Protests against CAA, NPR, NRC and Redefining Hindus

Ram Puniyani

The protests against CAA, NRC and NPR all over the country were spectacle of a sort. They were spontaneous, initiative taken by various parties, groups and communities. One can say that surely they were most widespread and shook even those who have been politically ascendant so far, the BJP and its associates. It is in response to such massive all round protests that the Prime minster Narendra Modi spoke contrary to the facts and truth. In his Ramlila grounds rally he denied that NRC has ever been discussed. The commentators were fast enough to show that all through his party people have been talking of these and his second in command, Amit Shah told the Parliament that NRC will be brought in all over the country. While Modi denied that any detention centers have been planned he spoke contrary to truth as abundant statistics is available as to how many such camps are in operation, how one such camp has been planned in Karnataka and how Uddhav Thackeray, the new Chief Minister of Maharashtra dumped the order by his predecessor, Devendra Fadnavis, to set up such a center in Maharashtra.

Interestingly BJP and those supporting all these unwarranted moves of the Government, felt that it will only be Muslims who will be protesting against the CAA, NRC etc. In fact the protests had all round participation of most sections of students, different religious communities, most of the political parties. Even BJP’s allies in NDA like JDU and SAD, the long ally of BJP also came up against these moves of BJP, which is taking the whole NDA for a ride as these components of NDA are not consulted at all on the issues of national importance.

As Modi is trying to retract from the divisive move, the patriarch of Hindu nationalism also is trying to retrieve the situation by creating more confusion. To give assurance to the large Muslim population, RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat tried to reassure that all 130 Crore Indians are Hindus. That it regards all Indians, as Hindus. Whether this ploy will not work as most of the actions of RSS are revolving around the identity related issues of Hindus, the Hinduism as a religion about which Babasaheb Ambedkar stated that prevalent Hinduism is Brahmanism in the core.

Will Christians, Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists regard themselves as Hindus? This question keeps coming up on regular intervals. RSS in a clever balancing act on one hand is working for Hindu Rashtra, based on Hindu Holy Scriptures and on the other electoral compulsions are forcing it to give reassuring messages to the non Hindus. The RSS ideologues can play this game as Hinduism is not a prophet based religion. It is a conglomerate of different religious traditions which have been prevailing here. These traditions on one side are Brahmanical and on the other Shramanic, (Nath, Tantra, Bhakti, Shaiva etc.) While Brahmanism is based in Purush Sukta of Vedas, in which caste and gender hierarchy is inbuilt, the other traditions are away from these values.

Hindu nationalists were seized with this problem right from the beginning. The major Hindu nationalist ideologue Savarakar tried to define Hindus as one’s whose Father land and Holy land is on the East of river Sindhu. He also brought to fore the word Hindutva, which many a times is regarded as equivalent of Hinduism, which it is not. He clearly stated that Hindus, have primacy over others, Muslims and Christians, as this land belongs to Hindus.

The next major ideologue of Hindu nationalism, Madhav sadashiv Golwalkar clearly took inspiration from German Nazi philosophy and praised the methods adopted by Hitler to deal with minorities. The RSS Shakhas and the chains of schools set up by them promote supremacy of Hindus, undermining Muslims and Christians. The same understandings have now become part of the ‘social common sense’. The continuous and consistent work of this organization has created a situation where identity based issues are getting primacy and from last three decades the religious divides in society are rising and have posed a big obstacle to the ‘Indian fraternity’. This has also retarded the economic and social progress of the society.

From the decades of 1990s the RSS-BJP, when they started inching close to political power wanted to bypass religious definition of Hinduism and tried to link all Indians as Hindus. This was an electoral exercise. One recalls that Murli Manohar Joshi started using the word ‘Ahmadiya Hindus’ for Muslims and ‘Christi Hindus’ for Christians. They have also been saying that Sikhism is a part of Hinduism!

So there are two parallel processes going on at the same time. On one hand to bring to fore the issues which can put the Muslims and Christians in the dock. If we see that starting from Ram Temple campaign the major focus has been on issues like Holy Cow-Beef, Love Jihad, Ghar Wapasi and Nationalism (Pulwama-Balakot). On the other the patriarch of this Nationalism has been trying to co-opt Muslims and Christians. Rashtraiya Muslim Manch and similar organization for Christians are already working among section of these communities.

The attempt to say that they regard all Indians as Hindus is like putting wool in people’s eyes. Religion is a matter of self perception. To say that all Indians are Hindus can also be seen as an attempt to impose the “Hindu norms” on all the people. Surely we have two ways of looking at the issue. One is that of Gandhi, who regarded all religions as belonging to India. Second is what RSS is now trying to cultivate by calling all Indians as Hindus. How many people can be won over by this move remains to be seen. It is a mere response to the massive protests by most Indians against the CAA, which is discriminatory on the grounds of religion. It seems the statement of Modi on one hand and Bhagwat on the other surely show that the massive agitation has forced them to take a step back, at least for the moment!