Hindu nationalism in India : ideology and politics [1. ed.]
 9780367253325, 0367253321

Table of contents :
Introduction --
Part I. Ideological Foundations: nationalism in its theoretical springs: 1. Redesigning the Indian nation: politico-ideological priorities of Dayananda, Vivekananda and Aurobindo --
2. VD Savarkar (1883-1966): an activist ideologue --
3. MS Golwalkar (1906-1973): an insightful organizer --
4. Deendayal Upadhyay (1916-1968): a demiurgic thinker --
Part II. Ideological Initiatives and Organizational Forms: 5. Physical Regeneration and Militarization of the Hindus --
6. Hindu Mahasabha (1915 --
): the moment of arrival --
7. Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (1925 --
): the moment of manoeuvre --
8. Bharatiya Jana Sangh (1951-1977): the moment of uncertainty --
9. Bharatiya Janata Party (1980 -): the moment of consolidation --
Conclusion --

Citation preview

Hindu Nationalism in India

This book offers an in-depth study of right-wing politics in India by analysing the shifting ideologies of Hindu nationalism and its evolution in the late nineteenth century through to twenty-first century. The authors provide a thorough overview of the chronological evolution of Hindu nationalist organizational outfits to reveal how Hindu nationalist ideology has adapted in ways that have not always corresponded with the orthodox Hindu nationalist position. An examination of the overriding preference for Hindu nationalism demonstrates how it has flourished and continues to remain relevant in contemporary India despite being marginalized at the dawn of India’s independence. The book demonstrates that Hindu nationalism is a context-driven ideological device which is sensitive to the ideas and priorities that gradually gain salience. It also explores Hindu nationalism as a vote-catching device, especially from the late twentieth century onwards. Providing a nuanced analysis of Hindu nationalism in India as a constantly evolving phenomenon, this book will be of interest to researchers on Asian political theory, nationalism, religious politics and South Asian and Indian politics. Bidyut Chakrabarty is the Vice Chancellor of Visva-Bharati, India. Bhuwan Kumar Jha is Assistant Professor in History at Satyawati College, University of Delhi, India. He is also Fellow at Nehru Memorial Museum & Library, New Delhi.

Routledge Studies in South Asian Politics

Radical Politics and Governance in India’s North East The Case of Tripura Harihar Bhattacharyya The Security State in Pakistan Legal Foundations Syed Raza The Socio-political Ideas of BR Ambedkar Liberal constitutionalism in a creative mould Bidyut Chakrabarty The Politics of US Aid to Pakistan Aid Allocation and Delivery from Truman to Trump Murad Ali India, Democracy and Constitutional Identity Ideological Beliefs and Preferences Bidyut Chakrabarty Sharia and the State in Pakistan Blasphemy Politics Farhat Haq Gender and Hindu Nationalism Understanding Masculine Hegemony Prem Kumar Vijayan Hindu Nationalism in India Ideology and Politics Bidyut Chakrabarty and Bhuwan Jha For more information about this series, please visit: www.routledge.com/ asianstudies/series/RSSAP

Hindu Nationalism in India Ideology and Politics

Bidyut Chakrabarty and Bhuwan Kumar Jha

First published 2020 by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN and by Routledge 52 Vanderbilt Avenue, New York, NY 10017 Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business © 2020 Bidyut Chakrabarty and Bhuwan Kumar Jha The right of Bidyut Chakrabarty and Bhuwan Kumar Jha to be identified as authors of this work has been asserted by them in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. Trademark notice: Product or corporate names may be trademarks or registered trademarks, and are used only for identification and explanation without intent to infringe. British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Names: Chakrabarty, Bidyut, 1958– author. | Jha, Bhuwan, author. Title: Hindu nationalism in India : ideology and politics / Bidyut Chakrabarty and Bhuwan Jha. Description: 1. | New York : Routledge, 2020. | Series: Routledge studies in South Asian politics | Includes bibliographical references and index. Identifiers: LCCN 2019036224 | ISBN 9780367253325 (hardback) | ISBN 9780429287220 (ebook) Subjects: LCSH: Hinduism and politics—India. | Nationalism—India. | India—Politics and government—20th century. | India—Politics and government—21st century. Classification: LCC BL1215.P65 C435 2020 | DDC 320.540954—dc23 LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2019036224 ISBN: 978-0-367-25332-5 (hbk) ISBN: 978-0-429-28722-0 (ebk) Typeset in Times New Roman by Apex CoVantage, LLC

Dedicated to those readers who encourage the exploration of the unknown


Preface Introduction

viii 1


Ideological foundation: nationalism at its theoretical springs 1


Conceptualizing Indian nationalism: the ideas of Dayananda, Vivekananda and Aurobindo



V. D. Savarkar (1883–1966): an activist ideologue



M. S. Golwalkar (1906–73): an insightful organizer



Deendayal Upadhyaya (1916–68): a demiurgic thinker



Ideological initiatives and organizational forms



Physical regeneration and militarization of the Hindus



Hindu Mahasabha (1915–): the moment of arrival



The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (1925–): the moment of manoeuvre



Bharatiya Jana Sangh (1951–77): the moment of uncertainty



Bharatiya Janata Party (1980–): the moment of consolidation




Bibliographical note Index

263 269


Hindu Nationalism in India is an attempt to understand Hindu nationalism as a phenomenon and also the processes leading to its increasing importance in mobilizing the electorates in its favour. The 2019 national poll is illustrative here, though the trend had begun in the last national poll held in 2014. Before that in 1996, 1998 and 1999 elections, the results had clearly, though not decisively, gone in its favour. This is however not a sudden development; the book argues by drawing attention to its roots even in the struggle that the nationalists had waged against colonialism. In view of the clear historical roots in the past, the book focuses on those intellectual tracts that provided a solid ideological foundation to the Hindu nationalist ideas. As well as dwelling on the rich legacy of the ideas in support of Hindu nationalism, the book also underlines how the idea gained momentum in the nationalist phase, presumably because it helped the nationalists build a strong platform by drawing primarily on the glorious Hindu past. It is now well-established that the Hindu nationalist ideas laid the foundation of a counter-narrative to the mainstream nationalist endeavour that largely drew on the Enlightenment values. Given the complex interplay of ideological forces derivative of both indigenous and exogenous sources, India’s freedom struggle cannot be understood monochromatically. For instance, India’s major social reformers, Dayananda Saraswati, Vivekananda and Aurobindo, among others, created a definite space for the ideas of Vedas, Upanishads and Puranas; for them, it was not an attempt to go back to the historical past, but a design to inspire the present generation which, by being blindly imitative of the derivative ideas on which Western civilization had rested, appear to have completely forgotten India’s rich sociocultural heritage. In a similar vein, Gandhi, despite his admiration for the Enlightenment ideas, had also appreciated the importance of Ramayana, Mahabharata and the Vedas, besides calling himself a Sanatani Hindu, in creating a nationalist fervor in a context when the indigenous thoughts and ideas seem to have escaped the nationalists’ attention. Ideas need organizational endorsement for survival and expansion. By dwelling on how the Hindu nationalist claim gradually gained credibility as an effective ideological tool, the book makes a persuasive statement on the dialectical interconnection between ideas and organization. A simple scan of global history confirms the contention. The Indian example shows that the Hindu nationalist

Preface ix ideas did not seem to be as inspirational as they became in the last decade of the twentieth century and its aftermath. There is however a cautionary note: Hindu nationalism became a strong mobilizing device at a time when the other contending ideological designs appear to have lost their appeal. It was indicative perhaps of a mental revolution when ideas other than those stemming from the Enlightenment philosophy seem to have been privileged which means that they caught the imagination of the people to the extent it was missing in the past. In other words, the success of the Hindu nationalist ideas in creating a politico-ideological platform could have been elusive had there not been a pool of dedicated workers and also cadres to champion the cause. So, there are two factors which explain the ascendancy of the Hindu nationalist forces: on the one hand, one may refer to the mass disenchantment with the mainstream nationalist ideas which are largely derivative of the Western sources; there is, on the other, the sustained organizational activities of those with faith in the Hindu nationalist ideas which yielded results in the course of time. While consolidation of the Hindus is the recurrent objective of this ideology, at another level it means appreciation of ideas and individuals which talk in terms of the greatness of the Indian civilization and/or advocate an indivisible nationhood. Sardar Patel, a lifelong leader of the Congress and never a member of the RSS or the Hindu Mahasabha, is held in high esteem for his crucial role in integrating princely states with the Indian dominion and restoration of the Somnath Temple in Gujarat. Another illustration, though not as significant, could be replacing the name of a prominent road in New Delhi after Aurangzeb with A.P.J. Abdul Kalam and naming another road after Dara Shikoh in recent years. It would be naïve to assume these steps as appropriating non-Hindutva figures for political gains, because a leader like Patel was already forgotten by the post-independence secular groups both in their academic formulations and electoral agenda. The terms like socialism and secularism, particularly the latter, have been indiscriminately deployed in the Indian intellectual and political discourse, more so after the independence. The Hindu nationalist ideology has been shown to be in their direct opposition. The enormity of the situation can be gauzed by the failure of the BJP to get suitable allies on multiple occasions in the past on this particular logic, leading even to the coining of the term ‘political untouchable’ for the party. While these terms which emerged in the West in specific contexts of their societies produced serious misunderstanding when deployed in the Indian context, the Hindu nationalist ideology located its indigenous version in integral humanism and sarva-dharma samabhava (or equal respect to all religions or sects) respectively. Its positing the case of minority appeasement as an example of ‘pseudosecularism’ has also worked in its favour. Why did we embark on this project? Reasons are manifold. Prominent among them is our heartfelt urge to comprehend the increasing importance of Hindu nationalism in India in contrast with the erstwhile mainstream politico-ideological priorities challenging the former as a divisive socio-political tool! Interestingly, there are many scattered academic tracts dealing with many aspects of the phenomenon. What we did was to develop a persuasive narrative in a conceptual



framework of Hindu nationalism; this is a conceptual framework which helps us grasp the emergence and also consolidation of a brand of right-wing politics; though the expression, right-wing, does not seem to connote the same spectrum in all circumstances. Primarily, the Indian version of right-wing is a careful endeavour at building a theoretical-conceptual design on the basis of indigenous intellectual resources. Whether this is a meaningful and desirable exercise is subject to debate; but what is most exciting is the possibility of an exploration of an area of enquiry that always remained peripheral due to the neglect of trends and ideas, at times deliberate, that even remotely talked of a glorious Indian past. Our effort is a modest beginning of an intellectual quest for those nationalistic designs which, despite being critical in political mobilization in the nationalist phase of India’s recent history, did never receive adequate scholarly attention. While being engaged in this exercise, we were encouraged by those fellow travellers who thought alike. Our friends, teachers, colleagues and admirers always stand by us which is a source of our sustenance. Being teachers, we are indebted to our students who, being always inquisitive, throw challenges which also allow us to explore the untrodden path of intellectual search across the globe. We are also grateful to our spouses who, notwithstanding being not always appreciative of what we undertake to satisfy our intellectual thrust, handled the domestic front most efficiently to allow us to concentrate on our academic feats. Although some of the chapters were written earlier, the book was completed in the serene environment of Visva Bharati, Santiniketan where one of the authors is discharging the role of the Vice Chancellor. We express our heartfelt gratitude to our colleagues, office staff and, of course, students who, by being supportive, made our task easier. We would like to put, on record, our appreciation for the Visva Bharati librarian, Dr Nemai Chand Saha, and his associates in the library for having procured books which we needed while finishing the manuscript. The contribution of Gopal in the office of the Vice Chancellor is immense since he sustained our energy by offering endless cups of tea to us and also made those who visited the Vice Chancellor happy by being equally generous in so far as the supply of cups of tea was concerned. We also record our appreciation of the help extended by the staff of the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library and the National Archives of India in New Delhi. The book, as stated previously, is primarily an analytical narrative of Hindu nationalism in India. As the 2014 and 2019 poll outcomes show, the Hindu nationalist ideas were effective in garnering votes in a democratic context when other ideological voices did not seem to be exactly weak. For us, this was an opportunity which allowed us to tread an untrodden path. Without the support of Routledge editor, Ms Dorothea Schaefter and her competent Assistant, Ms Alexandra deBrauw, it would not have been possible for us to embark on such a gigantic task. We are grateful to them. Finally, since our aim is to reach out to a wider section of readers, we have avoided, as far as possible, those futile academic jargons which usually make the text unnecessarily cumbersome and thus extremely difficult to read. It deals with a phenomenon which is in existence, but not explored adequately to fathom its character and complexities. The book is thus dedicated

