Secular Self-Goal: Pitting Gandhi against Hindutva – R. Jagannathan

M.K. Gandhi

R. JagannathanGandhi talked incessantly about Ram Rajya, and loved songs with Hindu imagery. He asserted his Hindu-ness repeatedly. … Using Gandhi to argue against Hindutva is a self-goal secularists keep scoring against themselves. – R. Jagannathan

It has now become fashionable to use Mahatma Gandhi to put down Hindutva.

Narendra Modi is mocked if he tries to claim Gandhi as his own inspiration and for allegedly imitating him.

Historians deny Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Modi the right to reappraise Gandhi on their own terms.

All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen chief Asaduddin Owaisi, in order to give Hindutva a bad name before hanging it, likened himself to Gandhi after a few shots were fired at him earlier this year.

He said the same people who killed Gandhi took aim at him too.

Rahul Gandhi seeks to separate Hinduism from Hindutva, even though they mean the same thing.

The Communist Party of India (Marxist) or CPI(M) claimed it liked Gandhi’s idea of India in a tweet on 2 October 2020: “CPI(M) remembers Mahatma Gandhi today. He wanted a secular nation and was killed by the Right wing because they saw him as a threat to their project. We pledge to fight for his idea of India.”

The truth is Gandhi was steeped in Hindutva, or Hindu-ness.

“Every fibre of my being is Hindu”, he wrote in Young India, as Ram Madhav wrote in this article in Open magazine.

Gandhi talked incessantly about Ram Rajya, and loved songs with Hindu imagery. He asserted his Hindu-ness repeatedly.

Even though he was blown away by Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount, he stoutly opposed religious conversions, and saw Christian missionary work as a negative influence in India. (Read some of his views in these blogs, here and here).

So, to cut a long debate short, using Gandhi to argue against Hindutva is a self-goal secularists keep scoring against themselves.

For, the deeper they dive into what Gandhi said, the more they will look foolish.

At best one can make the claim that Gandhi can be quoted against the idea of violence, but this can’t be restricted to violence attributed to Hindus alone.

Yesterday (2 October), on another Gandhi Jayanti, another card-carrying secular columnist, went on to score yet another self-goal by using Gandhi against Hindutva.

Swaminathan Aiyar gave the janeu-wearing Shiv Bhakt, Rahul Gandhi, now on a Bharat Jodo padayatra, some gratuitous advice. He asked him to embrace Gandhi’s favourite songs.

Among the songs Aiyar asked Rahul Gandhi to introduce in the Congress party regularly are the following:

Raghupati Raghava Raja Ram, Patitha Pavana Sita Ram, Ishwar Allah Tero Naam, Sabko Sanmati De Bhagwan. (Praise be to Lord Rama, of Raghu Dynasty, Praise to Sita Ram, who can purify even sinners. Whether called Ishwar or Allah, may he give everyone noble thoughts).

Another gem from Gandhi’s favourites, quoted by Aiyar in his Times of India column, is this:

Vishnava jana to tene kahiya, peed paraayi jaane re. (Only he understands God, who understands the pain of others).

It should be obvious to all but the truly naive that these are essentially Hindu syncretic songs. Only Hindus accept the idea of Ishwar and Allah as the same entity called by different names, not Muslims.

The reference to Vaishnava jana is typically Hindu, and usually not acceptable to Abrahamics.

The point is: syncretism and pluralism, and acceptability of God in all forms is a unique Hindu idea. It is usually not acceptable in the exclusivity of Abrahamic religions.

When we can’t get Muslims to sing even Vande Mataram without its references to Hindu goddesses, how is Aiyar going to get the Congress’s minority vote bank to sing Gandhi’s uniquely Hindu songs that appealed largely to his Hindu audiences?

Gandhi won a large following largely among the simple Hindu masses because of his use of Hindu imagery for conveying his political messages.

He failed with Muslims abysmally. If he had succeeded, India would never have been partitioned.

So, Rahul Gandhi is not going to win any converts to his secularism (beyond naive Hindus, that is) by taking to Gandhi’s music.

Secularists have scored another self-goal. Just as nobody is fooled by Rahul Gandhi’s Shiv bhakti, no one will buy his Raghupati Raghava Raja Ram song either. Hindus will sing it anyway to assert their Hindu-ness, or Hindutva.

Syncretism and inclusiveness are Hindu values, not Abrahamic.  – Swarajya, 3 October 2022

R. Jagannathan is the Editorial Director of Swarajya.