This article is written by Abhay Saxena & Rucha Joshi, students at Rizvi Law College, Mumbai
Hinduism being one of the oldest religion in the world (4000-5000 year old) still defies a straight definition and hence defining a Hindu Rashtra or Hindu nationalism thus is a difficult task because of its vagueness. The umbrella term that is Hindu was term with regards to the many people, civilisation staying in a specific geographic setting and endorsed many religions, cultures and practices. While many others consider it to be a separate religion, it was merely an indication of a person belonging to a specific geographic setting and in this case, the Indus river.
The lack of unity among the many rulers of the Bharat region made it vulnerable for foreign invasions, where several Islamic invasions took place (Muhammad bin Qasim in 672AD,Ghazni in 1001AD,etc. Some of the islamic rulers were generous like Akbar(Mughal) and gave equal respect to every religion. While others like Aurangzeb were unkind and forcefully started converting many Non-Islamic people into Islam. With the defeat of Siraj-Ud-Daulah in 1757 in Battle of Plassey, the British(Company) rule started. The Christian Missionaries parallely started converting Indian People (Hindu/Muslim/etc) to Christians. Common enemy (british) united hindu and muslims and hence Britishers started sowing the seeds of Divide and Rule among Hindus and Muslims especially during Partition of Bengal in Communal Basis(1905) which ultimately resulted in the demand of separate Islamic state by Muslim league (1940) further resulting in partition and the rise two independent Nations during the time of Independence (1947). The country of Pakistan was formed on religious basis (Muslim Majority). But when India became independent,leaders like Gandhi, Nehru, Ambedkar chose to make India a secular state ensuring growth and prosperity of people of every religion.
Unhappy with the present secular scenario, demands of making India a hindu rashtra has been brought up by various politicians and organisations like RSS,Hindu Mahasabha. But since 2014 Bhartiya Janta Party who claims to follow Hindutva is at strong majority since 2014,this demand has been made more vocal by several ruling party leaders like D Raja, Subramanyam Swami,etc.
What does our constitution reflect-
Although India was secular nation since independence. But to add more emphasis on it, the word secular was introduced in the preamble by 42nd amendment 1976.In Keshvananda Bharti Case vs Sate of Kerala 1973,it was said by supreme court that “ preamble is the part of the constitution and can be amended like any other provisions of the constitution provided the basic structure of constitution cannot be altered.” Since preamble denotes the intention of the constitution, therefore an amendment is possible in the preamble by removing secular word and adding the term Hindu Rashtra/theocratic state.
Definition of Hindu according to Indian law-The term Hindu has been defined under Article 25(2)b of Indian constitution in explanation (II) part Hindus shall be construed as including a reference to persons professing Sikh, Jain or Buddhist Religion and the reference to Hindu religious institutions shall be construed accordingly. In the various codified Hindu laws Hindus also include Vaishnavsa,lingayat,Arya Samaj Brahmo Samaj,Buddhist,Jain,sikh,or any person born as a Hindu.
Two school of thoughts of making India a Hindu Rashtra-
As clearly mentioned in the article above that since ancient times some believed Hindu as a religion. While others believed Hindu as a way of life(composite culture of many religions) two school of thoughts also emerged in making India a Hindu state. Those who believed Hinduism as a composite culture (way of life) argue that India should be made a Hindu nation while giving equal respect, rights and freedoms to each and every religion. While the others who consider Hindu as separate religion endorse Hindu Rashtra on the basis of Hindutva(term given by VD Savarkar in 1925) with Hindus being given considered as first class citizens while others(minority) should be considered as second class citizens
Arguments in favour of Hindu Rashtra-
While the definition of Hindu Rashtra is a vague one and often misunderstood by the majority or exaggerated rather, it does mean framing the laws wth accordance to the principle of religion, such a country is united on the religion front. It is believed by various nations (that was an official religion) like afganstan, pakistan, england etc that having an official religion helps unify the various sects into one thus declaring a civil code in that regard,having to follow the principle of religion helps as it gives us guidelines to work within.
Arguments opposing Hindu Rashtra-
Here the argument is between secularism that stands for modernity, tolerance, equal represenatation and hindu rashtra that advocates on religion for all, traditionalism and s a theory that never much evolved from the olden times. People opposing Hindu Rashtra also argues that our forefathers who built constitution made India a secular state ensuring equal rights for persons belonging to any religion. Making India a Hindu state will make favour only majority community and minorities will be regarded as second-class citizens. Thus this will be a dent to communal harmony. It is also argued that if India becomes Hindu state then Manusmriti laws will be applied which will make castism, untouchability more prevalent thus not only harming rights of minority but also backward castes if Hindu religion.