Preface xi to those readers who create opportunities for authors like us striving to pursue queries which are not always academically fashionable and worthwhile. If they are satisfied, we will have achieved what we desire. Bidyut Chakrabarty Visva Bharati, Santiniketan West Bengal, India Bhuwan Kumar Jha Satyawati College University of Delhi, Delhi


Hindu nationalism in India The idea of Hindu nationalism is a misnomer because conceptually Hindus cannot be nationalists and vice versa. However, with the increasing success of the Bharatiya Janata Party in contemporary India in garnering votes in its favour, the argument that Hindu nationalism appears to have become an effective ideological device does not seem to be overstretched. As poll outcome, especially since the 2014 national election, confirms it would not be conceptually incongruent to argue in defence of Hindu nationalism being a meaningful instrument for impressive political mobilization in today’s India. The conceptual problem however emanates from the difficulty in articulating the idea of Hindu nationalism in the acceptable conceptual framework presumably because of inherent theoretical limitation in applying the conventional nationalist criteria. A scan of the relevant literature provides a cue to address this concern. Besides probing into the ideological roots of Hindu nationalism in India, the proposed book shall also focus on how it gradually became a strong force both during the nationalist struggle and its aftermath. It is true that as a vote-catching device, Hindu nationalism failed, to a significant extent, till the late twentieth and early twenty-first century. Nonetheless, there were visible efforts on the part of the ideologue and also activists supportive of Hindu nationalism to champion the cause. By drawing on those endeavours in the nationalist phase, the book argues that there have been continuities between the past initiatives and its contemporary manifestation. The main objective of the book is to provide a contextual account of the gradual unfolding of Hindu nationalism as a formidable ideological force in India. This was not an accident of history, as the book argues by dwelling on the politicoideological processes leading to making Hindu nationalism a desired pan-Indian ideology. The ascendancy of Hindu nationalism thus needs to be conceptualized in terms of those socio-political factors that appear to have created its support base despite being severely opposed by political outfits holding contrarian ideological views. Important here is the point about the historical roots of Hindu nationalism that gained momentum in the context of nationalist politics with the consolidation of Muslims as an organized political force. There was also another aspect that should not escape our attention, namely, as an ideology, Hindu nationalism



seems to have enormously gained by the efforts that the prominent nineteenth century social reformers, Dayananda (1824–83), Vivekananda (1863–1902) and Aurobindo (1872–1950), undertook to consolidate Hindus as an organized force by drawing on their instinctive moral-physical strength that remained underutilized. As evidence suggests, their primary goal was to make Hindus aware of both the limitations which account for them being weak as a multitude and also the inherent power that they possessed primarily for the nationalist cause. They cannot be thus said to have exactly championed Hindu nationalism as we understand today in comparison with the later ideologues like V. D. Savarkar (1883–1966), M. S. Golwalkar (1906–73) and Deendayal Upadhyay (1916–68) who sought to evolve Hindus to unite against perceived opponents, particularly the Muslims. The reasons are not difficult to seek. It is now well-established that with the formation of the Muslim League in 1906, the acceptance of 1916 Lucknow Pact and the 1919– 21 Khilafat-Noncooperation merger in which Muslims were recognized as equal partners by the Congress helped them rise as a strong political force in the Indian nationalist struggle; furthermore, the British divide-et-impera strategy also placed them at an advantageous position vis-à-vis the Congress. In such a context, Hindu nationalism emerged as an ideology challenging the Congress and the Muslims which led to the consolidation of largely a Hindu-centric political organization, Hindu Mahasabha in 1915 in the nationalist phase; the journey continued with the establishment of Jana Sangh in 1951 and finally the Bharatiya Janata Party in 1980. Hindu nationalism is not just a conceptual construct, but a politico-ideological device to generate an effective campaign for creating a Hindu-compact vis-à-vis the other. What is thus distinctive about Hindu nationalism as an ideology is that it is an attempt to recover ‘a sense of identity which is supposed to have been lost [and] . . . it takes the recovery of identity to be possible only through identifying the essentials of national culture and the drawing of interpretative boundaries’.1 There are two important aspects that merit attention here: on the one hand, there were concerted efforts to evolve ‘a sense of identity’ that needed to be established. By implication, it also means Hindus lost their sense of identity as a formidable community since they appeared to have completely been ignorant of their rich sociocultural and civilizational traditions. This had happened because of the blind imitation of the derivative discourses that came piggyback to India in the wake of colonialism. In other words, the privileging of the Western thought processes led to a situation in which the Hindu civilizational ethos lost its salience. Hence what is needed to be done, on the other, was the reinvention of the traditions by drawing on those ancient texts (and also practices) which were not merely cradles of knowledge but also sources of strength and emotional gratification. The implication is obvious: being energized, the Hindus would now emerge as a strong cultural-compact capable of challenging endeavours and designs which, so far, prevailed over. Hindu nationalism, or, in Savarkar’s lexicon, Hindutva, is a design that has evolved out of sustained efforts undertaken in different phases of its growth, both in the pre- and post-independent India’s history. The nineteenth century Hindu

Introduction 3 social reformers, Dayananda, Vivekananda and Aurobindo explained Hindu decadence in terms of ‘the forgetful nature of the Hindu’ which they addressed by seeking to revive interests in ancient texts, especially Vedas, Upanishads and Puranas. While Dayananda and Vivekananda paid attention to the Vedas to defend their contentions, Aurobindo privileged Bhagavad Gita to inspire ‘a moribund nation’ to prepare for a battle selflessly like Arjun who fearlessly fought with his kith and kin for a cause. Although none of the social reformers argued for sectarian nationalism per se, their arguments were premised on the ancient Hindu texts which were taken as having created a politico-ideological foundation for the birth of Hindu nationalism. Initiated by V. D. Savarkar, the task was accomplished by M. S. Golwalkar and later by Deendayal Upadhyaya. Their conceptual priorities were actualized organizationally by outfits like the Hindu Mahasabha, Bharatiya Jana Sangh and finally the BJP. While the Hindu Mahasabha and Jana Sangh had not had the dramatic success enjoyed by the BJP, they remained relevant when it comes to tracing out the conceptual roots of the Hindu nationalist agenda. Ideologically, Hindu nationalism can thus be said to have gradually ascended to the throne of being politically mainstream in terms of purportedly representing the needs and world views of an ever-growing majority. A renewed interest in Hindu nationalism as a political response in contemporary India has raised two challenging theoretical issues. First, there is a widely-accepted view that the term Hindu does not connote a religion; it is an expression identifying a group of people with reference to their location on the bank of the river, called Sindhu which became Hindu since the Greeks who invaded India in the third century BC codified the name of the river as Hindu. So, those who lived on its bank were made to be known as Hindus and the name of the location was recognized as Hindustan. It is true that the religion that emerged there was Hinduism since it was the religion of those habitants known as Hindus. Since it was primarily an identity marker of a group of people living in a specific geographical location, Hinduism was, at the outset, primarily a design of congregating people holding multiple animistic or views bordering on belief in magic. In other words, given its specific historico-sociological roots, it was a creative fusion of socio-psychological ideas that people then upheld. And, as such, Hinduism, therefore, had the features of semiotic religions with clear institutional characteristics. Secondly, with the passage of time, Hinduism created its own vocabulary and rituals which however vary greatly from one region of India to another that confirms that given its inherent diversities, Hinduism cannot be defined as a religion, but as a way of life. Such an interpretation corresponds with the reality in view of the well-entrenched multiplicities in the practices that are critical to Hinduism. Even the phrase sanatan dharma does not seem to provide us with inputs to define Hinduism as a religion in the conventional sense; it is primarily a philosophical characterization of a religion that has been prevalent perennially and evolving out of locally-devised practices and rituals with hardly a commonality among the practitioners. The argument has substance in view of the fact that there are hundreds of internal division along the axes around caste, community, language and geography. There is thus validity in the conceptualization of Hinduism being a way of life that is also



historically endorsed because till the late eighteenth century the term Hinduism itself was not referred to frequently to connote the dominant religion of the Indians. It does not therefore seem odd when Vivekananda argued that ‘the Hindu must not give up his religion, but must keep religion within proper limits and give freedom to society to grow’.2 Caste was a deterrent for an Indian nation to emerge in unison. For Vivekananda, the antidote was not a complete abolition which was impossible, but by giving back ‘to the people their lost social individuality’.3 To substantiate his point he thus suggested that only through competition, caste barriers were sure to disappear. As a result, ‘no man is prohibited from doing anything he pleases for his livelihood’.4 So, for Vivekananda, Hinduism lost its vitality largely due to the cropping up of those degenerating designs in which prejudicial behaviour was privileged to divide one group of people from another due to caste identity. This was clearly a distortion of the fundamental tenets of Hinduism. What is Hinduism then? Is it a religion or is it a culture, as was mentioned earlier? In fact, it is both: a religion in the sense of governing a group of communities in accordance with those rituals and practices which emerge in tandem with its evolution in various locations. It is also a culture, a mode of daily existence that guides communities to realize the goals of their life based on their ritualistic faith. To articulate in the socio-religious lexicon, Hinduism is meant to direct believers to realize purusharthas which literally means ‘the object of human pursuits’. Basic to the idea is the commandment of directing one’s worldly life towards realizing dharma (righteousness or moral values), artha (wealth, prosperity), kama (pleasure, love) and moksha (salvation, realization of spiritual values). In general, it is believed that Western religious discourses accord primary importance to dharma, kama and artha, while in Hinduism moksha is given equal significance, if not more, since liberation from the cycle of life constitutes an important dimension in the worldly existence of human beings. In other words, it is the arrival of human souls to a state of ultimate bliss when they are relieved of the cycle of life and death. Philosophically, Hinduism is, therefore, a devotional path to realize purusarthas; empirically, it is a cumulative collection of rituals, faiths, beliefs and practices that have been upheld over the centuries, although its ancient roots are traditionally seen in the cultures of the Indus Vally civilization and the Vedic age. Since it is also a culture, it has created a template of fusion of sophisticated philosophical ideals with localized practices. It is thus argued that local traditions became integral to Hinduism through ‘processes of Sanskritization, whereby a regional deity [along with the local practices, gets] identified with pan-Indian gods [leading to] processes of Brahminization supportive of the adoption of high caste rituals by many communities’.5 As a result, the description of Hindus being one and undivided in their ritualistic behaviour does not seem to be tenable. Nonetheless, there are sacred texts, like four Vedas (Rig Veda, Sama Veda, Yajur Veda and Atharva Veda) along with Aranyakas (compositions for the forests) and Upanishads (instructive treaties), that Hindus regardless of their locations accept as holy. Besides, there are two smriti epics, Ramayana and Mahabharata which are texts with a wider acceptance among the Hindus cutting across caste, class and locational barriers. These texts are valuable since they build a set of ethos which is linked with

