Specters of Hinduism

Are we mourning the imminent death of Hinduism[1] and its space being usurped by Hindutva[2]? Has the afterlife of Hinduism already arrived?  Derrida opens the issue of mourning in his book specters of Marx around Hamlet and the ghost of Hamlets father and provides the occasion to imagine what would be the ghost of Marx would be like.  Following the lead of Derrida, we ask similar question. In the wake of HIndutva what would be the ghost of Hinduism look like?  Does Hindutva echo Hamlet’s cry: ’the time is out of joint.’[3] We not just mourning the  loss of Hinduism but also it place being taken over by Hindutva.  Hindutva is a ideology that has invaded a vibrant religion.  But Hinduism and Hindutva have  become ghostly to the extent we take one for the other. Somehow Hinduism has dissolved into Hindutva.  Marx wanted to do away with every shade  of ideology.  He may have lost as Marxism itself may have become an ideology.  Communist in today’s societies cannot do without ideology.  Derrida seems to bring this home when he makes a distinction between the tradition of Marxism and the spirit of Marxism.[4] While choosing Marx’s dislike for ideology and marking some distance with Marxism, if this is possible here I attempt to draw an inspiration from Derrida’s specters of Marx[5] to understand the Specters of Hindutva.  This work may uncloak the innocent child-like fancies of its adherents, as well as open the hauntologies[6] of those who fear it the most.  These fantasies and hauntologies afflict both the sheep and the wolves in our society. It may open to us the wretchedness of the real condition of our society. Somehow everyone vampirizes each other while an elite takes hold of the resources of our country. In many ways Hindutva is a political economy and is a form of capitalism in capital letters. Its capitalist’s foundations remain ghostly and have to be expelled to fully emancipate India. The spectral reality of Hindutva has to be unmasked for the love of India and its people. Hindutva  is a hiding place of virulent political economy but doubles up as the opium of the masses. Under its reign its shadowy political economy is growing by leaps and bound making the people of India poorer by the day.

Understanding Spectrality of Hindutva  

Spectrality has become a common experience. It has become everyday experience of the masses.  The world is on a fast lane on the wings of mobile,  flexible, computerised and  immaterial. The labour has become spectral.[7] Spectrality has become a common experience as clear as a sun. We seem to being having nothing but the Lila and Maya of ‘the dancing Shiva’.  Spectrality is something like a real illusion that is surrounding us.  There is nothing outside this real illusion. We are all immersed into it like fish in the ocean. It transforms our place as well as time. Our world is fully meshed into it. Hindutva   binds us to this world of spectrality in a powerful way. It has become our illusive Indra’s net.[8] The hegemonic order of Hindutva has transformed our experience.

Hindutva and Space

Hindutva belongs to the space in the past and space in the future. It remains always displaced in the present. It makes us feel unlocate-able and root-less in the present and we have to belong to the present by belonging to the golden place of the past and by longing for the future making of the ancient glorious place. But this future glorious place has no place for the minorities, the tribals and the dalits. Thus, the space in which we live has become ghostly.  It really does not exist unless it links itself to the past and longs for its future fuller coming. India has become spectral.  We seem to be living in a ‘no man’s land’ of the past and the coming future. We cannot inherit the land that we live as it is.  We cannot pass it to our future generations as it is. It has to be transformed by the sacred glories of the ancient past.  All this has put our mother land India into the spectral world. There is no ontology for India for now. It has become a haunted place. It is afflicted by a hauntology.[9] It has to devolve into its ancient past. That is the road ahead. Somehow a descent into the old has become our ascent into the future.  The hermeneutic of the past colours our present and envisions our future.  We have become spectral beings lost in an Alice’s world of spectrality.  We are provisionally in a place for now, we are all longing for the future to become our present. We Indians are living as an Eschaton. But it alludes us and leads as to the Armageddon hopping for its fuller coming. The land in the present can be stained with innocent blood. The stains do not stick to it as its future is coming on the drops of the blood of the innocent.

