old adage goes that you can fool some of the people all the time and all the people some of the time, but not all the people all of the time. The last elections proved that. Now introspection among many in these parties has started a process of unravelling that bold statements cannot paper over.

In the BJP, Jaswant Singh and Yashwant Sinha have joined Sudheendra Kulkarni and Brajesh Misra in denouncing the Party leadership for attempting to cover up failure and duck accountability. The latter two are not Party members but were influential advisers whose words still carry weight. The wrangle over succession within the organisational and parliamentary wings is an in-house quarrel of relatively little importance. More relevant is the fact that the Party’s internal critics now clearly see its electoral discomfiture as an unmistakable rejection of its barren and vicious Hindutva ideology. The BJD walked out of the NDA before the polls on account of the BJP’s unrepentant role in Kandhamals.

The JD(U) and others denounced Varun Gandhi’s crude Hindutva battle cries which the leadership embraced even while denouncing them – a case of running with the hare and hunting with the hound in which the Party and Parivar has been adept. In 1948-49 when the RSS was banned after Gandhiji’s assassination, its leadership sought to curry official favour by offering an abject apology to Sardar Patel. Again in 1975, the RSS boss, Deoras, sought to ingratiate the Partivar with the authorities by criticizing JP’s Bihar movement, congratulating Mrs Gandhi on winning her election petition and offering unstinted cooperation in the Government’s constructive programme.

It is the exclusivist and chauvinistic Parivar ideology of Hindutva, politely termed “cultural nationalism” but in effect a revivalist hate creed, that has been its undoing. One does not know when precisely the term first gained currency but whenever it did it had nothing to do with Hinduism which is most a most catholic and eclectic faith symbolized by its proclaimed adherence to the wholly inclusive ideal of vasudaiva kutumbakam or the world is my family. Savarkar formalized a politically rejectionist theory that the Parivar adopted in the form of the two nation theory that was enunciated by him in 1927, well before the Muslim League adopted it.

The Ayodhya Ram Mandir movement spearheaded by Advani gave currency to Hindutva in the late 1980s and early 1990s. This cultural nationalism, rejecting foreignness, was itself a strange derivative terminology coined by Westerners and Orientalist scholars two to three hundred years ago as a handy description of the unfamiliar residual non-Muslim, non-Buddhist, non-Christian peoples they encountered in India whom they called Hindus. The people of India were earlier known as Hindis, from al-Hind, the Arab name for this country which the French transliterated into le Inde. The Orientialists converted the adjective Hind or Inde, describing a people, into “Hindu”, to describe a faith. The term “Hindu” is therefore recent and foreign and not ancient and indigenous as Hindutvadis make out.

One mentions this background only to underline one of the many confused notions on which Hindutvadis rest their case which was spelt out in Golwalkar’s “We, Our Nation Defined”. This eulogized Fascism and centralized, authoritarian rule” and labelled Muslims, Christians, Parsees and Jews as foreigners, placing them beyond the pale. Subsequent repudiation of this treatise is part of a long cultivated tradition of double speak. Since Independence Parivar ideologues have asked Muslims and Christians to prove their Indianness while their own rewritten history of victimhood and revenge for an allegedly stolen past glory have found a place in some of their contemporary textbooks. And how was this old glory lost? It happened, Parivar historians would have it, because Asoka took to ahimsa after renouncing war on witnessing the ravages of his Kalinga campaign, which knocked the fight out of true Indians who were then fell easy prey to foreign conquerors. It is such perverse logic that defines Hindutva as practiced, though others sometimes preach differently so that it might mean all things to all men as and when required.

There is no future for the BJP, whoever leads it, unless it totally abandons its Hindutva creed. I have repeatedly argued that the tirade against Article 370 amounts to a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing; that in haranguing endlessly about implementing a uniform code, BJP warriors are barging through an open door as constitutional illiterates; and that harping on yet another Ramjanambhoomi temple at Ayodhya and “protecting” the Ram Setu, the BJP and Parivar are confusing faith with the crude exploitation of political ideology to divide people. These are not 21st century concerns that matter to Hindus who are secure in their faith and, like other Indians, aspire to escape from poverty and to lead better lives. The law can take care of forced conversions, truly offensive art and “pub culture” without Parivar vigilantes trying to save what they scream is a threatened Hindu demography and ethos.

Tweedldum may replace Tweedledee but nothing will change for the BJP unless it gives up its Hindutva ideology and breaks free of crippling bondage of the RSS and its Parivar. The country can do with a moderate right of centre party and the BJP has many good men and women who can play an honourable and worthwhile national role in that capacity. It is time for the BJP to stop shadow-boxing and face both the facts and the future.

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