So, who is the real enemy of Hindutva? Well, if you are the kind who is bristling with this notion of moral and racial superiority; if you wish to just drown others with your opinionated din; If your tunnel vision constricts your thinking; then, you are not the ‘enemy’. If you are wedded to the idea of majoritarianism; if the seeds of your self-esteem are embedded in the debris of a demolition; if you are an intellectual liar without a sense of history and given to making deceitful arguments, then too be grateful, you are surely not the enemy!
But, yes, if you are a reasonable and a right-thinking person, possibly a little naive; if you have a sense of right and wrong, but do not believe in overstating your case; if you believe in the dignity of the individual — whatever the religious denomination; and if you believe in freedom of thought — which is tethered neither to ideology nor to dogma — then, in all probability, you are the ‘enemy.’ It is you that the communal Hindu is really worried about, not his equally toxic Muslim counterpart. Him he needs for sustenance — they feed on each other like maggots in a garbage dump. They go hand in hand spewing venom, sowing mistrust.
The bigot also does not worry needlessly about those Muslims who have kept their sanity intact, even when everything was going wrong for them. He has already goaded and gagged them with his vitriolic nonsense; even the somewhat voluble kind maintain a stupefying silence, lest they are drawn into the simmering fires. Even otherwise his numerical superiority is such that a Hindutva protagonist does not have to worry about what passes for minority assertion. The cult of violence that passes for nationalism takes care of the belligerent lot.
But the bigot is unable to convince you — the inscrutable and impenetrable Hindu — that you are afflicted with a disease called ‘tolerance and universal acceptance.’ He tries his best to drum his toxicity into you — he delves deep inside and tries to muddy your mind with notions of ancestry and skin colour, with his distorted versions of history and mythological grandeur.
So, it bothers him that Maharana Pratap finds just a mention in the postscript to Mughal history, and why his ‘greatness’ is not acknowledged for cocking a snook at Emperor Akbar. Even though historical facts suggest Maharana Pratap had no durable conquests to his credit, he was not able to redraw the contours of his kingdom, and for all his valour, he was not able to liberate Chittor, though he was able to claw back and wrest Mewar from the Mughals. Even in the battle of Haldighati, Maharana was not able to hold out when Akbar sent the military reinforcements. But the bigot would rather rave and rant and wallow in his home-spun ‘alternate’ facts that do not merit even a lavatory scholarship.
The bigot similarly weaves a hate narrative around the likes of Tipu Sultan, focussing more on conversions in Coorg and Malabar and less on his other accomplishments. The hate monger goes about his task with the tenacity of a grave digger, feeding on our innate insecurities; but he fails — because he has not reckoned with humanism — the building blocks of which are a spirit of reason and an unfettered Right to Inquire.
Unwittingly, the bigot has rendered a great service — he has roused the slumbering enigmatic Hindu. So, the squeamish are beginning to muster courage, they are coming out of the closet. And this tribe is now snarling, sniping, even mocking the Right and its sense of self-righteousness. The liberal is now ready to offend, ready to troll, an eye for an eye…And unlike the Left he is free of ideological trappings.
So, the Right is being confronted and told that Hindutva has nothing to do with Hinduism; that the Right does not even adhere to its own tenets; that the Right cares two hoots for even its own icons. That the Right only wants to create a spitting image of Pakistan. It is the coming of age of the silent majority. It is for the first time that Hinduism is facing a challenge from ‘within’.
The intrinsic strength of the faith, its resilience, has come into play: it is bringing right minded citizens — of all hues, including atheists — together on one platform. They see themselves not as defenders of the faith — Hinduism is too robust for that — but as custodians of a civilisation’s ethos, right thinking people who don’t want India to become a Hindu theocracy or a poor replica of Pakistan. While these are early days and one can’t describe it as ‘resurgence’ it has surely led to a churning within the faith.
The Right realises it is skating on thin ice: it cannot just demonise Mughal emperor Akbar and turn him into an invader; it cannot just rubbish Taj Mahal as a blot on history; it cannot camouflage a hate campaign against the Muslims and Dalits into a movement for cow slaughter; it cannot deflect attention from issues of governance by raking up trivia like beef, love jihad and roadside Romeos, it cannot just straddle the Vindhyas and transplant
It could at best vitiate the climate by turning a mosque which nobody even knew existed before Independence into a symbol of divisiveness in contemporary politics. But despite all the resources at its command — not to forget a pliable bureaucracy, a receptive government, a conniving administration — Hindutva cannot masquerade for Hinduism. The face of Hindutva is contorted, that of Hinduism is benign. The body language of Hindutva is that of a thug, that of Hinduism is of poise, grace and equilibrium. The gods of Hindutva have feet of clay, those of Hinduism have an ethereal beauty. Frankly, there is little to choose between the two — the Hindu and the Muslim bigot — both live like mice in a culvert but both try to conjure an image of a grand and mythical past. Both find themselves in the same intellectual trap.
So, to use an oft repeated example, if one wrongly gloats over the destruction of the Somnath Temple by Mahmud Ghaznavi, the other basks in the demolition of a medieval mosque centuries later. Of course, the temple was known for its riches and splendour whereas the mosque was not even known to exist before it was appropriated and turned into a mascot of Hindu resurgence. But the fiction matters little when you are trying to resurrect worthless moth eaten relics and turn them into historical heirlooms.
The bigot, too, is least bothered that ‘Ghaznavi had not only massacred Hindus but also slain Ismaili Shias when he invaded Multan.’ But given his tunnel vision and skewed sense of history, he tends to highlight only the bloodletting of Hindus in Somnath.
So, both the Muslim and the Hindu bigot are captive to their toxic ideology; both cite the tyranny of the past for their inability to focus on the present; both are unabashedly unapologetic and unforgiving; both believe in demonising the minorities; both are afflicted with the same malignancy.
The modus operandi for spreading this virulent form of nationalism is simple: Tell lies and half truths, spew venom in the classroom and outside, internalise the hate into governance, make it an instrument of State policy. This keeps the masses off-balance, the intellectual confused, the political class divided and the media in the dark, thereby ‘widening the gulf between the conservatives and the liberals.’
The author is editor of The Free Press Journal.