Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Sahu, Sunil K. “Religion and Politics in India: The Emergence of Hindu Nationalism and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP),” in Religion and Politics in

Sahu, Sunil K. “Religion and Politics in India: The Emergence of Hindu Nationalism and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP),” in Religion and Politics in Comparative Perspective: The One, the Few, and the Many, eds. Ted Gerard Jelen and Clyde Wicox (Cambridge, UK; NY: Cambridge University Press 2002), 243-265.

SUMMARY: Examines the rise of BJP’s power in Indian government. Gives details about the history of the party, and the historical factors that are in play in Indian politics since the late 19th century. Conclusion predicts that, despite the BJP’s ostensible affiliation with Hinduism, Indian government will remain secular.

243-“…the official ideology of the early Indian state, and of the dominant Congress party, was secular nationalism. Hindu nationalist parties and organizations [e.g. BJP, the Ram Rajya Parishad, and the RSS]…were of marginal importance before and after India’s independence.”, and for 50 years after as well

-but since the 1980s, “…there has been a resurgence of Hindu nationalist ideology made manifest by the [BJP], and a concomitant decline in the consensus on secular nationalism.”

-BJP got 2 seats in 1984 parliamentary election, and “161 seats in the Lok Sabha (the lower house of parliament) in 1996, and formed a government that lasted only thirteen days. In March 1998, the BJP formed a minority government after winning 178 seats in the Lok Sabha. In elections held in October 1999, the BJP increased its numbers to 182 seats, and with its allies it secured a comfortable majority (302) in the Lok Sabha.”

-“These three elections over a four-year period have changed the nature of party politics in India. The (244) Congress party is in a state of disarray, suffering a humiliating defeat in the election of 1999, when it won only 114 seats in the Lok Sabha. In the golden jubilee year of India’s independence, Atal Bihari Vajpayee became the first prime minister since independence who was not associated with the Congress party…1998 will go down in history as the year of ‘Hindu Restoration’ in India.”—with the BJP for the first time giving the country “a conservative rightist alternative to the liberal centrist national governments”

244-India: greater than 82% are Hindu, 12% Muslim, Christians and Sikhs are 2% each; Buddhist and Jains are less than 1%; “India’s Muslim population is the fourth largest in the world”

-Muslims and Sikhs “have feared being overwhelmed” by the Hindu majority—that’s why Pakistan was created

245-Muslims and Hindus “lived side by side for more than one thousand years, but in the first half of the twentieth century there were hundreds of communal riots before independence and intense violence between the two following the partition of India in 1947. There after, the two communities lived in relative peace until the mid-1960s. Since the Muslims had lost most of their political leaders to Pakistan, Indian Muslims supported and voted for the secular Congress party on the understanding that the Congress government would maintain Muslim Personal Law and other aspects of Muslim culture. However, with the emergence of political action along religious and ethnic lines in the late 1960s, the Hindu-Muslim conflict escalated and violence against Muslims increase, culminating in the destruction of Babur’s mosque by a mob of Hindu fanatics on December 6, 1992.”

-Hinduism started around 2000 BCE and is “one of the most complex religions in the world”

-It’s the source of Jainism and Buddism—reform movements from the 6th century BCE; and Sikhism from 15th century

-no “identifiable founder or religious text”; 3 main deities: “Brahma (the creator of the universe), Vishnu (its preserver), and Shiva (its destroyer), but beyond the core is a bewildering diversity.”

-“There are regional variations as each cultural-linguistic area has its own tradition and local gods. Hindus worship different gods and goddesses, which are limited portrayals of the unlimited – ultimate reality that is formless, nameless, and without personality. Not all Hindus believe in the same things: some worship one god, others many; some go to the temple to worship, others to small shrines in their homes; some revere holy men and saints (yogis and gurus), others particular trees, animals, and stones.”

-all have “a core of common beliefs…based on ancient scriptures and sacred writings such as the four Vedas, the Upanishads, and the tow great epics, Ramayana and Mahaabharata.”

-believe in “doctrine of birth, rebirth and reincarnation or transmigration of souls.”

-“The Upanishads talk about the unity of the individual soul (atma) with the ultimate reality (Brahman). The goal of Hindus is to escape from the bondage of individual existence, which is temporary and painful and to be one with the Brahman.”

