To call India a Hindu nation is to pigeonhole its plural, multi-ethnic character
The absurdity of MG Vaidya’s argument is revealed by carrying it to its logical end. He says a nation is three things, the idea of a sacred motherland, a shared history and a shared value system, i.e., a culture. Consider Sikhs. Their motherland is Punjab, their holy shrine is located in Amritsar, they scatter the ashes of their dead in the Beas or the Sutlej, they have a shared history, and they certainly have a shared value system. Even more so they have a shared language. By Vaidya’s own definition, Sikhs then are more so a nation than Hindus, as are Nagas for that matter, and I could go on. If we were to go by his logic, the map of India would look like the map of Europe, scarred by minute nations. Carried to their logical end, Vaidya’s ideas, which are the ideas of the Sangh and men like Golwalkar, conclude in the Balkanisation of India. The seeds of this same logic are embodied in the High Court judgment on Ayodhya, which is why it needs to be revoked.
It is no coincidence that in arguing for a Hindu nation, MG Vaidya has to take recourse to European thinkers. The idea of a nation is not an Indian idea, and it has no relevance to the Indian context where plurality and diversity coexist within a State. The sole extract from Indian sources, from The Mahabharata that Vaidya quotes, does not even mention the word nation. It is strange that the very notion of a Hindu nation that Vaidya espouses is ultimately not an Indian idea in any sense, it is a fantasy derived from European sources. To bolster his argument, he then claims that before Independence, the term Hindu could be applied across the modern geography of the Indian State. If Vaidya is so sure of his position, he should perhaps try to persuade Parkash Singh Badal, an ally of the BJP and someone who was active in the struggle against British Rule well before Independence, to admit to being a Hindu. For that matter, Kahn Singh Nabha’s Hum Hindu Nahin, central to the formation of a separate Sikh identity, was published way back in 1898.
Vaidya makes an even more ambitious claim when he says, ‘We adopted a value system that appreciates plurality, tolerates differences of opinion, and values different modes of worship. These are our national values and they are enshrined in our Constitution.’ In other words, tolerance and plurality are values of the Hindu nation, so they live on in the Constitution. Perhaps, he should read a man called Ambedkar, who was key to shaping our Constitution, and take note of what he says about the idea of a Hindu nation.
The Constitution actually draws on American liberalism, European con- stitutionalism and a range of Indian notions that extend across faiths. If Vaidya chooses to extend his definition of Hindu to all these ideas, then I have no quarrel with him, but the facts demonstrate otherwise. After Sikhs were massacred across the country in 1984, Vaidya’s RSS turned out in large numbers to vote for Rajiv Gandhi, the man, who if nothing else, stood aside to let the murders take place. The RSS has also consistently backed Narendra Modi, who played the same role in Gujarat when Muslims were massacred. In either case, the only possibility of justice that still exists arises from ongoing court cases that call upon the State to live up to its Constitutional obligations rather than Vaidya’s nebulous idea of a Hindu nation that has actually condoned both massacres.
My faith in the Indian State, established on 15 August 1947, is a more robust faith than Vaidya’s belief in a Hindu nation. My idea allows Sikhs and Nagas to coexist within this Indian State if they so wish; Vaidya’s notion will certainly ensure they will seek a nation of their own. Thus, to answer Vaidya’s question, no nation was created on 15 August 1947 because the new idea was not modelled on European nationalism; what was created was a new State that commands my loyalty because of the values enshrined in its Constitution. For this very reason, I am an Indian patriot, not a Hindu nationalist. The distinction matters. I could refer him to George Orwell, but I will not quote a European thinker to make a very Indian case.
Hartosh Singh Bal turned from the difficulty of doing mathematics to the ease of writing on politics. Unlike mathematics all this requires is being less wrong than most others who dwell on the subject.