Gandhism, Post modernism and Hindutva

The Hindu nationalist political party, BJP has taken over the reins of government in India. Though they were in power twice before, this time they have a good majority of their own, and need not depend on non Hindutva parties for support.
modi sworn in
Today the brand ambassador of Hindutva is Narendra Modi, the new Prime minister of India. He comes from Gujarat, from a place near the birth place of Mahatma Gandhi. Is it surprising that muscular and intolerant Hindutva’s strength is coming from land of apostle of non-violence, Gandhi? Not at all. Many facets of Hindutva are closely related to ideas of Gandhi. Hindutva also derives it strength from western and Indian post modernist ideas and post colonial philosophies. Though this electoral victory is recent, the hegemony of ideas of Hindutva on Indian social and cultural milieu is present for last 2 decades and was greatly strengthened by Gandhians and post modernist Leftists.
A strong proponent of the above thesis is the scholar Meera Nanda, and this post is inspired by reading her.

Gandhism and Hindutva


Vision of Gandhi and that of Hindutva are similar in many areas.
See what Meera Nanda writes:
There is no doubt at all that Gandhi himself had no sympathy for the vicious anti-Muslim and anti-Christian sentiments that mark the muscular nationalism of Hindu nationalists. Hindu nationalists themselves recognize this difference, declaring Gandhi to be “too saintly” to fully comprehend the “evil” of Islam (Agarwal 1999).
But when it comes to the larger vision of a good society, the Hindu right wing’s relation to Gandhian philosophy is far from opportunistic. Indeed, the official philosophy of the Bharatiya Janata Party, the “integral humanism” of Deendayal Upadhyaya, is almost an exact paraphrase of Gandhi’s vision of a future India. Both seek a distinctive path for India, both reject the materialism of socialism and capitalism alike, both reject the individualism of modern society in favor of a holistic, varna-dharma based community, both insist upon an infusion of religious and moral values in politics, and both seek a culturally authentic mode of modernization that preserves Hindu values (see Fox 1987).

Gandhi was opposed to untouchability, but was not opposed to caste system per se. Modern day RSS takes the same view. Both Gandhi and RSS give importance to celibacy. Our new Prime minister, who left his wife for Hindutva work within weeks of his marriage, is an example of Hindu patriarchal thinking that women/sexual desires are an obstacle to performing useful work in society.
So it is not at all surprising that the Hindutva leader Modi is coming from near Gandhi’s home town.


Post modernism, Post Colonialism and Hindutva


It is difficult to define post modernism because it means different things to different people. Still it can be summarized as a philosophy which does not believe in single logical objective reasonable truth, but multiple subjective truths.
Post colonialism is a philosophy which tries to highlight and reinvent colonized people’s culture and portray it as opposite, equal or superior to Western culture.
Both did not believe in universal and culturally progressive nature of science. For a post modernist, science is just one of the several ways of attaining knowledge.
Thus a post colonial post modernist vision of India meant a new, non western model of development for India. They believed ‘western’ ideas like Capitalism, socialism, secularism, scientific temper, universality of scientific truth are not applicable in India. Main proponents of such a post modernist discourse included intellectuals like Ashish Nandy, Vandana Siva and Rajini Kothari. The Gandhian post modernists joined hands with ecological Marxists to fight against Nehruvian scientific temper
.
Meera Nanda writes:
The critics accused the Nehruvian promoters of science of disrespecting and insulting the ordinary citizens by daring to suggest that they need to revise their ways of knowing. True equality demands that ordinary people should have as much right to question science from their perspective. The most common example cited was that of astrology. Inspired by Feyerabend, the self-proclaimed defenders of the common man argued that astrology was the myth of the weak, as much as science was the myth of the strong. Scientists and those who dare criticize astrology as a superstition must take the empirical experience of the ordinary people as evidence, and rethink their opposition to it. Astrology stood for local knowledge in general.
modiramdev