Introduction 5 the creation of a mind being supportive of values, rituals and practices for common well-being. It is thus not surprising that Taittiriya Upanishad (composed in around sixth century BC) listed a number of dos and don’ts – speak the truth, follow the path of righteousness, do not neglect the neighbours and never disrespect the rituals to honour gods and ancestors – as essential for quality survival for human beings. What is thus critical here is to remember that conceptually Hindus, despite having certain common psychological threads among themselves due to the common acceptance of some well-directed religious texts, cannot be so easily homogenized as a unified set of people for reasons connected with their evolution as a religious community. This further confirms that Hindus are the ones who are neither institutionalized in a predetermined religious template nor have developed any mechanism to proceed along this line of thinking. Nationalism is an effort at collectivity’s identity formation. It is an endeavour that seeks to bond together those deemed to have common ethnicity, language, culture and historical past, among others. As history has shown it is also a design for homogenizing people on the basis of certain socio-psychological criteria which bring them together. Nonetheless, there are obvious difficulties in formulating a Euclidean theory of nationalism presumably because the historical experiences of the formation of nations across the world are clearly strikingly diverse. Hence it is fair to argue that nationalism is, at one level, a site where efforts are made for developing, and also consolidating, a unifying whole; at another, it is also a drive towards creating seemingly compatible mindsets supportive of an identical group identity. In this sense, nationalism is rarely the nationalism of the nation, but represents a designed endeavour by and for a group of people seeking to weave together threads of unity. Implicit here is an attempt to suggest that the derivative straitjacketed notion of nationalism does not seem to provide a conceptually persuasive category to comprehend the nationalistic rise of communities across the world. In other words, there is no point in striving to understand nation, nationalism and national identity in terms of the derivative conceptual formulations that have come down to us from the era between the French Revolution and the end of the imperialist colonialism. Eric Hobsbawm captured this perceptive point when he stated that ‘while . . . the national liberation movements in the Third World (sic) modelled on the nationalism of the west, in practice the states they attempted to construct were . . . generally the opposite of the ethnically and linguistically homogenous entities which came to be seen at the standard form of “nation-state” in the west’.6 What was critical in these campaigns was the presence of a foreign power which created a sense of ‘us’ against ‘a threatening them’. This is certainly a valid claim because, as the processes leading to the rise of India as a nation confirm that the British hegemony held Indians together, to a significant extent. There is however another aspect, namely the socio-psychological resources that make Indians Indian. In his desire to help build national consciousness in India, Vivekananda referred to this aspect when he exhorted that ‘it is absolutely necessary that [India] brings out her treasures to . . . generate a collective awareness for the present’.7 The goal was to address a contemporary concern for creating and also strengthening a desire to come together in a context when that was completely



missing. It was a serious lack that needed immediate attention. Hindus were to be empowered by making them sensitive of the sociocultural resources that they were privy to. Hence Vivekananda prescribed that: the more . . . the Hindus study the past, the more glorious will be their future, and whoever tries to bring the past to the door of everyone, is great benefactor to his nation. The degeneration of India came not because the laws and customs of the ancients were bad, but because they were not allowed to be carried to their legitimate conclusions.8 Implicit here is the concerted effort on Vivekananda’s part to build a mindset on the past of the intellectual resources that India had. This was not a clamour for imitating the past, but an exhortation for drawing upon the past thought processes for re-vitalizing a moribund nation which was evident when he suggested that: [w]e have brains, but no hands. We have the doctrine of Vedanta, but we have not the power to reduce it into practice. In our books, there is the doctrine of universal equality, but in work, we make great distinctions. It was in India that unselfish and disinterested work of the most exalted type was preached, but in practice we are awfully cruel, awfully heartless – unable to think of anything besides our own mass-of-flesh bodies.9 Here too, the past was invoked to build a strong collectivity for the present. Three points deserve attention here: first, the treasure of ancient knowledge, especially the Vedantic texts, needed to be brought in the public domain to demonstrate the capability that the Hindus had in the past in unravelling the complex social, economic and political environment; secondly, it was a call to review how the well-established principles of universal equality got distorted in phases largely due to the rise and consolidation of partisan interests in India; finally, it was also a clarion call to his Indian brethren to go beyond protecting their narrow and sectarian personal interests; otherwise, there was no respite from the humiliation that we were subject to by the alien authority which he, being an in-born optimist, thus articulated by saying that: then only will India awake, when hundreds of large-hearted men and women, giving up all desires of enjoying the luxuries of life, will long and exert themselves to their utmost for the well-being of the millions of their countrymen who are gradually sinking lower and lower in the vortex of destitution and ignorance. . . . Utter no words of condemnation. Close your lips, and let your hearts open. Work out the salvation of this land and of the whole world, each of thinking that the entire burden is on your shoulders. Carry the light and the life of Vedanta to every door, and rouse up the divinity that is hidden within every soul.10 It was certainly a nationalistic call because inherent here is a design of collective mobilization for a cause being couched in the desire for common well-being. As

Introduction 7 well as suggesting a design for regenerating the inner strength by drawing on the past intellectual treasures, Vivekananda rekindled the urge for rising above the petty desire of pursuing one’s partisan goals; it was an exhortation to think of the collectivity or a loosely-defined national compact which was the need of the hour in a context when the country failed to utilize her inner potential for reasons connected with her own folly. Interestingly, it was not the religious person as Vivekananda was, who spoke; it was a social reformer who, being consciously involved in creating an awareness for common well-being, raised a powerful voice which, of course, worked favourably for the growth of national consciousness in India, as shown by history. Core to Vivekananda’s conceptualization of nationalism was an endeavour of creating a oneness among the Hindus on the basis of their rich cultural heritage; it was perhaps most appropriate at a time when Hindus were internally divided and lacked a sense of belongingness to the collectivity. At one level, the conceptualization has elements of being exclusionary since he was in favour of cementing a sociocultural bond among a specific religious community; at another level, it was the beginning of a venture that did not appear to be an aberration, but was desirable as a formidable first step to create conditions for socio-psychological compatibility among the Hindus. The scene had however undergone a sea change with the consolidation of multiple socio-political identities, especially in the context of the twentieth century. An exclusive Hindu identity was a deterrent to an overarching national identity in India. Tagore and Gandhi represented the dilemma and challenges of this period. Given the fact that love for the country was the prime motto for the former, the nationalist aspirations were exclusively ‘focused . . . on the well-being of one’s fellow members, consistent with his due regard for that of the wider community . . . [which] required strong associative bonds with one’s countrymen at various levels and a rich communal life’.11 What is striking in Tagore’s views was his concerted attempt to evolve oneness on the basis of the sustained human spirit bringing people together regardless of sociocultural and religious chasms. This had evolved in the country over the years and thus became organic to the Indians. It did not therefore seem odd when ‘one . . . felt bound to [the prevalent socio-cultural ethos] by the overlapping ties of common sympathies, interests, affections and one’s love of the country [that] grew out of and was sustained by these’.12 Interrogating the ‘totalizing’ dimension of the nationalist project – where a single entity, called the nation, always prevails over other forms of identity – the poet sought to provide an alternative to an ‘essentialistic’ invocation of identity in the shape of a nation. According to him, in articulating the civilizational identity of India, the importance of underlying cognitive and ethical claims, which were invariably lodged in and emanated from contradictory social locations, could never be undermined. So, the European modular form of nation was conceptually futile and politically inapplicable, presumably because India’s civilizational identity was not singular or monochromatic, but multidimensional, and thus difficult to capture on a single axis. This was the reason why the poet rebelled, Sen informs, against the strongly nationalist form that India’s independence movement often took. Apprehending that an exclusive nationalist project could turn ‘into hostility to other influences from abroad, including



Christianity, . . . Judaism, . . . Zoroastrianism . . . and more importantly, Islam which has had a very strong presence in India since the eighth century’.13 These ideas were reverberated in Gandhi’s thought. Like Tagore, the Mahatma also felt that in view of the Indians being a product of multiple sociocultural influences, it was to be suicidal if they were forcibly delinked from the environment in which they were born and raised. He also rejected the conventional sense of collective selfishness and exclusiveness and also the initiatives at subordinating the entire society to a single goal. Reasons are easy to comprehend. Nation in its exclusive form was the narrowest in its manifestation as it ignored the inherent diversities of the communities. Nation is a design of homogenizing people regardless of space and time. Conceptually unviable and practically inappropriate, the application of nation as a category weakened the anti-British struggle due to frequent clash of interests between the Hindus and Muslims once the prevalent political conditions contributed to the articulation and consolidation of the arguments supporting the latter as a nation as well. Both the poet and the Mahatma held near identical views on why nation was an anathema in the Indian context. Both of them regarded nationalism as a byproduct of the Western nation-state system and of the forces of homogenization organic to the Western Weltanschauung. To them, a homogenized universalism, itself a product of the uprootedness and deculturation brought about by the British colonialism in India was hardly appropriate for India given the well-entrenched civilizational values that had emerged historically over the centuries. In contrast with an imported notion of nationalism, both Gandhi and the poet endorsed a civilizational concept of universalism embedded in the tolerance encoded in various traditional ways of life in a highly diverse [and] plural society’.14 This conceptualization within an absolutely non-nationalist philosophical framework defused the arguments in favour of Hindu nationalism in the context of the freedom movement in India. So, not only was his critique of national and nationalism morally acceptable and politically effective, it also laid the foundation of a conceptual framework privileging ‘community-based society’ drawing on the resources of a civilization of which it was a part. In contrast with the nationalist project that seeks to homogenize a variety of local, regional and transnational identities into ‘a taken-for-granted frame of reference in everyday life’,15 the Tagore-Gandhian inclusionary design of nationalism is a powerful model privileging contextual inputs and influences in comparison with the one that is exclusionary. Core to the view that Gandhi and Tagore offered is the idea that in conceptualizing nation in the Indian context, the issues of plurality and choice remain significant and, in terms of political coherence, social living and cultural interactions, both joined hands in championing the fact that Indian national identity could not favour ‘any particular identity over others within India’.16 This is an obvious conceptual inkling since India’s sociopolitical reality is instinctively multidimensional that cannot, for obvious reasons, be formatted in a strict West-centric discourse. Gandhi-Tagore debate thus helps us understand the idea of nation in a new perspective; a perspective which allows endeavours towards reconceptualizing the notion by reference to the constantly transforming sociopolitical and economic

Introduction 9 contexts. Hence Benedict Anderson argues that ‘[n]ationalism is not the awakening of nations to self-consciousness; it invents nations where they do not exist’.17 In order to substantiate the point, he further argues that nations are regularly being ‘imagined’ on the basis of the cultural artefacts constituting the ‘nation-ness as well as nationalism’; since the cultural artefacts do not remain static, the idea of nation-ness undergoes constant metamorphosis justifying, argues Anderson, why it needs to be imagined. There are, according to Partha Chatterjee, two serious flaws in Anderson’s conceptualization. First, there is no scope of imagination if there exists modular forms of nationalism, out of which, the nationalisms of the rest of the world will have to choose. So, the argument is highly limited bordering on being methodologically clearly restrictive besides being politically retrogressive because it entails that ‘our imagination remain forever colonized’.18 The second flaw stems for exclusive focus on the nationalist experiences of the West and America while seeking to devise generalizations, applicable to the rest of the world. Chatterjee rejects Anderson’s formula because the most powerful as well as most creative results of the nationalist imagination in Asia and Africa are ‘posited not with an identity but rather on a difference with the modular forms of national society propagated by the modern West’.19 This confidently argued but flawed conceptual point is linked, Chatterjee further argues, with the failure of the author to adequately appreciate the importance of sociocultural milieu in shaping how nationalism is politically articulated. There is no doubt that nationalism is politically contrived, but the fact that nation-ness is a cultural artefact underlines how critical the cultural inputs are in the nationalist response. So, the argument that nationalism is purely political does not seem to be plausible. Here, one can draw on the points that Gandhi and Tagore made while conceptualizing their distinctive approaches to the phenomenon. Nationalism being an exclusive design privileging one set of ideas over others does not seem to be meaningful, at all, in the Indian context. In contrast, by defending the inclusionary view of nationalism which is clearly contrary to Hindu nationalism, the poet and the Mahatma set in motion a relatively less-privileged wave of thinking helping us conceptualize the Indian nation-ness in a far more refreshing format. The book has three interrelated components: Hindu nationalism is an ideological endeavour; hence the book dwells on its evolution by reference to how it developed in the writings of the nineteenth-century Hindu social reformers, Dayananda, Vivekananda and Aurobindo, who argued strongly in favour of developing a collective Hindu identity by drawing on the civilizational resource that the Hindus had in their possession. Interlinked with this was the critical role that the Hindu nationalist ideologues, Savarkar, Golwalkar and Deendayal, had played in sustaining the momentum amidst powerful adversaries. The second part delves into how Hindu nationalism became a strong ideological force by seeking to build sangathan (organization) of Hindus for their social, political and economic causes. In order to illustrate the point, the book focuses on the shuddhi (purification) programme and also the Hindu nationalist concern for militarizing Hindus for defence vis-à-vis the enemies. The book, in the final part, deals with the increasing importance of Hindu nationalism as an alternative ideology in the



