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DEMONS IN HINDUTVA: WRITING A THEOLOGY FOR HINDU NATIONALISM

  • M. REZA PIRBHAI (a1)
Abstract

This article explores the vast body of English language works on Hinduism published since 1981 by Voice of India—an influential right-wing Hindu publishing house headquartered in New Delhi, but contributed to by Indians at “home” and in diasporic communities, as well as Europeans and North Americans. Focus on the construction of the Hindu “Self” and the non-Hindu “Other” shows the manner in which European thought, primarily represented by the contributions of colonial-era British and German indologists, but bolstered by evangelicals, Utilitarians and Arabo-Islamicists from the same era, has become an important feature of postcolonial forms of Hinduism. In particular, the influence of fin de siècle German indologist Paul Deussen, mediated by such colonial-era Hindu thinkers as Swami Dayananda, Swami Vivekananda, Sri Aurobindo Ghose and Mahatma Gandhi, not only defines Voice of India's theology, but leads to the construction of a Hindu Self that is the personification of “Aryan godliness” and a non-Hindu Other that is essentialized as a “Semitic Demon.” Although closely associated with and often serving the political initiatives of the Sangh Parivar, the authors of this theology have been kept at arm's length by the organization for reasons of political expediency. Both the growing network of contributors to and consumers of this view, and its periodic use by the Sangh Parivar, insure that it represents a significant development in the ideology of Hindutva.

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1 The proactively “Hindu” parties in British Punjab included Swami Dayananda's “Arya Samaj” (f. 1875), V. D. Savarkar's Hindu Mahasabha (f. 1915), and K. B. Hedgewar's Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (f. 1925). The prime party seeking to incorporate non-Hindus, but nevertheless define the “nation” as a conglomeration of religious communities, was the Indian National Congress (f. 1885), particularly as led by Mohandas K. Gandhi. Such “communal” notions even infiltrated the “Communist Party of India” (f. 1925), the last major influence creeping into the region during Swarup's and Goel's youth.

2 S. R. Goel, How I Became a Hindu, available at http://www.voiceofdharma.com/books/hibh/ch8.htm. Also see K. Elst, “Ram Swarup (1924–1998)—Outline of a Biography,” available at http://www.koenraadelst.voiceofdharma.com/articles/hinduism/ramswarup.html; and “India's Only Communalist—A Short Biography of Sita Ram Goel,” available at http://www.koenraadelst.voiceofdharma.com/articles/hinduism/sitaramgoel.html. A complete list of Voice of India authors and their publications is available at http://www.voi.org; http://www.voiceofdharma.org; and http://www.voiceofdharma.com.

3 The Sangh Parivar (lit. “Family of Associations’) comprises the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, Vishva Hindu Parishad, Bharatiya Janata Party (formerly Bharatiya Jana Sangh), Swadeshi Jagaran Manch, Akhil Bhatatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, Saraswati Shishu Mandir, Vidya Bharati, Bharatiya Vanavasi Kalyan Ashram, Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, Rashtriya Sevika Samiti and Bajrang Dal. These represent political parties and student and women's organizations, as well as educational institutions. Such organizations and parties also work closely with like-minded groups in India, such as Shiv Sena (f. 1966). Further, the Sangh Parivar has very successfully spread its ideology through the temples, business associations and student organizations of Indian diasporic communities in Europe and the Americas, some of the latter recently venturing as far as to sue the California Board of Education for its “anti-Hindu” curriculum. See Girish Agrawa, “Sangh Spreads Its Cloak in American Campus,” Radiance 44/51 (24 June 2007).

4 The term “Hindutva” and its primary definition can be traced to the Hindu Mahasabhite, V. D. Savarkar. See V. D. Savarkar, Hindutva: Who Is a Hindu (Bombay, 1969 (reprint)). For the theological debates that divide the Sangh Parivar, despite the political consensus on Savarkar's notion of Hindutva, see Jyotirmaya Sharma, “War in the Parivar,” The Hindu, 11 Sept. 2005.

