How close is the Republic to the nightmare of a Hindu Rashtra ?
Making religion a factor for granting citizenship by the RSS/BJP may have suffered from bad timing, but it came as no surprise. They have been single-minded about it.
Savarkar, the Hindutva icon and the only serious theoretician of ‘Hindutva’, dreamt of ‘Hinduising all politics and militarising all Hindus’; and was quite upset with the RSS for not moving in this direction fast enough in spite of having a large and trained cadre.
Savarkar was only enthusiastic, while the RSS has been very realistic and clever in its calculations and moves. It realised early on, that any political idea first has to be implanted in the minds of people, more importantly during the impressionable, formative years of life, and hence focused on attracting young children to shakha.
RSS has been doing this implanting consistently and systematically through its various fronts including the BJP. Since its inception, it has been regularly updating itself in technology and has been using it very strategically. It was first to realise the potential of social media platforms and created a devoted army to exploit it.
Amit Shah some time ago expressed the confidence of being able to make anything (including fake news) viral on the net. This capacity is only an extension of time-tested method of using informal, personal communication and social occasions like wedding ceremonies and even funeral gatherings to disseminate the political message. This method, put to use with perseverance and deft political moves along with generous funding from the Desi and Videshi supporters, resulted in the first ever full majority BJP government in 2014. Narendra Modi dutifully acknowledged the contribution of ‘five generations of dedicated workers’ to the making of ‘this historic moment’.
It must never be forgotten that at present, the RSS is the only organisation which has a clear vision of India it wishes to create, an elaborate road map, a multi-pronged organisational structure, unlimited funds and a dedicated cadre.
It also has the capacity to project itself and its vision differently to different audiences — from the sophisticated to the uncouth.
It has also shown remarkable cleverness of not missing a single opportunity to inch closer to power. All its front organisations (‘members of family’ in RSS parlance) work in tandem towards achieving the goal of Hindu Rashtra.
Frankly, no one can accuse the RSS of hiding its ultimate goal and agenda. In spite of giving the go ahead to the BJP to put some issues ‘on the back-burner’ for some time, the RSS as such has never shied away from its goal of replacing the inclusive and secular idea of India with its idea of Hindu Rashtra.
M.S. Golwalkar in his ‘Bunch of Thoughts’ clearly rejected the inclusive, democratic nationalism and freedom movement as ‘nationalism being reduced to mere anti-Britishism’. He was also categorical in identifying the ‘real threats’ to the nation - namely, ‘Muslims, Christians and Communists’.
Having put its political front firmly in power, the RSS is losing no time in realising the Hindutva dream of ‘Hinduising all politics and militarising all Hindus’. In fact, it seems to be in a hurry.
Why? Before answering this question, let us recall that till 1967, Jana Sangh, the earlier avatar of BJP was practically a political pariah. It was Lohia’s strange thesis of ‘no Congress at any cost’ (Gair-Congresswad’, the earlier form of ‘Congress Mukt Bharat’) which facilitated Jana Sangh participation in many state governments. Then, in 1974-5, J.P. issued the best character certificate RSS could ever hope for: ‘If RSS is Fascist, then I am a Fascist too’.
The obsession with removing the Congress from power has consistently helped the RSS to move closer to its goal. It is quite interesting, that some leading liberals, quite vociferous in their criticism of Modi government these days, have never analysed their own leading role in the so-called anti-corruption movement led by Shri Anna Hazare. This movement was co-ordinated and facilitated by the powerful RSS machinery and aimed not only at removing the Congress from power, but also at weakening the institutions of democratic governance. It paved the way for the arrival of the messiah of ‘Achchhe Din’.
The RSS has been politically quite smart and fast in learning from the past. It achieved unprecedented hold of power, while the leading liberals behind ‘Anna movement’ proved only clever by half.
Then, why does the RSS seem to be in a hurry ?
The RSS claims to be a ‘cultural organisation’, but, ‘culture’ here is just a euphemism of control fantasies, which are to be realised by making regressive narrowness of mind and authoritarian temperament integral to ways of living. That is why, it hates all kinds of interrogative creativity.
It is not for nothing, that in almost hundred years of its existence, the RSS has hardly been able to attract members of the creative community in any significant number. This is one of the reasons for venomous hatred for the intellectual vocation on part of its members and supporters.
