‘What it takes to be a Hindu in a Globalised World- Identity Issues’: Vinay Sahasrabuddhe at MangaloreDate posted: August 19, 2013 | Short URL: https://samvada.org/?p=18064 | Share:
Mangalore Aug 18: Noted Writer Vinay Sahasrabuddhe and Scholar Dr MS Chaithra delivered lectures in a seminar organised by Swami Vivekananda -150th Birth Celebration committee in Mangalore on Sunday. The seminar was held at SDM-BBM College auditorium, which was inaugurated by Dr Yadapaditthaya, registrar of Mangalore University.
Summary of Speech by Vinay Sahasrabuddhe at Mangalore:
To discuss as to what it means to be a Hindu in a globalised world, in the present-day context is both, simple and difficult at the same time. But before going into the issues of difficulty or otherwise in discussing the issue, one thing is very obvious. Several Hindus almost consider themselves as accidental Hindus since to them—due to their ignorance about which they are ignorant —– it hardly matters whether they are Hindus or non-Hindus. A few fashionable secularists have almost abandoned their Hindu-ness as their brand of progressivism takes them to a pseudo- belief that world would not have been any different to them, had they born in a non-Hindu family.
Sadly, in the case of a majority of the proud Hindus, the quest to find answers to the questions regarding defining Hindu and thereby Hindu-ness has not gone too far at least at the popular level. No wonder then, there always are greater chances of a devout and proud Hindu disowning his/her Hindu identity temporarily than taking pains to find answers to the questions concerning the meaning of being a Hindu. What it means by being a Hindu very logically depends upon what characteristics go along with the concept of being a Hindu. In other words, our view about where, or in what factors lies one’s Hindu-ness will take us closer to the answer of the question referred to at the beginning. Hindu-ness could be rightly translated as Hindu-tva. Therefore, one cannot avoid the
subject of defining; deciphering or decoding what is Hindutva.
Much has already been and is still being said about Hindutva by both, its adversaries as also its advocates. The confusion that surrounds the concept of Hindutva — thanks mainly to the intellectual liberty, almost bordering irresponsibility enjoyed; again by both; adversaries and advocates alike— has added to the intricacies of the task. Too much of politically motivated discussion about Hindutva and an absolute apathy on the part of the academia and intelligentsia to understand its message has made the task of its adversaries to paint it as an illegitimate ideology, extremely easy. No wonder then, that almost two decades after the Ayodhya Movement Hindutva hardly figures in whatever the serious intellectual discourse that is witnessed in India. On the one hand, adversaries of Hindutva indulge only in using it as an old stick to beat its advocates, chiefly for political correctness; the later do precious little to present it in the modern context and in them idiom, the intelligentsia world over, understands.
The Ram-Janmabhoomi movement was the perfect symbol of Cultural Nationalism and it communicated the message of Hindu Unity so very effectively that hundreds of Leftist scholars were at pains to explain as to how Hindus have come together through a movement that was described by them as ‘Brahmnical’. While sound logical arguments in favour of Ram- Janmabhoomi made it acceptable in the educated urbanites and thinking circles, what was more important was the emotionality of the issue, which proved to be a unifier, par excellence. It was an issue, so very deeply rooted in our shared ethos that it became hard for even the staunchest secularists to gloss over it and just forget. At least for a certain period of time, Ram- Janmabhoomi made the Hindus forget their cast identities and in a way forced them to think of their larger cultural identity-the Hindu identity. A number of secularist journalists who witnessed the events in Ayodhya on December 6, 1992 had to publicly accept the fact that the sea of humanity that they witnessed had only one inseparable identity and that was the Hindu identity. Regardless of the questions of legitimacy of the events on that fateful day, one thing is certain that the entire Hindu society experienced an intense feeling of unity and solidarity, –so very unheard of about the Hindus—in the entire length and breadth of our nation.
