During the struggle for India’s independence while the majority of Hindus, Muslims and people of all religions followed the path of Mahatma Gandhi, secular democratic nationalism, there were few whose origins were in the ideology of the declining sections of ‘Landlord-clergy’ alliance. They not only opposed the freedom movement but also played a supporting role to British policy of ‘Divide and Rule’, which led to partition of the country. They believed nationalism based on religion’s identity. While one such stream Muslim nationalism’s dominant elements went to Pakistan, the Hindu nationalist stream gradually became more powerful in India and today it rules the roost. Not only its progeny BJP is the ruling dispensation, other organizations floated by it are effectively propagating its sectarian nationalism.

As the matters stand the ruling party, though it swears by the Constitution which is secular, plural and wants a federal structure, its politics is leading the country in a direction as outlined by the agenda of RSS. This dichotomy between a secular plural constitution and RSS agenda of Hindu nationalism does come to one’s notice times and over again. On 19th February this year (2021) a tweet from Ministry of culture paid respect to the major ideologue of RSS, M.S. Golwalkar, “Remembering a great thinker, scholar, and remarkable leader #MSGolwalkar on his birth anniversary. His thoughts will remain a source of inspiration & continue to guide generations. @prahladspatel @secycultureGOI @PMOIndia @PIBCulture @pspoffice,” The leaders of ruling party did not oppose it as most of them have been trained in the ideological contributions of Golwalkar.

He was at the helm of affairs of RSS from 1940 to 1973 and outlined its ideology in two books, ‘We or Our Nationhood defined’ (We) (1940) and ‘Bunch of thoughts’ (1966). His ideology is totally opposite to the values of freedom movement. Freedom movement and the parallel process of India in the making of India were based on diversity of religions. Muslims were equal contributors to the anti British struggle. In contrast Golwalkar puts forward the ideal of Nazi Germany and its treatment of Jews as something to be emulated. In ‘We’ he went on to write “… Germany shocked the world by her purging the country of the Semitic races, the Jews. National pride at its highest has been manifested here…a good lesson for us in Hindustan to learn and profit by."  (We…, 1938, p.37) and further  "… non-Hindu people in Hindustan must either adopt the Hindu culture and language, must learn to respect and revere Hindu religion, must entertain no idea but the glorification of Hindu nation i.e. they must not only give up their attitude of intolerance and ingratitude towards this land and its age long traditions, but must also cultivate the positive attitude of love and devotion instead; in one word, they must cease to be foreigners or may stay in the country wholly subordinated to the Hindu nation, claiming nothing, deserving no privileges, for less any preferential treatment, not even the citizen's rights." (Ibid p.52).

Same thing was worded in cleverer form in ‘Bunch…’ “It would be suicidal to delude ourselves into believing that they have turned patriot overnight after the creation of Pakistan. On the contrary, Muslim menace has increased a hundredfold by the creation of Pakistan, which has become a springboard for all their future aggressive designs on our country." (Bunch of Thoughts, Bangalore, 1996, p. 177-78)

While freedom movement was anti British, RSS totally kept aloof from freedom movement, its justification was that “"The theories of territorial nationalism and of common danger, which formed the basis of our concept of nation, had deprived us of the positive and inspiring content of our real Hindu Nationhood and made many of the 'freedom movements' virtually anti-British movements. Anti Britishism was equated with patriotism and nationalism. This reactionary view has had disastrous effects upon the entire course of freedom movement…" (Bunch of thoughts, 1996, p.138). In tune with this he dissuaded those who wanted to join the Quit India movement and instructed the organization to continue its regular work and not to do anything which will put British into discomfort.

Indian as a nation in the making was a process in which abolition of birth based hierarchy of caste and gender was integral to the process. Golwalkar was totally supporting the caste, Varna system stating that it has worked so well for our community. In Bunch of thoughts he says, ““Castes there were in those ancient times too, continuing for thousands of years of our glorious national life. There is nowhere any instance of its having hampered the progress or disrupted the unity of society. It, in fact, served as a great bond of social cohesion.” On similar lines he praised Lord Manu as the greatest ever Law giver of society, contrary to this it was Ambedkar who burnt Manu Smriti to posit his ideology of ‘Annihilation of caste’.

Another social transformation which came up during freedom movement was the participation of women in the anti-colonial movement, in taking up modern education as the baby steps towards gender equality. Golwalkar, as the ideologue trying to bring forth the social relationships of bygone era, the subjugation of women, upholds the same in ‘Bunch of thoughts’ in the context of affirmative action for women. States he “There is now a clamour for ‘equality for women’ and their ‘emancipation from man’s domination’! Reservation of seats in various positions of power is being claimed on the basis of their separate sex, thus adding one more ‘ism’— ‘sexism!’ — to the array of casteism, communalism, linguism, etc.”

His ideology led him to the opposition to federal structure of the country, which took in to consideration the deepening of democratic process and also respecting the local diversities.  In contrast to the federal structure outlined in our Constitution he advocated single state of a unitary type. What we are witnessing currently, the concentration of power in the hands of center and emergences of a supreme leader indicates to the actualization of what he advocated.

