Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Indian secularism at threat

India is a secular democratic country and the Constitution affirms freedom and liberty for all. Diversity and Unity are accepted as the hallmark of Indian society. But today, ‘secular democracy’ is under threat due to Hindutva ideology. Against democratic principles, Hindutva, an ideology of the fundamentalist, has become a reality today.
Etymologically, Hindutva is a derivative word from Hindu, which is more closely related to the expression Hinduness or possibly “Hinduhood” of religious, cultural, linguistic, social, and political aspects of the life of the Hindus. It is an ideology opposed to the tradition of tolerance and affirmation of the richness of Indian tradition. V. D. Savarkar used another term Hindudom. He claimed that the Indian nation has to be necessarily a Hindu nation, and the Hindus alone are the true sons of the soil. Savarkar’s ideology of Hindutva and the definition of ‘Hindu’ divided the people into Hindus and non-Hindus. His definition of Hindutva demanded four things: Birth and growth in Indian territory; Belonging to the Indian race, having Hindu blood; An appreciation for all the customs and traditions of Hindus, acceptance of India alone as one’s fatherland (Pitribhoomi) and holy land (Punyabhoomi) and its heroes as persons of veneration, as well as acceptance of Sanskrit as the common language; treating religious tradition emerged from India like Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism as offshoots of Hinduism. The spirit Sarvarkar injected into the Hindus ‘that they alone are the true sons of the soil’ enabled the Hindus to unite as one community and defend their religion, establishing a Hindu rashtra. Hindutva derogatively distinguished Hindus from Christians and Muslims and placed them second to Hindus.
Political parties have promised a holy land tour to please the religious leaders. It is to be seen as a double standard game to confuse people. We must understand that Hindutva ideology is built on ‘Holy land’ and ‘father land’. Religions for whom holy land and father land are in India can be called Indians. This claim has to be contested in every possible way to challenge Hindutva as it opposes constitutional laws on who an Indian citizen is. While all branches of Sangh Parivar, through their social and cultural engagements, disseminate and impart fundamentalist values in the civil society and create rifts between the communities, the Church needs to formulate a counter-narrative. The growing popularity of Holy land tours creates an immersion that the holy land for Christians is somewhere else and not India, and BJP was ready to sponsor them as an election promise. As Fr. Cedric pointed out, we must develop incarnational spirituality. We must affirm that all land, the whole created order is holy. In asserting that the Christian holy land is somewhere else, we are playing into the hands of Hindutva forces. We are materializing their agenda. For Christians living in India, India is our holy land. We love India.
Hindutva is a political doctrine representing the majoritarian ethos of the Hindu majority vis-a-vis other minorities. It is intolerant, confined to narrow nationalism, and represents the interest of a section of the Hindu political elite. The first essential of Hindutva is securing the Hindustan/Hindu Rashtra/Hindu nation or the land of Hindus. This ideology is very dangerous in a pluralistic context like India. Nobody should be treated like second-class citizens. It is saddening to see that without knowing the fundamentalist ideology, Naga leaders are blindly supporting the Hindutva ideology. It is time to stand together to protect secular democracy.
Dr. S. Akatoli Chishi
akaty0001@yahoo.co.in