Appendix 1. Girilal Jain on Hindu Rashtra
Girilal Jain is one of the India's leading journalists. He was
editor of the Times of India until 1989. After that, he did not
really retire, but continues to function as one of India's most
respected columnists. In these, he has taken an increasingly bold
and outspoken stand in favor of the recognition of India as
Hindu Rashtra, as the political embodiment of Hindu civilization.
Unlike the many who don't go beyond a petty criticism of the
injustices done to Hindus, Mr. Jain draws attention to the
configuration of the large historical forces at work.
I have included here two of his columns published in Sunday Mail
(which have been honored with page full of reaction by Shankar
Aiyar and P. Sainath), and an interview given to J. D. Singh and
published in The Daily.
Limits of the Hindu Rashtra
The Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri dispute has brought to the fore the
critical issue of the nature of the Indian state as nothing else
has since partition and independence in 1947.
The secularist-versus-Hindu-Rashtra controversy is, of course,
not new. In fact, it has been with us since the twenties when
some of our forebears began to search for a definition
nationalism which could transcend at once the Hindu-Muslim divide
and the aggregationist approach whereby India was regarded as
Hindu-Muslim-Sikh-Christian land. But it has acquired
intensity it has not had since partition.
This intensity is the result of a variety of factors which have
cumulatively provoked intense anxiety among million of Hindus
regarding their future and simultaneously given a new sense
strength and confidence to the proponents of Hindu Rashtra. The
first part of this story beings, in my view, with the mass
conversion of Harijans to Islam in Meenakshipuram in Tamil Nadu
in 1981. and travels via the rise of Pakistan-backed armed
secessionist movements in Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir, and the
second part with the spectacular success of the Bharatiya Janata
Party (BJP) in the last polls to the Lok Sabha and State Vidhan
Sabha. These details, however, need not detain us in a discussion
on basic issues.
The basic issues, I need hardly add, are extremely complex; and
judging by what has been written and spoken in recent months,
they, I am afraid, are once again being simplified and
sloganized. This is a pity in vies of the gravity of the
situation we face and the nature of the stake we have in the
outcome. I, therefore, wish to draw attention to what appear
me to be lacunae in the current and previous debates, and that
too in a general fashion; for that alone is possible in this
In much of what I have read and heart on the subject,
awareness of the civilizational aspect of the problem has either
been absent or warped, though its very mention should suffice
convince us that this is a matter if the greatest importance.
India, to put the matter brusquely, has been a battleground
between two civilizations (Hindu and Islamic) for well over
thousand years, and three (Hindu, Muslim and Western) for over
two hundred years. None of them has ever won a decisive enough
and durable enough victory to oblige the other two to assimilate
themselves fully into it. So to the battle continues. This
stalemate lies at the root of the crisis of identity the
intelligentsia is incidentally not a monolithic entity. Though
its constituents are not too clearly differentiated, they should
broadly be divided into at least two groups.
The more resilient and upwardly mobile section of the
intelligentsia must, by definition, seek to come to terms with
the ruling power and its mores, and the less successful part
it to look for its roots and seek comfort in its culture past.
This was so during the Muslim period; this was the case during
the British Raj; and this rule has not ceased to operate since
Thus in the medieval period of our history grew up a class
Hindus in and around centres of Muslim power who took to the
Persian-Arabic culture and ways of the rules; similarly under the
more securely founded and far better organized and managed Raj
there arose a vast number of Hindus who took to the English
language, Western ideas, ideals, dress and eating habits; many
these men came from the earlier Islamized groups, such as the
Nehrus, for example; they, their progeny and other recruits
their class have continued to dominate independent India.
They are the self-proclaimed secularists who have sought, and
continue to seek, to remark India in the Western image. The image
has, of course, been an eclectic one; if they have stuck to the
institutional framework inherited from the British, they have
been more than willing to take up not only the Soviet model
economic development, but also the Soviet theories on a variety
of issues such as the nationalities problem and the nature
imperialism and neo-colonialism.
