Hindutva ("Hinduness", a word coined by Vinayak Damodar Savarkar in his 1923 pamphlet entitled Hindutva: Who is a Hindu? ) is used to describe movements advocating Hindu nationalism. The former ruling party in India, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is closely associated with a group of organizations that promote Hindutva. They collectively refer to themselves as the "Sangh Parivar" or family of associations, and include the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, Bajrang Dal and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad.
This right-wing ideology has existed since the early 20th century, but has not played a prominent role in Indian politics until the late 1980's. It then attracted many mainstream Hindus following two events. One was the Rajiv Gandhi government's use of a large Parliamentary Majority to overturn a Supreme Court verdict that had angered conservative Muslims (see the Shah Bano case). The second was a dispute over a 16th century Mughal Babri Mosque in Ayodhya that some Hindus claimed to be the birthplace and site of original temple of Rama, whom Hindus considered to be an avatar of God himself. The mosque was destroyed by a Hindu mob in 1992, touching off rioting across the country.
Definition and etymology
In a judgment the Indian Supreme Court ruled that "no precise meaning can be ascribed to the terms 'Hindu', 'Hindutva' and 'Hinduism'; and no meaning in the abstract can confine it to the narrow limits of religion alone, excluding the content of Indian culture and heritage.
In a 1966 ruling, the Supreme Court of India defined the Hindu faith as follows for legal purposes:
- Acceptance of the Vedas with reverence as the highest authority in religious and philosophic matters and acceptance with reverence of Vedas by Hindu thinkers and philosophers as the sole foundation of Hindu philosophy.
- Spirit of tolerance and willingness to understand and appreciate the opponent's point of view based on the realization that truth is many-sided.
- Acceptance of great world rhythm — vast periods of creation, maintenance and dissolution follow each other in endless succession — by all six systems of Hindu philosophy.
- Acceptance by all systems of Hindu philosophy of the belief in rebirth and pre-existence.
- Recognition of the fact that the means or ways to salvation are many.
- Realization of the truth that numbers of Gods to be worshiped may be large, yet there are Hindus who do not believe in the worshiping of idols.
- Unlike other religions, or religious creeds, Hindu religion's not being tied down to any definite set of philosophic concepts, as such.
However in popular usage Hindutva has come to be identified with the guiding ideology of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, a Hindu Nationalist organization. The etymology of the word is peculiar, "Hindu-" coming from a Persian root while "-tva" is a Sanskrit suffix.
Some central beliefs of this version of Hindutva are:
- A Hindu state must be established to protect the rights of the Hindus in their homeland and bring about a general cultural revival.
Views on other faiths
The advocates of Hindutva often use the term pseudo-secularism to refer to the Indian Constitution's provisions for minority rights. They complain of different standards for Hindus, Muslims and Christians. They rebel against an attempt to create what they see as a 'separate-but-equal' system; some proponents of Hindutva even see it as the Indian National Congress party's effort to woo the sizeable minority vote bank at the expense of true equality. The subject of a Uniform Civil Code, which would remove special religion-based provisions for Muslims and Christians from the Indian Constitution, is thus one of the main political planks of Hindutva. Followers contend that in a secular democracy it makes little sense to allow Muslims, for example, to marry more than once, but to prosecute Hindus for doing the same. Muslims are also funded for the Hajj, a pilgrimage to Mecca, while Hindutvawadis claim they are accorded no similar privilege for their own pilgrimages. However the fact is that even Hindu pilgrimages are funded by the Government. Hindutvawadis also ignore laws that explicitly favour Hindus in the constitution such as tax breaks for Hindu Undivided Families and adoption rights only for Hindus. Christians are also given separate standards for divorce (which is more difficult for them than it is for Hindus). The amendment of the Indian constitution to overturn a Supreme Court judgment under pressure from the Islamic fundamentalists incensed the Hindutva supporters. The amended laws, more in tune with the Shariat, reduced rights divorced Muslim women previously had.