By A. G. NOORANI[*]
(In the 1984 General Election, the BJP won a mere 2 seats; in late 1989 it won 85 seats. The rise was due entirely to its adoption, in June 1989, of the demand that the Babri Masjid be “handed over to the Hindus” (Christopher Jaffrelot; The Hindu Nationalist Movement in India; Viking, 1996; p. 382). Three years later the Masjid was demolished. In 1998 the BJP won power at the Centre at the head for ramshackle Coalition. In 2014 it won power in a landslide victory.
During this entire phase the RSS perfected its control over the BJP which, in turn, began espousing more stridently than ever before the credo of Hindutva.
Students of politics scoured Communist texts in order to understand what the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolshevik) stood for. A similar exercise is necessary to understand the ideology of India’s ruling party, the BJP. – Author)
Ninety years after it was founded in Nagpur in September 1925 on the festival of Dussehra, which commemorates the victory of Ram over the demon Rawana, the Rashtriya Swayam Sevak is securely ensconced in the driving seat of power. Its life-long activist (pracharak), Narendra Modi, is Prime Minsiter. Its top policy-making body Akhil Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha, met at Nagpur for a three day conference from 13-15 March 2015. The Bharatiya Janata Party’s President, Amit Shah, a Modi acolyte whom he nominated to the post, was in attendance.
The RSS supremo (Sarsanghchalak) Mohan Bhagwat said that the time was ripe for the spread of its ideology, Hindutva. His aide the General Secretary (Sarkaryavah) Bhaiyyaji Joshi proudly declared “Over the last three years, we have been able to reach 55,000 villages. We have 6.5 lakh villages in the country. Our endeavour would be to try and reach them all.” The essence of the message was summed up by his junior, Joint General Secretary, Dattatreya Hosabale, on the very first day of the session. All Indians are “culturally, nationally and DNA-wise Hindus”. There are just no minorities. “Whom do you call minorities? We don’t consider anybody to be a minority. There should be no minority concept in the country because there is no minority … Mohan Bhagwatji has said that, all those born in India are Hindus.”
He was referring to Bhagwat’s remarks on 9 February that “Hindustan is a Hindu rashtra, which is a fact. We are going with this (idea). All Hindus have to be united to make the country great”. He added, significantly, that this is a “favourable time” to propagate that ideology. A BJP Government is in power not only at the Centre but in a good few States. It has been busy packing State institutions with RSS men. The powerful and highly influential Central Board of Film Censors was packed with its men with a Chairman who had campaigned for the BJP in the elections. The National Book Trust acquired, a Chairman who was once editor of the RSS Hindi Organ Panchjanya, ousting the incumbent without cause. The Indian Council of Historical Research was entirely reconstituted with 18 fresh appointees including office-bearers of the RSS-backed Akhil Bharatiya Itihas Sankalan Yojana; a front that seeks to rewrite history.
Conversions to Hinduism became common as ghar wapsi (returning home). But a Muslim marrying a Hindu is “love jihad” triggering off riots. Churches have been vandalised galore. This is a revival of the menace that came to the fore when Atal Behari Vajpayee headed the first BJP Government (1998-2004). On 4 December 1998, nearly 23 million Christians across the country observed a protest day demanding that the governments at the Centre and in the states check the growing violence against members of the community. A letter of protest, drawn up by the United Christians’ Forum for Human Rights (UCFHR), said: “Since January 1998 there has been more violence against the Christian community than in all the 50 years of the country’s Independence. Nuns have been raped, priests executed, Bibles burnt, churches demolished, educational institutions destroyed and religious people harassed.” This is persecution in the strict dictionary meaning of the word “pursue with enmity and ill-treatment.”
Now as then, the attacks mounted steeply after the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Government assumed office in March 1998. The then Archbishop of Delhi, Alan de Lastic, said “What I have noticed is that ever since this Government came to power at the Centre, the attacks on Christians and Christian missionaries have increased” (Sunday, 22 November 1998). The Government wilfully refused to condemn them. Modi is studiously silent now.
Christians did not rush to register their protest, as they did on 4 December 1998, but for long kept pleading for succour. On 1 October 1998 the National Secretary of the All India Catholic Union (AICU), John Dayal, pointedly remarked; “The AICU is surprised that Union Government and members of the ruling coalition, including the BJP, have not come out categorically in denouncing the violence against Christians.”