Behind them has stood, and continues to stand, the awesome
intellectual might of the West, which may or may not be anti-
India, depending on the exigencies of its interest, but which has
to be antipathetic to Hinduism in view of its non-Semitic
Some secularists may be genuinely pro-Muslim, as was Nehru,
because they find high Islamic culture and the ornate Urdu
language attractive. But, by and large, that is not the
motivating force in their lives. They are driven, above all,
the fear of what they call regression into their own past which
have come and continue to come understandably from the Left,
understandably because no other group of Indians can possibly
so alienated from the country's culture past as the followers
Lenin, Stalin and Mao who have spared little effort to turn their
own countries into culture wastelands.
As a group, the secularists, especially the Leftists, have not
summoned the courage to insist that in order to ensure the
survival of the secular India state, Muslims should accept one
common civil code, and that Article 370 of the Constitution,
which concedes special rights to Jammu and Kashmir mainly because
it is a Muslim-majority state, should be scrapped. They have
contented themselves with vague statements on the need for the
majorities to join the mainstream, never drawing attention to the
twin fact that, of necessity, Hindus constitute the mainstream
and that this mainstream is capable of respecting the identities
and rights of the minorities, precisely because it is inclined
to take note of the international aspect of Indian Islam.
Personally I have never been inclined to favour one common civil
code. I regard such a demand as being Semitic in its inspection
and spirit. A Hindu, in my view, can never wish to impose a code
on a reluctant, in this case defiant, community. Even so I find
it extraordinary that those who call themselves modernizers and
secularists-the two terms are interchangeable-should shirk the
logic of their philosophy of life.
A number of Indians have tried to define secularism as sarva
dharma samabhava (equal respect for all religions). I cannot say
whether they have been naive or clever in doing so. But the fact
remains that secularism cannot admit of such an interpretation.
In fact, orthodox Muslims are quite justified in regarding it
irreligious. Moreover, dharma cannot be defined as religion which
is a Semitic concept and applies only to Judaism, Christianity
and Islam. Hinduism is not a religion in that sense; nor are
Jainism and Buddhism, or for that matter, Taoism and
The state in independent India, has, it is true, sought, broadly
speaking, to be neutral in the matter of religion. But this is
surface view of the reality. The Indian state has been far from
neutral inn civilizational terms. It has been an agency, and
powerful agency, for the spread of Western values and mores.
has willfully sought to replicate Western institutions, the
Soviet Union too being essentially part of Western civilization.
It could not be otherwise in view of the orientation and
aspirations of the dominant elite of which Nehru remains the
Muslim have found such a state acceptable principally on three
counts. First, it has agreed to leave them alone in respect
their personal law (the Shariat) so much so that when the Supreme
Court allowed a small alimony to a Muslim window on the ground
that she was indigent and therefore viable to become a vagrant,
parliament enacted a law to overrule such interventions in the
future. Secondly, it has allowed them to expand their
traditional Quran-Hadith-based educational system in madrasahs
attached to mosques. Above all, it has helped them avoid the
necessity to come to terms with Hindu civilization in
predominantly Hindu India. This last count is the crux of the
I do not believe for a moment that a genuine Hindu-Muslim
synthesis took place in India during the Moghul period, or that
the British policy of divide-and-rule was solely, or even mainly,
responsible for the Hindu-Muslim conflict under the Raj. Two
caveats, however, need to be entered on these observations.
First, after the beginning of the collapse of the Moghal empire
with Aurangzeb's death in 1707, new power Hindu-Muslim co-
existence and co-operation on terms less onerous for Hindus.
Second, the very consolidation of British rule on an all-India
basis led to a search by both Hindus and Muslims for self-
definitions on the same all-India basis. This search led to
sharpening of the conflict between which the British exploited
Be that as it may, however, there is a basic point which has
generally failed to attract the attention it deserves. Which
that a triangular contest is inherently not conducive to a stable
alliance. So all equations (Hindu-Muslim, Hindu-British and
Muslim-British) had to be unstable under the Raj; they were
unstable. Each co-operated and clashed with the other two and
each was also divided within itself. For example, just as Sir
Sayyid Ahmed propagated the cause of co-operation with the
British among fellow Muslims, the pan-Islamic sentiment began
spread among them on the Turkish question, inclining them finally
to accept Gandhiji's leadership of the Khilafat movement in 1921.
