Decoding new India

Manini Chatterjee

Narendra Modi is giving shape to M.S. Golwalkar's dream

To his long list of skills - powerful oratory; indefatigable energy; peerless grandstanding; bear hugging every world leader within handshaking distance - Narendra Modi just added another one: a talent for black humour.

That talent was evident in his remarks in Ahmedabad last Thursday. Speaking at a function at Sabarmati Ashram, the prime minister said, "Killing people in the name of gau bhakti is not acceptable." And added, with a straight face, "We are a land of non-violence We are the land of Mahatma Gandhi. Why do we forget that?"

Those words certainly jogged -and mocked - public memory, coming as they did from a man who was chief minister of Gujarat when riots left over 2,000 dead and who resolutely refused to express any remorse, then or since. And a man who, as prime minister, has chosen to ignore the violence unleashed by vigilantes on a regular basis.

Yet such is the stature of Narendra Modi that his words at Sabarmati have been welcomed, not just by his supporters but even by his critics. The prime minister's belated attack on cow vigilantes, they feel, will have a sobering effect on the marauding mobs and will rein in the "loony fringe" of the sangh parivar.

The speech at Sabarmati on June 29 was not the first time that Modi spoke out against the lynch mobs. He had expressed similar sentiments after the lynching of Dalits in Una last year. That had had little effect on the ground.

But this time, many hope, it will be different. One reason for this hope is that the prime minister spoke out a day after thousands of citizens came out in different cities of India under the "Not In My Name" banner to protest against the growing climate of hate and violence which led, most recently, to the murder of 16-year-old Junaid Khan on a train a little outside Delhi.

The "enough is enough" sentiment that animated the protests may have touched Narendra Modi too and impelled him to speak, some believe. Another view is that for purely political reasons the prime minister has signalled a change of course. He does not want unruly elements, in the garb of " gau rakshaks", to mar his ambitions of becoming a world statesman, jeopardize his goal of building a 'New India'.

This hope, sadly, is likely to be belied because it rests on a fundamental misunderstanding. Narendra Modi may be a consummate politician with an enviable ability to mould his words and persona to suit the audience and the occasion. But he is also a deeply committed ideologue, more ideologically oriented than any Indian prime minister barring, possibly, Jawaharlal Nehru.

The saffron fraternity knows this well. Soon after Modi led the Bharatiya Janata Party to single party majority in 2014, a television anchor asked Uma Bharati whether the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh would now exercise "remote control" over the new government. Uma Bharati's immediate response: there is no need of any remote control because RSS ideology flowed through every vein of Narendra bhai Modi, he was the very embodiment of its ideals, the best vehicle to translate its vision into reality.

Modi may have focused on " vikas" and "parivartan" all through his election campaign but after assuming power he has given glimpses of his deep adherence to RSS ideology. And though he has seldom mentioned M.S. Golwalkar by name, it is Golwalkar's thoughts and writings that seem to have most influenced him.

Since Golwalkar took over the reins of the RSS in 1940 and remained at the helm till 1973, he exercised an enormous influence over generations of young men who joined the RSS in the post-Independence era, the most dedicated of whom became pracharaks (full timers) - Modi a star among them.

One only has to read Golwalkar - not just his infamous We or Our Nationhood Defined but his collection of writings brought together in Bunch of Thoughts - to recognize his imprint on Modi's mind. Modi's recent use of "Attock to Cuttack and Kashmir to Kanyakumari", for instance, is a straight lift from Golwalkar

But it goes far beyond phrases. The RSS's central thesis, extensively elaborated in Golwalkar's writings, is that India is the sacred land of the Hindus and Hindus alone, it was a land of unparalleled glory in ancient times, it fell to ruin because of successive assaults by foreign invaders, and it can only regain its lost glory once it becomes wholly Hindu again.

Golwalkar had the greatest antipathy towards the concept of "territorial nationalism" - the name he gave to the modern nation state which bestows equal rights of citizenship on all those who live within its territory regardless of caste or creed. The RSS's "cultural nationalism", a euphemism for upper caste Hindu supremacy, is the stark opposite of civic nationalism enjoined by the Constitution of India.