Sanjay Basak’s report of 17 March 1999 says: ‘With a friendly government at the Centre, the RSS intends to step up its activities for the ‘creation for a Hindu rashtra.’ The RSS is likely to start the process of finalising its “blue-print” on the Hindu ideology. On 29 April 2000 at Chandigarh, K. Sudarshan, then RSS supremo advocated the undoing of the partition by annexing Pakistan: “At the appropriate time, we will form Akhand Bharat [United India]. We have to regain the areas which we lost in 1947. We have to regain Lahore – the Capital of Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s Khalsa Raj. We have to reclaim Nankana Sahib and several other religious places, as also Sindhu [Indus] and Kasoor. The feeling for ‘Akhand Bharat’ has to survive because it is akin to the feeling that led to the unification of Germany, Vietnam and Poland [sic]. Partition of India was wrong.” (The Statesman; 30 April 2000).
Meanwhile, attacks on the Christians continued unabated. The late Archbishop of Delhi, Alan de Lastic, wrote to Prime Minister Vajpayee once again in May 2000 drawing his attention to it: “But there has been no response to the appeal from the prime Minister’s Office,” Seema Mustafa reported (Asian Age; 14 May). The All-India Christian Council laid the blame for the spurt in the attacks squarely where it belonged – the Government of India. Its President Dr. Joseph D’Souza said on 16 June 2000, at Chennai, “We are intrigued by the response of the Central and State Governments who refuse to see the pattern of the violence”.
In 2015 the atmosphere has been dangerously poisoned. The RSS and its men in power have declared open season on rhetoric of hate. In his very first speech to Parliament Modi referred to “a thousand years of slavery.” Attempts are made to rewrite service rules to permit recruitment of RSS men in the civil service in the States.
In every democracy the Prime Minister is a highly influential teacher; especially in the Third World. But Modi never once rebuked the RSS men for their excesses in word and deed. On 6 December 2014, an event was organised in Maharashtra to mark Nathuram Godse Shaurya Divas (Day) to eulogise Gandhi’s assassin. On 11 December 2014 a BJP member declared in the Rajya Sabha that Godse “was also a nationalist … He was a patriot”. Leading the pack is BJP MP, Yogi Adityanath. His main theme, propagated in rally after rally, is that the Government should not intervene in the RSS’ conversion programme, if Hindus who were “forcibly” converted want to become Hindus again. A senior leader of the RSS’ front Vishwa Hindu Parishad asserted on 14 December 2014 “At one point of time, the entire world was Hindu. There were 700 crore Hindus, and now there are just 100 crore” (Indian Express; 15 December 2014).
Modi has made a strong bid for alliance with the United States which explains its silence on the RSS’ outrages. At long last The New York Times broke the silence on 6 February 2015: “What will it take for Prime Minister Narendra Modi to speak out about the mounting violence against India’s religious minorities? Attacks at Christian places of worship have prompted no response from the man elected to represent and to protect all of India’s citizens. Nor has he addressed the mass conversion to Hinduism of Christians and Muslims who have been coerced or promised money. Mr. Modi’s continued silence before such troubling intolerance increasingly gives the impression that he either cannot or does not wish to control the fringe elements of the Hindu nationalist right.
“Recently, a number of Christian churches in India have been burned and ransacked. Last December, St. Sebastian’s Church in East Delhi was engulfed in fire. … Ceremonial vessels were taken, yet collection boxes full of cash were untouched. Alarmed by the attacks, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India has urged the government to uphold the secular nature of India and to assure its Christians they are “protected and secure” in their own country.
“There is also concern about the mass conversions. Last December, about 200 Muslims were converted to Hinduism in Agra. In January, upto 100 Christians in West Bengal “reconverted” to Hinduism. Hard-line Hindu nationalist groups, like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (V.H.P.) and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (R.S.S.), make no secret of their support for a ‘homecoming’ campaign designed to ‘return’ non-Hindus to the fold. More than 80 percent of Indians are Hindu, but Pravin Togadia of the V.H.P. says his organisation’s goal is a country that is 100 percent Hindu. The only way to achieve that is to deny religious minorities their faith.”
Julio Ribeiro is a legendary figure and a devout Christian. He was Police Commissioner, Mumbai and DGP, Gujarat. At PM Rajiv Gandhi’s personal request he stepped down as Secretary in the Union Home Ministry to become DGP, Punjab where he narrowly escaped an attempt on his life. He was sent as Ambassador to Romania. What he wrote in an article published in Indian Express on 16 March 2015 makes poignant reading: “Today, in my 86th year, I feel threatened, not wanted, reduced to a stranger in my own country. The same category of citizens who had put their trust in me to rescue them from a force they could not comprehend have now come out of the woodwork to condemn me for practising a religion that is different from theirs. I am not an Indian anymore, at least in the eyes of the proponents of the Hindu Rashtra.
