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Rohit Dhankar

Protests against Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2019 (CAA) and possibility of National Register of Citizens (NRC) are wide spread across the nation. The CAA has passed through a democratic procedure by a democratically elected government. NRC at the moment is ambiguously understood issue with claims and counter claims regarding it being already initiated and not initiated as well as its criteria. The people of a democracy always have a right to peaceful protest, and Indian citizens are using that with vigor. All mass protests use variety of slogans to express their core concerns and ideas. The current protests also use many slogans. In this piece I am trying to reflect on a few of such slogans.

In the current protests two general formats of slogans are very popular. They can be named as “azadi” format and “kabr khudegi” format. The azadi format has two sub-formats: one, azadi (freedom) from format. This runs like “X se azadi”. A lead protester should “X se” and the body of protesters shout “azadi”. Examples; Lead: “Manu-vad se”, Protesters: “azadi”. Another sub-format of the azadi slogans spells who wants azadi. The lead shouts “X mange”, supporters should “azadi”. Example; Lead: “Dalit mange”, Supporters: “azadi”. Here we will discuss only the first sub-format. That is: “X se”, “azadi”.

Second popular format is “X ki kabr khudegi, Y ki dharti par”. Here the lead shouts “X ki kabr khudegi”, Supporters shout “Y ki dharti/chhaati par”. Example; Lead: “Jati-vad ki kabr khudegi”, Supporters: “Rajasthan ki dharti par”.

Both these formats are very powerful and versatile. Versatility comes from naming all the ills that one wants to oppose or remove one by one in the same format. Power comes from the speed and vigor with which these slogans are shouted. An experienced lead-protester (we have even professionals) can slowly raise the emotions and can take it to a frenzy leaving mind far behind. The supporters become simple followers without thinking and feel a swell of emotions which gives a high of feeling virtuous. The slogans are not only used to raise temporary frenzy, but also create permanent indoctrination when someone is subjected to this treatment repeatedly.

In this background, we will examine some of the slogans used in these and many other protests these days. We will not discuss the formats anymore, but the content of slogans. A tentative list of slogans to be examined:

  1. Hindutva ki kabr khudegi, Dilli ki dharti par”. (“Dilli” is just a place-holder, one can change it with AMU, JNU, or any other place.)
  2. Brahmanism ki kabr khudegi, Dilli ki dharti par”
  3. Manu-vad ki kabr khudegi, Dilli ki dharti par”
  4. Jati-vad ki kabr khudegi, Dilli ki dharti par”
  5. Sangh-vad ki kabr khudegi, Dilli ki dharti par”
  6. RSS ki kabr khudegi, Dilli ki dharti par”
  7. Bahusankhya-vad ki kabr khudegi, Dilli ki dharti par”

Of course, there are many more slogans, some of them are used only in the ‘azadi-format’, some used in both formats. But we will focus only on the above listed ones.

First, let’s note that all these slogans mention something that is associated with Hinduism. Not necessarily with the philosophy and ideals of Hinduism, but as practice of Hinduism is perceived by the so-called-liberals (SCLs).

Second, all that is mentioned in the slogans are supposed to be the evils of Hinduism. Therefore, it is assumed that no sane democrat may have any objection in digging the graves of these evils of Hinduism. Actually, this can be seen as retrieving a more benevolent form of Hinduism by purifying it of these ills. Therefore, before going any further let’s have a look at the meaning of the terms used here.

Hindutva: everyone considers Savarkar as the inventor of Hindutva, which is considered a political ideology. But this idea and ideology is also articulated and rearticulated by others. Particularly RSS leaders. Right from Golwalkar to Mohan Bhagawat. Savarkar, Golwalkar and Bhagwat (and others) all deny that “Hindu” means a religion, according to all of them the term Hindu has got nothing to do with what God or gods you worship and how you worship them. What your imagination of the fruits of that worship has no connection with being Hindu. To Savarkar anyone who is born in India, who considers India as the land of her/his forefathers (matri-bhoomi), and who considers India as the land of his/her heroes and holy people and respects its culture (punya-bhoomi) is a Hindu. Irrespective of what and how s/he worships for what purposes. But all said and done, Savarkar definitely does not consider Muslims as Hindus and Savarkar’s Hindutva is divisive as well as very suspicious of Muslims. Golwalker to me seems to be a step ahead and thinks of them as divisive force in the country and often loyal to Pakistan. In a more recent articulation Bhagwat seems to be attempting to be more inclusive; as reported by The Economic Times, 18th September 2018, he says: ‘Hindu Rashtra’ does not mean it has no place for Muslims as this concept is inclusive of all faiths and religions. “The Sangh works towards universal brotherhood and the cardinal principle of this brotherhood is unity in diversity. This thought comes from our culture, which the world calls Hindutva. That’s why we call it a Hindu Rashtra,” he said. Asserting that the RSS’ philosophy is to take everyone along, he said, “Hindu Rashtra doesn’t mean there’s no place for Muslims. The day it is said so, it won’t be Hindutva any more. Hindutva talks about Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam.”

