Hindutva Communalism, Alteration of Facts and the Propagation of Love Jihad

According to the Article 50 of the Indian Constitution, Judiciary is a part of the State. So, it has certain responsibilities to run the government. But, sometimes it put forward such judgments that these can fulfill the communal agenda of the ruling party.

To address the issue, we shall first focus on the terminology of ‘Communalism’ and ‘Love Jihad’ and to address ‘Love Jihad’, we should also clarify the term ‘Jihad’. In the book India’s Struggle for Independence, Bipan Chandra et al. have quoted that Communalism has three parts. First, it is the belief that people who follow same religion have common secular interests, that is, common political, social and cultural interests. Second component of communal ideology rests on the notion that in a multi-religious society like India, the secular interests that are the social, cultural, economic and political interests of the followers of one religion are dissimilar and divergent from the interests of the followers of another religion. These are the liberal communalists. The third stage of communalism is reached when the interests of the followers of divergent religion or the different ‘communities’ are seen to be mutually incompatible, antagonistic and hostile. Thus, the communalist asserts this stage that Hindus and Muslims cannot have common secular interests, that their secular interests are bound to be opposed to each other.

Rise of Communalism:

There is a continuum among the three forms of communalism. First element fed the liberal and extreme form. Similarly, liberal communalist found it difficult to prevent their transition to extreme communalism. So, it is plausible to say that someone cannot prevent his/her transition from liberal to extreme communalism if that person is in the trap of communalism. Now, extreme communalism with fascist syndrome is based on hate, anger, fear and use of violence language. The Muslim League and Hindu Mahasabha after 1937 veered towards extreme form of fascist communalism. Ideologically, the economic and political interest of Hindus, Muslims and others were more or less the same till the late nineteenth century. In that sense they did not even constitute separate communities.

The communal consciousness arose as a result of the transformation of the society under the impact of colonialism and the need to struggle against it. If there was no such interest of the ‘community’ to be served, the communalists started to serve some other interests in the name of serving the community. Thus, communalism became an alternate form of seeing one’s own common interests after the formation of modern social classes and after developing contradiction between colonialism and Indian people. Some modern ideologies like Nationalism and Socialism also put some fuel to burn the prevailing communal ideology as both of these concepts are based on the sense of ‘community’.

The growth of communalism in the 20th century is not only the manifestation of mere power-hungry politicians and crafty administrators, but it also had socio-economic and political roots. The crisis of colonial economy, supplemented by The Great Depression after 1928 marred by large scale unemployment, constantly generated two sets of ideologies and political tendencies among the middle classes who got benefitted from communal reservations in the form of caste or religion based favoritism. Apart from this, C.G. Shah had quoted, “under the pressure of communal propaganda, the masses are unable to locate the real causes of their exploitation, oppression and suffering and imagine a fictitious communal source of their origin.” Even, the class struggle of that time had also been given the shape of communal by putting the views forward among the Muslim peasants and debtors by expressing the views that they were exploited only because they were Muslims. Moreover, this kind of interpretation very often came from the observers, journalists, politicians and finally by the historians too. On the other hand, many authors like Bankim Chandra Chatterjee and other Hindi and Urdu writers portrayed the Muslims as foreigners. These circumstances brought into the Muslims the feeling of political and social alienation.

Banaras as a Centre of Hindu Identity:

In the early 18th Century, Banaras was a ‘Mughalizing City’. However, the Mughal’s attempt to transform Banaras into a Muslim city of Muhammadabad did not succeed. But, in the early 19th Century, the three power holding groups (Rajput dynasty, the merchant bankers etc.) of Banaras played an important role in inventing a Hindu tradition which could cope in their own interests. Rajas of contemporary times also had been a precious ally to the British, because of their anti-Congress attitude. This situation seems to be similar to that generated at the nationwide level in the 1930s, which Hindu nationalism diverted its target from the British to the Muslims and the Congress.

