Follow Mint Lounge

Latest Issue

Home > How To Lounge> Movies & TV > Why Hindutva is happy fighting petty battles

Why Hindutva is happy fighting petty battles

Getting into a series of avoidable conflicts will not help the government with either development or reform

Protests against JNU students union president Kanhaiya Kumar’s arrest. Photo: PTI.<br />
Protests against JNU students union president Kanhaiya Kumar’s arrest. Photo: PTI.

What is common to the following controversies our government has been immersed in? 1) Arresting a Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) student for being anti-national, seditious and acting with the support of the Lashkar-e-Taiba. 2) Kicking out of their hostel and stopping the stipend of Dalit students protesting against Yakub Memon’s hanging. 3) Calling actors Aamir Khan and Shah Rukh Khan anti-national for speaking about intolerance under the rule of Hindutva. 4) Banning beef and making it an anti-Muslim issue, resulting in the lynching of innocent men in Uttar Pradesh and Kashmir. 5) Assaulting a Muslim legislator in the Jammu and Kashmir assembly over the beef debate. 6) Standing off with students in the Film and Television Institute of India over the appointment of individuals seen as inappropriate. 7) Refusing to condemn or act against Ghar Wapsi, in which the Vishwa Hindu Parishad prevented 48,651 Hindus from converting to another faith and converted 33,975 to Hinduism between June 2014 and June 2015. 8) Calling for a review of reservations because, according to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief, they were politicized.

Let’s stop here, though we could go on with this list. What is common to all of these is of course the fact that they are all self-inflicted. None of these things was the doing of the opposition, and all of them the Hindutvawadis of this government brought upon themselves. If the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) complains that there is much bad press concerning India in the foreign media about things it regards as trifles, it should accept the responsibility for lighting the fires.

The question is: Why does the government get into avoidable conflict? None of these things is going to help the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) with the agenda it has laid out for itself—development and reform—as articulated both through its campaign and through its voices in the media. Surely, that is a big enough task to occupy them for a term or two. So then why get into these skirmishes on the side?

The answer has two parts. First, that the government cannot help itself and second, that it does so because there is benefit. Let’s look at the first bit. It may be assumed that Hindutva is a lightly held ideology with people like the Prime Minister. And that another, more sombre and more well-meaning instinct (“development") informs his world view. Whatever the truth of this—I have my thoughts on that and I have written about it often enough in Mint Lounge—we should examine more sharply the reality of the ideology.

Looking down the list of those eight issues above, I cannot think of any one where the BJP would concede even today that it was in the wrong. It genuinely believes in the idea of some of us being “anti-national". It insists on seeing as ingratitude the actions of those Muslims who have become successful yet think of criticizing events in their country. This is crude thinking to some of us, but this is the way they have always been. There is not much intellectual material that underpins Hindutva, it should be accepted. The Hindutvawadi instinct expresses itself through exactly this sort of issue and if the list is full of stupid and avoidable things, it is a reflection of the quality of the “right" in India.

It also shows in the levels of maturity in our Union’s home minister. One tweet from a bogus Twitter account is sufficient evidence for him to convict one of us of being associated with the most lethal terrorist group acting in South Asia. How did he arrive at this conclusion? I do not think there is some deep motive here. It is how Hindutva reacts. If we expect higher quality from it, or some civilized restraint, that is not its fault.

Let’s look at the benefit aspect. Does it politically help the BJP to keep itself entangled in such issues as those of individual students in JNU and Hyderabad? Clearly not, if seen from the outside. And yet, in these individual stories, the BJP finds the support of those who are angered by the softness of this country towards the perfidy of secularists and Muslims.

It is true also that on many of the issues, the wider middle class is aligned with Hindutva, for example on reservations, terrorism, beef and anti-nationalism. Even the English news channels, which once used to echo the liberalism of English newspapers, have become angry (Arnab at their head) and the damage that they are doing is not inconsiderable. Social media is so insanely angry and full of hate that it is frightening to look at it. I am not on it but I can guess that there also the “right" is winning because its heady mix of prejudice and hatred and calls to violence and extremism is more appealing than the soft resistance of the rest.

All this leads me to believe that: A) For the rest of its term, the Narendra Modi government will not be free of such matters as are on our list and B) the government is comfortable toying around with such matters as these while other things (“development") wait, because C) Hindutva is happy fighting the petty battles.

Aakar Patel is executive director of Amnesty International India. The views expressed here are personal.

Also read | Aakar Patel’s previous Lounge columns.

Next Story