Is every Indian 'essentially' a Hindu?

Do all people in India live and lead their lives in any fundamentally similar manner?

The answer to this question, coming from the VHP, the BJP and the RSS has serious implications. They say that all Indians are, in some fundamental manner, Hindus.

The meaning of the word culture, and an analysis of the word and the legitimate usage of the word is presented in definitions. The way in which a group of people (local community, state, nation) implement their ideas and ethics into practice constitute the culture of that group. In other words, the 'culture' of a society—will be predominantly determined by the ideas held by that group and in order to understand the culture of a group of people, one needs to examine the philosophical 'thought content' of that group, one needs to examine their attitude towards ideas.

To clarify, let's take an example. Let's take up the case of 'freedom of speech'. If in a society, if speakers of different ideologies are free to express their ideas without any fear of physical threat or attack, it wouldn't mean that the 'culture' of that society is a sum, a mish-mash of all the ideologies expressed by those speakers. The actual cultural milieu of a society is that speakers are free to express their ideologies without fear of physical threat. It is this freedom that is the sustaining element for all the speakers, it is this basic principle which all speakers adhere to, that is the 'culture' of that society; it is that philosophy which grants freedom of speech to all speakers which is the bulwark behind the culture of that society..

What are the BJP trying to get away with?

The contentions of the BJP are that since all Indians lead a similar life which is nothing but the Hindu form of life, all Indians are 'essentially' culturally similar and therefore Hindu. This contention, is similar to the kind of statements that the Sangh has been making all along. As an example;

"Non-Hindus must be assimilated with the Hindu way of life. The words "Muslim" and "Christian" denote a religious phenomenon, while the word "Hindu" is synonymous with the nation..."
by an unknown RSS worker attending an Officer's Training Camp in Maharashtra in 1971. This is demonstrative of what the RSS preaches to its Swayamsevaks.

Thus the BJP is trying to get away with saying that all Indians should, and do, live like Hindus.

How does the BJP try to do it?

In the famous(infamous) judgement of the Supreme Court regarding the usage of the words, "Hindus, Hinduism, and Hindutva and Ram" for election campaigning, the court upheld the BJP's position that it was not committing a crime by doing so.

The type of argument that the defense presented was similar in form and content, to this passage quoted from the Hindustan Times by Mr. Jagmohan,

"Suppose, as a candidate for an election or otherwise, I say that I am a true follower of true Hinduism which, in my view, is nothing but a form of spiritual secularism; which believes that God/Truth can be reached through different routes and by diverse means; which adheres to no fixed dogma; which is based upon principles and not on persons; which continuously endeavors to enlarge the aperture of mind to secure better and better insight and to comprehend Reality in greater and greater depth; which assigns the same spark of divinity to every individual; which treats the spirit of Ram Rajya, that is, the spirit of establishing a fair and just order by fair and just means, as a guiding star for the polity and administration of the State; which practices and propagates that 'Jiva is Shiva', that is, in the service of the living creatures lies the service of the Creator; which is tolerant and appreciative of other systems of belief and considers them branches of the same tree; then, which constitutional provision, which constitutional value and in which part of our constitutional scheme do I violate and in what way do I damage the foundational planks of our constitutional edifice or harm the principles of secularism, socialism, democracy or republicanism?" (emphasis mine)

In an attempt to justify the use of words like Hinduism and Hindutva, the trick was to 'define' these terms in such a nebulous all encompassing diffuse manner that was in effect, a non-definition of the terms. To define something is to make it possible to distinguish it from other things. Now, if one's 'definition' of an entity is stated in such a manner that distinction of that defined entity from other entities is not possible , such a 'definition' is not a definition. To talk of a precise definition is redundant, definitions have to be precise for us to call them so.

An infinitely expandable balloon

Thus instead of defining Hindutva, Mr. Jagmohan expands the concept of Hindutva like a infinitely expandable balloon, incorporating all concepts along the way into the meaning of Hindutva, including secularism! To talk about being 'spiritually secular' is like talking about a Hindu priest who is deprived of religious character. The 'inflating' of the concept, in this case, has been carried to such an extent that concepts that are opposites and contradictions to the original concept are also included in its definition.

Justice Verma was obviously not a man with enough vision to see through all this, he bought the argument presented by the defense and the BJP walked free. In his judgement, Verma doesn't hide from us, his feeble threadbare understanding of what constitutes a concept and it's definition:

These Constitution Bench decisions, after a detailed discussion, indicate that no precise meaning can be ascribed to the terms 'Hindu', 'Hindutva' and 'Hinduism'; and no meaning in the abstract can confine it to the narrow limits of religion alone,...

He also helps the BJP along;

"It is a fallacy and an error of law to proceed on the assumption that any reference to Hindutva or Hinduism in a speech makes it automatically a speech based on Hindu religion as opposed to other religions or that the use of the word Hindutva or Hinduism per se depicts an attitude hostile to all persons practicing any religion other than the Hindu religion... and it may well be that these words are used in a speech to emphasize the way of life of the Indian people and the Indian cultural ethos..."

The 'country's culture' is also defined in a similar fashion by the BJP

For the BJP, doublespeak is a congenital disease that just doesn't seem to have a cure. But the origin of such a practice lies in the way they define things. In this case, 'Hindu culture' is defined in such a manner that it includes all practices of people from diverse walks of life, including Christians and Muslims. The only option left to the Hindutva protagonist after defining Hindutva in such a manner is to stand by such a definition. And since a non-definition is his 'definition', he has no guide to help him clarify as to what acts of a person are for or against Hindutva. So he takes the shortcut, he ends up believing that all things Hindu are necessarily things that are Indian and vice versa.

People all over the world get up in the morning, take a bath, have breakfast and go to work. It is such activity of Indians that the BJP wants to call 'Hindu' in nature. Because once you do that the rest is easy, any other whim or dictum of theirs can also be called 'essentially Hindu' and people who don't confirm to those whims and dictates can be accused of not being Indian! The trick is to label all Indians as Hindus based on a purposely loosely defined set of criteria and then insinuate people who do not confirm to specific Hindu traditions and practices as being 'unIndian', 'unpatriotic' and even 'anti-national'.

It is by arguments like this that the BJP is out to impose on everyone in this country a 'Hindu' identity. Voltaire once said; "Before talking to me, define your terms". We, today, should be telling the BJP that.

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