late twentieth century and its aftermath which will be told by reference to the rise of the Bharatiya Janata Party as an electoral force in contemporary India. In two parts, the book seeks to dwell on Hindu nationalism in India and its development as a movement both in pre-independent India and its aftermath. The purpose is to show how it was conceptualized and how it became a source of inspiration to a significant section of the nationalists during the period when Gandhi emerged as a dominant force. What is emphasized here is how Hindu nationalism rose as an important segment of Indian nationalism despite being dismissed as sectarian by those who argued for composite nationalism. The idea was simple: for India’s political freedom, Hindus, Muslims and other religious groups needed to unitedly fight against colonialism and Hindu nationalism, instead of consolidating the bond, was thus likely to be an impediment. Nonetheless, as history demonstrates, Hindu nationalism was not just a mental construct, but a significant force in India’s nationalist battle for freedom. Hence, the second part of the book, consolidating an ideology, focuses primarily on how Hindu nationalism gained momentum in the context of the Shuddhi campaign with the intervention of powerful leaders by drawing on Hindu symbols, ethos and anti-Muslim rhetoric which not only helped develop a ‘masculine’ Hindu but also created circumstances in which the image of Muslims as ‘the hated other’ gained credibility. The aim was to politically mobilize the Hindus around those religious concerns which seemed to have been completely undermined by the nationalist leadership. Organizations seeking to bring Hindus together under one platform were thus formed. Prominent among them was the Arya Samaj which came into being in 1875, followed by the first Punjab Hindu Conference in 1909 and later the All-India Hindu Sabha in 1915 (renamed All-India Hindu Mahasabha in 1921). These organizations upheld the Hindu claims though they did not seem to have had the appeal to Hindus which the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), formed in 1925, had. As history has shown, key to the growth and consolidation of Hindu nationalism in India was the RSS which not only created a cadre of selfless workers to champion the Hindu cause but also sustained the organization by generating an ideological inertia on the basis of distinctive Hindu ethos and mores. There are reasons to believe that the organizational support of the RSS contributed to the significant electoral performance of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the 2014 national poll. By concentrating on the BJP’s impressive poll victory, it is thus persuasively argued that it was made possible in a context where the Congress-led incumbent government lost its credibility because of its involvement in scams during the period it ruled. The objective here is also to ascertain whether the BJP’s return to power was largely due to an anti-incumbency sentiment or it was also an endorsement of the Hindu nationalist preferences that it represented. Hindu Nationalism in India is a narrative with two major arguments supported by a peripheral argument. First, since the aim is to situate Hindu nationalism in the context of a sustained theoretical search for ideas in its favour, the book offers the argument that it has a long history which received support from those ideologues who created a persuasive model with reference to the prevalent sociocultural context. Fundamental here is the point that Hindu nationalism has organic roots in India’s socio-psychological inclinations. Secondly, the book also provides

Introduction 11 another argument suggesting that Hindu nationalism is an epistemological drive in a context when the indigenous ‘Hindu’ identities did not seem to have received the importance that they were deemed to deserve. It is therefore not surprising that Dayananda Saraswati’s Satyarth Prakash (1875) was an instantaneous favourite of the Hindus, presumably because it helped them rediscover their intellectual past in the Vedic texts. Not a mean achievement, the effort was thus hailed by the later Hindu nationalists as a critical step in mobilizing support for the ‘Hindu’ cause. One should however add a cautionary note here because it was clearly an exclusionary design although the Hindu nationalists justified their endeavour as an attempt to rejuvenate the moribund Hindu community. It was, for them, an inspirational and not an exclusionary drive. The peripheral argument hinges on the point that Hindu nationalism, with its emergence in the epistemological universe of the nationalist struggle, set in motion processes for reconceptualizing contemporary Indian politics. It was an attempt for setting the major political parameters. Hindu nationalism thus became an integral part of the nationalist counter-offensive along with the mainstream nationalism, besides others that also remained critical in anti-British campaign. With these major and peripheral arguments, Hindu Nationalism in India seeks to provide an intellectual aid to comprehend and also conceptualize the phenomenon with reference to the context in which it gains acceptance. As well as studying the historical roots, the book also deals with its contemporary manifestation in India. It is not enough if one explains the ascendancy of Hindu nationalist forces in the twenty-first century merely as an alternative to the established ideological views because (a) it is vulgarly simplistic and (b) it is also methodologically myopic, since it pays no attention to the historical processes leading to the articulation of the Hindu nationalist alternative. In other words, the importance of an idea needs to be understood in a context. It is a matter of common knowledge that despite earnest endeavours of powerful Hindu nationalist ideologues in the past, the ideological importance of Hindu nationalism was strongly felt in the post-1990s, especially following the demolition of the controversial Babri Masjid in 1992 by those Hindus who congregated in large number for the task since they believed that destruction of the structure was needed for setting history correct. The march of Hindu nationalism is still going on which confirms that, as an ideological persuasion, it has caught the imagination of a section of India’s demography who rally behind the parties championing the Hindu nationalist goals. This did not happen overnight or magically; it was an offshoot of sociopolitical processes that helped build a supportive mindset for Hindu nationalism, in its diverse forms and manifestation, to flourish. The purpose of the book is therefore to dwell on how Hindu nationalism becomes a force to reckon with in contemporary India by drawing on the context and also written texts of those ideologues who, by evolving supportive conceptual designs, prepared the field for it to grow and thrive.

Notes 1 C. Ram-Prasad, ‘Hindutva Ideology: Extracting the Fundamentals’, Contemporary South Asia, Vol. 2, No. 3, 1993, p. 303.



2 Swami Vivekananda, Caste, Culture and Socialism, Advaita Ashrama, Calcutta, 1997 (reprint), p. 47. 3 Ibid., p. 48. 4 Ibid., p. 48. 5 Vasudha Narayanan, Hinduism: Origins, Beliefs, Practices, Holy Texts and Sacred Places, Oxford University Press, New York, 2004, p. 11. 6 Eric J. Hobsbawn, Nations and Nationalism Since 1780: Programme, Myth, Reality, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1992, second edition, p. 169. 7 Vivekananda: His Call to the Nation, Advaita Ashram, Calcutta, 2000, p. 85. 8 Ibid., p. 86. 9 Ibid., p. 87. 10 Ibid., pp. 87, 89. 11 Bhikhu Parekh, Debating India: Essays on Indian Political Discourse, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2015, p. 70. 12 Ibid., pp. 70–1. 13 Amartya Sen, The Argumentative Indian: Writings on Indian History, Culture and Identity, Picador, New York, 1995, p. 108. 14 Ashis Nandy, The Illegitimacy of Nationalism, Oxford University Press, Delhi, 1994, pp. x–xi. 15 Manu Goswami, ‘Rethinking the Modular Nation Form: Toward a Sociohistorical Conception of Nationalism’, Comparative Studies in Society and History, Vol. 44, No. 4, October 2002, p. 793. 16 Amartya Sen, The Argumentative Indian: Writings on Indian History, Culture and Identity, Picador, New York, 1995, p. 352. 17 Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, Verso, London and New York, 1983 (reprint), p. 6. 18 Partha Chatterjee, The Nation and its Fragments: Colonial and Post-Colonial Histories, Oxford University Press, Delhi, 1994, p. 5. 19 Ibid., p. 5.

Part I

Ideological foundation Nationalism at its theoretical springs

Hindu nationalism did not seem to be an appealing idea in the context of India’s struggle for freedom which the Mahatma led in opposition to the British rule. Reasons are not difficult to seek. As history has shown, the leading nationalists who raised their voice against colonialism were politically baptized by the Enlightenment ideas which travelled to India in the wake of the British rule. Nonetheless, ideas in support of Hindu nationalism had flourished which was a testimony to the fact that Indian nationalism was multidimensional. Besides the endorsement of liberal constitutionalism, there were ideas which upheld the critical role of Hindu nationalist ideas in political mobilization. Two important points deserve attention here: on the one hand, the acceptance of Hindu nationalist priorities in the context of the struggle for political freedom suggests that they were persuasive enough to create a constituency for the ideologues who drew on the Hindu texts of Vedas and Upanishads, among others, for bringing the disparate Hindus together; they partly succeeded because during the nationalist phase, Hindu nationalism had also emerged as an alternative along with other competing ideologies. There is also, on the other, a conceptual point that is linked with how Hindu nationalism is articulated in otherwise not so favourable circumstances. A dissection of the mainstream nationalism that Gandhi represented shows that his model of nonviolent protest had also derived its inspiration from the Hindu texts as well; it is not therefore surprising that Gandhi referred to Bhagavad Gita while seeking to galvanize his supporters for the ideological mission that he sought to accomplish. With two interlinked chapters, this part focuses on the ideological roots of Hindu nationalism both in the context of the nationalist campaign and its aftermath. The primary concern here is to comprehend how Hindu nationalism had evolved as a persuasive conceptual parameter by analytically examining the sociopolitical ideas of major social reformers and also the principal Hindu nationalist ideologues. What is emphasized here is the argument that Hindu nationalism is rooted in multiple ideological discourses: there were Hindu social reformers who, in their zeal to create Hindu solidarity, drew on some of the major Hindu texts to build a collectivity for the objective that they wanted to attain; there were, of course, Hindu nationalist ideologues who drew on the Hindu ancient texts, like Vedas and Upanishads, to evolve a strong Hindu nation; these texts were intellectually persuasive and politico-ideologically effective in generating a sense of


Ideological foundation

solidarity and also belongingness. For them, India’s political freedom was possible only once Hindus regained their strength as a collectivity and their effort was directed accordingly. Many ideologues had contributed to the Hindu nationalist ideas and programme. Given the constraints of space, this part concentrates on those thinkers who had a critical role in conceptualizing Hindu nationalism as a mobilizing tool. Accordingly, Chapter 1 is devoted to a threadbare analysis of sociopolitical ideas of Dayananda Saraswati (1824–1883), Vivekananda (1863–1902) and Aurobindo (1872–1951) largely because their ideas laid the foundation of Hindu nationalism as an ideology seeking to create and consolidate a strong India on the basis of her rich civilizational-intellectual heritage. As a sequel to Chapter 1, Chapter 2 dwells on ideas of V.D. Savarkar (1883–1966), M. S. Golwalkar (1906–1973) and Deendayal Upadhyaya (1916–1968) since they, like the previously mentioned social reformers, pursued the Hindu nationalist goals in their writings and deeds. For them, the ancient Hindu texts, Vedas, were repositories of knowledge which needed to be inculcated to bring back India’s glory as a strong nation. Their writings reveal that it was an attempt to remind the colonized Hindus of the past when they created knowledge for the whole world which they lost because of the peculiar socio-historical circumstances. In other words, the texts that they articulated were largely introspective and also suggestive of how Hindu’s past glory could be revived. There are three critical ideas which connected these social reformers with one another. First, it is beyond doubt that, for them, the ancient text contained important sources of knowledge which needed to be acknowledged and utilized for the future. This was not a retreat to the past, but an attempt to creatively interpret the ancient texts for modern purposes. In other words, Vedas or Bhagavad Gita or Upanishads represented a source of energy for a nation that needed to be revitalized in the colonial context. Secondly, while Dayananda and Vivekananda focused primarily on how to create a collective compact which was both strong and committed to the collective goal, Aurobindo devised a strategy in which the Muslims were identified as the ‘hated other’. A precursor of some of the ideas which Savarkar later put forward to defend distinct Hindu identity, he thus not only set in motion processes for Hindu nationalist arguments to strike roots but also normatively justified them as appropriate. Thirdly, what connects these social reformers with one another was their common concern for transforming the decadent Hindu social order by drawing on India’s civilizational resources. Hence, the ancient texts, especially Vedas and Bhagavad Gita constituted an important source of inspiration for them. It was a call to go back to the civilizational ideas not for blindly imbibing them but as a source of inspiration and energy. By weaving together these multiple conceptual inputs, this part is an attempt to understand the nature and texture of Hindu nationalism as an ideological construct which was rooted in endeavours towards building India’s nationhood both in the colonial context and its aftermath. The aim here is to identify the conceptual points that the Hindu nationalist ideologues offered to cement a bond among the Hindus who remained perennially divided on social, economic and politico-ideological axes.


