Nationalism has been the matter of debate yet again. From last few years we saw the individuals being labeled as Anti National for criticizing the ruling Government, we witnessed the attack on JNU on the ground that it is breeding ground of anti-Nationals. At the same time those belonging to ‘Hindu nationalism’ have been presenting themselves as Nationalists. The shrewdness involved in this is that they have been hiding the prefix Hindu to the word, Nation. It is this prefix which shows that they in no way were part of the process of India becoming a nation. Indian Nation building has been a multi layered process. On one hand it was to oppose the colonial rule and simultaneously it was a journey towards democratic values.

This issue comes to fore yet again as Sant Tukdoji Maharaj Nagpur University has brought in a damaging change in their second year B.A. history course. The earlier chapter in the book was on the rise of communalism in India. That has been replaced by the chapter on ‘History of RSS and its role in Nation building’ The university spokesperson put it “Nationalist school of thoughts… is also part of the Indian history. Similarly, history of the Sangh is a part of the nationalist school. Hence, introduction to RSS was included in the course," On the other hand the state Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant disputes this by saying, "Where would Nagpur University find reference of RSS & Nation Building? It is most divisive force which collaborated with British, opposed freedom movement, didn't hoist Tricolor for 52 years calling it inauspicious, wanted Manusmriti in lieu of constitution, spreads hatred." 

What have been the components of India becoming a Nation? The earlier kingdoms were replaced by the colonial rule. The colonial phase was marked by introduction of major economic and social changes. These changes related to transport (railways), communication (Post and telegraph) modern education (Schools and universities), free press and modern judicial system among others. With these changes the social relations began to take place. The process of breaking of the ‘iron frame of caste structure’ began. The subordinate status of women was challenged as the likes of Savitribai Phule started schools for education for girls. The new class of Industrialists, modern businessmen and educated classes came up in the society. The political expression of these processes got reflected in multiple streams.

The major expression of this political phenomenon was the formation of Indian National Congress. The movements for breaking caste inequality were inspired by Joti Rao Phule and Babasaheb Ambedkar. The aspirations of workers got expressed in the unions led by Narayan Meghaji Lokhande and Com Singarvelu. Revolutionaries like Bhagat Singh stood against colonial rule with a dream of socialist society. This process of nation building has two sides. One was to express the social aspirations of these classes coming up in society; workers, women, educated classes, bureaucrats and industrialists in particular. The other was the political expression; the struggle against British colonialists.

To oppose these social-political changes section of declining classes, the kings and landlords and their fellow travelers, threw up their organizations. These organizations had two aspects. One was to oppose the social changes related to caste and gender transformation and second was to harp on nationalism in the name of religion. They were the ones who were opposed to the anti-British national movement. These declining sections had religion as a prefix of their nationalism. Their aims were purely political. Their political agenda was to preserve the birth based values of hierarchy, as manifested in feudal times.

Muslim League on one hand and Hindu Mahasabha-RSS on the other stood for Muslim and Hindu nationalism respectively. In case of Muslim League, Hindu Mahasabha, the religion is written on their sleeves, in case of RSS religion is the core part of their nationalism. Savarkar did work against caste system in patches, but mostly these organizations were totally aloof from the social changes related to caste and gender transformation. As far as freedom movement is concerned; as organizations they were never a part of any anti British movement. Individually pre-Andman Savarkar was anti British, but after his release his was a changed man. Similarly Dr. K. B. Hedgewar, RSS founder, as an individual did take part in 1930 Civil disobedience movement, but that was with the goal of finding like-minded workers in jail As far as RSS is concerned, the instructions were given by Golwalkar, not to disturb the peace of British.

During Quit India movement the second Sarsanghchalak M.S. Golwalkar states, “In 1942 also there was a strong sentiment in the hearts of many. At that time too, routine work of Sangh continued. Sangh vowed not to do anything directly.” Defending his decision to keep aloof from the movement he says “We should remember that in our pledge we have talked of freedom of the country through defending religion and culture, there is no mention of departure of British from here.” (Shri Guruji Samagra Darshan, vol. IV, page 40) “

While Indian nationalism is inclusive and plural, as expressed in Indian Constitution, RSS has been eulogizing the ancient laws particularly those of Manu. Nationalism is not just the state and boundaries, it is the social relationships. In case of Indian nationalism these values are Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. ‘Nationalism under the garb of religion’, regards these values of equality as Western, not suitable for this or that country. For example Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt promotes feudal hierarchical values in the garb of Islam. It labels democratic values of equality, liberty as being Western ones’. RSS similarly regards Indian Constitution as being Western.

With these types of changes in our educational syllabus, the attempt is to present RSS as part of Indian nation building. This lie hides that RSS neither struggled against British rule nor for the democratic values of equality. The efforts like change in syllabus are attempts to give legitimacy to RSS as Indian nation builder, which they are not. 

