Guruji: A drishta-IX
In this series, the central idea is to capture Shri Guruji as a seer who saw beyond his context and times and whose thoughts were proved right and accepted after him. Guruji’s views are basically from the Hindu national and cultural perspective. The Hindu national and cultural perspective itself is religiously neutral as, according to scholars of the West themselves, Hinduism “accepts all faiths and methods of worship without necessitating the selection or elimination of any” and since it is founded on unity in diversity, in principle, it is neutral to all faiths and cultures. In this context, the issue for analysis is whether the Fundamentalism study issues from the perspective of acceptance of all faiths and cultures, which is the basic premise of Shri Guruji’s thoughts? And that is precisely what is analysed here. Read on.
Admittedly a product of Western Christian secular scholarship, not a natural one
The Fundamentalism Project, to remind again, is edited by an evangelical Christian and a Christian scholar. It also explicitly admits that the Project has engaged scholars who (while they hail from “the nations or religious about which they are writing”) are “none the less resolutely of the Western Academy” (See Introduction by editors at p16 Fundamentalism and Society, Vol 2 The Fundamentalism Project). This single admission questions its neutrality, even implies bias. With Samuel Huntington asserting in his most influential work on the Clashes of Civilisations that the Western civilisation is intrinsically Christian, the admission of the Project that its scholars are from “Western Academy”, is equally an admission that the study is geo-Christian in perspective, not religion-neutral or secular. Unfortunately, this critical admission is buried in small print in one little corner of the five volumes. Yet the Fundamentalism Project has been presented to the world as a religiously neutral, secular, scholarly work.
The editors tell shocking lie that ‘Hindus or Indians have written on Hinduism or RSS’
But that is not all. When the editors say that the scholars “hail from the nations or religions about they are writing”, it means that only Hindus or Indians have written about Hinduism. But in the background of this assertion, it is shocking that the scholars chosen to write on Hinduism and RSS do not hail from the Hindu tradition or RSS background at all. That the editors are telling a blatant lie here can be demonstrated by the authors who have written on Hinduism and RSS. First, Daniel Gold, who has written on “Organised Hinduism: From Vedic Truth to Hindu Nation” (Vol I p531-593) is obviously not a Hindu and certainly not an Indian. He is a product of the Divinity School at Chicago, a Christian seminary. Second, Robert Eric Frykenberg, who has written on “Hindu Fundamentalism and the Structural Stability in India” (Vol 3 p233-255) is again not a Hindu nor an Indian. He is a professor of history and South Asian Studies in University of Wisconsin in US. Third, Gabriel A Almond, Emmanuel Sivan, R Scott Appleby who have written on “Fundamentalism: Genus and Species” (Vol 5 p399-424) in which they have classified the RSS as a fundamentalist-like outfit, are not Hindus, nor Indians. Fourth, Chapter 21 (Vol 4 p591-616) titled, “Accounting for Fundamentalism in South Asia: Ideologies and Institutions in Historical perspective” is authored again by Robert Eric Frykenberg, who had earlier written in Vol 3 on Hindu Fundamentalism and the Structural Instability in India”. To recall, he is neither a Hindu nor an Indian. Fifth, Peter van der Veer who has written the essay in Chapter 23 titled “Hindu Nationalism and the Discourse of Modernity” (Vol 4 p653-668) is again not a Hindu, nor an Indian; obviously a Christian, he is a director of Research Center for Religion and Society at the University of Amsterdam. Sixth, the essay in Chapter 22 titled “The Function of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh: To Define the Hindu nation” is, as previously seen, authored by Ainslie T Embree, who is not a Hindu nor an Indian. He is a Christian and an American. Seventh, the essay “Fundamentalist Impact on Education and the Media” (Vol 2 p313-340) in which Hindu phenomenon and RSS are extensively commented has been written by Majid Tehranian, a Muslim, not an Indian, who is an academic at the University of Hawaii. There are other essays the five volumes in which non-Hindu, non-Indian authors have commented harshly against Hinduism, Hindus and RSS.
Only two chapters concerning Hinduism or India, one, “Hindu Revivalism and Education in North-Central India” by Prof Krishna Kumar of Delhi University (Vol 2 p536-557) and two, “Economic impact of Hindu Revivalism” by Prof Depak Lal of University of California Los Angeles (Vol 3 p410-426) are by Indians and Hindus. But neither of theirs is a seminal essay. They proceed expressly on the basis of conclusions of Daniel Gold on Hinduism and RSS. Therefore, contrary to the claims of the editors, most essays in the Project, and all the seminal essays, on Hinduism or RSS are written by non-Indians and non-Hindus and therefore, their claim that they are “written by scholars hailing from” India or Hinduism is a shocking lie. Again, most of the essays on Buddhism, Confucianism, Sikhism, and even on Islam are also written by Christian or Western scholars and not by scholars from the respective religions or the nations where such religions exist. Only essays on Christianity have been written by Christian or Western scholars, and so on Judaism. Is any further evidence needed to say that the study is clearly from geo-Christian perspective?
