A Hindu Rashtra in all but name

At a civil society meeting in Bangalore this week, the question was asked if a Hindu Rashtra was on the horizon in the event of a third term for the Modi government. To see if this is possible, one must begin by asking what it is, and how Hindu Rashtra will be different from what we have at present.

Until 2008, after which it became a republic like ours, Nepal was a Hindu Rashtra, the only one in the world. Why was it a Hindu Rashtra? Because executive power flowed from a Kshatriya (Chhetri) king as prescribed in the Manu Smriti. Nepal’s 1959 Constitution identifies the head of State as someone who is an ‘adherent of Aryan culture and Hindu religion’.

The 1962 Constitution defines Nepal as an ‘independent, indivisible and sovereign Hindu State’ and repeats the formulation of the king as being Aryan and Hindu. The Raj Sabha or governing council includes the head Brahmin (Bada Gurujyu) and officiating priest (Mool Purohit).

Nepal’s 1990 Constitution defined the country as being ‘multiethnic, multilingual, democratic, independent, indivisible, sovereign, Hindu and constitutional monarchical kingdom’. It restated the ‘Aryan-ness’ and ‘Hinduness’ of the king. The Raj Sabha was now to be called Raj Parishad and the Mool Purohit excluded, though the Bada Gurujyu remained.

The 1959 Constitution had no religious freedom as such, and ‘no person shall be entitled to convert another person to his religion’. A citizen may only ‘practice and profess his own religion as handed down from ancient times’, meaning no propagation was allowed, a principle still followed in Nepal.

The ban on conversion was later rephrased to close the loophole surrounding the words ‘his religion’ and the new text read: ‘No person shall be entitled to convert another person from one religion to another.’

To conclude, Nepal was a Hindu Rashtra because of three things. First, that rule was caste-based through a hereditary Kshatriya; second, this king had caste-based advisors in his court; third, there was no religious freedom, and propagation was banned.

Here, Nepal was and is more honest than India. Our Constitution through article 25 says the right to freely propagate religion is a fundamental right, but across India’s states exist laws which also make religious propagation a criminal offence. Therefore, the right exists mostly on paper.

Nepal was only a Hindu Rashtra to this extent. No other parts of the prescribed caste hierarchy and caste-based discriminations as required by the texts were applied to the State, and they could not have been. It would have gone against the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and every single modern law and practice that gives individuals liberty and equality and freedom.

For this reason, it is difficult to see how it can be replicated here. We do not even have the hereditary king that Nepal did. But if this is not Hindu Rashtra, then what are the BJP and RSS talking about? Here, we do not have a proper answer because they have never defined it, though they speak of it often. There is no available draft or charter or constitution of the RSS Hindu Rashtra and what its laws will be and how they will differ from the present.

The reason is that their only focus is on minorities. A Hindu Rashtra of the type they speak of might mandate by law that no non-Hindu can become prime minister or chief minister, and only Hindus can hold certain offices.

We should consider here that though we have no such law, it is not required. There is no Muslim chief minister in this country, no Muslim has ever even served a full five-year term as CM in any state besides Kashmir, and of course, there has never been a Muslim prime minister of India.

This type of Hindu Rashtra can also adopt some other discriminatory aspects against its religious minorities. Germany in the 1930s adopted a set of laws that prevented inter-marriage between communities. In India, after 2018, seven BJP-ruled states have passed laws that also criminalise marriage between Muslims and Hindus. German laws excluded Jews from citizenship, and India has, of course, adopted the CAA excluding Muslims.

Many of the things that India has done especially since 2019, with targeted laws and policy on namaz (in the national capital region in 2021), hijab (in Karnataka in 2021), beef (since 2015), bulldozers (across India now), talaq (in 2019) and so on would also be something that we can see in an exclusionary Hindu Rashtra.

The question is, if we have already excluded Muslims from political office by default, and if we are already harassing our minorities daily through laws, as Nazi Germany did and as Pakistan did, why do we need a Hindu Rashtra or a change from the present set of laws?

The answer is that we do not. The present Constitution and laws give us enough freedom to apply discrimination against non-Hindus legally, while still pretending to be pluralist, democratic and secular. There appears to be no particular advantage or benefit that we get in officially changing our Constitutional and legal state from secular to Hindu Rashtra.

So what can we expect from the third term, should it come? I must recount a reply, most likely apocryphal, given by the poet Ahmed Faraz, when someone asked him the classic question: “Yoon hi chalta raha to kya hoga?” (what happens if things continue in this fashion). Faraz’s reply was: “Darr to is baat ka hai ke kuchh bhi nahin hoga, yoon hi chalta rahega” (the real fear is that nothing will happen: that what is around us will continue).

Crime Today News | Hyderabad

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