Veteran writer Nayantara Sahgal, speaking during at a session at the Jaipur Literature Festival, also said that “Hindutva is a complete distortion of Hinduism”. She spoke about Nehru, her admiration for the Dalit movement, and her aversion for Hindutva among other things.
Speaking about the current atmosphere in the country, veteran writer Nayantara Sahgal said she identified herself as a half Muslim owing to her north Indian background and went on to emphasise the difference between Hindutva and Hinduism.
“When India had to decide official languages after Independence, the list was of 13 languages. The list did not have Urdu, and my uncle Jawaharlal Nehru questioned that,” she said. The official said to him, ‘Sir, Urdu is nobody’s mother tongue’. To which he said, ‘It is mine’.”
Speaking of her interest in reading books, she said, “While I like reading different books for different moods, the only thing that is soul satisfying for me is reading books about political and social concerns.”
Unsurprisingly, her new book Where The Moon Shines By Day has touched on the issues that she spoke about two years ago while returning her Sahitya Akademi award. Her action had inspired several other writers and was her way of protesting against growing religious intolerance in the country. “My novels have been a chronological progression of India, of what happened after Independence. But this new book, this is about the unmaking of modern India,” she said.
Other than Gandhi and Nehru, her new book also focuses on Dalits, which surprised her readers. “I think the strongest and most organised voice against what’s happening today is of the Dalits. I admire them for their viewpoint,” she said delineating her problems with Hindutva.
“We refused a religious identity when we attained Independence because we’re a deeply religious country with many religions. My problem is with Hindutva because I’m a Hindu myself and it makes me sad that the Hindutva mentality has divided us into Hindus and others. Hindutva is a complete distortion of Hinduism,” she said.
It’s a theme that’s been reiterated by different writers at different sessions at the festival – surely a sign that the schism within Hindu society, that also has implications for the health of Indian democracy as a whole, is preying on many minds.