Gandhiji saw this triangular contest in civilizational terms.
juxtaposed all traditional civilizations against the modern
scientific-technological civilization, which he called Satanic.
Nehru saw the contest in economic terms. He juxtaposed the
capitalist-imperialist and exploitative West against the
exploited anti-imperialist East in which he included the Soviet
Gandhiji sought Hindu-Muslim amity on the platform of essential
unity of the two religion and Nehru on that of a common fight
against feudalism, exploitation and poverty. Both approaches
failed to produce the desired result; they had to fail. The two
leaders tried to wish away the unresolved and stalemated
civilizational conflict and they could not possibly succeed. The
nobility of their purpose, the intensity of their conviction and
the Herculean nature of their effort could not prevail against
the logic of history. The alternative to Partition would have
been infinitely worse.
For the first time in a thousand years, Hindus got in 1947
opportunity to resolve the civilizational issue in the only
manner such issues can be resolved. History clearly of one
civilization alone produces the necessary condition for the
assimilation of another. The predominant culture too changes,
any student of the Arab conquests of Christian Syria and Egypt
the seventh century. would know. But that is how civilizations
Hindus missed the opportunity, not so much because Nehru happened
to be at the helm of affairs, as because they did not possess
elite capable of rising to the occasion. Indeed, Nehru himself
was not an aberration. He was representative of the dominate
elite which must not be equated with the Congress organizational
leaders. The sweep and success of the campaign against Sardar
Patel in 1947-48 should clinch the argument.
Hindus were just not in a position to assert the primacy of their
civilization and they are still in no position to do so. The case
for Hindu Rashtra rests on the failure of the Nehru model and its
pull on the rise of a vast unprivileged intelligentsia,
mobilization of vast masses as part of the democratic process and
the modernization programme.
While a proper discussion of this question must wait, I would
wish to add in conclusion that V.P. Singh and Mulayam Singh have
rendered a yeoman's service to the cause of Hindu Rashtra, the
former by splitting the secularist forces in the political
realm, and the latter by showing Hindus how contemptuous and
brutal the Indian state can be in its treatment of them.
[Sunday Mail, 2/12/1990]
The Harbinger of a New Order
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
keep themselves in power and to legitimize their slavish
imitation of the West. Unfortunately for them, the ghost has now
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
their old glitter and, therefore, capacity to dazzle and mislead.
By the same token, re-Hinduization 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
civilization on its own oft-repeated admission, has been joined
on the question of the Ram Janam-bhoomi temple in Rama's city
Ayodhya. But the historic significance of this accident should
be evident to anyone familiar with Rama's place in our historic
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
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 emphasizes
the exclusion of those who do not belong to the charmed circle
(territorial, or linguistic, or ethnic) as much as it emphasizes
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
Western Europe precisely because it was a secularized version
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
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
parallel in human history. Latin America bears witness to the
earnestness and thoroughness of the Spanish-Portuguese Christian
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
thorough a job of under-mining pagan civilization as their
Spanish and Portuguese predecessors. The continued adherence
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
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
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
community; they cannot become a community. This fact has less
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
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
different proposition not under discussion in this piece.
Hindus have been compelled to recognize 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
Afghans converted to Islam (for details of the struggle see
Andre Wink's Al Hind, Oxford University press). And they are
obliged to recognize frontiers now even within the sub-continent
which has been the heartland of their civilization. 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 civilization. A civilization
must, by definition, seek to be universal. Of the great
civilizations, China alone has been an exception to this rule.
That has been so because Chinese civilization alone has been
based on, and has derived sustenance from, the ethnic unity
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
speak of Hindu nation in order to bring out the absurdity
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-civilization and Hindu religion, little realizing 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,
epitomizes our civilization 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
civilization, 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
is a pity Muslim leaders are allowing themselves to be so used.