Theocracy and minority-
It is a popular misconception that a theocratic/religious country neglects the minority and overlook them, which doesn’t hold much truth if taken examples of functioning countries that have accepted an official religion and yet give their minorities complete freedom, such as England where angelical is the official church.But still minority are granted rights and freedoms in the British constitution.In Greece where orthodox church protestants is the dominant(majority) population,acording to article 30(3) of Greek constitution ,elected representatives in Greece will take oath in the name of holy trinity with oath taking ceremony in the presence of Archbishop if Athens .But still in Greece where the Muslim majority regions are there, Sharia Courts are allowed with Muslims being given power of electing their muftis.
View of Courts-
In Manohar Joshi vs Nitin Bhaurao Patil 1995,Justice JS Verma held that “mere promising of making Maharashtra a first Hindu state cannot be called as asking votes in the name of religion because Hinduism is not a religion but a way of life.Hence such a poll promise cannot be termed as a corrupt electoral practice.” However the case was struck down in supreme court making Manohar Joshi guilty of corrupt electoral practice.
In Sastri Yagnapurushadji case,1966 the five justice bench headed by Chief Justice Gajendragadkar held “When we think of the Hindu religion, we find it difficult, if not possible to define Hindu religion or even adequately describe it Unlike other religions in the world ,the Hindu religion does not claim any one prophet it does not describe to anyone dogma, it does not believe to be anyone philosophical concept .In three judge bench held by Justice Verma in JS Ramesh Yashwant Prabhoo case the court said” The words Hinduism and Hindutva are not necessarily to be understood and construed narrowly confined only to the strict Hindu religious practices unrelated to the culture and ethos of the people of India, depicting the way of life of the Indian People.”
Dark Chapter of Germany-
Germany had prejudices against Jewish Community from ancient times. The Nazi Government of 1930 under leadership of Adolf Hitler was developed with the ideological beliefs of Germans being the supreme race(descendants of Aryans) and Jews/Non-German(which were in minority) as inferior race. Hitler once he declared himself as Furher, adopted anti jew laws and. He created Nazi Germany and called for boycott of Jews, ultimately resulting in Jewish Massacre around 1938 which saw the near death of Jews etc. Rashtra Svayamsevak Sangh(parental organization of Present Ruling BJP Government) leader Golwalkar in his book written-“To Keep up the purity of the Nation and Culture, Germany shocked the world by her purging the country of Semitic races-The Jews. National Pride at its highest been manifested here.” This clearance proves that leaders of parental organization (RSS) of present ruling(BJP) government were sympathizers of Hitler.
The matter needs clarity with regards to Hinduism, that is the way of living and Hindutva, an extremist philosophy and then a conclusion needs to be drawn as to what a plural diversified country like India needs. In a multitude nation like a India, an official religion can do as harm as it can do good. It can either unify everyone under a same umbrella keeping in mind the rights of minorities or it can hamper the collective living and lead to communal agitation and crash down oyr concept of “in diversity we have unity” concept that we as Indians of different cultures and religions are very proud of. Secularism means that a state endorses no religion or a state gives equal respect, rights and freedom to everyone religion.If we look at concept of Hinduism,it talks about Vasudhaiv Kutumbakam that means Whole earth is family.Hinduism also believes in Sarvadharma Sambhav which means equal respect for every religion.Therefore it can be considered as a synonym of Secularism only.So if the word secular is removed from the preamble and India is made a Hindu State on the basis of Hinduism then no right of minorities will be affected. But if that Hindu Rashtra is made on the basis of Hindutva then minorities will become second class citizens with restricted religious freedom. The leader(Golwalkar) of present ruling Bhartiya Janta Party government’s parental organization (RSS)was sympathizer of Hitler. Moreover BJP claims itself to be Hindutva party. Therefore it becomes clear that if Hindu Rashtra will be made by present Government then it will be on Hindutva Grounds. So a Hindu Rashtra should not be made in present conditions. But in future if ruling government comes and decides to make India as Hindu Rashtra on the basis of Hinduism, then it should be welcomed because no minority rights,freedoms,etc will be affected in that case.