02 June 2008

Hindu and Indian

I have explained how the words 'Hindu' and 'Indian' mean the same thing. Then the question arises: If the two words are the same, why does the RSS insist on using one (Hindu), instead of the other (Indian)? Why does it talk about Hindu nationalism (or Hindutva), rather than Indian nationalism?

The answer is that the word 'Indian' has come to be associated more with the nation state that was born in 1947, and the republic that was born in 1950. It is not associated so much with our 5000-year-old civilisation, our culture and our way of life. But the word 'Hindu' does have this latter association. Hence it is preferred. (See my essay on Hindu rashtra for why nationalism is primarily cultural in nature.)

This raises another question: Won't this use of the word 'Hindu' exclude and alienate India's Muslims and Christians? No, it should not. The word 'Hindu' was originally a geographic term, referring to a land and its people. In this sense all Indians are Hindus – regardless of the religion they practise. Just because some Hindus practise a different religion (Islam or Christianity) does not mean they are not Hindus. They did not cease to be Hindus when they converted to a different religion. The same blood flows in their veins that flows in ours.

So if India's Muslims and Christians are Hindu only in the geographical and racial sense (but not in the cultural sense) and we equate Indianness with Hinduness, doesn't that imply that they are less Indian than the rest of the nation? Here we must remember that Hinduism is an inclusive and universal way of life. It is not a rigid and exclusive religion. Hindu society gives people the freedom to practise any religion they want to. The presence of people who practise other religions is a testimony to the tolerance of Hinduism.

Once we realise the equivalence of the words 'Hindu' and 'Indian', a lot of our misconceptions disappear. In particular, "liberal" Hindus will stop making asinine statements like, "I am first an Indian, and then a Hindu." What is the difference between the two? And if you take away the 'Hindu', what is left of the 'Indian'?

So, Indian nationalism = Hindu nationalism = Hindutva :-)


roadtriplife said...

am back man!

i have a hard time agreeing with you ... if you are implying people staying Hindustan are Hindus ... then it is understandable ...

However, there are two problems ... India is no longer called Hindustan ... not even on my passport!

Also, Hindu is understood to mean someone belonging to the religion of Hinduism rather than Hindustan

I understand ur josh though :)

So, my reaction these days to people is that I am neither Hindu nor Indian ... I am but human ;-)

Indian said...

>India is no longer called Hindustan

What do you think India is called in Hindi/Urdu? :-)

>Hindu is understood to mean someone belonging to the religion of Hinduism rather than Hindustan

The truth is actually the other way around - the religion is called 'Hinduism' because it is practised by Hindus!