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

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.

 

Image

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.

Why I do not want Modi to become India’s Prime minister

It is Parliament election time in India. The right wing Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is the front runner and is assured of getting more seats in Parliament than other political parties. According to the opinion polls BJP lead alliance may get close to absolute majority. BJP is projecting Narendra Modi as the Prime minister. So if the opinion pollsters are right he will be Indian Prime minister by end of next month.
As the title of the post suggests I do not want Modi to be Indian Prime minister.
Let me try to explain rationally why I do not want him as Prime minister or BJP as the ruling party.

1. As an atheist and a rationalist I do not want a right wing political party founded on religious and national pride to rule my country.
BJP is a political party based on Hindutva ideology. It is the political wing of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the RSS.

What does RSS stand for?
“The Hindu culture is the life-breath of Hindusthan. It is therefore clear that if Hindusthan is to be protected, we should first nourish the Hindu culture”.

No rationalist can support politics based on religion.

2. BJP being a religion based party stand for many irrational things. See some of these excerpts from BJP manifesto.
“Ram Mandir: BJP reiterates its stand to explore all possibilities within the framework of the constitution to facilitate the construction of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya”

“Cow and its Progeny: In view of the contribution of cow and its progeny to agriculture, socio-economic and cultural life of our country, the Department of Animal Husbandry will be suitably strengthened and empowered for the protection and promotion of cow and its progeny. Necessary legal framework will be created to protect and promote cow and its progeny.”

Ram is a Hindu god and Cow (not buffalo or goat) is a considered as sacred in Hinduism.
How can a rationalist support them?

3. BJP’s PM hopeful Modi was the chief minister of Gujarat when a genocide like situation happened. Gujarat riots were the most violent of all riots of 21st century in India. More than a thousand were killed, a large majority being minority Muslims, including a Member of Parliament. The riots occurred after the burning down of a railway coach and death of around 60 people who were a part of Viswa Hindu Parishad’s (an RSS affiliate) pilgrimage tour. The cause of the fire is still not clear, but probably occurred after a skirmish between Muslim vendors and RSS activists at the Godhra railway station.
Before starting of any enquiry, even before a first information report was filed by local police, Modi reached the site of tragedy and declared it is a conspiracy. He said:
“It (burning of the Sabarmati Express) was a pre-planned act. The culprits will have to pay for it. It was not communal violence. It was a violent, one-sided, collective act by only one community.”

A very irrational and dangerous statement deliberately made to instigate violence on minority Muslim community.
The following days saw large scale violence against Muslims all over Gujarat, with the Modi controlled Police not being much effective in protecting the life and property of citizens.
How can a rationalist support such a person who deliberately instigated violence in name of religion? He becoming PM can result in further riots and deaths of innocent lives. It is true that in India, most political parties indulge in tactics which may promote religion based violence. But the main instigator was always been RSS and its affiliated organizations, because majority religion always benefits from religious divide of society.

4. BJP being a religion/nationalism based party has its own distorted view of history which is in much variance from the actual history.
Here is what historian D.N Jha has to say about distorting history by Hindutva forces:
“The quest for India’s national identity through the route of Hindu religious nationalism began in the nineteenth century and has continued ever since. In recent years, however, it has received an unprecedented boost from those communal forces which brought a virulent version of Hindu cultural chauvinism to the centre stage of contemporary politics and produced a warped perception of India’s past. This is evident from the indigenist propaganda writings which support the myth of Aryan autochthony, demonise Muslims and Christians, and propagate the idea that India and Hinduism are eternal.”
Can a rationalist support a political party whose core ideology is based on distorted history?
5. BJP being a faith based political party staunchly supports god men and women, who fool the naïve believers by selling spirituality. Leaders in spiritual business like Sri Sri Ravisankar, Baba Ramdev and Mata Amrithanandamayi support BJP and BJP supports them strongly. Rationalists who question these god men are many a time physically assaulted by BJP cadre.
6. RSS, the force behind BJP is a men’s only club holding medieval patriarchal values. For RSS, role of women in society is only as good mothers and wives, nothing else.
I can come out with many more reasons for not supporting Narendra Modi, but these are the core issues.
I will conclude by saying a vote for Modi/BJP is a vote for a faith/hyper nationalism based Government which will actively promote divisiveness in society, irrational beliefs, patriarchy and distorts history.
That is why I do not support BJP/Modi.

Links
RSS
BJP Manifesto
History distortion
on Gujarat riots

Shame

10 Years have passed with no justice in sight, but the fight goes on. A poem by the famous Poet Satchidanandan on Gujarat Riots.

SHAME
K. Satchidanandan (translated from Malayalam by the poet himself)

( Written after a visit to the refugee camps in Gujarat after the post-Godhra genocide of Muslims in 2002.)

Returning from the refugee camps
I stand before the mirror
to examine myself: are there still
marks left to declare I am a Hindu?

Forehead, eyes, ears, nose, lips,
Chest, abdomen, limbs.

Yes, my body screams, yes:
your name, your speech,
the gods that crowd your memory,
the myths and legends you learnt by rote,
some beliefs passed on to you,
some laws you abide by, some rituals,
some symbols in your poetry.

It was you who did it, every cell
on my body points its fingers at me.

Say in shame, I am a Hindu, (1)
I am the murderer, the arsonist,
the rapist, the vandal and the cannibal.

Pardon, Najma, Laila,
Safia, Subaida, pardon.

I disclaim the vedas
that cannot stop the fire
that turns the living men to ash

I disclaim the Gita that
makes a duty of murder
I don’t want the wheel(2)
that maims infants
Nor the club that
batters the disarmed.
I don’t want the lotus
That signifies death.

Today I know: the colour of death
is not black, but saffron.
Don’t boast to me about
Valmiki, Kabir and Gandhi: (3)
they are perspiring in rags,
refugees amidst these refugees,
their memory choked with
the stench of burning bodies.
Don’t rave about Meera or Lalla,(4)
They sit there, sobbing, bleeding,
naked, heads bent , under
the harsh Gujarat sky.

River Sabarmati has dried up;
Narasi was never born here-(5)
Let’s just go back to the woods.

2002