Ziya Us Salam

The polemics of hate

Book jacket   | Photo Credit: 18dmcHindutva

Kamlesh Tiwari is an unlikely adhesive for the ummah. Not much more than a dot in the distance if you go down history lane, yet, this is what Tiwari, a self-proclaimed president of Akhil Bhartiya Hindu Mahasabha, managed when he heaped unmentionable insult on the Prophet recently. The faithful came out in lakhs to protest in places as disparate as Muzaffarnagar and Mumbai, Lucknow and Bengaluru. Tiwari was promptly arrested, and even the Hindu Mahasabha disowned him. Of course, this was not his sole indiscretion. He had come into public eye when he announced bhoomi pujan for a Godse temple in Sitapur earlier this year and followed it up with the announcement of a formation of a Godse Sena and even demanded that Mahatma Gandhi’s picture be deleted from the currency notes! His notoriety is well earned, the ire of the faithful, indeed, the larger polity, perfectly understandable.

A little after Tiwari was arrested, perchance I laid my hands on the all-new book, “ Hindutva: Exploring the Idea of Hindu Nationalism” by Jyotirmaya Sharma, as much as an authority on the subject as you are likely to find. Considering I had read his book “ Terrifying Vision: M.S. Golwalkar, the RSS and India” with sustained interest, this one needed no brownie points. Let me make a confession here: It is not often that I start a book with the last chapter, but I made an exception here, thanks to Tiwari – I was curious to know just from where does he get his ammunition for sustained hatred. The chapter in question, “Vinayak Damodar Savarkar”, is all about the founder of the Mahasabha, the man about whom Sharma writes, “Even today, Savarkar remains the first, and most original, prophet of extremism in India”.

Over the years, I had read enough about Savarkar to consider myself shock-proof. A few years ago, I even sat through a film on him. Yet I had reckoned without Sharma’s propensity to deliver an ace. Savarkar’s hate campaign, I discover, started early in his life. In his biography of Savarkar, Dhananjay Keer recounts an incident in which a twelve-year-old Vinayak Damodar Savarkar leads a march of his schoolmates to stone the village mosque. This was Savarkar’s revenge against the ‘atrocities’ committed against Hindus during the Hindu-Muslim riots. Sharma writes about the incident, “Savarkar’s own account of this act speaks of his rage against the deeds of physical violence committed against the Hindus by Muslim rioters. (For him, it was always the Muslims who initiated a riot.) So, when Hindus killed Muslims in acts of retribution, Savarkar and his friends would dance with joy….Savarkar’s description of raiding the mosque has a chilling echo to events of 6 December 1992: We vandalized the mosque to our heart’s content and raised the flag of our bravery on it.”

He goes on to draw more parallels between Savarkar and latter day Hindutva proponents, including Modi and Togadia. Subtly reminding us of Modi’s action-reaction theory post-Godhra, Sharma writes, “His writings are replete with terms like pratishodh and pratikaar, all synonyms for revenge, retribution and retaliation – not unlike the utterances of the BJP, the VHP, the Bajrang Dal, Narendra Modi and Praveen Togadia. As the progenitor and most eloquent theoretician of political Hindutva, Savarkar formulated his entire world-view in terms of well entrenched, non-negotiable binary oppositions. His universe is strictly divided into ‘friends’ and ‘foes, ‘us’ and ‘them’, ‘Hindus’ and ‘Muslims’…‘righteous’ and ‘wicked’.”

Brick by brick, Sharma demolishes the hype around Savarkar, the halo around Hindutva. “While Savarkar was certainly part of the nationalist movement, his commitment to the creation of a Hindu Rashtra superseded the goal of political independence for India. The very definition and conception of Hindu Rashtra depended entirely on its relation with its primary non-self, the Muslims,” Sharma writes, adding a little later, “Despite Savarkar’s regular barbs against Muslim theocratic politics, religion formed the very basis of politics for Savarkar. The epigraph of Savarkar’s essay on the First War of Independence of 1857 is taken from Swami Ramdas. It says: ‘Die for the sake of dharma, and while dying kill all; in killing is your victory, the establishment of your own rule’.”

Predictable? Maybe. Pertinent? Certainly. A little later though, Sharma delivers the knock-out punch when he writes, “The…words justifying the Hindu martial strain were an outcome of Savarkar’s denunciation of Gandhi and his philosophy of ahimsa, non-violence. Savarkar calls it ‘the monomaniacal principle of absolute non-violence’. Absolute non-violence in the face of incorrigible aggression was immoral. It was not ‘an outcome of any saintliness but of insanity’....Ahimsa was the other non-self that Savarkar’s Hindu Self had to contend with.” Soon, as Sharma wades into the age-old debate of Hinduism vis-à-vis Hindutva – Savarkar considered Hindutva as history in full while Hinduism was merely a fraction of it – I go to the introduction of the book. Here, the author sums it up beautifully: “Hindutva is only a means of interrogating the larger and deeper questions of Hinduism and Hindu identity, not the reason to do so.”

I think yet again of Tiwari and his hatred of Gandhi, his disrespect towards the Prophet, and the attempt to put Hindutva above Hinduism. I need ask no questions to or of Tiwari now. Savarkar, Mahasabha….Tiwari. History is all about cyclical movement.


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