Separate Hindutva from Hindu Rashtra: Pavan Varma to The Quint

“Hindutva is a way of life because there is no one church, no one scripture, no one Pope, no one temple.”

6 min read
The former Ambassador and JD(U) leader speaks to <b>The Quint</b> on a range of issues – from the Sukma attack to Kashmir. (Image: <b>The Quint</b>/Rhythum Seth)

How would you assess the government’s reaction to the Sukma attack, the worst Naxal attack since PM Modi took charge?

Twenty-five people have lost their lives in this dastardly act. But Naxalism is not a political problem. Naxals have used violence in the past, they do not believe in the Constitution or the republic and, therefore, need to be dealt with.

But I have questions to ask of this government. Why is it that in Sukma, we’ve had repeated incidents of this kind? In March, there was an IED blast in which twelve people were killed. Now, 25 were killed in an ambush. Earlier, there was an incident in which 76 people died.

So there is definitely a question of intelligence failure. Who is responsible for this and should responsibility not be fixed? Secondly, what is the level of coordination between the police and the CRPF? I think that somewhere, that coordination is lacking. Thirdly, why was the CRPF headless for more than two months? We need to ask why such an important organisation that operates in notoriously Naxal-infested areas was headless for so long.
(Graphic: <b>The Quint</b>/Rhythum Seth)&nbsp;
(Graphic: The Quint/Rhythum Seth) 

Do you think the government needs to set its priorities right when it comes to protecting its people, whether it be Sukma or Kalkaji, where three men were beaten up by cow vigilantes?

Where cow vigilantism is concerned, I have two very major concerns. First is, Hinduism itself is being devalued by a set of lumpen elements who believe they are acting to protect Hinduism. Nowhere does Hinduism sanction the kind of violence and hatred that is on display when the gau rakshaks take the law into their own hands. And that leads me to my second major concern, which is that no democratically constituted republic can run if people believe that they can take the law into their own hands.

Even worse, and that’s the third aspect to your question, is that those who take the law into their own hands somehow seem to believe that they have the benign protection of the powers that be. In other words, their actions will not face the kind of legal action as per the law, which normally would apply to any criminal who indulges in these activities.
(Graphic: <b>The Quint</b>/@Rhythum Seth)&nbsp;
(Graphic: The Quint/@Rhythum Seth) 

Why do you think this small group is being allowed to set the narrative in public discourse?

I think that it is a completely shallow interpretation of a great religion. What does Hinduism say? What did our sages say when the foundations of this religion were laid two millennia ago? They spoke of ekam satya vipraha bahuda vedanti  – there is one truth, the wise people call it by different names. This was said at a time when most people believed that only what they said was right. This was the religion that said udaar charitanam vasudev katumbakam – for the broad-minded, the entire world is a family. And this was said at a time when people believed that only those who are part of the tribe constitute the world that matters. Aano bhadraha kritva yantu vishwatah – let wise thoughts flow from all directions – these are the utterances made by our founding fathers, which actually define Hinduism in terms of its interface with people. So, I feel these gau rakshaks have a very shallow interpretation of Hinduism.

(Graphic: <b>The Quint</b>/@Rhythum Seth)&nbsp;
(Graphic: The Quint/@Rhythum Seth) 

But neither of these legitimises the actions taken by people who, on the basis of suspicion, believe they can take the law into their own hands and substitute designated authorities who need to act in the matter.

Secondly, I feel a great sleight of hand is being played between Hindutva and Hindu rashtra.

Hindutva, the Supreme Court said, is a way of life because there is no one church, no one scripture, no one Pope in Hinduism, no one temple and therefore, Hinduism in any way, when seen in this light as Hindutva, is a way of life. But what is being done now by many BJP ideologues or ideologues of the affiliates of the BJP is to speak of Hindutva and Hindu rashtra as synonyms.

I mean, we had an interview to the Doordarshan recently, by the CM of UP Yogi Adityanath where he said – “Hindu rashtra ki avdharna koi galat nahi hai”, or “the notion of a Hindu rashtra is not wrong” and then he went on to say “because Hindutva is a way of life which the Supreme Court has itself said.” But the two are entirely different concepts. And by this gloss that is being attempted, I think a travesty is being done, both in terms of logic and in terms of political impact. This country is multi-cultural, multi-plural, composite and multi-religious and we will survive as a republic if we inculcate within us what the Constitution mandates us to do, which is to respect all religions and within religions, to allow for no one to take the law into their own hands.

The Prime Minister recently exhorted all state CMs, asking them to make Kashmiris feel welcome in their states. Just days later, young students at the Pulwama college resorted to stone pelting security forces for setting up a checkpost right outside their campus. Where do you think is the government lacking in reaching out to young Kashmiris?

I think that in Kashmir, neither the central government nor the state government have their eye on the ball. The state government is paralysed because the two factions that constitute it, the PDP and the BJP, are ideologically pulling in opposite directions which has led to a policy and a governance paralysis. The central government, I believe has come to a conclusion, at least the evidence points to in that direction, that only violence is a solution to violence. Now, there is no doubt that our security forces in J&K are essential and they are doing an exceptionally valiant job in difficult circumstances.

But personally I believe that if we have the best interests of our esteemed armed forces in mind then we need to stop using them as cannon fodder and try and find solutions so that so many of them don’t have to risk their lives on a daily basis. And parallel to paramount security concerns, we need to open a political process by which we are able to begin a dialogue with Kashmiris who are, after all, our citizens.

And that political process or that alternative vision or that ideological commitment to try and once again reach out to the misguided among the young and give them a feeling that they are part of the national mainstream, that effort is totally lacking.

Another statement that was recently made by PM Modi was to tell his party men to work towards the welfare of backward Muslims. How do you view this statement by PM Modi?

You see, the BJP leadership and party has mastered the art of duality of approach. The leadership says one thing, the cadre desk says another thing. It’s almost as if a game in tandem is being played out. The prime minister says, “Sabka saath, sabka vikaas”, the party and its cadres work to the exclusion of an entire community. So, I view now, the noble sentiments often voiced by the Prime Minister and the Home Minister and the actual practices that are followed by the cadres of the party as two different elements unfolding as part of an organised political pattern. The Prime Minister says, for instance, that we must work for the downtrodden Muslims, but an entire range of leaders in BJP demonise the community as whole. Therefore, it now appears to be not so much the expression of genuine sentiment, but a policy that seems to reflect somewhere a Dr Jekyll-Mr Hyde scenario. I think quite clearly, whether it’s the Home Minister or the Prime Minister, there is an attempt to claim the higher ground in terms of idealism. But if that were genuinely idealistic, the conspicuous silences of the Prime Minister in so many cases where his own party and cadres are acting in diametrically opposite ways could not be explained.

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