[Reader-list] Hindutva history on the net

ravikant ravikant at sarai.net
Wed Aug 6 11:33:06 IST 2003

With apologies to those who read The Indian Express. Although the hindutva 
history of PN Oak brand has been there for a long time, it seems the cyber 
versions have gone a step or two beyond Oak's absurdities, like when 
Vivekananda is  conjoined with Canada in a re-configured 'Vive Canada' in a 
world-conquering vision ascribed to him. Of course RSS is seen as the 
organisation with the mission to accomplish the vision. What is even more 
interesting is that the author sees cyber space as a natural domain for 
hinduism which is essentially rhizomatic in character. Of course he slips, 
for hinduism and hindutva may not be the same thing. Like he slips while 
telling us that 'Dharmakshetre Kurukshetre' is the opening line from the 
Gita; in fact it is the from the first shloka of the second of the eighteen 
chapetrs of the Gita. I have known for a long time that I do not have to read 
hindutva literature if i wish to understand hinduism, but now i know one more 
thing: people like the author of this book, Vinay Lal, are not the best ones 
to tell me about hindutva history, leave alone history. 

enjoy, if you can

Domain name Hindutva

It is perhaps apposite that the North American proponents of Hindutva, as well 
as revisionist Hindu historians, should have found the Internet an agreeable 
avenue for the propagation of their world-view.

More than any other organised religion, Hinduism is a decentred and 
deregulated faith, and in this it appears akin to cyberspace. In the language 
of the cybernetic postmodernists, one could say that Hinduism is rhizomatic, 
with multiple points of origin, intersection, and dispersal. Hinduism and the 
Internet, one might conclude, were happily made for each other; even the 
millions of web sites evoke the ??330 million gods and goddesses?? of 

Although the subjects on which the most substantial contributions to Hindutva 
web sites are made vary considerably, the web masters and their associates 
are united in their resolve to offer radically altered accounts of even the 
most common verities of India history.

Thus, while it is generally agreed that the Mughal Emperor Akbar (reigned 
1556-1605) was, especially for his times, a just ruler, that his policies of 
tolerance were conducive to the expansion of his empire and the good of his 
subjects, and that he is said to have introduced elements of Hinduism, into 
his own practices of worship and even the culture of the court, in Hindutva 
web sites he appears as a ??tyrannical monarch??; not unexpectedly, then, 
Aurangzeb (reigned 1658-1707), who has always been disliked by Hindu 
historians as a sworn enemy of the Hindus and breaker of idols, is viewed as 
entirely beyond the pale.

The Taj Mahal, which no serious historian doubts was built at the orders of 
Shah Jahan (reigned 1628-58), is transformed into a Hindu monument by the 
name of Tejomahalay, as though its history as one of the finest examples of 
Mughal architecture was wholly inconsequential, a malicious invention of 
Muslim-loving Hindus.

Lest these revisionisms be considered merely arbitrary and anomalous, the 
systematic patterning behind these re-writings is also evidenced by the 
attempt to argue, for example, that the Aryans, far from having migrated to 
India, originated there.

These sites weave their own intricate web of links, conspiracies, and nodal 
points: at one moment one is in one web site, and at another moment in 
another. Even Krishna, who by his leela or divine magical play could be among 
several gopis (lovers) simultaneously, might have found his match in the 
world wide web; he might have gazed with awe at rhizomatic Hindutvaness at 
its propagandistic best.

Among the most remarkable and most comprehensive of the sites are those 
created by the VHP and students who have constituted themselves into the 
Global Hindu Electronic Network (GHEN). Links take the surfer to such sites 
as hindunet, the Hindu Vivek Kendra, and the various articles culled from the 
archives of Hinduism Today, a glossy magazine published by a white sadhu who 
is constructing a lavish temple amidst the rich tropical green of Hawaii?s 
Kaui island.

GHEN is sponsored by the Hindu Students Council, and the astuteness of its 
creators, no less than their zeal and ardour, can be gauged by the fact that 
it had developed into the most comprehensive site on Hindutva philosophy and 
aggressive Hindu nationalism at least eight years ago, when such work in 
cyberspace was in its infancy.

