How Justice JS Verma's Hindutva judgment is often misinterpreted by BJP

The 1995 Supreme Court ruling gave the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Shiv Sena a considerable legal ground to justify their 'Hindutva politics'.

The Supreme Court’s verdict that seeking votes in the name of religion is illegal—is undoubtedly a big blow to all those political parties and politicians, who thrived on this practice. However, the recent judgement of the apex court also brings us the memory of the 1995 ruling, in which a bench headed by Justice JS Verma had defined ‘Hindutva’ ‘as a way of life’.

The apex court ruling gave the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Shiv Sena a considerable legal ground to justify their ‘ultra-nationalistic politics’. The BJP owe its rise to the 1995 Supreme Court ruling as it concluded that Hinduism and Hindutva in election campaigns was actually fine despite Section 123(3) of the Representation of People’s Act prohibiting the use of religion during election campaigning.

After Justice JS Verma defined Hindutva as a way of life, political parties contesting polls on Hindutva plank got a point to defend themselves by saying that they were seeking votes on the basis of (concept of) way of life and not on religion.

Following the apex court’s decision to permit the use of Hindutva in elections, the BJP found an alibi to justify its Ram Mandir demand. While the apex court did not indicate that Hindutva includes Islam or other religious beliefs, the BJP tried to project it as an umbrella term for Indian culture and ethos.

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The real meaning of what BJP thinks of Hindutva can be found out by visiting their website. According to the BJP, Hindutva is the “the greatest nationalist ideology”.

One of the articles of the BJP on its website reads: “Future of Bharat is set. Hindutva is here to stay. It is up to the Muslims whether they will be included in the new nationalistic spirit of Bharat. It is up to the government and the Muslim leadership whether they wish to increase Hindu furore or work with the Hindu leadership to show that Muslims and the government will consider Hindu sentiments.”

The agenda of the BJP’s Hindutva include building Ram Mandir, a complete ban on cow slaughter, doing away with personal laws by formulating a uniform civil code, and ending special status of Muslim-majority state of Jammu and Kashmir by abrogating Article 370 of the Constitution.

The BJP has been at the forefront of pandering to ‘Hindu’ sentiment. By turning myths into history and invoking the hatred feeling in Hindus, the BJP has flirted with the law in the past several elections.

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The apex court’s historical verdict came at a time when elections in many states are around the corner. It has once again strengthened the Indian Constitution’s mandate of a secular state.

However, the issue, whether Hindutva is a way of life or a religion, was sadly not addressed by the court and left to be decided by a bench of five judges.

Though the decision has been hailed across the country, it seems that the BJP will continue to canvas votes in the name of Hindutva in its manifesto or otherwise and still claim that this is not an appeal in the name of religion.