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A Seminar Paper On

The Impact of Religious Fundamentalism

Sam Varghese

Introduction
Religious fundamentalism has become an alarming global phenomenon. No religion or
community has succeeded in making itself an exception. India is one of the main targets of
fundamentalist attack. Secularism is a hallmark of our constitution that has emerged as a
political ideology in the course of national struggle for independence. But from the very
dawn of independence, Indias history tells the sad story of slow erosion of secular ideals in
which religious fundamentalism allied with communal politics is playing a dominant role.
This paper is an attempt to see how Religious Fundamentalism has a devastating impact in
society and specially on Hindu fundamentalism and its impact on the Indian pluralistic
society.

1. Fundamentalism
About the word fundamentalism and its origin H. S. Wilson comments, "The followers of any
religion identify certain of its articles of faith as non-negotiable and as such fundamental to
that particular faith in all times and places. Of course, this can vary from time to time and
from place to place depending on the followers of a particular religion and their theologians.

1.1 Positive Fundamentalism


On this basis discussed above, earlier in this century in the United States of America, a group
of Protestants issued a series of twelve pamphlets entitled The Fundamentals: A testimony
to the truth in the years 1910 1912 . They wanted Christians to resist the infiltration of
modernism into seminaries and universities through liberal theology and modern science
(especially Charles Darwin's theory of evolution) which was a threat to fundamental belief 1 .
If any religion is to find out their original or essential message, there is no harm in it.

1.2 Negative Fundamentalism


But if an adamant and arrogant attitude is developed towards other religious traditions, that
attitude cannot be entertained. What is going on today in the name of fundamentalism is the
latter which is to the condemned. The fundamentalist ideology creates hatred, suspicion and
fears in the minds of its adherents towards other religions. Religious fundamentalism
generates disharmony among religions. It is inferred that the fundamentalist or revivalist
rarely show confidence in their own culture's or religion's capacity to defend itself.

1.3 Cause Of Fundamentalism A wrong


understanding of God is the main cause of fundamentalism. According to Swami Agnivesh,
The seeds of fundamentalism lie in the perversion of the concept of God Almighty. A God
who is himself, greedy, God who is seething with anger and lust and pride, a God who is
seated in some imaginary terrestrial heaven and occasionally stoops down to the level of the
1 Religious Fundamentalism: An Asian Perspective, edited by John .S.
Augustine, p.8.

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mortals but retains his power to perform miracles and performs them to overawe the people
into meek submission, these and all other related attributes of God have prayed havoc with
each one of our world religions and filled them to the brim with the potential for
fundamentalism2

Nowadays Religious Fundamentalists try to destroy other religious values. Their aim has
become to project their own religion higher than other religion. For e.g. Savarkar says
Hindutva means conceiving India as one race (Hindu Blood), one nation (India as father
land), One Culture (Sanskrit and Sanatana dharma), one religion (Hindu)3

2. Fundamentalism in India
Indian experience with fundamentalism has been bloody and traumatic. Religious
fundamentalism allied with communal politics is playing a dominant role. Politicization of
religions and communalization politics has shaken the very foundation of our secular
democracy. The Hindu Chauvinistic factions and parties BJP, Shiv Sena, RSS, VHP, have
missed no opportunity to communalize national politics aimed at capitalizing on hindu votes.
Indira Gandhi was gunned down by her own bodyguards in the aftermath of the Sikh
fundamentalist movement. Burning alive of Australian national Graham Staines along with
his two sons in Orissa has heightened the cruelty of fundamentalists.

2.1 Hindutva: In simple words Hindutva means Hinduness. There are different definitions
for Hindutva. Some of them are as follows:-

a) Supreme Court of India defined Hindutva as the way of life.


b) Murali Manohar Joshi speaks of Hindutva as National Consciousness.
c) For RSS, Hindutva is Manavata, i.e. the characterization of the quality of Hindu
being, no place for fundamentalism and terrorism.

Even though there is much interpretation about Hindutva ideology, it affected contemporary
Indian style. While analyzing the above detail we can say that Hindutva is the ideological
justification for the construction of India as a Hindu Nation.