The difference between the two is not mere semantics but has very real consequences. Every campaign of the so-called "loony fringe" - be it ghar wapsi, love jihad, cow vigilantism, or painting minorities as anti-national - is rooted in the ideology of the RSS and finds ideological sustenance in Golwalkar's writings.

India's independence from colonial rule in 1947, Golwalkar argued, did not constitute real freedom because the new leaders held on to the "perverted concept of nationalism" that championed India's composite heritage.

"The concept of territorial nationalism," he wrote, "has verily emasculated our nation and what more can we expect of a body deprived of its vital energy? ...And so it is that we see today the germs of corruption, disintegration and dissipation eating into the vitals of our nation for having given up the natural living nationalism in the pursuit of an unnatural, unscientific and lifeless hybrid concept of territorial nationalism."

For the RSS, therefore, the BJP's victory in 2014 marks a seminal moment in the dream of forming a Hindu rashtra. That Modi is aware of his own significance in this journey was made clear when he referred to the end of "1200 years of foreign rule" in his first major speech in the Lok Sabha after becoming prime minister.

In the last three years, Modi has relentlessly run down the achievements of the first 70 years of independence and insisted that India has changed in a wondrous fashion only in the last three years. These exaggerated claims do not result from misplaced hubris alone. It comes from a deeply held belief that only a "Hindu" government and polity - where all "non-Hindu" elements are obliterated or made to surrender their identity - can redeem India's destiny.

Modi's New India, thus, has two inextricably intertwined sides to it. On one hand, it is about rooting out black money, building toilets, giving up LPG subsidies, enhancing India's space programme et al. On the other, it is 'Hinduizing' both State and society by obliterating the myriad influences on art and culture, ideas and scholarship from 'non-Hindu' sources that have so enriched India over millennia.

The men who killed Junaid Khan because he was wearing a skull cap and taking home Eid gifts, Yogi Adityanath's comment that the Taj Mahal does not reflect Indian culture, and Modi's belief that India's efflorescence has only begun with his victory in 2014 are all facets of the same Golwalkarian mindset - a mindset that forms the bedrock of New India.

In his Sabarmati speech, a newspaper report said, Modi narrated a childhood memory of a cow who gave up eating after it was overcome with remorse for accidentally killing a child. "His voice choked with emotion and he fought back tears as he detailed the compassion of the cow," it noted. Modi never mentioned Junaid Khan, whose bloodstains are still visible on the platform of Asaoti station.

In New India, suicidal cows evoke more tears than murdered human beings. But then a cow, we are told, experiences remorse and compassion that a prime minister seems incapable of feeling.

e.mail : manini.chatterjee@abp.in

courtesy : 'Worm's Eye View', "The Telegraph", 03 July 2017

Category :- English Bazaar Patrika / Features

A ​C​​hatur Bania writes —

Harish Khare

The Mahatma’s de-legitimisation begins

My Dear Sardar,

I am told your boys from Ahmedabad are now branding me as a chatur Bania. Jamnalal [Bajaj] is quite indignant about it; he says if anything I was a foolish Bania, always maintaining the accounts.

I first thought I should write to Jawaharlal [Nehru]. But then I realised poor Jawaharlal himself is being given a hard time by your boys. I believe they are re-writing all those books and history to edit him out of public memory. These people are using something called social media to spread wonderfully inventive and salacious stories about Jawaharlal. What errant nonsense.

It seems that now it is going to be my turn. They want to bring me a peg or two down in national imagination, cheapen me as a Bania — all because they want to get at the Congress Party.

Now, Sardar, do not protest. They are your chelas. At least, they loudly claim to be so, and are for ever pitting you against Jawaharlal, with all their wonderful fictionalised accounts of how I cheated you out of the prime ministership of free India. I understand they are getting the Chinese to put up a very tall statue in your honour. They think a very tall statue will add to your stature. 

I have not felt the need to lament so far about what they have been doing to India. I know they still go to Rajghat every year. They even try to imitate charkha-spinning. When it suits them, some of them go as far as observing a ‘fast’.

