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‘The Hindutva Paradigm’ Book Review: The battle between idea and ideology


Express News Service

The Hindutva Paradigm by high profile political leader and a committed footsoldier of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), Ram Madhav, is an earnest attempt to introduce a century-old ideology academically to the wider audience domestically and internationally. Calling his effort a “non-western world view” of the idea, concept, philosophy and dimensions of the Hindutva school of thought, Madhav’s work seems to be part of a bigger plan to rewrite history and present its thinkers in a manner so that adequate attention is paid to it by the academic and the intellectual community.     

He has sought to achieve the bigger mission assigned to Sangh ‘pracharaks’ or campaigners through Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyay and his philosophical model built around ‘Integral Humanism’ or ‘Integral Humanist Philosophy’ because “ism’ has alien or negative connotations. It could be an answer to a new world order since the over seven-decade-old global order is facing a serious existential crisis at present, argues Madhav.  

Making a distinction between an ideology and an idea, the ardent campaigner of the forces of Hindutva explains at length that unlike the western world view that offers models and solutions through ideologies like Socialism, Communism, Liberalism, Capitalism etc, India has historically been the land of profound ideas for the welfare of mankind.   

Upadhyay, who was deputed by the RSS top hierarchy to assist Shyama Prasad Mukherjee (founder of the earlier avatar of the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Bharatiya Jana Sangh) in running the organisational work of the newly-floated party that had aimed at becoming an alternative to the Congress party led by the country’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, worked hard to give ideological foundations and developed the idea of ‘Integral Humanism’ or ‘Integral Humanist Philosophy’.  

Upadhyay, who came to head the political party at a relatively young age of 51, died in 1968 within a year of assuming the charge of the Jana Sangh leaving him almost no time to develop his idea fully which he had begun to propound and develop through four lectures in the then Bombay in 1965. 

Both “philosophy and the philosopher continue to remain an enigma, not only to the outside world but even to their own followers,” Madhav asserts while justifying the raison d’etre of his intellectual pursuit culminating into a book.   

Upadhyay’s ‘Integral Humanist Philosophy’ was developed around man, society, nature and the divine. He advocated that it was the “all-encompassing idea of Dharma that should be the basis for universal good”. In an obvious effort to establish Upadhyay on a high pedestal in the category of Gandhi, Nehru, Aurobindo and Tagore, Madhav says: “Deen Dayal heavily drew from the wisdom of ancient Indian scriptures and traditions thus making his brand of integral humanism more a philosophical school of thought rather than any ideology”. Not to mention that ideology is anathema to Hindutva thinkers and philosophers as it—according to Upadhyay and Madhav— is a western way of life and thinking. 

“All that is ancient need not be sacred; similarly, not everything new is holy; wise men examine the efficacy before accepting; fools just imitate,” said Upadhyay but Madhav fails to explain that the policies of the RSS, as well as the Jana Sangh earlier and the BJP now, have not reflected this in practice. Can Madhav deny that one of the most powerful factors catapulting the BJP to power in 1998 and then in 2014 was the Ram temple movement?

In yet another attempt to present Upadhyay in a positive light, Madhav claims that the proposal of senior leaders of the Hindu Mahasabha and Ram Rajya Parishad of merging three parties into one party was turned down by the then Jana Sangh leaders on the ground that while the Hindu Mahasabha was anti-minority (as it refused the admission of Muslims and Christians), the Ram Rajya Parishad was anti-Dalit. “The Bharatiya Jana Sangh was to be a party for all Indians irrespective of caste and religion,” claims the author in his over 400-page book—a claim that is far away from facts on the ground.

While presenting Hindutva as a serious alternative to the broad Gandhian-Nehruvian approach to the post-colonial Indian situation as it existed after the British relinquished power, Madhav intelligently tries to discredit the Congress rule in the post-Independence era thus fulfilling the Sangh’s political mission.    

Mentioning Mohammad Ali Jinnah as the propounder of the ‘Two Nations” theory that is responsible for the country’s unfortunate partition, Madhav intentionally omits reference to yet another Hindutva icon Vinayak Damodar Savarkar who had first propounded it, which in turn, raises many questions on the credibility of his work. In short, Madhav’s work serves his political mission while substantially lacking the academic rigour that is needed for turning Hindutva into a paradigm.  

The Hindutva Paradigm
By: Ram Madhav
Publisher: Westland
Pages: 424
Price: Rs 799  

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