At some point during the Khalistan movement, I came across a brief news item about a constable of the Punjab Police killed by Delhi Police personnel. The two teams had completed their interrogation of a suspected militant. Whose job was it to clean up the blood? Disagreement, a scuffle, a killing.
Legitimized brutality; the stench of blood inflaming the senses; the knowledge of absolute power and absolute impunity.
All of India is that interrogation room now.
Hindu Rashtra is here.
Has there not been violence earlier in this land? Yes of course there has been. A full seven decades of an independent state’s violence against the people of the land declared to be India – against dispossessed peasants and tribal people, against industrial workers, against the people of Kashmir, and of the states of the North East; centuries of violence by savarna Hindu society against the Dalit-bahujan; misogynist, sexist violence against women, up to and including female foetuses in the womb; decades of coldly planned and executed communal violence by institutionalized systems of riot production coordinated by the organizations of the RSS – against Muslims, against Christians, and as a secondary force, against Sikhs in 1984.
What is unique about this conjuncture, then?
What is specific, what is unique, is the entwining together of all these strands of violence into one thick, blood-soaked rope – the violence of the pro-corporate and bought-out state; of ‘Indian nationalism’ cast in the savarna, masculinist, Hindu nationalist mould; of misogyny, of heteronormativity; of propertied contempt for the dispossessed – all of these now woven thickly into the Hindutva ideology, in which hatred and contempt for non-savarna North Indian Hindu culture is the driving force; in which the non-Hindu other is to be decimated physically, because the very presence of Muslims and Christians in the land of Savarkar and Golwalkar, is an affront.
There were signposts to this new land of India in 2014, when Narendra Modi’s multi-million dollar publicity machine (as well as many reasonable intellectuals) persuaded us that Modi was done with carnage, that he would establish a centrist, reasonable, growth oriented government. ‘Growth oriented’ is code, as we all know, for corporate loot of common resources and the continued trajectory of an inequitable, unjust and ecologically unsustainable capitalist agenda, but that had already been established as the agenda of all mainstream parties.
But there was that other element, Hindu Rashtra as the explicit agenda, and the signposts to it were there, back in 2014, before the elections.
The physical attack in Thirur, Kerala by RSS and BJP activists on Hindu preacher, Swami Sandeepanandagiri, because he said in a public lecture that the Bhagavad Gita is a communist text, and Sree Krishna was the first communist.
The relentless propagation for about a decade at least, growing in strength since 2014, of the idea that there is a planned conspiracy of ‘love jihad’, claiming that Hindu women are being enticed by Muslim men into marriage so as to convert them. These claims have been demolished again and again, and yet the same lies are repeated till today by Hindutva ideologues, on prime time TV, on their tame channels.
The violence against women refusing to be docile – young women beaten for their dress, for being at pubs, for being women, for being defiant.
The signposts were there. Savarkarite Hindutva with its slogan of consolidating Hindu society and militarizing it – this consolidation or samrasta being touted by Hindutva ideologues today as being progressive and anti-caste; when in fact Savarakar’s attempt to modernize Hinduism and free it from its shackles, was only the road to forever rendering the Muslim and Christian non-Indian, for only those whose punyabhu or sacred land, is ‘here’ can be Indian.
But of course, so visceral is the savarna hatred for the Dalit bahujan, that this Savarkarite version of Hindutva has few takers – as Dalits from Una to those who have faced a thousand other humiliations and lynchings can testify.
It is still Golwalkar who has the last word on Hindutva:
The non-Hindu people of Hindustan must either adopt Hindu culture and language, must learn and respect and hold in reverence the Hindu religion, must entertain no idea but of those of glorification of the Hindu race and culture … In a word they must …stay in the country, wholly subordinated to the Hindu nation, claiming nothing, deserving no privileges, far less any preferential treatment—not even citizens’ rights.
This passage is often disowned by Hindutvavaadis – it was not Golwalkar who wrote it, it is an interpolation, and so on. Interesting, that they should not own up to the statement publicly and proudly. But that is quite characteristic of their slyness – disown even Godse if it comes to that. (They cannot of course, own up the fact that the sobriquet of ‘Veer’ was conferred on Savarkar by himself, in a text he himself wrote under a pseudonym!)