3. Hindu Fundamentalist Groups in India


3.1 The Rastria Swayasevak Sangh (RSS)
RSS is the most Hindu fundamentalistic movement which was founded by Keshav
Baliram Hedgewar in the year 1925. RSS has now spread to more than 50,000 branches
encompassing a formidable network of organizations. It is militant by nature and so prepares
its members to fight for Hindutva physically and mentally. RSS is mad with rage in
eliminating the Muslims and Christians with its separatist world - view.
3.2 The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)
BJP which was formally declared as a political party in the year 1951, is the political
wing striving to establish Hindu Rashtra. It does not have an ideology of its own but purely a
puppet in the hands of RSS. While BJP was governing in the year 1999, Vengaiah Naidu, the
then General Secretary of BJP in an interview said, We have made a National Democratic
Alliance with the other supporting parties in order to implement a general agenda but we will
2 "An Activist's view of Fundamentalism Religious Fundamentalism: An Asian
Perspective, p.28.

3 J Kuruvanchira, Roots of Hindutva (Delhi:Media House, 2005),18, 43-45

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never give up the agenda we have for India. what is that agenda? It is surely an agenda to do
away with the Muslims and Christians in India. After the recent victory of Narendra Modi as
the Primr Minister of India, senior most leader Mr. Advani has considered the victory as the
victory of the Hindutva strategy and confirms to follow the same strategy in the next
Parliament election.
3.3 The Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP)
VHP aims at the collective power of Hindus against Muslims and Christians. It wants
to bring all the so- called Hindu sects and Hindus living abroad into one Hindu umbrella.
VHP has proved its fundamentalist nature through intolerance towards the other and
demolishing the worship places of enemies. By declaring Muslims and Christians as the
eternal enemies of Hindus, VHP wants to succeed in polarizing Hindu sentiments. VHP
asserts itself as the World Council of Hindus.

4. A systematic agenda against religious harmony in India


Hindu fundamentalism is basically a religious fundamentalism. It is in the name of
God and in the name of religion the Hindu fundamentalism instills hatred in the minds of the
Hindus against Muslims and Christians. Hence, the multi religious atmosphere guaranteed
by the articles 25, 26, 27 and 28 of the Indian Constitution is at the verge of death. Hindutva
has a systematic agenda to promote religious disharmony.

4.1 Alienation of the Muslims and Christians in India


Hindu fundamentalism does not consider the Muslims and Christians who are living
in India as the Indian citizens. The following reasons are given for why they do not belong to
the Hindu-Fold: Hindu blood does not flow in their veins, they do not appreciate and practice
the Hindu customs, they follow different faith and customs, they do not accept Sanskrit as
their language, they consider Mecca and Jerusalem as their holy cities.

4.2 Moral obligations of every Hindu


All those who have the privilege of being in the Hindu race, professing Hindu faith and
practicing Hindu culture must contribute to the establishment of Hindu Rashtra. Every Hindu
has the moral obligation to
Get united and fight against the non Hindus.
Forcefully convert the non Hindus to Hinduism in order to glorify the Hindu
race and culture.
Demolish the places of worship of the non Hindus. E.g. The demolish of
Babri Masjid
Reject the pluralistic culture
Treat Muslims and Christians as subordinates, underclass, the other, and as
2nd class citizens.
Thus, according to the Hindu fundamentalism, human dignity is to be given only to
the Hindus. The ontological dignity of the Muslims and Christians in India is thus violated.

5. Violence against the Muslims and Christians in India


The Indian history witnesses how Hindu fundamentalism has expressed its hatred
towards Muslims and Christians through a serial of bloodsheds. Muslims are the primary
targets of Hindutva but at the same time it has mercilessly attacked the Christians also in
several incidents.

5.1 Cannibalistic attitude towards the Muslims


The demolition of Babri Masjid on Dec 6, 1992 gave a grave shock to the Muslims.
Disregarding the feelings of the Muslims Mr. Advani considered the demolition of Babri
Masjid as an act of God; an act of national pride.

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Another unforgettable trauma for the Muslims is their victimization in Gujarat in
2002. Tehelka Investigation reports how Hindu fundamentalists found a pregnant woman by
name Kauser Banu and tore her stomach with a knife; they pierced the baby with the knife;
crushed it on the ground; threw it on the flames. All is because they were Muslims. It is very
shocking to see Hindu fundamentalists acting worse than the wild animals. Thus there is total
negation of every possibility for the religious harmony in India.

5.2 Targeting the Christians


Christians seen as excluded from the Hindu Fold are subject to all kinds of violence.
The United Christians Forum for Human Rights complained, Nuns have been raped, priests
executed, Bibles burnt, Churches demolished, educational institutions destroyed and religious
people harassed in India. Recent attacks on Christians in Orissa and in Attingal and different
parts of Kerala stand as a clear witness to the violence against the Christians.

