Antony D. Smith, who wrote Theories of Nationalism, divides nationalism into two kinds: ethnocentric and polycentric. The polycentric nationalism recognizes different cultural and power centres which in an attitude of mutual dialogue and enrichment share their power and ideals for the common good of the nation. Smith considers only this broader type of nationalism as worth to be called nationalism. The ethnocentric nationalism gives emphasis on the cultural and religious heritage of one ethnic group to the extent of imposing it on all those who live in the surroundings. This is a narrower kind of nationalism because it assumes an emotional character which easily becomes aggressive and thrives on the negation of other ethnic groups. It rises to the extreme forms of passionate hostility to all alien manifestations. When everything is in a flux and nothing seems to be stable, people long for the customary and routine-bound past. The religious nationalists think that a stubborn return to a way of life in the past based on religion will resolve the issues nation face. The illiterate mass blindly follows them without knowing that the outworn practices of the bygone days are irrelevant for today.
According to the Constitution of India, the State is supposed neither to promote nor to oppose any particular religion in the country. It is bound to guarantee equal treatment to all belief systems. But whenever and wherever the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) comes to power, the Sangh Parivar covertly communicates the message that Hinduism is the religion of the State. Their politicians have begun to identify themselves with the martial figures in Hinduism and the ordinary people have begun to see in them the saviours of Hindus.
The methods used by the Sangh Parivar moves in the direction of promoting militancy in Hindus. It rubs away from Hindus the qualities like gentleness and calmness. A new Hindu identity is constructed around pride, arrogance, hatred, revenge, and lust for power. It can be better understood from the symbols they use. The Sangh venerate those who fought against Muslims: Shivaji, Maharana Pratap, etc. P. Parameshwaran, one of the Hindutva theoreticians and former director of the Bharatiya Vichara Kendra at Trivandrum, advises Hindus to practise dharma than ahimsa, bhakti and sacrifice. The Hindus must imitate not only Sri Ram who gave up his inheritance to guard dharma but also Ram who fought wars to safeguard dharma. In 1990s Sadvi Ritambara used to distribute knives to the members of Durgavahini in the suburbs of Mumbai. When asked about it she said that Hindu gods and goddess are incarnations of shakti. According to her Hindus should have Gita in one hand and weapons in the other.
There is a stark difference in the way Gandhi used religion for the political means. Gandhi adopted Hindu concepts and symbols as political tools to imbibe national feelings in the public but they were not promoting exclusive but inclusive attitudes in Indians. Gandhi transformed the religious tools like Satyagraha, fasting, sacrifice and suffering for the conversion of the enemy. He upheld religious values to get the right things done by the politicians. Gandhi insisted on the principle of non-violence not because he was, as some says, afraid of the sword. To Gandhi, sword-force is the law of the beast. Killing people requires no intelligence. The law which is in harmony with human nature is that of winning over others by the soul-force.
Gandhi saw non-violence as the doctrine of the strongest. Only a brave man can die unarmed with his breast bare before the enemy. Non-violence is superior to violence; forgiveness is more manly than punishment. Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will. And this capacity for forgiveness is not merely the faculty of rishis and saints, says Gandhi. The ordinary people also can practise it because non-violence is the law of human species. Non-violence does not mean the submission to the evil-doer. It is just the opposite. The one who practises the principle of non-violence puts of one’s entire soul against the will of the opponent. By practising the law of non-violence a single individual can make the whole empire defy the path of injustice and help its regeneration.