There is, in my opinion, no other issue in the contemporary world that evokes such controversy as the concept of “Hindutva”. It frequently gets confused with religion (Hinduism), which it is not, and it should not be seen as a militant or extremist movement, in the way that Islam tends to be.
While Hinduism is a religion—the oldest religion in the world—Hindutva is a way of life derived from Hinduism. One does not have to be a born Hindu to believe in Hindutva. Hinduism is thousands of years old, and it has guided and shaped the conduct of billions of people born in India through the ages. The West simply does not have the perception and breadth of knowledge to comprehend the plurality and diversity of thought that is the hallmark of Hindutva. One needs to broaden his horizons to grasp the tatva of Hindu philosophy.
At the same time, countless Indian sages have penned down numerous treatises on philosophy, religion, political and social sciences, and mathematics. This body of knowledge has had a profound impact on the lives of Indians and, undoubtedly, will continue to influence the Indian way of life of future generations. There is no other religion in the world that has given humanity so much to think about.
Hindutva does not tell me which God or Goddess I should believe in, nor does it force me against my will to go to a particular place of worship, or to pray x number of times every day. These are personal choices, and Hinduism does not interfere in these things. Hinduism believes in inclusion: it does not exclude entire groups of people based on their beliefs, and it definitely does not believe in genocide to eliminate alternative ways of life and thought. It only guides me to follow my dharma, which is based on my understanding of my duties and responsibilities.
So, what is my dharma? My dharma (as a teacher) is to impart knowledge, and advice my students to have an open mind, because the pursuit of knowledge is endless. In the same way, it is the dharma of a soldier to protect his country and its people from barbarian invaders whose only purpose is to loot, rape, and kill, and to either subjugate hitherto independent societies or to erase their culture and identity through mass murder and genocide. Does the name Adolf Hitler ring a bell? Has the world ever read in a history book about a Hindu ruler’s pleasure trip to a neighboring country to plunder, rape, and kill?
Hinduism does not believe in world domination, there is no record anywhere of an Indian king who wanted to spread his wings to gain money and territory.
“Dismantling Global Hindutva” has been an evil and destructive attempt to belittle and destroy an entire body of enlightened thought. It has been an exercise in futility because you cannot wish away something that represents thousands of years of evolutionary wisdom. Hindutva is a peaceful and mature way of life that is much older and resilient than the 1400 years of Islamic mayhem.
I sometimes wonder at the vulnerability of Western intellectuals and institutions who entertain and accept the twisted thoughts presented by Jihadi groups and their supporters about Hindu extremism. They forget the human and social toll their own societies have had to pay in recent history due to extremist activities of jihadi groups such as ISIS, Al Qaeda, or their clones. Between 2015 and 2020, in France alone, there were 72 Islamist terrorist attacks including the one in the Charlie Hebdo office in Paris, resulting in 274 deaths and 973 injuries. How many of these were planned by Hindu extremists?
Because people’s memories are short, history repeats itself. The West (loosely defined) has mostly been accommodative of Islamic wrongdoings even when it involves outright murder, human rights violations, gender inequality, and the disappearance and systemic elimination of opposition politicians. On the other hand, it misses no opportunity to criticize secular India’s decision to make moves that are in the best interests of the country. To the Western critics of India’s governing style, I would like to say that in assessing the success or failure of democracy, you can’t use the same yardstick from America to Zambia. Every country has its own specificities and sets of problems inherited from its (colonial) past. For example, the roots of the current Indo-Pak ‘love affair’ go back in time to the decisions made by the British during the British colonial rule. Instead of lecturing India about secularism, the British should feel ashamed of their own “divide and rule” policy and its application in India, which has resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent people.
In short, I would just like to conclude by saying, “Do due diligence, don’t forget, and be fair.”