GHEN was the recipient in 1996 of an award from IWAY, then one of the leading 
Internet magazines, for the ??Best Web Page Award?? in the religious 
category, and one of GHEN?s members described himself as pleased that the 
world was finally ??taking cognisance of the most important movement in this 
century: the Hindutva movement??.

If GHEN shares something ominous in common with Hindutva web sites, it is the 
deliberate attempt to obfuscate the distinction between Hinduism and 
Hindutva. Swami Vivekananda, to take one instance, becomes in their histories 
an exponent of Hindutva ideology, not an advocate of a mere Hinduism ...

Judging from GHEN?s ??Swami Vivekananda Study Center??, which presents the RSS 
as the fulfilment of Vivekananda?s ideas, the Swami was a militant 
Hindutvavadi who desired ??the conquest of the whole world by the Hindu 
race??. If Argentina is nothing other than ??Arjuna town??, where Arjuna ? 
one of the five Pandava heroes who in the Mahabharata are condemned to spend 
13 years in exile ? went for the year that he was enjoined to remain 
incognito; if Denmark, rich in dairy products, is none other than ??Dhenu 
Marg??, the abode of cows (which the cowherd Krishna would have recognised as 
his own home); if the ??Red Indians?? are the signposts for the advance of an 
Indian civilisation in remote antiquity; and if Vivekananda?s own name, 
??Vive! Canada??, is a ringing testimony to his reach over the world, even 
demonstrable proof of intrepid Indian explorers having used the scientific 
advances of the ancient Hindus to reach Canada centuries before the European 
Age of Exploration commenced, then surely it is not too far-fetched to 
imagine that Vivekananda desired the worldwide supremacy of the Hindu race .

Sometimes the expression of Hindu identity is manifested by waging a virulent 
attack on Islam, as in the web site, located in the United States, that takes 
its name from the Sanskrit phrase Satyameva Jayate (Truth Alone Triumphs), 
which is the national motto of sovereign India. Though viewers are invited to 
send e-mail to a person carrying a Muslim name, ??Zulfikar??, the web site is 
almost certainly operated by a Hindu.

The site is linked to the home page of a ??Vedic astrologer?? and the remarks 
about Islam and its Prophet are so slanderous that it is nearly inconceivable 
that any Muslim, howsoever much an unbeliever, would have dared to be so 
foolishly offensive...

I have given a mere inkling of the Hindu histories that dominate on the 
Internet, and in conclusion it merits reiteration that the very proclivity to 
argue in the language of the historian shows how far the proponents of 
Hindutva have abandoned the language of Hinduism for the epistemological 
imperatives of modernity and the nation-state.

Nothing resonates as strongly as their desire to strip Hinduism of myth, of 
its ahistoricist sensibilities, and to impose on the understanding of 
Hinduism and the Indian past alike the structures of a purportedly scientific 

Typically, as in the article on ??The Destruction of the Hindu Temples by 
Muslims, Part IV?, found on the ??Satyameva Jayate?? web site, no page 
numbers are ever furnished, nor are titles of works enumerated; nonetheless, 
a tone of authority is sought and injected by the note placed at the end: 
??Works of Arun Shourie, Harsh Narain, Jay Dubashi, and Sita Ram Goel have 
been used in this article.??

The mention of ??references?? imparts a scholarly note to the piece, and the 
invitation to employ the verifiability hypothesis suggests the detachment of 
the scientist, the objectivity of the social scientist who has no ambition 
but the discernment of truth, and the scrupulousness of the investigator.

I hasten to add that this is keeping well within the norm of Hindutva history: 
the unattributed article, ??The Real Akbar, The (not) so Great??, is likewise 
based on a number of sources, though their worthiness as specimens of 
authoritative scholarship can be construed from the great affection that 
Hindutva historians have developed for Will Durant.

??The world famous historian, Will Durant has written in his Story of 
Civilisation,?? writes Rajiv Varma in his Internet article on Muslim 
atrocities, ??the Mohammedan conquest of India was probably the bloodiest 
story in history.?? The West be damned, but when the occasion demands, the 
authority of even its mediocre historians is construed as incontestable.

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