6. Responses to Hindu Fundamentalism


Challenges and questions should posed in front of any rational beings and every
socially concerned person in India to immediately respond to the Hindu fundamentalism.
How are we going to counterpoint the Hindutva?
6.1 Secular counterpoint of Hindu fundamentalism
Secularism (non-religious) and Hindu fundamentalism contradict each other. They
are to be seen as opposite poles, implying thereby that if you accept one, you will
automatically reject the other and vice versa.
Secularism in India mainly means: no religion will be recognized as the state religion
even that of the majority community, unity and equality of the people should be asserted
regardless of religion and caste, no interference from the religious or state authority in
individuals right to profess his or her own faith.

6.2 Different approaches to Religion

6.2.1 Exclusivism maintains that the central claims of Christianity are true, and that where
the claims of Christianity conflict with those of other religions the latter are to be rejected as
false. Christian exclusivists also characteristically hold that Jesus Christ is the unique
incarnation of God, the only Lord and Saviour. Salvation is not to be found in the structures
of other religious traditions. Historically this position has been the orthodox evangelical
position.
6.2.2 Inclusivism holds that [although] God has revealed himself definitively in Jesus Christ
and that Jesus is somehow central to Gods provision of salvation for humankind, they are
willing to allow that Gods salvation is available through non-Christian religions. This is the
position most closely associated with the Second Vatican Council. There are some
evangelicals who argue for a modified or diluted version of inclusivism.

6.2.3 Pluralism parts company with both exclusivism and inclusivism by rejecting the
premise that God has revealed himself in any unique or definitive sense in Jesus Christ. On
the contrary, God is said to be actively revealing himself in all religious traditions... Christian
faith is merely one of many equally legitimate human responses to the same divine reality.

6.3 An Indian Christian Response


Our response as Indian Christians to Hindu fundamentalism is not to mainly condemn
but to positively prove ourselves as more patriotic than the Hindu fundamentalists
themselves. However, it may be more wise and helpful to reject Exclusivism & Pluralism
because on a closer inspection we do understand that to live a harmonious life with other
religion and at the same time propagate our religion we need to take a modified and diluted
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version of Incluvistic approach i.e. not negating the moral value of other faith, but at the
same time saying that there is only one true God, as it might not harm or hurt the other
religions sentiments

The Indian Church should question the anti human aspects of Hindu fundamentalism
through thoroughly getting inculturated into the customs of the local people. Our teaching
should be focused on everyone in India is children of God and brothers and sisters of one
another. Surely, these positive approaches will concretely respond to the Hindu
fundamentalism.
Acts 17:22, 23 reads like this,

Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: People of Athens! I see
that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully
at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN
UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown, I am going to
proclaim to you.

We can clearly understand from the previous verses that he was distressed to see the city of
Athens full of Idols but still he did not condemn them or show any fundamentalistic attitude
to them. Instead, he very calmly praised them for their religious zeal and then through that,
made them know the god they were serving as unknown is the real living God.

As a Christian we should, if necessary, contextualize what we see or hear, with the culture
and then evangelize people. While it is important that to evangelize, the church should reject,
whatever offends the people of other faith. The church in India should be Indian in culture
and Christian in faith.4 The Christian institution and the administration structure of the church
have to be reshaped in tune with Indian wisdom and values. Every person is created in the
image of God and it is the duty of the Indian Christian to uphold the dignity of each
individual and to defend the human rights.5

Conclusion
As we experience the impact of Hindu fundamentalism in declining the religious
harmony in India, we must take up the same strategies of the Hindutva but with a generous
and inclusive outlook. Truly, we should have one nation but not as Hindu Rastra rather as a
multi religious nation where the ontological dignity of every Indian citizen will be equally
respected. Hindu fundamentalism can never create a shining India because of its hidden
agenda to retain the supremacy of the Brahmins. The Christians and Muslims should also
give up every trace of superior-feelings over other religions in order to foster religious
harmony in India.

We hereby believe that we have dealt with, not all, but at-least a few aspects of the Religious
Fundamentalism in India specially dealing with Hindu Fundamentalism.

We as a team do acknowledge the help and guidance of our teacher Rev.Bobby.S.Mathew,


Our Classmates and above all Lord Almighty who enabled us to prepare this paper.
4 Samson Prabhakar, Op.cit., 23.

5 J. Maltan, P Arockiadoss, ed. Indian Hindutva: Christian Response


(Bangalore: Dharmaran Publication, 2002), 315.

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Thank You

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