Flip-Flop-Flip on “Hindu revivalism”, “Hindu fundamentalism” — “Fundamentalist-like”
as the subterfuge
The Fundamentalism Project has struggled to bracket Hinduism with the monotheistic Abrahamic faiths by smuggling in a new, undefined term “fundamentalist-like” to catch Hindu organisations like the RSS, Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Arya Samaj. See how this effort to catch the RSS within the scope of fundamentalism has resulted in total flip-flop-flip and contradiction in the five volumes. Ainslie T Embree says in his essay on the RSS (Vol 4 p618) that terms like “militant Hinduism”, “Hindu Fundamentalism”, religious revivalism” or “reactionary Hinduism” are inappropriate for the study of Hindu religious phenomena”. Prof Krishna Kumar says in his essay on “Hindu Revivalism in Education”, that the term “revivalism is preferable to fundamentalism mainly because the latter is inappropriate to Hinduism” which “(U)nlike Semitic religions, is characterised by multiplicity of basic faiths, texts and practices”. (Vol 2 p537) So, while Krishna Kumar says that Fundamentalism is inappropriate to Hindus, but revivalism is. Ainslie says both are inappropriate! Yet, throughout the five volumes Project the terms “Fundamentalism” and “Revivalism” are invariably suffixed to Hinduism in hundreds of places and Hindus and Hindu organisations are labelled as Fundamentalist and revivalist! See more. In his essay “Fundamentalist Impact on Education and the Media” (Vol 2 p334) Majid Tehranian says, “From another point of view, Hindu revivalism may be considered as Indianisation of India” as, according to LK Advani, the then President of BJP, “the eighty-five of the Hindus in India are only asking for a recognition of the majority rights and an end to special privileges of minorities.” He also adds, “(B)oth internal and external forces seem to have combined to bring about this change of heart among the Hindus from secular to religious politics. The rise of Islamic fundamentalism and militancy in Pakistan may have contributed to the growth of Hindu nationalism…”. That is the rise of the Hindu phenomenon is a reaction to the fundamentalism of Abrahamic faiths. This matches with what one of editors of the Project says (Vol 5 p399), namely, that “Hindu nationalists” borrow “religious structures and concepts from Abrahamic religions” and that borrowal is “synthetic fundamentalism” and again affirming this, Majid Tehranian says citing Prof Krishna Kumar that, “Hindu society could not find adequate resources for this purposes within their religion alone.” Therefore the alleged (Hindu) fundamentalism being not original, there is no such thing as Hindu fundamentalism at all. Again Majid Tehranian says (Vol 2 p335) citing Prof Krishna Kumar that “opposition to modernity is not a feature of the revivalist movement”; that “Hindu revivalism can thus be interpreted as movement for both cultural survival and cultural hegemony…”. The substance of the discourse on the five volumes on Hinduism and RSS clearly rule out the application of fundamentalism and revivalism to Hinduism or RSS.
Comic bracketing of RSS as “fundamentalist-like” organisation
How the scholars and editors of the Project struggle to club the RSS with Abrahamic fundamentalist movement (“Fundamentalism Comprehended” Vol 5 p414-15) is comic. There are, according to the Project scholars (Ibid p409-414), five tests to call a movement fundamentalist. The first is “Reactivity”, which is mobilisation against secular forces in modern world; the second, “Selectivity”, citing the fundamentals to create siege mentality; the third, “Dualism”, that is strong feelings against drifters from one’s own religion than against the other religious; the fourth, “Inerrancy”, that is the belief that one’s religious text contains no error; and five, “Millennialism”, the expectation of a messiah which assures ultimate victory. In the five tests, while invariably others are rated “high” first, second, third and fourth, RSS is rated “low” in first, second and fifth tests, the fourth test, inerrancy, is completely absent in RSS. Only in dualism, strong feelings against those who drift away from Hinduism – namely conversions – RSS is rated “high”. The RSS is against conversion but it does not use violence against the converts, which is what dualism means. So, this rating is totally wrong. Thus, in the tabulation of the different fundamentalist and fundamentalist like organisations (Vol 5 p414), the RSS is nowhere near being fundamentalist or fundamentalist like. But still both Hinduism and RSS are bracketed with fundamentalism throughout the five volumes, by smuggling in the term “fundamentalist like” into the discourse. ‘The Fundamentalism Project’ which flips, flops and flips on Hinduism and RSS, is not an honest intellectual exercise.