After Modi government came to power in 2014 ‘Hindutva’ and ‘Hindu Rashtra’ became immensely popular terms and they resonated in every corner of the nation after every nationalist policy of Modi government. There is one section of society which is in favour of this ideology and are proud of the fact that a party with this ideology is in power whereas another section of the society thinks of it as a fascist and an exclusivist ideology which is against the secular character of India but actually neither of the sides know the actual reality.
Origin and the meaning of the word ‘Hindu’:
Before I explain what Hindutva is, I would like to explain the meaning of the term ‘Hindu’. Majority of us think of it as a religious identity not knowing that it is a geographic identity. The term ‘Hindu’ has two ways of representing it, both implying that it was a geographic identity. First is that it was a geographic and cultural term used by the Greeks, Persians, and Arabs, derived from the Sanskrit Sindhu to describe the people living by and beyond the river Sindhu. The Greeks modified Sindhu to Indus, and it is said that ancient Persian explorers because of their pronunciation rules dropped the letter S from Sindhu, and called the people living around the Sindhu River as Hindus. Another representation of the word Hindu has been traced to ancient puranas in which there is a verse:
“Himalayam Samarambhya Yavad Bindusarovaram,
Hindusthanmati Gyatam Hii Antarakshar Ayogatah”.
It means country between the Himalaya and Bindu Sarovar (“Hindu Sagar” which is the Indian ocean) is Hindustan. So, anyone who is born in this country is a Hindu combining the first letter ‘Hi’ of Himalayas and last compound letter ‘ndu’ of word Bindu forming the word Hindu. Hindu is somewhat a Sanskrit word for Indian. Later when the Christian missionaries and the Muslim emperors came to India they got the western concept of religion along with them until then there was no concept of religion in India and Hinduism is a way of life and not a religion! and they used the term ‘Hindu’ to distinguish between the original inhabitants of the land and the invaders. Then came the first census of India by the British in 1871 that defined “Hindu” as an omnibus term to encompass several religions that were not Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, or Jain. Hence gradually the term “Hindu” became a religious identity from a geographic identity.
Factors that led to the formation of the ideology ‘Hindutva’:
Veer Savarkar (1883-1966) was a freedom fighter and an ardent right-wing nationalist. The word ‘Hindutva’ was coined by him, he was shifted to Ratnagiri prison in 1921 and that same year he wrote a tract titled ‘Hindutva’ in the prison cell. It was then that the term ‘Hindutva’ entered political lexicon. He formulated Hindutva as a response to khilafat movement (1919-1924), Wahabi movement (1826-1871) and minority appeasement tactics followed by then congress and British government. Khilafat movement was started by the Ali brothers which was later supported by Gandhi to win the confidence of Muslims, get them in the national movement and to unite Hindus and Muslims.
Khilafat movement was launched to restore the caliph of Ottoman Caliphate who was considered the leader of Sunni Muslims. Many leaders including Savarkar, Jinnah and Nehru were against this procession. According to Savarkar it was absurd for Indians to fight for Turkish Sultan who was not even an Indian but a head of a religious institution and he believed that those Indian Muslims who considered him their spiritual head owned their loyalties to powers outside of India. What disturbed Savarkar was that Indians (Hindus and Muslims) were being united on the bases of a Turkish Sultan and minority appeasement. Savarkar was disturbed by the caste system and the lack of unity among the Hindus. He was exasperated by the orthodox beliefs and notions of purity which made it hard for them to come together as a group. So Savarkar formulated ‘Hindutva’ an ideology to unite Indians on the bases of our common culture, history, and heroes.
Savarkar’s Hindutva was based on political terms and not religious. He defined the nation as based on the unifying Hinduness of its people. At the very onset, Savarkar made it clear that Hindutva was not same as Hinduism and it had nothing to do with the religion and the rituals. According to Savarkar anyone who considered this nation as their fatherland and holy land was a ‘Hindu’. By Savarkar’s definition of ‘Hindu’ even Muslims and Christians were welcomed to be a part of ‘Hindutva’ they just didn’t have to owe their allegiance to any other power or country except India (According to Savarkar Annie Besant was a ‘Hindu’ even though India was not her fatherland but she truly loved India and respected its history, heroes and culture). Although, Savarkar believed that the love of many Muslims and Christians was divided and when they had to pick between their holy land (Arabia or Palestine) and fatherland (India) they would choose their holy land (Khilafat movement epitomized his charge). Anyways he wanted to keep the door open for all.
‘Hindutva’ does not oppose any religion instead ‘Hindutva’ believes in “Sarva dharma sambhava Sarva panth samadar” meaning equal respect for all faiths, belief, and nominations. It was just formulated to unite Indians on the bases of our common culture and history of India. Sangh Parivar believes that Indian Muslims and Christians are different from other Muslim and Christian in the world as they are culturally and ancestrally ‘Hindu’ and that’s the reason why many Indian Muslims and Christian acknowledge the Hindu traditions (Tarek Fatah, Abdul Kalam, Arif Mohammad Khan, Faiz Khan are some of the best-known examples). Hindutva was meant to unite people not to divide, people have misunderstood the meaning resulting in fights and disputes. Majority of people support it or are against it without knowing the actual meaning.