Bombay is the most appropriate city to have this meeting [on ‘Leaders’ Idea of Nations in the Context of Zionism and Hindutva’] because Bombay played host to the Jews who came looking for protection. Not only did Bombaiites look after them, but so did the citizens of Cochin. Synagogues were built in both cities, and Israel has repeatedly mentioned that in an unprecedented manner India looked after the Jews without any difficulty whatsoever and treated them as one of their own.
This subject of Zionism and Hindutva was first introduced to me when in 2007, the great sage, who is no more, Swami Dayananda Saraswati of Coimbatore founded the Arsha Vidya Gurukulam and created, for the first time in our history, a Hindu Dharma Acharya Sabha where all the senior-most sadhus and shankaracharyas collected. And this Acharya Sabha was almost like Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha and Acharya Sabha. So, it has great respect.
The chief rabbi from Israel was invited to Delhi, along with the American Jewish Committee’s chairman. And we had a conference on Judaism and Hinduism, and discussed thesimilarities and differences between them. In the process, there was a follow-up conference in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and finally, we came to an agreement. The only difference noted by the rabbi was that we are a polytheistic country and Israel and Judaism believe in a single god. But Dayananda Saraswati explained that we have only one ‘ishwar’ and his manifestations are many. So, we also believe in one ‘ishwar’ and one god, and therefore there is no difference between Judaism and Hinduism. This was accepted, and then it was decided by a resolution in Jerusalem, that we will treat both Judaism and Hinduism as sister religions.
Now, the word Hindutva simply means ‘Hinduness’ – the quality of being a Hindu. It is not necessarily restricted to sanatan dharmis or any other school of religion within the framework of Hinduism. The word Hinduism is wrongly taken as a word created by the Arabs because they couldn’t pronounce ‘Hindu’ — that’s not correct. As far back as 700 BC, the Chinese referred to India as ‘Indu’, and even today, in their official communication in Chinese, they call India ‘InduGo’, which translates to Hindu Rashtra. (‘Go’ means country).
So, I tell my communist friends, “You’re all great worshippers of China, how come you don’t also adopt India and call it Hindu Rashtra?” This word, ‘Hindu’, has perhaps come out of a sandhi of two words. I’m told it is there is one Purana, but I have not been able to trace it. ‘Hi’ from the Himalayas and ‘indu’ from Indu Sagar. Just as Shankaracharya defined’Dravid’. He said ‘dra’ refers to where the three coastlines meet. That means South India, and not, as the British made it out, a separate race called ‘Dravid’ and a separate race called ‘Aryan’. The word ‘Aryan’ doesn’t exist in any of our scriptures. ‘Arya’ only means a civilised person and a good person with values. Unfortunately, the British distorted it.
Hindutva is a belief system, which we acquire from the religion and use it in our day-to-day activities. That means that the one thing that is common between Judaism and Hinduism is that both don’t believe in active conversion. Hindus believe that if you want to be a Hindu, you just have to declare you’re a Hindu. There is no ceremony, and nobody goes around propagating that we should convert. Same thing with Judaism, they have very strict rules on who would be called a Jew. So, this is another commonality.
As I said, we both believe in one god, we have many manifestations of the same. Now the question is — what is the implication for the state of India and the state of Zion [Israel]? First of all, both states claim to be a continuing cultural state. Judaism and the Jewish state are considered a continuation of the past. There were interruptions, but in the end, the Jewish state was recreated and called Zion. And the Zionist state, [which was named] by [Theodor] Herzl meant that the ancient name for the state of Israel was Zion.
Second, in the case of India, while we are not a Hindu state, the Constitution has many articles which we can claim are drawn from Hindu philosophy. One is that all religions lead to god and the state will be totally neutral to it. Article 25 allows every religion to practice freely and uninterrupted. Similarly, in the Constitution, there is Uniform Civil Code [in directive principles] because we treat men and women equally, and therefore, the code should be uniform for all. There should be no superiority or inferiority.
I would say women enjoyed a higher status than men in ancient India, because if you look at Brahma’s cabinet, all the important portfolios are with women. Education is with Saraswati, finances with Laxmi and defence with Durga. So, I once asked Swami Dayananda Saraswati, “You mean male gods don’t have any portfolios?” He said, “There is one male god that does. Information broadcasting is with Narad muni.” And you know the status of Draupadi – a war had to be fought to avenge her humiliation. The Mahabharata war essentially came out of that. Similarly, the finishing of Ravana’s empire of Lanka happened because Sita insisted that Ram come and finish him off, otherwise she would not leave. Because Hanuman went to save her first and take her to Ram, but she said no, not unless Ravana is finished off.
Women have been very obstinate in Hindu society and even today we experience that. We may pretend that men are the head of the household, but it’s actually the women who run most homes in the country.
This question [of whether] the Constitution treats both men and women equally would apply equally to the Zionist state as well as our country.
Another important thing, we are both non-active on the question of conversion. We both don’t believe in conversion as an active form of propagation.
And the most important is that Zion and the Hindutva state is today under attack from Islamic extremists, and therefore there is a commonality in our viewing of international events. Both of us should come together. When the Bombay attacks took place on 26/11, the terrorists who came, made a special target of a Jewish home here and brutalised it. Therefore, we know that Islamic terrorist forces have targeted both Hindu society and Jewish society. And that means we have to be together for the future. There is a clash of civilisations internationally, as Professor Huntington of Harvard University had written many years ago, and it is important to develop a very close relationship between Zion and the Hindutva state of India.
This is an edited transcript of Rajya Sabha MP Subramanian Swamy’s speech at ‘Leaders’ Idea of Nations’ in the context of Zionism and Hindutva, on 26 August, 2019 at University of Mumbai. Views are personal.