But then what is Hindutva?
None of its contemporary advocates, including former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee and his less imaginative colleagues in the Sangh Parivar, have spelt out its character and its constitutive elements. For good reasons. They are seeking to evolve an overarching political ideology to bring together the followers of a highly differentiated religious faith.
Hindutva is, therefore, conceived as an undefinable quality inherent in the Hindu `race', which cannot be identified with anything specific in Hinduism.
Hindutva, in the opinion of Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, the progenitor of the concept, "is so varied and so rich, so powerful and so subtle, so elusive and yet so vivid" that it defies all attempts at analysis. Therefore, he had stopped short of defining it; instead he only tried to underline its relationship with Hinduism. He had asserted: "Hinduism is only a derivative, a fraction, a part of Hindutva." He, however, argued that this distinction would help to consolidate the Hindu community: "Failure to distinguish between Hindutva and Hinduism has given rise to much misunderstanding and mutual suspicion between some of those sister communities that have inherited this inestimable and common treasure of our Hindu civilisation…It is enough to point out that Hindutva is not identical with what is vaguely indicated by the term Hinduism.
Savarkar had argued that a Muslim or a Christian, even if born in India, could not claim to possess the qualities of Hindutva. The essentials of Hindutva, according to Savarkar, are "a common nation (rashtra), a common race (jati) and a common civilisation (sanskriti)". Later Hindu ideologues such as M.S. Golwalkar elaborated this idea to exclude all non-Hindus from the ambit of the nation.
Hindutva, therefore, serves as an ideological justification for the construction of India as a Hindu nation.
The statement of the former Prime Minister that the demolition of the Babri Masjid is an expression of national sentiment and his reluctance to condemn the Gujarat massacre unambiguously demonstrate his commitment to the political ideology of Hindutva. In the Hindu communal practice, therefore, the distinction between Hindutva and Hinduism has disappeared, which has helped the militant communal Hindu politics to command the support of unsuspecting Hindu believers.
In the last few elections, this strategy has returned high dividends. At a national plane, the Ram Janmabhoomi issue provided an unprecedented opportunity, which was used by celebrating Ram as a national icon and by undertaking the popularisation of symbols linked with him. The agitation centred around the temple, including the rath yatra of Advani, established Hindutva's claim to represent Hindus. The effort, however, goes on. Bhojshala in Madhya Pradesh and Baba Budangiri in Karnataka are the new sites invented to defend Hindu interests. In order to realise this claim socially and culturally, the Sangh Parivar has adopted an aggressive policy of homogenising the diverse groups among Hindus.
Many were taken by surprise when Dalits participated in the Gujarat pogrom or when Adivasis supported the Bharatiya Janata Party in the recently held elections to the State Assemblies. But it is not altogether surprising as the ideology of Hindutva has been at work among these groups for a long time in order to inculcate a Hindu identity in them. An indication of this change is the transformation in their worship pattern. Their traditional places of worship are being refashioned as Hindu temples and their modes of worship are being replaced by those of the Brahminical order.
The Hinduization thus taking place amounts to blatant cultural denial and oppression.