HINDUTVA VERSUS "MODITVA" : A LETTER FROM AHMEDABAD
The results of the Gujarat Assembly elections have stunned the nation, and call for deeper and dispassionate reflection. After the passions of the moment cool down it will be time for all political parties to sit up and think. Instead of merely injecting venom into the body politic to match the virus of Modi-Tagodia and Co., they would do well to do some hard thinking. If they do so, it will be realized that it was not Hindutva that won the day in Gujarat but it was "Moditva" that triumphed -i.e. Modi-Togadia brands of brutalized Hinduism. Yes, "Moditva", as one discerning political observer has aptly called it.
Two factors influenced the Gujarat results in no uncertain manner - one, the worldwide apathy towards Muslims after 9/11; two, Pakistan's insidious inspiration to relentless terrorist activity through out the period. It spurred Narendra Modi's "Mia Musharraf" rhetoric and helped Moditva brand to consolidate the usually divided Hindu votes in his favour.
There was yet another factor. That was Modi's constant chauvinistic refrain of "Gujarati pride". A la NTR. Modi copied exactly what celluloid hero N.T. Ramarao had done to capture political power and become chief minister of Andhra Pradesh 20 years ago. Bringing all his histrionic talent into full play in the 1982 poll campaign, NTR relentlessly focused on the alleged loss of "Telugu pride" to arouse parochial sentiments of the people after the then Andhra Chief Minister Anjeyya was publicly humiliated at the Hyderabad airport by Rajiv Gandhi who was AICC General Secretary at that time. Modi also lost no opportunity to trigger Gujarati emotions after the post Godhra carnage which had defamed him all over the country and abroad.
Incredible as it may seem, it should also be realized that constant and often mindless chanting of the slogan of "secularism" and its "pseudo variety" by parties inimical to the BJP because of congenital prejudices, has only helped to keep a virulent form of communalism alive. The Congress party has long been unfairly criticized by leftist outfits for practicing what is called its own brand of "soft Hindutva". As though it should also have "abused" Hindus to "appease" Muslims, and to prove its secular credentials. It needs to be realized that a country in which 99 percent of the people believe in and follow one or the other religion, can never be "secular" in the strictest sense of its original European connotation, as a Muslim scholar had observed sometime back. Hence the urgent need for the creed of co-existence with mutual respect and honour among various communities.
UNITED FRONT OF LIBERALS
What is needed is the emergence of a party of genuinely liberal Hindus who will not be "ashamed" of calling themselves Hindus, and will, at the same time, resist the vulgarization (or "Islamisation," as a keen observer has remarked half in jest) of Hinduism by self styled outfits like VHP and Bajrang Dal. Liberal Hindus have to save Hinduism from its ugly manifestation as witnessed in Gujarat in the early months of this year, and form a strong united front in collaboration with liberal sections of Muslims, their "silent majority", to jointly and publicly resist extremist Jehadi elements bent on murder and mayhem. And together they will have to face the twin challenge of the two distinct brands of jehadis stalking the bigots of both the religions, and evolve a common national ethos in a pluralist polity to end the terrorist scourge from both.
In this context a letter from a dispassionate observer from Ahmedabad received by this writer two days before the Gujarat election results were announced, is noteworthy and bears reproduction. A former Head of the Department of English and Director, School of Languages, Gujarat University, Professor R. A. Malagi says:
"Hindutva should not be made an issue at all. Neither the media nor the political parties should toy with it. They know not what they are doing. India is nothing if not Hindu. We do not claim that we have got our culture from anywhere. The British or the Europeans have no such foundation. They have only anthropology to fall back upon and the various pre-historical or historical ages to lean upon. But the Vedas by universal consent are archaic in the etymological sense too - (arche - 'The beginning') - they have been there before any beginning was made by man anywhere. Our values emanate from there. The Hindus are what they are, have been, will be, because they are sustained by prime values embedded in the Vedas. Imitation is a matter of yester years.
"Westernization, if you trace it back to its desperate beginnings, began with say, the Renaissance. Before the Renaissance, the west itself was in the dark ages. It is precisely because we have forgotten our moorings we are westernizing. Since the new winds of Christianity and Islam have blown later in the history/destiny of this country, it does not mean that Hinduism has blown off like dead leaves. We have practiced love, tolerance, forgiveness, resignation as social virtues and that is why, other religions have made their home here. We have been truly otherworldly too. That is why we have been self-denying and allowing others to settle down under our very nose.
"I have found Hinduism everywhere in the country, in every student from any part of the country. Does any Indian find himself an alien in any part of the country - unlike, for instance, in the U.S. or the U.K.? We should be proud of being Hindu, precisely because we are uniquely structured, socially and spiritually. We are at home with all. Some of the vices that have invaded us are because of the varieties of virus we have been exposed to. The western education and wealth, which inflate the ego, could be one of the reasons. Gandhi was incorrigibly Hindu -- the word Rama was the ultimate mantra for him, and he tamed an entire empire by his religious virtues.
DO NOT VULGARIZE HINDUISM
"I want to emphasize the great need not to vulgarize Hinduism. The T.V. and other journalists are absolutely illiterate about the profoundest things. Journalism of today, even like politics and cricket, has become a big industry. Between journalism and politics there is nothing to prefer. One is "dirtier" than the other. We must approach the term Hinduism with a genuine spirit of holiness and should not profane it. As Hindus we should live in honour and tackle the problems we face with a spirit of understanding and love. We should not strengthen the hands of the opponents by distorting our Hindu identity. We must vow to save it as our forefathers have saved it for us for numberless centuries", Professor Malgi asserts in conclusion.
22 December, 2002
VT JOSHI (1925-2008) worked for more than fifty years as a journalist. He retired from THE TIMES OF INDIA in 1989. During 1985-89 he was the Special Correspondent of THE TIMES OF INDIA in Pakistan. His books "PAKISTAN: ZIA TO BENAZIR" and "INDIA AT CROSS ROADS" (co-author GG Puri) were widely reviewed in both India and Pakistan.
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