6 Non-Indian contributors include Koenraad Elst (Belgium), David Frawley (US), Bojil Koralov (Bulgaria), Michel Danino and Francois Gautier (France), and Nicholas Kazanas (Greece). Many of these individuals are associated with the Aurobindo (Ghose) Ashram in Madras. See http://www.voi.org; http://www.voiceofdharma.org; and http://www.voiceofdharma.com.

8 See, for example, Halbfass W., India and Europe (Albany, NY, 1988); and Pandey G., ed., Hindus and Others (New Delhi, 1993). Relevant articles can also be found in Sangari K. and Vaid S., eds., Recasting Women (New Brunswick, NJ, 1990); Tetreault M. A. and Denemark R. A., eds., Gods, Guns and Globalization (London, 2004); Mehdi A. and Janaki R., eds., Communalism in India (New Delhi, 1994); Bose S. and Jalal A., eds., Nationalism, Democracy and Development (Delhi, 1997); and a volume devoted to and titled “An Intellectual History for India,” in Modern Intellectual History 4/1 (2007). Also see Frykenberg R. E., “Accounting for Fundamentalisms in South Asia: Ideologies and Institutions in Historical Perspective,” in Marty M. and Appleby R. S., eds., Accounting for Fundamentalisms (Chicago and London, 1994), 591616.

9 For works specifically on British Orientalism and South Asia see Ballantyne T., Orientalism and Race: Aryanism in the British Empire (New York, 2002); Inden R., Imagining India (Oxford, 1992); King R., Orientalism and Religion: Post-colonial Theory, India and the “Mystical East” (London, 1999); Trautmann T., Aryans and British India (Berkeley, CA, 1997); Sugirtharajah S., Imagining Hinduism (New York, 2003); and Rocher R., “British Orientalism in the Eighteenth Century: The Dialectics of Knowledge and Government,” in Breckenridge A. C. and van der Veer P., eds., Orientalism and the Post-colonial Predicament (Delhi, 1994).

10 See Said E., Orientalism (New York, 1978); and idem, Culture and Imperialism (New York, 1993).

11 For scholarly considerations of Muller's views see Sugirtharajah, Imagining Hinduism, 57; for Mill see J. Majeed, Ungoverned Imaginings: James Mill's “The History of British India” and Orientalism (New York, 1992); and for Elliot see Habib I., “Economic History of the Delhi Sultanate—An Essay in Interpretation,” Indian Historical Review 4/2 (1978), 287303.

12 P. van der Veer, “Hindu Nationalism and the Discourse of Modernity: The Vishva Hindu Parishad,” in Marty and Appleby, Accounting for Fundamentalisms, 658. Although there are many variants, the essence of “perennial philosophy” among Orientalists can be gleaned from Campbell B., Ancient Wisdom Revived: A History of the Theosophical Movement (Berkeley, 1980); and Sedgwick M., Against the Modern World: Traditionalism and the Secret Intellectual History of the Twentieth Century (New York, 2004).

13 See Mitter P., Much Maligned Monsters (Oxford, 1977). For an important work on the centrality of demonization in the Christian construction of the “Other” see Pagels E., The Origin of Satan (New York, 1995).

14 Sugirtharajah, Imagining Hinduism, 75–85; 91–105.

15 Ibid., 2–7, 62–3.

16 Cited in Sedgwick, Against the Modern World, 41–2.

17 Cited in Sugirtharajah, Imagining Hinduism, 15, 33, 50–52.

18 S. Marchand, “Religion and Race in German Indology; or, From the Perennial Philosophy to the Indological Reformation” (presented at the Exchange of Ideas between South Asia, India and Central Europe, Harvard University, October 2005), 14. For German Orientalism more generally see Kontje T., German Orientalisms (Ann Arbor, MI, 2004); Murti K., India: The Seductive and Seduced “Other” of German Orientalism (Westport, CT, 2001); and Sartori A., “Beyond Culture-Contact and Colonial Discourse: “Germanism” in Colonial Bengal,” Modern Intellectual History 4/1 (2007), 7793.

