Every proponent of Hindu nationalism encouraged and promoted the idea of retaliatory violence, be it Swami Vivekananda, Sri Aurobindo or V. Savarkar, in the name of preserving righteousness and a fictional unbroken, centuries-old Hindu tradition. All of them were ensnared by 19th century definitions of religion and attempted to mould their own faith, as they understood it, in ways that were alien to the diverse strands of ‘Hinduism’.
Without exception, all Hindu nationalists from the 19th century onwards argued that religion was the core of Hindu nationalism, and moreover, that it was the only core of nationalism. They further argued that if the former was true, then, nationalism was the only religion. It is this formulation that allows the likes of Vajpayee and Advani to argue, to this day, that Hindutva stands for idealism whereas nationalism is their ideology. They say so in the belief that this linguistic and rhetorical contortion will go unnoticed, and it often does.
It also manifests in contemporary times as Indian middle-class aspirations of envisioning India as an economic and military superpower. Very little time and energy are expended in discussing the constellation of values that will constitute the heart of this putative superpower. Like their 19th century predecessors, the Hindutva votaries are satisfied as long as they can vanquish their real and imagined enemies, at home and abroad, and impose their national socialist understanding of the idea of will to power.
No nation is either entirely tolerant or wholly wedded to violence. Any civilisation is a composite of the pure and the tainted, and from the struggle between the two emerge values that are sublime, civilised and truly human. This struggle is neither a given, nor is it a zero-sum game, and it impels human beings to make choices. Choosing peace, tolerance, civility and truth is not a sign of weakness as the apologists of violence and retribution will make people believe, but a way of sublimating the beast within us... (Jyotirmaya Sharma is a Professor of Political Science at the University of Hyderabad)