With Narendra Modi’s phenomenal victory in the 2019 elections, theories, everyday conversations, stories and celebrations speak of a significant notion: the “Hinduisation” of society. Be it docile Hindus, who believe Muslims will be safe in a Hindu nation, or ardent Hindutva ideologues, who claim there is no difference between Hinduism and Hindutva, one message is clear — a New India is here and it is a Hindu Rashtra.
We are too quick to give credit to the Narendra Modi-Amit Shah duo for actualizing the dream of many who were trained at RSS camps and shared the ideologies of the Sangh Parivar. Over 180 years of sustained efforts by Sangh Parivar reformists has, in a sense, contributed to this victory. Shah and Modi only find themselves at the right moment of the Sangh Parivar’s history.
However, out of all that is being spoken about in this victory — Shah, Modi, New India and a Hindu nation — the Muslims of the country are left with a question: Where are we in all this?
Contradictions are fascinating, especially when they are within a group. Shortly after actor-turned-politician Kamal Hassan said, “India’s first terrorist is a Hindu. His name is Nathuram Godse,” Pragya Singh Thakur, now the BJP MP from Bhopal, claimed that Godse was a patriot. Modi had condemned Thakur’s statement, saying he would never forgive her for her remarks on Mahatma Gandhi’s assassin.
Thakur and others are easily identified as being of the Sangh Parivar, but Modi’s history of RSS training is not as immediately apparent. Merely constructing the 2019 elections as a one-man show cloaks the saffron robes behind BJP’s success. The victory is the discourse that took shape over the years.
Gandhi and his image have been an impediment in the Sangh Parivar’s way towards a Hindu nation. The India that was created on the plank of socialism and (in absent-present) secularism after its Independence was not the India that the Hindu Mahashabha and Sangh Parivar desired. They fought for a rashtra that would be the pitr-bhumi of Hindus. The rashtra was merely a project needed to reform Hinduism on the lines of modernity: one nation, one father and one pitr-bhumi.
Reformist movements like the Brahmo Samaj and Arya Samaj wished to reform Hinduism on the lines of monotheism. This reformation was not to obtain a universal god but to make Hinduism attractive like the Abrahamic religions. The Suddhi movement feared conversion of lower caste Hindus into Christianity and Islam and what the two religions offered — a universal god and one truth to hold on to.
Hence, the fear of Muslims today is rooted in the Muslim imagined to have what Hindu doesn’t — Abraham as its father and a land of its own, Pakistan. In truth, Muslims have just one image they cling to: that of the Abrahamic father. This forms the primary animus of a Hindu in BJP’s New India. For Hinduism to be attractive, it needs India to belong only to the Hindu, an Indian nation state and a father.
Independent India was first disintegrated with the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. While the symbolic meaning of ‘Gandhi’ outlives him, as many of us know, under the BJP’s regime, the idea of Gandhi is being appropriated to an extent that the very spirit of Gandhi and of Independent India is waning. Read in such a manner, the BJP’s manifesto of 2019 doesn’t call for a New India but is a declaration that New India is here.
While Sarvarkar and Dayanand Saraswati could only imagine bringing a land for the Hindus, Modi and Shah have actualized this imagination of the Sangh Parivar, their family. This is a “perversion” in the Freudian sense, wherein that which is only fantasized by a normal person is actualized by the one that perverts the idea under consideration.
The Indian Muslim is a hybridity. His roots are one but imagined to be many. To a Hindu mind, he can simultaneously belong to India, Pakistan, Arabia and Syria, and this scares him. The Indian and Pakistani heretical Muslim tradition is traumatising even for Islamic fundamentalists like terrorists of the Islamic State. He is confusing to the Hindu psyche, which is in search of an integral unity and a modernist vision. However, the radicality of Muslim resistance today lies in staying as confusing as ever, that is to read Arabic and Urdu and yet belong to the Indic civilisation.
Today, any conversation about the Muslim has to eventually lead to discussions on the Hindu, Hinduism and Hindu Rashtra. The Muslim exist but only against the Hindu Rashtra, and hence, the Muslim does not exist in/for himself and is being systematically erased from the social space.
The barbaric Muslim, hard to tame, is an impediment in the way of New India. The New India wants to civilize Muslims but not through a pedagogy of table manners but through conversion, elimination and extermination. Every lynching of the Muslim becomes an act towards development, vikas. It is in constructing the Muslim as barbaric and Hindutva as the ideology of the State that the developmental logic of New India is formed. In actuality, what we are witnessing is a modernist reform of Hinduism using the Indian State and nationalism as its logic. It is the making of a religion, modernistic Hinduism. The critique and the dissenter are lost in New India, and believers and followers are invented.
To erase the memory of Independent India was a sustained effort of the Sangh Parivar. While RSS pracharaks are on the front line, making headlines and talking about development, secularism and nationalisms in Parliament, karyakartas are in the background gossiping about the Mughal rule, reinventing the spirit of developmental and national spirit in the everyday person. In such a way, the Sangh Parivar gives an imagination and a leader for the everyday person to connect to.
This 180-year mission no longer needs RSS camps, where the ideology of the Sangh Parivar is preached to young minds. In New India, every citizen is a karyakarta. The future utility of RSS camps is beyond the scope of imagination of an ordinary Muslim like me who is just clinging onto her survival. The modernistic Hinduism is indeed a threat to Indian Muslims in New India.
The author is a PhD student, specializing in science and technology studies