By Abhishek Banerjee
In late 2019, several social media users were saying that certain student groups at Aligarh Muslim University had raised highly objectionable slogans pledging to dig the graves of Hindus. As with any number of things these days, the “fact-checkers” came in to whitewash the situation. No, they argued, the students at AMU had said nothing of that sort. The fact-checkers sifted through the actual video and discovered that the slogan raised was about digging the grave of “Hindutva.” Apparently, that makes it all better.
This supposed distinction between “Hinduism” and “Hindutva” is now a flagship propaganda item for the Indian and global left. You can use any dehumanizing language you want, as long as you are careful to specify that it is against “Hindutva.” You are free to call them Nazi, Taliban, ISIS, anything and nobody will say that you are bigoted or racist. In fact, saying these things will probably enhance your liberal and progressive image.
Hindutva is the BJP ideology. And PM Modi, as the leader of the BJP, represents this ideology. And as long as you dehumanize PM Modi and the 23 crore people who voted for him, you are a humanitarian.
But this distinction between Hinduism and Hindutva, how real is it? One way to find out is whether this distinction is rigidly enforced by liberals outside India, where Hindus have no power at all. For instance, when PM Modi visited Bangladesh last week, violent riots broke out. The minority Hindu community was attacked and a number of temples were targeted.
In other words, the majority community in Bangladesh made no distinction between Hindutva and Hinduism. Interesting. A number of editors in India as well as some international media outlets have tried to spin these incidents as “anti-Modi protests.”
In fact, some editors in India used this occasion to further reprimand PM Modi. Mend your neighbourhood policy and your “Hindutva” ways. Or else, they say, Hindus won’t be safe anywhere in the world.
But why? I thought Hindus and Hinduism, in general, have nothing to do with “Hindutva.” Why would anyone attack a temple in Bangladesh as part of “anti-Modi protests”? We were told that you don’t hate ordinary Hindus. You said you have nothing against temples. Then, how come?
It isn’t just the rioters who failed to make the distinction. First of all, the world was mostly silent on anti-Hindu riots in Bangladesh. And when they spoke, they conspicuously tried to blur the line between protesting against Modi and attacking innocent Hindus and their places of worship. You can see that clearly in this headline from Al Jazeera. So who was trying to make “Hinduism” seem like the same thing as “Hindutva”?
I was told that “Hindutva” is the same as Nazi ideology. What kind of responsible news organization would forget to distinguish between Nazis and common people?
It is obvious what is happening here. The “Hindutva vs Hinduism” thing was invented in order to fool Hindus inside India. Outside India, where Hindus have no power, you can do anything you want to Hindus. Inside India, you have to be savvier. So you direct your punches at this thing called “Hindutva” that you insist is totally different. It is a weak cover story, but with most Hindus in India just wishing to get on with their lives, it somehow works.
Anyone who wears a Hanuman shirt is a terrorist, the liberals tell the world. Also, sarees, Diya, rasam, kids playing Holi, anything that can be associated with Hindus is a scourge on humanity. Slightly alarmed, the Indian Hindu sometimes stops to ask: you guys are not defaming my culture, are you?
No way, the liberals reply. We are just blaming “Hindutva.” Hearing this, the Indian Hindu feels reassured, nods and leaves the scene. Once the Indian Hindu is a safe distance away, the liberals burst out laughing.
How bad have things become for Hindus now? Regarding the anti-Hindu riots in Bangladesh, Ahmed Mobarak, a professor of economics at Yale, tweeted this.
Can you believe this? The picture shows PM Modi offering prayers at an old Kali Temple in Jessore in Bangladesh. But somehow, it is Modi’s visit which is blamed for spreading violence. The innocent rioters apparently had no choice. They were simple souls who walked into a trap set by Modi.
A rioter attacks a Hindu temple in Bangladesh. Who is to blame? Modi! How dare he visit a temple? Now every Hindu in Bangladesh must pay the price. Look who forgot that Hinduism and Hindutva are two different things. Remember that Hindutva is so different and so evil that AMU students are allowed to raise slogans about burying it alive. And yet, Yale professors and global news organizations like Al Jazeera routinely manage to mix up Hinduism and Hindutva.
Why? Because that Yale professor and his friends cater to a global audience. They have no incentive to pretend. Hindus at Yale don’t have the power to take his job away. So he can laugh in their faces and say that Hindus have only themselves to blame for existing in Bangladesh.
Who else knows that Hindutva is just a code word used to bash Hindus? Other than the average Indian Hindu, pretty much everyone else. Let me show you this recent interview given to Christianity Today by Dr Johnrose Austin Jayalal, the President of the Indian Medical Association about all the silver linings that his religion has found due to Covid. As you can probably tell, this individual is not very bright. He ended up saying a number of things, for which he had to make up excuses later. But here is an interesting slip from him that few people noticed:
“Most of the people are soft-minded. There are fewer hardcore people, apart from excluding the people who are in power. Often people are more understanding; people are more tolerant; people are more able to go along with them. One of the things we must always remember is that Hinduism or Hindutva is different from other religions because of polytheism.”
Wait! What do you mean by “Hinduism or Hindutva?” Did he just indicate that the two are roughly the same? Along with attributes like “soft-minded,” “more understanding” and “tolerant”? I thought Hindutva is the same as Nazism. Is he saying that Nazis are soft minded?
Yes, I think even he can see through this trick of pretending that Hindutva and Hinduism are different. And if an absolute clown-like Dr Johnrose Austin Jayalal can figure this out, can’t you?
One final lesson here. Due to elections in West Bengal, there is a lot of talk about Bengali cultural identity, about who worships Ram and who worships Durga or Kali. Those who fall for such politics might want to see what happened across the border in Bangladesh. Same Bengali language. Same Bengali culture. Then, why did cultural identity not save the Hindus of Bangladesh? Are the Hindus of Bangladesh also “outsiders” from Rajasthan and Gujarat?
The reality is that all this talk of cultural sub-nationalism is relevant only as long as we Hindus have ground beneath our feet. The world is not with us. We Indian Hindus only have each other. So why not fight each other over language and caste until what is left of India disintegrates completely? Who wants a bright future like that of the Hindus of Bangladesh?
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