But this chatur Bania is serious business. I do not mind being abused; I have been abused all my life and much more after Nathuram Godse aimed his pistol at me at Birla House. I should say I have been a beneficiary of some of the choicest abuses from many quarters — the Tories, the Communists, all those Hindu Mahasabhaites, at times even Ambedkar was unsparing. But they all argued with my ideas, questioned my actions and programmes, but nobody called me a Bania, leave alone a chatur Bania.

Please tell me, Sardar, what have I done to deserve this moniker from your chelas? I am not a dunce and I understand perfectly well what they are trying to do; if you will permit me a bit of frank talk, what they want is to de-legitimise all those institutions, ideas, ideologies, individuals who were associated with the freedom struggle, nationalist movement and transformation of India into a modern state.

They selectively cite my desire that the Congress should convert itself into a Lok Seva Sangh. This is one of the most misunderstood of my ideas. What simple-mindedness are your chelas dishing out!

​Y​ou and I know this perfectly well that after we forced the British to leave, the Congressmen were not going to retire to the jungle and devote their time and charged-up energy to meditation and communion with God, or to running gaushalas — and leave the political field open for the Hindu Mahasabhaites or the Communists to take over the arena. The Congressmen were not so unworldly as to leave the field for all those forces which had opposed freedom struggle, sided with the colonial authorities.

You know Jawaharlal had addressed this question squarely, at Sevagram, just six weeks after they had me killed. You were not there, but almost all the ‘Gandhians’ were there — as were Rajenbabu, Maulana, Vinoba, Kriplani,Y Jayaprakash — debating: “Gandhi is gone: who will guide us now?” Jawaharlal tackled this business of Lok Seva Sangh:

“Bapu had planned a Lok Seva Sangh; that was fine but what Bapu prescribed was not a political institution. The implication was that Congress should be dissolved and replaced by a new institution that would not be political Then a new political institution would also be needed to be created — because political work would still have to be done. If Congress withdrew from the political field then some or other political institution with a new name would come into being…..Political life cannot simply be brought to an end! Until now the role of Congress was to oppose the British government; but that role is now over and done with — it has been fulfilled, in a manner of speaking. Congress now has to govern, not to oppose government. So it will have to function in a new way, staying within politics.”

Sardar, your chelas, are getting good at twisting and distorting Their insinuation that somehow a power-hungry Congress disregarded my ideas about the Lok Seva Sangh is totally bogus. I know a bit about organisation, control, order, and power; never in my wildest of dreams I could countenance a situation where the most formidable organisation — the Indian National Congress — would have vacated the commanding heights of Indian politics and left the field for the Savarkarites and Mahasabhaites to take over the store. Your chelas, Sardar, are so full of themselves, if you will permit me an American expression. 

Sardar, all these years a wonderful myth had been perpetuated that Jawaharlal was mortally afraid of Subhas (Bose). These people forget that Subhas had chosen a path different from his Congress comrades, not just Jawahar; but also from you and me and others. Ever since your chelas have come  to office, I understand, the so-called Bose files have been declassified; has anybody managed to find any evidence of any injustice done to Subhas or to his memory? This cherry-picking from history to denigrate national leaders and inject poison in people’s minds cannot be the basis of any national progress.

What is this fetish among your chelas about ideology? Has not ideology played so much havoc in the last century, in Europe?  The end result of too much of clear-cut ideology — us and them, friends and foes, supporters and dissenters, traitors and patriots —  is total violence, total control of the kind exercised in Germany by that fellow with the funny moustache.

Sardar, I am sorry to have talked at such length, but it is you they keep using to fire shots at Jawaharlal and now at me. Watch out, they may reduce you to just a Patidar. Your chelas may be good at counting votes and notes, but I cannot bring myself to keep quiet in the face of the creeping institutionalised shoddiness in India’s political life and public space.


Yours, Bapu

illustration courtesy : Sandeep Joshi

courtesy : "The Tribune", 16 June 2017

Category :- English Bazaar Patrika / Features