The Trouble with Hindutva

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Written by Randeep Singh

With the likelihood that a Hindu-right led government will come to power in India in the current elections, it’s worth examining the foundations of Hindutva (‘Hindu-ness’), the ideology underlying the Hindu right.

The seminal text on Hindutva is “Essentials of Hindutva” written by Veer Savarkar around 1922.

According to Savarkar, “Hindutva” is a cultural and national (not a religious) idea underlined by a common nation (‘rashtra’), race (‘jati’) and culture (‘sanskriti’). To qualify as a “Hindu” (Indian), one must regard “Hindustan” (India) as one’s fatherland (‘pitrabhumi’), motherland (‘matrabhumi’) and holyland (‘punyabhumi’).

Those who do not regard Hindustan as their holyland – namely Muslims and Christians – lack the “cultural” element necessary to be a Hindu. They can only become Hindu if they choose to embrace Hindustan as their holyland as well.

The trouble with Hindutva begins with the term “Hindu.” The term “Hindu” is a term foreigners used in referring to the inhabitants of the subcontinent, a point Savarkar concedes noting that it was the ancient Persians who first used the term. The term “Hindu” is scarce found within Sanskrit literature and Hindus have traditionally referred to one another not by “Hindu” but by their respective caste names (e.g. Bania, Chamar, Brahmin etc.). Savarkar’s national “Hindu” moreover is essentially north-Indian, upper caste and Brahmanic in race and culture.

Second, Savarkar’s essay is not so much a work of political ideology as it is itihaasa, a work combining history, myth, legend and fantasy. Savarkar does not question whether Rama, Krishna or the Mahabharata are mythological figures, whether the Aryans originated from outside of India and and whether Sanskrit was a language restricted to upper-castes. Any such inquiry is drowned out in an epic call for “Hindu” unity.

Third, Savarkar’s basic failure to define the term “nation” results in ambiguity and contradiction in his defining a Hindu. To say that a Muslim is not a Hindu (Indian) because Islam’s holyland is Saudi Arabia, is tantamount to saying that a Catholic in Spain cannot regard himself as Spanish because Christianity’s holyland is Palestine. It is also interesting that while Savarkar disqualifies Muslims as Indians because they lack the essential prerequisite of culture (i.e. viewing India as their holyland), he qualifies as Hindu those Caucasians who convert to Hinduism despite their lacking his otherwise essential criteria of race.

Savarkar’s “Essentials of Hindutva” is a yearning for unity. One can understand its appeal to millions in India, particularly those of a religion as diverse as Hinduism. That yearning is perhaps necessary to the idea of India; but any imagined unity like Hindutva’s imagines its others too as Ayodhya and Godhra have demonstrated. The coming election will help determine Hindutva’s place in India’s imagination tomorrow.

 

Pakistani women Rehana Kausar and Sobia Kamar marry in Britain’s first Muslim lesbian partnership

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Posted by Randeep Purewall. Referred to by Tooba Masood.

Two former students from Pakistan are believed to have become the first Muslim lesbian couple to marry in a civil ceremony in Britain.

Rehana Kausar, 34, and Sobia Kamar, 29, took their vows at a registry office in Leeds earlier this month before immediately applying for political asylum, it was claimed.

Relatives of the couple said the women, who studied in Birmingham, had received death threats both in the UK and from opponents in their native Pakistan, where homosexual relations are illegal.

During the ceremony the couple reportedly told the registrar that they had met three years ago while studying business and health care management at Birmingham, having travelled to the country on student visas, and had been living together in South Yorkshire for about a year.

Ms Kausar, originally from Lahore, also holds a master’s degree in economics from Punjab University.

“This country allows us rights and it’s a very personal decision that we have taken. It’s no one’s business as to what we do with our personal lives,” she was quoted as telling the Birmingham-based Sunday Mercury newspaper.

“The problem with Pakistan is that everyone believes he is in charge of other people lives and can best decide about the morals of others but that’s not the right approach. We are in this state because of our clergy, who have hijacked our society, which was once tolerant and respected individuals’ freedoms.”

Homosexual sex is illegal under Pakistani law. There are also no laws prohibiting discrimination or harassment on the basis of sexual orientation.

In recent years in Britain, some Muslim gay and lesbian couples have opted for a nikah, an Islamic matrimonial contract, which is officially the reserve of heterosexuals. These services, conducted in Arabic with additional duas – prayers – are not recognised in the UK unless accompanied by a civil ceremony. Homosexuality is strictly forbidden in the Islamic faith and the notion of same-sex marriage is abhorrent to many Muslims.

A relative of one of the women told the Sunday Mercury: “The couple did not have an Islamic marriage ceremony, known as a nikah, as they could not find an imam to conduct what would have been a controversial ceremony. They have been very brave throughout as our religion does not condone homosexuality. The couple have had their lives threatened both here and in Pakistan and there is no way they could ever return there.”

Ruth Hunt, deputy chief executive for Stonewall, said: “There is a very cautious step towards social visibility for some gay men in Pakistan but lesbians are completely invisible. Pakistan is not necessarily a safe place for couples to be open about their love.”

The Home Office said it was unable to confirm any details about their political asylum request.

Written by Charlotte Philby, The Independent (May 26, 2013). For original story, click here: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/pakistani-women-rehana-kausar-and-sobia-kamar-marry-in-britains-first-muslim-lesbian-partnership-8632935.html