“Is it coincidence or a well-thought-out plan that the systematic targeting of a small and peaceful community should begin only after the BJP government of Narendra Modi came to power last May? “Ghar wapsi”, the declaration of Christmas as “Good Governance Day”, the attack on Christian churches and schools in Delhi, all added to a sense of siege that now afflicts these peaceful people.
“It is tragic that these extremists have been emboldened beyond permissible limits by an atmosphere of hate and distrust. The Christian population, a mere 2 per cent of the total populace, has been subjected to a series of well-directed body blows. If these extremists later turn their attention to Muslims, which seems to be their goal, they will invite consequences that this writer dreads to imagine.
“I was somewhat relieved when our Prime Minister finally spoke up at a Christian function in Delhi a few days ago. But the outburst of Mohan Bhagwat against Mother Teresa, an acknowledged saint – acknowledged by all communities and peoples – has put me back on the hit list. Even more so because BJP leaders, even ministers like Meenakshi Lekhi, chose to justify their chief’s remarks.” The article was entitled “I feel I am on a hit list” with the sub-title “And, as a Christian, suddenly a stranger in my own country”.
Why are the Christians being targeted by the RSS-BJP combo, popularly called the Sangh Parivar (Family)? It is simply because, like the Muslims, their faith had its origins outside India. Neither a record of patriotism nor assimilation in public life – in the army and the civil service – nor achievements in education and health services can wipe out the past. The animosity is of recent origin. Theirs is not a case of ancient, remembered and imaginary wrongs which are being sought to be avenged now by a hate campaign. The distinguished scholars Susanne Hoeber Rudolph and Lloyd I. Rudolph, point out in an incisive analysis which bears the appropriate title ‘Modern Hate’ (The New Republic; 22 March 1993): “Recent news accounts that depict the violence as an outgrowth of old animosities are misleading. Hindus and Muslims in India under the Mughal emperor Akbar, the nationalistic leadership of Mahatma Gandhi and the Congress governments of Jawahalal Nehru have gotten along more often than they have gone for each other’s throats. So did Serbs, Croats and Muslims under Tito in Yugoslavia. Clinton and others too easily invoke “ancient hatreds” to explain what are really contemporary conflicts. The question, in other words, is not why old conflicts are flaring up anew, but rather why traditionally harmonious mosaics have been shattered. ….
“Political language in the nationalist era sometimes used religious symbols to make politics meaningful to common people for whom religion was a natural idiom. Religious language, however, is capable of many different forms of expression. Some nationalists used Hindu religious symbolism that excluded Muslims. B. G. Tilak, India’s most influential popular leader before Mahatma Gandhi, led the way in inventing “communalism”, the term Indians use for community exclusivism and chauvinism. In the 1890s, keen to build a mass following, he revived a Maharashtrian festival commemorating the birth of Shiva’s elephant-headed son, Ganesh, Hinduism’s most beloved deity. For ten days each year villagers poured into cities and towns to celebrate and hear recitations of Hindu epic poetry. Ganapati festivals became occasions for clashes with Muslims when paramilitary “Ganesh guards” directed noisy parades past mosques at prayer time. Muslims began to retaliate by acts of profanation and desacralization, “killing cows” and cutting auspicious peepul trees. Bengali nationalists wrote plays and songs that alienated Muslims by using the theme of opposition to Muslim kings as a surrogate for opposition to British rule….
‘Ancient hatreds’ are thus made as much as they are inherited. To call them ancient is to pretend they are primordial forces, outside of history and human agency, when often they are merely synthetic antiques. Intellectuals, writers, artists and politicians ‘make’ hatreds. Films and videos, texts and textbooks, certify stories about the past, the collective memories that shape perceptions and attitudes.”
What they write of Muslims is true also of Christians in the RSS’ Bible which, as will be pointed out presently, excoriates these two communities jointly; Parsis and Jews are lauded. The origins of Hindu revivalism in the 19th century are ably traced in an erudite but neglected work by Dr. B. R. Purohit entitled, ‘Hindu Revivalism and Indian Nationalism’ (Madhupriya; 86, Hamidiya Raod, Bhopal 462 001; 1990). He traces in detail the rise of Hindu revivalism under iconic figures like Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Swami Dayanand Saraswati (who founded the Arya Samaj and propagated Shuddhi) Swami Vivekananda, Bankim Chandra Chatterjee (author of Anandmath which includes his poem Vande Matram), Bipinchandra Pal, Aurobindo Ghose; Bal Gangadhar Tilam. For a century and quarter, from 1800 onwards the ideology was being evolved and spread. Then came V. D. Savarkar, author of Hindutva (1924) which is of seminal importance. He presided over the Hindu Mahasabha and was greatly influenced by the Arya Samaj. Hindutva, in turn, was to have a profound influence on the RSS. The Mahasabha, which had small beginnings with more than one organisation since 1907 “to watch and safeguard the interests of the entire Hindu community in all respects”, was formally founded in 1921; the RSS was founded in 1925.
