This weekend I stumbled across a video about Hindutva on YouTube, consisting of an interview with a man named Shashi Tharoor. Tharoor is an Indian politician, an MP serving under the Indian National Congress (which appears to be a liberal social-democratic party), and the author of a book entitled Why I Am A Hindu, in which he apparently discusses his relationship with the Hindu religion so as to repudiate the Hindutva ideology that has become prevalent in his country. I will leave the video at the end of this post for your interest, but for the purpose of this post, I’d like to cite a part of what Tharoor says in the video that I find pertinent.
Tharoor makes an important point about the character of Hindutva, namely that it is not actually a religious ideology in the sense that it serves as a representation of the Hindu religion, but instead a purely political ideology that distorts Hinduism for its own ends.
Hindutva is a political ideology. It’s not really a religious interpretation. It’s a political ideology that has hung itself on a hook that is embedded on the wall of religion. But it is not actually a religious ideology. What they’ve done is they have created a political project around the idea that the people who follow the religion are a distinct people. Some have even used the word Hindu race. They have their own culture, their own history, their own heroes. And this collectivity has somehow been humiliated, conquered, subjugated. 200 years of British rule, 1,000 years of Muslim invasions. Now the time has come for them to reassert themselves. And Hindutva is a project to advance the political agenda of those who believe this by trying to create a consciousness of separation amongst these self-defined Hindus.
Another insightful portion of the interview is the manner in which he describes the popular schism between Hindus in Indian society through his explanation of the argument he wanted to present in his book:
I wanted this to be an argument within the Hindu faith between people who consider themselves to be good Hindus, or decent Hindus, or believing Hindus, or seeking Hindus whichever phrase you want, but who don’t subscribe to this kind of notion of Hindutva, and those who have reduced Hinduism, far from the soaring metaphysics and philosophy inquiry and spiritual yearnings of the ancient texts, into something more akin to the team loyalty of the British football hooligan.
Now, while I think that it is impossible to truly separate Hindutva from the context of the Hindu religion, he makes a fairly astute observation of Hindutva as a general phenomenon. Indeed, the Hindutva ideology, being a nationalist ideology, expertly embodies the fixation on tribal identity and the belief that a nation is unique on the basis of its in-group. It is not even a matter of speculation to suggest that Hindutva basis its concept of Indian civilizational uniqueness on race, because as I have established before the earliest thinkers of Hindutva were quite explicit in their views about “the Race” and the need to preserve it. Indeed, such a rationale underpins the tendency of many Hindutvas, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, to support Israel. Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, the same man who praise the regimes of Hitler and Mussolini, said it “will gladden us almost as much as our Jewish friends” if Israel were to be created as an ethnic state for the Jews. In fact, he apparently opposed the UN on the proposal to partition Palestine into a bi-national Arab-Jewish state in 1947. If this doesn’t underscore the racialist basis for their support of Israel enough, Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar spelled it out quite plainly in We, or Our Nationhood Defined:
The Jews had maintained their race, religion, culture and language, and all they wanted was their natural territory to complete their nationality. The reconstruction of the Hebrew Nation in Palestine is just an affirmation of the fact that Country, Race, Religion, Culture and Language must exist together to form a full nation idea.
In other words, the Hindutvas have always held ethnocentrism to be a central component of the nation state, and Hindutva has always been an ethnocentric ideology, as evidence by its tendency to support other movements that promote ethnonationalism during the 20th century.
Now, this racialist outlook and the way by which the belief system it wants to attach itself to is bastardized that it may be repurposed to serve the goals of racial politics to the point of effectively being detached from the broader religion, it reminds me of something else I’ve seen. In fact, I’m beginning to suspect that Hindutva is essentially the Indian equivalent of the Western phenomenon known as Volkisch Paganism (also known as Neo-Volkisch movements). The term Volkisch Paganism, in a modern context at least, refers to a belief system that seeks to blend paganism or pre-Christian polytheism with racially identitarian ideology – in particular, white nationalist or white supremacist ideology, often including neo-Nazism. In many cases, it is simply a kind of opportunism on the part of white nationalists to appropriate paganism for their own ideology, and it often seems unconnected to paganism, both historical and modern. While it is not universally true that pagan belief systems explicitly condemn racism, there is an example from the Greek poet Pindar which explicitly affirms that the “races” stem from the same source.