There is an attempt to disown his book ‘We…” as its formulations are very blunt and go against the electoral interests of ruling party. One can just say that one of the earlier Sarsanghchalak of RSS, Rajendra Singh, in an affidavit indicted that it is this book which outlines the ideology of RSS, “"With a view to give a scientific base to propagate the idea-India being historically from time immemorial a Hindu nation-the late Shri M.S. Golwalkar had written a book entitled 'We or Our Nationhood defined', which was published in 1938." (Quoted in Islam, Undoing India: The RSS way)

What a sorry plight for our secular democracy that the prophet of sectarian nationalism; one supporting caste system; upholding secondary position of women; regarding Muslims and Christians as foreigners is being upheld by the ruling dispensation. The best reply to this tweet was again from a tweet by the previous Secretary of same ministry. Former culture Secretary Jawhar Sircar responded: “As former culture secretary, I hang my head in shame to see RSS chief Golwalkar being falsely praised by @MinOfCultureGoI. Golwalkar & RSS opposed Gandhi’s Freedom Struggle. In his Bunch of Thoughts, Golwalkar opposed India’s tricolour too. Sardar Patel jailed him, banned the RSS.”

We need to strive to uphold the values of Indian Constitution if we want progress in the direction envisaged by those who strove and contributed to the process of “India as the Nation in the making”.


Category :- English Bazaar Patrika / OPED

India began as a plural democracy; respect for diversity was the core value. The provisions of safeguards for minorities were in built. These safeguards were formulated by the Constituent Assembly’s committee on Minorities headed by Sardar Patel. Seven decades down the lines where do we stand in matters of security and economic welfare of the religious minorities. Most of the inquiry commission reports related to communal violence, the scholarly works on communal violence by the likes of Paul Brass, Asghar Ali Engineer and recently from Yale University give a very painful picture of the communal violence, showing that the Muslims minorities in particular and lately Christian Minorities have suffered adversely. Sachar Committee Report (2006) showed the economic marginalization of Muslim minorities.

The events of last few decades and more so of last six years show the rising intimidation, marginalization and increasing fear among this community. The lynchings in the name of cow-beef and the harassment around love jihad have brought to fore the type of problems our country is facing on the scale of democratic freedoms. This was most clearly demonstrated when the large section of media with full support of the ruling dispensation coined the terms  like ‘Corona bomb’ and ‘Corona Jihad’ in the wake  of rise of Covid. To add salt to the wound, the present Government initiated NRC in Assam on the grounds that over 50 Lakh Bangladeshi’s have infiltrated into India particularly in Assam. When the final count came only 19 odd lakh people were found without proper citizenship papers out of which 12.5 Lakhs were Hindus!

Undeterred by this the ruling Government brought in Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in which the persecuted communities in neighboring countries are entitled for citizenship barring the Muslims. The trap was clear that those people who were without papers and were Hindus will get the citizenship through the back door while millions of Muslims without proper papers will be disenfranchised from citizenship to be shunted to detention centers.

It was in this background that our ex-Vice President Hamdi Ansari wrote his memoirs “By a Many Happy Accident: Recollections of a Life”. In discussions and interviews by different channels around the release of the book he voiced some of the concerns. He tried to emphasize that our citizenship is not based on religion. As most of the comments on his book and also on his life revolved around his being a Muslim, he underlined the fact that in his diplomatic and political life Muslim ness did not matter, what mattered was professional competence. As such this sums up his career which spanned over four decades and served the country in a very honorable way.

That apart the communal elements constantly targeted him for his being Muslim. In one of the republic day parade (2015), when army saluted as Jan Gan Man, national anthem was sung. A picture was circulated to create misconception that Ansari did not salute when the anthem was being sung. In this picture President is seen saluting along with him Prime Minster Narendra Modi and defense Minster are also saluting. Ansari stands still and picture highlights his not saluting. The criticism of his not saluting tricolor was propagated. At such an occasion only President, who is Commander-in-Chief of army salutes. No one is supposed to salute at that time. What Ansari did was as per the protocol, while those who saluted with President did not follow the guidelines laid down!

When Ansari retired in his farewell speech the Prime Minster took a dig. “. “A big part of your working life was in West Asia... in the same atmosphere and debate... after retirement, it was minority’s commission or AMU... that was your circumference,”

In the response to release of his book the communal forces again are uttering that India gave you so many top positions and your are disgruntled! You can very well leave the country and stay in the one where you feel at home. These types of comments show the mindset of the sectarian nationalists who see the citizens only in their religion’s identity. Ansari is not talking of his personal unhappiness. Being a thorough democrat and Indian nationalist, he is trying to draw our attention to declining ethos of our country. Since the identity issues, the emotive issues like Ram Temple, Cow-beef, Ghar Wapasi and Love jihad have taken the front stage our democratic foundations are being eroded to no end.

Similarly he points that with current Government the word secularism has gone into eclipse, it has disappeared from Governments dictionary. One can argue that even earlier the practice of secularism was on a weak wicket, e.g. the responses to Shah Bano Judgment did go contra to the values of secularism. Numerous reasons can be attributed to the weakness in practice of secularism. Still at most levels it had honorable place. What was missing was the astute sense of implementing it in the complex scenario where intense propaganda against protective clauses for minorities was projected as ‘minority appeasement’. Now there is not even an iota of consideration that as a secular state Prime Minster should not inaugurate a religious place of worship or issues like violence in the name Cow-Beef should not enjoy impunity. There is not even smallest consideration that in CAA how we can bar granting of citizenship to people of particular religion.

Ansari points out, “Overall, the very fact that Indian-ness of any citizen being questioned is a disturbing thought,’ and “enhanced apprehensions of insecurity amongst segments of our citizen body, particularly Dalits, Muslims and Christians” and the “illiberal form of nationalism that promotes intolerance”.

The critics of pluralism and diversity assert that what is prevailing is the genuine secularism as it has balanced the earlier tilt towards minorities. They also try to equate few other killings as lynching’s, to show that there no insecurity for dalits and minorities as such. Ansari’s observations need to be taken seriously and course correction of our democracy needs to be undertaken.

Category :- English Bazaar Patrika / OPED