Photo Credit: Ajay Verma/Reuters
VHP vice president Jiveshwar Mishra said the exercise has been initiated at the behest of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat. “The new text will provide religious backing for an overarching Hindu identity beyond any castes or sub-castes and lay down, besides common rituals and beliefs, a uniform value system for all Hindus as well as scriptural explanation for ghar wapsi,” said Mishra, who is part of the VHP’s four-member team tasked with the project.
This team held its first meeting in mid-August in Delhi and prepared a list of 40 religious texts from which portions will be collated. The list includes a number of Smritis, Dharmashastras, epics and Puranas. Present at the Delhi meeting were VHP vice presidents Mishra and Jagannath Sahi, its national secretary Dharma Narayan Sharma, and Bharat Sanskrit Parishad (a unit of the VHP) general secretary Acharya Radha Krishna Manori.
As a beginning, Mishra will study Yajnavalkya Smriti, while Sahi, Manori and Sharma have been given the responsibility to go through Parashar Smriti, Manusmriti and the Mahabharata, respectively.
According to a senior RSS official, the need to prepare a new Hindu scripture arose because most popular religious texts – foremost among them Manusmriti and Bhagavad Gita – are not able to further Hindu unity “so urgently required to counter the threat of Islam and Christianity”. “The new scripture will provide [the] religious foundation for Hindutva,” the RSS official explained.
For decades, the RSS has striven to create a monolithic Hindu identity by disavowing caste-based discrimination and the religious sanction behind it. So far it has sought to achieve this by trying to rewrite history. In September last year, Mohan Bhagwat released three books authored by Bharatiya Janata Party leader Vijay Sonkar Shastri titled Hindu Charmakar Jati, Hindu Khatik Jati and Hindu Valmiki Jati. These volumes attributed the genesis of Dalits to “Muslim invasion” in medieval times.
Speaking at the book launch, RSS general secretary (executive head) Bhaiyyaji Joshi claimed that “Shudras” are not considered untouchables in Hindu scriptures and that “Islamic atrocities” during medieval times resulted in the emergence of untouchables and Dalits.
Help from ‘scholars’
Now, changing tack, the RSS has decided to delve into the mass of Hindu scriptures to cherry-pick portions that it feels would further its political agenda.
“I will discuss the details of this project with sadhus at the [ongoing] Nashik Kumbha Mela,” said Mishra. “Inputs that I gather there will then be presented in our next meeting, which will be held between September 28 and October 3 at the VHP office in Delhi.”
The four-member team of the VHP expects to prepare a rough sketch of the “new scripture” in a year. “This rough sketch will then be presented for discussion before the senior leaders of the RSS and the VHP,” said Mishra. “Once it is cleared by them, we will involve Sanskrit and religious scholars on a large scale to prepare final draft of the new scripture. This would be followed by a series of seminars and discussions to collect responses and popularise the text.”