Developments in this regard have, however, not been without
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,
can argued that in the absence of opposition by the state and
Muslim leaders the necessary task of mobilizing 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
October 30 and November 2 gave Ram bhaktas an opportunity
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
vindication of their claim to the Chakravarti status. In the
present case, the proposal to build the Rama temple has also
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
the shape of the RSS, a political organization, which too
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 mobilizing support continues, delay
the actual construction of the proposed temples need not be
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
I am in no position to say whether the mobilization 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
V.P. Singh's duplicity and Mulayam Singh's desperate search foe
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
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
In the existing West-dominated political-intellectual milieu,
is understandable that BJP leaders act defensively. But it
time they recognize that defensiveness can cripple them, as
did in the past when they sought respectability in claimed
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.
[Sunday Mail, 9/12/1990]
This is Hindu India
[The Daily, 23/12/1990, with J.D.Singh]
- Giri, would you define the India of your dreams?
- First, let me tell you I am not a dreamer. I am not a utopian.
am an analyst. I analyze the correlation of forces and make
certain assessments on that basis. You would never have seen
statement by me which is not backed by. analysis of forces
I do not have a vision of Hindu India. I certainly do not have
blueprint for Hind India. What I see is the disintegration of the
existing order, then I try to analyze the reasons responsible for
it and indicate a possible solution, or, to put it differently,
an alternative model of development which may hopefully turn out
to be more viable and healthier.
- What are these forces ?
- It is for instance, sheer escapism on our part to believe that
the Hindu-Muslim problem is of a recent origin, or that it
solely the product of the British policy of divide and rule. This
is a thousand-year-old civilizational problem which has not been
resolved. In the seventh century Islam arose in Arabia and
expanded rapidly in the West, reaching up to the Mediterranean
and beyond within a hundred years and the north conquering Persia
and then, Central Asia. It moved into India with far greater
difficulty. The resistance was formidable and continuous.
Most people who comment on these matters have no idea that
Shaivite kings, backed by Buddhists, resisted the Islamic
onslaught in eastern Afghanistan, which was then part of India
for close to four hundred years, It was only in the last part
the tenth century that the Ghaznavid kingdom was established
Similarly, most people have no idea of the resistance Muslims met
on the Makran coast which was also an integral part of India. But
this is all by way of information. The central point is that
Muslim rule could never be fully consolidated in India. Muslim
rulers remained for most part like military garrisons.
I am not taking a moralistic position either on the fact of the
Muslim attacks or on the fact of Hindu resistance. I am stating
these facts as a student of history.
Incidentally, while the Muslim occupation of Sind took place
the eighth century with Mohammed bin Qasim, up to the 11th
century there was very little conversion in Sind. The resistance
was very tough and Muslims had to come to terms with local
centres. But all this is also incidental to my argument.
Conversion, however, took place in India on a mass scale from
the time of the Sultanate till the end of the 17th century under
Aurangzeb ; the Muslim population multiplied for a variety
reasons. The people captured in war were, for example, given the
option of being killed or converted. You will appreciate that
most of them agreed to get converted. Similarly, like all
invaders in that period, Muslims took women as prisoners and
distributed them among soldiers. So they produced children who
helped swell the Muslim population. But in spite of all that, the
Muslim population did not exceed 25 per cent of the population
the subcontinent at any time.
My difference with most contemporary writers on the subject
arises from their perception that a Hindu-Muslim synthesis took
place and a new civilization, or a new culture, which could
called Into-Muslim, arose. In my opinion, nothing of that kind
happened on a significant scale.
To begin with, it needs to be emphasized that Muslims themselves
were broadly divided into two categories - the foreigners and
their descendants who constituted the ruling elite, and those who
were converted or born of Indian parents. The social status
these people remained more or less what it was at the time
- This is in spite of the fact Islam believes in equality?
- The Islamic claim to equality is not false. All Muslims pray
together in a mosque. There is no gradation. But Islam could not
possibly overcome social stratification and ethnic distinctions.
- Not only in India but also abroad?
- The Arabs, for example, continue to regard themselves as superior
to Muslims elsewhere even today by virtue of being the people
Mohammed. To return to the issue of Hindu-Muslim synthesis,
however, only a small group of Hindus took to Persian culture and
language in and around the Muslim courts. Only this small crust
at the top took to what we may, for the sake of brevity, call the
Muslim way of life, though they also continued to practice the
old rituals at home and avoid social contacts, like eating
together with Muslims. The most prominent groups among them were
the Kayasthas of UP and Bihar and the Kashmiri pandits who had
migrated to north India.
