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Hindutva patriotism: State-sponsored effort to construct religion-based national identity

By Harasankar Adhikari

Rabindranath Tagore (1908) said, "Patriotism can’t be our final spiritual shelter. "I will not buy glass for a diamond, and I will never let patriotism triumph over humanity as long as I live." Tagore’s view stands in sharp contrast to what we are witnessing today, when patriotism means religious differences between the majority (Hindu) and minority (Muslim). Our secular nation is gradually disobeying its secular nature and it is being patronised by political leaders and their narrow politics. India’s unique character of ‘unity in diversity’ is trying to be saffronised. Hindu extremism (Hindutvavadis) generates a culture of religious intolerance.
Democratic India is based upon the ideology of equality of all. This nation is based upon different foundations than most of those which went before it. Its legitimacy lies in its being able to satisfy its various component communities that their interests will be safeguarded by the Indian state. Irrespective of the religion, caste, community, or sex of the individual, the state is supposed to represent each and every one of them.  Modern patriotism and nationhood are based upon symbols that all can share. By definition, this excludes symbols that pit religion against religion.
Patriotism is an inclusive love of all our people, a commitment to their integral welfare, and faith in an idea of India, with its multicultural, pluri-religious society, as less a nation state than a multi-national-state in the making. But our political leaders are confusing nationalism and patriotism for their own political profit making. And they mobilise people on the basis of a politics of hate, masquerading as nationalism, rather than cultivating patriotism as a love for one’s people.
Nowadays, there is a continuous state sponsored effort to construct a religion based national identity and religions are politicised into an "ideology" – a nationalised religion is a sacred nationalism. Hate and violence with some restrictions are destroying our special feature of religious tolerance and the minority’s freedom is in danger. A recent report of an American organisation reminds it elaborately. We see that religion and politics have become explosive. So religion becomes ‘fundamentalist and exclusive; and politics becomes "extremist and violent.’ ‘At present, there is a deliberate polarisation that pitches religious communities against each other only to the advantage of their instigating leaders. ’ Hindutvavadi fanaticism readily overtakes religious nationalism, and there is a blame game taking place in different parts of this nation.
Hindu nationalism, or Hindutvavadi patriotism, is disturbing the concept of fraternity and integrity. Religious hate and separation do not strengthen our national integration and harmony. The agenda for making a Hindu state would be a blunder in this democracy. That’s why Nehru rejected the Hindu Code Bill in 1954, in spite of support from a Congress dominated Parliament.
We should remember and respect Gandhi’s view: "By patriotism, I mean the welfare of the whole people." Without fraternity, equality, and liberty, India's problems will be no deeper than ‘coats of paint’. Our society will be divided into "beasts of burden" and "beasts of prey." We should remember that populist politics is ‘constructed from a blend of nativism, bigotry, grandiosity, and coarse speech.’ We cannot follow the principle of avoidance --avoidance between the majority and minority. Accepting each other is the only way to a stronger nation and its integration.

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