The ironical and basic problem for the RSS however is that its vision is contradicted by the very same phenomenon it claims to fight for, namely Indian culture and Hindu tradition.
The RSS is obsessed with ‘Oneness imposed from above’; its very organisational principle is ‘ekchalaknuvartitva’ (following the one supremo); while Hindu religion and tradition is by definition pluralistic. Hinduism has never shared the RSS’ obsession with ‘One imposed from the above’.
More generally, who can even imagine an Indian culture without celebrating the fascinating diversity of every kind, and without taking
into account the contribution made by various religious traditions (including Islam and Christianity) to Indian cultural heritage and experience.
Ask your north Indian RSS friend or relative: what will be the flavour of life without Halwa, Jalebi and Samosa — all brought to India by the Turks. Incidentally, the word Baba is also from the Turkish language. Many streams have contributed to the Indian way of life, without totally losing their own identity. Jawaharlal Nehru was spot on in comparing Indian tradition with a palimpsest on which no later writing has erased the traces of the earlier ones.
With all its claims of ‘authentic’ Indianness, the political and social project of the RSS propounds an idea of India which goes violently against the grain of India; that is why it is constantly forced to take recourse to ‘Three D technology’—that is Distortion of history, memory and everyday cultural life, Destruction of democratic institutions and practices and Demonisation of its critics and opponents. Its political opponents on the other hand (with some exceptions of course) have hardly been able to grasp the full import of the RSS worldview and strategy.
Encouraged by its increased majority in 2019 elections, the BJP government has moved swiftly towards realising the goal of Hindu Rashtra. The CAA is a major step in this direction. Making religion a decisive factor for determining Indian citizenship is the beginning of the end of the idea of inclusive and secular nationalism.
The idea was further isolation of Muslims, and the aim was to push them further towards the status of non-citizens. The calculation was that, fed on anti-Muslim rhetoric, the Hindus will generally remain indifferent, if not enthusiastically supportive.
For the RSS/BJP, the timing of this step was pretty bad. People are feeling the heat of ‘bold’ decisions like ‘notebandi’ and tardy implementation of GST. The impact of unabashed crony capitalism is being felt in unprecedented rise in unemployment and economic slowdown. The youth could not take any more from the ‘supreme leader’ and his trusted second in command—hence the unprecedentedly constant and non-violent outpouring of anger on the streets.
At the moment, the imaginative and disciplined protests mainly led by women have clearly put the RSS/BJP and the government on the defensive. Nitish Kumar’s flexible ‘Antaratma’, speaking through the vice-president of his party, and distancing of its trusted ally Shiromani Akali Dal is worrying BJP. The Shiv Sena has already confessed its ‘mistake of mixing religion with politics’.
But, make no mistake. CAA or no CAA, political Hindutva has captured the imagination of a very large number of Indians. There is a lot here for serious introspection on part of political parties, civil society activists and liberal voices.
How can you fight the distortion of history, when you reduce the humanities to the status of poor country cousin in the university system? Literature gets even lower priority. Having done so, and in the ubiquitous presence of WhatsApp university, it is a bit too much to expect compassion and sensitivity to grow in society. How can you expect making of responsible citizens, when education is made synonymous with mere skill development?
It will be a good question to ask that how many central universities in the period 2004-14 had VCs from humanities back-ground? Why the leadership roles in all areas of knowledge generation were virtually reserved for technocrats? Why was there a privatisation spree in higher education?
Most importantly, why the BJP was allowed to capture the idea of Indian nationalism? After all, it was the Congress which articulated spontaneous patriotic feeling and anti-colonial sentiment into a democratic, inclusive nationalism—’Manavnishta Bhartiyata’—humane Indian nationalism, as Dada Dharmadhikari put it.
Academic debates on various aspects of nationalism may go on, but in everyday politics, the power of national sentiment cannot be denied, as was well understood by the far-sighted leaders of the Indian freedom movement like Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Patel and Maulana Abul Kalam Azad.
To be frank, our society has moved perilously close to the nightmare a Hindu Rashtra is. The only effective antidote can be—imbibing the spirit of ‘Manavnishta Bhartiyata’ in our education system, policy making and public life in general.
(The writer is a senior columnist. Views expressed are his own)