Conceptualizing Indian nationalism1 The ideas of Dayananda, Vivekananda and Aurobindo

The history of ideas is always an interesting area to probe, for two interrelated reasons: first, such an inquiry allows us to capture the complex unfolding of historical processes in response to contextual (and otherwise) mainstream and peripheral socioeconomic and political priorities. It is not an accident of history that liberal constitutionalism triumphed in India; the said triumph can be persuasively explained with reference to its acceptance by those who led the nationalist campaign in India. Second, besides its immediate contextual relevance, the history of ideas provides a template of thinking that explains why a particular mindset is privileged over others at a specific historical juncture. On the whole, contextualizing history/ historical processes is contingent on the ideas that critically influence its nature. This is also a reconfirmation of the contention that text-context dialectics explain how history progresses. Highlighting the dialectical interconnection between text and context provides powerful inputs in comprehending the complex historical cycle that is otherwise invisible. That is to say, the argument points out how the dialectical intertwining of text and context makes it easier to plausibly explain why history moves the way it does. Let us take this point a little further. It is pretty much axiomatic that Marc Bloch’s The Historian’s Craft (1954) influenced future historical writings largely because of his perceptive take on the growth and consolidation of feudalism in Europe. Take for instance this statement: ‘The first duty of the historian [seeking to] . . . understand and explain the events of the past will be to return them to their milieu, where they are immersed in the mental climate of their time and faced by problems of conscience rather different from our own’.2 This is one aspect of the argument, and it highlights the importance of localizing ideas within the context of their formulation. The other equally important aspect comes out in the following statement: ‘Between widely scattered generations, the written word facilitates those transfers of thought which supply the true continuity of civilization’.3 This macro-context conceptualization allows us to comprehend the nature and texture of a civilization that draws on the experiences of the individuals constituting a society. Bloch articulates this very clearly in the following statement: ‘[m]en who are born into the same social environment about the same time necessarily come under analogous influences, particularly in their formative


Ideological foundation years. Experience proves that, by comparison with either considerably older or considerably younger groups, their behavior reveals certain distinctive characteristics which are ordinarily very clear. This is true even of their bitterest disagreements. To be excited by the same dispute even on opposing sides, is still to be alike. The common stamp, deriving from common age, is what makes a generation.4

Implicit here are three critical points: first, the contextual influences do not seem to be uniform even in the same generation, which entails that their impact varies from one person to another. We could thus argue that since an individual is located in both micro and macro contexts, they are subject to their immediate and also ultimate contexts, and it is likely that the former, for obvious reasons, becomes far more formidable than the latter. Second, there is also the notion of the distinctive characteristics of a generation which set it apart from those that came before it and those that will come after. From this, we can infer that the transformation of contexts inevitably leads to the transformation of what stems from them. This reinforces the suggestion that contextual influences cannot be identical. Third, Bloch makes the general point that the common ideas and values that mould a generation are integral to the said generation. It is these values that distinguish one generation from another. Drawing on Bloch’s conceptualization of history and historical processes, we can reach two conclusions that give us an idea of Hindu nationalism as an ideological construct at a time when contrarian liberal constitutionalism reigned supreme in the nationalist struggle for freedom. It is common knowledge that the Gandhi-led nationalist campaign, which drew heavily on Enlightenment values, left hardly any space for other voices. Nonetheless, Hindu nationalist ideas, as we will see later in this chapter, prospered in circumstances that were not exactly in their favour. There are two possible explanations for this: on the one hand, that these ideas gained ground suggests that they seemed viable to a segment of the population, which also confirms the idea that mainstream nationalism failed to become ‘truly’ mainstream. That Hindu nationalists’ ideas were accepted by a section of those who were not favourably inclined to the British rule in India further substantiates the point that Hindu nationalism had a conceptual validity amidst the growing popularity of constitutional liberalism. This chapter is about the ideas of three leading thinkers of modern India, Dayananda Saraswati (1824–83), Aurobindo Ghose (1872–1950) and Vivekananda (1863–1902). Why they are important in the conceptualization of Hindu nationalism is the issue that the chapter deals with. A perusal of their approaches to history and society reveals that they drew heavily upon those critical texts that they felt created the mental universe for the future Hindu nationalists of India. In other words, the argument that India’s ancient texts (especially the Vedas, Smritis and Puranas) laid an intellectual foundation for the rise of India as a compact nation appears to have been nourished by what Dayananda, Vivekananda and Aurobindo offered in the domain of ideas. The approach that Savarkar and Golwalkar adopted for cementing a bond among the Hindus seems to have been founded on a desire for racial and doctrinal compatibility. Their aim was to

Conceptualizing Indian nationalism 17 develop masculine Hinduism which, like other belligerent religious faiths, would instill in the Hindus the urge to protect the Hindu identity. By devising a method to mobilize Hindus for their own sake, these thinkers also developed a common template for their subsequent thought. Two ideas thus remain significant: on the one hand, these thinkers, convinced of the importance of the ancient texts (especially the Vedas), were persuaded to believe that their approach answered the bell in terms of generating a common Hindu consciousness. They also believed that these texts were inspirational and directional, which strengthened their claim, on the other hand, of being true pathfinders for the Hindus. The discussion that follows in this chapter will address two queries: (a) what are the foundational ideas that these thinkers upheld, in accordance with their principal aim of building a solid Hindu compact; and (b) what were the outcomes of the schemes that Dayananda, Vivekananda and Aurobindo put forward, despite their not being Hindu nationalists, exactly? These men sought to champion those aspects of Hinduism that appeared to have swayed a section of the Hindus at a time when liberal constitutionalism was the preferred ideological choice in the nationalist campaign. We can argue, therefore, that these seemingly Hindu nationalist ideas were primarily the result of an intellectual unease that these thinkers confronted when the Enlightenment philosophy appeared to have wider acceptability among participants in the anti-British campaign. This point bolsters the powerful contention that the championing of militant Hinduism was not a dividing strategy, as is accused by the opponents of Hindu nationalism, but rather a natural protestant endeavour at a time when the rich religio-social texts of India’s ancient past were no longer widely recognized as an important source of wisdom.

Introduction of contrarian ideas Nationalism has undoubtedly been one of the most powerful ideas that have, in modern times, played a critical role in reconfiguring the political identity of people all over the world. What is intriguing, however, is the fact that the genesis and growth of nationalistic discourses in different countries have followed diverse ideational perspectives. Such diversity may be explained with reference to the varying social, economic and political circumstances prevailing in a particular country at the dawn of modernity in said country. For instance, in the case of various European countries, the basic framework for nationalism was provided by their languages, and distinctive cultural and literary identities. But in India, the basic building blocks of the nationalist discourse have also included the religious precepts, spiritual worldviews and the cultural richness of the past. Interestingly, even before the consolidation of the campaign against British colonialism, the stage was set for generating nationalist consciousness in the wake many social and religious reform movements that aimed at reviving the past glory of the Hindus in terms of, inter alia, their religion, culture, scriptures, values, conventions and so on. Although the tone and tenor of all the revivalist movements in the country had never been political in the main, they nonetheless laid a solid foundation for an awakened public discourse that lay at the root of strengthening India’s


Ideological foundation

national character. The primary aim of this chapter is thus to understand the ideas of these three nationalist thinkers of India on nation, nationalism and national identity to comprehend the course of activities that they devised for India.

Dayananda Saraswati (1824–1883): an inventive revivalist Amongst the scholar-activists holding that the cause of Indian nationalism is rooted in the socio-religious and cultural traditions of the country, Swami Dayananda Saraswati stands out prominently. A proponent of Vedic Aryan nationalism in India, Dayananda, born in 1824, spent his very eventful life devoted to the cause of national awakening in the country. His endeavours were directed not only towards searching for the real causes of the downfall of the country from an unparalleled civilization in the world to a colony, but also to evolve definitive courses of action through which the lost glory of the nation was to be regained.5 Moreover, in his efforts for national awakening of the country, Dayananda thought it imperative to root out social evils and build a new social order where the vices of injustice and the darkness of ignorance had been eradicated. Thus, Dayananda’s nationalist discourse may be seen as a multifaceted venture, in which he refused to be cowed down by the prevailing forces of orthodoxy and conservatism. He offered an alternative vision in which truth emerged victorious in the face of the falsehoods and vices that had been manufactured to be the handmaidens of social injustice. Dayananda was pained at the uncritical acceptance of British and Christian triumphalism by the Indian masses, which eventually risked their forgetting India’s supposedly glorious past, one in which it was the treasure trove of globally coveted kinds of knowledge and globally influential wisdom. Given that Dayananda had adopted the roles of both a social reformer and a propounder of Vedic nationalism, his conceptualization of Indian nationalism appeared to be facilitating the emancipation and unification of all sections of Indian society. Before the advent of Dayananda as one of the main proponents of Indian renaissance, the hierarchical order of Hindu society had given the Brahmans monopoly over the Vedas, to the exclusion of all other varnas from reading and reciting these ancient Hindu scriptures. Dayananda condemned this cruel state of affairs, and forcefully argued for opening up the pages of the Vedas to not only all sections of Indian society but to all the people across the globe. He saw the Vedas as a sacred repository of eternal knowledge that ought to light the course of people’s lives in every nook and corner of the world.6 This convincing argument of Dayananda was a formidable instrument of social reform, for it had the potential of bridging the cleavages between different sections of Hindu society, and of establishing the Vedas as the credo of spiritual nationalism in the country. The biggest challenge to the monumental efforts of Dayananda to propagate Vedic nationalism in India came from the hegemony of traditional social groups, consisting mainly of the Brahmans who had tended to monopolize the study, recitation, preaching and wisdom of the Vedas. An overwhelming majority of Hindu society had started seeing Dayananda and his followers as detached from

Conceptualizing Indian nationalism 19 Hinduism, with little or no concern for its role as the bedrock of collective Hindu life. Thus, Dayananda faced the twin challenges of not only setting the Hindus free from the suffocating clutches of their vested interests, but also creating a channel through which these people would retain their attachment to the basic virtues of eternal Hindu life. Going for a sharp break from the sanatana Hinduism, he reinvented the religion by putting forth the Vedas as the hallmark of the new sect; an act that would become the catalyst for arousing Indian nationalism, as this sect was open to all sections of Indian society, and gave all its members an equal role in the consolidation of Vedic nationalism in the country. By articulating his uncritical belief in the autonomous reality of the material world, Dayananda tried to stir the moribund social fabric of the Hindu society in order to create a national awakening. He argued that the spiritual equality of every human being in the eyes of God was a sterile argument unless the same was reflected in the social and religious conduct of the masses.7 However, given the existence of a number of inexactitudes in the social life of the people, such a state of things was not possible in Indian society. Therefore, his designating the Vedas as the new fulcrum of Indian nationalism came as a fresh reference point for the people to assert their collective endeavour to evolve India as a nation. In other words, his act of offering the Vedas as the common point of faith and knowledge to all Indians (especially those who had been pushed to the margins of social existence) and to people all over the world, provided a solid ground on which grew a new wave of renaissance, which ultimately led to the rise of a distinct national identity in the country. The visionary orientation of Dayananda’s ideas could be assumed from the way he assessed the malaise of the Indian society which had been holding the country back from reasserting its original leadership of human civilization. The extraordinarily long years of foreign rule in the country had crippled national pride and self-confidence of the people to such an extent that Hindu society stood on the verge of losing its existence as free and self-respecting people. The richness of traditional Indian knowledge, wisdom, texts and moral values had, according to him, been undermined to such an extent that the people tended to forget that they had been an influential cultural and spiritual force steering humanity towards new vistas of glory. In such a debilitating scenario, Dayananda’s logical propounding of the Vedas as the mainstay of the social and cultural life of the people broke the slumber of the masses and let them wake up with the dream of a new India. In such an India, everyone would be an equal partner in the national effort for building a nation around the ideals of ancient Hindu scriptures. In his Satyartha Prakasha (The Light of the Truth), which he published in 1875, Dayananda put forth these ideas with great eloquence. He founded the Arya Samaj also in 1875, which served as a platform to mobilize people for social reform. Dayananda undertook a campaign to purge Hindu society of the blemishes he had identified. This campaign spread rapidly, especially in the Punjab. Famous for his slogan, ‘India for Indians’, coined in 1876, the ascetic Sanyasi can also be said to have reintroduced Indians to the Vedic texts that seemed to have lost their appeal presumably because of the hegemony of idolatry and non-Vedic ritualistic worship.