Hindutva and Time

Hindutva has a seismic relation with time. Being a promissory note, it is always dislocated with time. It remains unstable and oriented to a promised future. This means it does not have its feet on the ground in the present. But its  dis-locatedness is hidden by the aura of the promised future.  We all experience a disjointed time. Without such a dis-adjusted time, no change is possible. Hindutva successfully conveys us that time is out of joint. This is where deconstruction of Derrida is ’in joint’ or profoundly relevant. Deconstruction has the power to hook it to the hermeneutics of the present and future. India may not need a regressive pause that offers us an anxious present and ancient future. We need emancipation from hauntology of Hindutva. It’s psychic as well as temporal relation to time is enslaving.  The end of time  or the end of history has already arrived for us . We belong to the future. The future has merged with our now. We are experiencing a spectral time. There is a kind of empting out of meaning of time. There is only a singular past and a singular future destiny. Our future is an appointment with the past. The present has no meaning. It is empty and has to be filled with the golden past and the coming future. All ontology has died. What is left is only a hauntology.[10] We are haunted by the past as well as by the coming future. Hindutva has closed our experience of time. It is an impoverishment.  Open experience of time is our deepest longing. This longing is also killed by Hindutva for now.

 Hindutva and the Sources of Self  

Hindutva forces us to embrace the specters of the past. We cannot belong to the present without linking the past as the source of our self.  Hindutva makes us hospitable to past while it remains hostile to the present. It makes us open to the heroes and spirits of the past and commit us to incarnate them into the present and the coming future.  The self is not stable unless it roots into past to belong to the coming future.  Self without belonging to its glorious past is fragile and anxious. Even by drawing upon the ancient sources of self, it does not get out of anxiety. It enters a new commitment to reach its fuller manifestation in the coming future. Hence, the self lives angst.  Hence, present becomes performative[11] of the past, a desire to draw upon the source of self from the past and inaugurate the future of the past in the coming future.  As displaced in this manner, the self becomes extremely political.  The self thinks that it is born to but right that time that is out of joint.  This means politics becomes the medium of making of one’s self.  In many ways the self does not belong to the discourse of being of beings or ontology. It is always in the making. But this making is closed upon itself. It is not an open self making. It is unfolding into a past and is never at home in the present. It belongs to a new discourse of being that Derrida calls hauntology[12] . It lives always into a perfomative mode, the mode of becoming a Hindutvadin. It is a jubilatory, maniac and triumphant self seeks its plenitude in the realisation of Hindutva in the form of Hindu Rashtra.

Understanding  Hauntolgy of Hindutva

Hindutva promises a promised land that is at once close to it as well as disassociated with it. It is haunted in its very being. It has become a messianic hauntology/ eschatology and as such it exists as being out of joint and becomes an imperative to bring it up to date. It converts the promise of the Promised Land into a land of promises. The land that we call India has promises to keep. It is haunted by these promises to bring about the coming future.  The Coming of this promised future is almost like the coming of God into the world. It is tomorrow, point where history will come to an end and we will live happy ever after.  This means our hauntology is also our ecstasy.

 Ghostly Logic and Hindutva

Hindutva follows the logic of the ghost.  It is a ghostly logic because it exceeds the binary or dialectical thought.  Dialectical thinking is platonic in character. It marks the difference and opposes effectivity or actuality (present, empirical, living or not) and ideality (regulating or absolute non-presence).[13]The present of being a Hindu is opposed with an ideality of being a sanskari Hindu. Thus, logic of Hindutva disqualifies every Hindu and renders them not Hindu enough until they become a sanskari Hindu. This logic does not leave other Indians too. Every Indians are opposed with the ideality of brahminical  Hinduism and have to live on the rope that is tied between being what they actually are and what they ought to be, an Indian Hindu.  This logic de-historicizes every Indian. No Indian is Indian enough in their actual present. They have to change in order to belong to India. We have truly stepped into a new India that is often announced by the PM Modi . It is as if we have reached the end of History in India. We cannot be Indians in other ways. The future is closed to a singularity. We are already heading towards a Hindu singularity. This is why we may say that every Indian is haunted today. He/she has to change to belong to a new India. We seem to have fully surrendered our thinking to what Derrida calls ghostly logic.  It is this logic that keeps us all out of joint. This is why most Indians seem to imagine only a closed future that is going to converge on a Hindu singularity.  In some way this logic summons Indians into being and has become their hauntology. As long as we Indians will never match the idealism of Hindutva, It will always be a hauntology. The future will never occur. We will forever be longing and blindly waiting for its coming. This is the danger of the logic of teleological singularities. It just tends to a point and closes all other possible futures.

