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Religion must be used to unite people & not divide them
Author: M V Kamath.

Publication: Free Press Journal, Mumbai.
Date: April 4, 96.

Addressing an election meeting Uttar Pradesh on mid-March, Prime Minister P.V.Narasimha Rao allowed himself to make some snide remarks against Hindutva. It is sad to see a scholar with Rao's reputation cut a sorry figure in this matter. For whatever else it is, Hindutva is not communal in any sense of the term. To decry it, is to lay a low premium on patriotism.

The call of Hindutva is a call for national greatness. It has nothing to do with religion, unless patriotism is religion. It is a call to all Indians to rise to their highest capabili- ties. In his perceptive work "Warnings of History", K.M.Munshi raised a very important question. He asked: "What are the forces which lead to the rise or fall of nations? How do nations rise and fall?" That, he went on, implied another enquiry: "What are the factors which go to make a virile nation? When do they run amok?". And he proceeded to answer his own queries. "Three fac tors," he said, "are invariably found in virile nations: common memory of achievements, will to unity and habitual urge to col lective action".

For a people and a nation to rise to the highest, they must have a common memory of great heroes and exploits, of great adventures and triumphs in the past. If the British rose to great heights it is because they had great heroes to admire, men like Nelson, Duke of Wellington or David Livingstone or a woman like Florence Nightingale. Japan perhaps represents the finest example of ancient memories, tenaciously preserved. The Japanese are proud of being one people, having one culture, and because of that they could transform a humiliating military defeat into a triumphant economic victory.

Unfortunately for India, historic forces have not given a common memory to all communities by taking them back to their roots a millennium down the ages. Tragically, no efforts have been made in these last fifty years to foster that memory. Under the pretense of being "secular", religion has been used to divide people and not unite them. It is that mischief that the concept of Hindutva seeks to undo.

But at the same time let this be said straightaway: in all collective affairs of men, as Toynbee has rightly observed, it is the dominant minority which speaks, creates and leads, that counts. In India that dominant minority is Muslim. For years now it has been dragging its feet wishing to take its rightful place in the country but uncertain about how to do so. Its role in the creation of Pakistan has acted as a millstone round its neck.

The will to national unity is hard to develop, as Munshi again wrote, but easy to dissipate. Generally it is dissipated under certain conditions:

Fist, if the dominant minority has no sense of mission as regards the future of the nation; Secondly, if its will to unity is fragmented by contradictory loyalties; Thirdly, if it becomes psychologically alien to the masses.

All nations which have risen to greatness have been characterised by a sense of mission. As has been noted earlier, the Japanese have a sense of mission. So have the Germans.

In the course of three decades, Germany twice come under the heels of foreign armies and its people were desiccated as never before in history. And yet their sense of destiny never dimmed. >From the ashes of the second world war, has risen a nation economically powerful and politically assertive. If Germany can be a great nation, why can't India?

The answer lies in the perpetuation of religious difference by the party in power, namely the Congress. The masses were kept in watertight compartments under the sterile theory of secularism. What the proponents of Hindutva are now trying to do is to reverse the process and give to the people a sense not only of unity but of a mission. It is because our sense of mission has weakened with the administration of the soporific called secularism that we have ceased to be true to ourselves and our culture. If we come to look upon ourselves as a divided people with no pride in our past and no faith in the future, what else can we look forward to except frustration, disappointment and despair? It is to that state that secularism has condemned the minorities, especially the dominant minority, to.

In recent years the dominant in India has been throttled and its sense of being Indian weakened and it has been marginalised and reduced to insignificance. The cry of Hindutva is intended to give the dominant minority a sense of mission, a feeling that this country with its hoary past is theirs, if only they will accept it. Hindutva is not a covert attempt to subvert minority religions but a daring attempt to give them back their heritage. And it must be regarded in that spirit and in that spirit alone.

No amount of scholarship in Arabic can make an Indian Muslim an Arab; no amount of Latin scholasticism can make an Indian Roman Catholic a Roman. In Saudi Arabia, an Indian Muslim is still considered a Hindu and very correctly so because the word is a connotation. The heritage of all Indians, irrespective of their religious affiliation is Sanskrit and the allied Dravidian languages which grew separately. There is no getting away from the fact.

Indonesia is a predominantly Muslim nation but Indonesians have no hesitation in enacting stories from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata because that is their heritage. They have no hesitation in giving their children Sanskrit (NOT Hindu) names like Sita or Savitri again because Sanskrit is part of their ancient heritage. The name of the first president of Indonesia, Soekarno is Sanskrit in origin. It is the Indonesian version of Sukarna. The current president is Suharto, another name of Sanskrit origin. A daughter of Soekarno recently paid a visit to Biju Patnaik in Bhubaneshwar out of respect and love for his association with the Indonesian freedom struggle. And her name? Meghavati Soekarnoputri. And how did this come about? According to Patnaik he was in Djakarta when the child was born. It happened to be a rainy day with dark clouds gathering in the skies accompanied with thunder and lightning. Soekarno asked Patnaik what was the Sanskrit word for cloud. "Megha" replied Patnaik. So the child was named Meghavati. The word "putri" of course, is pure Sanskrit.

Soekarno does not become less of a Muslim and Meghavati does not become less of a Muslim either because they bear Sanskrit names. But they remain more of Indonesian in their acceptance of their nation's core culture.

In India the 'core culture' goes beyond time. It precedes the Islamic invasion, it precedes the onslaught of Christian missionaries with their desire to Latinize Christianity. The early Christians, like the 'Syrian' Christians of Kerala have retained their Indianness with admirable determination. They are not less Christian because their married women wear Mangala Sutra or their menfolk were the dhoti in the Kerala style. A. K. Antony is not a heretic because he and his people are part of Kerala culture. Christianity does not make him an alien. On the contrary it gives an added dimension to his Indianness or, to use a much misunderstood word, Hindutva.

The greatest danger to our sense of unity and our sense of purpose comes from those who under the guise of 'Secularism" keep the minorities separate and not equal. Hindutva bestows on the minorities total equality under its protective umbrella. What presently frightens the minorities, is the word 'Hindu' which is equated with the worship of gods. It has to be explained to them with as much sympathy and understanding as possible that Hindutva has a cultural - not religious - connotation and that it serves to make Indians of us all.

The trouble it seems is that the same word had different meanings to different people.. One is reminded of Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland. "When I use a word," Humpty dumpty said in a rather scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean - neither more nor less". The question is, he said later, "which is to be master - that is all". And this is the central problem in the use of the word Hindutva. When the BJP leaders use the word, they mean exactly what it is expected to mean: cultural nationalism, intended to give a powerful thrust to our sense of mission. But to our aggressive pseudo intellectuals with their distorted view of history the word has altogether different meaning that both demeans it and demeans themselves. That is the central tragedy of our times.

A nation cannot rise to its full stature if it does not have a sense of mission. If it has to have a sense of mission its component communities should have a sense of unity. Such a sense cannot be wrought if they do have a common memory of achievements. What Hindutva does is to remind its people of a common past an a common civilisation. Is that a crime?

It is when we accept Hindutva in all its resplendent glory that, with a shared past as a base, we can look forward to a shared future of peace and prosperity. Those who decry Hindutva do not know what damage they are wreaking on their country. Parties come and go. But the past is there with us for ever. It has to be nurtured in good faith, not destroyed in an exercise of political one-upmanship.