What has Modi accomplished in these three years? Under his shadow and with his explicit indulgence, Hindu Rashtra is being established. Not firmly yet, still being consolidated, but it is up, it is crawling on its millipede-like feet. There is absolutely no reason why a state driven by corporate capital should need xenophobia or racism or communalism or patriarchy or casteism. There is no necessary link between the two kinds of structures at all.
And that is the difference between earlier regimes and this one – despite every internal contradiction, this version of Hindu Rashtra fuses marauder capitalism with all of the above. Africans in India, people from the North East in the mainland, and of course, Kashmiris anywhere – deep visceral hatred and legitmized violence against all of these have been made visible as never before. This fusion is at the heart of Hindu Rashtra.
Hence the need to recognize two features explicitly, both of which are integral to Hindutva. The hatred of the Muslim Other is one. In this, the cow is but one alibi (we remember you, Akhlaque, we remember you Junaid, we remember you, Pehlu Khan…so many many others).
But the bland slogan of Swachh Bharat too, even the banal toilet, can serve as an opportunity to humiliate and even kill Muslims (we remember you, Zafar Hussain.)
Every slogan of this government is slick with blood.
JNU is under relentless attack for being ‘anti-national’, but Najeeb was disappeared for being Muslim.
But if only Muslims and Christians were Hindutva’s enemy, then Hindu Rashtra should be secure. If RSS ideology was natural to the rest of the people in this land called India, then Hindutva would not have to keep the violence going at an everyday level, normalizing blood lust and violence against every dissenter to the Hindutva project. From those refusing to stand compulsorily for the national anthem played at cinema screenings (in whose service proud ‘Indians’ can terrorize even a man in a wheelchair), to university students organizing a seminar on ‘Cultures of Protest’,
Hindutva’s “intimate enemy” (in Ashis Nandy’s immortal phrase) is very much to be sought out and destroyed – the Dalit, the hundreds of thousands of people classified as Hindu, who may be savarna, but who do not subscribe to Hindutva.
The real question is – why is Hindutva not complacent yet? With the government and the courts very often, and the police and the army, and the Electronic Voting Machines, all with them?
Why are they afraid of women and men who define Hinduism their own way? Why are they afraid of centuries old traditions in which Sita is the heroine, not Ram; in which pre-Aryan goddesses are dark and fertile, dangerous and free; in which sex is not a pallid limited thing dictated by hypocritical priests but a multi-species, multi-gender splendid fluid thing in glorious technicolour? Why are they so afraid of people who love whom they love, regardless of their gender, their caste, their religion? Why are they afraid of independent women who choose to live their lives on their own terms, why are they so scared of young people who post anti-Hindu Right comments on Facebook?
But they should be afraid. Against Hindu Rashtra we are united – we, its Other and its Intimate Enemy. We will resist relentlessly their homogenizing and disenfranchising nationalist project – we who will not love by the rules; who will not be defined by our legitimate fathers because in the worlds we create, birth and fatherhood will not be the determinants of identity.
Amongst us of course, there are differences and arguments and bitter debates. Bitter histories to face up to and destabilize and heal. Privileges to be spurned, and rights to be snatched. But what we need to recognize is that solidarities and alliances are built not on birth-based identities, but on politics forged out of common struggle, as the women’s movement knows from its decades of experience. Most feminisms never thought of men, but of patriarchy as the enemy, and now we are not even a ‘women’s’ movement, but a mutually intersecting set of struggles and movements that are queer feminist, and we include transpeople and men and sex-workers, and also Dalit feminists who think sex work cannot be ‘work’ and that prostitution is violence. Yet we stumble along, we keep talking to one another, we keep shifting our own understandings in dialogue and argument.
And this is our strength. We are united against Hindu Rashtra, which would impose on us the peace of the grave. We will fight them, and we will fight among ourselves – cacophonous, unruly, turbulent, reckless.
We will not let Hindu Rashtra proceed much further on its millipede legs.
As it creeps, we will march. Together and apart.