Patriotism Without People: Milestones in the Evolution of the Hindu Nationalist Ideology
Well into its fifth decade as a sovereign and self-governing nation, India witnessed an effort to redefine its identity. As the political consensus built during the struggle against colonialism seemed visibly to come apart, a brand of nationalism emerged, which sought its legitimacy from no less a source than the primordial loyalties of the Indian people. This pristine identity of the entire Indian people was both unitary and indivisible—and best encapsulated by the term 'Hindutva*.
Proponents of the Hindutva ideology argue that the basic solidarity of the Indian nation has regrettably been disrupted by years of sovereign rule under the Congress system. Far from cementing the national ethos, successive Congress regimes established the denial of the peoples' cultural identity as a governing virtue. This makes the rediscovery of the age-old cultural and political identity of the Indian people a national imperative. National salvation requires that this original cultural identity be salvaged from the debris of secularist habits of thought.1
The discourse of cultural nationalism derived from Hindutva has, unsurprisingly—considering its beguiling simplicity—found a great number of adherents across the length and breadth of the country. But ideological profession is one thing, political practice quite another. The lofty rhetoric of Hindu nationalism has won many willing converts. And the fervour of the neo-convert is such that he (or she) is more often than not, willing to countenance any crime committed in the name of the cause. The quest for the Hindu nationalist icon—a temple to a hero of myth and legend at his supposed place of birth in Ayodhya—had to cause innumerable deaths, incalculable human suffering, and shake the Indian political edifice to its foundations, before it was stopped in its tracks by a countervailing political consolidation.
At the first electoral trial since it made its single most radical political statement by demolishing an Islamic place of worship at
Social Scientist, Vol. 22, Nos. S-^, May-June 1994