Hindutva and Recognition

Hindutva is a drive and a struggle for recognition.[14] It seeks recognition from everyone. It begins with a self recognition of a flawed and incomplete nature of being an Indian.  The plural India and ways of being Indians have to die. They cannot be recognized as genuinely Indian. They are only fake and counterfeit. Once pushed into the dungeons of impurity, these other Indians can then be killed or done away with. Thus, to recognize oneself as a sanskari Hindutva, often a good Hindu is led to kill an innocent Muslim. The persistent need of recognition awakened by Hindutva is a  hauntology. It is blood thirsty and may not rest till it smells blood. This is why its other also haunts it. It is haunted by what it excludes, combats and represses. It is in this context that we can read the desire of Hindutva. It seems to be a megalothymia or maniacal excessive need for recognition.   It is fulfilled in the very act of heralding as well as being in a self-performative  mode.  It is a sense of inheritance that keeps the fire in its belly. This inheritance is never given. It has a force of an imperative. It is in its self-performative mode that the self becomes an heir of the promises of Hindutva.  It is this task that the self recognizes itself and is recognized by others as having a filial relation to Hindutva. The legacy of Hindutva is inherited in the performative mode. It always remains in a mode of being in an unfinished business.

Hindutva a Messianic Eschatology 

There is a theological dimension of Hindutva. The utopian aspect of Hindutva translates into messianism. It is laden with an arche-teleology. It belongs to the ‘already and not yet’ zone. It does this through an undetectable time movement from one locus and temporality to another temporality that is deemed as perfect and endowed with plenitude. This movement puts our experience of the lived present into an imbalance and nurtures angst. The temporalities evoked by it remain in the past, past perfect and the future anterior time mode. They remain in a tensive relation of co-presence. In a way, hauntology fragments the totalizing elements of ontology and theology. It creates a hope, an expectation of the return of the sacred presences like the glorious past of Hindutva as well as cherished absences, like the absence of the demonised minorities. It entangles the present experience of time and fuses it with a mingled anticipation of a glorious future.  It has a retroactive sense of the victory of the eschaton.[15]  The spectral future lingers in the present and energizes it to move towards its fuller flowering.   In some way the absent future draws the present to move to the actualization of it. It is a kind of metaphysics of absence.  The absent presence that haunts us is cast in the mode of messianism of Hindutva.  This means the Hindutva future returns to haunt the present and produce us as subjects. The eschatological future that gravitates our subjectivation has performative-mystical moorings. In psychoanalytic terms, it presents the present as castrated and wounded and leads us to think that it can only be healed to the perfomative enactment of a Hindutva self.

Mourning the Fate of Hinduism

Since the publication of ‘mourning and melancholia’ of Sigmund Freud,[16] there has been a lot academic attention to mourning.  It has gone through different re-definitions. In the contest of this study, we continue with Derrida’s re-definition of the ethical configuration of the work of mourning. Like Derrida,[17] Judith Butler[18] has elaborated the ethical task of mourning and melancholia. I see mourning  as booth an ethical and   a political critique.  Hindutva is fast assimilating/ cannibalising Hinduism. Hinduism has entered the spectral zone of being in-between. It does not seem to have it’s own being. It lives into Hindutva. The being of Hinduism is dead. It is dislocated into Hindutva. It is living a borrowed life. Hence, our ethical task becomes urgent. The ethical task of mourning the death of Hinduism is a way of making space for its return.

