Is There a Hindu Fundamentalism?
What Hindu community is insisting upon the same domination of one religious belief, law, and social practices like that of Saudi Arabia? Which Hindus are more fundamentalist in their beliefs and practices than the Saudis, whom few are calling fundamentalists?
Hence we must ask: What are Hindus being accused as fundamentalists for doing? Is it belief in the unique superiority of their religion, the sole claim of their scripture as the Word of God, their savior or prophet as ultimate for all humanity, that those who believe in their religion go to an eternal heaven and those who don't go to an eternal hell, the need to convert the world to their beliefs? These views are found not only in Christian and Islamic fundamentalism but even among the orthodox.
There are no Hindu fundamentalist statements of such nature. Can we imagine any Hindu swearing that there is no God but Rama and Tulsidas is his only prophet, that the Ramayana is the only true scripture, that those who believe differently will be condemned by Rama to eternal damnation and those who criticize Tulsidas should be killed?
Hindus are called fundamentalists for wanting to retake a few of their old holy places, like Ayodhya, of the many thousands destroyed during centuries of foreign domination. Several Hindu groups are united around this cause. This, however, is an issue-oriented movement, not the manifestation of a monolithic fundamentalism. It is a unification of diverse groups to achieve a common end, not the product of a uniform belief system.
Even the different groups involved have often been divided as to how to proceed and have not spoken with any single voice. Whether one considers the action to be right or wrong, it is not the assertion of any single or exclusive religious ideology.
If it is fundamentalism, what is the fundamentalist ideology, belief, and practice behind it? Hindus, alone of all people, have failed to take back their holy sites after the end of the colonial era. If they are fundamentalists for seeking to do so, then what should we call Pakistan or Bangladesh, who have destroyed many Hindu holy sites and were not simply taking back Islamic sites that the Hindus had previously usurped?
Hindus are called fundamentalists for organizing themselves politically. Yet members of all other religions have done this, while Hinduism is by all accounts the most disorganized of all religions. There are many Christian and Islamic parties throughout the world, and in all countries where these religions are in a majority they make sure to exert whatever political influence they can.
Why shouldn't Hindus have a political voice even in India? The Muslims in India have their own Muslim party and no can calls them fundamentalists for organizing themselves politically. There are many Islamic states throughout the world and in these Hindus, if they exist at all, are oppressed. What Hindu groups are asking for India to be a more strictly Hindu state than Muslims are doing in Islamic state?
There are those who warn that Hindu rule would mean the creation of a Hindu theocratic state. Yet what standard Hindu theology is there, and what Hindu theocratic state has ever existed? Will it be a Shaivite, Vaishnava, or Vedantic theocracy? What Hindu theocratic model will it be based upon? Is there a model of Hindu kings like the Caliphs of early Islam to go back to, or like the Christian emperors of the Middle Ages?
What famous Hindu king was a fundamentalist who tried to eliminate all other beliefs from the land or tried to spread Hinduism throughout the world by the sword? Does Rama or Krishna provide such a model? Does Shivaji provide such a model? If no such model exist what is the fear of a militant Hindu theocratic rule based upon?