Indian nationalism was far worse for their exertions. As far back as in 1899, Lala Lajpat Rai asserted “Hindus are a nation in themselves, because they represent a civilisation all their own.” In the Lahore daily, The Tribune of 14 December 1924 he advocated partition of Punjab and Bengal on religious lines. But he also viewed with favour Maulana Hasrat Mohani’s suggestion of “a clear partition of India into a Muslim India and a non-Muslim India”.
Purohit’s conclusions are based on the record “Dayananda was the pioneer of the revivalist movement in India. He gave the clarion call of ‘Back to the Vedas’. He created a new temper of national and racial superiority by championing the cause of Vedic culture and of Aryan civilization. He saw in the infallible Vedas the knowledge of the past, the present and the future. He made Hinduism a proselytising religion by commending ‘Shuddhi’, i.e. reclamation and reconversion of those who had adopted other faiths. He founded the Arya Samaj for the ‘Sanghthan’ [Organisation] of the Hindus. Hinduism gained in militancy at the hands of the Swami. These forces gathered momentum with the Hindu Mahasabha and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. …
“The culmination of the forces of revivalism reached in the ideologies of the Hindu Mahasabha and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. The Mahasabha traced its origin to the Punjab where the Arya Samaj had already done the spade-work in arousing a Hindu consciousness. Even the erstwhile leaders of the Arya Samaj became the leaders of the Mahasabha. We maintain that the revivalist temper of the Arya Samaj was inherited by the Hindu Mahasabha. V. D. Savarkar became the most vociferous advocate of Hindu revivalism. His appeal to the golden past of the Hindus was full-throated, and equally strong was his plea for reviving it in modern times for the defence of ‘Hindu Rashtra’. He articulately reminded the Hindus of the virility of their race and strove to arouse a pan-Hindu consciousness to knit them into a ‘Hindu Rashtra’. His Hindu-Pad-Padshahi is a nostalgic piece of revivalist literature, espousing the cause of Hindu Nation and Hindu Empire.
“With the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, Hindu revivalist forces reach their high watermark. Dr. K. B. Hedgewar founded the RSS at Nagpur in 1925. he was greatly influenced by B. G. Tilak and was a ideological associate of V. D. Savarkar. With this ideological background the RSS vigorously championed the cause of Hindu culture, Hindu race and eve of Hindudom.”
The impact of this ideology on Indian nationalism was far reaching. Hindu nationalism began to supplant Indian nationalism and affected its quality, vigour and growth. “The forces of Hindu nationalism defended by the Hindu Mahasabha and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, presented a formidable challenge to the growing forces of Indian nationalism during the thirties and the forties of the twentieth century. It was, so to say, a struggle for existence between two ideologies, and as such there could be little room for co-operation between the rival ideologies. Its positive qualities apart, in so far as Hindu nationalism clung to its limited ideal and lost sight of the comprehensive national ideal, it did hinder the steady growth of the Indian national movement.”
After independence these very forces opposed Jawaharlal Nehru because of his espousal of the concept of a secular State. Gandhi’s assassination caused a momentary setback to these forces. Savarkar and his Hindu Mahasabha went into oblivion. The RSS fought back and emerged as a powerful force in India’s politics. Its founder was Keshav Baliram Hedgewar, a medical doctor and his mentor was Balkrishna Shivram Moonje. Both were members of the Indian National Congress.
Every member is required to take this oath. “Before the All-Powerful God and my ancestors, I most solemnly take this oath, that I become a member of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh in order to achieve all-round greatness of Bharatvarsh by fostering the growth of my sacred Hindu religion, Hindu society and Hindu culture. I shall perform the work of the Sangh honestly, disinterestedly, with my heart and soul, and I shall adhere to this oath all my life”. (D.R. Goyal; Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh; Radha Krishna, New Delhi; 2000; p. 200).
Walter K. Anderson, a scholar formerly of the US State Department and now at the John Hopkins University, wrote an able study with Shridhar D. Damble (The Brotherhood in Saffron; Vistasr Publications, 1987).