19 Marchand, “Religion and Race in German Indology,” 5, 18–19. For the circumstances of Vivekananda's meetings with Deussen, as well the importance of the latter's perspective on Vedanta to that of the former, see Halbfass W., ed., Philology and Confrontation: Paul Hacker on Traditional and Modern Vedanta (Albany, NY, 1995), 273318.

20 Ibid., 19.

21 Van der Veer, “Hindu Nationalism and the Discourse of Modernity,” 658; and Halbfass, India and Europe, 403–18.

22 Halbfass, Philology and Confrontation, 229–318.

23 Vivekananda, The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda (Almora, 1924–32), 4: 150–52, in Hay S., ed., Sources of Indian Tradition, 2 vols. (New York, 1988), 2: 75.

24 Vivekananda, Complete Works, 4: 307–9, 33: 276–7, in Hay, Sources, 2: 76–7.

25 Vivekananda, Complete Works, 4: 307–9, in Hay, Sources, 2: 77–9.

26 Also see Hansen T. B., The Saffron Wave: Democracy and Hindu Nationalism in Modern India (Princeton, NJ, 1999).

27 Vivekananda, Complete Works, 4: 307–9, in Hay, Sources, 2: 78.

28 Gandhi M. K., Hind Swaraj and Other Writings, ed. Parel A. (Cambridge, 1997), 7, 6671.

29 Halbfass, Philology and Confrontation, 257–318.

30 Veer P. van der, Religious Nationalism (Berkeley, CA, 1994), 12..

31 Sarda H. B., Life of Dayanand Saraswati (Ajmer, 1946), 170–72, in Hay, Sources, 2: 56–8.

32 Saraswati D., The Light of Truth, trans. Upadhyaya G. P. (Allahabad, 1960), 548–9.

33 Gandhi M. K., The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi (New Delhi, 1958–78), 17: 406, 25: 563, 26: 415, in Hay, Sources, 2: 250–52. Contrary to Gandhi's claims, Hacker writes, “the duty of nonviolence, which Tilak, and Aurobindo [Ghose] in his political period, did not recognize, but which by now has become a universally binding ideal, was first discovered by Gandhi in Leo Tolstoy's writings before he attached it to the traditional Indian idea of ahimsa.” See Halbfass, Philology and Confrontation, 308, also 257–72.

34 Ghose A., Speeches (Calcutta, 1948), 7680, in Hay, Sources, 2: 153–4.

35 Ghose A., The Doctrine of Passive Resistance (Calcutta, 1948), 77–9.

36 Ibid., 74, 77–9; and idem, India's Rebirth (Hermanville, 2000). An online version of the latter has been consulted here, available at http://www.voiceofdharma.com/books/ir/IR_part2.htm.

37 A. Embree, “The Function of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh: To Define the Hindu Nation,” in Marty and Appleby, Accounting for Fundamentalisms, 624–5. Also see Golwalkar M. S., We or Our Nationhood Defined (Nagpur, 1944), and idem, Bunch of Thoughts (Bangalore, 1988).

38 Vivekananda, Complete Works, 4: 307–9, in Hay, Sources, 2: 77–9.

39 This appeal was posted on the inside cover of Goel S. R., Story of Islamic Imperialism (New Delhi, 1982), among other Voice of India works in the stacks of Robart's Library, University of Toronto, Canada.

40 Shourie A. et al. , eds., Hindu Temples: What Happened to Them, 2 vols. (New Delhi, 1990), 1: v.

41 Kak S., India at Century's End (New Delhi, 1994), 25.

42 Goel, How I Became a Hindu, http://www.voiceofdharma.com/books/hibh/ch9.htm.

43 Frawley D., Hinduism and the Clash of Civilizations (New Delhi, 2001). The online version is consulted here. See http://www.bharatvani.org/books/civilization/partI1.html. Frawley and other Voice of India authors have also published this thesis independently, as in the case of Feuerstein G., Kak S. and Frawley D., In Search of the Cradle of Civilization (Delhi, 1999). Further, the American Institute of Vedic Studies includes affiliate organizations across the US, Europe and India (e.g. the European Institute of Vedic Studies), supports its own press (Lotus) and includes the works of such Voice of India contributors as Subash Kak on its list of intellectual associates. The most prominent Indian connection is with the Aurobindo (Ghose) Ashram in Madras. See http://www.vedanet.com.