Usually, Muslims, especially lower caste Muslims of Banaras had some economic role, hence acting as a pressure group. ‘Julahas’ (lower caste Muslims) were the main weavers of the then silk factories running in Banaras. However, after the decline of Mughals, Muslim population was permanently confined to a subaltern role – a situation lasting up to the present day. In 19th Century, riots were a common event in Banaras. So, after the riot of Oct. 1809, which was culminated over the controversy of the construction of a Hanuman temple on the Muslim area surrounding the Lat Bhairava, there was also a riot in 1977 during Durga Puja celebrations over a territorial conflict between some students of the Anglo-Bengali College and some Muslim weavers extending their yarns into the school ground for taking up space for playing. Actually, Hindu businessmen wanted to limit the role of Muslim businessmen (Sari dealers) to their subaltern role. For that, Hindus even sometimes funded riot against Muslims. Moreover, tourist taken around the silk factories, nobody provides any information about the identity of Banaras silk weavers who are mostly the lower caste Muslims.

Meanwhile, Banaras Hindu University (BHU) started functioning from April 1st, 1916. Initially, emphasize was on teaching traditional subjects with Hindi as official language but British forced it to incorporate English as official language. Malaviya, was among the proponents of Hindi language and Hindu education, had the belief that without the teaching of Hindu culture, Sanskrit language, the population of Hindus (which was decreasing for the abandonment of religion) would not come to proportion. From similar premises, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangha (RSS) was founded in 1925 by the patronage of Shyama Prasad Mukherji. So, Malaviya also allowed RSS to thrive into the campus. Marzia Casolari quoted, “I think the BHU was the result of the increasing sense of militancy in the Hindu segment of Indian society.”

Moreover, the issue of Kashi Vishvanath Temple is not new and it goes back to the mid-17th Century. The controversy started after the death of Aurangazeb in 1707. As to who destroyed and why, and regarding the existence of the temple, there is a certain amount of controversy. According to one of the most detailed investigations, carried out with scientific accuracy, apart from the dominant version according to which Aurangazev was the ‘destroyer’, there are at least three variants. These variants reflect less prevalent views as to the existence of the temple and its destruction. None of these variants refer to the existence of any old and important Hindu temple in the center of the city. Even, qualified historians like Bhatnagar of BHU disapproved of the claim. Apart from this, in the 20th Century, Babri Masjid issue and Vishvanath Temple issue played a key role in the construction of ‘Hindu political mythology’, Casolari noted.

Communalism as a State Power:

According to the Article 50 of the Indian Constitution, Judiciary is a part of the State. So, it has certain responsibilities to run the government. But, sometimes it put forward such judgments that thede can fulfill the communal agenda of the ruling party. According to the 1995 judgment by three judges bench, headed by Justice JS Verma, had held that “Hinduism (the religion) is a way of life of the people in the sub-continent” and “is a state of mind.” Citing this judgment, RSS is trying to justify its ‘Hindutva’ (the Hindu fundamentalism) theory. It said that the term ‘Hindu Terrorism’ is frequently being coined to tarnish the image of RSS. According to RSS spokesman Ram Madhav, “to call Hindu a terrorist is a glaring contradiction. This term is floated only to malign this organization.”

Again, Gareth Nellis, Michael Weaver, Steven Rosenzweig, political scientists from the Yale University in their paper titled “Do parties matter for ethnic violence? Evidence from India”, have maintained that “the election of a single Congress MLA in a district brought about a 32% reduction in the probability of a riot breaking out prior to the next election. Simulations reveal that had Congress candidates lost all close elections in our dataset, India would have faced 10% more riots and thousands more. Analyzing the effect of riots on the vote share of “Hindu nationalist parties”, the paper notes that “the BJS/BJP saw a 0.8 percentage point increase in their vote share following a riot in the year prior to an election”. That means, the communal agenda as a State power certainly makes some sense.

