ENGLISH BAZAAR PATRIKA

Patriotism, Religion and RSS Ideology

Ram Puniyani
07-01-2021

Word ‘anti-National’ has been more in vogue form last few years. Simply put all those who are criticizing the RSS and its progeny are labeled as anti-National. As fountainhead of Hindu Nationalism RSS is becoming stronger, it has been trying to link patriotism and religion. While hailing Hindus for their loyalty to this nation, the subtle hints are being circulated about Muslims in particular that they are more loyal to Pakistan. In cleverly worded articulation, (HT Jan 02, 2020) the chief of RSS, Mohan Bhagwat said that Hindus are patriotic by nature due to their religion.  He also twists a sentence of Gandhi to state that Gandhi’s patriotism had its origin in Hindu religion, “All Indians worship motherland. But Gandhi said my patriotism comes from my religion. So if you are a Hindu then you will be an automatic patriot. You may be an unconscious Hindu, you may need awakening, but a Hindu will never be anti-India.”

Before analyzing the subtle hints hidden in this formulation let’s understand that when RSS began, its major ideologue M.S. Golwalkar was forthright in praising the Nazis and recommended the treatment for Muslims and Christians (Foreign religions, according to RSS) on the lines which were used by Nazis for Jews. Now from last few decades as RSS is becoming more powerful through it multiple organizations like BJP, VHP, ABVP, Vanvasis Kalyan Ashram, and through its infiltration into different wings of state, media and education, it is using more subtle language, while communicating the same  Hindu nationalist ideology. The meaning and content remains the same, which Golwalkar had outlined in ‘We or Our Nationhood Defined’, but the presentation is well decorated, subtle to the extent of confusing many in the society.

As far as Gandhi is concerned, for him religion was a personal matter. He did call himself as sanatani Hindu, but his Hinduism was liberal and inclusive. His religion had more to do with moral values. He derived his spiritual strength from all the religions, "I consider myself as good a Muslim as I am a Hindu and for that matter, I regard myself as equally good a Christian or a Parsi". (Harijan, May 25 197, page 164). There is respect and inclusivity for people of other religions in his practice of Hinduism. This is in total contrast to exclusivist, narrow understanding and practice of Hinduism of RSS, which is continuously raking up issues to frighten and intimidate people of other religions. As Gandhi’s practice of his religion was liberal and inclusive he could lead the people of different religions in the struggle against British rule.

He also did not connect up religion and nationality or for that matter to patriotism. In that sense patriotism, love for one’s country and countrymen, is not rooted in the religion but in the ‘Nationhood’ which is not an outcome of religion for that matter. His use of word religion has two levels. One is the popular notion of customs, identity, faith etc. and second the morality inherent in the teachings of religion. Though he is very clear that morality is the core of religions, the likes of RSS or for that matter even the Muslim communalists (Muslim League etc.) take his use of the word purely at the level of rituals, holy places etc. only.

The ideologues, who are a part of Hindu nationalist outlook, close to RSS mindset, are burning the midnight oil to dig fragments of sentences, not only from Gandhi and other national icons to present as if the values of these makers of ‘India as a nation’ had ideas similar to that of RSS. In the process they retain the RSS ideology while trying to get more legitimacy by showing their similarity to the great icons of India’s freedom movement and the process of ‘India as a nation in the making’.

So now the formulation is that Hindus are naturally patriots, they can’t be anti national. The other side of this is that the nationalism and patriotism of those belonging to other religions is suspect, subject to certification by those who have a monopoly of being patriots and nationalists, those claiming to represent Hindus.

This totally bypasses the great contributions of Muslims and Christians in making of modern India. Where do you place the millions of Muslims who followed Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan and Maulana Abul Kalam Azad who stood not only against British rule but also against the concept of partition of India? Where do you place the likes of Shibli Nomani, Hasrat Mohani, and Ashfaqullah Khan? How do you value the contribution of Allahbaksh who was instrumental in organizing the conference of Muslims to oppose the resolution for separate Pakistan by Mohammad Ali Jinnah? There were innumerable organizations formed by Muslims who rubbed shoulders with participants in the struggle for freedom movement.

In Independent India people of all religions have contributed with equal zeal in making of modern India, in all the fields of industry, education, sports, culture and what have you. Are they not patriots or nationalists?

On the other side this formulation of Mr. Bhagwat is a clever defense of the one trained in its shakhas who murdered Gandhi, Nathuram Godse. How do we label those who participated and led in demolition of Babri Mosque, which was called as a crime by the Supreme Court? As per Bhagwat do acts of killing of Gandhi, Kalburgi, Dabholkar, Gauri Lankesh and Govind Pansare fall in the category of patriotic acts? Where do so many Hindus involved in spying, smuggling, black marketing etc. are to be placed?

Interestingly as RSS is making a show of paying respect to Gandhi, at the same time its trained pracharaks and fellow ideologues and many of its affiliated organizations are openly paying respect to Nathuram Godse. This Gandhi anniversary tweets praising Godse were aplenty, mostly from Hindus. That just shows the ideological manipulation capability of the multithreaded hydra, RSS. Only such an organization can simultaneously make the show of paying obeisance to Gandhi while quietly enhancing the ideology which led to his murder.

Category :- English Bazaar Patrika / OPED

Extra-ordinary tales of the ordinary

Tushar Bhatt
29-12-2020

FROM ARCHIVES

Usha Shukla, a young school teacher in Ahmedabad, stood stunned. In her 30s, she was already a principal, a position that pupils regard as next only to the Almighty.

Less than an hour earlier,she had slapped an 8th Standard girl soundly on the face for not doing home work in the mathematics in a proper notebook. Mota Ben, as lady principals are respectfully called in Gujarat , are often stricter than the male of the species.