This emotional unity, howsoever short-lived it might have remained; was the greatest gift of the Ram-Janmabhoomi movement. True, that VHP and other
organisations had undertaken several programmes aiming at consolidation of all those who are essentially Hindus right after the Meenakshipuram
conversions, still; the success of the Ram-Janmabhoomi movement was simply unparalleled. Notwithstanding the propaganda of the Left leaning academics about the socalled Saffronisation of Education, Hindutva, as an ideology continues to be untouchable in the corridors of academics. This untouchability emanates from various factors. Behind this denial of legitimacy is the destruction of image indulged in by the adversaries of Hindutva. Adversaries of Hindutva relish in painting the entire movement black! Their series of allegations against Hindutva consists
of following five points: –
1.Hindutva is a sectarian and hence anti-Muslims and Christians.
2.Hindutva is communal, pro-upper caste pro-Manu and hence against the
backward and weaker sections of the society.
3.Hindutva is anti-women, obscurantist and against gender justice.
4. Hindutva is against freedom of expression
5. Hindutva is anti-modernity.
Most of these allegations have been repeated umpteenth number of timescrating thick clouds of misunderstandings around the entire movement. No
ideological movement in the world might have ever faced such a grave image crisis. Considering the extremely wide gap between the reality about
the movement and its largely established image, Herculean efforts from the defenders of Hindutva are a must.
Before we examine the basis of these allegations, it is necessary to enquire
as to what exactly do we mean by Hindutva? Hindutva consists of the term
Hindu that is largely understood as a way of worship, a religion or a belief
system. However, the term Hindutva per say does not refer to Hindu
religion. Literally speaking, Hindutva means Hindu-ness. Just as the Sanskrit
term Manushyatva means being a human, Hindutva can be explained as
being a Hindu. Due to a huge multiplicity of worshiping deities and an
almost a killing diversity of the ways to worship them, no straight jacketing
is possible in Hindu religion, and as a consequence in Hindu world view. It
is in this complete denial of straight jacketing lie the roots of spiritual democracy, which is the most distinguishing factor of Hindu faith and belief
system. Unlike Christianity and Islam, Hinduism never presents itself as the
only way to seek salvation. On the contrary, Hinduism considers that every
path leads and individual to the same truth, the same almighty and
wise/knowledgeable persons refer to these ways in different ways. A firm
belief in this concept, as communicated in
“Ekam sat, Vipra bahuda vadanti”
is the corner stone of Hindu religious thought. It is due to this fundamental
faith in the existence of multiple ways of seeking salvation; the concept of
proselytisation and the resultant competition for converting people finds no
place Hindu religion. This is also true in other indigenous belief systems, be
it Jainism or Buddhism. Let us not forget that this fundamental spirit of
accommodation, which has its roots in spiritual democracy alone, could
make India a shining example of centuries of peaceful co-existence of
different religions and belief systems. In other words, thanks to Hinduism,
India could evolve a replicable model of sustainable pluralism. Acceptance
of the fundamental equality of, and hence equal respect for all religions and
all the ways of worship is the basis of such sustained pluralism. It must be
remembered that if one commits him/herself to the cardinal principals of
sustainable pluralism, one cannot talk of superiority of a way of worship and
hence the need to convert adherents of other faiths. Besides, once one
decides to indulge in the concepts of superiority of a religion, no meaningful
dialogue between faiths can happen. To day, when the entire world is facing
a sever threat of terrorist tendencies and the root cause of terrorism linked to
an essentially exclusivist approach motivated by belief systems, one wonders as to how can Humanity survive without accepting spiritual
The essence of the concept of spiritual democracy, I believe has helped
Hinduism survive. To put it simply, Hinduness does not lie in a set of rituals,
systems of worship or belief in any scriptures. It is in this essential
acceptance of; nay; welcome to other faiths and other gods lay your
Hinduness, i.e. Hindutva. It is this very unique and supremely liberal
characteristic of the Hinduism makes one Hindu. It is on this background
that one has to look at the notions that to be an adherent of Hindutva, one
need not be a Hindu. It is in the light of this core concept of Hindutva that
one has to examine issues such as social justice and gender equality.
