The culmination of the RSS’s countrywide celebrations marking the birth centenary of its longest serving Sarsanghchalak, MS Golwalkar, comes ominously close on the eve of the 5th anniversary of the 2002 genocide in Gujarat. These observations triggered the eruption of communal violence in a number of places in recent weeks. In Karnataka, the whipping up of communal polarisation is being systematically undertaken. Reports of clashes have come in from places like Mangalore, Bangalore and Chikmangalore. In various cities in Madhya Pradesh, also a BJP-ruled state, similar reports are coming from Indore, Jabalpur and Mandsaur. The latest are the reports of widespread communal disturbances coming from eastern Uttar Pradesh with violence rocking Gorakhpur, Maharajganj, Kushinagar, Basti and Azamgarh.
These centenary observations need to be seen in the context of the recent Lucknow session of the BJP where it adopted a strident communal pitch calling for the propagation of prakhar (aggressive) Hindutva. With the UP elections on the cards and polls in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Delhi to follow soon, the strategy of the RSS-BJP appears to be clear and equally dangerous — to regain its lost political base by sharpening communal polarisation.
This campaign has been hailed by the RSS as the biggest ever national campaign for the establishment of the Hindu Rashtra. It is necessary to evaluate Golwalkar’s contributions — to ascertain the immediate impact this pernicious concept has for our body politic as well as to understand the long-term direction for the consolidation of the secular, democratic, modern Indian republic. Heading the RSS from 1940 to 1973 was not Golwalkar’s only seminal contribution. He continues to wield an abiding influence on the RSS and not only provided it with an ideological foundation but also established its organisational structure to achieve the aim of a Hindu Rashtra.
The ideological foundations are chillingly detailed in his book, We or Our Nationhood Defined, first published in 1939 and republished in a fourth edition in 1947. Note the organisational initiatives Golwalkar undertook to create and sustain the Sangh parivar as it is known today. Following the ban of the RSS after the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, Golwalkar entered into an agreement with the government seeking its withdrawal while assuring that the RSS would not play any political role in the future.
A clear strategy evolved: the RSS would, in the public eye, confine itself to ‘cultural activity’ while its affiliates would branch out into various sections spreading the message of Hindu Rashtra. These seemingly independent tentacles were welded together by the RSS. Apart from the various frontal organisations, two important structures must be noted. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) was established in the mid-1960s seeking to unite various Hindu sects, “sink their many differences” and establish contacts with Hindus residing abroad. The other was to create a political front under its leadership and control. In 1951, Golwalkar sent cadres to help Shyama Prasad Mukherjee to start the Bharatiya Jan Sangh, whose later incarnate is today’s BJP. Among those sent were Deen Dayal Upadhyaya, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and L.K. Advani.
This entire organisational structure was to achieve the political goal which was unambiguously articulated in Golwalkar’s book. This exercise was an attempt to establish the RSS interpretation of ‘swaraj’ — ‘swa’ meaning ‘we’ and ‘raj’ meaning ‘rule’. Accordingly, Golwalkar proceeds to assert that we means ‘Hindus’ and, hence, swaraj means ‘Hindu Raj’ or ‘Hindu Rashtra’.
Taking recourse to mythology instead of history, theology instead of philosophy, Golwalkar ‘established’ that the Hindus were always, and continue to remain, a nation. He proceeds to assert the intolerant, theocratic content of such a Hindu nation. “... the conclusion is unquestionably forced upon us that... in Hindusthan exists and must need exist the ancient Hindu nation and nought else but the Hindu nation. All those not belonging to the national i.e. Hindu race, religion, culture and language naturally fall out of the pale of real ‘National’ life.”
Consequently, only those movements are truly ‘national’ that aim at rebuilding, revitalising and emancipating the Hindu nation from “its present stupor”. The only nationalist patriots are those who, aspiring to glorify the Hindu race and nation, are prompted into activity and strive to achieve that goal. “All others are either traitors and enemies to the national cause, or, to take a charitable view, idiots” (page 43 and 44).
He continues, “So long... as they maintain their racial, religious and cultural differences, they cannot but be only foreigners”. (page 45). And further: “There are only two courses open to the foreign elements — either to merge themselves in the national race and adopt its culture, or to live at its mercy so long as the national race may allow them to do so and to quit the country at the sweet will of the national race...
From this standpoint, sanctioned by the experience of shrewd old nations, the foreign races in Hindusthan must either adopt the Hindu culture and language, must learn to respect and hold in reverence Hindu religion, must entertain no idea but those of the glorification of the Hindu race and culture, i.e. of the Hindu nation, and must lose their separate existence to merge in the Hindu race, or may stay in the country, wholly subordinated to the Hindu nation, claiming nothing, deserving no privileges, far less any preferential treatment — not even citizen’s rights. There is... no other course for them to adopt. We are an old nation; let us deal, as old nations ought to and do deal with the foreign races who have chosen to live in our country”. (pages 47 and 48)
And how should such “old nations” deal with the “foreign races”? The adulation of fascist Germany could not have been more brazen. “To keep up the purity of the race and its culture, Germany shocked the world by her purging the country of the semitic races — the Jews. Race pride at its highest has been manifested here. Germany has also shown how well nigh impossible it is for races and cultures, having differences going to the root, to be assimilated into one united whole, a good lesson for us in Hindusthan to learn and profit by”. (page 35)
Thus, clearly, this RSS vision of establishing a fascistic Hindu Rashtra and the organisational structure evolved by Golwalkar stand in absolute antagonism to the very conception of a secular, democratic, modern Indian republic enshrined in the Indian Constitution. In a pluralistic democracy, everybody has the right to propagate their views and observe their occasions. While they are welcome to exercise this right, it enjoins upon all Indian patriots to make an impassioned evaluation of what these constitute for the future of our republic.
In the 60th year of our Independence, the effort to consolidate the modern Indian republic based on the foundations of secular democracy, federalism, social justice and economic self-reliance requires the democratic ostracisation of such pernicious political projects.
Sitaram Yechury is a Rajya Sabha MP and member, CPI(M) politburo.