In spite of Hinduism's nominal magnitude, the chance that Hinduism gets wiped out by its enemies can no longer be discounted. More than ever, fortunes are
spent on the war to destroy Hinduism in favour of Islam or some suitably adapted variety of Christianity or Marxism. The hostile activities of Islamic and
Christian agitators and the attempts at Hindu demoralization and loss of Hindu self-respect by the secularists are now compounded by a fast-spreading loss of
Hindu memory at the mass level by consumerism and Western pulp media.
If the Hindutva politicians and activists want to spare themselves the prospect of going down in history as a bunch of buffoons, who stood by and worked on
inconsequential things while their country was taken over by their mortal enemies, they will have to get their act together quickly. Instead of wasting energy on
petty politicking and limited goals such as the reconversion of a few sacred sites, all eyes should be set on the major goal, which is the liberation of fellow
Indians from the predatory religions which have alienated them from their ancestral culture. The goal could in fact be set even higher, so as to include among
other things the emancipation of the West-Asians and the liberation of the Kaaba (a temple to Hubal, the Arab Shiva) from Islam; but it will already be good if the
self-styled vanguard of Hindu society can save its own people and country.
The emancipation of fellow Indians from closed creeds is a very humane and responsible project. It could best be summed up in the motto with which the
Muslim-born humanist Ibn Warraq opens his book Why I Am Not a Muslim: "The best thing we can do for Muslims is to free them from Islam." More
concretely, it is the only way to avoid the extremely bloody conflagrations which are sure to break out if the Muslim and Christian agitators smell victory in
ever-larger sections of the country. As they smell blood, they will become more openly and more fiercely aggressive and Hindus will not go down without a
fight; the subsequent loss of life should not be minimized as just one more of those inevitables in history. The ideologies which pit believer against unbeliever
should be neutralized before they can add some more achievements to their ugly record.
Koenraad Elst (Leuven 1959) grew up in the Catholic community in Belgium. He was active for some years in what is known as the New Age
movement, before studying at the famed Catholic University of Leuven (KUL). He graduated in Chinese Studies, Indo-Iranian Studies, and Philosophy. He took
courses in Indian philosophy at Benares Hindu University (BHU), and interviewed many Indian leaders and thinkers during his stays in India between 1988 and
1996. He has published in Dutch about language policy issues, contemporary politics, history of science, and Oriental philosophies; in English about the
Ayodhya issue and about the general religio-political situation in India.
Many people inside or close to the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party), and inside or close to the broader Sangh Parivar, have become dissatisfied with what they
perceive as the increasing distance between the BJP's actual policies and the Hindu expectations among the public on which the party capitalizes. To some extent,
the problem lies with the BJP itself, distinguishing it from other Hindutva organizations, who then tend to blame the increasing non-Sangh element inside the
BJP for this "degeneration", especially the opportunists who jumped onto the promising BJP bandwagon after the 1989 and 1991 electoral breakthroughs. To a
large extent, however, the BJP problem is the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) problem. In the BJP, the RSS approach is put to the test of day-to-day
political practice, in confrontation with the enemies of Hindutva, without the benefit of the secretiveness which characterizes the functioning of other Sangh-
affiliated organizations. Except for the recent defection and corruption scandals, the major failures of the BJP can be traced to RSS policies and RSS ideological
At any rate, the problem is serious enough, even in the eyes of many BJP or RSS members, to warrant a frank debate. It is to this debate that the present paper
wants to contribute. The prime focus of our attention will be the BJP' s performance, but with constant reference to the RSS background. Most examples will be
drawn from the one aspect of Hindutva politics which is by far the most conspicuous and the most common target of secularist criticism: the relation with Islam.
Historically, the RSS was created in a context of Hindu-Muslim tension, and till today, its activists have frequently been in conflict with the Muslim community
politically or even physically. An organization which has had to deal with India's Islam problem for more than 70 years may be expected to have developed a clear
analysis of this problem, and an effective strategy to counter it.
Many Sangh Parivar activists are not going to like this paper. They have a childlike affection for the organization which has given them togetherness and
solidarity, a feeling of purpose and of home. Often self-effacing idealists, they don't mind criticism of their own person, and they can listen to insults to India and
Hinduism without being moved, but they are very touchy when it comes to criticism of the Sangh. I apologize to them for any hurt caused by this text, but I am
convinced of its urgent necessity. The Sangh is benumbed by the decades- long crossfire of criticism by its enemies, but is not used to listen to criticism from
On the other hand, a lot of Sangh people are going to agree with my remarks. It is partly because of complaints from Sangh activists themselves that I have
resolved to formulate this critique. Little does the Sangh leadership realize that numerous idealistic volunteers have joined one of the many Sangh-affiliated
organizations because they want to do something for Hinduism, not because they care about the specific Sangh outlook. The Sangh Parivar just happens to be
around, just happens to be the largest organization reputed to be working for Hinduism, so Hindu-minded people join one of its fronts rather than go through the
wasteful trouble of setting up their own rivalling shop; but that doesn't mean they are enthusiastic about certain Sangh fads which will come up for scrutiny in
The present text is a much-enlarged version of a two-part guest column published in The Observer of Business and Politics (New Delhi) of 6 and 7 December
1996, and contributed at the suggestion of Mr. R.K. Mishra and Mr. Balbir Punj. I thank them for their interest and for the courage of publishing that column,
but of course they bear no responsibility whatsoever for its contents. Among all the Sangh people whom I should thank for giving me access to information, I
want to mention Mr. K.R. Malkani and Mr. Devendra Swarup in particular. I hope they can appreciate the spirit in which I offer the comments which follow.
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