Burning of Salman Khurshid’s House: Sectarian Intolerance in Action

Burning of Salman Khurshids House

Salman Khurshid, a former Union Minister, is one of the prominent leaders of Congress and also is the well known lawyer of Supreme Court. He recently came out with a book, “Sunrise over Ayodhya: Nationhood in Present times”. The book is publicized as “…the Supreme Court… cleared the way for the construction of a Ram temple… If the loss of a mosque is preservation of faith, if the establishment of a temple is emancipation of faith, we can all join together in celebrating faith in the Constitution…”

The book also states that Hinduism is a great and tolerant religion, while Hindutva is a politics akin to the one of ISIS and Boko Haram. In a way in the  book, Khurshid goes miles to defend the Supreme Court judgment, despite the fact the Court did recognize putting of Ram lalla idols in surreptitious manner in1949 was a criminal act, that the demolition itself was a crime but it decided not to punish anybody for both these crimes. For the latter crime Liberhan Commission report was all that was needed to be taken seriously to put the top leadership of BJP behind the bars. Khurshid is trying to buy peace and is soft on the judgment which exonerated the guilty.

Notwithstanding that; he also analyzed the phenomenon of Hindutva; comparing it to other fundamentalist organizations; and the hell broke loose. His house in Nainital was shot at and burnt by foot solders of Hindutva politics. His statement was presented as an insult to Hinduism. He praises Hinduism in reality. He criticizes Hindutva which surely is a politics under the garb of Hinduism. On similar lines Rahul Gandhi also distinguished between Hinduism and Hindutva. Hindusim is a religion, Hindutva is a politics. Islam is a religion, Boko Haram-ISIS are political groups in name of Islam.

What has been instilled in the popular mind is that Hindutva synonym of Hindu religion. This seems to be the biggest success of sectarian nationalists. It was also the shrewdness of Savarkar who made this word ‘Hindu’ as a part of Hindutva; a political ideology. This makes average Hindu feel that if Hindutva is being criticized s/he is being criticized.

Savarkar is the father of Hindu nationalism. For him “National identity rests…on three pillars: geographical unity, racial features, and a common culture. Savarkar minimizes the importance of religion of a Hindu by claiming that Hinduism is only one of the attributes of Hinduness.” (Hindutva page 81). So the difference in the two words is more than clear in real sense.

Understanding Hinduism has been a complex process as there is no single prophet or a holy book or a single deity in this religion. Hinduism is a religion without any doubt. Nehru says “Hinduism, as a faith, is vague, amorphous, many-sided, all things to all men… In its present form, and even in the past, it embraces many beliefs and practices, from the highest to the lowest, often opposed to or contradicting each other. Its essential spirit seems to be to live and let live.” Mahatma Gandhi has attempted to define it: ‘if I were asked to define the Hindu creed, I should simply say: Search after truth through nonviolent means. A man may not believe in God and still call himself a Hindu. Hindu-ism is a relentless pursuit after truth…”. For Gandhi Hinduism is tolerant.

In contrast to these Savarkar has a political stance on which the Hindu communalism bases itself. He defined Hindu as one who regards this land from Sindhu to sea as his fatherland and holy land. According to him Hindus are a separate nation, the original inhabitants of this land, while Muslims are a different nation. Gandhi-Nehru’s understanding led them to believe that we all are a single nation, irrespective of our religion. And the ‘Father of the nation’ Gandhi stood tall to see the high principles of his Hinduism when he said “Ishwar Allah Tero naam’, i.e. God of Hindus and Muslims is the same.

While for Hindu nationalists, one’s whose politics is Hindutva, are using these words as synonyms. There is a deliberate propagation that Hindutva is one that brings everyone together, unites everyone within itself…,” (Mohan Bhagwat). This formulation is aimed to gain legitimacy in electoral arena. Its agenda is constructed around glorification of the ancient Hindu past where caste and gender hierarchy was the dominant norm, around demonizing “foreign religions” (Islam and Christianity), and around rousing Hindu sentiments on issues of Cow, Ram Temple, love jihad etc. It sees threat to Hindus from rising Muslim population. It sees threat to Hindus due to the ‘proselityzation’ work of Christian missionaries. Its agenda is built around policies which are to be benefit of elite of the society while paying lip sympathy to the downtrodden.

Substituting HIndutva for Hinduism by communalists is part of their political strategy. It is intolerant and promotes violence and heightens religiosity around Hindu deities. Its agenda among dalits, Adivasis is a patronizing one indulging in social engineering to co-opt them for political goals, for implementation of the policies which are a clever ploy to maintain status quo and for pushing society back towards the earlier values of hierarchy.

Khurshid, after his house was burnt for the comparing Hindutva and ISIS etc. stated that he has been proved right. He is right but the problem is how do we combat the divisive ideology without naming it? The divisive forces have won over the ‘social common sense’ in which Hindutva and Hinduism are seen to be same. What is to be done in this situation? Can one keep quiet about word Hindutva and combat its divisive politics? Can we communicate to the Hindus that Hinduism is that for which Gandhi stood and which Nehru elaborates? The mosaic of Hinduism (Gandhi) and narrow impositions of Hindutva by Godse and company need to be distinguished to ensure that plural, humaneness of Hinduism are upheld to live in peace and harmony, while combating sectarian agenda.

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