Ideological foundation

It did not therefore seem odd when, seeking to champion his politico-ideological preferences, he claimed the following: I have not come to preach any dogmas or religion, nor to establish a new order, nor be proclaimed a new Messiah or Pontiff. I have only brought before my people the light of the Vedic wisdom which had been hidden during the centuries of India’s thralldom.8 For Dayananda, religion was a device that needed to be utilized for social wellbeing; it was primarily designed to set in motion processes whereby human beings could learn to support various means for universal welfare. In his view, religion ought not to discriminate; it should be aimed towards the construction of a level playing field for all. This conceptualization may sound utopian if we don’t pay attention to the context of Dayananda’s argument. No doubt, his was a manifestation of ‘true’ Hinduism that would be tuned to the welfare of all. He believed that this was the inviolable principle on which religion of any kind rested, and so he clarified his position by saying: I believe in a religion based on universal and all-embracing principles which has always been accepted as true by mankind and will continue to command the allegiance of mankind in the ages to come. Hence . . . the religion is called the primeval eternal religion which means that it is above the hostility of all human creeds whatsoever.9 After having dealt with definitional issues, Dayananda explored the merits and demerits of various world religions. His dislike for Christianity is attributed to the proselytizing drive of the Christian missionaries at the beginning of colonial rule; it was a design which, according to him, was contrary to the core of any religion because he strongly believed that a religion that was imposed on mankind was not a true religion but ‘an instrument of oppression’. What is most striking in Satyartha Prakasha is the detailed analysis of the Quran, which was included presumably because of Dayananda’s belief that it was the Muslims who were responsible for India’s downfall. According to him, the fact that Islam was essentially clan-based meant that Islam could never be a true religion, as its expansion depended on coercing non-believers to accept what they would not have endorsed otherwise. Islam, in his perception was a religion based on hatred, which drew its sustenance from domination. The purpose here is not to embark on a threadbare discussion of how Dayananda viewed Islam; instead, the discussion shall hover around those core points which will help us understand how he contributed to Hindu nationalism as an ideological preference by exposing, as it were, some serious limitations of the doctrine of the Quran. Dayananda was not persuaded that the Quran was the statement of God; contrarily, he emphasized that it was impossible because: if the Quran were the work of God how could he swear by it? If the prophet had been a messenger of God he would not have fallen in love with his

Conceptualizing Indian nationalism 21 daughter-in-law. It is foolish to assert that the believers in the Quran are on the straight path, for he alone is said to tread that path who believed in truth, utters truth, acts in conformity with truth and shapes his conduct in accordance with the dictates of Dharma (duty) which consists of justice and freedom from prejudice and forsakes all that is opposed to them. Neither Quran nor the Mohammedans nor their God satisfies these conditions. If Mohammad had been the greatest prophet, he would have been the most learned and the most virtuous among men. The praise of Mohammedanism by Mohammad is like the praise by a costermonger of his plums.10 There are two things in this statement that demand attention: firstly, it is a scathing criticism of the Quran’s holy status, citing as evidence the immoral conduct of its author, Mohammad, who was condemned for his socially unacceptable behaviour. Dayananda thus charged the text, secondly, of not being holy, since it was written to justify those deeds of his which were clearly at variance with what was considered socially acceptable. So, he concluded that: Quran can neither be a book of true knowledge . . . nor be the work of God nor that of an enlightened person, nor does it contain knowledge. . . . Whatever little truth it contains being in harmony with the teaching of the Vedas and other scientific works is acceptable to us as it is to other wise and enlightened men who are free from bigotry and religious prejudices.11 Here, Dayananda made two claims: one is directed towards undermining the intellectual foundation of the Quran and the other has to do with the Vedas as the epicentre of knowledge. While the former is based on his political objective of attempting to disprove the divine authorship of the Quran, the latter is an endeavour to demonstrate the power of Vedic wisdom. Dayananda further argued that there was a serious conceptual limitation in the Quran: it had no space for preempting people from committing ‘a sin’. He elaborated, ‘it is written in the Quran that one’s sins are forgiven by mere repentance; this encourages sin, since here is nothing to deter men from its commission’.12 In contrast, the Vedas and also the Manusmriti put forward a well-defined scheme highlighting how ‘all souls are judged according to their deeds’.13 Similarly, the Muslim god was charged with the arraignment that ‘he is partial, unjust and utterly ignorant because [in meting out] . . . punishment, he applies his values and preferences without being objective’.14 Hence, Dayananda concluded that Islam’s claim of being a universal religion was overstretched because its core values were ‘discriminatory’.15 Through his critique of Islam, Dayananda sought to affirm his contention that Muslims could never become reliable partners in nation-building because (a) they were narrow in their perception, and so they failed to understand the sorrow and pain of other human beings, and (b) they were parochial in their approach to humanity.16 The whole exercise, it is clear, was directed towards establishing the superiority of Hinduism and, by contrast, the inferiority of Islam and the Quran. Dayananda’s argument is based on his own biased perception of the Vedas as a superior source of knowledge that cannot be undermined. Whether the claim that was made was


Ideological foundation

legitimate or not is a difficult question to address. Nonetheless, one can make a persuasive point by stating that Dayananda, being true to his commitment to the Sanatan Dharma, developed a template for Hindu nationalism that helped his successors to defend a claim that he made in circumstances in which the phenomenon was more an academic expression and less a piece of political rhetoric to get people to mobilize for a cause.

A social reformer In Dayananda’s opinion, the social reconstruction of Hindu society needed to precede India’s political and national reconstruction.17 Accordingly, his monumental efforts for social and religious reforms of the Hindu society were meant to create an unbreakable social bond amongst the people, which could later be transformed into national bonding. This strategy was indeed highly effective with the mindset of the Indian people. The social reform initiatives injected a sense of moral superiority and self-confidence in the people, in such a way that that it appeared a distinct possibility to visualize India as a nation of moral triumphalism. British colonialism started being considered an immoral act of political subjugation by alien people, which could never be a permanent fixture on the sacred space of the motherland. Seeking to build India’s national personality on the basis of the strong and impeccable individual character of its people Dayananda laid great stress on core values and moral convictions like patriotic emotions and personal chastity.18 He argued that only a class of people imbued with profound moral values and unceasing pride in the motherland would come forward to reassert the national character of the country. What was remarkable, in Dayananda’s case was the fact that he practiced what he preached, in order to show people the practicality of his exhortations. Hence, when his individual character became visible to the people through his values and actions, it played a catalytic role in arousing the people’s passion for their motherland, which eventually became the foundation of Vedic nationalism in the country. This was how Dayananda acted both as a theorist and as a practitioner of Vedic traditions. Dayananda championed self-rule, for which he came up with the idea of Vedic swarajya. Conceptually, Vedic swarajya is loaded with social and religious overtones in comparison to the swarajya of the mainstream national movement that had been predominantly political in nature. In other words, although Vedic swarajya definitely stood for political independence from the yoke of British imperialism, it also focused on a happy, peaceful, contended and bondless life for the people. Sometimes the impression is gathered that Dayananda would have accepted the continuation of British rule in the country had that rule secured for the people material gains such as peace and tranquility, joy and happiness, abundance and contentment, among others. However, such an argument may not be taken to be completely correct given Dayananda’s desire to rebuild Indian society on the basis of Vedic precepts. In such a reconstruction of Indian society, presumably there would not have been any place for morally debasing elements like

Conceptualizing Indian nationalism 23 foreign rule, which stands in patent antithetical position to the virtues of self-rule and self-respect. In his call for the revival of Hindu nationalism, Dayananda often appeared to be calling for the exclusion of non-Hindus from Indian nationalism. His preaching and writings were particularly offensive to the Muslim community, who perceived his call for Hindu revivalism as a threat to their long-standing rule and hegemonic influence on different aspects of people’s lives in the country. For this reason, sometimes, Dayananda has been branded by a section of scholars as calling for creation of a Hindu nationalism in place of an inclusive nationalism in which all sections of Indian society – both Hindu and non-Hindu – could live together and strive for the growth and well-being of the nation. As V. P. Varma asserts: [t]here are instances to prove that the Moslem sections looked upon him with hostile feelings. But the Hindu nationalism which received impetus from the life and teachings of Dayananda has been the dominant element in Indian nationalism. Nationalism postulates the strengthening of the associational bonds of social and political existence. Therefore, it implies the transcendence of local and egoistic attachments and preferences. Hence even if Dayananda stood for Hindu solidarity, he was strengthening Indian nationalism because if the Hindus, who form the predominant majority in India, could become organized, they could certainly fight the British political power.19 As discussed earlier, Dayananda’s call for revival of Vedic nationalism in the country had an electrifying impact on the psyche of the masses in northern and western India. It seemed as if people had found what they had been searching for amidst the all-pervading darkness that colonial rule had brought in. Even in the parts of the country where it was assumed that Dayananda’s activities had no direct influence on the people, they surely created an ambience that invigorated people to embark upon a subtle rise against British colonialism. In assessing the impact on the people of Dayananda’s efforts and his organization, an analyst wrote candidly, ‘how great an uplifter of the peoples he was – in fact the most vigorous force of the immediate and present action in India at the moment of the rebirth and reawakening of the national consciousness. His Arya Samaj, whether he wished it or not, prepared the way in 1905 for the revolt in Bengal. He was one of the most ardent prophets of reconstruction and of national organization. I feel that it was he who kept the vigil’.20 By shaping his vision on the basis of Vedic precepts, Dayananda targeted the weakest point of the Hindu mindset in order to help the community regain its lost self-respect. Prior to the invasions, the Vedas were held in high esteem by the Hindu community, and seen as authorless and eternal pearls of wisdom, divine in nature. But during the long years of being ruled by foreign invaders, the Hindus were on the verge of losing their faith in the Vedas, and for that matter in all that constituted the bases of their glorious past. In such a scenario, the arrival of Dayananda set the Hindus on a path of emancipation that eventually resulted in the


Ideological foundation

rise of Indian nationalism. Pointing out the seminal contribution of Dayananda, Rabindranath Tagore writes: Swami Dayananda, the great path-maker in modern India, who through bewildering tangles of creeds and practices – the dense undergrowth of the degenerate days of the country – created a straight path that was meant to lead the Hindus to a simple and rational life of devotion to God and service for man. With a clear-sighted vision of truth and courage of determination, he preached and worked for our self-respect and vigorous awakening of minds that could strive for a harmonious adjustment with the progressive spirit of the modern age and at the same time keep in perfect touch with that glorious past of India when it revealed its personality in freedom of thought and action, in an unclouded radiance of spiritual realization.21 One of the major causes of the persistent subjugation of the Indians by foreign invaders had been how fearful the people were of the barbaric use of force by the latter. Dayananda picked up on this epidemic of fear that plagued the Indian masses and made it a point of his vision and mission to root out this fear from their hearts and minds. He knew very well that fearful people could never develop a sense of pride in their past achievements. Hence, slowly but steadily, he started inculcating a sense of fearlessness in the minds of the people by exhorting them to bring back the glory of their halcyon days. In one of his writings, he describes the virtue of fearlessness thus: He alone is entitled to be called a man who possesses a thoughtful nature and feels for others in the same way as he does for his own self, does not fear the unjust, however, powerful, but truly virtuous, however weak. Moreover, he should always exert himself to his utmost to protect the righteous, and advance their good and conduct himself worthily towards them, even though they would be extremely poor and weak and destitute of material resources. On the other hand, he should constantly strive to destroy, humble and oppose the wicked sovereign rulers of the whole earth, men of great influence and power though they be. In other words, a man should, as far as lies in his power, constantly endeavour to undermine the power of the unjust and to strengthen that of the just. He may have to bear any amount of terrible suffering, he may have even to quaff the bitter cup of death in the performance of his duty which devolves on him on account of being a man, but he should not shirk it.22 The Vedic revivalism of Dayananda had the magical impact of liberating the minds of the people of India from colonial rhetoric, by restoring their faith in the glory of their ancient scriptures. The people were convinced that the Vedas had the power to be the foundational framework of life in the country. Notwithstanding the fact that over the years the significance of these scriptures had waned, their value as a moral beacon had remained intact. Moreover, by calling for Vedic nationalism, Dayananda also tried to provide a common ground for the Hindu to