Once one accepts that every path ultimately leads to the one and the same
ultimate truth, the questions of caste and creed need to be settled once and
for all. Hindutva has absolutely no place for discrimination on the basis of
caste. Equality of human beings is the cardinal principle. In Hindutva
scheme of things, superiority or inferiority of an individual just cannot
depend upon the social group of one’s birth. When Hindutva aspires to put
an end to such discriminations lock, stock and barrel, where comes the
question of defending Chaturvarnya, untouchability or caste conflict?
The essential unity and equality of the mankind perceived by Hindutva just
cannot accept any artificial divides promoted by politicians, in the garb of
academicians. Theories like Aryan invasion, conflict between indigenous
people and non-indigenous people, differences between aboriginals or
Adivasis and others, branding of certain social groups or communities as
criminals by birth, or a conflict between the victor and the vanquished etc.
cannot find any place at all in the concept of Hindutva. It may be pointed out
here that the adversaries of Hindutva always propagate that Hindutva is the
other name of Brahmanatva. There cannot be any other statement that is
farthest from the facts. Several references in what is known as Dalit
literature are a testimony of the fact that the upbringing of Dalit children
happens in the same religious-cultural ethos just like that of the so-called
upper caste children. The way Brahmans celebrate Diwali is in no way
different from the way Mangs or Matangs and other scheduled caste groups
celebrate. Same is the case with Adivasis. Several sociologists have
established that Adivasis in India are not like aboriginals in Australia. There
are several erstwhile nomads or even martial communities who took shelter
in the thick forests during the times of turbulence, several centuries before.
Today, they are identified as Adivasis, the original inhabitants, as if all
others are either aggressors or outsiders. It is in this context that one has to
have a re-look at the terms in which we refer to our own brethren. Again, to
say that simply because some of the Adivasis eat beef or worship nature and
no idols, they go beyond the purview of Hindutva is a misnomer.
On this background, it is necessary to discuss the question of social equality
in general and caste based reservations in particular. It must be noted that the
universally accepted and widely acclaimed concepts of affirmative action
and positive discrimination for social justice are at the root of caste based
reservations. Supporters of Hindutva have realised long ago that for larger
and lasting Hindu unity will not be possible without the so-called upper
castes cultivating a mindset for creating a space, at the cost of their own
opportunity; for the underprivileged classes. It would not be an exaggeration
to say that the privileged and comparatively less unfortunate sections of the
society also have to ensure that the weaker sections not only get reservations
but are also duly prepared to take advantage of the caste based quota. Those
who are committed to the cause of Hindu unity just cannot afford to be
unmindful of the fact that if emotional integrity is not achieved, Hindu unity
will remain a chimera. For emotional integrity to sustain, one has to promote
this spirit of mutual understanding, accommodation and social responsibility
while remaining fully aware about the designs of anti-Hindu unity forces to
divide this society and break the cultural-emotional bonds and intercommunity
Quotas cannot be de-linked from the wider issue of social and community
identity. Small, community identities need to be accommodated and
amalgamated with the wider national and social identity. Ironical as it may
seem, but this can happen only through respect and recognition for smaller
identities. Lest one forgets, such identities can never be crushed. They can
only be accommodated. Recognize and remold could be the only effective
way of dealing with these issues.
Creating an atmosphere where every part feels that it can lead a meaningful
life only while remaining inseparable from the whole is a severe challenge
before the Hindutva movement. For this, disadvantaged sections of our
society need to be assured of equal respect, equal opportunity and equal
protection. Gandhian principles of Antyodaya as the mainstay of our
approach towards policies for social justice and social harmony alone can
halt the process of social divide.
