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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

25 RELIGIOUS POLlTlCS

25.1 INTRODUCTION

The concept of religious politics has a heightened significance the contemporary India. Though religion and politics are as two distinct concepts, they have had a synthetic existence in the traditional society and continue to influence each other in the modern society as well. Together they have an potential to make a profound on each other. Religion plays an important role in iniluencing the social process of the and vice-versa. It has been a significant factor in mass mobilisations not only during the national but also in phases towards modernity, In a democratic state like India, religion the core of the traditional society and continues to enjoy its influence on the mass psyche. close affinity also resulted in social disharmony and discord, often leading to clashes between diffe ent communities. The religious organisationsinteract with political groups and tryto their support bases, claiming authority over a section of the population. The support of these religious groups
the of political regimes. This unit provides an insight into the concept of the religious politics, and various dimensions associated with it like Hindu revivalism and Islamic perspective,


25.2 MEANING AND SIGNIFICANCE OF RELIGIOUS
POLITICS

Religious politics can mean one of the two things. It is, first, a situation where religion itself becomes the basis of political articulation and of defining the purpose of politics. Here religion itself becomes a kind of politics, for example, reinterpretation of religious tradition for defining nationalism or for a political of action. These can have many variations, as we shall see later in this unit. is also, a condition where religion is used as foundation for the political rnobilisation of























r

the people. The institutions or festivals and such other connected with religion become
, the basis of making political appeals to people. For example, the use of the temples and mosques or a religious festival Puja for political mobilisation of the people is another form of religious politics. these types of religious politics have been quite in our society. In fact, their history dates back to more than a hundred years but in
the recent period, these have acquired the status of politics.

The concept Religion and Politics has a different reference. It refers to the problem of what ought to be the relation between the two, is, between religion on the one hand and on the other. This, therefore, also involves the question of secularism and how one is oriented to it. If one accepts secularism, as the national movement did, then the question is how to and in what ways to lceep politics autonomous or free from religion; it is also a question of developing a version of secularism appropriate to any given society, say like ours: Two concrete situations are never In a situation like that of America with its proliferation of Protestant churches, secularism to handle a different set of problems than in India where we have a multi-religious society. So the question as to
how the religion and politics present themselves varies from society to society and from time to

In the first 30 years after Independence, the relation between politics and religion was of a different kind than it is now. Religion was of importance for politics and politics was automatically from religion. From the mid-1 it has drastically changed in a way that as an ideology has a force in the society and politics and since 1998 in the government too. So the question of how to look at the relation between and politics in of the constitutional ideals has changed. Issues' centred on secularism, civil rights, democracy, etc. do evoke the same response from the Hindutva as these to in the course of the Freedom Struggle. Having made this distinction for the of clarity, we will only look at religious politics as defined above. As the distinction between politics and religion has collapsed one form of nationalism and political appeals through religious symbols, we now preponderance of religious politics in the country.

25.2.1 Religious Politics: Divergent Views

Religious politics, as we have seen, provides the substance and agenda of politics, that is, the content of politics itself is determined by one or another religion or the community. It can, therefore, appeal only to those belonging to that religious community. Religious politics cannot simultaneously be the politics of Hindus, and Christians. It can only belong to and have appeal for the followers of one or other religion.
The politics that tries to defend what is to be Muslim identity or the politics that towards creating a and different identity for the Hindus, as is happening now, cannot obviously appeal to another community, This so even it tries to
itself as nationalism, as Hindutva calls itself, "cultural nationalism". In essence it religious politics. Religious politics, also communal politics or communalism, as it been referred to our country. is so not just with India; it would be the same in Pakistan or any other for
that matter.