-karma (action) is “the moral law of causation” that “determines the sequence of rebirth”

246-to get free from rebirth, they follow the rules of dharma (duty or conduct) which is related to their caste; there are four castes which are hierarchical in the law of spiritual progression and social relations. From high to low: Brahmanas (priests and scholars), Kshatriyas (political rulers and soldiers), Vaishyas (merchants and cultivators), and Sudras (artisans and laborers)—and the castes are subdivided into greater than 3 thousand occupational groups; outside caste is untouchables: around 150 Million, subjected to oppression

-Islam “is far more unified than Hinduism”

-brought to India in early eighth century, “well-entrenched” by the 13th when the Delhi Sultanate was founded (1206)”

-16th century, Mughals—dynasty of Turkish rulers, ruled most of India from 1526—1707, formally ending with British rule in mid 19th century

-like Hinduism, it’s “an all-encompassing way of life”

247-“During the Mogul era, many Muslim rulers forced Hindus to convert to Islam, destroyed and desecrated Hindu temples and schools, and forbade public worship of Hindu idols and the building of new temples or repair of old ones…there was mutual hostility between religious leaders of both communities, but there was mutual acceptance among ordinary citizens.”

-some Muslim rulers (especially Akbar) had policy of tolerance

-both cultures “deeply influencing each other”, eg Indian Muslims developed “their own form of occupation-based caste distinction”; Muslim culture influenced Indian “art and architecture, literature and cuisine, and, more recently, cinema and popular culture.”—by early British rule, they were living peacefully side by side

-but in late 19th century, Hindu reform and revivalist movements and Hindu extremism created tensions; Hindu and Muslim religious symbols were used (even by the Congress party) to mobilize people

-“The British policy of divide and rule increased religious hostility, by introducing a system of ‘communal’ and ‘special’ representation, and separate electorates had sown the seeds of communal politics, which seriously undermined the congress’s effort to speak for Hindus as well as Muslims and become the sole voice of Indian nationalism. The disproportionate benefits derived by Hindus but not by Muslims from the introduction of English education further contributed to the problem.”

248-Sikhs “demanded a creation of a Punjabi-speaking province in the 1960s and a separatist movement for Khalistan (Land of the Pure) in the 1980s.

-Sikhism was established by Guru Nanak (a Hindu) at beginning of 16th century when Muslims were securing power. It’s reformist and monotheistic; emphasized unity of Godhead, forbids worship of idols, opposes caste system—though closer to Hinduism than Islam

-Mughals persecuted them and executed 2 gurus—leading to a Sikh martial tradition

-Sikh gurus were also rulers of kingdoms so there’s no separation of religion and state in its tradition; Brit annexed Sikh kingdom in the 19th century and Sikhs were loyal to British—getting them land and jobs

-After the Amritsar Massacre (1919)—379 Indians killed and 1200 wounded by British troops—Sikhs started supporting the Congress

-w/ reforms of 1947, Sikhs lost the previous British privileges—and “Because they were not adequately compensated for their losses, this grievance gave birth to the agitation for a separate Punjabi-speaking province…”, (249) this movement was politically led by the organization Akali Dal who based the demand on linguistic and ethnic, not religious, differences. A move “consistent with the Congress government effort, in the 1950s and early 1960s, to reorganize states along linguistic lines.”

249-But the successionist movement of the 1980s differed because violent radicals emphasized faith—and a faith-based state in a constitutionally secular India was unacceptable—Sikh violence in Punjab “was India’s most important political issue in the mid-1980s”

-The Congress tried to divide and weaken Akali Dal, but they reacted by mobilizing w/ violence and civil disorder

-Sikh terrorism killed 20-50 people per month from 1982-87 so Mrs. Gandhi ordered a raid on their holiest shrine to flush out terrorists and weapons—576 people killed and parts of the temple destroyed—so they assassinated her on 10/31/84, got her own sikh bodyguards to do it—sparking violence throughout India

250-her son, Rajiv Gandhi, became prime minister, signed accord in 1985, but many more years until peace was established

-the British had intentionally polarized Indians along “religious and communal lines”—separate electorates for Muslims in 1909, 1919, 1935; so Congress sought to end this; violence after partition took around 1 million lives

-44th amendment (1976) says all people get equal rights, and “neutrality” toward religion, but supports Hindu and Muslim temples and education institutions, and subsidy for hajj

-but religious freedom was institutionalized in some cases, (251) in others it had government involvement (eg Hindu temples had to be open to untouchables), and while Constitution says state won’t discriminate based on many things, including caste, there were reserved seats for scheduled castes and tribes federal and state legislatures, and the Hindu Code Bill (1955-56) codified law for Hindus but not Muslims and Christians (in “marriage, succession, guardianship, adoption, and maintenance”)

251-the Nehru/secular view was similar to Gandhi’s Hindu-based, non-violent and equality view, but the “militant” RSS saw Gandhi’s view as “appeasement” and though the government gave non-Hindus special protection—former RSS member killed Gandhi in 1948 and after that they were marginalized