The book describes the RSS’ fascist setup accurately. The basic unit is the shakha comprising 50-100 members. Above the shakha in the pyramid of authority is the mandal committee (composed of representatives from three or four shakhas in a given locality); representatives from ten to twelve mandals form a nagar (city) committee. Above the city committees there may be zilla (district) and vibhag (regional) committees. Most of the day-to-day work in this structure takes place at the city level. The city committee consists of a sanghchalak (who occupies a position analogous to the karyavah in the shakha) and the heads of the RSS departments (physical training, intellectual programs, recruitment, financial secretary). The committee meets weekly. The decisions (as well as orders from above) are transmitted down to the mandal through a karyavah (secretary), who usually presides over its deliberations. Representatives from each shakha are represented on the mandal committee, and the mukhya shikshak and/or the local pracharak pass on orders and information to the lowest level of the communications circuit.
The Prantiya Pratinidhi Sabhas (state assemblies) are deliberative bodies, but exercise no real power. The state sanghchalak will be elected by the state assembly, and he, in consultation with the state pracharak will appoint lower level office bearers. The sanghchalaks, with few exceptions, exercise very little power over the day-to-day activities of the RSS.
The Akhil-Bharartiya Pratinidhi Sabha, like its counterparts on the state level, meets once a year, and it includes delegates chosen by the state assemblies, sanghchalaks and pracharaks, and members of the central executive. It has no effective power. Administrative power is exercised by the Kendriya Karyakari Mandal (central working committee) and the general secretary. Real power in the RSS structure resides with the pracharaks, who form a communications network outside the “constitutional” system. They are the links between the various levels of the RSS. They have the commitment, expertise, and time to manage RSS activities.
Many of the pracharaks are loaned to the affiliates of the RSS like the BJP. The pracharaks “on loan” have a dual loyalty – one to the RSS and the other to the affiliated organisation. “Almost all pracharaks whom we interviewed stated that their primary loyalty was to the RSS, though they were careful to note that the RSS did not dictate policy to them. Should an affiliate develop on a separate path from the RSS, all insisted that they would immediately leave it.” (pp. 86-87).
Narendra Modi is a proud pracharak of long standing. The Sarsangchalak Supremo is nominated by his predecessor. He is not elected. Till 1949 the RSS had no written constitution. It acquired one that year to persuade the Government of India to lift the ban imposed on it on 4 February 1948 soon after Gandhi’s assassination on 30 January 1948. It was lifted on 11 July 1949, thanks largely to the Home Minister Vallabhai Patel’s sympathetic attitude towards the RSS which was reflected in his correspondence with the RSS supremo M. S. Golwalkar.
These extracts from the RSS’ Constitution speak for themselves. “Whereas in the disintegrated conditions of the country it was considered to have an Organisation.
(a) to eradicate the fissiparous tendencies arising from diversities of sect, faith, caste and creed and from political, economic, linguistic and provincial differences among Hindus;
(b) to make them realise the greatness of their past;
(c) to inculcate in them a spirit of service sacrifice and selfless devotion to the Hindu Samaj, as a whole;
(d) to build up an organised and well-disciplined corporate life; and
(e) to bring about an all-round regeneration of the Hindu Samaj;
And whereas the Organisation known as “THE RASHTRIYA SWAYAMSEWAK SANGH” was started on the Vijaya Dashmi day in the year 1982 Vikram Samvat (1925 A.D.) by the late Dr. Keshav Baliram Hedgewar;
And wheress Shri Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar was nominated by the said Dr. Hedgewar to succeed him in the year 1997 Vikram Samvat (1940 A.D.);
And whereas the Sangh had till now no written constitution;
And whereas in the present changed conditions, it is deemed expedient to reduce to writing the constitution as also the Aims and Objects of the Sangh and its Method of work;
Th Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh hereby adopts the following constitution:
THE RULES AND REGULATIONS
The name of the Organisation is “THE RASHTRIYA SWAYAMSEWAK SANGH”.
The Head Office of the Sangh is at NAGPUR.
AIMS AND OBJECTS
The Aims and Objects of the Sangh are to weld together the diverse groups within the Hindu Samaj and to revitalise and rejuvenate the same on the basis of its Dharma and Sanskriti, that it may achieve an al-sided development of the Bharatvarsha.
(a) The Sangh believes in orderly evolution of the Society and adheres to peaceful and legitimate means for the realisation of its ideals. (b) In consonance with the cultural heritage of the Hindu Samaj, the Sangh has abiding faith in the fundamental principle of tolerance towards all faiths. The Sangh, as such, has no politics and is devoted purely to cultural work. The individual swayamsewaks, however, may join any political party, except such parties as believe in or resort to violent and secret methods to achieve their ends; persons owing allegiance to such parties or believing in such methods shall have no place in the Sangh.
