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Narendra Modi and the unsettling idea of Hindu Nationalism

Narendra  Modi and the unsettling idea of Hindu Nationalism

By Aishwarya Puri

Edited by Michelle Cherian, Associate Editor, The Indian Economist

Hindu- Muslim riots of 2002 in Gujrat have had a rumpus stroke since they have happened. Besides adding another item in the catalogue of bitter Hindu-Muslim relations it also etched a profound spot on Narendra Modi’s political cap and induced dilemmas on the wavering dawn of Hindu Nationalism. A former dynamic member of RSS and a seemingly Hindu political leader, Modi couldn’t avert flashing sideswaps on his ideologies of “Hindu Nationalism” since his tenure as Gujrat’s Chief Minister and now as the Prime Minister of India. chock

There happens to exist, unfortunately, a very fine line between core nationalism and Hindu nationalism. Since the epoch of Indian freedom struggle the idea of a sense of belongingness and affection to one’s nation stood high as a leveraging tool in bringing home freedom. With Mahatma Gandhi, this craving for a collective national identity strengthened. What else could have served better to a majorly Hindu nation than ‘Hindutva’ which then became the binding force to a scattered India. This helped gain independence from British Raj, but the soul of an Indian nationalism could never awake though.

Rabindranath Tagore identifies caste and class stratifications as the major stumbling block in the establishment of nationalism in India. He writes that Indian motives to replicate western nationalism is a myth since western nations encompass a uniform caste/religious background making the sense of collective belongingness comprehensible. But India is a majorly Hindu nation with many other religions lurking simultaneously. This impedes our demand of a collective set of belongingness and togetherness, hence forestalling nationalism in its true essence. Furthermore, Tagore writes that it is through demolition of caste-class institutions that we can build a uniform nation and hence Indian nationalism, but which is not our present scenario. It is therefore clear that Indian nationalism developed into Hindu nationalism because it held the potential to unite a religiously multi-polar nation, not because of an inclusive comprehensiveness. Hence the question whether Modi is a “bharat mata ka beta” or a Hindu fanatic has and will surface over and again considering a major loophole in our basic sense of nation and nationalism.

Let us turn over a few previous pages in our knowledge of Modi’s past episodes to affiance our arguments with lucidity. While being accused of insensitively justifying and trivializing the 2002 tragedy, Modi was also bombarded with criticism over his statement “I am nationalist. I’m patriotic. I am a born Hindu. Nothing is wrong in that. So yes, you can say I’m a Hindu nationalist.” This was followed by condemnation from senior Congress leaders like Digvijay Singh and Rehman Khan; both of them asserted that it was only Indian nationalism that existed and no Hindu, Muslim or Christian nationalism. The connotation of Modi placing patriotism and nationalism in the same circle created a lot of fuss re-establishing the fact that ambiguity in our sense of nationalism has come a long way since pre-independence time.

Amidst his loud slogans of “Bharat mata ki jai” during pre Lok Sabha elections were hummed tunes of skepticism and uncanny regarding his stand on Hindu-Muslim issue. Modi’s words on Mother India and nation were thought to be juxtaposed with his hidden intentions of promoting “Hindutva”. In a recent upheaval in non-Hindi speaking states, especially Tamil Nadu, Modi government got arrested again. Home Ministry’s proposal to make Hindi official on social networking sites was intensely denounced by DMK officials calling it Modi’s motives to impose Hindi on their states. Where many states with Hindi as their secondary language welcomed this as a step in rejuvenating Hindi’s status, Modi was yet again accused of promoting and imposing Hindi as a tool to re-iterate his “Hindutva” ideologies.

Historical ambiguities and social setup have made the pace for nationalism in India to hinder. Not necessarily talking about predicament enwrapping Modi’s ideologies, but nationalism is a much required flavour in Indian curry today. We need to strengthen our understanding of a nationalist India to be able to wear that hat and cut through the dilemma which we currently stand in today.

Courtesy: Deccan Chronicle

Aishwarya is a  student of English Literature at Hindu College, Delhi University. An aggressive enthusiast of Politics and an avid reader of articles on public policy and national politics. A leader, orator, anti patriarchal and loud on expression of words and public speaking. She believes in her dynamic administrative qualities and swears by candid human resource management. Her analysis of any life experience is majorly scientific and pragmatic, yet never misses a touch of spiritualism and philosophy.

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