Tarun Vijay’s ill-conceived book is no reason to dismiss his worldview, says Tridip Suhrud
THE NEW HINDU is assertive and sensitive, not aggressive or a silent spectator.” This statement sums up Tarun Vijay’s book, if a sentence can sum up a book. But then, this is not a book in the conventional sense of the term. It was not conceived or written as one. It’s a collection of comments written for newspapers which have about them the tentativeness and topicality that characterise such comments. But they are not bereft of a deep engagement with India.
Unlike ideologues of the past — Savarkar, or Golwalkar, or Shyama Prasad Mookerjee, or even a Govindacharya — Tarun Vijay does not have a sweep of historical time before him. He is propelled by events which appear momentous, but turn out to be ephemeral. This affects his vision and his argument. Politics often does that. It hides the deeper, social, civilisational processes that reveal themselves in the longue durée. Realpolitik is dangerous for those seeking to fashion themselves as ideologues. They must influence realpolitik without being swayed by its ever-changing dynamics. And, in large part, Tarun Vijay cannot decide the voice that he wishes to adopt; his is often torn between that of an ideologue and that of a spokesperson. He therefore tends to invest events with meanings and reach that they might lack. For example, Indra Nooyi’s ‘south Indian silk sari’ as she receives the Padma Bhushan award at Rashtrapati Bhavan becomes a sign of her rootedness, not in a long craft tradition, but in Hindu dharma.
The Hindu that he wants is both a person and a collectivity of the future, the present, and the past – in that order. A person of the future because such an individual does not exist, or exists only as a possibility: the one who is global, Indian, sanatani, angry and compassionate, ready to defend the glory of the past and battle for global supremacy tomorrow, while applauding the patriotism of a Sadhvi Pragya.
The cast, as also the caste, of characters that anger him are familiar. The soft Hindu, the traditional conservative Hindu who practices caste, the secularist (and they, by some definition, must all be on the Left, English-speaking and aspiring to NRI status; the idea that one can speak a bhasha and be secular seems contradictory to him), the appeasers and the jehadis are all who ail India. The panacea: a hard Hindu and a hard State. This book is an advocacy for a hard State, a realist State, a State that will fight the demons within and the enemies without with clear-sighted rationality and even a touch of authoritarianism. And a hard Hindu is one who supports the creation of such a State. Vijay supports such a State because it would end centuries of humiliation. “No community and society has faced continuous torture and brutalities, like the Hindus since last many centuries (sic),” he says.
Tarun Vijay needs to be taken seriously, not for his book or his status as an ideologue. In fact, this book does no justice to his talent. He fails to convince non-believers or engage dissenters. He deserves to be taken seriously because he represents a mode of thinking, one that operates with a series of well-rehearsed aphorisms (if he were in advertising one might have called them clichés). Aphoristic wisdom can be captivating, but when told outside of context, sounds jaded, where lack of thought masquerades as neat, well-boxed, ideology. With this publication, he shows us what ails the ideologues of the Sangha Parivar, where righteousness is seen as the only form of being right, where science, entrepreneurship, mythical pride and un-questioned modernism merge seamlessly to fashion a new India.
Despite Tarun Vijay’s haste in bringing his comments out in book form, one should not be hasty dismiss his worldview. He is deeply committed to the idea of India and its location within South Asia. And yet he must be challenged, as his India is a monolith and not a polyphony of imaginations.