The seventh phase, post-Independence, cannot be ignored, even though it stretches only to the last 70 years, because it begins with the violent and blood-soaked Partition of India on religious grounds and the creation of East and West Pakistan for Muslims. Did that make India a Hindu state by default? Or did it inspire the “idea of India” where all people were equally respected, irrespective of religion and caste? Different people will answer this differently. Hindutva saw secularism as minority appeasement, positive discrimination favouring certain castes as anti-meritocracy, socialism simply creating crony capitalism, doctrines of social justice and gender equality threatening traditional Hindu family values, and the absence of Uniform Civil Code as yet another way to divide India. Many intellectuals lost respect when they argued that concepts such as Hinduism, as well as India, were creations of the British, with no real ancient roots, disdainfully referring to the faith of common folk to the contrary as fanciful imaginaries. It became worse when academicians around the world who insisted on equating Hinduism with casteism refused to link Islam with terrorism, or Christianity with militant missionary activity. Many saw the doctrine of Marxism, liberalism and secularism of having failed a majority of Indians, most of whom continue to live in abject poverty. Justified or not, the aggrieved felt it was time to give Hindutva a chance, despite its aggressively masculine stance, especially since it spoke the language of development, and aspiration.
Ironically, Hindutva follows a linear Western template just like Marxism, secularism, and liberalism, ideologies it holds in deepest contempt. This means, both see themselves as objective and scientific and seek the truth, and are disturbed by ideas such as existence of multiple myths that are true for some but not all. Both find the present imperfect and problematic. Both yearn for solutions and seek perfection through human intervention in one lifetime. Thus, both use words like mission, destination and revolution. Both display messianic certainty and a sense of urgency. Both harbour a saviour complex! While Marxism, secularism and liberalism seek to save the world by reforming what they see as an unfair past, Hindutva seeks to save the world by reclaiming what it sees as Hinduism’s glorious past destroyed by Muslims and Christians and now, Marxists-secular-liberal forces that it bundles into one group. Both are combative, constantly seeking and finding villains to annihilate and establish their righteous heroism. Both despise alternate points of view. Neither likes diversity and seeks to contain it within a larger single homogenous discourse, like nationalism, or human rights. Both are embedded in anger, and seek justice. One can argue that Hindutva marks the semitisation of Hinduism, for linear thought is the hallmark of Abrahamic mythology, while Hinduism is rooted in cyclical structures.
A line is a circle with identity-crisis. And so Hindutva can be seen as yet another manifestation of Hinduism, of contextual relevance, a response to the past, that will eventually be consumed by whatever it will provoke. In Hindu worldview, life has no great climax, as nothing lasts forever. Every hierarchy eventually collapses and gives way to newer hierarchies. Multiple doctrines simultaneously vie for domination. The world is like a stormy ocean full of waves and winds. We ride these waves and winds; we do not create them; we cannot control them. This indifferent restless world makes us feel invalid and so we yearn desperately for meaning. The quest for meaning is atma-gyan (self-realisation), the essence of Hindu wisdom, communicated in Vedic rituals, Upanishadic dialogues, Tantrik art and Puranic stories. In the absence of atma-gyan, we are driven by the animal instinct to dominate and be territorial. We are consumed by a sense of injustice and inequality, and feel hungry and insecure. We do not empathise with others, and end up exploiting or fearing or seeking control over them. We feel neither love, nor contentment, only ambition, oppression, rage, bitterness and violence. Atma-gyan alone reveals why Hinduism is called sanatan dharma (eternal doctrine): it needs no saviours, but saviours need it.
(The views expressed by the author in the article are his/her own.)