The Times of India, April 2, 2017
The ideal Hindu Rashtra will be no different from this demo version
by Aakar Patel
As a practising Hindu (practising makes perfect) my thoughts often turn to the question: what exactly is Hindu Rashtra? And when it arrives what great and good changes should this Hindu look forward to?
I ask because we have been witness to events in Uttar Pradesh and elsewhere, and in Gujarat for some time now. If all this be only a preamble to Hindu Rashtra, whose advent we are being promised, what follows? Let’s have a look.
Ours is currently the demo version but till 10 years ago, there did exist a real Hindu Rashtra in these parts and that was Nepal. What made Nepal a Hindu state was something quite specific. As prescribed in Manusmriti, executive power flowed from a warrior king.
The Chhetri/Kshatriya monarchy was caste-based and when Nepal became a republic, it stopped being a Hindu Rashtra. This was accompanied by breast-beating in the ranks of Hindutva in India, but Nepalis decided they had had enough Hindu Rashtra and wanted to enter the modern world of democratic republics.
I know of nobody — and many of my closet friends are Hindutvawadis (wait, I think that came out wrong) — who is saying Bharat should return to a caste-based governance structure. For one we would lose our brilliant leader, and for another it would be unacceptable even to most Hindus.
As the scholar Chandra Bhan Prasad once observed, in the golden age of India the Kshatriya was responsible for the defence of the realm (and we were the most invaded nation on earth), the Brahmin’s task was to teach (and we have the most illiterate people in the world) and the Vaish was given responsibility for running the economy (and we are among the poorest people in the world).
So, no, our ideal Hindu Rashtra cannot be the one exactly prescribed by our smritis. What then? We might look around us to see what others have built in place of secular republics.
The Indian man who studied such things most was Abul Ala Maudoodi of Aurangabad, founder of the Jamaat-e-Islami. He rejected the secular state and felt there was an option in a sort of Muslim Rashtra.
Unfortunately, this turned out to be a dud. The Islamic state from a golden age is also an anachronism. It is not really replicable in the modern world where the expectation from the state is a focus on equality and individual rights.
Pakistan’s Islamists then dabbled with changing punishments (for example amputation for theft) but their modernised populations would not accept that either. The effect of technology and science in our time is irreversible and it has democratised societies and empowered individuals at the expense of the state.
What the Islamists then settled for is that which comes most easily to such utopian thinking. And this was enforcing piety and excluding minorities. The whole of the Muslim Rashtra idea came down to this level of pettiness.
The first is done by actions like forcing restaurants shut on Ramzan afternoons and banning romance from public spaces. And the exclusion of minorities was done through politics (the Pakistan constitution claims all citizens are equal but this is a lie).
Something similar is happening here under the BJP which is also enforcing piety — notice the same attack on food — and exclusion of minorities through denial of tickets.
After his magnificent and historic victory, the Hindutva leader of UP acted on his priorities for his people. They were meat ban and anti-Romeo squads. These being the most pressing issues in India’s largest state according to Hindutva.
For those of us who have seen this charade before (and I have seen it in Gujarat since 1992) the question is: all right, fine, but what comes after this? Enough with the throat clearing, show us what the full cry sounds like.
After the Muslims have been shown their place, and they have been shown it quite comprehensively under Narendra Modi we must accept, what is next for India’s Hindu Rashtra? The answer is (sadly or happily, depending on your perspective): nothing. There is a profound smallness to Hindutva, and it sullies the good name of Hindus and of Bharat.
What comes next in Hindu Rashtra after the nastiness against the weak is over is more of the same. As the Patidars have learnt in the model state, there is no grand scheme and no bigger plan. The thuggery, the bullying, the resentment, the vandalism and the robed charlatans. This is it and this is all there is.
If you thought that the peddlers of Hindu Rashtra have a vision for Bharat that goes beyond grabbing someone’s property and denying some their food and others their livelihood, you should ask for your money back.