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Modi and his new Parliament: A few lessons

Can the opposition in India forge a roadmap looking at the new architecture of Hindutva? Nine lessons from the course correction in Hindutva and the ‘of course’ corrections needed among the opposition. 


“My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;

Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!

Nothing, beside remains. Round the decay

Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare,

The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

(OzymandiasPercy Bysshe Shelley)

THE major theme behind Ozymandias is that no matter how arrogant or tyrannical a ruler may be, all power is temporary. Even the most powerful will eventually be brought low, their name nearly forgotten and monuments to their power becoming buried in the sand.

Lesson 1: The Hindutva boa constrictor makes a big move 

The reams of copy and audio-visuals on the new Parliament building issue are instructive. They underline the hard truth that most of the so-called experts creating them are ignoramuses when it comes to issues relating to areas south of the Vindhyas.

Also read: Modi Magic Loses its Spell: Is it Just the Beginning?

Many who should have known better have characterised it as merely another imposition of Brahminical iconography and practice. If only it was that!

The Sengol itself was handed over by a group of non-Brahmin saffron-clad abbots of Saivite monasteries in Tamil Nadu. The Hindutva cabal of organisations, while drawing its inspiration from the more regressive of the twice-born, have now come to the realisation that a smorgasbord of castes, beliefs and interests are the best engine to their mythical Saptadvīpā Vasumatī (mythical geography of the Hindus).

Also read: Placement of Sengol in new Parliament building and its inauguration on birth anniversary of Savarkar raise questions on people as source of power

In India, Parasurama (one of the 10 incarnations of the Hindu God Vishnu) or Vamana (the fifth incarnation of Lord Vishnu) is not the new sword arm. Even apart from our roly-poly Sancho Panza to you-know-who making a brilliant gaffe offering Vamana greetings on Onam to people of Kerala, the tripwires for Nagpur, when using errand boys not steeped in Hindu mythology and folklore, are all too apparent.

The sword arm is personified by the kshatriya (The warrior class of Hindu worldview and caste system) in the muscular and aggressive ‘Ram’ (Seventh and most popular avatar of lord Vishnu in Hindu traditions) cutouts that proliferate primarily in northern India. It has limited political resonance in Tamil Nadu or West Bengal.

The major theme of Ozymandias by Percy Bysshe Shelley is that no matter how arrogant or tyrannical a ruler may be, all power is temporary.

The Hindutva subaltern has now been given a Hanuman with a fearsome grimace as opposed to the earlier portrayal on calendar art as praying to Ram and Sita (kneeling and with folded hands). 

Lesson 2:  Co-opt, swallow and assimilate

It is traditional wisdom in India, not necessarily Hindu, that confrontation is to be shunned when one can assimilate— a longer process is more effective. Hinduism is non-deterministic. Hindutva is as deterministic as the Semitic religions it loathes.

Also read: The hollowness of the Hindutva Governance Model

Hindutva, seeing itself losing ground, now wants to do course correction, from V.D. Savarkar’s Hindutva, which is brittle and straitjacketed, with tensile sinews that allow elasticity in the co-option stage.

This assimilative process, along with fire and sword, tamed the attractions of Buddhism and Jainism in the hoary past and in a much later era, animistic tribal populations with covert violence and coercion.

Lesson 3: The non-electoral lessons of Karnataka

Conscious that Jainism, a powerful faith in the pre-medieval period in the Kannada territory, was relegated to near obscurity by co-option and not confrontation as in the Tamil country, the Hindutva juggernaut applied the lesson learnt to the Lingayats.

In today’s Karnataka, Hindutva is in a hurry. Suborning and subsuming the essential Lingayat message of Basava into the Aryan Hindutva discourse as the preferred course. It is for this reason that M.M. Kalburgi was killed.

Not merely for being a rationalist as many opined.  He espoused like many Lingayats do, “ Rules of conduct prescribed by Basaveshwara cannot be equated to the Hindu way of life.”

The Lingayats briefly campaigned for themselves to be considered a separate religion but it soon petered out for want of  effective spiritual and temporal leadership. 

Also read: Hijab issue: BJP’s motive is to otherise Muslims, establish Hindu supremacy

The Beary language (Dravidian language spoken by Muslim communities in Karnataka) and culture was frightening to Hindutva. Horror of Horrors! Muslims speaking a Dravidian language in coastal Karnataka! The sword of Aryan Hindutva was unsheathed with hijab ban, love jihad, looking for Islamic terrorists under every bed, et al.

Also read: The Dravidian remedy to the inequalities of Hindutva

Lesson 4: The Kerala lunatic asylum— A challenge to Hindutva

As in Saadat Hasan Manto’s depiction of sanity during the India-Pakistan partition in a lunatic asylum in Toba Tek Singh, Kerala, which was depicted as a madhouse by Swami Vivekananda, has been able to thwart the Hindutva project.

Many who should have known better have characterised the new Parliament building as merely another imposition of Brahminical iconography and practice.