Discussion up to this point should help respond the questions about
Hindutva being anti-minorities and anti-socially weaker sections. About the
misperceptions pertaining to Hindutva being anti-women, anti-freedom of
expression and anti-modernity, I believe arguments are not far to seek.
Hindutva respects womanhood. Besides, the complimentary character of the
roles of man and a woman, symbolised through the imagery of ardha-naree
nateshwara is at the centre of the indigenous narrative of gender equality.
Hence, the question of women being considered as inferior has no place in
our world view. Womanhood doesn’t required glorification bordering to
deitification. Just as in case of all sections of the society, women need
equality of respect, of opportunity and of security.
Hindus are known for adaptive ness. Hindu worldview has an evolutionary
characteristic. Nitya Nootan, Chira Puratan is the cornerstone of our
thinking. How Hindus be anti modernist? Similarly, Hindu system has
always abhorred the idea of denying freedom of expression. Liberalism is
one of traditional values. However, competitive politics of ” hurt emotions”,
very understandably makes us demand some bans and prohibitions.
Instances of blatant abuse of Hindu icons are growing in number, as other
belief systems want not only to negate our existence but also ridicule Hindu
belief system and people.
It’s a fact that Hindutva and Hindus as a society; continue to be ill defined
and un-articulated. There is a whole lot of sheer confusion about some very
fundamental questions starting from “who could be called as Hindus?”
Unlike the Semitic religions, Hinduism is devoid of one single prophet, deity
or hero. It doesn’t consider that there is only one single book that enshrines
the entire worldly wisdom. While this resilience is a source of great strength
of sustenance for Hindu society, ironically, it also has proved to be the most
insurmountable hindrance it the path of unifying the Hindus.
This, essentially very accommodative character of Hinduism has made it
into a way of life, but in the process, has also eschewed it of an identity of a
religion. When all other religions are organised, have their own exclusive
features, lack of these characteristics in the case of Hindu system becomes
inexplicable at the popular level. Consequently, and contrary to the
expectations of those who made this element of “accommodativeness” as the
cornerstone of Hindu civilisation, this singular factor has unwittingly given
fillip to the decline Hindu identity. As a consequence, we are in a situation
where our strong points have also become our weal points. Just as the
democratic character of Hindu system allows anybody and everybody to
declare him/ herself Hindu, it also gives them the freedom of deserting
Hindu system. We find many Hindus who are not emotionally Hindus and
also those technically non-Hindus, Hindu in their thinking and approach.
Add to this the element of political correctness, and one would find the
The crisis became further acute, mainly because of the lack of any effort to
re-state Hindutva. Almost absolutely no serious efforts were made to present
Hindutva as an ideology, a wholesome vision for life that would help the
Humanity face a number of crises in today’s world. A sudden surge of
curiosity in the thinking circles about Hindutva and its great philosophical
content had provided us with an opportunity to delink it once and for all,
from the perversions that had creped in, involving mis-interpretations of our
ancient scriptures. Re-stating Hindutva in tune with the times, even while
taking it –in Deendayal Upadhyay’s words “from the past, to the future,
through the present”; was and continues to be the need of the hour.
Another source of threat to the genuineness of our Hindu-ness emerges from
the distance between what we walk and what we talk. Hypocrisy is the
greatest enemy of credibility and authenticity. Hence, our behaviour in our
day-to-day lives has to reflect all the lofty things that go with the concept of
being a Hindu. But, lest we interpret it differently; behaviour is not the
substitute for theorization. Had this not been the case, pragmatism and
progressivism that many Hindus consciously adhered to would have
automatically taken as the proof of our philosophy. Sadly, that doesn’t
happen and hence the challenge.
Few more issues, on which Hindu world-view needs not only to reflect, but reflect with clarity are Human Rights, Individual Liberty, Limiting Human Wants, the idea of Prosperity; so on and so forth. All this cannot be discussed here but either today or tomorrow one will have to find coherent, logical and intellectually convincing answers to all these questions.