Conceptualizing Indian nationalism 25 come together for the cause of their nationhood. Recognizing his contribution to the arousal of national feeling in the country, Jayaswal writes clearly: The Sannyasi Dayananda gave freedom to the soul of the Hindu, as Luther did to the European. And he forged that freedom from inside, that is, from Hindu literature itself. . . . Dayananda was not only the greatest Indian of the nineteenth century. . . . In the nineteenth century there was nowhere else such a powerful teacher of monotheism, such a preacher of the unity of man, such a successful crusader against capitalism in spirituality.23 The nationalistic chorus embedded in Dayananda’s call for a return to the Vedas has sometimes been understood as his indirect call to the Hindus to unite against foreign invaders, which included Muslims as well as the British. As a matter of fact, in his unrelenting quest for a cardinal point to revive the feeling of glory in the past scriptures that could become the basis for a rise of national pride in the Hindu people of India, Dayananda had quite often tried to blame the foreign invaders for the pathetic conditions in which the Hindus found themselves in his time. Hence, as a natural corollary, he thought that the lost self-respect of the Hindus could be regained only by explaining the misdeeds of the foreign invaders. Only then he could justify the arousal of the nationalist fervour in the people in the name of opposing the foreign rulers who had caused the decay of Hindu glory. Hence, by implication, many writers took Dayananda’s exhortation as an indirect call on the people to rise against the foreigners, which included Muslims by default. Taking such an attitude towards Dayananda, Valentine Chirol writes, ‘the whole drift of Dayananda’s teachings is far less to reform Hinduism than to range it into active resistance to the alien influences which threatened in his opinion, to denationalize it’.24 However, this stand did not match with that of the nationalist historians of India who preferred to focus on how Dayananda’s efforts had laid the foundations of the cultural, religious and spiritual awakening of the Hindus of India. The line of argument advanced by the nationalist historians has been that since the alien rulers had systematically brought about in the Hindu community the loss of their pride, cultural richness, spiritual refinement and religious chastity, the community did not have anything to fall back on to reconstruct their national personality, and so, the onerous efforts of Dayananda could not have taken any other form than to call for the revival of the ancient Indian values, scriptures and wisdom. At the same time, though Dayananda did not have in his mind any animosity towards the alien rulers, there was no doubt that any reference to the fall of Indian glory would not have been complete without remote references to such rulers. But, in the main, Dayananda’s major thrust had been to promote a sense of selfrespect and pride amongst the people of India for their glorious past. Analyzing the contribution of Dayananda’s organization, the Arya Samaj, this point has been brought out succinctly: when, therefore, the Arya Samaj sings the glory of ancient India – the land of expositors of Revealed Learning, the sacred soil where Vedic institutions


Ideological foundation flourished and put forth their choicest fruits, the holy country where Vedic Philosophy and Vedic Metaphysics attained their highest development, the sanctified clime where lived exemplars who embodied in their conduct the loftiest conceptions of Vedic ethical teachings – the health – forces of nationalism receive an impetus, and the aspirations of the young nationalist who had persistently dinned into his ear the mournful formula that Indian History recorded the lamentable tale of continuous and uninterrupted humiliation, degradation, foreign subjection, external exploitation, etc., feels that his dormant national pride is aroused and his aspirations stimulated. So, patriotism which is the handmaiden of Vedicism, is so lofty, inspiring, vitalizing, unifying, tranquillizing, soothing, bracing and exhilarating.25

Fundamental here are two significant points which are useful to comprehend how Dayananda reconceptualized Hindu nationalism as a mobilizing tool. On the one hand, for him, the Vedic texts not only presented a persuasive alternative with a powerful politico-ideological message but they were also specific designs of socioeconomic renewal; they were not, at all, means for revivalism as alleged, but ones that espoused those principles which were both motivational and directional. Since Vedas were primarily knowledge-driven devices they also implicitly represented, on the other, endeavours for change. This is a conceptual point that Dayananda made to justify his claim that ancient texts, Vedas in particular, contributed to the creation and also consolidation of patriotism. So, for him, the Vedas were instruments for generating a sense of belongingness among those who upheld these texts as integrally linked with their intellectual legacies; they were, in other words, thus designs for cementing a bond among the believers which, according to Dayananda, was a significant step towards building a united and strong India. It is clear that being persuaded by his belief that these texts would help the moribund Indian nation rise as a collectivity in opposition to those seeking to segment the society. It is also true that implicit in his concern was an effort to build a nation by drawing on the cultural and literary resources of India’s ancient past; by making caustic remarks on other religions and their holy texts, in particular Islam and the Quran, Dayananda left no doubt that his aim was to bring together the Hindus by reminding them of their rich cultural heritage in contrast with those demeaning religious traditions that, being exclusionary in nature, were an impediment to the consolidation of the nation. In short, Dayananda’s sociopolitical design being derivative of an urge for returning to the Vedas, was clearly one of the first serious endeavours at theoretically conceptualizing Hindu nationalism as an ideological priority which the successive Hindu nationalist ideologues, as we will see, developed to chart out specific courses of actions complementary to their sociopolitical mission.

Swami Vivekananda (1863–1902): a perennial optimist Swami Vivekananda (1863–1902) was one of the great personalities of modern India who not only made timeless contributions to reforming Hindu society but

Conceptualizing Indian nationalism 27 also presented a unique conceptualization of nationalism that was to stand on the foundations of eternal human values cherished by Indians for ages.26 A staunch believer in the philosophical tradition of Vedanta, Vivekananda propagated a Vedantic nationalism that he believed would rid the country of its political weaknesses and help the people organize themselves into a formidable global power. Given his saintly personality and the long tradition of seeing religion as the fulcrum of people’s lives in India, Vivekananda designated religion to be the driving force behind the national awakening of the country. He categorically stated ‘in each nation, as in music, there is a main note, a central theme upon which all others turn. Each nation has a theme: everyone else is secondary. India’s theme is religion. Social reform and everything else are secondary’.27 He was quite clear that no other affinities/identities held by Indians, such as caste, creed, language, or geographical identity could provide as strong a foundation for building the national identity of the people of India. He saw Hinduism as the life’s breath of the people of India, which had been keeping the nationalist fervor of the people alive despite losing political control of the territory of their country to various invaders over different periods of time. In his perception, Hinduism was not merely a religion, but a way of life in which service to humanity prevails over other considerations. The aim here was also to spread the message that religion was a vehicle for universal welfare, and not for fulfilling partisan interests.

Philosophical contours Like Dayananda, Vivekananda dwelled on Islam and the role of the Prophet in its propagation. Impressed by Mohammad’s endeavour to popularize the main tenet of Islam, i.e. ‘our God is one . . . and Mohammad is the Prophet’, Vivekananda admired his courage in the face of constant threats of persecution during his campaign. What was most striking to the man was Mohammad’s ability to unite a race in Mecca (and later, Medina), in circumstances where his opponents were well-equipped to smash their oppositional efforts. Vivekananda’s admiration for the expansion campaign is evident in his statement that Islam ‘deluged the world in the name of the Lord [suggesting] Islam’s tremendous conquering power’.28 Despite having highlighted his exceptional courage, Vivekananda was critical of the sins Mohammad had committed before he embarked on his religious mission. In a lecture that he delivered in San Francisco in 1900, he expressed this condemnation in the following statement: Mohammad [as] a young man . . . did not [seem to] care much for religion. He was inclined to make money. He was considered a nice young man and very handsome. There was a rich widow. She fell in love with this young man and they married. When Mohammad had become the emperor over the large part of the world, the Roman and Persian empires were all under his feet and he had a number of wives. When one day he was asked which wife he liked best, he pointed to his first wife [because] she believed in me first.29


Ideological foundation

The previous paragraph has two important messages: on the one hand, this critique of Mohammad was based on Vivekananda’s own moral commitments. On the other hand, his statement is equally sensitive to human attitudes, highlighting how strongly influenced they are by the emotional quotient. Mohammad’s attitude towards his wife is indelibly human and intensely relatable, which Vivekananda used to back up his point that there are certain universal values that human beings qua human beings share. His critique of Islam and Mohammad comes from a philosophical conviction that there are universal human values. Again, with reference to the Vedantic approach to humanity, Vivekananda thus declared: Each individual soul is a part and parcel of that Universal Soul which is infinite. . . . it is the recognition of this truth which has enabled the Hindus to perceive the universal truth of all religions from the lowest to the highest; it has made of them the only people who never had religious persecutions. The shrine of a Mohammedan saint which is at present day neglected and forgotten by the Mohammadans, is worshipped by Hindus. Many instances may be quoted illustrating the same spirit.30 That Hinduism generates love for all regardless of religious (and other) differences was, according to him, a source of strength that demonstrated to the world that Hinduism was the only religion that taught universal brotherhood to the rest of the world. This aspect of Hinduism was often considered by those of other faiths as a weakness, because Hinduism never coached its believers in belligerence. Based on the core values of Vedanta, Hinduism was thus a unique discourse directing its members to be both accommodative and respectful to those with different religious inclinations. Vivekananda was, however, at pains when he confronted a situation in India that hardly corresponded with what Vedantic philosophical ideas had preached. He found that many Hindus held practices that were contrary to these well-established ideas of equality. Hence, he admitted that Hindus nurtured duality when it came to social practices. In his words: In our books, there is the doctrine of universal equality, but in work we make great distinctions. It was in India that unselfish and disinterested work of the most exalted type was preached, but in practice, we are awfully cruel, awfully heartless – unable to think anything besides our own mass-of-flesh bodies.31 This is a scathing criticism of Hinduism that was distorted to fulfil the partisan interests of those who were neither religious nor had any goodwill towards the Indian people. This distortion emerged at a time when Hinduism had lost a lot of its vitality. A careful analysis of his understanding of Vedantic discourse reveals that Vivekananda was appalled by the raging epidemic of caste segregation in India, done in the name of religion. Vivekananda believed that unless this practice was obliterated, the future of Hindus was bleak. Hence, what was required was to educate the masses in the Vedantic ideas of universal brotherhood and equality.