This strengthened the hands of Hindutva forces as they were saying the same thing. Legitimacy was given to local, not scientifically tested “knowledge”. Foolish utterances of babas and swamis should be considered seriously as they form the local knowledge, which cannot be tested or known to modern science. No local inhuman customs, especially that of minorities and tribals (weaker sections) could be criticized as Universal human rights are a Western colonial concept. Science they said was a neo-colonial tool of multinational Corporations to continue control of colonies. It rapes the holy motherland and creates natural disasters.
Thus this anti-science movement saw a strange collaboration between Gandhians, Hindutva forces and some Leftists. Such an attack on science and secular liberal thoughts resulted in Indian society losing many of the progressive gains of the 50s and 60s. Identity politics based on caste, religion, language etc gained legitimacy. Superstitions became fashionable and spurious and dangerous remedies became popular in the field of health. Unscientific health care systems like Naturopathy, Ayurveda, Unani, Sidha and Homeopathy flourished under State patronage. Anti vaccine movement gained momentum. Freedom of expression suffered as the list of holy cows that cannot be criticized increased enormously.
In short, Gandhians and post modernist Leftists have played an important role in elevating Hindutva forces to power in India.
A successful fight against Hindutva or any other communal forces needs a reaffirming of our faith in scientific method, as the only way to attain knowledge. We need to propagate scientific temper in our society. Democracy and Secularism are universal concepts essential for well being of human beings all over the world. Traditions, like anything else should be rigorously questioned. Instead of sitting on the fence, rational criticism of religion and religious superstitions/ common sense should come from science movements.
Secular polity should not accept religion/traditions as another method to attain knowledge. Whether it is minority or majority religion, hurt sentiments should never be accepted to absolve criticism. Caste based groups, even of the lowest caste, represents a regressive grouping and should not be encouraged.

A liberal humanist India is possible only with more science and less religion.

https://www.eastwestcenter.org/fileadmin/resources/education/asdp_pdfs/Prophets_Facing_Backward.pdf

http://www.sacw.net/DC/CommunalismCollection/ArticlesArchive/July2004Vedic_Sc_MeeraNanda.pdf

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Why Hindutva victory in India

As expected the Hindu nationalist Bharathiya Janata Party won the Indian Parliament election. The victory was much bigger than expected and the chief architect of the victory, the controversial leader Narendra Modi will soon take charge as the next Prime minister of India. In this post I am trying to enumerate the reasons for such a verdict by World’s largest democracy.

 

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1. The Congress party led alliance which ruled India for last 10 years was massively unpopular due to many reasons. Corruption,inflation,slow economic growth and indecisiveness in major policy matters with multiple centers of power paralyzing the Govt were the main reasons for its unpopularity.

2. The opposition party, BJP and its allies decided on Narendra Modi as their leader to fight the elections very early. This gave a head start for Modi and he utilized it properly with well organised campaign tours throughout the country.

3. Almost all the business houses backed Modi fully as they were unhappy with slow growth in infrastructure and difficulty in getting  clearances for their projects. They believed Modi will be much more friendly to Corporate needs..

4. Massive propaganda directly -through mass media ads and billboards , through social media using paid workers and non paid volunteers,-and indirectly using mass media run by friendly media houses helped in projecting Modi as a man of development, eclipsing his real image as a divisive leader. It is said that BJP has spend around 1000 million US dollars in the last 3 months of election, almost double that of rival parties.

5. Last 20 years saw increasing urbanization and industrialization of India, which resulted in blurring of caste lines and backward classes, especially the OBCs, coming up socially and economically. RSS, the mother organisation of all Hindu nationalist social and political organisations including the BJP was traditionally popular only with upper caste Hindus in West and North India. With the change in the society, more and more lower castes began to join Hindu organisations. Modi could sell his development rhetoric to a large section of  Hindu backward castes aspiring to climb up the social ladder. Propaganda machine of the RSS was also able to label Congress party as more friendly to Muslims than Hindus, though the truth is actually the reverse.

 
6. Anti Hindutva votes where divided. Although 65% of voters did not vote for BJP alliance, it was able to get 60% of Parliament seat. Lack of a credible National level opposition helped BJP. The new anti Corruption party, AAP did show some promise, but their small resources where spread too wide to have any real impact.

Thus the huge victory of Modi’s BJP need not be seen just as a victory for Hindutva revivalism. Hindutva element is there for sure, but it’s role in getting this much votes and seats is minimal. It’s more of a negative vote against corruption and utter lack of leadership of the Congress dynasty. People voted for those who displayed leadership and belief in themselves. That is why along with Modi, 3 regional leaders Jayalalitha, Biju Patnaik and Mamta Bannerjee got such a thumping victory. It’s also a vote for stable government, which people believe can give a boost to economic growth of the country and their purses.

 Hindutva Government in India is a big setback to its secular polity. At the same time the people’s verdict should be respected. Let us hope the new government will not permanently scar the secular fabric of the country and at the same time improve the living conditions of millions of poor Indians regardless of their religion.