At the other end of the spectrum, ordinary converted Muslims
remained close to the Hindus in their way of life. The best
illustration of this fact is that even as late as the last part
of the 19th century in Bengal, many Muslims kept Hindu names and
at the time of the 1871 census no one knew, or suspected, that
Muslims constituted a majority in Bengal.
Every single Islamic concept in Bengal had to be explained
Muslims there in terms of Hindu concepts and practices, so much
so, that the prophet himself was represented as an incarnation
Vishnu. There is substantial literature on the subject which
shows that Muslims were indistinguishable from Hindus for all
practical purposes. Finally, a kind of situation was reached
where at the top you had Islamized groups among Hindus and just
below that, you had more or less Hinduized groups among Muslims
and you can say that a kind of coexistence prevailed. With the
decline of the Mughal empire the country broke up into different
kingdoms whose rulers were neither capable of, or interested in,
imposing their way of life on people of the other faith.
My other point of departure with most of my fellow commentators
is that they assume unity of all religions as given. There is,
course, a transcendental unity of all faiths. But that
transcendental unity is, for practical purposes, less significant
than the differences in religious forms. The difference of form
is extremely important. Along with it, comes the difference
culture. Now there is a world of difference between what Western
scholars call natural religions, that is religions which have
grown over hundreds of years in a natural way, and prophetic
religions. There is a would of difference between the Semitic
spirit and the Hindu-Buddhist-Jain spirit, that is the Indian
The Semitic spirit is informed by an earnestness and a single-
mindedness which are wholly absent in the Indian spirit. The
Semitic spirit is intolerant and insistent on the pursuit of
particular course, whereas the Indian spirits is a broadminded
and tolerant one. To say therefore that Ram and Rahim are the
same is, in my opinion, a form of escapism or make-believe.
There is no concept, for example, in Hinduism of kafir. You
cannot be a kafir in Hinduism. You do not cease to be a Hindu
whatever you do, unless you choose to get converted to another
religion. You can be a Buddhist and a Hindu at the same time, not
only in a social sense but also in religious terms. I do not know
what would have happened if the British had not come. Probably,
adjustments at the local or regional level could have taken place
and a new kind of reality might have emerged.
- You talk of adjustments, not assimilation ?
- Assimilation is possible only id one civilization prevails over
the other. Assimilation is not neutral. For example, Syria was
major Christian centre before the rise of prophet Mohammed. When
the Arabs conquered Syria, Christianity was, however, on the
decline. As one writer has put it, there was a lot of cultural
property lying around waiting for somebody to take it over and
give it a new shape and life. Islam provided the form in which
the old content t was absorbed and reshaped. That
Assimilation in India is treated as if it is a neutral concept,
which it is not. Assimilation is critically dependent on the
predominance of the form over the other. As a result
assimilation, the dominant culture also changes its shape and its
character. But broadly speaking, it retains more of its old form,
content and spirit than the other which is absorbed. In India
such a situation has not arisen.
- Can one speculate that if the British had not come the adjustment
Would have been smoother ?
- Although Muslim power weakened and disintegrated after the death
of Aurangzeb in 1707, nothing like a composite Hindu power
emerged. The two dominant groups, Sikhs in the north and Marathas
in the west, did not show the capacity to prevail on an all-India
scale. The failure of the Marathas was more significant than that
of the Sighs. Sikhs were a small community but Marathas possessed
the necessary numbers. They ranged all over the country at one
stage. But they could not establish a kind of predominance which
could have held out promised of Hindu triumph.
As the British power got consolidated, local adjustments also
began to be subordinated to the urge for larger unity. Hindus
began to define themselves in pan-Indian terms and Muslims
pan-Islamic terms. By this logic, I would regard partition not
only inevitable but desirable. Many would share this view.
In the wake of partition, the India that emerged could not, in
sense, but be Hindu India because, for all effective purpose, the
Muslim component of state power moved to Pakistan. The army was
partitioned along religious and communal lines. The police was
partitioned along the same lines. The bureaucracy was partitioned
and much of the top crust of the Muslim elite migrated
Pakistan from various parts of India. This reality however,
refused to recognize.