One race there is of men and one of gods, but from one mother draw we both our breath, yet is the strength of us diverse altogether, for the race of man is as nought, but the brazen heaven abideth, a habitation steadfast unto everlasting.
Thus we can determine with some confidence that the volkisch character of volkisch paganism is a modern construct, rather than a reconstruction of ancient philosophy.
In addition to this, I sometimes hear of Volkisch pagans opportunistically support Christianity in service of their racial ideology. A good example of this is how, some time after the Christchurch shooting, I encountered a volkisch pagan on the internet who praised Brenton Tarrant, the man responsible for the shooting, as a hero of the white race.
The supreme irony of this statement is that Tarrant cannot accurately be described as a pagan. The thing about his manifesto that you can point to in order to pin him as a pagan is the part where he says “I will see you in Valhalla”, which is of course the hall of Odin that serves as the resting place of Vikings who died in battle. However, even this follows directly from “god bless you all”, rather than any praise of Odin. However that is not all. While Tarrant claimed to be an agnostic on the subject of Christianity, saying “That is complicated. When I know, I will tell you.”, he nonetheless made a number of appeals to Christianity in his manifesto. For example, this is the part of his manifesto that was addressed to Christians.
“The people worthy of glory, the people blessed by God Our Lord, moan and fall under the weight of these outrages and most shameful humiliations. The race of the elect suffers outrageous persecutions, and the impious race of the Saracens respects neither the virgins of the Lord nor the colleges of priests. They run over the weak and the elderly, they seize the children from their mothers so that they might forget, among the barbarians, the name of God.
That perverse nation profanes the hospices … The temple of the Lord is treated like a criminal and the ornaments of the sanctuary are robbed. “What more shall I say to you? “We are disgraced, sons and brothers, who live in these days of calamities! Can we look at the world in this century reproved by Heaven to witness the desolation of the Holy City and remain in peace while it is so
oppressed? Is it not preferable to die in war rather than suffer any longer so horrible a spectacle? Let us all weep for our faults that raise the divine ire, yes, let us weep… But let not our tears be like the seed thrown into the sand. Let the fire of our repentance raise up the Holy War and the love of our brethren lead us into combat. Let our lives be stronger than
death to fight against the enemies of the Christian people.” ASK YOURSELF, WHAT WOULD POPE URBAN II DO?
And here is the part that he addressed to the Turks:
You can live in peace in your own lands, and may no harm come to you. On the east side of the Bosphorus. But if you attempt to live in European lands, anywhere west of the Bosphorus. We will kill you and drive you roaches from our lands. We are coming for Constantinople and we will destroy every mosque and minaret in the city. The Hagia Sophia will be free of minarets and Constantinople will be rightfully christian owned once more. FLEE TO YOUR OWN LANDS, WHILE YOU STILL HAVE THE CHANCE
And here is a section of the part talking about the radicalization of young men, wherein he basically makes the same argument as people like Jordan Peterson when they talk about secularism.
These men and women are not being being brain-washed, corrupted or misled. They are finally removing their blindfolds and seeing the reality of the the world and their peoples future. The truth that the West killed the notion of god, and proceeded to replace it with nothing. Brought forth two competing ideologies (communism and fascism)to replace this loss of god, then proceeded to allow both sides to slaughter each other to a standstill and then let corporate backed capitalists tear the survivor to pieces. Resulting in a society with no core beliefs, no purpose and no vision for the future.
All of these sections place a very strong attachment to Christianity as a cultural force for Europe. Even if we can assume that the shooter was not formally Christian, he could still be counted as pro-Christian in the sense that he considered Christianity, or more or less Christian culture, a positive civilizational force that needs to be defended from Islamic aggression – one could, in this sense, draw parallels to the way Hindutva prioritizes the desire to find Islamic aggression towards Hinduism as a civilizational-political force.
I hope these miscellaneous thoughts go anywhere in explaining why I have such hatred of things like Hindutva and Volkisch Paganism. They are opportunistic bastardizations of the creeds they claim to represent, and in practice serve as spiritual bulwarks for fascism. They must be opposed not only by secular individuals who believe in secular society, but also most vociferously by people of the very creeds that these ideologies defile.