Before we proceed further, one clarification is necessary A appeal to religion does not necessarily lead to religious politics. For example, one may be a Hindu but the version or the interpretation of Hinduism one subscribes to will determine the substance of politics. Let us an from our recent history. Gandhi and Savarkar both believed that religion should politics. But their versions of it to be a Hindu were so different that it gave rise to two very different conceptions of politics. view was that values should influence politics or otherwise politics will become He took a very inclusive view of religion politics. He drew, of course, a great deal of his values Hinduism but that did not his spiritual sources. Christianity and Islam deviant bhakti were an equally valid source for him. Politics was, for him, a coalition faiths. He, therefore, never used any religious festival or for political even though drew a good bit of his vocabulary from Indian religious sources. contrast to this, Savarlcar that instead of spiritual values, it should be the race and ancestry, history and tradition, and the sacredness of the of Hindus should be basis of the view of politics. also that only those whose has its origin India can subscribe to view of politics. Others lilce or cannot ever commit their allegiance to India; in words, these people cannot treat India as Bhoomi. I-Ie gave of to politics; all the main points of writings are available in the book of title. This is prime example, its of religious politics. It is, obviously, exclusionist politics, as defined earlier.

25.3 EVOLUTION

Religious politics in India has a long in spite of being pedigree. Some of great religious thinkers horizons also lo the of religious politics even they not reducible to be votaries of a politics. The history of religious revivalism, is via media to the making ofreligious politics, is more than a years old. Towards last decades of the 1 politics based on revivalist sentiments was becoming ascendant all over especially in and were, till then, the of the social This
mood of politics based on revivalism was fast social movements sought to practices within lilce enforced widowhood, denial of education to women, etc. It is interesting to note that of suggested were related to fate of the women, life more livcable for of the ascendance of the decline of the movement was treatment out to the National Social Conference started by Ranade, as an umbrella of various social different of India. Its was to discuss and co- ordinate and encourage the all over India. At an all-India level, it used to meet annually, parallel to sessions of Indian National Congress. a drastic move, in the 1885 session of the Congress at Poona, Bal banned its meetings and tried to make it defunct. This in stance was caused because he
by now following the tendency and toolc a cleas against social Soon instituted the as a mode mass rnobilisation against
colonialism.





Tlze second instance of changing among the literati in our society in defence of religion was the hugely vociferous, even though lived, against the of Consent Bill'. bill proposed a was to rise age of marriage for girls ten years to twelve years. Today we will be aghast if were to oppose for whatever the reason. it raised is surprising as we look back today. Notable figures nationalists and Bal and others like joined chorus of protest. The was that the foreign
the British, no right to interfere in the religious customs of Hindus. The argument
sounds false because it was never clear whether infant marriage of the girl was of or a social prevailing in the then Indian society. Contrast this with position the British proposed a bill for the abolition of Untouchability. He consistently British between 1933 and 1935. On
27 January 1935, addressing some of Central Legislature, said, ..even if the body of opinion were to be against the still he would advise a secular legislature the not to tolerate that attitude." His view was only undue interference of religion to be avoided. But these same people
who opposed the British on interfering in matters concerning religion, demanded the ban on
cow There was no consistency or of criteria in of legislative measures proposed by were to be opposed or demanded. The Hindu groups, which were becoming influential now, talked only in terms of Hindu religious


Rising Hindu revivalism got unexpected who had become popular after his at World was one of
He gave an interesting based on vs. growth service. I-Ie declared, "I do not believe I believe in growth. I do dare to put the of God
and dictate unto our society: 'This way you shall move that way.'. ....
national has ages; this national river is flowing before us. Who knows and dare say whether it is good it shall move?" "Traditions and
Social Reform" as an Appendix Religion and Political Awakening in 1969 Revised Edition.) considered view was that these social movements were alien to Indian Similar views were expressed other parts of India. In Bengal, others, for
his Matamm, was a prominent voice against such In Maharashtra, it was
who raised banner of revolt against social In other parts of the movement took similar What to be remembered is that these figures were very prominent nationalist voices and their was also to give a new different shape to Indian nationalism.

idea of going into all is to rise of religious politics had its roots to region, it a position another of politics
was predominant in the earlier phases starting Roy. earlier politics was marked by conviction that society can revitalise itself by getting rid of evil practices which have got entrenched in the society, and these cannot be legislation and the sanction of laws. establishes its claims the legacy of Roy It replaces that appeal by different ideas of the importance of tradition Hindu custom.




REVIVALISM

There is no content to Hindu revivalism. It varied a great deal both person to person also region to region. We will look at the regions in.India where Hindu revivalism was pronounced in or other; Bengal, and
three regions where had a long

In Bengal, it was most widespread as well as intense, it took a singularly unusual
form. It in the form of a very, to borrow a term fi-om Sarkar,"intellectualised I revivalism". What it means is that it becomes a debate the intellectuals of a highbrow, I cerebral kind. It was a talk the literati. Even when and newspaper got
into it, the tone and drift was such it have had little appeal the common people. It had three drives, its like Bankim Chandra among
many others, for example. First, highlighting and some immemorial traditions of I
India and arguing to establish their spiritual superiority to the west, even if we have to
concede that we are materially weak. Second, in of these to ask, who (really) is an I
Indian? Everybody who lives in is not a Bengali. So too is the case
India. This way of treating who lives in India is territorial nationalism. One must also
I
certain express certain sentiments, which may then qualify one to be I
an Indian. The word was not coined but it was the first step towards, what later came to be known as, cultural nationalism; that is, one is Indian only when one displays certain cultural characteristics. Finally, immense intellectual labour went into showing the of Lord to that of Jesus also an ideal for a patriotic Indian. But curiously, very little of what in Bengal survived in Bengal, (even is vibrant for other parts of India) except, perhaps, and only as a song without so as a test of patriotism as in the

Maharashtra, religious had a more varied basis. There surely was 'the intellectual component. And it took form, subtly of a reassertion. This can best be seen in efforts to counter the awakening and assertions among the lower castes as these crystaliised in the person of Jyotiba Phule. There was also something different, secondly, Bengal. Religious and festivals were activated in public made to effect mobilisation of the masses in the cause of nationalism. The most well known of these is the conversion of Ganesh hitherto a domestic event, a public celebration known as Ganesh Utsav. Today it has spread into many other parts of India, and become a source of communal tensions in the way it is utilised by the Parivar.Ganesh is the Lord of success and the activists of the
think that by privileging Ganesh they will achieve political success all over India. This
and the route to mobilisation. The it took was the building the cult of Shivaji unlike a religious icon, a concrete historical figure and a great warrior. He was built as the ideal personality, fighting the rule. Shivaji was surely a figure of great importance in the awakenings taking place in India and later but to build him as a Hindu cult figure was to mass consciousness, was getting then. In Maharashtra, religious revivalism took a turn towards mobilisation, and in this it was distinct
what had happened in Bengal.








India represents a intriguing Much intellectual debates here spread into society issues contentions. And of became issues of were close to popular practices beliefs. Two different variants emerged in north India. One the plains the other in the northwestern India, what are now and western Pradesh. In plain, the issues Hindu revivalism asserted itself were the ones related to cow-slaughter and Hindi in the script. has in
the and Hindu, as in his
in North India, 1990.) Cow its by
the Muslims daily life and especially of issues of heightening the sensibilities of and trying to mobilise to agitate so as to stop
the Muslims from slaughtering cows. In the same issue of Hindi and Devnagri
as against Urdu in the Persian script matters of Hindu- Muslim disputes public In the northwestern India, similar issues were raised together with others through a different It was the rise and dissemination of the of At level.it was a "protestant but at another
it was also a vituperative attack against anything that was not properly aligned to It successfully combined a attack on a Hindu practices like polytheism, idolatry, caste based on birth advocated inter-caste widow such things. in his also attack on non-Vedic religions like Sikhism, etc., devoting a chapter to these and the attack on and its prophet was abusive. His followers entered into withthe and the Muslims, the two other
of this region. Jones in his book shows how the rapidly
spread in especially trading castes like the converts were Rai (the leader),
(later Swami and others. Since then, it concentrated on two activities in particular, opening of Anglo-Vedic schools a to Hindu of those had converted to religions. latter coupled with that the called was very in vitiating the