 Posthumous Infidelity

If we do not take up the task of mourning we will fail Hinduism forever. We shall commit what might be called posthumous infidelity.  Hinduism is fast dying into Hindutva. Maybe it is already dead and we do not know about it.  We have come to reckon with its fate. We have to take stock, recount and account for our silence or active role in the fading away of Hinduism into Hindutva.  Therefore, we cannot risk being impolitical. We have to take up the humble but noble task of mourning of the death of Hinduism.[19] We have to participate in the codes and rites of mourning. Our silence, our abdication or refusal to mourn the death that is occurring right in front of our eyes is unforgivable.  This mourning is always with responsibility to the other. It is not narcissistic or ego-logical.  It is what we have to first come to reckon within the task of mourning. This will allow the dead to speak in us. Hinduism can no longer speak through Hindutva. It is only in us that it can speak. This mourning is letting it speak again. This letting it trace it’s voice in us is a way of preparing the space for its return. Mourning thus takes us on the road of mimetism without becoming the other. To let Hinduism speak through us, we have to somehow be like it.  It is in this way of mourning that lets the dead become alive in us and between us, we can let Hinduism resists its assimilation into Hindutva. We have the task of keeping Hinduism alive in us and beyond us without becoming posthumously unfaithful to it.  Hinduism is in us and in you. Let us all strive to let it live.

Facing the Unbearable Paradox of Fidelity  

Hinduism no longer lives in itself. Hindutva has replaced it. It is now living in it’s other. It is living in the minoritized, the demonised other of Hindutva. This is an unbearable paradox of fidelity. What faces us as a source of our responsibility cannot be fully interiorized. Hinduism is living outside itself in its other. We cannot fully become Hindu. But its other is not a Hindu. This is cost of mourning its death.   It is in its other and beyond it too. It is not same as its other. It is characterized by infinite alterity. Death has entrusted it to us but it has also marked a distance between us. We cannot see Hinduism dying. But not mourning its dying is not a choice. It is an ethical imperative.  To a Hindu of today there is no difference between Hindutva and Hinduism. He/she does not know that Hinduism is dead. To him/her the rise of Hindutva is the rise of Hinduism. He/she cannot see how Hinduism is dying in him or her. This is why our ethical responsibility to undertake the task of mourning and embrace the unbearable paradox of fidelity is urgent and inevitable.  It is a moral imperative to allow Hinduism to talk in and through its minor other. It is a challenge to die to self so that Hinduism can rise in its other.  This is the call to live the excess of fidelity. It is an invitation to take our inter-being seriously. The dead is always within us and outside us. Dead is inter-living. Hinduism that is dying in Hindutva can rise in the condition of inter-living.

Fidelity to the Other and the Self

We die in the death of the beloved. The other teaches us ethics, responsibility and assists us to develop our own relationship to our death.  We can only experience death through the death of the other.  Dying Hinduism in Hindutva has many lessons to all minorities in our country.  With death of the other, something unique and singular in the world dies.  This something unique and singular is irreplaceable. It is in the death of the other we learn to survive. This is why the death of the other is not just a eu-thanatology. It not about learning to die well but it is also about learning to survive and live.  This is why in the death of the Hinduism, not only does the other learn to die honourably, but also it teaches us how to survive and live. This is why the work of mourning Hinduism is also a service to oneself.  Hence, in this task of mourning, we become faithful to the other as well as oneself.  In a way the work of mourning leads us to face the coming future. In many ways those that we mourn for shape us. Maybe this is why Derrida emphatically said, ‘I mourn therefore, I am’. [20] We have to mourn the death of Hinduism ethically. We cannot cannibalize it. We have to make room for it beyond ourselves. If we also cannibalize Hinduism there is nothing to choose between us and Hindutva. Hindutva is cannibalizing Hinduism. We cannot eat or incorporate the other. Ethical mourning is a challenge of fidelity to the other and the self.


