hindutva: Hindu, Hinduism and Hindutva, as understood by the Supreme Court | India News



Three days ago, primo uomo Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, continuing his attack on Hindutvavadis perceiving them as communal, tweeted: “‘Hindutvavadis’ have spread hatred in the cyber world because cowards only attack while hiding. If they had had enough courage, they would have come forward. We must be strong and continue to fight this hatred – the country must be saved!”
Who is a Hindutvavadi? The simple answer is one who follows, practices and professes Hindutva. To understand Hindutva one probably needs to delve into “Hindu” and “Hinduism” and the safest place to venture into this question is the Supreme Court which, in its annals, has a vast reservoir of interpretative case law on these three words – Hindu, Hinduism and Hindutva.
One of India’s greatest educators and its first vice-president, S Radhakrishnan, in his book “The Hindu View of Life”, defined Hindus as: “The people of the Indian side of Sindhu were called Hindus by the Persians and later western invaders. This is the genesis of the word “Hindu”. When we think of the Hindu religion. We find it difficult, if not impossible, to define the Hindu religion or even to describe it from adequately… It can be broadly described as a way of life and nothing more.
On Hinduism, the famous British scholar and historian Monier Williams observed in his book “Religious Thought and Life in India” that “it should be borne in mind that Hinduism is much more than a mere of theism based on Brahmanism. It presents for our investigation a complex set of beliefs and doctrines whose gradual accumulation may be compared to the gathering of the mighty volume of the Ganges, swollen by a continuous inflow of tributary rivers and streams,…. The Hindu religion is the reflection of the composite character of the Hindus, who are not one people but several. It is based on the idea of ​​universal receptivity. It has always sought to adapt to circumstances and has continued the process of adaptation for more than three thousand years.
The first reference to ‘Hindutva’ was recorded by the Supreme Court in its judgment [1994 (6) SCC 360] in the ‘Ismail Faruqi’ case, which challenged the validity of the Central Law of 1993 acquiring the disputed area of ​​Ayodhya and large tracts of land around it. Judge SP Bharucha, who was part of the three-judge bench that upheld the acquisition, said: “Ordinarily Hindutva is understood as a way of life or a state of mind and it should not be equated or understood as Hindu religious fundamentalism. .”
The emerging interpretation of “Hindutva” as “a way of life” by Judge Bharucha in Ismail Faruqi, has engaged in careful analysis by a panel of three judges headed by renowned Judge JS Verma in Ramesh Yeshwant Prabhoo against Shri Prabhakar Kashinath Kunte [1996 SCC (1) 130]. The case witnessed a see-saw battle between two heavyweights – Ram Jethmalani for Shiv Sena and Ashok Desai for the opposite side, both citing scriptures and historians generously.
Judge Verma relied on numerous previous judgments from constitutional benches and said that these decisions “indicate that no definite meaning can be attributed to the terms ‘Hindu’, ‘Hindu’ and ‘Hinduism’; and no meaning in the abstract can confine it to the narrow confines of religion alone, excluding the content of Indian culture and heritage. It is also stated that the term ‘Hindutva’ is more related to the way of life of people in the subcontinent. It is difficult to appreciate how, in the face of these rulings, the term ‘Hindutva’ or ‘Hinduism’ per se, in the abstract, can be taken to mean and be equated with narrow fundamentalist Hindu religious sectarianism…”.
The SC ruled that the mere use of the word “Hindutva” or “Hinduism” or mention of any other religion in an election speech does not bring it into the net of subsection (3) and/or sub -section (3A) of Section 123, (to constitute corrupt practices which could disqualify the candidate) unless the other elements indicated are also present in this speech.
The SC also dispelled the idea, given by politicians of different faiths, that the terms “Hinduism” or “Hindutva” per se cannot be interpreted as describing hostility, enmity or intolerance towards others religious denominations or professing communitarianism. Such apprehension, the SC said, stemmed from an improper appreciation and perception of the true meaning of these expressions which emerged from the detailed discussion in this Court’s precedents.
However, the court had warned against a possible politically beneficial misuse of the terms and advised strong measures to curb these tendencies. “The misuse of these expressions to promote communitarianism cannot alter the true meaning of these terms. The mischief resulting from the misuse of the terms by anyone in their speech should be verified and not their authorized use. It is indeed very unfortunate that despite the liberal and tolerant characteristics of “Hinduism” recognized in court decisions, these terms are misused by anyone in elections to gain any undue political advantage. Fundamentalism of any color or kind must be suppressed with a heavy hand to preserve and promote the secular belief of the nation. Any misuse of these terms must therefore be dealt with rigorously.
Is giving a narrow meaning to Hinduism, Hinduism and Hindutva, which is like trying a blunt political scissor on a cloth the size of an ocean to suit a narrower political agenda , cut the ice with the electorate? The results will tell us in March.

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