Thus there is at the top the Sarsanghachalak. Below him are: Sar Karyavaha, Kendriya Karyakari Mandal, Akhil Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha, Prant, Vibhag, Zila etc. Sangh Chalaks, Pracharaks, Prantiya, Vibhag, Zilla etc., Karyakari Mandals and Prantiya Pratinidhi Sabha
Article 12 says: Late Dr. Keshav Baliram Hedewar, the Founder of the Sangh, was the Adya (First) Sar Sangh chalak. Shri Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar was nominated Sar Sangh chalak by him in consultation with the then Kendriya Mandal. He is the Sar Sangh chalak since then. The Sar Sangh chalak will nominate his successor, as and when the necessity arises, with the consent of the then Kendriya Karyakari Mandal.
“The Sar Sangh chalak is the guide and philosopher of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh. He may attend, summon or address any assembly of the swayamsewaks, prantinidhi sabhas, and karyakari mandals, severally or jointly.” (Goyal; pp. 206-210). The elective principle lies at the base as in a Basic Democracy. It is the supremo and his cabal who lay down the law.
In 1951 on the eve of India’s first general election this fascist body gave birth to a political party the Bharatiya Jan Sangh which Jawaharlal Nehru aptly called “the illegitimate child of the RSS” (The Hindu; 6 January 1952). The circumstances in which the deal was concluded justify Nehru’s remarks. The Jan Sangh was born in deceit. The Constituent Assembly in India passed a resolution on 3 April 1948 which urged a ban on “any political organisation which excludes from its membership persons on grounds of religion, race and caste. …” Shyama Prasad Mookerjee, a Hindu Mahasabha leader and member of Nehru’s first Cabinet (1947-50), was party to this resolution. He resigned from the Cabinet in April 1950 on the Nehru-Liaquat Pact. The quest that he then began led him to a deal with the RSS supremo M.S. Golwalkar. His associate Balraj Madhok writes in his biography of Mookerjee:
“It was clear to [Mookerjee] … that he must have a political platform outside the Parliament to project his point of view. … [He] suggested to Hindu Mahasabha leaders that they should open their doors to all Indians, irrespective of their caste and creed and become a really democratic nationalist platform for men like him. This was not acceptable to Hindu Mahasabha. He therefore decided to create a new political platform. …
“The RSS leaders had also begun to feel the urgent need of a political organization which could reflect the ideology and ideas of the RSS in the political sphere. … The RSS approach to the problems of culture, nationalism, and partition had his [Mookerjee’s] approval. He, therefore, instinctively felt that any political organisation sponsored by, or enjoying the confidence of RSS could surely and speedily become such a force in the political life of the country as may command his fullest allegiance and also succeed in mobilizing and consolidating the non-Congress and non-Communist nationalist public opinion into an effective Opposition. …
“It was decided that the RSS should continue to be a social and cultural organisation as before but it should actively support a political party for the running of which it would spare some senior workers and allow its goodwill to be used by such a party. … A meeting was arranged between Dr. Mookerjee and Shri Golwalkar. Dr. Mookerjee with his eye on the forthcoming elections was in a hurry to form the new party of his conception. … It was in this meeting that the proposed party was tentatively christened ‘Bharatiya Jan Sangh’ – Indian People’s Party. In the discussions of the day the approach of the proposed political party to the term ‘Hindu Rashtra’ and its political, social and cultural implications figured prominently.” (Portrait of a Martyr; Jaico, 1969; pp. 90-100).
On 7 October 1949, during Nehru’s absence abroad, Patel was able to get the Congress Working Committee to open the Congress membership to RSS men. Nehru had the decision rescinded after his return on 7 November. RSS men could join the Congress only if they gave up its membership.
The Jan Sangh merged with the Janata Party and dissolved itself on 1 May 1977. On 5 April 1980 it revived itself as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The break was over dual membership of the RSS.
In the 1984 General Election, the BJP won a mere 2 seats; in late 1989 it won 85 seats. The rise was due entirely to its adoption, in June 1989, of the demand that the Babri Masjid be “handed over to the Hindus” (Christopher Jaffrelot; The Hindu Nationalist Movement in India; Viking, 1996; p. 382). Three years later the Masjid was demolished. In 1998 the BJP won power at the Centre at the head of a ramshackle Coalition. In 2014 it won power in a landslide victory.
During this entire phase the RSS perfected its control over the BJP which, in turn, began espousing more stridently than ever before the credo of Hindutva.
Students of politics scoured Communist texts in order to understand what the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolshevik) stood for. A similar exercise is necessary to understand the ideology of India’s ruling party, the BJP. Three texts define its credo. Savarkar’s ‘Hindutva’ comes first. He held: “To every Hindu, from the Santal to the Sadhu this Bharat Bhumi this Sindhusthan is at once a Pitribhu and a Punyabhu – fatherland and a holy land.
