RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat delivering the Vijaydashmi speech in Nagpur | PTI
RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat | PTI
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The Citizenship Amendment Act is being opposed on two grounds. First, that the notion of religion-based citizenship goes against the basic premise of India’s secular Constitution. Second, that the Sangh Parivar wants to use this Act to convert India into a de facto Hindu Rashtra. But the opponents of the CAA disregard the changing ideological position of Hindutva.

It is true that the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) goes against the principle of constitutional secularism envisaged by the framers of the Constitution. But what the protesters have missed is that the CAA emerged out of a new, refined Hindutva ideology, which had already recognised citizenship as a political issue, even before the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) was introduced in Parliament.

A new Hindutva

The RSS and the BJP (or its earlier avatar Bharatiya Jana Sangh) were not very comfortable with the term Hindutva to describe their political ideology before the Ayodhya issue. Hindutva was always associated with Savarkar and Hindu Mahasabha. It was only after the judgment of the Supreme Court in 1997 that the BJP formally accepted Hindutva as its philosophy.

These ideological ambiguities were finally ironed out by Bhagwat in 2018. Describing the RSS as an open, flexible and change-oriented network, he offered new meanings to the term Hindutva and even went on to reject some of the formulations of Golwalkar.


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Hindutva citizenship  

Bhagwat does not make any direct comment on citizenship in formal sense. Instead, he lays out a few core values of Hindutva.

…According to us, Hindutva has three basics: patriotism, glory of our ancestors, and respect for culture… The collective notion of values belonging to the religions (sampraday) that are sprung from the entirety, that is India, is known as Hindutva. … This is the mark of India. And, India belongs to that.

Bhagwat then went on to refine the punyabhumi (pious land) argument of Savarkar. He invokes the distinction between Indian origin of a few religions as originally Indian to describe Islam and Christianity as alien religions. However, unlike Savarkar, Bhagwat is kind towards Muslims. He claimed that there would be no Hindutva without Muslims.

He seems to suggest that Muslims enjoy political equality in India despite the fact that their religion did not originate here.

This Hindutva ‘generosity’ argument can be found in the RSS’ 2013 resolution, which called upon the Indian government to provide citizenship to ‘prosecuted Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist minorities’ of Pakistan and Bangladesh. It said:

The government can’t shy away stating that it is an internal matter of the respective governments… In Bharat every Constitutional measure was invoked to accord not only protection and security but also many special provisions amounting to appeasement in favour of the so-called minorities. They are well-placed in our country today in terms of their demographic, economic, educational and social status…the Hindus of Bangladesh and Pakistan have been subjected to continuous persecution.

This new Hindutva conceptualisation of core Indian values, original religions/communities, and its imagination of persecuted minorities under Muslim rule appear to be the ideological sources that the CAA legalises.


Also read: Dear pro-CAA Indian-origin protesters, you feed off US secularism but support Hindu Rashtra


Constitutional state of Hindutva nation

In order to justify this revised version of Hindutva, Bhagwat makes a crucial distinction between the state and the nation. He rejects the western idea of nation-state because it empowers the political entity (state) over the cultural identity (nation).

Bhagwat has argued that the RSS is not interested in changing the constitutional structure of India. Instead, he has emphasised upon the need to evolve a national consensus in favour of his interpretation of Hindutva.

According to Bhagwat, B.R. Ambedkar reminded the Constituent Assembly that internal conflicts among Indians were the main reason behind our political slavery; therefore, we must unite as a nation.

This invocation of national unity through legal means, Bhagwat suggests, was the national consensus of that time.

But there is another function of the Constitution. Bhagawat envisages the Constitution as a tool to achieve a new national consensus, which could be modified, amended, and even revised from the Hindutva point of view through a legal process.

This new Hindutva-driven ‘national consensus’ actually points towards a new package of Hindutva politics. The Ayodhya conflict, Article 370, and triple talaq/Uniform Civil Code are more or less settled issues. It is not possible for the RSS/BJP to rely on them for mobilisation politics.

The CAA, however, is the first systematic intervention introduced strategically to challenge the BJP’s opponents who still think that this Constitution would soon be replaced.

No, Hindutva does not want a Hindu state; instead, it wants a constitutional state of Hindutva nation.

The author is a Fellow at the Nantes Institute of Advanced Studies, France (2019-2020) and Associate Professor, CSDS, New Delhi. Views are personal.

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16 Comments Share Your Views

16 COMMENTS

  1. Yes correctly said that hindutva ideology is not about only Hindus but in broder sence it is just collection of all religions, cultures & different ethnic groups exsited in India before partition & their respects for each others and whose descendents are same. It just propogates peaceful coexistence & respect each others values. It was the govt of the days who successfully mislead people and created fear in some sections of the society by different means.

  2. No doubt nation is first and identity of nationality is a must but humanity is above all. Hindutva is not a religion, it is philosophy of life and humanity and those who believe in Hindutva may be called Hindu as Mohan Bhagawat has already said. India is a leading nation to believe & practice Hindutva since time immemorial.

