In 2014, half of India’s voters picked neither Congress nor BJP. We (I was among them) should be reconciled to the idea that Hindutva will be around for a length of time. We must get used to it in Delhi. But we must see also if we can shape it and influence it from the outside.
This is required for one reason: Hindutva is essentially negative. It offers nothing constructive to Hindus, who are 80% of Indians. Let me explain what I mean. The three classic Hindutva thrusts, the issues which built the party over the decades, do not concern Hindus but address others. The issues are Ayodhya (Muslims must not keep their mosque), Uniform Civil Code (Muslims must not keep their personal law) and Article 370 (Muslims must not keep their constitutional autonomy).
What will Hindus like me get out of these demands? Nothing I can think of. Those who properly study it realize that Hindu rashtra can only be brought about by the mistreatment of others.
Hindutva is like status anxiety in reverse. It is anxious about lowering the lot of others. When its gaze is turned inwards it has nothing to say.
This separates Hindutva from, say, Islamism. The modern Islamist movement comes out of the writing of a man from Maharashtra called Maududi. He is the author of the idea of the Islamic state and most of its features spring from his writing.
Many readers will know that Pakistan discriminates against its minorities constitutionally. No Christian can become Pakistan’s president and no Hindu can become its prime minister, by law. In the 1970s, Zulfikar Bhutto’s second amendment apostatised a sect of Muslims who today cannot even call their mosque a mosque (the press refers to them as ‘place of worship’).
There were other things that the Islamists thought would change society, such as prohibition for Muslims (Pakistani Christians and Hindus can drink). In the 1980s under Zia, Pakistan introduced what is called hadd/hudood punishment (lashes for those who drank, amputation at the wrist for theft, stoning for adultery etc). These laws are in existence but not implemented in Pakistan. This is because the state wants to be Islamist but is essentially modern and recoils from executing such punishment. Every so often, there is talk that Pakistan should abolish interest because it is essentially un-lslamic. This may mean that the banking system will collapse overnight but it will bring blessings (barkat).
There are other small things (PIA flights always begin with an Arabic prayer) and medium-sized things, like forcible confiscation of a part of bank fixed deposits at Eid towards zakat (many Pakistani Sunnis claim to be Shias to avoid paying this).
Anyway, my point is that whether one is fascinated by, attracted to or repelled by such things, it is an observable fact that for the most part Islamism addresses Muslims and tries to reform their behaviour. What about Hindutva? Not so, as we have seen. It consists entirely of whining about others.
The things that get the BJP excited even today, now that it is in power, still concern Muslims, which explains the focus on peripheral things like beef and nationalism. Is that because Hindus are a perfect society? Of course not.
In drawing up a list of things Hindutva should instead be doing one hardly knows where to begin. It could take up the rest of this page. What about inequality? Ensuring affirmative action or reservations for Dalits and Adivasis, who are 25% of India’s population and totally marginalized, in the corporate sector would do wonders for Hindu society. So also the promotion of inter-caste marriage, especially between Dalit and savarna, and especially through personal example. Hindutva heroes like the Chitpavan Brahmin Savarkar wrote warmly about inter-caste weddings. But one notices that they ultimately arranged their own children’s marriages with other Chitpavan Brahmins.
Then there are things which will boost all of us economically. Getting Hindus, particularly the mercantile classes, to pay their income tax in full. Getting the upper classes to begin a Hindu tradition of philanthropy (currently missing) that will spread the wealth. Such things are to me substantial and meaningful Hindu issues and requiring the attention of the state.
What is needed is to push for a positive agenda for Hindutva. It is our misfortune that we are going to have to suffer it for a length of time. But that doesn’t mean that we allow it to continue unopposed in its negative-only agenda.