25.4.1 Rise in Political Unrest

The emerging political temper based on religious and cultural nationalism got a powerful intellectual and a11 all-India plane, from the writings of highly respected and sophisticated such as Vivelcananda and Aurobindo. There canvasses were vast, very wide, and large. For both India has a for the world, to give to materially oriented west great spiritual resources of India and thus to enrich their impoverished Within this they the glories of ancient India, the of Indian religion philosophy, the superiority of the of Indian tolerance, and
so on. All this can still go well. But there is a tendency to especially pronounced ,
Vivekananda, the Hindu-Vedantic tradition religions. He was quite given
to comparing the tolerance with Muslim "intolerance" to equate ,
with slaughter all over world, and to consider prophet of
as having more harm to world than good. (Collected Works, Vol. Aurobindo
. ,




equated nationalism with In lesser hands, these and such other observations became very damaging for relationsand in vitiating worsening tensions. All had disastrous consequences for seen in conjunction with what was happening with the Muslims.

The interpretative Hindu discussed above had parallel, though of a different kind, the Muslims as well. The traditions within the Muslim religious community were also subjected to interventions and re-workings by both neo-orthodoxy and the "modernist", both of them trying to draw the community away the national developments for altogether different reasons. Whatever, these interventions succeeded in drawing the Muslim


25.5

The interventions among the Muslims, starting roughly from the first half of the 19th Century also did have a character to them. From viewpoint of the Muslims in India, of these represented a retreat into traditional or Islam of rather primitive varieties. or of their lesser known followers like of or of or
Ali of all in the first half of 1 were influenced by the Waliabi
and concentrated their attention on practices prevalent among the Muslims like the folk practices of joining each others festivals, of salutations and greetings, customs etiquettes influenced by surrounding Hindu and, above all,
worship of saints as Shirk (associating other powers with Allah) and so on. They to wean away the Muslims, especially the new converts, residual Hindu practices and replace instead a purified of by influences".
of intervention came later in second half of the Sir best represents this view. Instead of a retreat the past and oriented to the times of Prophet and his close associates, Sir vision was one of a Muslim community, staying away from the against the British colonialism, rapid a conception of Islam in reason and science and the demands of the modern era.

Whatever the differences may be, which can be discerned with respect to historical times, internal thrust and intentions or motivations, are certain common features and consequences of these interventions from above. more features are, first, a well and planned towards addressing the peaple directly instead of relying on or looking to the or the aristocracy to Islam, as, for did in the conflict between Aurangzeb and Dara set out to build bridges between the Muslim gentry and the lower ranks of Muslims to provide enduring channels of communication within tlie community. Secondly, these interventions sought to bring a shift from the site of theological arguments addressed to the learned for political to some form of mobilisation of the people on broad Thirdly, there a consistent effort to reconstruct a "healthier" version of as the ground on which the newly sought identity of Muslims could stand. It may be to that these two trends came about due to these interventionsas and "Modernist". Interestingly they took diametrically opposite stands the nationalist even while








looking at Muslims as a distinct cultural The traditionalistssupported the national movement while the pleaded with the Muslims to stay aloof the independence movement.

The contradictory consequences involved in all this are worth noting. While these developments were slowly drawing the Muslim community away the rest of the s ociety, these were also slowly bringing them as a people into the public arena as active participants, insistent on being heard. The people were becoming active in the public arena, by distancing themselves from Hindus. This was an important development. Though, this in itself was not a cause of partition, where political healing was still possible, but it did become a contributory factor.


25.6 RELIGIOUS POLITICS: AN OVERVIEW

Let us come back to course of religious politics among Hindu delineated above. After the disaster of the partition, we are now India where Hindus constitute 83 percent of the population. The next biggest religious group is that of the Muslims who make up about 11 per cent of the population. Developments among the Hindus therefore matter a lot more for the fate of India than among other religious Of the many developments and interpretative changes discussed above, an insight into three or four consequences is needed to understand our present politics.

The first of these was to give monolithic unity to the Hindu community, a body of doctrines held together in a theological whole, quite in the way other religions are. Hinduism as a religion with fluid boundaries was seen as a liability in face of an adversity. There was also a concerted effort, secondly, to give muscle to Hinduism. All the religious thinkers in the wake of revivalism, with the sole exception of Gandhi, felt that Hinduism was weak and effeminate and therefore it was first conquered by Muslims and then colonised by the British. It must, therefore, be India will remain threatened by outside powers and This united such diverse thinkers as Bankim Chandra, Vivekananda, and many others. The unity and integrity of India was conceived in the unity and masculinity of the Hindu histoiy was, over the last thousand years since the coming of Muslims, viewed as a story defeats and misfortune. Before that time was the period of great achievement, which was one of glory. It is the duty of every one, here is the third feature, which united every one of these thinkers, to recover that golden age. differed only in their means of it. Strategically they were one but tactically differed quite considerably.