44 Frawley, Hinduism and the Clash of Civilizations, http://www.bharatvani.org/books/civilization/partI1.html.

45 See Goel S. R., Defence of Hindu Society (New Delhi, 1983). The online version is consulted here. See http://www.voiceofdharma.com/books/hindusoc/ch1.htm>. The same is echoed in Frawley, Hinduism and the Clash of Civilizations, http://www.bharatvani.org/books/civilization/partI1.html. The defence of this ethnology and chronology, in the guise of a rebuttal against the Orientalist “Aryan-invasion theory,” is a mainstay of Voice of India publications, including such works as Rajaram N. S., Aryan Invasion of India: The Myth and the Truth (New Delhi, 1993); idem, Vedic Aryans and the Origins of Civilization (New Delhi, 2001); idem, The Politics of History: Aryan Invasion Theory and the Subversion of Scholarship (New Delhi, 1995); Frawley D., The Myth of the Aryan Invasion of India (New Delhi, 1994); and Elst K., Indigenous Aryans (New Delhi, 1993). For a scholarly evaluation of such Voice of India arguments, as well as their relationship with colonial-era Hindu and Orientalist views, see Bryant E., The Quest for the Origins of Vedic Culture: The Indo-Aryan Migration Debate (New York, 2001), 46108; 140–297.

46 R. Swarup, The Word as Revelation, 131–3, cited in K. Elst, “Hindus and Neo-Paganism,” http://www.koenraadelst.voiceofdharma.com/articles/Hinduism/neopaganism.html. Also see Goel, Defence, http://www.voiceofdharma.com/books/hindusoc/ch2.htm.

47 Kak, India at Century's End, 25.

48 See Lal K. S., Muslim Slave System in Medieval India (New Delhi, 1994); idem, The Legacy of Muslim Rule in India (New Delhi, 1992); idem, Indian Muslims: Who are They (New Delhi, 1990); S. Majumdar, Jihad: The Islamic Doctrine of Permanent War (New Delhi, 1994); Elst K., Negationism in India—Concealing the Record of Islam (New Delhi, 1992); Goel S. R., Heroic Hindu Resistance to Muslim Invaders (New Delhi, 1994); and idem, The Story of Islamic Imperialism in India (New Delhi, 1982). These and other titles on this theme, as well as articles by these and other authors, can also be found online at http://www.voiceofdharma.com and http://www.voi.org.

49 See, for example, K. Elst, “Ram Swarup (1924–1998)—Outline of a Biography,” http://www.koenraadelst.voiceofdharma.com/articles/hinduism/ramswarup.html.

50 Jayanti, “Preface,” in Shourie et al., Hindu Temples, 1: vi. These charges also play a prominent role in Voice of India works concerned with the Babri Masjid (Ayodhya) campaigns, led by groups associated with the Sangh Parivar. For example, see Dubashi J., The Road to Ayodhya (New Delhi, 1992); and Elst K., Ayodhya: The Case against the Temple (New Delhi, 2002).

51 See Ye'or Bat, The Dhimmi: Jews and Christians under Islam (Madison, NJ, 1985); idem, The Decline of Eastern Christianity: From Jihad to Dhimmitude (Madison, NJ, 1996); and idem, Islam and Dhimmitude: Where Civilizations Collide (Madison, NJ, 2001). For scholarly critiques see Bernard Lewis, The Jews of Islam (Princeton, NJ, 1984); Qureshi E. and Sells M. A., The New Crusade: Constructing the Muslim Enemy (New York, 2003); and Beinin J., The Dispersion of Egyptian Jewry: Culture, Politics and the Formation of a Modern Diaspora (Berkeley, 1998). For the New York Times article cited see C. S. Smith, “The World: Europe's Jews Seek Solace on the Right,” New York Times, 20 Feb. 2005 (late edn), Section 4, 3.

