The Tribune - Spectrum


Sunday, May 18, 2003

Blurring fact-myth boundaries
Nirbhai Singh

Communal Politics: Facts and Myths
by Ram Puniyani. Sage, New Delhi. Pages 309. Rs 295.

THE book revolves around the present political scene in India that mirrors the Hindutva political ideology. It castigates myth-making to demolish the minorities. Being an anti-fundamentalist, the author is critical of the existential political situation of India. He focuses on the irreconcilable ideologies of the Sangh Parivar and the secular forces. He argues that real threat to Indian democracy is from communal politics.

The book is split into 14 chapters, precluding prelims and epilogue. The central issue is given in the Introduction and the Epilogue. The author debunks the Hindutva ideology of the Sangh Parivar. The polemic is built round the leitmotif that the interests of one community are inimical to the "other." Hatred is ingrained in the Muslim and Hindutva ideologies. Muslim ideology treats non-Muslims as infidels (kafirs). Hiduism or Hindutva is not a religion but a political ideology.


The real spirit of Vedanta and Islam transcends the narrow sectarian contours. Muslim rulers and the Hindutva ideologues have been exploiting the masses for their personal gains in the name of religion. The basic logic of the Hindutva ideology is that Aryans were the original inhabitants of India. Beyond 2000 B.C. they were nomads. They might have settled down in the Indus valley. The Aryans’ settlement stems from race (Aryans), culture (Brahmanical), language (Sanskrit) and territory (India). Religion and culture are two catalytic pillars on which the Hindutva edifice is built. Archaeological excavations give evidence of Shramanic religious tradition, which is different from the Vedic tradition. The indigenous people of the South have different culture and language. They might have been pushed to the South.

In the present political scene, the Hindutva ideology has grabbed a large socio-political space by whipping up mass hysteria around religious sentiment. The ideology is bound to be communal if language, religion and race are its determining factors.

On the contrary, liberal democracy is based on equality of opportunity. Hindus are in majority in India. They will dominate the political scenario. The author is of the view that communal politics has serious repercussions that challenge the democratic principles and values. Hence, Hindutva is anathema to the spirit of the Indian Constitution. Hindutva politics aims at creating a Hindu rashtra, which is inimical to the secular democratic values. Communal politics chokes freedom and equality, and dissipates social harmony in the composite culture of India.

It has been projected that Muslims were invaders and Hindus were the original inhabitants of India. This colonial theory was introduced to lord over other religious communities. There is no conclusive evidence and argument that the Aryans were indigenous inhabitants of India. It was the Europeans who invented it to drive a wedge between the communities. It served them as the basis for "divide and rule." The elite Brahmanical class politicised it to gain advantage over minority communities.

The question becomes redundant whether the Aryans were indigenous people or came from Central Asia. The fathers of the Indian Constitution were aware of the problem. They accepted them as the permanent citizens of India and were granted equal opportunities. The past is dead. We should live in the present with open minds and liberal attitude towards others. The distinct identities of the minorities should be recognised lest they develop a sense of alienation. It will checkmate the antagonistic forces and promote inter-community bonds to usher in communal harmony.

The theologians and the clergy often distort spirit of religion, and the politicians exploit it for personal gains. They invent myths that are drawn from history and different walks of life. The book has tried to prove that. Facts of history have been made myths of. In the times of crisis they exploit the situation to assault the "other" community. Both communities should see reason and accept the golden maxim, "live and let live". All communities can retain their distinct religious identities and can live in harmony.

The Introduction refers to the demolition of Babri Masjid (1992), communal riots, the Godhra carnage (2002), and other frenzied controversies. Politicians and the fanatics are indulging in politics of the sacred. The author argues that the elite Hindu class wants to communalise society and religion is being used as a catalytic tool for legitimising their standpoint. The author has traced communal politics from the 19th century on, when the industrialisation of India began.

It will be pertinent to point out that the book is meant for the general readers who are interested in day-to-day politics. The serious researcher can get inspiration from it.