Kamal Haasan has described Nathuram Godse as India’s first ‘Hindu’ terrorist. This would mean that he agrees with identifying terrorists on the basis of the religion they belong to. He also implies that Godse’s religion, and not his political beliefs, was the motivation for his act. Haasan is also historically wrong, because the period between 15 August, 1947, when India became independent, and 30 January, 1948, when Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated, saw the slaughter of lakhs of people on the basis of their religion in India and newly born Pakistan. Haasan would have it that all those – be it Hindus, Sikhs or Muslims – who indulged in the atrocities related to Partition were not terrorists!
Not that anybody cares about such distinctions, because in present day India, one declares oneself secular by showing how well and in how many ways one can disrespect believing Hindus. Of course, Haasan is playing to the field in Tamil Nadu politics, where atheism has been a synonym for anti-Brahminism ever since the race related identification with Dravidianism emerged and took over power. Although it led to a considerable exodus of the Brahmins from Tamil Nadu in the fifties and sixties to foreign shores, the exigencies of time have watered down the movement considerably. However, emerging politicians – and there have been many breakaways from the original DMK – tend to appeal to the radical core of the ideology to affirm their credentials. Haasan has been doing the same ever since he decided – like so many others of his ilk – to trade his screen persona for political mileage. He is getting more desperate because the response he had been hoping for has not been forthcoming.
There are many other persons of far less stature than him hoping to transform film and social media celebrity into political clout. They are very much the darlings of the Left and the religious extremists that consider the Hindutva philosophy of the BJP their ideological rival. Many mainstream parties – particularly the Congress – lazily adopted this narrative without considering the repercussions. It is only in the run up to the elections that the need was felt to present themselves as ‘janeudhari’ and Shiv Bhakts, at least in the Hindi heartland. This laziness, however, has further extended into permitting a revival of the narrative after the political victories in MP and Rajasthan. The agenda to ‘purge’ society of Hindutva by denigrating Hinduism is already being witnessed with changes in textbook content, patronage politics, etc. Whatever the result of the elections, this existential war will continue for much longer and leave even deeper scars on the national psyche than before.