Why Hindutva is anti-development?

Narendra Modi dismisses the notion that Hindutva is inconsistent with development. He cites as proof Gujarat’s progress. Indeed, Gujarat does have a dynamic administration and it is one of India’s fastest growing states. And many of India Inc’s leading lights want Modi to become India’s prime minister one day. So why should one cavil about Hindutva in terms of development? Because Hindutva is the anti-thesis of the very idea of development.
Hindutva is, of course, completely different from Hinduism, the highly eclectic, diverse, polytheistic religion and culture followed by 80% of all Indians. Hindutva seeks to unify Hindu society on the basis of hostility towards non-Hindus and redefine Indian nationhood in a way that would make religious minorities second class citizens.

Isn’t this a cliched charge? Isn’t the use of communalism an expedient means of mobilising votes for practically all political parties? With the anti-Sikh riots of 1984 still reverberating strongly enough to force the Congress to change its parliamentary candidates at shoe-point, why single out the BJP on this count?

Cynical use of communalism by any political party is destructive, abhorrent and to be condemned. But there is a difference between a party that organises a community to hate all those outside itself and parties that make expedient use of communalism.

What is the evidence for the charge that the BJP is a party with communalism as its principal agenda? The most recent and striking piece of evidence is Varun Gandhi’s emergence as the party’s new poster boy, in the wake of his hate speeches against Muslims. Not only has the BJP leadership endorsed him warmly as a candidate, the party cadre have hailed him as a new hero and star campaigner. Another recent example of the BJP’s communal agenda is the concerted attack on Christians in Kandhamal by organisations and activists of the Sangh Parivar, led by a man who is a BJP candidate in these elections.

The BJP is part of the family of organisations inspired and controlled by the RSS, which does not make any bones about its mission to convert India into a Hindu state where non-Hindus can be tolerated, at best, as second class citizens, in the words of ideologue Golwalkar.

Even if the BJP is a communal party, why should that make it anti-development? The answer is at two levels: one, the social violence inherent in the project of making non-Hindus second class citizens can blow up the orderly conduct of economic activity; and two, the very idea of development eschews exclusion and suppression of any section of society.

This column does not endorse the view that new roads and ports and factories and power plants constitute development, nor the view that new
material prosperity is the product of any particular political ideology. To illustrate the latter point, this column has often cited an example from the last century that is still relevant.

During the 1930s, ‘development’ was being vigorously pursued by three leaders: Depression-buster FDR in the US; Hitler, rebuilding the military-industrial muscle the Aryan race needed to acquire some ‘elbow room’; and Stalin in Russia, to defend the fatherland against inevitable imperialist attack. All of them built new roads, factories, power plants, military might and all other external symbols of development. Even as they shared ‘development’ as a common endeavour, they pursued very different political projects.

The minority-bashing Nazis could not sustain their prosperity long. The violence inherent in their project of ridding the world of Jews, in the end, laid waste Germany itself. This danger is inherent in all visions of development that exclude and oppress certain sections of society. For development, ultimately, is not about material prosperity alone.

The human species is different from the rest in its ability to produce new things, material and cultural, apart from reproducing itself. This unique ability to create new things and add to the richness of life depends just as much on how people interact amongst themselves, as on how they interact with nature, whose resources they use for production. People interact with each other from different positions of power within society. Some positions, such as, for example, of the Dalit family whose little girl was thrown into a furnace, in Mayawati’s UP, by an upper caste youth who did not like her walking on the main village road, inhibit creativity, to put it mildly.

Unleashing human creativity is true development. And this can be achieved only by ending oppression, empowerment of the disempowered to acquire the wherewithal of new creation: knowledge, health, security, material infrastructure. Freedom and development are thus intertwined. Freedom is indivisible — chained as the slave is, at the other end of the same chain is the master, hobbled by having to contain the slave.

There is no development possible for the vast majority of Hindus while non-Hindus are kept unfree. Empowerment of the disempowered does not take place by community. Communal division only disrupts the subaltern solidarity needed to break out of unfreedom. This is why Hindutva is anti-development.

7 May 2009, TK Arun, ET Bureau

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