But yes, there could be, and is, a justified suspicion of this ideology. Therefore, one may consider a wish to dig Hindutva’s grave a progressive and secular slogan. But why in a protest against CAA and NRC? We will come to this question a little later.

Brahmanism: Encyclopedia Britannica defines Brahmanism as an “ancient Indian religious tradition that emerged from the earlier Vedic religion. In the early 1st millennium bce, Brahmanism emphasized the rites performed by, and the status of, the Brahman, or priestly, class as well as speculation about brahman (the Absolute reality) as theorized in the Upanishads (speculative philosophical texts that are considered to be part of the Vedas, or scriptures). In contrast, the form of Hinduism that emerged after the mid-1st millennium bce stressed devotion (bhakti) to particular deities such as Shiva and Vishnu.

During the 19th century, the first Western scholars of religion to study Brahmanism employed the term in reference to both the predominant position of the Brahmans and the importance given to brahman (the Sanskrit terms corresponding to Brahman and brahman are etymologically linked). Those and subsequent scholars depicted Brahmanism either as a historical stage in Hinduism’s evolution or as a distinct religious tradition. However, among practicing Hindus, especially within India, Brahmanism is generally viewed as a part of their tradition rather than as a separate religion.”

To me it sounds like faith of many Hindus today. The distinction between Brahmanism and Hinduism does not seem to be very clear. Kancha Ilahiya declares on the authority of Dr. Ambedkar that “Hindutva is nothing but Brahmanism. And whether you call it Hindutva or Arya Dharma or Sanatan Dharma or Hinduism, Brahmanism has no organic link with Dalit-Bahujan life, world-views, rituals and even politics”. Thus, Brahmanism starts looking like a term devised to deride Hinduism; to be used as a fig-leaf of defence when someone objects for insult to majority religion. The most of the slogan shouting protesters will easily accept Ilahiya’s authority I think.

Which means that digging grave for Hinduism is fine. Since Hinduism does have so many evils in it, let’s accept this premise for the sake of argument.

Manu-vad: Manu-vad is even more deserving of pushing into grave than Brahmanism and Hindutva. It directly preaches lower position of women and shudras in the society. Completely against equality. Therefore, a perfectly deserving candidate to push into the grave.

Jati-vad: no need to discuss. We don’t need casteism, therefore, fine to dig its grave. Though many Hindus may still be clinging to some or other form of Jati-vad. Often, I think the Dalits and OBCs are more attached to jati-vad in present day India than the higher castes. But let that be as it is.

Sangh-vad and RSS: They are the same thing. Rashtriya Swayam Sevaksangh (RSS) is seen as a Hindu nationalist body which is against Muslims and secularism. It is also considered the parent body of BJP which is directing its politics. Therefore, lets accept the wish to dig its grave a legitimate wish in a protest that is ostensibly to protect secularism and equality of Indian citizens.

On the basis of very scanty indications above, one may understand Hindutva, Sangh-vad and RSS as political ideology guiding BJP’s push for CAA and NRC. And therefore, it may be considered legitimate to raise slogans against them in protest against the same. But why include Brahmanism, jati-vad and Manu-vad? What these three have to do with CAA and NRC?

The clue may be found in the 7th slogan listed above. That is “Bahusankhya-vad ki kabr …”. The whole agenda is seen as majoritarianism. The majority community has put the BJP in power. Majority community is Hindu. Hinduism in practice has been characterised by Brahmanism, jati-vad and Manu-vad. Therefore, through these slogans some recognised evils of Hinduism are recounted, even if they are not directly involved in the present context. This is to create atmosphere against those who put such a divisive party in power.

These slogans were shouted in many large gatherings in the course of current protests with the kind of frenzy I have claimed above, to take supporters on an emotional and virtuous high, leaving their reason far behind. And therefore, may be used as a device for mass indoctrination against the target ideology and community supporting it. Above I have argued that all these are political and social evils of the majority religion in the country. Since they are ‘evils’, wishing to dig their grave even if not directly relevant to the issue should be fine. That seems to be the argument.

I hope readers of this long and dry piece agree with the above argument. Still request all to express their opinion.

Part 2 of this article will be posted tomorrow (as this has become too long) with reflection on some more slogans.


8th January 2020