With Hindutva, cannibalising Hinduism has opened an empty palace and closed it at the same time.  There is no room for Hinduism in Hindutva. Hindutva has occupied its space.  Therefore it is our task to continue the work of mourning. The dead live in its other and beyond. This is why Hinduism exists in its others and beyond. It is an ethical task to let it come alive once again.  Hence, we have an imperative to save Hinduism from the jaws of Hindutva.


[1] To get an insight into how Hindutva is afflicting and assimilating Hinduism, see Shashi Tharoor, Why I am a Hindu ( New Delhi: Aleph Book Comapany,2018).

[2]  For a detail understanding of Hindutva, see Joytirmaya Sharma, Hindutva: Exploring the Idea of Hinduism (London: HarperCollins,2015)

[3] Jacques Derrida, Specters of Marxs: The State of Debt, the Work of Morning and The New International, trans. Peggy Kamuf (London: Rutledge 1994),1.

[4] Michael Sprinker, Ghostly Demarcations: a Symposium Jacques Derrida’s Specters of Marx (London: verso 2008), 2.

[5] Jacques Derrida, Specters of Marxs.

[6] Hauntology is a term coined by Derrida to articulate a tensive relation with time and carry eschatological and teleological relation with space. See Jacques Derrida, Specters of Marxs: The State of Debt, the Work of Morning and The New International, 10

[7] Antonio Negri, “ The Specter’s Smile’ in Michael Sprinker, Ghostly Demarcations, 8-9.

[8] It is a metaphor used to denote Buddhists concepts like sunyata, dependent origination. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indra%27s_net accessed  on 28/08/2019.

[9] Hauntology is opposite of logocentrism. Logocentrism is present-centrism. Hauntology is about absent-centrism. It is about absence and the manner  in which  it afflicts us. See Tom Lewis, “The Politics  of ‘hauntology’ in Derrida’s Specters of Marxs’ in Michael Sprinker, Ghostly Demarcations, 141.

[10] Derrida Asserts the need to replace ontology with its near homonym, hauntology. It represents instability of the real as well as the fear and panic provoked by an a recognition of a flawed nature of the state of affairs. See Tom Lewis, “The Politics  of ‘hauntology’ in Derrida’s Specters of Marxs’ in  Michael Sprinker, Ghostly Demarcations, 140.

[11] Judith Butler has expanded the concept of performative first developed in philosophy of language by J. L. Austin to gender and identity. See https://faculty.georgetown.edu/irvinem/theory/Salih-Butler-Performativity-Chapter_3.pdf accessed on 28th/08/2019.

[12] Jacques Derrida, Specters of Marxs: The State of Debt, the Work of Morning and The New International, 63.

[13] Jacques Derrida, Specters of Marxs: The State of Debt, the Work of Morning and The New International,78.

[14]  Recognition has moral foundations. See https://cristianorodriguesdotcom.files.wordpre accessed on 29/08/2019.

[15]   We can trace similar parallel in Derrida with regarding to the death of Marxism. See Aijaz Amhad, “reconciling Derrida: Specters of Marx and the Deconstructive Politics” in   Michael Sprinker, Ghostly Demarcations, 92-95.

[16] Sigmund Freud, on History of Psycho-Analytic Movement: Papers on Metaspsychology and Other Works, Trans., James Strachey (London: The Hogath Press) 243-258.

[17]  See Derrida, The work of Mourning,  trans., Pascal Anne-Brault and Michael Naas (Chicago : Chicago University Press, 2001).

[18] https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0090591712444841?journalCode=ptxa accessed on 29/08/2019.

[19] We imitate Derrida’s Mourning of his friends as well as mourning of the demise of Marxism. See Derrida, The work of Mourning. Sean Gaston, The Impossible Mourning of Jacques Derrida (New York: Continuum, 2006).

[20] Derrida J (1995) Istrice 2: Ick bünn all hier, trans. Peggy Kamuf, In Weber E (ed) PointsInterviews, 1974-1994, (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press), 321.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao