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Unearthing Hindutva’s dark legacy

Unearthing Hindutva’s dark legacy
Whatever its other sins – and there are many – the Sangh Parivar can never be accused of one thing: of having produced a half-way tall intellectual. Indeed, no star in the Hindutva firmament, from Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh founder K B Hedgewar, and its longest-serving sarasanghachalak M S Golwalkar, to the present leaders of the Sangh’s 30-odd affiliate organisations, including the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), even remotely fits the description ‘intellectual’.

Many BJP leaders consider Deen Dayal Upadhyay’s political philosophy of Integral Humanism as the apogee of Hindutva’s intellectual achievement. But a glance at his writings on this reveals it to be no more than an amateurish, semi-literate, even philistine, attempt at evolving a distinctively hardline Hindu-supremacist ideology while feigning moderation.

The work of Parivar ‘thinkers’, if they can be called that, shows very little acquaintance with history, philosophy, political theory, culture, economics or social movements, whether in India or globally. It doesn’t engage with broad-sweep ideas, and has an extremely narrow, parochial worldview. It doesn’t even comprehend the richness and diversity of Hinduism, which it mindlessly glorifies. The ‘Bauddhik’ training that swayamsevaks undergo is highly regimented, based on half-baked business-oriented economics, authoritarian politics and the Hindu Rashtra concept which privileges one religious community and disenfranchises and delegitimises all others. The training denies that India has for centuries been a multicultural, multireligious society, where Jainism, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, and agnosticism or atheism, coexisted with Hinduism, itself composed of many strands, sects and belief systems. Rather, it glorifies one, puritanical, upper-caste strand as humanity’s greatest accomplishment, and embodies it in the Bharat Mata symbol. Alas, Bharat Mata was enslaved by hostile ‘outsiders’ who ruled her for centuries. It’s time to liberate her and create a proud and powerful Hindu Rashtra, before whom the world must tremble. That’s the true goal of the Parivar. Electoral democracy is only a means to that end.

So when the Parivar, with its warped and bizarre ideas, strays into history to demonstrate the unique greatness of Indian civilisation, celebrate the valour of Hindu heroes, condemn the villainy of Muslim and Christian ‘conquerors’, and denigrate liberal-secular or Left-wing ideas, it makes a laughing stock of itself. The Parivar must distort the truth to make its outlandish ideas appear faintly credible. Take Narendra Modi’s recent incursion at Patna into ancient history pertaining to Bihar. He tried to earn cheap popularity by claiming that Biharis defeated Alexander the Great on the banks of the Ganga, that Chandragupta Maurya founded the Gupta dynasty, Ancient India’s ‘Golden Age’, and that Takshshila, the great seat of Buddhist learning, was in Bihar.

In reality, history tells us, Alexander was halted on the banks of the Beas in today’s Himachal. Chandragupta, Ashoka’s grandfather, founded the Mauryan, not the Gupta, empire. And Takshshila (Taxila) is in today’s Pakistan. In his ‘fake encounter with facts’, Modi confuses it with Nalanda, and falsifies geography as well as history. The Sangh Parivar now dishonestly claims the legacy of Vallabhbhai Patel, India’s first home minister, in contrast to Jawaharlal Nehru. It presents Nehru, a Western-educated Fabian-socialist liberal, as a villain, and glorifies Patel as a pro-Hindutva leader rooted in the native soil, like today’s communal leaders. In vulgar lionisation of the Sardar, Modi is building a 182-metre-tall statue of Patel in Gujarat. Many secularists counter this by minimising Nehru-Patel differences. But one shouldn’t be squeamish about admitting that the two indeed diverged in their political approach and ideological orientation. Patel was inclined to join a Hindu-revivalist campaign for rebuilding the Somnath temple in Gujarat. Nehru opposed him and ruled out involving the Indian state in this venture. Patel was a hawk who preferred strong-arm methods in dealing with dissidence. Nehru was generally moderate and respected democratic norms. Patel was all for private industry, Nehru favoured regulating it. It’s likely that Nehru would have preferred a negotiated approach to integrating the 550 princely states into the Indian Union, rather than the coercive strategy adopted by Patel. Eventually, Nehru acquiesced in Patel’s forced integration approach.

Matters get somewhat complex here. The official Congress line was that the principle of Paramountcy (of British rule over the princes) no longer held once India became independent in 1947, and that the choice to accede either to India or Pakistan cannot be left to the feudal princes: the people must decide. However, the Congress didn’t oppose the departing British rulers when they offered that very choice to the princes.

Instead, the Congress government adopted double standards. First, it secured Jammu and Kashmir’s accession by using coercive and possibly fraudulent means, as many historians (including Perry Anderson in The Indian Ideology, Three Essays, 2012) have documented. Maharaja Hari Singh, faced with a ‘tribal invasion’ from Pakistan, was pressed to sign the Instrument of Accession to India. New Delhi gleefully cited his ‘concurrence’. But then, it proceeded to integrate Hyderabad and Junagadh into India against the wishes of their rulers. The ‘police action’ in Hyderabad launched in September 1948 was in reality a major Army operation, which led to the killing of 27,000-40,000 Muslims in Hindu-led pogroms, according to the report of the Sunderlal commission appointed by the Congress party. This was long suppressed but is now public. These are far from glorious chapters in Independent India’s early history. Patel played a major role in crafting these, but Nehru too went along. There’s no denying that Patel represented the Right wing of the Congress, just three percent of whose membership at the time was Muslim. Nehru was certainly in the party’s Left wing, although he had greatly diluted his radical stance of the mid-1930s.  It is thus sickeningly hypocritical of the Parivar to claim Patel’s mantle. It was Patel who banned the RSS after Gandhi’s assassination. Nathuram Godse was closely connected with the RSS, and his inspiration came from it. The Mahasabha, led by Shyama Prasad Mookerjee, another Hindutva icon, ran a fund collection drive for Godse’s defence. This infuriated Patel, who wrote: ‘If the official organisation of the Hindu Mahasabha is being utilised for this purpose, there can be only one inference, namely, that the HM is in it’ (complicit in Gandhi’s assassination). As Patel’s biographer and Gandhiji’s grandson Rajmohan puts it, the Sardar ‘would have been very disappointed, very pained and saddened’ at the butchery of Muslims on Modi’s watch in 2002. The Mahasabha of course toadied up to the British. But some of its members were admirers of European fascism too. HM leader B S Moonje even paid a visit to Mussolini in 1931. Moonje closely collaborated with the RSS and helped mould it along fascist lines as part of their shared plan to ‘militarise the Hindus’ with a view to creating a Hindu Rashtra.

The ban on the RSS was lifted in 1949, but only on the condition that it adopt a constitution, which pledges that it keeps away from politics. The Sangh has comprehensively betrayed that promise.

IPA
Praful Bidwai

Praful Bidwai

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