Is was at a friend's house in Kochi in 1996 that I encountered an intelligent youngman.
If I remember right, his name was Ratnakaran. In the wake of a general election, a
ministry had been formed at the centre but voted out within thirteen days. There was still
a great deal of excitement in the air about Hindutva and the reason why it was I
considered untouchable by most
Ratnakaran was sure about the reason. How could any sensible person associate himself
with a movement inspired by mendicants and sadhus in saffron? Ratnakaran was at an English
university in 1992 where he had seen pictures of men with tridents in hand, presumably at
Ayodhya. He could recall a magazine cover as well. The report inside was damning.
Being a resident of Kerala, he had evidently enjoyed arguments on the pros and cons of
dialectical materialism. The only acceptable alternatives were either a version of
capitalism or the in between approach often called welfarism practiced by social democrats
in Europe. To Ratnakaran, the rest was tribalism or chauvinism, fascism or obscurantism.
In his perception, Hindutva fell into the last slot.
I did my best to explain to the young man that Hindutva was at least as dialectical or
logical as any other thesis. He heard me but I doubt if he listened. He demanded the
source of my contention; which book, what author and so on. Having been a research
student, he had to have written evidence. My spoken word had fallen on a deaf ear. Mind
you, anything written could equally meet with a closed mind. But the reach of a book is
potentially wider than that of spoken word.
Following up on the need for the written word, I had to go back to1923
when Veer Vinayak Damodar Savarkar had systematically defined the concept of ideology in
his work entitled Hindutva. In subsequent years, Hindu nationalism has been described. Its
history has been traced at length but the core of Hindutva has not been defined again.
To Veer Savarkar, Hindutva was the history of the land beyond the
Sindhu river. All those who or whose ancestors have shared that history are Hindus. God
and worship have little to do with Hindutva. If anything, Hinduism is a part of Hindutva.
Stated in another way, whoever can claim Hindustan or undivided India as his/her
fatherland as well as holyland is a Hindu. He also used the Sanskrit words pitrilbuand
punyablu respectively for fatherland and holyland. In the process,anyone whose
faith was founded in India is automatically a Hindu like a Buddhist, a Jain or a Sikh.
Here, Veer Savarkar tended to contradict himself. If faith and worship
were not the bedrock of Hindutva, why stress so much on the importance of holyland? Could
having India as fatherland or pitribhu not be sufficient as a qualification? For then, all
those Christians and Muslims today whose ancestors were converted would be Hindus for the
purpose of Hindutva. They might continue to look upon Jerusalem, Mecca or Medina as their
holyland or punyabhu.
As far as fatherland is concerned, why can it not be adopted? Many an
Indian has acquired British or US citizenship. Men and women of Indian origin are members
of the British parliament. So have been prime ministers of Fiji, Mauritius and Trinidad.
So long as the citizen's first loyalty is to his country, whether original or adopted, he
is a patriot. Remember, to adopt a child is perfectly legitimate among Hindus as well as
Christians. This reasoning makes it possible for persons of even foreign origin to be
Hindus without changing their mode of worship. First loyalty to the motherland would be
more appropriate to the children of Mother India. Fatherland is a word of European
preference used particularly in Russia and Germany. To us in India, the country is a
mother. Whatever be the differences in argument or expression, Veer Savarkar's was a
I was 19 when I first read Veer Savarkar's book. The message sank so deep into my
mind that I kept mulling over it from time to time all these years. My conclusion is that
Hindutva is a dialectical or a logical concept, so much so that only one premise has to be
accepted. That premise is the basic explanation of life given by Hinduism or sanatan
dharma, that all living beings are members of the universe and their souls
transmigrate in the endeavour to achieve mukti or salvation. Thereafter, Hindutva flows
logically as well as smoothly like a well spun yarn from a cotton sliver.
It is indeed a pity that this dialectical element of Hindutva has not
yet been appreciated. In the absence of this awareness, Hindutva has often been an object
of derision, if not also prejudice. Once a leftist friend exclaimed to me: 'I wish you
were on our side, you express yourself so effectively. We could have more of your letters
in our column'. What do you mean by your side? I gently enquired. 'On the side of progress
more than being an advocate of nationalism', was her reply.
There have been other experiences. One was the remark made at the India
International Centre in New Delhi by a well known assistant editor. He was reported to
have said, 'Over my dead body will that chap's letters be printed in my paper'. We had
never ever met and yet the fury! I knew he was a Marxist and I later discovered that he
thought I was a fascist. These incidents reflect how the English language media is
dominated by men and women whose thought process frame of reference is biased.