  3. In my view, both the supporters and opponents of CAA have got it wrong. The supporters argue that this will take care of immigrants who have faced community or religion-based persecution in the neighbouring countries, whereas the opponents argue against exclusion of Muslims in the CAA, citing it as the violation of the Constitution. However, I must emphatically state that both are totally wrong. Citizenship is granted to an individual and not to group of individuals belonging certain communities or religions. Citizenship granted without examining antecedents of applicant individuals is the most foul and inappropriate method- no country does it. Granting citizenship en masse to illegal immigrants, based on certain pre-decided criteria amounts to opening floodgates to illegal immigration. This goes against the interest of a nation which is already overpopulated. Secondly, we must bear in mind that right to reside and right to citizenship are two different issues. While express or muted consent could be afforded to immigrants based on humanitarian grounds, to move steps ahead and grant them constitutional citizenship rights is pure naïveté. No country exercises such naïve political acts which can trigger and stimulate a free flow of illegal immigration.

  4. If such Nobel were intentions of new Hindutva then I fail to understand hatred in BJP ministers, MLAs MPs against Muslims! I fail to understand what was the need to CAA when citizenship could have been taken by the way of citizenship act without amendment proposed now? What is one novel thing that government is trying to bring in with this amendment? If it’s period then what is the hurry for providing citizenship in hurry? If such was the Nobel idea of CAA then why not give citizenship to all those who have been persecuted? Although such word doesn’t exist in CAA! If hindutva is not about religion then why discriminate on basis of religion in CAA? If such was the Nobel idea of this CAA why implement NRC nationwide and take citizenship From people who can’t prove their citizenship as per measures of government? Isn’t there a contradiction between CAA and NRC? As a rational person it seems to me, if looked at CAA and NRC in isolation, the intent of both are contradictory. Now if looked in unison, which every contract or legal document needs to be looked, it is against religion or faith not mentioned in the CAA! Doesn’t this not amount to a conspiracy against certain segment?

    • CAA is for granting citizenship to the illegal migrants (hence, non Indian citizens) but who have been persecuted minorities from the 3 neighboring countries ( hence, non-Muslims) and who have entered India before 31st Dec 2014. Once this issue is sorted, NRC is the next step for identifying remaining illegal migrants who are residents of India but not its citizens. This is as simple as it can be. Now you can interpret this legal (rational) position from the angle you choose! If you are sickular types, you know the arguments against it and if you are a Bhakt, there is nothing beyond this.

    • It is very much sorry to say that misconception around CAA is persist, dear brother already existing citizenship act 1955 only provide citizenship to legal migrants it has nothing to do with illegal migrants and also it has no provision to grant citizenship to illegal migrants so the amendment in the form of CAA is required. second I would like to say I have never seen any hatred against Muslim from senior leadership of the current govt even if some foul mouth low profile leader say something derogatory against any religion for local impact you can’t compare it with the party line so someone’s opinion can’t be opinion of the party but I can say that yes it is Congress govt and it’s senior leadership who openly mislead people & deliberately coined the term saffron terror to malign hindu community at large so disgusting that they are the preacher of the day today.

  5. It’s clear that CAA is totally unconstitutional. There’s no doubt in it.
    If RSS wants to embark on such a project like CAA and NRC it should leave India and conduct it overseas. Indians will not tolerate RSS agenda in the country.

    • How do you come on conclusion that CAA is totally unconstitutional r you a chief justice of India your comment does not carry that profile. It indicates that you may be mischief justice & what do you think just to create propaganda & fear in society don’t worry u r not going to succeed we will not let such elements to succeed.

  6. It is time we discuss what is the exact character and contours of this so called ‘Hindu Rashtra’ as understood by those opposed to it. As an ordinary Indian ( but who is not a Jew or Christian or Muslim), Hindu Rashtra cannot be anything more than what we have now- the Constitution and rule of law, democracy, etc etc. After all, ‘Dharma’ is nothing more than our duties and responsibilities to oneself, to family, to society at large and to the country. Everyone is a Hindu in India as he professes his own faith/worship and his way of life as he chooses unless he believes he is not one as such. In view of this, every citizen of this country must be known and illegal migrants (of whatever nationality and religion) must be identified. How to deal with them needs to be discussed and debated. But that does not make it a Hindu Rashtra project. Hope this common sense drives the debate forward.

  7. When old is new? The author has correctly (imo) identified the framing reference applicable to the topic at hand. If true, how best to judge the action of those opposed to the CAA?

  8. 1. This is very interesting discussion on RSS, Hindutva and current political scenario. 2. We know that in Asian countries, especially India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, national boundaries have historical connection. Nationalism and national boundaries in these countries have a special historical context. This context cannot be overlooked in any discussion on rise in popularity of pro-Hindutva BJP or religion-based political parties in all three countries. 3. I think we must recognize that even in European Union countries, where national boundaries have become a little irrelevant, there is a section of citizen-voters who are moving towards the far right political parties. 4. In our country we observe that RSS, an organization which is very closely associated with ‘nationalism’, whatever it is, has been able to spread its sphere of influence in many States where it had very little presence three decades back. It is also necessary to find out why and how this happened. I think in Indian context, we must find out why a big section of educated citizen-voters have become RSS sympathizers and are proudly ready to say that they have sympathy for RSS. 5. It is not that democratic rights are in danger in India alone. In good many European countries, and even in USA, rightist parties and groups have become popular. They have been campaigning and want curbs to be imposed on democratic freedom, again in ‘national interest’. 6. Question then, again in Indian context, is this: are civil rights and other activists in India ready to accept the ground reality and what would they wish to do to strengthen Indian democracy in the way they desire?

  9. In 2020,shouldn’t we emphasize on being identified as human beings with humanity, at least, when we are capable of sending manned mission to Moon?

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