‘Abrahamic Hindutva’: True warning or false equivalence? – Daily News & Analysis

Posted: August 5, 2017 at 4:46 pm


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Is Abrahamic Hindutva a danger to India and to Hinduism? This is what some columnists have been decrying from the rooftops, especially citing recent instances of cow vigilantes and minority lynching. Defenders of Hindutva have rubbished this oxymoronic term as a case of false equivalence. Actually, though the coinage Abrahamic Hindutva is new, the idea behind it is quite old.

More than a hundred years ago in Gora, Rabindranath Tagore revealed the most aggressive and militant element in the Hindu fold to be actually alien to it. In stressing the primacy of non-violent resistance to British imperialism, Mahatma Gandhi also wanted Hindus not to turn into mirror images of their violent and greedy oppressors. For Bhimrao Ambedkar, Hinduism itself was so tainted and marred by caste-ridden inequality that it had to be radically overhauled or abandoned. More recently, Ashis Nandy has argued at length that true Hinduism is different from Hindutva. In similar vein, UR Ananthamurthys last book, Hindutva or Hind Swaraj, once again contrasts Savarkar with Gandhi.

Now former BBC journalist, now active columnist, Tufail Ahmad, has invented the term Abrahamic Hindutva to describe this internal threat to Hinduism. Open Source Institute, which he is supposed to head, does not have a presence either on the Internet or in the real intellectual-institutional space of Indias Capital. That Ahmad is a British citizen and probably funded by Western interests shouldnt prompt us to discredit what he says in a knee-jerk manner. In fact, his previous work, much of it against Islamic Jihadism, is quite courageous. He has also lashed out against Indian secularism and liberalism for often being weak and mistaken.

To give Ahmad and critics of Hindutva their due, fanaticism, whether in the name of protecting cows or restoring Hindu pride, should be shunned and curtailed. Hating others, wishing to dominate if not destroy them, is certainly not the way of any self-respecting and self-sustaining tradition, let alone of Hinduism. In his deeply felt and inspired book Rearming Hinduism (2014), Vamsee Juluri begins by urging us to remember, We came from a world of wisdom we can barely fathom in todays terms. How true. The survival of Hinduism is one of the great wonders of history. That an ancient tradition of knowing about ourselves in relation to the man-made world, the world of nature, and the higher world of the Gods and supernatural forces, has actually managed to persist all the travail and turmoil of time is nothing short of miraculous. Hinduism, as Juluri reminds us, is much more than a way of life, Hinduism is about intelligence, more than anything else. I would humbly modify that slightly to suggest that it is a way of knowing and living intelligently.

If so, what is the greatest threat that it faces? Is it mainly external, whether from aggressive Abrahamic faiths such as proselytizing Christianity, radical Islam, or fanatical Marxism? These ideologies refuse to live and let live; they wish to impose their truth upon all non-believers. Convert or perish whether in the here or hereafter. That seems to be their rallying cry when faced with people of other persuasions. When such ideologies have captured state power in the past or even in the present, they are capable of unleashing untold horrors on their Others. Their scripturally- or ideologically-sanctioned intolerance blunts them from any moral conscience or compunction in achieving their brutal and barbarous ends.

I have labelled such creeds as anti-Sanatani. They are hard-wired to believe that they have a monopoly over truth. They brook no dissent or disagreement. Their avowed goal is world-domination, usually authorised by some pious or high-sounding idea such as justice, equality, salvation, freedom, or even peace. But, actually, these ideals are the first ones to be betrayed or violated in their march to power. I call them obsessively monic monothetical, monotheistic, monobibliolatrous, monoprophetic, monomorphic, monocultural, monolinguistic, monoparty, monoideological, or mono-whatever. Hinduism, by contrast, is radically plural, defiant of any single way even to define, encapsulate, or understand it.

But while it battles anti-Sanatani ideologies, some say that Hinduism itself runs the risk of morphing into its Other, of turning Semitic, Abrahamic, monothetical. Hinduism may end up akin to its antagonists, intolerant, power-hungry, instrumental, and authoritarian. How to avoid this? Of all the savants who tried to understand the threats to Hinduism, whether external or internal, perhaps the most relevant and useful to our times, is Sri Aurobindo. He teaches us how best to integrate the past with the present, the modern West with our own intrinsic civilisational genius, the imperatives of realpolitik with the higher calling of Dharma. Without fetishising non-violence or being excessively shy of wielding power, Hindus must not also turn themselves into ferocious or intolerant bullies just because they have a brute majority.

I do not believe that there is any such thing as Abrahamic Hindutva. Nor does it look as if Hindu self-assertion poses a grave danger to Hinduism or India. Yet we must not turn Hinduism into merely a political ideology or tool to achieve hegemony. We must always remember that India is and must remain greater than any party, ideology, or political movement. In that lofty idea of India inheres our Swaraj and the greatness of our nation.

The author is a poet and Professor at JNU. Views expressed are personal.

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'Abrahamic Hindutva': True warning or false equivalence? - Daily News & Analysis

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August 5th, 2017 at 4:46 pm

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