“Fundamentalists are absolutists who interpret their scriptures literally, and hold rigidly to their beliefs. They insist their scriptures alone represent the divine truth revealed only to their prophet; all other scriptures and prophets are false or redundant.”
-David Frawley (in how I became a Hindu)
Fundamentalism is a word that is being used very frequently in the media that one can hardly read a newspaper or a magazine or even watch a news program or a debate which doesn't use the word fundamentalist. With the advent of Narendra Modi of BJP into national polotics the debate of Hindu fundamentalism has gained momentum. To determine the question with which the post has started we shall examine what fundamentalism stands for and whether such characteristics are applicable to a Hindu by nature.
Fundamentalism is an easily distinguishable phenomenon in religions like Christianity and Islam that have a simple and exclusive pattern to their faith. They generally insist that there is only One God, who has only one Son or final Prophet, and only one true scripture, which is literally God's word. They hold that belief in this One God and his chief representative brings salvation in an eternal heaven and disbelief causes condemnation to an eternal hell. Muslims daily chant "there is no God but Allah and Mohammed is his (last) prophet." Most Christians, whether Catholic or Protestant, regard belief in Christ as one's personal savior as the only true way to salvation.
Fundamentalists hold rigidly to their beliefs and insist that since their religion alone is true, the other religions should not be tolerated, particularly in the lands where members of their religion are in a majority. Fundamentalists generally hold to their religion's older social customs and refuse to integrate into the broader stream of modern society, which recognizes freedom of religious belief.
While coming to the phrase coined by media in India and abroad i.e. Hindu Fundamentalism, using such a term merely assumes that there is Hindu fundamentalism but what is the basis for it? Are the Hindu beliefs of the same order like those of Christianity and Islam? Hindus have no monolithic structure of faith or worship with a set of beliefs and rules for all those who follow Hinduism and which can be turned into fundamentalism.
Islamic fundamentalists consider that Islam is the only true religion, that no true new faith can be established after Islam and that with the advent of Islam all previous faiths, even if they were valid up to that time, became outdated. Christian fundamentalists hold that Christianity alone is true. Even orthodox people in these traditions may hold these views.
For those who speak of Hindu fundamentalism, we must ask the question: What One God do Hindu fundamentalist groups insist upon as the only true God, and which Gods are they claiming are false except for Him? If Hindus are not insisting upon the sole reality of the One Hindu God can they be called fundamentalists like the Christians and Muslims?
Hindus are not of one faith only. They are divided into Shaivites (those who worship Shiva), Vaishnavas (those who worship Vishnu), Shaktas (those who worship the Goddess), Ganapatas (those who worship Ganesh), Smartas, and a number of other groups that are constantly being revised relative to modern preachers around whom new movements may be founded (like the Swami Narayan movement, the Ramakrishna-Vivekananda groups, or the followers of Sri Aurobindo). What common belief can be found in all these groups that constitutes Hindu fundamentalism? What common Hindu fundamentalist platform does the different sets of Hinduism share? Is it a Shaivite, Vaishnava, or other type of fundamentalism? How do such diverse groups maintain their harmony and identity under the Hindu fundamentalist banner? While one can make a code of belief for Christian or Islamic fundamentalism, what code of belief applies to Hindu fundamentalism of all different sets?
No Hindus including so-called Hindu fundamentalists insist that there is only one true faith called Hinduism and that all other faiths are false. Hindus have many holy books like the Vedas, Agamas, Bhagavad Gita, Ramayana, and so on, which contain a great variety of teaching and many different points of view, and no one of these books is required reading for all Hindus. What single holy book do Hindu fundamentalists hold literally to be the word of God, upon which they base their behavior? Christian and Islamic fundamentalists flaunt their holy book and are ever quoting from it to justify their actions. What Hindu Bible are the Hindu fundamentalists all crying, quoting, and preaching from and finding justification in?
Fundamentalists are usually seeking to return to the social order and customs of some ideal religious era of a previous age. Fundamentalists often insist upon returning to some traditional law code like the Islamic Shariah or Biblical model of justice and humanitarianism. This is evident from the latest happenings in Pakistan where the fundamentalists are forcing the government to model their laws on their fundamentalist customs which would set the country in a downward spiral. What law code are Hindu fundamentalists seeking to reestablish? Which Hindu groups are agitating for the return of the law code of the Manu Smriti.
Hindus and organizations like RSS and political party like BJP are labelled 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.
Hindus are called fundamentalists for organizing themselves into organizations like RSS VHP, which are branded as fundamentalists by the media and political leaders whereas no one calls Muslim organizations or parties politically motivated or fundamentalists in their approach. There is no conviction or evidence against the organizations like RSS or a party like BJP in any case whatsoever regarding all the allegations made by media and their political opponents who wants to appease Muslims and Christians for their vote bank by making such baseless allegations and trying to brand them as Hindu fundamentalists.
Is there any Hindu leader who is a fundamentalist who tried to eliminate all other beliefs from the land or tried to force Hinduism upon all other religions by waging a war? Does any of the so called fundamental Hindu organizations and parties provide for such a model? If there is no such model then on what is the theory of saffron terror based upon? It is based upon the illusions of the ruling party and all other moronic parties whose survival depends on appeasement of Muslims and Christians.
Being morons themselves the media and all parties like congress and its fellow moronic parties should be in a better position to understand this that Hindu fundamentalism is an oxymoron along with their newly created phrase of saffron terror. Calling a Hindu fundamentalist and associating the color saffron with terror only makes them look for what they are i.e. morons.
The question with which we started can be affirmatively answered after the discussion that a Hindu by nature cannot be a fundamentalist.