- What would this recognition have implied ?
- Recognition would have meant, first of all, an assurance
Hindus that they had at long last come into their own. The Indian
elite has spent the last 43 years in trying to convince Hindus
that they have not come into their own. That has not been the
intention but that has been the result. This recognition should
have been made like in the case of Arab nationalism. No Arab
nationalist will, for instance, refuse to recognize the fact that
this nationalism is underscored by its commitment to Islam. Even
Christian Arabs recognize this to be the case. If we had owned
the India that emerged as a result of partition as a Hindu India,
then a new process of adjustment could have taken place which,
my opinion, would have been far healthier.
Was failure of leadership responsible for it in some measure?
The dominant Hindu intelligentsia is the product of the Macaulay
school of education. It has got alienated from its own roots.
has to an extent lost its sense of identity. It is anxious
join the Western world even if as a very junior partner.
thinks mainly in Western terms. Its conceptual equipment and
intellectual baggage is wholly Western in its origin. Such
intelligentsia could not and cannot possibly recognize the
- Was it not possible for the leadership to give a different kind
of orientation ?
- If any Congress leader other than Nehru had been the first prime
minister of India, a movement in that direction Might have taken
place. If, for instance, Sardar Patel, Rajendra Prasad or
Rajagopalachari were at the helm, the orientation would surely
have been more sympathetic to the aspirations of ordinary Hindus.
Nehru was quite alien to the world of Hinduism. In reality,
had a contempt for popular Hinduism'. His autobiography and his
Discovery of India can leave no score for doubt on that score.
But the very fact that Nehru was popular and he remained prime
minister, even after the debacle in 1962 at the hands of china,
would show there was widespread sentiment in favour of his
I would not be able to say whether it was more the result of his
talk of socialism than of his talk of secularism. As far as
know, Nehru never defined secularism n its proper European and
The Muslim community as a whole was very glad that India had not
declared itself a Hindu republic and had set out to become
secular republic. This was possibly the result of two
undercurrents of thought. First, judging by their own attitude
other religions, they could well have believed that a self-
confessed Hindu India would be intolerant of their faith.
Secondly, even those who remained here had good reasons to feel
that as a result of this policy of secularism, combined with the
pursuit of democracy, they would have a better chance of getting
a share in power than they would have in Hindu India. Again
But while they welcomed the commitment of the state
secularism, they were not prepared to take to secularism
themselves. For example, at no stage have Muslims shown the
slightest inclination to accept one common civil code. There has
also been a tremendous expansion in the traditional Quranbased
education in madrasas attached to mosques, since independence.
There commitment to the shariat has remained unshaken.
I must emphasize at this point, that I do not criticize Muslims
on these counts. I regard it as the right of Muslims to stick
the shariat. As such, I am not opposed to their opposition to one
common civil code. I do not believe in imposing such a code. I
not believe in imposing such a code on a reluctant minority.
- Has uniformity no merit?
- Uniformity has no place in the Hindu view of life. Also, Hindus
do not believe in abstract laws and abstract principles. Both
these are the products of Europeans.
- Would not lack of it encourage separatism?
- By itself it would not encourage separatism. What encourages
separatism is our refusal to recognise that Muslims are
different. They have, of course, their rights as citizens which
they exercise. They have every opportunity to raise in life. But
that can be possible only when they conform to the general
atmosphere and ethos. After all, you cannot become a professor
in a university unless you acquire the same kind of knowledge
your Hindu counterparts. You cannot be a top bureaucrat, or
general, unless you grow up in the same discipline and speak the
same language, at least in the public domain. The confusion has
arisen because their distinctness is not recognized.
Again, in my view, nation-building is not a hopeless enterprise
India. May I point out in his connection that a vast majority
Muslims have for 200 years or more, refused to Shah Wali Ullah
in the early part of the 18th century till today, that is for
nearly 300 years, and especially since the rise of Al-Wahab
Saudi Arabia and the spread of his influence in India in the 19th
century, there has been a persistent campaign to rid Indian Islam
of saint worship and so-called Hindu accretions and influences.