“That is why in the case of some of our Mohammedan or Christian countrymen who had originally been forcibly converted to a non-Hindu religion and who consequently have inherited along with Hindus, a common Fatherland and a greater part of the wealth of a common culture – language, law, customs, folklore and history – are not and cannot be recognized as Hindus. For though Hindusthan to them is Fatherland as to any other Hindu yet it is not to them a Holyland too. Their holyland is far off in Arabia or Palestine. Their mythology and Godmen, ideas and heroes are not the children of this soil. Consequently their names and their outlook smack of a foreign origin. Their love is divided. Nay, if some of them be really believing what they profess to do, then there can be no choice – they must, to a man, set their Holyland above their Fatherland in their love and allegiance. That is but natural. We are not condemning nor are we lamenting. We are simply telling facts as they stand. We have tried to determine the essentials of Hindutva and in doing so we have discovered that the Bohras and such other Mohammedan or Christian communities possess all the essential qualifications of Hindutva but one and that is that they do not look upon India as their Holyland…
“Ye, who by race, by blood, by culture, by nationality possess almost all the essentials of Hindutva and had been forcibly snatched out of our ancestral home by the hand of violence – ye, have only to render whole-hearted love to our common Mother and recognise her not only as Fatherland (Pitribhu) but even as a Holyland (punyabhu); and ye would be most welcome to the Hindu fold.”
“These are the essentials of Hindutva – a common nation (Rashtra) a common race (Jati) and a common civilization (Sanskriti). All these essentials could best be summed up by stating in brief that he is a Hindu to whom Sindhusthan is not only a Pitribhu but also a Punyabhu. For the first two essentials of Hindutva – nation and Jati – are clearly denoted and connoted by the word Pitribhu while the third essential of Sanskriti is pre-eminently implied by the word Punyabhu, as it is precisely Sanskriti including sanskaras i.e. rites and rituals, ceremonies and sacraments, that makes a land a Holyland.”
Next comes the RSS supremo M. S. Golwalkar’s, ‘We or Our Natitionhood Defined’ (1939) (Shamsul Islam (Ed.); Pharos Media & Publishing Pvt. Ltd., Jamia Nagar, New Delhi 110 025; 2006). His doctrine was as pernicious. “Applying the modern understanding of ‘Nation’ to our present conditions, the conclusion is unquestionably forced upon us that in this country, Hindusthan, the Hindu Race with its Hindu Religion, Hindu Culture and Hindu Language, (the natural family of Sanskrit and her offsprings) complete the Nation concept; that, in fine, in Hindusthan exists and must needs 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.
“We repeat; in Hindusthan, the land of the Hindus, lives and should live the Hindu Nation – satisfying all the five essential requirements of the scientific nation concept of the modern world. Consequently only those movements are truly ‘National’ as aim at re-building, re-vitalising and emancipating from its present stupor, the Hindu Notion. Those only are nationalist patriots, who, with the aspiration to glorify the Hindu race and Nation next to their heart, 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.” (pp. 43-44).
Like Savarkar he offers the non-Hindus an option. “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. That is the only sound view on the minorities problem. That is the only logical and correct solution. That alone keeps the national life healthy and undisturbed. That alone keeps the Nation safe from the danger of a cancer developing into its body politic of the creation of a state within the state. 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, at least should be, 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.” (pp. 47-8).
Golwalkar “perfected” his thoughts in his magnus opus, ‘Bunch of Thoughts’ (1968; Vikram Prakashan, Bangalore). Here are some excerpts: “In fact, it connotes the same meaning as ‘Hindu’. But today, there is a misconception even regarding the word ‘Bharatiya’. It is commonly used as a translation of the word ‘Indian’ which includes all the various communities like the Muslim, Christian, Parsi etc., residing in this land. So, the word ‘Bharatiya’ too is likely to mislead us when we want to denote our particular society. The word ‘Hindu’ alone connotes correctly and completely the meaning that we want to convey.” (p. 98)
“All the requisites for making a full-fledged nation are thus fulfilled in the life of this great Hindu people. Therefore, we say that in this land of ours, Bharat, the national life is of the Hindu people. In short, this is the Hindu Nation.
“The question before us now is, what is the attitude of those people who have been converted to Islam or Christianity? They are born in this land, no doubt. But are they true to its salt? Are they grateful towards this land which has brought them up? Do they feel that they are the children of this land and its tradition, and that to serve it is their great good fortune? Do they feel it a duty to serve her? No!”
