By M.V. Kamath
Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Indian Politics: Manjari Katju; Orient Longman; pp 186; Rs. 350.00
Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Indian Politics is probably the first serious study of one of the leading?and much misunder-stood?organisations in the Hindutva movement. It started, according to the author, Manjari Katju, as a doctoral dissertation; but then she revised and condensed it, but the published version still merits consideration.
Ms Katju claims that her interest in the Parishad was spurred by the fact that her grandfather, Shiv Nath Katju was long a member of the body and later its president as well, in the late eighties. But that apparently in no way has clouded her judgement of the VHP. It is, to say the least, critical. Ms Katju claims to have received all possible help from VHP activists who freely granted her interviews which were conducted first towards the end of 1993 and later between September 1995 and May 1996. The time factor is not something to be completely ignored.
Starting from the very beginning of the VHP in 1964, the book traces its growth and spread and concludes with an analysis of its activities and programmes in 1996 with a brief look at its present activities. One chapter explores the formation of the VHP in the context of post-1947 politics, and examines the socio-political background of its important founding members, the charter they laid down and the goals they prescribed.
Noted is the fact that between the mid-1980s and the early 1990s the leadership of the VHP gradually passed from the political elite and religious leaders into the hands of traders, small industrialists and service professionals.
One chapter looks at the VHP programmes immediately before the demolition of the Babri structure and in its immediate aftermath. No one can charge Ms Katju of not doing her homework. But let it be said rightaway: the book is biased?and painfully so. Ms Katju says that in the 1960s and 1970s the propagation of Hindu dharma did not produce the fiery and militant traits in the VHP which became characteristic of the organisation in the post-1983 phase. What is it that changed the outlook of the VHP?
How come the leadership of the VHP which in the beginning could count on such non-RSS leaders like Swami Chinmaya-nanda, Sushil Muni of the Jains, Sant Tukoji, Karan Singh, Jayachamarajendra Wodeyar, K.M. Munshi and C.P. Rama-swamy Aiyar has now fallen into the hands of someone like Togadia?
Ms Katju provides poor explanation. How come VHP came to feel that Hinduism had to be ?protected? against Islam, Christianity and communism? What did these three ideologies do that they became suspect in VHP”s eyes? Nothing takes place without a reason.
Ms Katju is not very explicit on this score. She plays up the RSS fears of a neglected sector within Hinduism being made a special target for proselytisation by Christian and Muslim missionaries. At the same time she downplays VHP”s desire to reform Hindu society.
She quotes the United Christian Forum for Human Rights as saying that there occurred thirty-five recorded incidents of anti-Christian attacks between January and June 2000. Actually there have been a multiple of that figure of reported attacks on Christians, all of which are crying to be studied in detail. Maybe Ms Katju has done so in her Ph.D. thesis, but not in this book. We are led to believe that there was, on the part of the missionaries, no provocation whatsoever. Perhaps there wasn”t. But a serious student of social changes would take note of every incident to understand the why and wherefore of every misbehaviour on the part of VHP activists. Why did they resort to intimidation? Writes Ms Katju: ?With anti-semitism at the core of its raison d”etre, the Sangh group, and particularly the VHP, since its inception has gradually worked towards building a consistent movement against both Muslims and Christians, at times quietly and at times with excessive clamour.? No proper explanation is offered.
Many questions remain unanswered in this work, or cursorily answered. Why has there been such a resurgence in Hindu society? Why has Hindu society become so ´Hindu-conscious´? Why was Hinduism dormant as a political force for over a hundred years? What has made Hindus so self-conscious in the last two decades? Is it wrong on the part of Hindus to assert themselves as a political force considering what has been happening in Pakistan and in Bangladesh? Should Hindus ever and ever suppress their natural desire to identify themselves as the dominant force in India in order to win the applause of the ´minorities´? These are painful but valid questions that arise but which Ms Katju has preferred not to answer in depth.
The Hindu psychology is not sufficiently studied, let alone explained. The author is happy in her approach to demonise the VHP as ´communal´. She thereby no doubt would win some cookie points from her secular friends, and from minority leaders.
That, in substance, is the focal point of this work which takes a dim view of Hindu nationalism as something sinister and to be strongly condemned. It is sad that the VHP is not contextually analysed. In the circumstances it reflects poorly on Ms Katju”s scholarship, such as it is. But in an age of the demonisation of Hindus one shouldn”t expect objectivity. Writing becomes much more easy if villains are clearly identified and damned as such. And isn”t that what secular scholarship is all about?
The Hindu psychology is not sufficiently studied, let alone explained.
Katju claims that her interest in the Parishad was spurred by the fact that her grandfather, Shiv Nath Katju was long a member of the body and later its president as well, in the late eighties. But that apparently in no way has clouded her judgement of the VHP.