Many do not know the difference between Hinduism and Hindutva, and so it is disturbing to read and hear about ‘Hindu fundamentalism’.
It is not Hindu fundamentalism, but, ‘Hindutva fundamentalism’ that is the accurate term for the hatred, division and unspiritual activities attributed to it. Hindutva Fundamentalism is responsible for the disturbing phenomena of attacks on practitioners of other religions in India, and the violence and atmosphere of fear - and the augury of fascism that prevails in India today.
To add confusion to ignorance, even the participants in fundamentalist acts of violence do not know of the vast difference between the way-of-life called ‘Hinduism’ that they have participated in for over two thousand years, and ‘Hindutva’, the political philosophy that was propounded by V.D. Savarkar in 1923.
“Savarkar coined the term Hindutva (Hinduness) to create a collective "Hindu" identity as an ‘imagined nation’. Some later commentators state that Savarkar's philosophy, despite its stated position of furthering unity, was divisive in nature as it tried to shape Indian nationalism as uniquely Hindu, to the exclusion of other religions. Savarkar was also an atheist and a staunch rationalist who disapproved of orthodox Hindu belief, dismissing cow worship as superstitious.” (http ://paymytribute.com/posts/vinayak-savarkar)
Hindutva is a political construct of cultural and religious nationalism created from a complex mix of religious conviction and political expediency. It is neither a religion nor a ‘way of life’. It is recent and aggressive political ‘guiding principles’, mixing jingoism and nationalism with national identity and religious identity. Hindutva relates nationalism to a particular religious belief, dogma, or affiliation, and goes against the idea of secularism.
Extracts from savarkar.org, “Here it is enough to point out that Hindutva is not identical with what is vaguely indicated by the term Hinduism. By an 'ism' it is generally meant a theory or a code more or less based on spiritual or religious dogma or creed.”
“Failure to distinguish between these two terms has given rise to much misunderstanding and mutual suspicion between some of those sister communities that have inherited this inestimable and common treasure of our Hindu civilization.” http://www.savarkar.org/
Hinduism, as this ancient ‘way of life’, has come to be called in the last 200 years, is almost impossible to define, and though Vedism, and the Bhakti tradition are amongst the numerous closely related traditions which share common themes that have been integrated in Hinduism, it does not constitute a unified set of beliefs or practices. Hinduism has no organisation, or structure, or hierarchy or institutionalised constitution. It has incorporated within it the most heterogeneous philosophies, but has no central philosophy, though it has a fascinating, multifarious, colourful, living mythology. Yet, Hinduism, was, and still is, the most absorbing and absorptive; accommodating and inclusive; broad and open; giving and liberal; pluralistic and individualistic ‘way-of-life’. The only part of Hinduism that has a rigorously followed structure, is the contentious and distressing caste system.
Around 600 BCE, when Mahavir and the Buddha lived, Hindu, as a word, or as a description of a way-of-life, or as a name of a people, had not been conceived. This would happen much later, when the Persians called the land on the other side of the river Sindhu or Indus, ‘Hindustan’. ‘Land beyond the Indus’. ‘Stan’ in Persian, and ‘Sthan’ in Sanskrit, means ‘the land of’ and forms part of the name of many central Asian countries: Kazhakistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. ‘Hindustan’, or ‘land beyond the Indus’, is how this Persian name for the sub-continent became popular, and that is how the people of the subcontinent came to be called Hindus - ‘the people of the land beyond the Indus river’. ‘Indus’ is also the origin of the name ‘India’.
V.D. Savarkar, the atheist and staunch rationalist who disapproved of orthodox Hindu belief, incorporated Hinduism into the political and nationalist ideology of Hindutva, and made it greater than Hinduism. “Hinduism is only a derivative, a fraction, a part of Hindutva. Unless it is made clear what is meant by the latter the first remains unintelligible and vague.” http://www.savarkar.org/
Sadly it is not only the uneducated unthinking masses, but a large number of the educated unthinking masses that do not know the difference between Hindutva and Hinduism. Hindutva is religious nationalism, which is unthinking faith and intolerance - a convoluted muddle of religious conviction and political expediency overtaking critical reasoning.
Hinduism is a non-interfering, apolitical way of life with nothing to do with social reforms, yet recent happenings; the killings of humans, men and children, on the suspicion of consuming and transporting cattle; the persecution of students; the killing of intellectuals and rationalists for their work on social justice and the eradication of superstition; or for propagating inter caste marriage; and for providing insights and perspectives on communities and castes, seem to disprove the idea that Hinduism is a gentle religion.
In his open letter to the President and Prime Minister of India, last year, Admiral Ramdas wrote. “I also write to you as one who was brought up in the Hindu faith. However, the Hinduism I knew and experienced was gentle, inclusive, and filled with extraordinary diversity. My religion taught me values of love and respect for all beings. My brand of Hinduism was not filled with the kind of violence and intolerance represented by the current brand of “Hindutva” that seems to be fanning the flames of division and fear across the country.”
Hinduism, the ‘way of life’ that has always been thought of as a ‘gentle’ faith has never been seen to be aggressive, yet the participants in recent Hindutva fundamentalism see themselves as Hindus.
“Hinduism is referred to as Sanathana Dharma, the eternal faith. It is based on the practice of Dharma, the code of life. The most important aspect of Hinduism is being truthful to oneself. Hinduism has no monopoly on ideas … it’s open to all.” ~ Mala Kalyan.
● Hinduism does not condition minds with a faith system, it is independent and objective
● Hindutva rationalises and attempts to institutionalise and homogenise religious practices to create a national culture
● Hinduism is inclusive and open minded
● Hindutva is exclusivist and narrow
● Hinduism accepts and assimilates
● Hindutva separates and divides
● Hinduism is 'Ahimsa Paramo Dharma' (Non violence is the highest duty).
● Hindutva is - militant and extremist
● Hinduism is free of ideology
● Hindutva is ideological guiding principles
● Hinduism is apolitical
● Hindutva is political
● Hinduism is about individual faith and belief
● Hindutva is about social reform
The point is, that since Hinduism defies description; is so heterogenous, and is not instutionalised, it therefore cannot be fundamentalist.
Critical reasoning is being flattened by the insidious road-roller-like propaganda machine of the Government in power in India today. It is Hindutva fundamentalism that describes the prevalent atmosphere of division, violence and the false idea of nationalism. There is nothing Hindu about it.
“We believe that nowhere throughout the Vedas, Darshanas, or Purânas, or Tantras, is it ever said that the soul has any sex, creed, or caste. Therefore we agree with those who say, ‘What has religion to do with social reforms?’ But they must also agree with us when we tell them that religion has no business to formulate social laws and insist on the difference between beings, because its aim and end is to obliterate all such fictions and monstrosities.” Swami Vivekananda - Volume 4 Prose writings, under the head, “WHAT WE BELIEVE IN”