Bhag­wat lec­ture will at­tempt to re­de­fine Hin­dutva per­cep­tion

Hindustan Times (Bathinda) - - Nation - Sm­riti Kak Ra­machan­dran let­ters@hin­dus­tan­


NEW DELHI: Con­cerned by the in­creas­ing con­fla­tion of Hin­dutva with an ide­ol­ogy that pre­scribes a theo­cratic state and is es­sen­tially anti-mi­nori­ties, the Rashtriya Swayam­se­vak Sangh (RSS) lead­er­ship is seek­ing to change the per­cep­tion that the Hin­dutva es­poused by the Sangh is sec­tar­ian and dis­crim­i­na­tory.

Hin­dutva, as ad­vo­cated by the Sangh, will be a cen­tral theme of RSS chief Mo­han Bhag­wat’s three-day lec­ture se­ries in Delhi that be­gins on Mon­day, peo­ple aware of the de­vel­op­ment said.

The fo­cus will be on pre­sent­ing Hin­dutva as “an en­com­pass­ing” idea that does not dif­fer­en­ti­ate on the ba­sis of re­li­gion or caste, said one RSS func­tionary, not wish­ing to be named.

Bhag­wat’s com­ments about Hin­dutva have in the past fu­elled con­tro­versy. In 2017, the Op­po­si­tion parsed his state­ment that “Hin­dus­tan (In­dia) is a Hindu na­tion... Hin­dutva is the iden­tity of our na­tion... (Hin­duism) that can in­cor­po­rate oth­ers (re­li­gions) in it­self.” Although the RSS im­me­di­ately clar­i­fied that the Hin­dutva which Bhag­wat re­ferred to did not mean ‘Hin­duism’ but ‘Hindu-ness’, the com­ment gave the Op­po­si­tion am­mu­ni­tion to dub the RSS di­vi­sive.

“The RSS wants to shift the fo­cus from the po­lit­i­cal def­i­ni­tion of Hin­dutva to a more philo­soph­i­cal one. The RSS is not anti-any­one or any­thing,” the func­tionary cited above said.

The at­tempt to re­de­fine Hin­dutva co­in­cides with an in­crease in fac­tion­al­ism be­tween var­i­ous Hindu castes, a phe­nom­e­non the RSS has been ag­gres­sively try­ing to counter through its Sa­ma­jik Sa­ma­rasta, or so­cial har­mony, ini­tia­tives and the grow­ing con­flict be­tween re­li­gious sects.

A sec­ond RSS func­tionary said the ex­er­cise to clar­ify the RSS’S po­si­tion comes in the wake of the brazen po­si­tions taken by the “fringe” on is­sues such as in­ter­faith mar­riages, food choices and even po­lit­i­cal stances that have “cre­ated a mis­con­cep­tion about the Sangh’s ide­ol­ogy.”

“The RSS wants anti-cow slaugh­ter laws; it does not con­done vi­o­lence in the name of cow pro­tec­tion. Sim­i­larly, the RSS is not anti-dalit, but there are pe­ri­odic at­tempts to cre­ate a per­cep­tion that the RSS wants caste­based quo­tas to be re­moved,” said the sec­ond func­tionary, also on con­di­tion of anonymity.

Se­shadri Chari, a for­mer ed­i­tor of the RSS mouth­piece Or­gan­iser and an ide­o­logue of the Sangh, also said Hin­dutva was a way of life rather than a re­li­gious iden­tity for the Sangh.

“For the RSS, Hin­dutva is a group of ideas that has cul­tural, ge­o­graph­i­cal and geo-po­lit­i­cal con­no­ta­tion. It can­not be seen through a nar­row, po­lit­i­cal prism,” Chari said.

Bhag­wat’s lec­ture se­ries, which will be fol­lowed up with more meet­ings across the coun­try with in­di­vid­u­als drawn from a cross-section of so­ci­ety, have been planned with the pur­pose of de­mar­cat­ing the Sangh’s ide­ol­ogy and ac­tiv­i­ties and the re­cent spurt in vig­i­lan­tism that has led to sev­eral cases of lynch­ing in many states.

While the RSS at­tempts to dis­tance it­self from the more mil­i­tant Hin­dutva of Veer Savarkar, con­sid­ered the ex­po­nent of the ide­ol­ogy, his­to­rian Aditya Mukher­jee of the Jawa­har­lal Nehru Univer­sity said: “There is no ques­tion of dis­tanc­ing the RSS’S idea of Hin­dutva from Savarkar’s. Af­ter Gand­hiji’s as­sas­si­na­tion, they dis­tanced them­selves from Hindu Ma­hasabha and (as­sas­sin Nathu­ram) Godse… any­thing that they don’t feel com­fort­able with, it’s their strat­egy. Their idea of Hin­dutva is the same as Savarkar’s —that any­one whose pun­yab­hoomi (sa­cred land) is In­dia, is an Indian— which ex­cludes Mus­lims and Chris­tians (their holy places be­ing out­side In­dia).”

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