Can one teach a tiger to strip its stripes or a leopard to wipe out its spots? Can one teach Hinduism to a hindutvist?
Narendra Modi’s uncivilised reaction to a gesture of democratic civility by Rahul Gandhi was as clear a demonstration as possible of the fundamentally non-Hindu, indeed anti-Hindu, character of the political philosophy of hindutva, a philosophy devoid of spiritual content and dedicated singularly to spreading communal hatred, promoting jingoism masquerading as nationalism, fostering militarism, and denouncing the virtues of non-violence as preached by the Buddha and as practiced by the Mahatma, in whose assassination Savarkar was complicit, as established by the Jeevan Lal Kapur Commission of Inquiry. Where Rahul Gandhi invoked his Hindu faith and his devotion to Lord Shiva before walking across the floor of the House to hug Modi, the serial hugger, in the very Hindu spirit of demonstrating that he harboured him no ill-will, the hindutvist in Modi mockingly bit back, mendaciously claiming that Rahul had walked across to prematurely raise his claim to replacing Modi in the PM’s seat.
Note that the very word “hindutva” was the invention of a self-proclaimed atheist, V.D. Savarkar. In that philosophy, there was no place for the proprieties of public discourse, no language of restraint, no courtesy, and no polite disagreement. It was a philosophy of hate, which portrayed opponents as enemies and divided the diverse people of this one nation into rival camps, eternally pitted against one another.
The fact is that Hinduism finds little resonance in hindutva whereas fascism, Nazism and the “two-nation theory” do. The Fascism of Mussolini so took the fancy of Dr B.S. Moonje, a close associate of the RSS founder, K.B. Hedgewar, that after meeting at length with Mussolini in Rome, he endowed the RSS with brown pants in imitation of Mussolini’s black shirts and began the military drilling of swayamsevaks. Hitler’s “National Socialism” (Nazi, in the German acronym) found an enthusiastic echo in the musings of M.S. “Guruji” Golwalkar (see his We, or Our Nationhood Defined). And, in 1943, as recorded in the Indian Annual Register, Savarkar made explicit his agreement with Jinnah: “I have no quarrel with Mr Jinnah’s two-nation theory. We Hindus are a nation by ourselves and it is a historical fact that Hindus and Muslims are two nations.” These three—Savarkar, Hedgewar and Golwalkar—are Modi’s idols and icons. None of them celebrated the glorious diversity of our people or cherished the ideals and principles of parliamentary democracy.
Little wonder then that Modi’s dismissal of the democratic way of life was on full display in the Lok Sabha debate on the motion of no-confidence. Rahul did not need Modi to tell him that the motion would not pass. That was known from the start. What Modi evidently does not know is that a no-confidence motion is not only designed to bring down a government but also a parliamentary device for expressing disapproval of the whole range of government policy.
That is precisely why the BJP and its predecessor, the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, frequently joined others in moving such motions from the time of Jawaharlal Nehru to Manmohan Singh. Modi knows nothing of this because he is a rank newcomer to the House with little knowledge of history, political science or parliamentary practice but with plenty of wild distortion and outright lies as his political stock-in-trade.
The lesson to learn is that if one embraces a snake, it will bite back.
Aiyar is a former Union minister and social commentator.