‘Jihad’, ‘Love Jihad’ and Communal Agenda:

The literal definition of the word ‘jihad’ is: striving to achieve a goal, while the Quranic definition of the word is “striving with one’s self and one’s money in the cause of God”. This Quranic definition is confirmed in a number of Quranic verses which speak of jihad. One such example is:

“The true believers are those who believe in God and His messenger, then attain the status of having no doubt whatsoever, and strive (jahadu) with their money and their lives in the cause of God. These are the truthful ones.” 49:15   

Now, Hindutva protagonists are alleging that Muslims are doing a conspiracy against the Hindu culture and Hinduness of India by luring the Hindu girls to elope with a Muslim man to increase Muslim population. Charu Gupta in an article on Economic and Political Weekly said that “the latest constructs by the Hindu right is the alleged “love Jihad” or “Romeo Jihad” organization, supposed to have been launched by Muslim fundamentalists and youthful Muslim men to convert Hindu and Christian women to Islam through trickery and expression of false love”. So, there is no relation ‘Jihad’ and ‘Love Jihad’ and clearly it can be noticed that this is only a political manifestation.

Alteration of Facts:

Jacques Derrida had said,“There is no political power without control of the archive, if not memory. Effective democratization interpretation can always be measured with this essential criterion: the participation in and access to the archive, its constitution, and its interpretation.”

A beginning to alter the facts and histories were made in early 19th Century by the British historians like James Mills, who described the ancient period of Indian history as the ‘Hindu Period’ and the medieval period as the ‘Muslim Period’. Though Muslims were as poor as Hindus, and Hindu Zamindars, nobles and rulers of Muslims ruled, but few historians who followed British historians, deliberately misinterpreted that in medieval India Muslims were the rulers and the Hindus were the ruled. ‘Thousands years of slavery’ and ‘foreign rule’ was the common rhetoric, sometimes used by nationalists also to communalize the medieval history. Hindu communalists believed that the Indian culture which reached a great height during ancient ‘Hindu period’ started decaying during medieval ‘Muslim Period’ by denying the achievement in developing Indian economy, technology, religion and philosophy, art, literature, culture and science. So, now again to justify the notion that ‘Hindu Period’ had remarkable achievement in Science, a paper presented by Capt. Anand J. Bodas in the Indian Science Congress in Mumbai in Jan. 2015, stated that the ancient Vedas had planes which could fly across the planets. These kinds of statements are the ploy to polarize the mass on Hindu-Muslim line.

Recently, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat termed India as a ‘Hindu Rashtra’ to justify the ideology of S. D. Savarkar, who also had propagated the concepts among the mass that all those living in India are Hindus by nature. But, throughout India’s ancient history, the word Hindu was never meant to denote religion. It was a geographic and cultural term used by the Greeks, Persians and Arabs, derived from the Sanskrit Sindhu, to describe the people living by and beyond the river Sindhu. The Greeks modified Sindhu to Indos, and it is said that ancient Persian explorers because of their pronunciation rules dropped the letter S from Sindhu, and called the people living around the Sindhu River as Hindus.

The appointment of Y. Sudarshan Rao as the Chairperson of Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR) had also brought some debate that it was a tactics of saffronization of the History, Romila Thaper and D.N. Jha had alleged. Rao said in a blog-article titled, ‘Indian Caste System: A Reappraisal’, he wrote: “The (caste) system was working well in ancient times and we do not find any complaint from any quarters against it. It is often misinterpreted as an exploitative social system for retaining economic and social status of certain vested interests of the ruling class”. This may be the agenda of the RSS backed government to give prominence to the so-called ancient ‘Hindu Period’ as casteism is deep-rooted in the Brahminical Hindu society.

Conclusion:

Apart from the above discussion, we could also say that sometimes media’s wrong reporting is also responsible for spreading communal sentiments. One such reporting was that “No women or dogs allowed in library: Aligarh Muslim University ban on girl students is a shame”. In fact the issue was, as it should have been reported, that under-graduate girl students from non-professional fields were not allowed to sit in the library and rest of the girls are not prevented from sitting in the library. The reason for not allowing the aforementioned students as given by the Aligarh Muslim University administration is that there is a well-maintained library within the Abdullah Women’s College, the under-graduate college for the women. If the reason is justified or not that should come under scrutiny and not the false issue that can make it unnecessarily viral. These kinds of repeated misinterpretations will lead the common mass to feel the ‘wrong interpretations’ as ‘truth’ and later it will become a ‘common sense’.

The author can be reached at @modontanti

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About Biswanath Saha

Biswanath is a Senior Research Fellow at Institute of Development Studies Kolkata. He loves to engage himself into research in the broad areas of international politics, culture and diplomacy.

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