In Kerala, Hindutva will not strike roots easily, thanks to the large Christian and Muslim population, irrespective of the Judenrat policies of a section of the Syrian Catholic leadership, and the regressive leadership of Nair communal organisations.  

Also read: Of good and bad propaganda: A comparative analysis of ‘Afwaah’ and ‘The Kerala Story’

The saving grace in God’s Own Country against the Hindutva hordes is the Marxist and centre-left leaning that the state has adopted for a century. The major reforms initiated by Narayana Guru are also an impediment to the Hindutva project. 

However, Sankritisation is much more advanced here than in the Hindi speaking northern states. Only a return to its Dravidian and tribal wellsprings offers salvation in the long run.

Lesson 5: The Sengol as a Trojan Horse

Using the same co-option strategy, the powerful Saivite tradition very attractive to the non-Brahmin upper castes in Tamil Nadu had to be yoked to the Hindutva chariot.

‘From the time of Bhakti, Saivism (organised worship of Hindu God Shiva) has played a central role in Tamil society, displacing other competing religious forces like Vaishnavism, Buddhism and Jainism, at times through dialogue and conversion and at other times through force. 

Although privileging Brahmin priests, the monarchy and the Vellalar landlords in that order Saivism nevertheless appealed more to the popular Tamil imagination owing to its ability to integrate local customs and adapt to local traditions.

The Hindutva project has realised that to make inroads into Tamil Nadu in particular it must don this new garb of non-Brahmanical Saivism

Also read: The President, not the Prime Minister, should be inaugurating the new Parliament building

So, the Hindutva brigade gathered the adheenams or abbots of many Saivite mathas and flew them to Delhi.  The Madurai adheenam, one of the important performers in the inauguration of the new Parliament building, made a communal speech at a Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) meeting in 2022. 

In today’s Karnataka, Hindutva is in a hurry. Suborning and subsuming the essential Lingayat message of Basava into the Aryan Hindutva discourse as the preferred course. It is for this reason that M.M. Kalburgi was killed.

Guess they could have called a fellow Shudra but the consecration could only be done by a group of Sringeri Brahmins from the first of the four mathas set up by Adi Shankara.

Lesson 6: The non-Hindutva political class— the socialists

The Lohia socialists were the backbone of not only the socialist but also of the non-Congress and non-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) political movements in India. The non-Lohiate socialists, many with great personal integrity, were generals without armies.

R.M. Lohia’s views on culture and religion and their role in nation-building tallied with the Jana Sangh and RSS in many respects. For instance, Lohia sought to use popular symbols from Hindu epics like the Ramayana and Mahabharata to foster cultural confidence in the people. 

One of his often talked about cultural projects was to organise a Ramayan mela (festival) in Chitrakoot in Uttar Pradesh (UP), as the place finds mention in poet Tulsidas’s Ramchatitramanas. If that could be interpreted as a narrow, exclusivist religious undertaking, Lohia suggested to  M.F. Hussain that he should paint motifs from the Ramayana and Mahabharata.

Hindu Gods, Ram, Krishna and Shiva, often figured in Lohia’s cultural discourses to forge national unity. At a time when secularism was a popular political currency, Lohia’s penchant for using religious symbols from Hindu scriptures for political ends was narrow and bold at the same time and to the liking of the Jana Sangh.

Lesson 7: The Congress 

The Congress has a heavy cross to bear for the rise of fundamentalism. Before independence, after the declaration of the formation of the Simon Commission, the Congress Working Committee (CWC) sponsored an all-party conference on February 12, 1928. In that conference, a committee was formed under the presidency of Motilal Nehru, taking leaders from different parties with a view to decide about the main aspects of the future Constitution of India.

On December 20, 1928, a joint convention of the Congress and the Muslim League in the all-party conference was held in Calcutta and the report of the Motilal Nehru Committee was submitted.

Due to pussyfooting with the pernicious system of caste, communists provided space for the growth of Hindu fundamentalism in both the lower classes and castes.

After holding discussions on this report, Mohammed Ali Jinnah proposed amendments which included reservation of one-third seats in the Central Council for the Muslims, reservation of seats for the Muslims of the Punjab and Bengal on the basis of population till an election system on the basis of adult franchise is introduced, and transferring residuary powers to the provinces. 

Tej Bahadur Sapru appealed for accepting Jinnah’s proposals with a view to maintain communal balance. But it was opposed by Hindu Mahasabha representative M. R. Jayakar and Motilal Nehru. M.K. Gandhi did not take part in this controversy and remained silent. 

When Jinnah’s amendments were put to vote, they were rejected. Jinnah was shaken by this defeat. To him this was ‘parting of ways’ between the Hindus and Muslims. Henceforward, he gave up all efforts for Hindu-Muslim unity and understanding and sought to preserve and secure Muslim interest within the framework of communal politics. 

After being convinced that the Muslims had nothing to get from the Congress, Jinnah took the communal path. To him the Muslims were the only minority who mattered and they had to be organised in order to confront the Congress. 

