Under the current regime, India is experiencing political deterioration. This come with the risk of people abandoning their age-old inclusive activities for exclusionary ones.
After Partition, the idea of India stood for embracing its diversity – in order to thwart any further, bloody division. The architects of the constitution – mindful of this – accommodated in the document the complex reality of Indian state. However, ideologues of an imagined ‘Hindu rashtra’ nursed the desire to subvert this by attempting to foist a constitutional framework that would anchor India to their beliefs. This only works to exploit unavoidable differences – present in any society and which could otherwise be a source of strength – to create discord.
A primary function of the state is to provide a sense of security to its citizens. This is currently missing in India. If we observe the present political turmoil in the country, we will see that a war – on cultural, religious and political fronts – is being waged by the leaders of the ruling party.
Simply put, India is witnessing a war of difference – where words, principles and norms of a particular political belief, rather than weapons, are deployed to decide right and wrong. ‘Ghar wapsi’, spreading rumours of ‘love jihad’ and mob lynchings are being used to legitimise the political ideology of a particular party.
Attempts are being made to forcefully insert this ideology into the legal framework at every possible opportunity. Luckily, fierce opposition to these narrow beliefs at multiple levels is preventing their institutionalisation at the constitutional level.
One of the architects of this ideology, V.D. Savarkar – through his book, Hindutva – was instrumental in preparing the ground for a radical Hindu identity. For him, the three main components of of being a Hindu were culture, religion, and race. These are, after nearly a century, still regarded by his followers as markers of Indianness. Serious efforts are on to incorporate these beliefs into policy.
In contemporary India, this toxic and exclusionary ideology has lately gained an upper hand. The fact of the matter is that India is a diverse country and its real beauty lies in accommodation, not erasure. With the covert patronage of the current regime, there is an increasing trend of homogenisation, seeking to reinforce the politics of exclusion; and people who subscribe to it are considered true nationalists while those who don’t are called anti-nationals.
This trend carries real dangers – particularly for people belonging to minority communities. Ideologues and followers of Hindutva – as well as the law itself – can come to represent this danger. This politics of conformism is at best unbecoming and, at worst, perilous for a country like India, which embodies diverse backgrounds and identities. To deny diversity its legitimate space and thrust an idea of India that solely belongs to a particular religious denomination is at odds with the imagination of the constitution.
As Hindu nationalism becomes more aggressive than ever, the very principle on which India differentiated itself from Pakistan (which lends a religious identity to the state) is threatened to the core. If anything has kept India intact amid deep diversities and divergences, it is a commitment to democracy and pluralism.
The subversion of this commitment feels eerily real now. India has been pushed to a crossroads where it has to decide anew what it wants to be: a homogeneous state monopolised by a Hindu majority or a state where all identities are recognised and given their due space. The future of India – and that of all those living within its territorial bounds – is at stake. In the upcoming elections, it is this crucial question that the electorate would be wittingly or unwittingly providing an answer to.
With the BJP government at the Centre, the secular tradition of India is under immense threat. If the threat isn’t quelled at various levels, the idea of unity in diversity – one that the nation has always prided itself on – will soon be in tatters.
If communal forces are not halted, India – regarded as the ‘largest democracy’ in the world – will fall prey to what Joseph Schumpeter called “creative destruction”, which roughly entails the dismantling of age-old traditions by new ideologies – except that there would be nothing creative in the destruction of the inclusive idea of India.
Anayat Ul Lah Mugloo and Manzoor Ahmad Padder are doctoral candidates at the department of political science, University of Kashmir.