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The thoughts of VD Savarkar on Hinduism and Hindutva

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Nitesh Rai
Nitesh Rai
Postgraduate Student Department of Political Science, University of Delhi.

The word Hindutva has once again come under fierce debate, especially when Modi government reigns over India. BJP has been known to be associated with the ideology of Hindu nationalism and Hindutva from its inception. It is important to note here that RSS, Alma Mater of BJP has a long history of espousing the idea of Hindutva and for that, it largely subscribes the thoughts and writings of V.D. Savarkar. The word Hindutva and Hinduism have been used synonymously to each other and has been the subject of high controversy and criticism by many. Similarly, many people who are expressing their allegiance to Hinduism and Hindutva are themselves seems to be confused and do not make any distinction between these two terms.

In the mid of all this, the opportunists find it a good platform from where they can get away pretty easily by doing any egregious act. In this entire process, those people who want to score their political goals or want the attention of media are blatantly defaming and tarnishing the true image of Hindus and Hinduism because this has now become the fashion of the day. That is why it is very much essential to separate not only Hindu, Hinduism and Hindutva from what most of the people think about it in general, but it is also required to explore as to how these three terms are different from each other significantly.

If we trace the origin of these three terms, Savarkar has been the most profound and influential thinker in the history of Indian Political Thought who has written and propagated about these three terms in great length. In his most celebrated book “The essence of Hindutva”, Savarkar writes that to ask “Who is Hindu”, is in itself a wrong question, for him the appropriate question should be “what is Hindu”? He writes, “Asindhu Sindhu Paryanta yashya Bharat Bhoomika, Pitribhu Punya Bhuschaiva Sa vai Hindu Riti Smritah”.

This stanza simply says those who are residing on this vast land stretching from river Sindhu (north) to Sindhu Ocean (south) and consider this land as their fatherland and holy land are Hindus. For being a Hindu in Savarkars’ eyes there was no prerequisite of caste, class, religion or region, etc. Savarkar then goes on to define what Hinduism is? For Savarkar in essence, Hinduism is all about “Ism” of Hindus. What is this “Ism” of Hindus? It is the belief, attitude, and style of Hindus. This gives us a very clear picture that Hindus are not from any particular caste, creed, religion or class rather it encompasses all those who consider this land as their fatherland and holy land in V.D. Savarkar’s eyes. Allegations by a certain section of society that Hindus and Hinduism is exclusively meant for upper caste people, especially people residing in North India and then link it to the views of Savarkar is not fair at all which is what being spread in today’s time.

In contrast to this, Savarkar himself contends that there is a need to prevent the fragmentation of Hindu society and for that caste system must be uprooted from the society. It is deplorable and disheartening that some opportunists have distorted the original meaning of Hindu and Hinduism of Savarkar for their personal gain and projected Hindu and Hinduism as anti-Dalit or monopoly of a special group of people.

Does the Muslim and Christian community have no place in Savarkar’ idea of Hindu and Hinduism? It should be understood crystal clear that for Savarkar Muslim and Christian cannot be Hindu and he provides a detailed argument for it. He argues that since the holy land of Muslim is Macca and Jerusalem is considered to be the holy land of Christians their loyalty and allegiance to this land would always be under suspicion.

Does that mean that Muslims and Christian have no place in Hindustan as widely propagated by many people? It should be made very clear that despite chauvinistic element in Sarvarkars’ ideology, it cannot be termed as fascist like Hitler because the coexistence of Christians and Muslim in Hindustan was never denied by Savarkar. He wanted Hindus to be politically united and therefore he always tried his level best to douse the demands made by depressed classes and Sikhs forming a common front with Muslims and asking for separate representation. He was comfortable to accommodate most of the demands of Sikhs and the depressed classes, but the only condition was that it should be made under the banner of Hindu and not as non-Hindu because that would further pave way for atomization of Hindu community.

“The Hindu do not want a change of master, are not going to…. Fight and die only to replace an Edward by an Aurangzeb simply because the later happens to be born within Indian borders”, Savarkar said.

Now if we make an honest attempt to trace as to why the political philosophy of Savarkar was such where Only Hindus have the exclusive right to the rule of government? We would find that Savarkar was very disappointed with the kind of differential treatment Muslim community was receiving in the age of colonialism. Wherever the Muslim community was in the majority it was getting the privileges of majority at the same time it was also enjoying the advantage of the minority in Hindu-majority areas. A number of compromises made by Congress with Muslim league further fanned the fear in the section of Hindus including Savarkar that the future of Hindus is not going to be bright if such things remain in force. So to unite Hindus of Hindustan politically Savarkar extended his contribution at every possible level.

The word Hindutva has been misinterpreted by the same opportunists for their different advantages. Many of the people find it a good opportunity to color any communal incident from the word Hindutva, But Hindutva simply means the way of life of the Indian people and the Indian culture or ethos”, and by no means an anti-minority or anti-Muslim. In other words, Hindutva is simply nothing but the way of living of Hindus. It again has nothing to do with religion, caste or class but the opportunists have repeatedly associated Hindutva with caste and other things in order to malign the image of Hindutva.

The apex court in its verdict of 1995 has also shared the similar view that “Hindutva was not a religion, but a way of life and a state of mind.” We may find a close proximity between Hinduism and Hindutva but if make a deep observation both of these terms differ slightly. Where Hinduism is actually ‘Ism’ of Hindus, their belief and culture, Hindutva encapsulates it when we define it as a way of life which includes the belief and culture of Hindus as well. Thus Hindutva actually accommodates Hinduism within. It is therefore utmost important to make a clear distinction between the words Hindu, Hinduism, and Hindutva before making any attempt to tarnish the image of it or making any random statement, use it synonymous to each other.

References: Appaiah Parvathy: Hindutva Ideology and Politics, P.g, 59.

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Nitesh Rai
Nitesh Rai
Postgraduate Student Department of Political Science, University of Delhi.
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