15 February 2008

On Hindu Nationalism

Question: What is your idea of India? What does India mean to you?
Answer: India is...
A. our 5000-year-old civilisation
B. my motherland
C. my holy land
D. a nation state born in 1947
E. a republic born in 1950
F. the territory defined by the borders of the Union of India

A secularist will tick D, E and F. But a Hindu nationalist will tick A, B and C. D-E-F is a very narrow and shallow view of India. A-B-C is a much broader and deeper conception of our nation. This is the crux of the difference between Nehruvian secularism and Hindu nationalism. There are many and varied disagreements between the two camps, but almost all of them flow from this basic difference in how one sees India. A couple of examples will make this point clearer.

Secularists accuse the RSS of being disloyal to the country since, in our shakhas, we salute the bhagwa dwaja (saffron flag) – instead of the tricolour – and sing the prayer "Namaste sada vatsale matrubhoome" – instead of "Jana gana mana". This is nonsense. The national flag and national anthem do command our devotion and loyalty. There is no swayamsevak who does not respect these national symbols. Then why do we not use these symbols in our shakhas? Because they represent D-E, whereas the bhagwa dwaja and the RSS prarthana represent A-B-C. It is our way of reminding ourselves everyday that India is not just a nation state; she is a 5000-year-old civilisation, our motherland and our holy land. The former is a small subset of the latter.

Answer F is a big problem. Golwalkar Guruji called it 'territorial nationalism'. When the BJP raised the issue of Sonia Gandhi's foreign origin, the Congress Party replied that L K Advani and Jyoti Basu are also foreigners – as they were born in Karachi and Dhaka, respectively! This is what happens if one thinks of India merely as a nation state that was formed in 1947. Historically, the land of India was naturally defined – the land bound by the seas, the Himalayas and the Indus. In any case, India is more than just a piece of land. India is our civilisation – a nation defined by its culture and its way of life. Defined, in other words, by its Hindutva.

PS: Sometimes the term 'cultural nationalism' is used. The term has a certain interpretative value, but I think 'Hindu nationalism' is more to the point :-)


guyfromblore said...

From your earlier post (Is Islam anti-national):
So we see there is a conflict between the demands of nations and the demands of Islam. This conflict is at the root of much suspicion and mistrust in the world today. Will this conflict ever be resolved? If yes, how? These are interesting, and important, questions.

I hope you use the same lens to answer the 'defining India' question as you do to interpret the above question. More importantly, I wonder if the other people that define India as A-B-C use the same lens to answer your earlier question?

Indian said...

Hmm... I'm not sure if I got this point/question correctly.

guyfromblore said...

it looks like there is a conflict between what you say in this post and what you said in the earlier one.

Indian said...

What is the conflict? :-)