But, by and large, ordinary Muslims have stuck to saint worship
as a visit to any important durgah would show. So there has been
a potentiality for the rise of an Indian Islam, provided power
equations were clearly understood.
By Indian Islam do you mean a modified version of Islam?
No. Most Hindus have not tried to understand what is Islam. As
Christianity for 600 years, there were major dissent movements
Islam for 300 years, particularly the powerful sufi movement,
emanating from Iran with its Zoroastraian background, and Central
Asia with its Shamanistic-Buddhist background. It is interesting
that the powerful sufi movement arose not in the heartland
Islam but on the periphery of the world of Islam. When the
juridical approach finally triumphed in the 10th century,
something like a Muslim creed emerged. Islam was frozen in its
present shape in the 11th-12th century.
Let me make another point which is not too well remembered
this country. This is that all idolatrous practices against which
Mohammed fought in the seventh century were prevalent at the time
of rise of Al-Wahab in Saudi Arabia in the 19th century. The
sayings and activities of the prophet; polytheism could not
eliminated even in Arabia, the birthplace of Islam. Such is the
power of this phenomenon. To say that an Indian Islam would have
differed from the pristine from is Islam will thus be only
partially valid. There is just no pristine Islam, whatever Muslim
might say and believe. However, an Islam broader in its vision
and more tolerant in its spirit could have arisen if the power
equations were made explicit.
- But this did not happen even in the Central Asian republics
the Soviet Union.
- The Central Asian republics example is not valid in our case
because the Russians tried to exterminate Islam. Extermination
never succeeds. Incidentally, it should be noted that the revival
of Islam has taken place in Central Asia not through orthodox
ulemas but through the Sufi brotherhoods. Thus, in a sense, the
pre-Islamic tradition is asserting itself in Central Asia.
Incidentally, the Shia search for spiritual life can also
traced back to Zoroastrianism.
Two other developments tool place which worked against
assimilation. I am not against Urdu. But Urdu makes a departure
from what was called Hindvi with the imposition on that growing
language of Persian and Arabia words and concepts. Urdu in its
grammar and in respect of the roots of most of its vocabulary,
not different from Hindi. When the Persianization and Arabization
of Hindi began, the Sanskritization of Hindi also began.
At the time of partition or soon after partition, Nehru divided
the problem of Muslims in two parts: one of containing Pakistan
and the other of accommodating Muslims and restoring their
confidence in the economic-political set-up of India. The
containment of Pakistan required that on the world stage
aligned ourselves with the more powerful of the two blocs, the
Western bloc. In the very act very act of not doing so, he made
sure that Pakistan would not be effectively contained. The
Kashmir crisis is thus primarily his gift to the country.
He also failed to understand that we could not allow continued
proselytization and conversion except at the grave risk
hurting the Hindus psyche. The result is there for anyone to see.
I for one regard Meenakshipuram as a very critical and dangerous
development. After the mass conversion of Harijans to Islam came
the trouble in Punjab. It was followed by the rise of revivalism
and fundamentalism in Kashmir, though it fully exploded in our
face only in 1989-90. All in all, the impression began to grow
among Hindu that they were besieged in their own country.
- Is the Ram temple issue a reaction to it?
- The VHP is closely linked with the RSS. It would be dishonest
deny that link. But the popular appeal it has made has very much
to do with the prevalence of the siege psychology among Hindus.
The idea that the Allahabad High Court can settle the issue
regard as irresponsible. Courts cannot settle such questions.
There are historians who raise such absurd question as whether
Ram was ever born, whether he was a historical figure, whether
Ayodhya was his city. All this is irrelevant and worse.
Two facts are important in this regard. First, for several
centuries there has been a struggle over that site. Hindus have
been one in regarding that site as holy. The chabootra adjoining
the mosque where prayers and worship have been going on ever
since, was allowed to be constructed by Akbar. From the 16the
century this has been a live issue. Those who raise the question
of whether a temple existed on not, are not aware of the
dangerous implications of what they are saying. For there is
dearth of mosques in India which stand at temple sites.
