A spectre haunts dominant sections of Indian's political and intellectual elites-the spectre of a growing Hindu self-awareness and self-assertion. Till recently these elites had used the bogey of Hindu communalism and revivalism as a convenient device to keep themselves in power and to legitimise their slavish imitation of the West. Unfortunately for them, the ghost has now materialised.
Million of Hindus have stood up. It will not be easy to trick them back into acquiescing in an order which has been characterized not much by its appeasement of Muslims as by its alienness, rootlessness and contempt for the land's unique culture past. Secularism, a euphemism for irreligion and repudiation of the Hindu ethos, and socialism, an euphemism for denigration and humiliation of the business community to the benefit of ever expanding rapacious bureaucracy and politocracy, have been major planks of this order. Both have lost much of their old glitter and, therefore, capacity to dazzle and mislead. By the same token, re-Hinduisation of the country's political domain has begun. On a surface view, it may be a sheer accident that the battle between aroused Hindus and the imitation Indian state, neutral to the restoration of the country's ancient civilisation on its own oft-repeated admission, has been joined on the question of the Ram Janma-bhoomi temple in Rama's city of Ayodhya. But the historic significance of this accident should be evident to anyone familiar with Rama's place in our historic consciousness.
Rama has been exemplar par excellence for the Hindu public domain. There have been other incarnations of Vishnu in the Hindu view and the tenth (the Kalki avatar) is yet to arrive. But there has been no other similar exemplar for Hindu polity. In historic terms, therefore, the proposed temple can be the first step towards that goal. The proper English translation of Hindu Rashtra would be Hindu polity and not Hindu nation.
The concept of nation itself is, in fact, alien to the Hindu temperament and genius. It is essentially Semitic in character, even if it arose in Western Europe in the eighteenth century when it had successfully shaken off the Church's stranglehold. For, like Christianity and Islam, it too emphasises the exclusion of those who do not belong to the charmed circle (territorial, or linguistic, or ethnic) as much as it emphasises the inclusion of those who fall within the circle. Indeed, the former, like the heretics and pagans in Christianity and Islam, are cast into outer darkness.
Two other points may be made in this connection, though only parenthetically. First, the nation could become the new icon and wars between nations replace religious (sectarian) wars in Western Europe precisely because it was a secularised version of Christian and sectarian exclusivism. Second, the Western European imperialist expansion into pagan lands was not unrelated to the spirit of heresy hunting from the very beginning of the Christian enterprise.
Spaniards and the Portuguese made no bones about it. They went about the task of destroying pagan temples and converting the peoples they conquered with a ruthlessness perhaps without a parallel in human history. Latin America bears witness to the earnestness and thoroughness of the Spanish-Portuguese Christian soul-rescue mission.
The British and the French took a different route to the same goal of decimation of other cultures. They sought not so much blessed with the light, compassion and love of God's own son Christ, as to introduce these victims of primitive animism superstition, idolatory and female irrationalism to the world- ordering masculine rationality of the West. They too did as thorough a job of under-mining pagan civilisation as their Spanish and Portuguese predecessors. The continued adherence to the concept of nationalism and secularism of our elites are evidence of the success of the British in our case.
Obviously, I am calling into question the conceptual capital of the dominant elites. Equally obviously, I cannot deal with the issues I am raising even in the telegraphic language. But, fortunately, an American anthropologist, Ronal Inden, has written a book entitled Imagining India (Basil Blackwell) exposing the distortions our heritage has suffered in interpretations by Western orientalists, whether materialists (British and French) or idealists (Germans). He has not discussed how Western- education Indians have swallowed lock, stock and barrel these distorted interpretations of our past. But that should become obvious once we become aware of the misrepresentations. The book available in Delhi.
To return to the issue under discussion, Hindus are not a community; they cannot become a community. This fact has less to do with the caste system even in this present degenerate from than with the essential spirit of Hinduism which is inclusivist and not exclusivist by definition. Such a spirit must seek to abolish and not build boundaries. Manava-dharma must come before swa-dharma in the hierarchy of our values. That is why I have said again and again that Hindus cannot sustain an anti-Muslim feeling except temporarily and that too under provocation. The provocation may not come directly from Muslims. But that is a different proposition not under discussion in this piece.
Hindus have been compelled to recognise boundaries, as towards the end of tenth century when Eastern Afghanistan fell to Muslim Turks after a valiant struggle by shaivite princes lasting over three centuries and their access to Central Asia was effectively blocked as a prelude to the invasion of Bharat Varsha itself by Afghans converted to Islam (for details of the struggle see Andre Wink's Al Hind, Oxford University press). And they are obliged to recognise frontiers now even within the sub-continent which has been the heartland of their civilisation. But that limitation cannot make them into a nation.
