RSS-BJP despised in Chandranath Basu’s birthplace, who coined term ‘Hindutva’ before Savarkar popularised it
A disciple of Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay, Basu believed in Hindu/ Aryan supremacy and used the term in his book ‘Hindutva – Hindur Prakrita Itihas’ 129 years ago in 1892
Sprawling on either side of the local railway station, Kaikala, a mufassil town in Hugli district around 60 km from Kolkata presents a perfect picture of a neglected past and a dull future.
The present, however, shows a relatively better picture in comparison with other parts of the state as it has a railway station, library, school and a functioning health centre.
A road meandering through green fields takes a sharp turn into the town a few yards away from the ruins of an old temple. Nobody knows when this temple was built or when and how it was destroyed, but there are some who claim that it stood on land that once belonged to Chandranath Basu – the man who coined the word Hindutva much before VD Savarkar, the poster boy of political Hindutva, popularized the term.
A disciple of Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay, Basu believed in Hindu/ Aryan supremacy and used the term in his book ‘Hindutva – Hindur Prakrita Itihas’ 129 years ago in 1892.
It is interesting to note that when Chandranath Basu was redefining Hindutva using Advaita Vedantic tools in his writings, the two most popular faces of present-day Hindutva ideology – VD Savarkar and BS Munje – were just nine and 20-year-old respectively.
A graduate from the prestigious Presidency College in Kolkata, Basu is credited with having inspired westerners to look at Sanskrit literature from a fresh perspective. His commentary on Kalidasa’s Shakuntalam “Shakuntala Tattva” was the first which sought to establish conservative Hindu values in Bengali literature.
Strangely enough, though, the RSS-BJP seem not to care much about Basu.
“Despite his immense contribution to Bengali literature, no one (from RSS-BJP) ever came here,” said a native of Kaikala village who agreed to speak on camera, but refused to divulge his name.
When asked about the recent surge of Hindutva in West Bengal, the man, who must be in his sixties, said, “We hate them”.
When asked why, he bluntly says, “Because they are selling the country”.
We tried to dig out more about Basu and his family but were unable to do so. The man said, “The history related to Basu has been destroyed.”
Born in a Zamindar family in Bengal Presidency, Chandranath Basu received his M.A. in History in 1866 and a degree in law the next year. After working as the Deputy Magistrate of Dacca, now called Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, he worked as an official translator to the Bengal government till his end.
Professor Sajal Basu, senior research fellow, Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR), New Delhi, feels Chandranath Basu is not known in RSS-BJP circles because they are ignorant, and that Bankim Chandra overshadowed Chandranath Basu.
“While we have photographs of Bankim Chandra and know about his writings, there is not a single photograph of Chandranath Basu available in the public domain,” he said.
There are others who think Chandranath Basu’s idea of Hindutva revolved around caste hegemony among Hindus, child marriage etc. which Savarkar denounced openly.
“Basu had coined the term Hindutva, but Savarkar theorized it and presented an organized, militarized version of Hindutva which is perhaps more useful for the political project of the RSS-BJP today,” said a commentator.
Kaikala, which falls under Haripal assembly seat, was a strong base of CPI(M) till 2006. In the 2011 assembly polls, TMC trounced the Left and wrested the seat. This time too, TMC is believed to have an edge over other parties.
But it bothers many why the RSS-BJP – which are using every trick in the book to try and oust Mamata Banerjee – have completely ignored Chandranath Basu, especially those who support the BJP.