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Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Dismantling Hindutva vs Hinduism Woke Ideology

A conference by the name of “Dismantling Global Hindutva” was organized in 2021. The organizers of this” conference” never came out publicly with their identity. However departments of many prestigious US universities endorsed this event, and their names could be seen on the promotion material of this anti-Hindu-Dharma conference. Finally, the conference had to make do with the online mode because of severe criticism by Hindu organizations. However, the organizers of this event tried to justify the anti-Hindu hate by arguing they were against Hindutva but not Hinduism.

Their logic was, that Hinduism is an age-old religion that propagates peace and tolerance, but Hinduism is the aggressive and violent muscle-flexing ideology of the BJP and RSS that is based on intolerance. So our conference is against this hateful ideology and not Hinduism, argued the organizers. All this stuff could be read on their website which is no longer functional. But the group has an X handle that is still active.

“Hindutva has targeted many communities, with the sharpest knives directed at Muslims and Dalits. I see these as racist”, “ Some of my favourite stories of Hinduism have been about various acharyas arguing in the streets about their ideas of God, but also being able to exist at the same time”, “ Speakers at this conference have been unambiguous that Hindutva is an ideology in charge of the Indian state”, these are some of the “enlightening” comments you can view on their x handle. What is noticeable is how cleverly they try to dissociate Hinduism from Hindutva. But even regarding that, the conference organizers seem to be lacking a consensus. One can still see some posts here that question the separation between Hindutva and Hinduism essentially saying there can be no Hindutva about Hinduism.

The arbitrary and misleading distinction between Hinduism and Hindutva is not exclusive to the organizers of the “Dismantling Global Hindutva Conference” though. If you google Hinduism vs Hindutva, you’ll see many articles arguing the same thing – Hinduism is peaceful but Hindutva is the hateful ideology of Indian Hindu majoritarian state, blah, blah, blah.

The biggest danger about this manufactured dichotomy between Hinduism and Hindutva is it’s being used to fool educated Bharatiyas. The left-liberal propaganda machinery has hammered it into the heads of many educated youth of Bharat that any talk of Hindu issues or display of Hindu activism smacks of minority hatred. So they should stay away from any political expression of their Hindu identity, they should refrain from speaking anything on Hindu issues, and be content with being a good Hindu in the private sphere. This woke poisoning is the major reason why many highly educated Hindus in metropolitan cities want to distance themselves from anything that smells of Hindu activism or Hindutva. Whatever pooja and rituals they follow at home is the good old Hinduism but if they dare to support the saffron-clad people on the streets speaking about Hindu rights, then they cross into the Hindutva terrain and that is no good, says the woke machinery.

There is a website called “Hindutva Harassment Field Manual”. The About section of this site says, “This field guide was written by a team of North America-based academics who are members of the South Asia Scholar Activist Collective (SASAC )”.

The website has a section titled “Defining Hindutva” and one of the sub-categories of this section is “Distinguishing Hindutva and Hinduism”. According to this site, “Hindutva is a modern political ideology that advocates for Hindu supremacy and seeks to transform India, constitutionally a secular state, into an ethno-religious nation known as the Hindu Rashtra. Hindutva is the official platform of the BJP, an extreme right-wing political party in India” The folks call RSS A “paramilitary organization based in India”.

The section on the apparent difference between Hinduism and Hindutva says, “Hindutva and Hinduism are distinct. Hindutva is a narrow political ideology whereas Hinduism is a broad-based religious tradition. Those who advocate Hindutva views sometimes try to shield their far-right politics and prejudices from criticism by claiming – in bad faith – that they are expressing Hindu religious views”.

The alarming thing is that many educated Hindus would actually take the anti-Hindu propaganda of this misleading website seriously. Since this stuff is written by so-called “south-Asian academics” who probably enjoy privileged positions in various Humanities and South Asian Studies departments of universities in the US and Europe, it would be taken at face value by many people.

The site openly shames any Hindu activism and offers “resources” to people who have undergone” Hindutva harassment”. According to this site, the Hindu diaspora in the US, in connivance with the BJP IT cell, creates the impression that the university leadership is Hinduphobic. And this is not it. The so-called academics running this site also have a problem with the word Hinduphobia, and according to them, it is the false propaganda of Hindutva.

The word Hindutva consists of “Hindu” and Tattva”. The word tattva means essence in English. If one looks at the literal definition of Hindutva, it would translate into the essence of being Hindu. Then, how is Hindutva different from Hinduism? It doesn’t make any sense logically. The essence of being a Hindu cannot be separated from Hinduism. The left-liberal lobby creates its own fictitious definition of Hindutva by ignoring its literal meaning and the discursive and contextual underpinnings.

By associating Hindutva with the BJP government and RSS, it seems the left- liberal lobby is following a political project and viciously attacking the elected government of Bharat on the pretext of Hindutva vs Hinduism. The word Hindutva wasn’t invented by the RSS and BJP! So this is just vicious propaganda of the left-liberal cabal to fool Hindus and bad-mouth the Bharatiya government.

Another argument given by these folks in that Hinduism is apolitical whereas Hindutva is political. If we look at the history of Hinduism and the great epics like Ramayana, Mahabharata, and Bhagavad Gita, this spurious argument falls flat on its face. All the Hindu epics make pertinent commentaries regarding the public sphere or political sphere. Lord Shri Krishna’s Updesh to Arjuna in Bhagavad Gita is a political allegory; it applies to political life and the principles and the path one should follow. If one talks about Ramcharitmanas, the epic imagines an ideal nation-state in the form of “Ram Rajya” at a symbolic level. If we translate the idea of Ram Rajya in the modern context, it has all the elements of an ideal and efficient state. In such a scenario, how can one say that people chanting slogans of “Jai Shri Ram” in public or talking about the creation of a “Ram Rajya” are Hindutvavadi and not Hindu?

Then, the left-liberals themselves acknowledge Veer Savarkar to be the father of Hindutva. The way Veer Savarkar defines Hindutva is antithetical to the left liberal’s supposed distinction between Hinduism and Hindutva. Veer Savarkar says that Hindutva is not merely a religion, it defines the entire social, political, and cultural context of Hindus. And this is precisely what Hinduism is. It’s a way of life. And Veer Savarkar calls Hindutva a way of life. What then is the difference between Hindutva and Hinduism?

Every community has the right to project its issues publicly and speak up on the injustices meted out to them. The woke lobby that shouts from rooftops about the rights and representation of several communities across the world starts seeing a Hindutva conspiracy when it sees Hindus coming out in the political arena and talking about their rights and issues. One couldn’t get any more hypocritical.

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Rati Agnihotri
Rati Agnihotri
Rati Agnihotri is an independent journalist and writer currently based in Dehradun (Uttarakhand). Rati has extensive experience in broadcast journalism having worked as a Correspondent for Xinhua Media for 8 years. She was based at their New Delhi bureau. She has also worked across radio and digital media and was a Fellow with Radio Deutsche Welle in Bonn. She is now based in Dehradun and pursuing independent work regularly contributing news analysis videos to a nationalist news portal (India Speaks Daily) with a considerable youtube presence. Rati regularly contributes articles and opinion pieces to various esteemed newspapers, journals, and magazines. Her articles have been recently published in "The Sunday Guardian", "Organizer", "Opindia", and "Garhwal Post". She has completed a MA (International Journalism) from the University of Leeds, U.K., and a BA (Hons) in English Literature from Miranda House, Delhi University.


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