The teacher had felt pleased with herself in punishing the erring student who had not uttered a single word in self-defence. Usha was petrified. There was something missing and she felt inadequate to pinpoint it.It made her task all the more tough.

The frail pupil was clad in simple clothes,probably bought from a second-hand clothes vendor on a city foothpath . Middle class young teachers like Usha often realise it belatedly that keeping quiet in such situations did not mean that the student had nothing to say. It could mean more often that the pupil was helpless.

Usha finished the class and made her way to principal’s office,feeling euphoric and believing she has instilled fear of God in pupils Yet,an explicable uneasiness underlined the experience.

As she settled in her swivel chair, the school throne of power, the erring girl asked from the door way meekly :”May I have a word with you, Motaben?”

Curtly,the teahcer replied: “ Yes, what is it ? What the tiny girl had to stay left Usha contrite with remorse.

God has forgotten to give many things to teachers, but He has supplied them in abundance with the ability to empathise with the pupil .

The girl began softly, meekly and yet with a dignity the Almight gave the down-trodden to survive in the cruel world. However bad tempered they are, eventually teachers are also children of the Muse of Knowledge. The dictator in the teacher gave way to Saraswati as words rolled out of the distraught pupil.

“Ben, I have not prepared notebook for home work in not only the mathematics but no subject at all. I got second-hand books from a friend,but I cannot get notebooks. My parents are labourers who go out in the morning for work. The kitchen has nothing to cook so we come to study without food.There will be no food in the night too if the parents did not get any work.”Till I get a scholarship, there is no way to obtain notebooks.I know this is bad.”

She said in even tone that exploded on Usha like at atomic device. ” You can beat me every day, in every period and I will neither cry in the class nor stop coming to school.”

Despite brave words,tear rolled down her emaciated cheeks.

Usha Shukla was devastated by the impact. “Oh, my God. How could I be such an idiot? What kind of a taecher am I ? Am I a teacher? What a shame that I did not know about her plight? “

Instead of slapping the young student,she should have slapped herself, Usha thought furiouslylf. Who would think of her as anything but a snob?

As she remonstrated with herself, the pricipalalmost choked on her tears.Then,she decided to act.

She later told a jury of eminent citizens,led by retired chief justice of Gujarat High Court, B J Diwan who adjudged her best suited for an excellence award by the Eklavya Foundation: ” I decided to educate myself.I was nothing but a romantic dreamer.My colleagues said that there were a number of children in our school itself in similar predicament.”

Usha told them: ”Come what may, we will make a beginning. “ The girl who was a victim of Usha’s wrath, was provided with not only notebooks, but everything a pupil needed. Usha and her colleagues got extra lunch boxes from their homes which will be left in a room so that the needy could quietly go and eat,without anyone knowing and hurting their self-esteem.

For the middle class teachers this was not an easy effort. In the days of steady income and spiralling prices, it requires a Herculean effort to meet both the end meet.

If God had created everthing , He should also be accountable for everything. The Brave Motherly Hearts decided never to donate money hereafter to temples, mosques, gurudwaras,churches..every placewhere a cash box for His acolytes ‘ sustenace is found. Not happy with the way He performed his job, the teachers replaced Him with school children.In the entire existence there was nothing holier that children.

Sceptics may argue that despite such kodiyan(earthen lamps) burning themselves out the darkness in our education system continued.It was as if there was darkness at noon.But,there are some Good Samaritans contnue to furrow their lone plough, and support innovative Gurus. Every year since 1997, Eklavya gives several awards for excellence in education.For more two decades, teachers from Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar districts in Gujarat have been given these awards. Usha got it in 1998.

Said Sunil Handa,chairman of the trust,”we are trying to identify the finest,most hard-working and steadfast teachers who have made a significant diference in the lives of their pupils.” It was the jury’s job to find such teachers.

The battle-hardened jury was deeply moved by the extra- ordinariness of the ordinary, when Usha narrated the simple tale.She and her colleagues were without power ot means to bring about a massive change in India.However,they were honest teachers. Everything they attempted did not mean necessarily a success. They had not been able to prevent young girls dropping out when they reached marriageable age.The parents would not want their daughter to have a lot of education so that there would be out-qualidied their spouses.For years now, girls have been forging ahead while the boys fared poorly in ssc and other competitive exqminations.

Handa was aware that piecemeal efforts were not enough. " We need a large number of grassroot level teachers who make a difference. “

Since 1997, 13 annual awards have been given on September 5, Teachers Day. Every year award winning Gurus narrate their life story and experiences.Then,in 2009, a journalist,Neerja Choudhary, was the chief guest at the award ceremony. She heard a veteran teacher,Perin Lalkaka describe her life . The story-teller in the scribe sprang into action. In her speech, Neerja,suggested experiences of the award winners should be brought out in an anthology.

Handa and his colleagues took to the suggestion and a bilingual book, in Gujarati and English, Aviram Athak ( Joyful Path,Tireless Walk) comprising of life stories in 36 walks down the memory lane is the end-result. The 168-page volume ,priced at Rs.100 a copy. was released in 2010.Its charm lies in togetherness of daily-life experiences, tunring into an extra-ordinary boquet of tributes to the mission of teaching. Alone or together, they would not bag a Nobel prize for literature.

It will, however, bring home what ordinary citizens can do if they are are committed to a cause.A concerned and impressed parent neatly summed up: “No literary masterpiece has changed the world. But education has and will do so forever. Needed are committed teachers and a sensitive society.” We need good primary and secondary teachers. A Nobel prize can wait. A Gujarati idom says it all neatly:” Tipe Tipe Sarovar Bharay.” What is a lake of water but joining together of a vast number of drops of water?

[courtesy ; L.K. Sharma}

Category :- English Bazaar Patrika / Sketches