Amna Ejaz Rafi
THE Hindu nationalist political parties struggle towards constitutional empowerment has brought religion as a political and social factor in India. Whether, it has strengthened the country’s political culture or it has made India a Hindu democracy? India’s democracy and secular character are often cited as progressive tools. During initial years of independence, the Nehruvian policies focus was to project India as a secular socialist democratic country. In fact, the principles of pluralism and secularism were employed to defeat the two-nation theory, and to disapprove the Hindu-Muslim divide. In later years with Bharatiya Janata Party’s advent, the Hindu nationalists’ constitutionally entered the political corridors of power.
Was it the end of Nehru mantra, the idea of “Mother India”; the country in which people of varied castes, creeds and religions can live freely? Well, Hindutva is the political say of Hindus living in India and their constructing of conditions for minorities in the country. Shashi Tharoor, a former diplomat rightly points: “Hindutva has nothing to do with Hinduism as a faith or a religion, but as a badge of cultural identity and an instrument of political mobilization.” The BJP’s political ascendancy is closely linked to Hindutva. This may augur well for making India a Hindu country. The people in India look at Narendra Modi as a staunch proponent of Hindu ideological outlook. But what about the country’s secular character? And the political say of minorities?
Mr. Modi as Chief Minister of Gujarat abetted the killings of Muslims, the inhumane treatment rendered upon the Indian Muslims could not disqualify his credentials and he was able to secure premiership on Hindu democratic grounds. Prime Minister Modi has introduced the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), which has constitutionally declared faith as a condition to secure Indian citizenship. The Act allows Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jains, Parsis and Sikhs from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan citizenship. The application of CAA is the constitutional empowerment of Hindu nationalist forces. There have been protests against the CAA in India; certain segments of society have criticized the Hindu centric policies. A.G.Noorani looks at Hindutva as: “It splits the nation into ‘us’ and ‘them’ and discards Indian nationalism in favour of Hindu nationalism.”
The increasing voice of Hindu nationalism in Indian politics has opened up the dividing lines with minorities in the country. Rahul Gandhi remarks to this: “BJP only wants to divide people, make people fight each other”. The ‘Indian Union Muslim League party’ has called the Act in conflict with the secular character of the country’s Constitution. The All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen (AIMIM) has also protested against the CAA. The opposition to CAA by political groups show the concern over the growing discrimination of minorities in India. It is also indicative of conflict of interest among the various communities, perpetuated on religious lines. Despite the dismay and opposition to CAA, the political leadership’s adamant stance proves that no matter what the circumstances are, the policy to uplift the Hindutva will remain pivotal.
The question that is it under Congress that India has adopted a balanced political path or under BJP rule? The perception that the liberals’ carry a more accommodating and flexible policy towards minorities does not hold true always. The demolition of Babri Masjid took place when Congress was in power, and the Gujarat riots under BJP reign. In both the cases, the anti-Muslim sentiment failed the cause of secularism. Thus, the interests of Hindus in India, irrespective of political party in power have always been regarded as supreme. The terms like liberalism and secularism are nothing but to gain international support. The Indian society has walked away from the Nehruvian policies, the Hindu nationalistic forces have made inroads at societal and political fronts; and Hindutva has emerged as a political force.
—The writer is a Research Associate at Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI).