Rahul Gandhi’s ‘Hinduism on Display’ and RSS-BJP’s Hindutva

Ram Puniyani

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, the father of the nation did say that he is a Hindu; at the same time he went on to say that religion is a private matter for him. His greatest disciple Jawaharlal Nehru was a rationalist agnostic. He laid the foundations of secular India where the matters related to religion were supposed to be dealt with at social or personal level. Nearly six decades after the death of the first Prime Minster of India, matters have drifted beyond imagination. Nehru’s great grandson who began his political career with no signs of public display of religion, today is making a clear public display of his religiosity. From, stating that he is a janeudhari (wearing sacred thread), Shiv Bhakt to visiting temples in dozens, he also took the pilgrimage to Mansarovar. With him as the President of Congress, its M P unit planned Ram Van Gaman Pad yatra and is promising a gaushala (Cow shed) in each Panchayat. The BJP spokespersons are questioning all these moves as if their monopoly in such matters is under threat.

The result is that there are critics labeling Congress politics as being soft Hindutva. These signs of the party of Gandhi and Nehru are disturbing at one level. Still does it mean that Congress is abandoning the path of secularism, the path outlined in our Constitution; of religion being matter of people’s personal choice to be dealt with by individuals-communities on their own? Is Congress trying to walk the path which RSS-BJP have pursued to gain power, the path of political polarization of communities along religious lines, the path of divisive politics, the path of abandoning material issues while creating the haze of emotive one’s like Ram Temple and Holy Cow-beef?

After its defeat in 2014 general elections, A.K. Anthony Committee of Congress gave the report that one of the or rather the major cause of defeat of Congress has been the popular perception that it is looked at as a pro Muslim party, and thereby automatically it is regarded as being an anti Hindu outfit. This came in the background of the tireless propaganda from RSS-BJP stable that Congress has been appeasing Muslims, Congress is pro-Muslim etc. The propaganda has been mixed up with the lie that Jawaharlal Nehru was descendant of a Muslim and that Congress is not interested in taking care of interests of Hindus etc. The argument was also put that Hindu BJP is on one side and godless secularists are on the other side.

If we extend the roots of this lie-propaganda, we have to go back much further. As Indian National Congress was formed, it was representing rising India, as the umbrella organization of all Indians had members from all the communities of India. This got manifested in people like Pherozhshah Mehta, Badruddin Tyabaji as its initial presidents. Right at that time the progenitors of future Hindu Mahasabha-RSS ideology, the section of Hindu landlords-communal elements, started saying that Congress is appeasing Muslims. As we go further RSS trained Nathuram Godse accused Gandhi of emboldening the Muslims, due to which Muslims demanded Pakistan and got India partitioned. It is on this misunderstood plea that Godse killed the father of the Nation. With Independence some of the future policies, needed in a democracy, to preserve the matters related religious minorities, permitted them to have their own educational institutions. This along with Haj subsidy, which as such was a subsidy to Air India, acted as the potent weapon in the hands of RSS Combine to propagate the falsehood of appeasement of minorities. The acme of the propaganda got a further boost when Congress in a grave mistake overturned the verdict of Supreme Court in the matter of Shah Bano and brought ‘Muslim Women protection’ Bill. This opened the flood gates of propaganda of ‘Appeasement of Muslim’ being done by Congress. This one was a grave error of judgment, mostly forced by the conservative Muslim elements’ protests against the Shah Bano judgment.

It’s not that Congress was following secular policies without any flaws. Its role in controlling communal violence lapsed into inefficient handling of riots and actually being biased against Muslims and Sikhs in particular. Congress role in opening the gates of Babri mosque, and then helplessly watching the demolition of Babri Mosque were pathetic political blunders. All said and done its effort to maintain secular poise had holes which could not halt the march of Hindutva, Hindu nationalism. Today political discourse is being dictated by the Hindutva politics, politics being conducted by RSS-BJP. Not only Congress; even Mamata Bannerjee has lately shown the tilt towards displaying such religiosity by sanctioning subusidized electricity for Durga Puja Panadals and by participating in Ram Navami festival.

So question is whether what Rahul Gandhi led Congress is pursuing is soft Hindutva? No way. It is an unwanted tilt in display of religiosity, the attempt to try to undo the illusion of being pro-Muslim and to undo the image of being godless secularists. Hindutva politics, is based on Brahmanical hierarchy of caste and gender, it aims to gradually do away with secular democracy and bring in Hindu Nation. To combat this; what is needed is adoption of inclusive concept of Gandhi’s Hinduism, where values of pluralism and diversity have bigger importance. It is surely a sign of regressive times where Hindu nationalist discourse is overtaking the better of Indian nationalist ethos.

How can RSS Combine terms of debate, Hindu RSS-BJP versus ‘pro Muslim, godless secularists’ be countered? Display of religiosity is a reaction to what the terrain of discourse has become. What is important now is to take up the issues of marginalized sections of Hindus like farmers, the oppressed castes and the victims of patriarchy, the women. Congress took up the role of leading the movement of freedom from British rule in yesteryears. It needs to assume a similar role in freeing the nation from the caste hierarchy, communalism and patriarchy now.