The last important characteristic underlying the revivalist thought was a deep suspicion of those features of Hinduism, which to many other conscientious Hindus, like or for example, were the beauty and strength of Hinduism. This had to do with its diversity and ability to generate innovative variety. No other religion had such a capacity, The above thinkers and the we have considered earlier, had deep mistrust about this trait of Hinduism. They were therefore distrustful of local differences, regional variations, mystic cults or the movements. These were looked at as enfeebling and therefore to be shunned and fought out. This reached its culmination in
(the most important book written in 1923) where doctrine itself is suspect



and is replaced by race, blood and the shared of this sacred Bhoomi. The perception was that those outside of sharing this blood tradition, like Muslim and with religions from alien soil, can never be able to ever give allegiance to India; they can never treat India as their Bhoomi. Muslims thus are a suspect presence in India. It, therefore, follows to be a good Hindu, one should combat the Muslims and also the Christian. The question then to ponder over is: is cultural nationalism not communal?

What Hindutva does is to counter the direct identity of the Hindus with the negative similarity of the We now have the Hindu in the perpetual conflicting presence of the Other. It is only in getting the better of the that the realise its potential. That is what religious politics culminates in. This is Hindutva is all about.

All this is still in of imagination, the world of thought. How does one make it actual, the politics of the day? What stands between the imagined and the real is the organisation, so thought Hegdewar-the founder of the Hedgewar, in Nagpur, founded RSS in 1925, two years after the publication of Hindutva by V.D. Many attempts to build organisations were made from the beginning of this century. The earliest were prntinidhi sabhas of the Arya Samaj which itself was founded in 1875. Early in the century, the Hindu Sabha was founded. Later on in the 1915 the Hindu Sabha was formed. The efforts were always there but nothing succeeded in a big way.

The RSS was a beginning, in a provincial town of Maharashtra, where it still has its It was unique and innovative in a simple way. Its principle was based on three things. There was to be a uniform (a and shirt), a salute (to the RSS, but not national, flag) and a drill to give a martial outlook. This was to be followed by chat with a sevak, on matters considered by him to be "patriotic". But the important idea underlying this was that it must become a part of the routine of one's life, The ordinary cadre, the Sevak, is a soldier in the cause of nation. Like in military, he is bound by discipline, in strictly hierarchical set up. Though it seemed to be farcical in the beginning, it achieved considerable success under its second dictator, Golwalkar. It has number of like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, the Dal, Hindu and The started a political party of its own, having earlier collaborated with Hindu
for many years, the Jana It was reincarnated as the Bharatiya Janata in
1980, which is now in a coalition called National Democratic Front, the ruling party in the country.


SUMMARY

In this unit, you have studied the meaning and importance of religious politics, and its divergent views. It has gradually evolved since the last decades of the 1 with the national movement as its background. The beginning was made with social reforms and subsequently found support scholars and nationalists alike, though their methods differed significantly. Hindu revivalism secured its bases in Bengal, and the Northern Indian region. The nationalist leaders drew their inspiration fiom religious icons and cults and Vedas; they tried to heighten the sensibilities of their groups by advocating the reforms and rituals related to their respective faiths. The Islamic perspective drew its sources the historic and





attempted to unite the community by constructing a version of Islam. Gradually differences led to conflicting perspectives; nevertheless, the religious groups have started a role, thus making the issue of religious politics a continuous phenomenon.


25.8 EXERCISES

1) How is religious politicsdifferent the issue of religionand politics?

2) Explicatethe essence of religious politics.

3) Discuss the evolution ofreligiouspolitics.

4) What do you understand by Hindu Revivalism?

6) Write a note the perspectiveof religiouspolitics.

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