India is back to square one, thanks to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s move Monday to scrap special political rights for a Muslim-majority state in the Hindu-dominated country. The Muslim-rights issue, which led to the creation of Pakistan as a Muslim homeland in 1947, has now resurfaced: Can the Muslims get a fair shake in India?
By scraping Kashmir’s special autonomy status, Modi has taken a dangerous step toward implementing the vision of his ultra-nationalist party’s spiritual guru, the late V.D. Savarkar, who proposed more than 90 years ago to keep minorities under control in an India ruled by the Hindu majority.
Sitting in a prison cell on the Andaman Islands in the Bay of Bengal, the convicted-armed-revolutionary-turned-Indian-nationalist drew up his solution to the vexing question of India’s minorities. His idea: The Muslims and Christians can stay in India, but they will be subservient to the Hindus; they will be granted no rights that may infringe upon Hindu rights; and since they are minorities, they must obey the majority.
This was not his initial plan, however. He initially wanted to convert the Muslims and the Christians back into Hindu. But he faced a big obstacle. Savarkar could convert the Muslims or the Christians, but could not arbitrarily decide their caste. A Hindu must belong to a hierarchical caste, and it is acquired through birth only. Hindu religion does not permit assigning a caste.
To overcome this insurmountable barrier, he revised his idea. He decided he is a Hindu, not an Indian. His motherland is Hindustan, which encompasses the land from the Himalayas to the Indus River. Hindustan boasts a 5,000-year-old rich culture, which influenced a vast number of people from Greece to Japan. On the contrary, India is a concept championed by the nationalists who wanted an independent united country for all of its inhabitants, regardless of their religion.