Let me begin with disclaimers and disclosures. I use the word ‘Hindutva’ in the generic sense, as a corpus of teachings, values and tenets representing a spiritual wealth which, in its profundity and depth, has no parallel.
It takes one’s breath away to contemplate that more than 5,000 years ago, India’s sages and seers, through their Vedas, Upanishads, shastras and epics, without any material or technological aids, could delve into the innermost recesses of thought and enrich humanity with a veritable treasure-house of eternal verities.
Although I am not a practising Hindu, my admiration for the incomparably precious heritage is boundless. Even Jawaharlal Nehru, whose agnosticism bordered on atheism, did not wish to cut himself off from India’s glorious past.
In his last Will and Testament he said: “I am proud of that great inheritance that has been, and is, ours, and I am conscious that I too, like all of us, am a link in that unbroken chain which goes back to the dawn of history in the immemorial past of India. That chain I would not break, for I treasure it and seek inspiration from it.” And, as witness of this desire of his and “as his last homage to the great ocean that washes India's shores”, he wanted his ashes thrown in the Ganga at Allahabad.
Hinduism has been held by scholars to be more a way of life than a structured religion. At the core of the vast repository of beliefs and faiths it represents, is righteous conduct or dharma which was immutable and inviolable. India’s Supreme Court, too, in a number of decisions, has taken a broad-spectrum view of Hindutva.
In a lucid enunciation of what it holds to be true essence of Hinduism, it declared in a judgment delivered in 1995: “Hindutva is indicative more of the way of life of the Indian people. It is not to be understood or construed narrowly. It is not Hindu fundamentalism nor is it to be confined only to the strict Hindu religious practices or as unrelated to the culture and ethos of the people of India, depicting the way of life of the Indian people. Considering Hindutva as hostile, inimical, or intolerant of other faiths, or as communal proceeds from an improper appreciation of its true meaning.”
One would normally expect that those who, like the members of what has come to be loosely known as the Sangh Parivar or the Hindu Right, profess reverence for that kind of legacy, would conform, in their human and societal relations, to the values propounded in India’s scriptures. For instance, one of the verses of the Yajur Veda states: “May all beings look on me with the eyes of a friend! May I look on all beings with the eyes of a friend! May we look on one another with the eyes of a friend!”
Likewise, a verse of Atharva Veda asks of Mother Earth to give to her children the capacity to interact harmoniously, and adds: “May we speak sweetly with one another!” Dr Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan has pointed out that “the development of Hindu religion has always been inspired by the endless quest of the mind for truth based on the consciousness that truth has many facets.”
I notice time after time that, contrary to all these precepts, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad-Bajrang Dal-RSS-Shri Ram Sena brand of Hindus are the first to fall like a ton of bricks on those with whose views they disagree, with abusive tirades and personal attacks on their character and motives. How come, despite all the commandments of Hinduism to show love, peace, harmony and tolerance for all, they are ever on short fuse, ready to thrash dissenters?
Why are they behind most instances of vandalising of libraries, art galleries and functions? The attack on young boys and girls in a pub in Mangalore on July 28 by the Hindu Jagarana Vedike is only the latest example of the fanaticism the ugly face of Hindutva is capable of.
On the other hand, I have found that person-to-person and one-on-one, they are the most polite and respectful to the point of being obsequious, always adding ‘ji’ to your name, and going all out to be nice.
Can anyone tell me how to reconcile these two faces of Hindutva?