The incident of internal conflict is increasing in the modern world. There is an organisation, called Institute of Economics and Peace (IEP), which conducts research on peace and conflict worldwide. This New York-based organisation publishes the Global Peace Index every year and ranks countries across the world according to their peacefulness. IEP recently claimed that 13.3% of the world’s total production was damaged due to conflicts in 2015 and nearly 300,000 people lost their lives as a result of internal conflicts in 2014-15. As far as internal peace is concerned, India’s position was 123rd out of 163 countries in 2008. However, it came down to 141 in 2017.
In another report, the IEP said that religion was one of the reasons for more than 60% cases of the armed internal conflicts in the world in 2013. In recent times, the number of religious conflict has increased in India (compared to other troubled nations). This information is important because of the recent resurrection of Hinduism (or Hindutva) in the South Asian country. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a Hindu nationalist party, is not only ruling 13 Indian provinces, but also serves as ruling coalition partner in four provinces. As Hinduism is the ideological base of this party, the growing political dominance of the BJP should be considered as the emergence of Hinduism in India.
The Indian National Congress, a centrist party, has ruled the country for more than four decades since Independence (1947) and many extremist groups have emerged during this period. But, these groups have either been abolished, or have gradually adopted a centrist path. Hindutva groups, like Ram Rajya Parishad, Hindu Mahasabha and Janasangh, are no more. It is also difficult to trace the All India Scheduled Caste Federation. Regional parties, like the DMK or Akali, have shifted much from the secessionist position of the past. Once, Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party and Janata Dal managed to unite the lower caste Hindus and Muslims against upper caste Hindus. Later, they also changed their position and adopted a moderate path. In fact, the BJP did not show much enthusiasm in implementing its Hindu programmes even after coming to power for the first time (1996-99) in India.
The plurality and multiplicity of the Indian society have always encouraged major political parties to adopt the moderate path. There are various divisions, such as religion, language, caste, class, in the Indian society and each division contains plurality – religions, languages, races etc. Therefore, the concept of majority in Indian society is also multidimensional. As a result, all the parties realise that they have to create an umbrella (where the people of different identities can take refuge) in order to survive in the great Indian political theatre. The plurality and multiplicity of the Indian society have prompted major parties to reject the idea of narrow extremism or hyper-nationalism.
But, here is the puzzle. How the resurrection of Hindu extremists happened in this multidimensional Indian society?
A section of people opine that the so-called “secular” parties have appeased the minorities to win elections in India. As the Hindu religion teaches tolerance, the Hindus have tolerated the policy of appeasement for so many years. And finally, they have decided to “revolt”.
But the question is: if the secular parties have appeased the minorities, then why is the situation of minorities not improved? The Sachar Committee report placed Indian Muslims below Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in backwardness. Among the many issues it highlighted were the huge mismatch between the percentage of Muslims in the population and in decision-making positions, such as the Indian Administrative Service and Indian Police Service, and the general poor representation of the community in the police. So, there was no appeasement. And the argument that Hindus have decided to revolt is also false. Why should the majority Hindus fear “marginal and powerless” minority community?
Basically, there are two major reasons for the resurrection of Hinduism in India. One is internal, the other is international.
In the past, the lower caste Hindus organised themselves separately mainly to enjoy “special” privileges. Soon after the government officially acknowledged their “special” rights, these people realised that they could gain nothing by staying together as the lower class. So, they decided to leave “old narrow identity” and accept the identity of greater Hindutva. That’s why they backed a Hindu nationalist party and helped it win the 2014 Parliamentary Elections.
The international reason is much stronger. For a few days, the miscreants are spreading terror across the world and mainly targeting the innocent, unarmed people. They are called Muslim extremists, although the humanity of Islam is not at all in them. As a response to their activities, nationalists are gaining ground in Europe and America. Point to be noted that Islamic extremism is a product of Western or American imperialism. India has not been free from the wave of reaction and counter reaction. Hundreds of terrorist attacks, deaths in riots and other such incidents are responsible for the resurrection of Hinduism. On the contrary, the destruction of the Babri Mosque and incidents, like Gujarat massacre, have fuelled the Muslim extremists in India. This is a vicious circle.
There could be a big challenge for ultra-nationalists in India. If the poor people thought that the BJP government was not with them, then the party could not win provincial elections only on the basis of its Hindutva ideology. But the poor people think (at least temporarily) that this government is with them because it has taken action against black money holders. It is difficult to say how long this idea can last. But for now, we have to admit that the Narendra Modi government’s decision to demonetise the Indian currency has given the BJP a lot of political benefits, irrespective of its economic consequences (the nation will have to face).
We have to remember two things. No one can deny the Muslim influence on Indian languages, music, painting, literature, clothing and food habits. Those, who want to see India as a Hindu nation, deny the history of the country. If we want to tackle fundamentalism through fundamentalism, then the situation will deteriorate. Both Hindus and Muslims are not safe in the era of religious fanaticism.