252-RSS “is at the core of Hindu nationalism”, est 1925, “drew its ideology from the writings of V. D. Savarkar, who argued that ‘virtually everyone who has ancestral roots in India is a Hindu and collectively they constitute a nation.’”—saw Muslims and British as the Other; diversity within Hinduism is “either downplayed or completely ignored”

-125 thousand branches, “a youth wing and 3 thousand full-time instructor-propagandists”; (VHP), Akhil Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (largest trade union organization), and BJP—(253) all subscribe to this ideology, Hindutva

253-BJP: 17 million; RSS 2.5 M; ABKS 8 M; ABM: 4.5 M; VHP: 2.8 M

-BJP was preceeded by Bharatiy Jana Sangh (est 1951, a Hindu Nationalism group), focused on cultural issues and worked to reunite India and Pakistan; usually focused on Hindu heartland and Northern states; its head maintained ties with militant RSS, limiting its appeal to moderate Hindus and only won a few seats in parliament

254-in 1967 it joined in an anti-Indira Ghandi-coalition and got more parliamentary seats, and participating in the anti-Congress Camp in the 1970s “finally gave the party the acceptance it needed”; in 1977 it merged with three other by 1980 and the Jana Sangh contingent left the Janata party to form the BJP with the realization “that the old image of a party that gave narrow Brahminic interpretation of Hinduism had limited its appeal.”—and (255) got to expand its base to be a truly national party”

255-BJP “adopted the ideology of Gandhian socialism,” though it has shifted emphases a number of times with six distinct periods

-Phase I: the moderate BJP (1980-6); to change its image, it distanced itself from RSS and moved towards Ghandian socialism, while the Congress party started appealing for Hindu votes, campaigning against Sikh extremism

-Phase II: BJP’s tow-track strategy (1986-9); mainstream anti-Congress opposition and “carved out a base of its own through the mass mobilization of RSS and VHP.”—(256) based around the Shah Bano case and the re-opening of the Ran Jan Mabhoomi temple in 1986 after being closed for 37 years

256-Phase III: the militant BJP (1990-2): In 1989 they demanded that the Ram Jan temple “be handed over to ‘the Hindus’,” and asserted that it be re-built on the spot of a god-king’s (Rama) birthplace on which they believed Mughal emperor Babur built a mosque (Hindus have called for the temple to be torn down at least since the late 19th century); up to 110 million Indian Hindus and many other Hindus worshipped bricks and sent them there as building materials, at the same time Indian TV had TV series of (257) Indian epics, with around 100 million “devoted viewers,” creating more interest in Hinduism

257-BJP supporting the United Front government made it seem like part of the establishment—gaining support of “emerging middle class in small towns”

-1980s had big mobilizations for Muslims—Iranian Revolution, Zia ul-Haq’s Islamization of Pakistan, and conversion of Scheduled caste Hindus to Islam in Meenakshipuram in Tamil—caused uniting of Hindus w/ “shared hostility toward Muslims”

-in 1990, government stopped BJP leader from making chariot journey (like Lord Rama), so BJP withdrew support from government, they got several states in parliament in 1991 (on a Hindu, anti-Muslim platform) but because they got Uttar Pradesh (where the Ram Jan temple was), they couldn’t pressure central government to hand over Babri mosque to Hindus, so they changed their strategy

258-Phase IV: A “Responsible” national party in search for power (1992-98); Dec 1992 Hindus destroyed Babri mosque leading to “worst communal violence…since partition”; and neither BJP nor VHP could control the movement—so had to distance itself from Hindu organizations (esp RSS and VHP); in the 1993 elections it lost its states, so it backed off the Ram jan movement officially; then platform of anti-corruption and good government

-in 1996 it became the largest party in parliament, and continued to make alliances with regional parties on a middle of the road platform

259-Phase V: the BJP in Power (March 1998-99 elections); tested 5 nukes in 1998—promoting Pakistan to do the same, leading to US sanctions, though Indian public like it; banned controversial Hindu nationalist theater production and Satanic Verses, and withdrew recommendation for mandatory Sanskrit at schools—demonstrating its flexibility, of not being strict Hindu Nationalists

-Phase VI: BJP’s caretaker government and its victory in the 1999 elections; India had several good events for its image: inflation decreased, it won the Kargil war with Pakistan, (260) then it’s smaller group NDA got the majority in the Lok Sabha

261-today, Punjab is peaceful, Sikh nationalism is very low

-BJP’s appeal was not so much religious but its “superior organization” and appeal to middle and upper class groups

262-but contradictions in Constitution on secularism remain

-India conformed with the GATT treaty, liberalizing Indian economy (against the RSS’ wishes); denounced anti-Christian violence; (253) though it stil relies on RSS electoral presence

263-and it has also fragmented making it lose some power

No comments: