Religious nationalism in India has a long history. It started in full fledge from the time of colonial rule in the country, when the policy of Divide and Rule was practised with full vigour. During the independence struggle, the Hindu nationalism advocated by Sri AurobindoGhosh, Swami DayanandSaraswati and other organisations like the AryaSamaj and the BrahmoSamaj have influenced social renaissance and progressive thinking.
Then, the extremist Hindutva politics came into the forefront through the nationalist leader, Veer Savarkar, who was for nations based on religion. For him, Hindus and Muslims are two different nations. Only those people who considered India their Fatherland and Holy Land are Indians, which narrows it down to Hindus, Jains, Buddhists and Sikhs. People from other religions like Islam and Christianity are not Indians according to him. NathuramGodse assassinated Mahatma Gandhi because he felt that he was too sympathetic towards Muslims. The Hindutva politics was given a further thrust when a high-caste Hindu Brahmin, KeshavHedgewar, formed an organisation named the RashtriyaSwayamsevakSangh, with the intention of creating a unified Hindu nation out of India. RSS is the ideological guide of the BJP.
Later, the politics of Hindutva, took a more formidable form when in 1992, Babri Masjid, a mosque said to be built on the birthplace of Lord Ram in Ayodhya, was demolished by some karsevaks, who proclaim themselves to be the protectors of the Hindu religion. This began another era of religious nationalism in India. Before this, religion was a causeto bring about unity among the countrymen. But, after this incident, the Muslims in our country were grappled with a fear for their safety or for that matter, the validity of their Indianness. They felt that they were targeted because of their religion. Simultaneously, terrorism was growing into a challenging problem. Most of the terrorist outfits in the north were based on Islam. Other terror groups were the Maoists and the ones in the North-east. These issues created a sense of insecurity among all the religions, especially the Hindus and the Muslims, against each other. Petty issues fanned out into religious riots, like the ones in Gujarat and Muzzafarnagar. Every dispute was given a religious dimension by the men at power, in a continuous process of creating vote-banks, thus assuring that their power will not be affected.
When Narendra Modi chose Varanasi, the holy city of the Hindus, as his constituency for the 2014 General Elections, the talk of the town was how the man had developed Gujarat during his two terms as the Chief Minister of the state. People spoke of how he changed the face of the state through development in all spheres, social, economic and infrastructure. But three years after that, what people speak of is how that man, is playing such an influential role in protecting Hinduism.
After the recently concluded Assembly elections of Uttar Pradesh, it has been made very clear that affinity toward a religion is more important than morality, in this country. The decision reinstates that India is a Hindu nation, far from the secular ideologies envisioned by Nehru and other founding fathers of our nation. The election of Yogi Adityanath, a firebrand Hindu ascetic with a history of agitation against minority Muslims, as the Chief Minister of UP has stunned the political and non-political observers, who opine that this decision is a sharp departure from the development model given by Modi during the 2014 elections. The BJP fielded no candidates from the minority community of Muslims, which constitutes about 20% of the total population of the state. The secular nature of India has been threatened by the BJP and the RSS and other Hindu pressure groups by their agendas of transforming India into a Hindu state, with party- members accused of making anti-Muslim statements to polarise Hindus.
Adityanath has also accused young Muslim men of waging "love jihad", to entrap Hindu girls and convert them into Islam. He, on the other hand is accused of exhorting Hindus to convert 100 Muslims for every Hindu that adopted Islam. He has criminal cases against him including attempt to murder, instigating religious enmity and rioting. They have started on infringing upon a person's right to food of his or her choice like beef-ban, as cow is regarded sacred by one community; they have made no such restriction in the other BJP-ruled states like Manipur and Goa.
The consequences of this will be known only after sometime. It is too early to judge or have a prejudice against the entire propaganda. But the recent happenings show that these worries cannot be ignored. The insecurities of the minorities have the potential to bring about a revolution.
- R. Malavika