Second, Muslims believe in fighting idolatry. It has been
article of faith for them to destroy idols. They have lived
according to their perception of the faith . By modern criteria,
it may have been wrong, but by the criteria of the day, it was
not wrong. Nor can all these wrongs be set right. They are
important symbols which cannot be disregarded. Ram is by far the
most important symbol of Hindu identity. For anyone to raise
this kind of issue in respect of what millions of Hindus regard
as Janmabhoomi of Ram is to ask for trouble. The issue would
have been settled long ago if politicians had not intervened
the manner they have.
It is extraordinary that a man like Mulayam Singh who otherwise
has shown scant respect for court judgments should swear by the
court in this case. It is also extraordinary that V.P.Singh
should speak one language in private and another in public.
have the same feeling about Rajiv Gandhi. These people have
played politics of a dangerous variety.
- What solution have you to offer?
- The least Hindus need is a symbolic victory. The Babri mosque
does not exist. A structure exists which is called a mosque.
Equally important, it can never be a mosque again. Muslim shall
not pray there ever again. So it is defunct. The issue is not
whether the mosque should stay or not. The issue is whether
Hindus are allowed to build the temple. But I do not really
believe that Muslim activists are going to compromise on this
question. So I think this conflict will continue.
- How do you see the communal issue in its larger perspective?
- I don't take such a pessimistic view of this problem as many
others do. I do not believe that we are in anything like the
1946-47 situation. Communal riots have taken place and more
riots may take place. But I see the situation differently.
see it in terms of a redefinition of Indian politics of which
this controversy has become a major instrument.
My assessment falls into two parts. First, the existing order
in a pretty bad shape. It is not only that one-tenth of members
of Parliament have formed the government. It is not only that
horse trading has taken place, in new Delhi, Ahmedabad, Patna and
Lucknow. There has been a general decline in the quality of our
Indeed, our slogans no longer keep pace with reality. For the
past 20 years, money earned through smuggling, bootlegging and
muscle power have been significant factors influencing the course
of elections. And yet all the time we have talked of the nexus
between politics and big business. I am not suggesting that big
business does not have any influence on politics in
subterranean manner. I am suggesting a new element has entered
the situation, which is called criminalization of politics.
U.P. and Bihar a large number of MLAs have criminal records. The
crimes include charges of murder. Mafia dons have become
extremely influential. I for one, am not surprised at this
development. But that is another story.
As of the other pillars of our system - secularism and socialism
- the communal situation is precarious and nothing more need
said about it. And socialism, as is well known, has produced
parallel black money economy of unprecedented proportions. I
not see any signs of improvement in that situation. One reason
for all these developments is the denigration by the power elites
of traditional mores. Everyone knows that religion has been the
most important restraining influence on our appetites. Our
appetites have now been unleashed, and we have set for ourselves
the American model where consumerism is the ideology.
In view of the decay of the present political order, the struggle
for the rise of a new order is unavoidable. In my opinion, the
BJP represents the wave of the future precisely because
emphasizes the link between religion and politics. That is why
attach a great deal of importance to the activities of the BJP.
Whatever else the RSS may have done, nobody can suggest that its
members have ever engaged in anti-social activities. Nobody can
deny that they are a very disciplined group. If the BJP gains
access to power it would have to defer in a big way to the RSS
cadres who are highly motivated, patriotic and disciplined.
we can get a new kind of policy.
- But the BJP stands isolated today and is confined to the Hindi
- No, the BJP is no longer confined to the Hindi belt. The RSS
has a presence throughout the country. In western India, the BJP
itself is quite strong. There is widespread speculation that
an election is held tomorrow, the BJP would sweep in Gujarat and
do reasonably well in Maharashtra. The main check on the BJP
Maharashtra is the personality of Sharad Pawar. In Tamil Nadu.
Hindu organizations are beginning to do well. In Karnataka, the
BJP is gaining in influence. In north India, its presence
quite strong. The next place where it will consolidate itself
will be U.P., epicenter of the Mandir-Masjid storm.
That the BJP is isolated among the established political
organizations and the Westernized intellectual elite is not only
logical in view of what I have said but also desirable. It
logical because all other parties, including the Congress,
represent the status quo; the BJP alone stands for a new order
which is rooted in the country's cultural past. And it is
desirable one, that it helps avoid an erosion, as in the past,
the BJP's identity, commitment and programme.
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