Preface: It was almost six years ago that I wrote my initial thoughts down about Hindutva. My limited worldview at the time, combined with deference for political correctness, forced me to be suffocative. The below should elaborate my positions somewhat (although maybe I will be apologetic about this too come 2025.)
Hindutva, circa 2019, is all but dead. I.e. the word Hindutva itself. Now the debate is simply reduced to nationalists vs. anti-nationalists. The beliefs of Hindutva's proponents however have never been more mainstream and as things stand, have won over the hollow secularism of the last three decades. Yogi Adityanath, an unabashed Hindu nationalist is the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, BJP has now ruled over Kashmir for the first time in Independent India's history, movies with slogans of 'Har Har Mahadeva' and the Bhagva Dhwaj are earning 100s of crores at the box office, and the Indian media is finally paying lip service to nationalism after figuring out what the middle class wants.
However, the issues at the forefront for the voter remain far from cultural, and stuck rooted in the economy. Given BJP's spectacular losses in the heartland in late 2018, what is the status of the Hindutva project?
First things first, Hindutva remains the rallying cry of millions of subalterns. The craze of, what the Indian left would call, Hindu chauvinist pop culture has never been more pronounced. The unabashed display of it in our metropolitan cities has only come about recently - and for someone who was not around during the heydays of the Ram Janmabhoomi Movement, this is especially the case. Not to fall for availability bias but social media has contributed the most towards the window expanding and the mainstream accepting the Hindu traditionalist worldview. However, the lack of a nation-building perspective is showing in the lack of animal spirits in the economy. Instead of voting for something greater than oneself, voters despite partaking in a cultural revival remain myopic when it comes to elections and vote based on their MSP for crops, loan-waivers, and petrol prices.
In finance, there is a concept that reduces even the most profitable potential investments for investors to become unsavory. The sovereign risk factor is a big component when it comes to investors calculating their prospective returns while assessing whether or not to invest in projects that people would consider 'development-related'. The weaker the rule of law, enforcement of contracts, and exit rights, etc. the higher the sovereign risk, and the more expensive it is to raise capital to fund Vikaas. Hindutva not only provides an identity to millions, but also acts as a means to reduce this sovereign risk.
It acts as a bulwark against those that seek to destabilize the Indian society given a common focus on bettering one's country can even lift a country that was nuked to become a superpower. Relative peace provides a conducive environment for investment, which leads to growth, which if followed for a long period, leads to eventual prosperity. Countries that have avoided the middle income trap have all had a homogenous identity, whether it is Japan, Taiwan, Korea, and now China. Therefore, when citizens combine and contribute towards the development of their nation, they support a bigger cause than themselves, their immediate family, community, and their gods. Betterment of fellow Indians is part of India's civilizational Hindu ethos, feeling proud to belong to your country is nationalism, and seeking inspiration in your past to relive the glory days along with the betterment and pride of being associated with an ancient civilization is Hindutva.
To support Hindutva is as much about understanding what you stand against than what you stand for... today Hindutva's critics range from Marxist, CCCP partisans at The Hindu The Wire et al., to LeT's Hafiz Saeed, to PFI in Kerala that chops off hands and bleeds to death Hindus that protest against their crass conversion techniques. Other critics include the loony Western SJWs that conflate Hitler's hooked cross with the 6000-year old Swastika symbol of Hindu hospitality.
Opposition would have been ok if the critics opposed an ideology, however as the opposition by the 'educated' left in the U.S. over Tulsi Gabbard's POTUS candidacy has shown, conflating hate and ignorance about Hindutva naturally leads to Hinduphobia and ignorant bigotry against the Hindu faith. Therefore, by not allying with Hindutva, one opens themselves to be used as a useful idiot by its critics. While tribalism is not ideal, that is the world we're living in so might as well pick the right tribe.
So what next for Hindutva? The fast changing demographics of India, including some populous regions such as Western Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Assam, and Mewat show that the window for Hindutva to rescue India and avoid social tensions is extremely short. Kerala's example shows that the previously-held theory of linear drop in TFRs with increased education/wealth simply doesn't hold for India's biggest minority community. Eric Kaufmann's 'Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth' should wake up anyone still in slumber about the demographic changes India is about to face.
Having been dealt such a weak hand, Hindu traditionalists must accelerate Hindu Asmita programs - whether it be the rebuilding of the Bhavya Ram Mandir in Ayodhya, or the recognition of Hinduism's expansive influence across Indo-China, Tibet, Central Asia, Japan, and Korea. The coalescence of a Hindu identity is only possible by returning the Asmita of calling oneself Hindu - Garv Se Kaho Hum Hindu Hain! Not only would this bridge the fault lines that Hinduism's opponents seek to establish through caste wars, but it would also bring focus to solving issues facing the country as a whole. As inequality across states grows, the Hindutva project will increasingly depend on the haves funding the have-nots; the middle class paying for the poor's gas connections, the Tamilian paying for the Bihari's education, and the Marwari paying for the Naga's highways. Without Asmita there is no one identity, and without the common identity there is no nation-building. The Statue of Unity must soon be followed by Statues of Bravery, off the coast of Mumbai, in Amritsar, Gwalior, and Guwahati.
Finally, Hindutva's proponents have routinely given up too much in return for too little. For the chimera of peaceful coexistence through non-confrontation, the Hindutva movement has brought itself to a state of emasculation. The hollowing of intellectual support via the creation of generations of zombies through the RTE and introduction of 'value education' during UPA years, there's an increasingly aloof and ill-informed youth population. For example, while this author has previously raised the unconstitutionality of the ban on cow slaughter for individual rights, shouldn't the question not be why we can’t have the same level of affection towards cows, especially given their reverence and being a source of steady dairy income for poor pastoralists that we have for other pet animals. Why must the Yulin dog eating festival in China raise a stink for my Bandra friends, but not the thievery of the cow smuggling industry?
By looking at Hindu practices solely from a constitutional perspective, practicing Hinduism in India today has become onerous - whether it is the loss of private property rights of a famous temple such as Sabarimala or the regular bans on Hindu celebrations such as Dahi Handi, the secularists have made incursions across Hindu society. And what is this constitution that gets trumped about? Are they referring to the current version #103 with hundred amendments that have diluted the document's original intent? A complete review of this constitution is sorely needed - one that creates a democratic system for the Indian experience, a monarchic adult franchise system that rewards saint like devotion to the prosperity of the nation, not very different from the Meiji restoration that gave Japan its scientific bent without sacrificing its civilizational identity. It is Hindutva's responsibility to wield power in such a way that the nation prospers and it is the nation's interest that Hindutva prospers. After all as Yogiji would say:
"धर्म एक दीर्घकालीन राजनीति है और राजनीति अल्पकालीन धर्म है"