He had his bourgeois class orientation, had no broad political vision and lacked foresight. Otherwise, he would have realised that a much more effective way of confronting Hindu communalism of the Congress was to establish good and fraternal relations with other political forces and national minorities like the Scheduled Castes (SCs), Sikhs, nationalities of ‘northeast’ India and so on.

That kind of national unity would have been able to curb the power of big Hindu capital and pave the way for a democratic solution to the minority question in India.

The British government convened a Round Table Conference for holding discussions between the British government and leaders of various political parties of India.

Also read: What a genuine leftist response to Hinduism challenge should look like

The first session was held in 1930 and two others followed. Dr B.R. Ambedkar, leader of the oppressed SCs, argued for a separate electorate for the Untouchables. But claiming himself as the leader and real representative of the Untouchables, Gandhi rejected Ambedkar’s demand for a separate electorate because that would largely affect the majority status of the Hindus. 

The Congress has a heavy cross to bear for the rise of fundamentalism.

Post-independence, the Central government led by  Jawaharlal Nehru failed to act with alacrity when fundamentalist Hindus in connivance with the local administration and the acquiescence of the then provincial government surreptitiously placed Hindu idols in the Babri Masjid in 1949.

In 1992, the Congress government led by Narasimha Rao did not take any step to stop the Hindu vandals who destroyed the Babri Masjid. On the part of the Congress, it was an act of criminal negligence and probably connivance. The rest of the story is still playing out and there are no guesses as to where it will end.

Lesson 8: The communists

The Indian communists, of all the different shades, were and are unable to decide whether caste or class is the principal contradiction in India. We saw the absurdity of S.A. Dange, one of the founders of the communist movement in India who in his last days embraced the virtues of Vedanta. It is in this pussyfooting with the pernicious system of caste where the communists provided space for the growth of Hindu fundamentalism in both the lower classes and castes.

Lesson 9:  The culpability of the judiciary

For reasons of space and brevity, I shall only mention the seven Hindutva judgments, the Supreme Court’s verdict on the Babri Masjid and the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991.

Arvind Narayan and Mathew John point out in their article, ‘The Hindutva judgments: A comment that:  “In 1995-96 the Supreme Court delivered a set of seven decisions along with one clarifying judgment which are popularly referred to as the Hindutva cases. All these cases were decided under The Representation of the People Act, 1951, and though two of these cases resulted in the invalidation of elections on grounds of violation of the Act, what is clearly borne out through these judgments is the legitimacy given by the Supreme Court to the politics of the Hindu [R]ight…

The Supreme Court’s verdict in the Ayodhya matter  settled the ‘title suit’  in favour of the main Hindu plaintiff essentially the Vishwa Hindu Parishad but it is clear that there is much more at stake for the country than the ownership of 2.77 acre of land on which a mosque stood for 470 years until it was demolished in an act of political vandalism unparalleled in the modern world.”

Also read: Ayodhya Verdict: Historical, Legal, Social and Moral Implications 

The August 2022 Supreme Court  closure of  all the cases pertaining to 2002 Gujarat riots and petitions against 1992 Babri Masjid demolition calling them  “infructuous mirrored the actions of the German judiciary in the Weimar Republic when the Nazis first came to power.

Lessons drawn

For Hindutva, the BJP’s victory is essential in 2024, for the centenary celebrations of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) to be as grand as envisaged. 

The August 2022 Supreme Court  closure of  all the cases pertaining to 2002 Gujarat riots and petitions against 1992 Babri Masjid demolition calling them  “infructuous” mirrored the actions of the German judiciary in the Weimar Republic when the Nazis first came to power.

The debate on whether the new Parliament is a copy of Somalia’s Parliament or whether Nehru was sufficiently respectful of the Sengol is passé.  The map of Akand Bharat (unified Greater India) had Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan protesting.  

The Hindutva pipe dream is as dangerous as the Nazi German state’s annexing Austria, parts of Poland, Ukraine and Czechoslovakia. Or the present efforts of the extreme right in Israel to attain the Biblical Eretz Yisrael (land of Israel). through their illegal settlement policy in the occupied territories.

For the secular Indian citizens, these are the questions to be asked: 

  • Will the new seats in the Parliament after the proposed 2026 delimitation of constituencies mean the primacy of the Hindi Belt in parliamentary majority? 
  • Is it the beginning of the Hindi–Hindu-Hindustan era?  

For the mumbo jumbo Hindutva clan, it will mean the ushering in of Satya Yuga after the dark Kali Yuga.

For us, secular, plebeian citizens who wish the continuance of the 1950 Constitution, in the short term it is essential that sanity prevails amongst the non-BJP parties and broader civil society and they present a united front  in the 2024 general elections and the state elections to be held in 2023.

Also read: An agenda for change in 2024

In the long term can we look up to those who have a spinal column, for the end of namby-pamby, curious transmutation of secularism that we Indians practice?  A healthy dose of laïcité (secularism) as the French understand it, would take us more than halfway to the promised land of a democratic society.

For us in India, the bells toll.

The Leaflet