Hindu Rashtra and Two-Nation Theory


Debidatta Aurobinda Mahapatra, Ph.D. – TRANSCEND Media Service

A debate has recently gained momentum in India around the idea of Hindu Rashtra or Hindu nation-state. Some of the extreme Hindu ideologues argue India is a Hindu Rashtra, even if it is not official. The dominant ethos of India are shaped by Hindu way of life, hence it is Hindu Rashtra. They want the Indian government declare India a Hindu state. For the liberal Hindus, it may be true that the dominant ethos of India is influenced by Hinduism. But, for them, it is not true that in Indian way of life, there is no influence of other religions or cultures. Hinduism is not dogmatic; it embraces pluralism. It believes in coexistence with other religions. Mahatma Gandhi was a proponent of this coexistence.

The demands of extreme Hindu dialogues are no different from M. A. Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan. For Jinnah, Muslims and Hindus can not coexist. They are separate nations. Following is a quote from Jinnah, which articulates his Two-Nation theory, “They (Hinduism and Islam) are not religions in the strict sense of the word, but are, in fact, different and distinct social orders, and it is a dream that the Hindus and Muslims can ever evolve a common nationality, and this misconception of one Indian nation has troubles and will lead (undivided) India to destruction if we fail to revise our notions in time. The Hindus and Muslims belong to two different religious philosophies, social customs, and literatures…To yoke together two such nations under a single state, one as a numerical minority and the other as a majority, must lead to growing discontent and final destruction of any fabric that may be so built for the government of such a state”.

Declaration of Hindu Rashtra would see the culmination of Jinnah’s two-nation theory. Currently there are about 176 million Muslims (almost equal number as in Pakistan) in India. There are least signs of religious discord between Hindus and Muslims as Jinnah foresaw. Jinnah theorized two-nation, and argued Hindus and Muslims are two nations, and they can not live together. Declaring India a Hindu Rashtra would strengthen Jinnah’s theory and weaken the ideal of secularism.

India is a Hindu-majority nation-state. More than 80 per cent of its people are Hindus. This reminds me a statement of A. B. Vajpayee, the former Prime Minister, who once said, India is ‘secular because more than 80 per cent of its people are Hindus’. There is an element of truth which perhaps his detractors would not deny. The secular principle is enshrined in India’s constitution. The Supreme Court of India in delivering a judgment argued that Hinduism is a way of life, not a dogma.

Vajpayee is a liberal Hindu. And most of the Hindus are liberal. There are fringe Hindu elements who love Jinnah’s Two-Nation theory. Some of political leaders are irresponsible in their statements. It is debatable whether they make such statements because they believe in them or they use them for political expediency to gain more seats in legislature. Gandhi and Jinnah must be turning in their graves. While Jinnah must be turning with a sense of gratification as his ideas are getting new adherents, Gandhi must be turning in pain.

The words ‘India’ and ‘Hindu’ derived their origin from the word Indus (or Sindhu as the Hindus call it). In ancient period human inhabitation in this part of the world flourished around the river Indus. There is evidence of trade of the Indus valley people with the people further east and west. The trade with Persia flourished during those days through the ancient Silk Road and through the sea. When the Persian traders came to India, they searched a name for the people. For Persians it was more comfortable to utter the word Hindu (in place of Sindhu), and they called the people living around the river Hindus. Thus, the word Hindu emerged. The name India was derived from word Indus. Even today, the Indian workers, irrespective of their religion, in the Middle East are referred to as inhabitants of Hindustan.

As one who has worked on Kashmir for more than a decade, I know that one of India’s strongest arguments in Kashmir is: India is a secular state in which Hindus and Muslims co-exist. The Hindu Rashtra idea weakens this argument. It also makes extreme Muslim ideologues happy. It helps them provoke the liberal Muslims in India to cause havoc and erode the multicultural fabric of India.

The majority of Hindus who are liberal are with Gandhi. Gandhi was killed by a Hindu fanatic. Why? Some radical Hindus perceived him pro-Muslim. When India did not release the mutually agreed assets to Pakistan after its creation, Gandhi sat on fast. Before dying Gandhi uttered these words, ‘Hey Ram’ (Oh My God). He was deeply religious in his private life, but he professed secularism in the conduct of public affairs. In dying he gave the message – India is the place for Hinduism, which embraces pluralism, tolerates differences, and views all religions with respect.


Dr Debidatta Aurobinda Mahapatra is a member of the TRANSCEND Network and an Indian commentator. His areas of interest include conflict transformation and peacebuilding in South and Central Asia. He is a Fellow at the Center for Peace, Democracy and Development, University of Massachusetts Boston. His edited book Conflict and Peace in Eurasia was published by Routledge in 2013.


This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 27 Apr 2015.

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