Majoritarianism is not nationalism, says Yechury

April 10, 2016 12:00 am | Updated 07:31 am IST - Chennai:

Hindu religion’s ability to tolerate other faiths helped form the Indian definition of secularism: Gurumurthy

While the idea of majoritarianism as nationalism arose from the treaties of Westphalia, India’s Constitution goes well beyond this notion, said CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury.

Mr. Yechury was speaking at a talk organised jointly by SASTRA University and The Hindu on the theme, “Idea of an Ideal India.” Journalist Swapan Dasgupta, columnist S. Gurumurthy and N. Ram, chairman of Kasturi & Sons Ltd. — which publishes The Hindu — were the other speakers on the panel, moderated by former Judge of the Madras High Court Prabha Sridevan.

“The sort of issues we are witnessing today — of intolerance, various other campaigns — are part of an effort to throw the evolution of the concept of India back to the Westphalian concept of the majority versus the minority,” said Mr. Yechury, referring to the 17{+t}{+h}century treaties between Spain and the Dutch Republic.

He said the Indian Constitution’s idea of equality had gone above and beyond the concepts that helped establish the Peace of Westphalia.

Dr. Dasgupta attacked what he called Mr. Yechury’s constitutional patriotism. “Are we to believe that life began in 1947,” he asked, comparing the CPI(M) general secretary’s argument to post-Second World War Germany’s attempts at constructing a new national identity around its Constitution.

“Are we to reject all those constructs partly because they might have a slight brush with Hinduism?”

Dr. Dasgupta argued that matters of culture were best left out of the straitjacket of laws.

“The Constitution sets the ground rules for political behaviour … but a society, a country, a civilisation is much more than just the state. Acknowledge the complexities of India, acknowledge the silken thread that binds it all,” he said.

‘India is multi-everything’

Noting that India is “multi-everything; India is nothing if it is not pluralistic,” Mr. Ram said the Hindutva forces’ socio-political programme goes against the foundations of the country. “This is at odds with the values of our freedom struggle … Today, it is at odds with the values of the Constitution itself — not just with the Preamble, but the basic structure of the Constitution,” he said.

Mr. Ram said the disintegrative ideology of Hindutva was a threat to the Indian state. “When the RSS supremo, its Sargsanghchalak, Mr. Mohan Bhagwat, says that India is a Hindu nation and Hindutva, its identity, it strikes a deadly blow at the values of our great historical civilisation,” he said.

Mr. Gurumurthy, also a Distinguished Research Professor of Legal Anthropology at SASTRA University, called for a model of development that included elements of culture.

“Culture is the basic drive of development,” he said, warning against abandoning the Indian culture in favour of Western models of development. It was the Hindu religion’s ability to tolerate other religions that helped form the Indian definition of secularism, he said. “If India is not Hindu, it would never have been secular.”

In a rebuttal to Mr. Gurumurthy, Mr. Yechury clarified that his opposition was to Hindutva. He quoted V.D. Savarkar to say it had nothing to do with the Hindu religion.

Top News Today

Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.