Hindutva and The Play of Signs

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Hindutva has become a war-machine. It is directed against the secular fabric of our country. Most of its adherents like to stay under its semantic glow.  It means several things to several people. it is a counter-sign or an empty signifier that changes its meaning depending on the context. To its adherents, it is milk and honey.  To its victims, it is poison and death.  To its opponents, it is a virus that afflicts the minds of ordinary good Hindus. To others, it may be political and a hiding place of self interest.  There is no single meaning to it. It’s meaning shifts and mutates. Like a language Hindutva translates and edits its meaning depending on the context.  Hence, a mere semantic analysis that asks what is Hindutva is not enough.  We have to supplement it with a pragmatic analysis and consider the question, ’what it does’ to our society and nation as whole.  It has become a main regime of signs that splits, divides and binarizes our country and produces political capital to the right wing parties like the BJP.  It produces and marks the place of all Indians in our society.  This marking follows the binary logic of either-or thinking that privileges one pole over the other. Hindutva certainly privileges being Hindu over every other way of being Indians like the way we privilege right over left or rich over poor. 

Maybe the notion of bare life developed by Georgio Agamben might deepen our understanding in this regard. It assists us to do a pragmatic analysis of the impact of Hindutva. Agamben teaches us that Greek used two words for life: Zoe and Bios. Zoe from where words like zoology have come refers to bare life while Bios refers to the life of citizens wherein a person enjoys state protection and other privileges. Agamben points out that Greek condemned criminals to bare life. These criminals did not enjoy state protection and were relegated to a downgraded position of being a citizen. This means the bios of the criminal was withdrawn. Therefore if they are harmed, robbed and even killed by a legitimate citizen, he/she is not liable to be brought to justice by the state. We can clearly see an intent to take away the bios form the minorities in Hindutva. This is why crimes committed to uphold it like arson, riots, lynching, vandalisms etc can go scout free. We condone the police for their inaction or active collaboration in such cases. We can clearly find this dark reality at work during and after the recent Delhi riots. 

Hindutva is deterritorial and is deterritorializing.  It is deterritorial because it means several things to several people and is not fixated to a locus of a singular meaning. It is deterritorializing because it uproots all Indians. No one can be Indian enough.  Under its regime everyone is on exile in one’s own country. It is a regime of belonging and exclusion.  Under its regimes colour like saffron, laws like CAA, NPR, NRC, lynching, riots and arson, personality cult, falling economy, past of Congress  etc become signs that express its vision and  include some and exclude others. This means Hindutva is no longer a mask that hides the face. It has become the face. It has become an infernal signifying machine that continuously converts people and things into its signs or vehicles of meaning producing splits and fissures in our society that subject every one of us differently. This means it takes possession of things, events and persons and expresses itself though it. Some enjoy being in the echo chamber of Hindutva or others  feel terrorized and paranoid and still, others become angry and seek ways of resistance. This means it continuously ignite the political imperative which may be confused as a moral imperative by its adherents who then enact the plot  or  are interpallated into being that  carry out the role it’s seems to  be assigning them and thus  in the process producing themselves as well as the victims of Hindutva as signs of its triumph.  These signs do not interpret but reiterate Hindtuva. The signs that emit though the regime of Hindutva reinscribe it into our society. 

Hindutva has converted our society that stages the tragic drama of life. Hence, it is important that we not just ask what it is and conduct a semantic analysis but move on to the pragmatic analysis that will reveal what it does? While posing this quest what it does to our life?  We may have to bring an ethical dimension to our analysis. We can trace such an analysis in Fredrick Nietzsche. Nietzsche is said to have posed the question ‘which life?’  This brings us to the character, kind of life that Hindutva produces and offers us. As a regime of signs, it becomes a sign of the ethos or the way of life. A semantic analysis alone might hide the type of life produced on the wings of Hindutva in our society. Hindutva compels us to look at the moral compass of our society. This exercise might open the road to dismantle the hierarchy of signification produced by the reigning regime of signification. Such a turnaround can prove emancipative. Instead of being addressed or interpallated by Hindutva, we may learn to address Hindutva. This can lead to interrogation and rejection of the interpalleted life given to us by Hindutva. It would show that Hindutva is an empty place without its adherents as well as victims.  We have to initiate this moment of rupture that will open new modes being India. It will open the future closed by Hindutva that desires to give future to a past that is deemed as golden. With Hindutva India has reached the end of history. It thinks that there is nothing new to come. All that we have is to enact a golden past that is greeted as a Hindu Nation.  This regression into a past destroys both the present and future and we Indians cannot afford  to let it happen.  We cannot lock ourselves  into a past that converts us into a despotic society. We have to open our past, present and the Future to build a progressive India.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao