Patriotism, Religion and RSS Ideology

Ram Puniyani

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

Indian Constitution gives us the right to practice, preach and propagate our religion. To not to follow any religion is also a matter of right for the individual. Now in our country as we are facing declining GDP, worsening economic situation, rising prices-unemployment-farmers suicides and currently farmer’s agitation, some of our state Governments are more worried about the interfaith marriages and conversions. Some of them are busy putting forth the laws to prevent conversions. As such conversions have been nagging issue since last few decades but currently they are being attributed as the goal behind inter faith marriages. BJP ruled states and particularly UP, are busy formulating the laws to punish those who are involved in the process of conversions. Parallel to the efforts of state Governments, the vigilante groups are having a gala time harassing couples to ‘save their religion’!

Conversion, mainly away from Hinduism, is yet again coming to fore. The UP Government is planning an ordinance against organizations which are involved in conversion process. As per this organizations will lose their registration and face dire consequences. The ordinance demands a two-month notice to be given to the local administration. The local administration will have the power to decide whether your intended act is legal or not. And of course the burden of proof will be on the converts and the persons converting them. There is a special; mention of SC/ST and women. Many states are now vying to bring in anti ‘Love jihad’ and anti-conversion laws. There are many individual cases where couples and their relatives are being tormented by groups in the name of conversion and love jihad. Many of the laws being framed by the states are mostly against many provisions of Indian constitution.

During freedom movement, Arya Samaj had started Shuddhi movement to bring back those who had embraced other religions. Similarly Tablighi Jamat was active with the parallel campaign of Tanzim to convert people into Islam. The biggest conversion of twentieth Century was of course the one undertaken by Bhimrao Ambedkar. This conversion as such tells us the real cause of the conversions into other religions. Ambedkar, a dalit, got the highest of degrees and on return he had to face the ignominy of being and untouchable. In his struggles for social justice and for dignified life his, his major conclusions were that Hindus cannot be a nation due to the caste hierarchy. Hinduism is dominated by Brahmanical values. This is what made him declare that ‘I was born a Hindu that was not in my hands but I will not die a Hindu’.

His exploration led him to Buddhism, which formed that basis of his decision to embrace Buddhism along with over three lakh followers. Law Professor Sameena Dalwai, in her article draws our attention to the fact that had the present type of laws would have been there, Ambedkar might be behind the bars by now. The architect of Indian Constitution was for Liberty. Liberty does include right to our choice to follow any faith of our liking, or to be an agnostic or atheist as well.

While many people have not been exercising their right to choose their religion, many have done so in the past. That’s how Islam, Christianity, Sikhism and Buddhism spread in India. Buddhism did face a painful trajectory as it was attacked by elite intolerant traditions within Hinduism, which are totally against the concept of equality as propounded by Buddhism. Birth based inequality is peculiar feature of some sects prevailing here, with the sanction of Holy Scriptures. As a practice it is also part of other religions to some extent.

While today so many obstacles are being erected for the odd one opting to change one’s religion, history has seen streams of conversions, minor and major, to Islam and Christianity. Indian history has seen conversions mainly due to two factors. One is the tyranny of caste oppression. Swami Vivekananda tells us, “and The Mohammedan conquest of India came as a salvation of the downtrodden, to the poor. That is why one fifth of our people have become Mohammedans. It was not the sword that did it all. It would be the height of madness to think that it was all the work of sword and fire. It was to gain their liberty from the… zaminders and from the Priest, and as a consequence you find in Bengal there are more Mohammedans than Hindus amongst cultivators, because there were so many zaminders there.” (Selected Works of Swami Vivekanand, Vol.3, 12th edition, 1979.p.294.Extracted from the sayings of Swami Vivekananda compiled in `Proletariat! Win Equal Rights’ Advaita Ashram, Calcutta, 1984 p.16.).

Many a conversions did take place also due to the social interaction and spiritual quest also. Some victor Kings also put humiliating condition of acceptance of their religion by the defeated kings. In India it was mainly the interaction with Sufi saints that many took to Islam. One interesting example is that of Dileep Kumar becoming A. R. Rahman, under the influence of a Sufi saint.

The second phenomenon is that of Christian missionaries. They have been working on issues of health and education in remote areas also. A couple of decades ago Pastor Stains was done to death on pretext of conversion (1999) and in 2008 anti Christian violence has been orchestrated in places like Kandhamal in particular. The extent of this conversion is not very huge if we see that despite centuries of work, the Christian population in India as per the census of 2011 is 2.3%. (First Church was set up by St. Thomas in AD 52).

Political phenomena of ‘reconversion to Hinduism’ are not far behind as witnessed in Agra, where the pavement dwellers were promised the BPL card and ration card. They were lured to come to a puja and declared that now they are Hindus. Ghar Wapsi by giving bath in hot springs in Adivasi areas is very much there. This is a political move to bring these sections into the fold of caste hierarchy, yet again.

Category :- English Bazaar Patrika / OPED