SINCE September 11, 2001, the world’s attention has properly been focused on the Islamic extremism, but there are also major violent trends in Hindu extremism that have largely been ignored in the West. In India, this violence is supported by Hindu extremists and their allies in the Indian government, which is currently led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).Hindu fundamentalism is not a new phenomenon. It has been changing and taking different shapes within the Indian socio-political structure. Now it has turned into an organized communal movement against the Indian minorities.
In line with that, religious metaphors and terminology are much in vogue to fortify the Hindutva ideology in favour and service of upper caste Hindus. The Hindu community is seeing a new awareness being promoted through distortions of history at the cost of Indian minorities and their institutions. These distorted versions paint Hinduism as a civilization, not as a religion that all must accept as the sole civilization of the subcontinent. This new trend is directly opposed to India’s secularist claims. In this environment of threats and coercion the space for the Indian minorities is shrinking.
In the past decade, extremist Hindus have increased their attacks on Christians, until there are now several hundred per year. But this did not make news in the US until a foreigner was attacked. In 1999, Graham Staines, an Australian missionary who had worked with leprosy patients for three decades, was burned alive in Orissa along with his two young sons. The brutal violence visited on Muslims in Gujarat in February 2002 also brought the dangers of Hindu extremism to world attention. Between one and two thousand Muslims were massacred.
Since 1946, Indian Muslims have suffered heavy losses of life and property during 45,000 communal riots, of which more than 23,000 were major ones in which about 7,60,000 Muslims were ruthlessly massacred. After demolition of the Babri Mosque, Hindu-Muslims riots erupted in various parts of India. Bombay was the worst affected area where over 1,500 Muslims were killed, their properties ransacked, leaving behind 1,829 injured and 165 missing and a vast majority of them forced to abandon their ancestral places forever. During the riots, the official machinery was a silent spectator and in many cases it supported the Hindu extremists.
Under BJP administration, Muslims and other religious minorities are threatened as Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)and Dharm Jagran Samiti (DSJ) has a plan of ethnic cleansing of all Muslims and non-Muslims before 2021 census. There are sudden murders and violent attacks on Muslims, low caste Hindus and Christians to physically eliminate them from the Indian soil while Hindus are asked to increase their birth rates to protect Hindu religion and Hindu identity of India.
Hindu fundamentalism has posed a grave menace to India as a nation; the Muslims, the Christians, the Sikhs and the Dalits have all fallen prey to Hindutva. A pro-Hindu writer S Harrison claims, “Hindus have a natural right to rule in modern India as a form of long overdue retribution for the sins of the Mughal rulers.” In this regard, engineering communal riots has been an integral part of extremist Hindutva philosophy and its operational strategy.
Through violent means, it has pursued manifold objectives, such as stopping missionary activity, snatching land and property from Muslims and cleansing Muslims and Christians out of specific areas. Basically, Hindutva fervour took a resurgent turn in 1980, when the BJP was launched as the political face of the RSS with renewed pledge to go to the people in a big way with the extremist Hindutva ideology. Therefore, throughout the last three decades, the BJP/other extremist outfits spearheaded a frenzied communal campaign against minorities. BJP used anti-Pakistan, anti-minorities and pro-Hindutva propaganda to bolster its image and vote bank.
The RSS is now a major paramilitary organisation with millions of members. Its educational wing, the Vidya Bharati, has some twenty thousand educational institutes, with one hundred thousand teachers and two million students. The Vidya Bharati schools distribute booklets containing a map of India that encompasses not only Pakistan and Bangladesh but also the entire region of Bhutan, Nepal, Tibet, and parts of Myanmar, all under the heading “Punya Bhoomi Bharat,” the “Indian Holy Land.”
The BJP appoints school officials who alter textbooks and curricula to emphasize Hinduism; they also require that Hindu texts be taught in all schools. Moreover, it has appointed Sangh Parivar adherents to key positions in autonomous bodies such as the Prasar Bharati, which controls the official media, the National Film Development Corporation, the Indian Council of Historical Research, and the National Book Trust. Moreover, BJP lawmakers have also attempted to restrict minority religious groups’ international contacts and to reduce their rights to build places of worship. It works to pass anti-conversion laws and to alter the personal laws that govern marriages, adoptions, and inheritance.
The growth of Sangh Parivar into a powerful political force and its development into a well-organised network of affiliated organisations has been mainly responsible for the wave of Hindu chauvinism and bigotry in India. The priests, sadhus and sanyasis are freely advocating the Hindutva ideology. Hindu organisations are mushrooming rapidly. As a result a virulent Hindu revivalism is taking hold of India. Its main objective is to resurrect the glory of Hinduism’s distant past.
The war on minorities is a step towards ‘demarcating the nation as Hindus’ and “unleashing the fascist Hindutva agenda”. Hindutva has now become a hydra-headed monster with relatively less volatile elements at the top, vicious ideologues in the middle and bloodthirsty cadres at the lower rungs. The hidden Hindutva agenda has become increasingly clear. Upper castes author the script to relegate the minorities to second-class citizenship status. Today, a Hindu community is in the making whose fundamentalism can only stimulate fundamentalist movements among the minorities. It’s a vicious cycle that will grievously harm India’s secularist position. Growing Hindu extremism in India is alarming. The growth of anti-secular violence is a warning signal to all the right-thinking citizens of India to resist the growing clout of these medieval forces.
The article was carried by Pakistan Observer, December 12, 2015.
Disclaimer: Views expressed are of the writer and are not necessary reflective of IPRI