52 See Spencer Robert, Islam Unveiled: Disturbing Questions about the World's Fastest-Growing Faith (New York, 2002); and Spencer Robert, ed., The Myth of Islamic Tolerance: How Islamic Law Treats Non-Muslims (Amherst, NY, 2005). See also Ibn Warraq, Why I Am Not a Muslim (Amherst, NY, 1995). The former Spencer work is published by Encounter Books in the name of “American conservativism,” and the latter is published together with Ibn Warraq and Ram Swarup's Understanding Islam Through Hadis: Religious Faith or Fanaticism (deemed “hate literature” by Indian courts) by Prometheus Books in the name of “secular humanism.” Despite the labels of Hindutva, American conservatism, the Jewish right and secular humanism, the convergence of all these perspectives on the issue of Islam and Muslims is best illustrated by the fact that Ibn Warraq provides the foreword and Ye'or the largest portion of articles in Spencer's The Myth of Islamic Tolerance.

54 Of course, any authors or works referencing “Hindu” iconoclasm or violence against the Other are also attacked. For a broader list of authors declared “negationists” and/or agents of “alien ideologies,” as well as links to a variety of articles directed against them, see http://www.voi.org/indology.html.

56 Kak, India at Century's End, 24.

57 Jayanti, “Preface,” in Hindu Temples, 1: vi.

58 S. R. Goel, “Some Historical Questions,” in Hindu Temples, 1: 19.

59 R. Swarup, “A Need to Face the Truth,” in Hindu Temples, 1: 36.

60 See Goel S. R., Jesus Christ: An Artifice for Aggression (New Delhi, 1994); and, Talreja K., Holy Vedas and Holy Bibles: A Comparative Study (New Delhi, 2000). Other anti-Christian works include Goel S. R., History of Hindu–Christian Encounters (New Delhi, 1989), idem, Papacy: Its Doctrine and History (New Delhi, 1986); I. Sharan, The Myth of St Thomas and the Mylapore Shiva Temple (New Delhi, 1991); Swarup R., Hindu View of Christianity and Islam (New Delhi, 1992), idem, Hinduism vis-à-vis Christianity and Islam (New Delhi, 1992), and idem, Pope John Paul II on Eastern Religions and Yoga: A Rejoinder (New Delhi, 1995). Such works can also be found online at http://www.voiceofdharma.com; http://www.voiceofdharma.org and http://www.voi.org.

63 R. Swarup, “Islamic Theology of Iconoclasm,” in Hindu Temples, 1: 295.

64 Ibid., 296–7.

65 Ibid., 295–6.

66 Ibid., 296–7.

67 Ibid., 297.

68 Ibid., 298.

69 Ibid., 293.

70 Ibid., 293.

71 Swarup, “A Need to Face the Truth,” 33–6.

72 Swarup, “Islamic Theology of Iconoclasm,” 297–8.

73 Goel, History of Hindu–Christian Encounters, http://www.www.voi.org/books/hhce/Ch3.htm.

74 Swarup, “Islamic Theology of Iconoclasm,” 357.

75 Ibid., 357.

76 Ibid., 357.

77 See Vivekananda, Complete Works, 1: 184; Swarup, Hindu View of Christianity and Islam, 45–6, 107; Goel S. R., ed. The Calcutta Quran Petition (New Delhi, 1999), 238–49; and K. Elst, “Wahi: The Supernatural Basis of Islam,” http://www.koenraadelst.voiceofdharma.com/articles/irin/wahiusa.html.

80 Swarup, “Islamic Theology of Iconoclasm,” 299.

81 S. R. Goel, Hindu Society under Siege (New Delhi, n.d.). The online was version was consulted here. See http://www.voi.org/books/hsus/ch3.htm.

85 S. R. Goel, “Foreword,” in Majumdar, Jihad: The Islamic Doctrine of Permanent War, http://www.voiceofdharma.org/books/jihad/for.htm. Also see H. Narain, Myths of Composite Culture and Equality of Religions (New Delhi, 1991).

86 For the Sangh Parivar's role in the latter atrocities, particularly the place of its demonizing ideology, see “Compounding Injustice: The Government's Failure to Redress Massacres in Gujarat,” Human Rights Watch Publications 15/3 (July 2003).

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