Category :- English Bazaar Patrika / OPED

We are living in times where the social norms, the values of Constitution have been violated times and over again. The increasing atrocities on dalits, the lynchings of minorities in the name of Cow-Beef have changed the social equations in a drastic way during last few years. This in a way is part of the ascendance of a politics of communalism which believes in narrow, sectarian religious identity as its defining point. This may get further worsened with the big mandate for Modi in 2019 elections. In the aftermath of elections leading to his return to power, Modi in his victory speech made certain observations which are very disturbing on one hand and also give an idea of shape of things to come.

He stated that this election campaign has unmasked the deceitful claims of secularists and that said that now they can’t mislead the country. As per him secularism as a mask has been destroyed in these elections and that secularism was a cover for minority appeasement. He states that minorities have been deceived and cheated by the parties claiming to be secular.

This statement is not just in the euphoria of victory. For communalism it has been a deeper agenda to do away with the practice of secularism. It is true that there had been aberrations and weaknesses in the practice of this concept, with fallacies like the reversal of Shah Bano judgment or opening the gates of Babri mosque for Shilanyas. The assertion that minorities have been appeased is a total lie. The reports of Gopal Singh Commission, Rangnath Mishra Commission and Sachar Committee tell us about the worsening plight of the Muslim minorities. Some fundamentalist elements within Muslim community have been promoted but the Muslim community as a whole has on one hand been economically marginalized and on the other been subjected to social insecurity. Going beyond the obvious one need to understand as to why the shortfalls in the practice of secularism have dogged our nation?

Secularism has been defined and interpreted a various ways. In Indian context ‘Sarva Dharma Sambhave’ has been the major interpretation. Also that state will not interfere in the maters of religion and religion (clergy) will not dictate and state policy has been the major understanding of this concept, secularism, which is core and integral part of the concept of democracy. Some examples of this are in order. In the wake of demand for renovation of Somnath Temple, Gandhi said that Hindu community is capable of building its own temple. While his disciple Nehru did follow Gandhi’s path in times to come. Same Nehru later called the dams, industries and universities as temples of Modern India.

Gandhi in his own way puts it up brilliantly when he says, “Religion and state will be separate. I swear by my religion, I will die for it. But it is my personal affair. The state has nothing to with it. The state will look after your secular welfare…”

Social scientist Rajiv Bhargava points out that secularism “…combats not just discrimination and other worse forms of inter-religious domination such as exclusion, oppression and humiliation. It is equally opposed to intra-religious domination, i.e the domination (of women, Dalits, dissenters) within every religious community”

Secularism did not have smooth march in India. It came up with the rising classes during colonial period. The classes which came up with the changes like industrialization, communication and modern education. They called the process of comprehensive change as ‘India as a nation in the making’. The streams like those represented by Bhagat Singh, Ambedkar and Gandhi made it the foundation of their political ideology and struggle for better society. They stood for Indian nationalism. While the declining classes of Landlords and kings shaken by the changes in social fabric and loss of their earlier hegemony came up with communal politics. This communal politics in turn had a bifurcation, Muslim communalism and Hindu communalism. They dreamt of Muslim Nation and Hindu nation respectively. As Professor Bipan Chandra points out Communalism regards a community of one religion as a nation. In India it went through different phases of mild, moderate and extreme communalism. Its understanding is that people of one religion have similar interests, which in turn are different from those of other religion, and so the religious communities are made to pitch against each other. This politics regards the ‘other’ community as a threat to its’ own self. At the same time the intra societal hierarchies are put under the carpet, as the deeper agenda of these groups is to maintain those hierarchies of caste and gender.

One of the weaknesses of practice of secularism in India has been the tremendous opposition from communalism which has been on a rise. While in Pakistan, Muslim communalism was strong right from the beginning; in India it has become stronger during last four decades or so. Its strength has been founded on the polarization, which is an outcome of communal violence. Its issues are those of identity issues like Ram Temple, Love Jihad, Ghar wapsi and Holy cow-beef. It is this communalism which has stood as a counter to the secular ethos of the country; it is this which is the major obstacle for secularism being properly implemented. There are many factors which have been conducive to and helping in the promotion of divisive politics of communalism, one of them being the non completion of secularization process, the process whereby the power of landlord-clergy duo is abolished in a society marching towards democracy

In India, due to colonial rule, the national movement had to direct its energy primarily against the colonial rulers, while the landlords-kings, to be later joined by some elite-middle classes, continued on the margins, giving the life breath to communalism, leading to partition of the country among other negative phenomenon in the society. Surely India’s plurality and diversity, though currently under cloud, will not let the secular values being eclipsed by the sectarian politics, which is currently on the prowl.

Category :- English Bazaar Patrika / OPED