Mapping The Path of the Parivar


The Path of the Parivar: Articles on Gujarat and Hindutva

by Mukul Dube

Three Essays Collective
Pgs. 134

This collection of essays written in the two years following the Gujarat genocide, makes for refreshing reading. In this series of short commentaries, Mukul Dube responds passionately to the Sangh Parivar’s fascist assault. Some of the pieces appear for the first time, while many are reproduced from Mainstream, Milli Gazette, Indian Express, Hindustan Times and EPW.

Dube is at his best when he takes on the absurd illogic of the Sangh, which he does with biting black humour.

While none of the pieces set out to be theoretical investigations, some of them do express grains of insight into the debates surrounding secularism. In two articles, ‘Sarva Dharma…If Only’ and ‘Tolerant and Secular’, he questions the popular claim that Hinduism is tolerant. He asserts that since all religions basically hold themselves to be absolute and unquestionable, no religion can tolerate another, any more than a company can have more than one CEO. He suggests that ordinary Hindus, who speak of ‘Sarva Dharma Sambhava’, have not spoken out against the perversion of Hindu religion by the Sangh Parivar, because they have failed to realise that any faith that is blind inevitably engenders intolerance towards those of other faiths. He feels that the majority of ordinary Hindus must react and speak out that religious faith cannot be given “such an importance that it tears asunder the very fabric of our society”.

He questions the common wisdom that India is a ‘secular’ country, clarifying that in fact it is only a multi-religious one. He writes, “ A country or society cannot be described as secular just it is home to not one religion but many. To be secular in the full sense, it must have no religion at all.” At the least, he argues, secularism should mean that religion does not intrude into public life, whereas in Indian politics, there is precisely such an intrusion. Politics tainted with religion is bound to lead to horrors like Gujarat. Dube appreciates the flaws in the claim that a nation based on ‘tolerant’, liberal Hinduism will be secular, and rightly demands that to be secular, we must separate politics from religion. Rationality, rather than religion, which can never be rational, must define the State.

In an energetic critique titled ‘Pissed Off With Cows’, Dube sharply attacks Congress leader and former Madhya Pradesh CM Digvijay Singh, for his ‘Cow Protection’ agenda. He declares, “If, in the privacy of his home, Digvijay Singh chooses to worship termites and drink the sweat of bandicoots, I can have no objection… But when in his role of CM and Opposition leader he makes a public statement that slaughter of cows should be banned and that he personally values cow’s urine, he is well outside his own home….when the country is ruled by obscurantist forces which claim to be Hindu, any attempt by an opposition figure to portray himself as more Hindu than them is suspect. When such an attempt is made by the leader of a party which claims to be secular, it is a great deal worse than merely mendacious.”

In a short piece titled ‘A Fine Upstanding Symbol’, Dube unfolds the similarities between the symbolism of communal rape and the Sangh’s trishul. He discusses the phallic machismo that underlies the acts of violence inflicted by the Sanghi rapist and his trishul.

Comparing the swearing-in ceremonies following BJP victories in Assembly polls to the spectacle of the Nazis’ Nuremberg rallies, Dube discusses how the myth of the BJP’s having exchanged Hindutva for a ‘development plank’ did not last beyond the swearing-in of the CMs. “No sooner does the soft lady (Vasundhara Raje) win on the ‘devepolment’ plank than the hard man (Narendra Modi) of the Hindutva line joins her to celebrate her victory very visibly. Hindutva was not abandoned, it was only waiting in the wings.”

In ‘Also A Muslim’, Dube sensitively challenges the stereotypes which our society attaches to Muslims. He says, “ I do not say that a person’s religion is irrelevant and should be ignored – only that there is a great deal more to human beings…than the mere biological accident of religion.”

However, Dube sometimes ends up oversimplifying the complex phenomenon of communal fascism. For instance, he says that in today’s India, only those Hindus fear and hate Muslims who have no Muslim friends, and suggests that exchanges between Hindu and Muslim children could bridge the divide. Sadly, things are not so simple; there are ample examples of people joining mobs to attack immediate neighbours. Friendship with individual Muslims coexists with hatred of Muslims as a community. Vajpayee and Shahnawaz Hussain are no doubt good friends, and Vajpayee may enjoy ghazals; will this make Vajpayee any less of a communal fascist?

Dube is on weak ground when he attempts to advice Muslims on what their response to the worldwide anti-Muslim offensive should be. In ‘Rights and Duties’, he quotes a Muslim friend to say that Muslims must realise that rights cannot be divorced from duties. Therefore, he feels that Muslims must fight for their rights as citizens of a democratic nation rather than for their religious rights. Surely this is what Muslims are demanding – the recognition of their status as citizens? It is the communalists who demonise the Muslim demand for basic human rights as a demand for a special ‘religious’ privilege. Dube says a struggle for religious rights will ‘antagonise’ the majority. Doesn’t this unconsciously reinforce the Sangh accusation that it is the Muslims’ habit of making unreasonable religious demands, of perceiving themselves as Muslims over and above Indian citizens, which is ‘antagonising’ the Hindu majority? Isn’t it more logical to exhort Hindus to accept Muslims as citizens who do not need the majority’s approval to enjoy equal rights in India? It seems that Dube has inadvertently fallen into the trap of believing that the communal prejudices have a logical basis – a notion that he himself challenges elsewhere.

– KK