Umbrella politics of Hindutva Hindu nationalism is dominating India
0 comments | by Apoorvanand
Hindu nationalism is dominating India by smothering minorities and encroaching on regional Hindu traditions. India is changing in significant ways. Marginalisation of Muslims, the largest minority in the country, has often been discussed in this context. This marginalisation is getting more and more pronounced with successive elections.
The resounding victory of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the political arm of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), an organisation committed to turning India into a Hindu nation, in the recently concluded assembly election of Uttar Pradesh is only the latest evidence of the ascendance of this politics. Now it has taken the form of more vicious, open attacks on Muslims with rising frequency by marauding mobs formed in the name of cow protection in different parts of northern India. It has resulted in deaths of Muslims, but failed to arouse disgust in the larger political class, while the general Hindu population remains in callous apathy.
Indignation over the eating of beef is cited as a rationale to understand the Hindu insensitivity in such cases. But attacks on mosques, or the killing of an imam while he was sleeping, also fail to move the police or the political class. Attacks on Christians in the name of opposing conversion has also now stopped to make news. It is a tiny minority and shrinking into its shell.
Smothering cultural diversity
The politics of Hindu domination over the country's Muslim and Christian minorities is being achieved by hegemonising all Hindu spaces - cutting across languages and cultures - and smothering hitherto strong regional and cultural variances. Bengalis, Malayalis, Assamese and others have their own New Years with distinct names such as Vishu, Bihu, Bangla Nobovarsha. But for the past three years, attempts have been made to gradually erase these names. Instead of mentioning these different names, people are being congratulated on the advent of the new Hindu year. Also, the traditional festivals are now being given nationalist slogans. This year Gudi Padva, the Maharashtrian New Year festival, was turned into a militantly Hindu celebration, which was accompanied by slogans to make India a Hindu nation.
Each cultural region also has its own supreme god or goddess. In Kerala, it is Bali, a mythical figure who is venerated by Malayalis. But last year, the BJP tried to replace him by another mythical figure Vamana, an incarnation of Vishnu who is said to have, as legend has it, cunningly dethroned Bali. It asked the Malayalis to celebrate the birth day of Vamana. This audacious move by the BJP drew an angry response from the people, but the BJP remained unfazed.
Similarly, this year, it was observed that Ram Navami, a festival to celebrate the birth of the Hindu god, Ram, another revered deity among Hindus, was celebrated aggressively even in regions where Ram is not counted as a major figure.
For example, in West Bengal state, it is Durga the goddess who dominates all other gods and goddesses. Ram Navami has never been a major festival in Bengal. But this year, the BJP organised aggressive processions in more than 20 Bengal towns. In the state capital Kolkata alone, 22 Ram Navami processions were organised. For the first time, the Bengalis saw boys and girls brandishing swords and other traditional weapons in these processions. In Kerala too, Ram Navami celebrations were organised with a zeal and fervour never seen before. The colour of the flag of Hanuman, another popular mythical figure, himself a devotee of Ram, is red. But this year it was seen in Patna that the red of Hanuman's flag morphed silently into saffron. Saffron as a colour is seen as representing the pan-Hindu identity.
Appropriating national symbols and infusing in them a Hindu content has long been a strategy of the BJP and the RSS.