“Everybody knows that only a handful of Muslims came here as enemies and invaders. So also only a few foreign Christian missionaries came here. Now the Muslims and Christians have enormously grown in number. They did not grow just by multiplication as in the case of fishes. They converted the local population. We can trace our ancestry to a common source, from where one portion was taken away from the Hindu fold and became Muslim and another became Christian. The rest could not be converted and they have remained as Hindus. Now, how did the converts leave their ancestral home? Was it out of their own sweet will and out of conviction of the superiority of those faiths? Well, history does not record a single notable instance of that sort.
“On the contrary, history tells us that the reason was the fear of death or coercion or the various temptations of power, position etc., and the desire to please the powers that be by adopting their ways and customs and finally even taking to their faiths. There was a lot of deception also.
“It is our duty to call these our forlorn brothers, suffering under religious slavery for centuries, back to their ancestral home. As honest freedom-loving men, let them overthrow all signs of slavery and domination and follow the ancestral ways of devotion and national life. All types of slavery are repugnant to our nature and should be given up. This is a call for all those brothers to take their original place in our national life. And let us all celebrate a great Diwali on the return of those prodigal sons of our society. There is no compulsion here. This is only a call and request to them to understand things properly and come back and identify themselves with their ancestral Hindu way of life in dress, customs, performing marriage ceremonies and funeral rites and such other things.
“There are some people who claim that they have achieved unity of Hindus, Muslims, Christians and all others on the political and economic plane. But why limit the oneness only there? Why not make it more wide and more comprehensive so as to fuse them all in the Hindu way of life, in our dharma and take them back as lost brothers?”
“Here was already a full-fledged ancient nation of the Hindus and the various communities which were living in the country were here either as guests, the Jews and Parsis, or as invaders, the Muslims and Christians. They never faced the question how all such heterogeneous groups could be called as children of the soil merely because, by an accident, they happened to reside in a common territory under the rule of a common enemy. …
“The theories of territorial nationalism and of common danger, which formed the basis for 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 the freedom struggle, its leaders and the common people.
“The first thing they preached was, that our nationality could not be called Hindu, that even our land could not be called by its traditional name Hindusthan, as that would have offended the Muslim. The name ‘India’ given by the British was accepted. Taking that name, the ‘new nation’ was called the ‘Indian Nation’. And the Hindu was asked to rename himself as ‘Indian’.”
“If we are to rise again as a nation, we must correct the initial blunder which are committed in accepting a newfangled idea of nationalism, which experience has proved to be absolutely false and ruinous. Let us not be deluded into a wrong track by the wily propaganda of interested persons. We have been sufficiently fooled uptill now by their exhortation that we Hindus, who are having a great philosophy of human brotherhood, catholicity of spirit and so on, should not narrow ourselves by the talk of Hindu Nationalism and all such ‘communal’, ‘medieval’ and ‘reactionary’ ideas! We must be able to see through the game and revert to the truth of our nationalism as an ancient fact and the Hindus being the national society of Bharat.”
Chapter XII covers “Internal Threats”. They are “The Muslims”; “The Christians”; and “The Communists”. The last dropped out; the first two survive. Another Chapter, on “Territorial Nationalism” refutes the concept totally. It opts for “Cultural Nationalism” a concept which the BJP’s election manifestoes repeatedly supported along with Hindutva. “Cultural” means “religious”. The conclusion of course is – only Hindus form the nation. There is no such thing as Indian nationalism.
The RSS did more than get the BJP to adopt its ideology in toto. It riveted its control as well. It had three Presidents thrown out – Mauli Chandra Sharma had to resign on 3 November 1954, Balraj Madhok was expelled by President L. K. Advani on 13 March 1973; and Advani had to quit on 31 December 2005 because while on a tour of Pakistan he had written in praise of Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah in the visitors’ book at his mausoleum in Karachi on 4 June 2005. Advani tried his best to avert the humiliation. While resigning he was careful to praise the RSS while gently complaining of its interference in the manner of an obedient adolescent to his parent.
The RSS’s control is now complete. It seconded its official spokesman Ram Madhav to the BJP which made him its General Secretary. He negotiated the BJP’s pact with the PDP in Kashmir so that the 79 year old Mufti Mohammed Sayeed could become Chief Minister. The RSS’ prachaak of old Narendra Modi is Prime Minister of India. He appointed his confidant, Amit Shah, as Party President. No Prime Minister, not even Nehru, has wielded more power than Modi does. Never has the RSS, an extra-constitutional body exercised greater power over an elected government than it does today.
Time has proved the covertness of Andersen and Dunker’s assessment made thirty years ago. “It is questionable if the BJP could survive politically without the RSS cadre, and the cadre will not stay unless the leadership of the party stays firmly in the hands of the ‘brotherhood.’ ”
[*] The author is an eminent Indian scholar and expert on constitutional issues.