Rahul Gandhi is determined to fight the Hinduism vs Hindutva battle

Never before in Indian politics has such a well-articulated distinction been made between the syncretic culture of our country and new propaganda based on fear, hate and violence only to draw votes

Rahul Gandhi is determined to fight the Hinduism vs Hindutva battle

Sanjukta Basu

Second time in a month’s span Rahul Gandhi made bold statements on the Hinduism vs Hindutva debate even though most poll pundits and media experts have been suggesting that opposition should stay away from the religion trap and keep the focus on rozi-roti issues of the common man. The experts have also suggested that such a distinction would be futile and misplaced. Rahul Gandhi, however, has a mind of his own and is determined to fight the battle which has not been fought since 1949 when the ban on RSS was lifted.

He was speaking at the Congress’s Mehangai Hatao Rally held in Jaipur on Sunday which was a massive show of strength by the party. To have all the three Gandhis at the same event along with most of the big names in the party including Ashok Gehlot, Sachin Pilot, Kumari Sailja, Bhupinder Hooda, Kamal Nath, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhry, Bhupesh Baghel, Mallikarjun Kharge and others, was no mean feat. The party also consciously projected the rally as the poll bugle for 2024. Every leader who spoke at the event asserted that flagged from Jaipur, the rally would reach Delhi soon.

Rahul’s speech was preceded by a roar of the conch shell the shanknaad for the battle. But what is this battle? It is a lot more than just election–that was the strong and inspiring message given by Mr Gandhi at the event.

“Before I speak about how the nation’s wealth is going into 4-5 capitalists’ hands, I would like to talk about what this battle is all about? It is a battle of two words. Hindu and Hindutvavadi. I am a Hindu, but not a Hindutvavadi. Gandhiji was a Hindu, but Godse, a Hindutvavadi. A Hindu lives his entire life in search of truth, satya ki agraha. Gandhiji’s autobiography is called, ‘My experiments with truth’. He spent his whole life in understanding the truth, and in the end a Hindutvavadi shot him in the chest. Because a Hindutvavadi spends his entire life in search of Satta (Power). He does not care about truth, he only cares about power, for power he would hurt and kill anybody. His path is not of satya-graha but satta-graha,” Rahul Gandhi said.

He invoked the Hindu pride in being truthful, loving, and respectful of other religion, and rejected the hate and anger which Hindutvavadis reflect. “A true Hindu is never afraid. He does not cower before fear. But the Hindutvavadi is full of fear, and fear begets hate, anger and violence,” he said.

Never before in Indian politics has such a well-articulated distinction been made between, on one hand, the syncretic culture that India has lived by for thousands of years which includes pure Vedic faith along with hundreds of other religions and cultures, and, on the other hand, a newly invented political propaganda based on fear, hate and violence only to consolidate votes.

While some secularists may be upset that Rahul is playing a majoritarian tune or ‘soft Hindutva’ and is betraying the secular values, he has, however, struck the right notes on multiple levels. First, he assured a billion people that their faith is not irrelevant. Congress party is not trying to ignore or dismiss faith rather it is trying to separate it from the poison injected by RSS’s Hindutva ideology. Second, he remarkably challenged the false notion created by the Sangh Parivar that Congress party is anti-Hindu and that BJP-RSS are the sole custodian of a billion people’s faith.

Finally, the bugle for India’s greatest ideological battle has been heard setting a new national discourse, one that was much needed.

Many political experts believe that only issues like unemployment, poverty etc can possibly counter BJP’s Hindutva agenda. Indian public is frugal, politics is feudal, and government is considered maai baap by the masses. Day to day issues of jobs and economy will only go so far but cannot make drastic behavioural changes. “Sher pala hai, do roti kam kha lenge, desh toh bachega (We have kept a Tiger, we would rather eat one less bread but the nation would be safe in Modi/Tiger’s hand),” is the type of common arguments going abound in the tier two, tier three cities and WhatsApp groups. Only an ideological battle, one that has been waged by Rahul Gandhi, can bring a paradigm shift in Indian politics, and save the idea of India.

BJP will now be compelled to argue that they are both Hindu and Hindutvavadi and that the two are the same things. But it would not be easy. The totem of Gandhi for Hindu and Godse for Hindutvavadi is hard to challenge. They will have to explain that if both are the same then why BJP affiliated Hindutva groups are burning the Holy Bible in Karnataka, attacking Christian schools in Madhya Pradesh, and lynching Muslims in the name of cow and love jihad? Why their party leaders repeatedly talk of Kabristan, Jinnah and jaali wali topi and lungi as the election approaches? Why for over two months Muslims in Gurgaon are being threatened and intimidated for merely reading Friday namaz?

These questions will be raised by Rahul Gandhi, that much is already assured. He has already demonstrated in the last few months that he will no longer steer clear of the “Muslim” word. He is no longer worried about the political risks in specifically mentioning Muslim victims of violence such as Mohd Akhlaq of the 2015 Dadri lynching. He has been raising the question: which Vedas or Shastras preach the Hindus to kill and hurt the poor and downtrodden?

If BJP fails to explain these, it is game over for them because Hindutva is all they got.

Alternatively, they may have to quit their game and play by the opposition’s terms now. Already, amidst calculated silence over the speech, Amit Malviya and other RW accounts expressed concerns for secularism and non-Hindus when Rahul said, “The nation is not ruled by Hindus, it is ruled by Hindutvavadis, we have to defeat them and bring Hindu’s rule.”

A paradigm shift, perhaps?

Either way, BJP is now in their end game so far as their Hindutva agenda is concerned.

(Views are personal)

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