The Hindu mainstream population is not a monolith and a sizeable part of it loathes regimentation. That is how it has evolved : to a very wide range of thought and values, diverse scriptural texts and perspectives, perhaps the widest among all belief systems, and to offering complete freedom to individuals to choose, experiment, and commit to one’s own preferred beliefs in practice. There is no religion I know of which comes even close to this melting sea of diverity and freedom, which does not impose itself on people through fiats, fatwas or commandments. It is an immense basket of apparently contradictory paths to the same destination and prima facie opposing individual values systems for personal evolution, as it suits.
Clearly, the Hindu way of life neither needs a name nor is it possible to identify the vaishnava bhakta with an aghora, a naga sadhu or an indulging tantrik, as being of one common sect or religious vertical. They are too dissimilar in appearance and their respective practices differ widely. Amongst themselves, they could be frequently found to be rating and berating each other, rather loudly and vehemently. Yet, they are each familiar with the others’ paths and recognise their validity from the leading lights they have produced along their millennia long history. These teachers, gurus, evolved pursuing these very paths, are held as gods and are universally respected by all for their piety, perfection of knowledge, authoritative insights, intuitive attainments or extraordinary powers. Public endorsement and peer acceptance of such evolved embodiments of the respective paths lend validity to its practices in the eyes of all.
Even among commoners, who barely have time out of their personal economics or lifestyle, may or may not have much in common by their religious beliefs, practices or values. A motley group would include a believer who daily attends to his place of worship and another who abhors the very thought. One may be a deist, a theist, an atheist or agnostic; but these are differences that do not divide them from each other at all. They are all a part of the same family of people going forward, regressing or deviating, along the same Hindu way.
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In my personal view, the faith or religious belief of a poltical leader as Modi, or of a political party like BJP, matters little : their clean committment to poeple needs and interests does. The Hindutva label stuck on the present NDA Govt is empty of any significance : the competence and ability of ministers in the government means everything.
Even the RSS, the Rashtriya Svayamsewak Sangh, which has declared interest in the welfare and development of the Hindu mainstream population of the country, is respected for its committment to education, social work, disaster relief and charitable works. It is not a religious organisation compared to how it is in parallel faiths : Islam and Christianity : one, its definition of a Hindu is not limited by one’s faith or belief but by the dedication one has for India as a nation; two, Hinduism has no interest in conversion as Christianity has nor does it intend to keep its flock bound to place of worship or clerical commandments, as it happens in Islam.
The Hindu faithfuls donate in temples, which endowments however are controlled and managed by federal and state govts, unlike the freedom Christian and Muslim institutions have. None of the donated monies go to so-called Hindu institutions.
The constant labelling however serves to force behavioural comparison with social and political organisations identified with other particular religious denominations, princopally Christianity and Islam. Minority appeasement policies of successive governments, and vote bank politics played up by political parties, has triggered a Hindu identity over the decades through the 20th Century. It first warned of consequences of fracturing the polity along religious lines; later, it hardened politically in order to combat the diseased divisiveness of minoritysm increasingly practised purely for political dividends.
Hindutva then is a political movement in post independent India. It started even before, during British Raj era, but has few takers until the unjust consequences of minoritysm became obvious to people in the mainstream. It brings the historically amorphous Hindu population together politically. The hugely funded minority pitch, through religious institutions and masked NGOs operating in the country, are now perversely demonising the Hindutva identity politics and are working overtime against it in cohorts with media partners it has come to own or sponsor over the decades. The involved political parties espousing the minority cause have a massive war chest filled with corruption money and illegal funds diverted from the domestic economy over past decades.
The typical Hindu remains the same free and open spirit his tradition has fostered. But he now has Hindutva for political and social identity. He has recovered his history from motivated western scholarship; and he wears his culture on his sleeve with pride. Global resurrection of family as an institution validates his way of life. Outrage against environmental degradation, hunger and starvation, and climate change, prompts a revisit to vegetarian lifestyle that Hindus have long excelled at. Even scientific propositions regarding questions at the frontiers of knowledge only seems to reflect the long-held wisdom of Indian thought, specifically Vedanta.
That the Hindutva labelled BJP stands for good governance, and stands out as a vocal champion of national interests and developmental goals, only deepens the heartburns of secular minoritysts and empty liberals among intellectuals on the left.
History today is not what Marx had envisaged. It is not even as the colonialists of yore had hoped to perpetuate; nor how the US led West has striven for during the post WWII decades. History, unfolding now, resounds with the chant : The world is one family; truth alone shall prevail, none else; and, compassion is the supreme human value.