Hindus are not a nation in being or becoming. They cannot be, not because of the illiterate view that they are divided on the basis of caste and language but of the deep and profound truth that they have been and are meant to be a civilisation. A civilisation must, by definition, seek to be universal. Of the great civilisations, China alone has been an exception to this rule. That has been so because Chinese civilisation alone has been based on, and has derived sustenance from, the ethnic unity of its populace.
The Hindu fight is not at all with Muslim; the fight is between Hindus anxious to renew themselves in the spirit of their civilisation, and the state, Indian in name and not in spirit and the political and intellectual class trapped in the debris the British managed to bury us under before they left
It is this approach that I had in my mind when I wrote the article entitled "Rama and not temples is the issue" in his journal on November 4, though I took have been obliged since to speak of Hindu nation in order to bring out the absurdity of the Indian concept of secular nationalism which its proponents treat as being culturally neutral. As such I find it painful that even well-meaning Hindus should make a distinction between Hindu culture-civilisation and Hindu religion, little realising that Hinduism is not a religion, and say that Rama was both a cultural hero and a religious figure as if he can be so split. No, he epitomises our civilisation in its totality.
The construction of the proposed temples in the city of his birth, as we know it from Ramayana which, much more than the Maharashtra, has shaped the Hindu world view at least in this millennium of deep trouble and continuous struggle against foreign inroads, cannot symbolize the return of Rama as such. But it can mark the beginning of the process which must in the nature of things be prolonged and painful.
The Hindu fight is not at all with Muslim; the fight is between Hindus anxious to renew themselves in the spirit of their civilisation, and the state, Indian in name and not in spirit and the political and intellectual class trapped in the debris the British managed to bury us under before they left. The proponents of the Western ideology are using Muslims as auxiliaries and it is a pity Muslim leaders are allowing themselves to be so used. Developments in this regard have, however, not been without a positive aspect since 1986 when the padlock on the gate to the structure known as the Babri mosque were opened and Rama Lala (child Rama) which was already installed at the site sanctified by tradition as the place of Rama's birth. On the contrary, it can argued that in the absence of opposition by the state and Muslim leaders the necessary task of mobilising Hindus would have got neglected, with adverse consequences in the long term. Proponents of a Hindu order have reason to be particularly grateful to the U.P. chief Minister, Mulayam Singh, who on October 30 and November 2 gave Ram bhaktas an opportunity to prove that they could withstand a mass massacre. That is how instruments for fulfillment of historic destiny are forged. In the past up to the sixteenth century, great temples have been built in our country by rulers to mark the rise of a new dynasty and/or to mark a triumph which they have regarded as vindication of their claim to the Chakravarti status. In the present case, the proposal to build the Rama temple has also to help produce an army which can in the first instance achieve the victory the construction can proclaim.
The raising of such as army in our democracy, however flawed, involves not a body of disciplined cadres, which is available in the shape of the RSS, a political organization, which too is available in the Bharatiya Janata Party, but also an aroused citizenry. That had so far been missing. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad and its allies have fulfilled this need in manner which is truly spectacular.
So long as this task of mobilising support continues, delay in the actual construction of the proposed temples need not be a cause for concern. That can well await the arrival of a Hindu government in New Delhi. Indeed, it would be in order to build the temple then. It can appropriately herald the dawn of a new order.
I am in no position to say whether the mobilisation programme has been flawed because the organizers have not taken adequate precautions to ensure that it is not allowed to acquire anti- Muslim overtones, or whether that was unavoidable on account of V.P. Singh's duplicity and Mulayam Singh's desperate search for power on the strength of the Muslim card. Indeed, I must confess that the top BJP leaders, especially L.K. Advani, could not have been more careful; they spelt it out day after day that they were not guided by anti-Muslim bias. Even so, no effort should be spared in future to avoid the risk of Hindu-Muslim clashes.
The BJP-VHP-RSS leaders have rendered the country another greater service. They have brought Hindu interests, if not the Hindu ethos, into the public domain where they legitimately belong. But it would appear that they have not fully grasped the implications of their action. Their talk of pseudo-secularism gives me that feeling. The fight is not against what they call pseudo- secularism; it is against secularism in its proper definition whereby man as animal usurps the place of man as spirit. The concept of man as an economic being is a complement to the secular man.
In the existing West-dominated political-intellectual milieu, it is understandable that BJP leaders act defensively. But it is time they recognize that defensiveness can cripple them, as it did in the past when they sought respectability in claimed of adherence to Gandhian socialism, whatever it might mean, and this time in a context favourable to them. The Nehru order is as much in the throes of death as its progenitor, the Marxist-Leninist- Stalinist order. A new order is waiting to be conceived and born. It needs a mother as well as a mid-wife.
[Girilal Jain was the former Editor of Times of India, eminent thinker and columnist. This article was originally published in Sunday Mail, on December 9, 1990]