The language in which one reads and writes inevitably influences the
thought. It was British policy to divert Indians away from their faith and culture in
order to make them loyal members of the Empire. A casual reading of Lord Macaulay and Sir
Charles Trevelyan would show how clear and systematic was the endeavour.
By a combination of circumstances, the effect of the endeavour fell on the Hindus. The
Muslim youth did not as much take to education in English. They largely confined
themselves to the madrassa. With deep loyalty to the ummah and the khalifa,
the Sunnis were not natural nationalists. The Hindus were, therefore, the potential
problem and hence their faith and culture were the focus of imperial attention.
The Marxist prejudice was also concentrated on the Hindu faith and
culture because of many reasons. For one, it was difficult to penetrate the ring of
cultural defence jealously maintained by the ulema. For another, if provoked, the
Muslim was more capable of a violent riposte. For yet another, the Marxists could
empathise with the supranational preference of Islam. They themselves considered the
nation to be an instrument of exploitation. They were devout internationalists. From every
angle, Hindutva was the obvious target of communist antagonism.
The English language media is influential. The intelligentsia, by and
large, prefers to go by what the English language media writes or says rather than what
the Indian language media contends. Another visible factor is that quite often the
language newspapers borrow from theEnglish newspapers. As if this was not enough, the
foreign media is also guided by what is printed in English. The dice is therefore loaded
To make matters even more difficult, the writers on Hindutva do not
always use the English idiom. Although they do use the English language, their frame of
reference is not what the bulk of the intelligentsia understands easily. Since I was
educated in English, I presume my idiom would be nearer the mark. Moreover, my approach to
analysis is shaped by the methodology of Sir Basil Liddel-Hart, the British captain who
taught generals. He was a thinker writer on military strategy in the years between the two
world wars and after. For excellence in strategic action, I have held in high regard Field
Marshal Eric van Manstein who was the outstanding strategist amongst the German generals
during World War II. This approach differs with the traditional treatment of Hindutva
which is often more warm and mystical and less cold and analytical.
A widely held impression is that the ideology of Hindutva was conceived
in response to the Islamic dominance during the medieval centuries and more
recently, the substantive advent of Christianity. This is incorrect. The dawn of a
Pan-India was dreamt first by Sri Krishna 3400 years ago. Vishnugupt Kautilya, nearly 2000
years ago, ic about 15BC, popularly known as Chanakya, also had the vision of a great
empire. Adi Shankaracharya, some 1200 years ago, traversed the whole of India on foot and
set up the four dHams at Dwarka, Badrinath, Puri and Kanchi. He thus demonstrated
the essential integrity of India. All this was well before either Christianity or Islam
came to India. True, the concept of cultural nationalism evolved later, for the simple
reason, that nationalism was unheard of even in Europe until the 18th century
Before I come to how nationalism is essential for the Indian
civilisation to take off again, let me emphasise that Hindutva is the
only dialectical ideology that has taken root in Asia. Dialectical in the sense of not
merely being logical but also the basis of policies. All other ideologies are of European
pedigree, be it Marxism, welfarism as practiced by the Social Democrats in Europe or
capitalism, whether supply or demand side. Ideally, the Asian genius is best motivated by
an Asian ideology. The whole of Asia east of Pakistan, has also an ethos which is Buddhist
or Hindu in origin. The influence of Lord Buddha extends right up to Japan.
Hindutva is the only binder which can galvanize the Indian nation
towards progress and prosperity. In essence, nationalism is
synergy. The effort of four Indians should yield the result equivalent to five or six of
them. Most Christians and Muslims of India have a Hindu ancestry. Their collective memory
has not necessarily forgotten their castes. It is not uncommon to find a Catholic claiming
himself to be a Brahmin and insisting on a Brahmin bride. Nor is it unusual to come across
a Muslim who claims that he is a Rajput to indicate that he is not a convert from any
other caste. The Bohras are forthright in their claim that all of them were converted from
As the reader proceeds, he you will find that the core of' Hindutva isself
actualization. Consequently, it is averse to the subjugation of others. Nor has it shown
any desire to dominate other countries. If all the countries in the world could be
influenced by a similar volition, surely the earth would be a more peaceful place. All in
all, Hindutva is a many splendoured idea. The book offers glimpses of this splendour.
Letter writing offers the scope to express oneself freely. Each letter
is written to be self sufficient and readable by itself. The same point might therefore
have been mentioned in another letter. The essence of each letter is highlighted on its
first page. On the other hand, chapters need references and, perhaps, quotations which
would confine the brush to paint with restraint rather than with ease. Moreover, the rules
of emperical research must blur an uninhibited vision of the future. This volume has no
pretension to either scholarship or research. It is only a series of individual letters.