March 31, 2021

Excerpt from The fine print in Hindutva | Anshul Trivedi (The Hindu, March 31, 2021)

 The fine print in Hindutva

Modern democracies are erected upon the twin pillars of rights and representation.
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"...academia is in denial about the ideological resonance of Hindutva among the subaltern sections because of a flawed understanding of the Hindutva project and its relationship with the politics of representation.
"The claim that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) aspires to revive an old, ritually sanctioned, caste-based social order is incorrect. Often, examples like the introduction of policies like reservations for Economically Weaker Sections are advanced to bolster this claim, ignoring the fact that parties like the Samajwadi Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party, and the Janata Dal (United), which were catapulted to power by the Mandal agitation, put up only a tokenistic opposition to it. The ambition of Hindutva is not restricted to pushing a certain policy — it is to convert Hinduism into an ethnic order and reconstitute it as a race, a term repeatedly employed by Savarkar. This entails the process of simultaneous inclusion of the marginalised within Hinduism and the exclusion of the Muslim and Christian ‘other’. As a result, Hindutva has always nurtured a disdain for rituals. They are only a means of political mobilisation and reinforcing the Hindu identity, bereft of any innate sanctity. This is apparent in the party’s duplicitous stance on eating beef, a practice it opposes in the Hindi belt but condones in the northeast...
"It is this model of ideologically unanchored identity politics, based solely on representation, which paved the way for Hindutva’s rise. The project has cracked the code of such representational politics and successfully mobilised subaltern communities, producing a string of subaltern leaders...
''It must be emphasised that while the BJP has left the representational matrix untouched, it has clamped down on the domain of rights, as is evident by wanton invocation of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, the introduction of laws against ‘love jihad’, steamrolling Bills through Parliament, enabling opaque political funding through electoral bonds, facilitating the corporate takeover of the economy and destabilising elected State governments. The present model of the politics of representation is incapable of addressing these issues that confront our democracy.
"Democratisation has increased the thrust towards ritualistic inclusion within Hinduism, and hence, it seems unlikely that mere representational rejigging will dent Hindutva’s hegemony. A challenge to Hindutva requires a complete reorientation of politics from demographic imperatives to democratic ones, for which the opposition needs to foreground issues of rights and transparency along with representation. [ . . .]