Conceptualizing Indian nationalism 29 This was what a commentator characterizes as ‘practical Vedanta’, which was described by Vivekananda as a step to recognize ‘the primacy of food’.32 He was very concerned about ending death by starvation, which wasn’t uncommon in nineteenth-century India. As a solution to this problem, Vivekananda evolved a model of ‘self-help’ to produce adequate food for his countrymen. People ought to throw, he thus exhorted, ‘the scriptures in the Ganges and exert themselves in procuring food and clothing instead’.33 Otherwise, the scriptures would cease to be a pathfinder for human salvation, as they were claimed to be. This perceptive take on things sets him apart from the class of religious reformers. His attitude does not seem odd in light of the following statement: I do not believe in a God or religion which cannot wipe the widow’s tears or bring a piece of bread to the orphan’s mouth. However, sublime be the theories, however well spun may be the philosophy – I do not call it religion so long as it is confined to books and dogmas.34 What was needed to rejuvenate the moribund Hindu society was the creation of Karmayogis (persons who believed in work). Vivekananda used this image to spread the message of self-help and generate enthusiasm among the Hindus who appeared to have lost the ability to draw on their inner strength. The Karmayogi concept gave him a unique perspective on life; for him, ‘the world is the great gymnasium where we come to make ourselves strong’.35 His concern was therefore to build one’s strength by one’s deeds, because he believed that: [w]e are responsible for what we are, and whatever we wish ourselves to be, we have the power to make ourselves. If what we are now has been the result of our own past actions, it certainly follows that whatever we wish to be in the future can be produced by our present actions; so, we have to know how to act.36 Vivekananda also insisted that Hindus and Muslims join hands for the nationalist cause, since they belonged to the same motherland. This was a practical suggestion; one likely to yield results in a context where both communities were subject to colonial exploitation and thus united in their suffering. Hence his suggestion was that: for our own motherland a junction of two great systems, Hinduism and Islam – Vedanta brain and Islam body – is the only hope. . . . The future perfect India [will] rise of this chaos and strife, glorious and invincible, with Vedanta brain and Islam body.37 There are two important ideas which are directed to bring the Hindus and Muslims together for the nationalist cause. First, his was an endeavour to develop a collectivity of people who remained united for rendering service to the motherland. This is not a typical Hindu nationalist argument which usually privileges


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Hindus over other communities. Vivekananda sought to create a platform in which both the communities come together regardless of their religious differences. This is the second point that he made while defending his argument that for the nationalist cause one needed to underplay one’s ethnic identity. For him, Hindus and Muslims were just labels which might have been a source of psychological empowerment though in practice, the insistence on Hindus and Muslims being entirely different was a source of weakness. That was therefore, insisted Vivekananda, undesirable in an effort to build the nationalist mindset. By seeking to draw on the Vedantic texts for intellectual empowerment and by identifying Islam which, in his perception, represented physical might, Vivekananda developed a unique mode of union in which Hinduism and Islam were seen in a different light. Whether it was an effective strategy was not adequately examined in the available historical researches though it is clear that this was a serious endeavour by Vivekananda who, despite being respectful to his unalloyed commitment to the Vedantic texts, was persuaded to accept the Muslims as partners presumably because Islam epitomized, he felt, strength and valour. There were two Vivekanandas, as it were, being submerged into one. They do not seem to contradict but complement each other: being convinced that ‘the degeneration of India came not because the laws and customs of the past were bad, but because they were not allowed to be carried to their legitimate conclusions’,38 he thus felt the need to draw on the wisdom that India generated in ancient times. The other Vivekananda, the Karmayogin, was also aware that the importuning of the Hindu texts was likely to alienate the Muslims which perhaps led him to construct an argument for bringing them to the nationalist platform. The latter Hindu nationalists did not seem to have been convinced and hence this approach did not receive attention that it deserved. Nonetheless, it was an endeavour that demonstrated that Vivekananda was keen to develop a template of commonality in which both the communities had reasons to be together in a situation, not exactly in their favour. This was further enforced when he uttered that: I am thoroughly convinced that no individual or nation can live by holding itself apart from the community of others. Give and take is the law. . . . We commenced to die the day we began to hate other races; and nothing can prevent our death unless we realized this axiomatic truth.39 What is striking in Vivekananda’s thought is also the importance that he had paid for generating mass enthusiasm for nation building. For him, what was prior was to build the nation and then fight for other causes. There were two criteria that were, according to him, critical for accomplishing the aspired goal. First, he was appalled having witnessed how caste distinction was a source of animosity among the Hindus; this segregation was not based on any authoritative text, but, certain practices that were forced upon the Hindus by those seeking to fulfil narrow and partisan interests; it was clearly a distortion. Hence he emphatically argued that ‘the caste system is opposed to the religion of the Vedanta. Caste is a social custom which was a design deliberately thrust upon us. All out great preachers have

Conceptualizing Indian nationalism 31 tried to break it down’.40 Drawing on how Buddhism clamped casteism in India, he was persuaded to hold the view that it was possible to do away with caste because it was divisive and also brutal in nature. Secondly, he also believed that so long as caste governed Hinduism it would be difficult to build on it a stable nationalist compact for ‘modern caste distinction is a barrier to progress [since] it narrows, restricts, separates human beings for one another’.41 So, the concern was to eradicate sources of segmentation among the Hindus which, according to Vivekananda, could easily be done provided there was a strong will towards its accomplishment. Here he was making a wider point because in his perception the caste system divided Hindu society beyond redemption. This was a design of exclusion, a design sustaining the schism among the Hindus. According to him, this was a great ‘national sin’ as it was divisive and also demeaning for those who were forcibly segregated due to certain obvious economic reasons, besides being ostracized in view of their birth-driven caste identity. It was perhaps one of the most perceptive comment that he made while seeking to identify the principal reason for India’s downfall as a nation when he said that: no amount of politics would be of any avail, until the masses in India are well-educated and well-fed and well-cared for. They work for our well-being, they build our temples, but, in return, they get kicks; they are practically our slaves. If we want to regenerate India, we must work for them.42 There are two interrelated aspects that Vivekananda highlighted here: on the one hand, he raised his concern for the poor who had no access to education and who remained deprived largely due to the interplay of certain historical forces; it was a deliberate design, being translated in forms segregating one section of the population for another. They needed to be cared for which was reflective, on the other, of his foresight, as he felt that only by successfully addressing their needs did his plan for an inclusive India hope to succeed. His primary aim was to develop a collectivity that ‘put’, he mentioned, ‘his words into practice’.43 The goal was to evolve a human compact based on their concern for collective well-being. As argued previously, Vivekananda’s approach to nationalism was far more nuanced than his colleagues who held an identical politico-ideological priority. According to him, the first task was to create conditions in which human being felt the need to coming together for a common cause. It was possible, in his perception, only when the basic socioeconomic needs of the masses were meaningfully addressed regardless of caste, class and clan. This is not an unusual argument since the nationalists, all over the globe, draw on certain well-defined socioeconomic concerns affecting the masses. The other task that he thought was most required in India was to undertake steps to combat discriminatory caste-driven practices segregating population into two warring factions. Here he was opposed to the Hindu sacred texts that seemingly endorsed caste system which, according to him, was an outcome of a distorted interpretation of the classical Hindu religious texts, especially Vedas, Upanishads, Puranas and Smritis. Till this point,


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he did not seem to have endorsed the typical Hindu nationalist line of thinking. His argument in support of the contention that Vedantic texts retained the crux of wisdom for humanity reveals that he was, like his compatriots in the Hindu nationalist pantheon, persuaded to believe that not only were they repositories of wisdom, but also they would equally be useful as a device for guiding human being towards fulfilling their aspirations and desired socioeconomic goals. Vivekananda was clear in his vision that spirituality forms the core from which a nation derives its strength and sustenance.44 The material resources of a country would be no help in providing strength to it if the people are not able to have a strong character drawn from the stamina that lies within them. It is, in fact, in the moral character of the individuals of a nation that the power to sustain and carry forward ones conviction becomes durable. There are so many instances when the people of a country have had the privilege of possessing almost all the materialistic gains of life. But that had never been the source of their strength. They could maintain their superiority over others on account of their spiritual strength drawn from within. The moment the spiritual strength of people are lost, the material gains turned out to be irrelevant as the source of power of the people. As a result, the relatively lesser materially endowed peoples or countries make earnest efforts to subdue them. And, in the decisive battles, the loss of spiritual strength led to the discomfiture of such people. Such an analogy might not hold good for any other country than for India which was at one point of time the pathfinder for the world but became a hapless lot in the face of foreign invaders over the period of time. The national identity of each country in the world is determined by one vital aspect of life that may be considered to be the essence of the existence of that country. In this respect, no general rule can be visualized for all the countries in the world. Rather all the countries could be seen as evolving their own distinct value system which, on the whole, has characterized their personality in the ultimate analysis. That way, the story of India must be seen in a different light. The nationhood in India has evolved since not on the basis of certain kinds of hatred for any people or nation in her neighbourhood. On the contrary, the national character of India has been shaped by the cultural commonality that has been assiduously built by the sainted nationalists of the country over a long period of time. In this regard, the seminal contribution of Shankar cannot be understated. Born in the southern tip of the country, he toiled hard and travelled to all the nooks and corners of the country to spread the message of humanity and common brotherhood inherent in the Hindu religion. In the course of his travels, he also established a number of institutional places of religious bonding for the people so that the people of one part of the country could relate to their counterparts in other parts thereby establishing the common bond amongst the people rooted in Hindu religion. Hence, insofar as the national identity of Indians is concerned, Hindu religion becomes the common cementing factor that has united the people from all parts of the country into one nation. An important argument put forward by Vivekananda with regard to sustenance of certain people as a nation relates to the inherent piousness of their stakeholders in terms of people. As a matter of fact, there has been the instance of many

Conceptualizing Indian nationalism 33 countries whose national character has been ordained by a leader on the strength of his sword. As a result, as long as the power of sword of that ruler remained intact, the people of that country retained their sense of nationhood. But the moment the wielder of that power disappears from the scene, the sense of nationhood amongst the people also disappears and they enter into a state of mutual discord and eventually fighting. However, for the countries where the feeling of nationhood amongst different people was inculcated out of love and bonding amongst the different people, the national character of that people remains somewhat immortal and irrespective of rulers or holders of power, the sense of nationhood amongst the people never disappeared. The existence of ancient civilizations as a nation has been the stark reminder of the inherent goodness of their people that helped them keep their bonding intact and continue as a nation forever. It was a passionate plea of Vivekananda that a nation must hold on to their national institutions in all times if it is to continue its existence as a nation. His conviction of the vitality of institutions in the maintenance of the existence of a nation presumably emanated from his seeing many nations in the world losing their existence due to their falling into the trap of those who not only undermined the significance of their institutions but also their self-respect and selfglory. Such a loss of self-respect for their institutions resulted into the loss of critical focus of attention around which their national feeling subsisted. In fact, the loss of the national character of the Indians over a period of time could also be attributed to the loss of faith of the people in the institutions of nationhood. Hence, Vivekananda appealed fervently that the national character of Indians must be envisioned in terms of the Hindu religious institutions that could retain the attention of the people towards the nationhood of their motherland.45 Despite the loss of political power, Indians could carry on with their national pride only due to the religious convictions which they kept intact during all times. In a way, Vivekananda appeared closer to the western conceptions of nation and nationalism when he argued that the core of a nation are the individuals who happen to be its building block.46 However, his point of departure from the Western conception of the role of individuals in constituting a nation comes sooner when he starts visualizing the dynamic personality of an individual in constituting the nation. In general, the Western philosophy of individualism rests on the criticality of the people and their characterization as nothing but seekers of more and more material gains so that their material affluence could be advanced. But in the theoretical framework of Vivekananda, the personality of an individual has essentially been conceptualized as a moral being who is always engaged in his moral upliftment and consolidation of his moralistic character. In fact, in his numerous lectures, speeches and writings, Vivekananda could be seen calling upon the people to come up to the expectations of the moral superiority of India and set an example for the others to follow. As he goes on: Thou brave one, be bold, take courage, be proud that thou art an Indian and proudly proclaim, ‘I am an Indian, every Indian is my brother’. Say ‘the ignorant Indian, the poor and destitute Indian, the Brahman Indian, the Pariah


Ideological foundation Indian is my brother’. Thou too clad with but a rag round thy loins proudly proclaim at the top of thy voice, ‘The Indian is my brother, the Indian is my life, India’s gods and goddesses are my God, India’s society is the cradle of my infancy, the pleasure-garden of my youth, the sacred heaven, the Varanasi of my old age’. Say brother, ‘The soil of India is my highest heaven, the good of India is my good’, and repeat and pray day and night, ‘O Thou Lord of Gauri, O Thou Mother of the Universe, vouchsafe manliness unto me! O, Though Mother of Strength, take away my weakness, take away my unmanliness and – Make me a Man!’47

Thus, the moral personality of the individual becomes the critical input in the visualization of the Indian nationhood by Vivekananda. In the realm of the political philosophy of Vivekananda vis-à-vis the character of people to be able to subsist as a nation, the vitality of freedom cannot be underestimated. In other words, Vivekananda was an ardent advocate of freedom for the people so that they are able to retain the autonomy of not only their self but also the basic tenets of life that remain critical in their national identity. Moreover, the idea of freedom in the conceptualization of Vivekananda is such an all-encompassing concept that its orientation could not be confined to only external aspects. On the contrary, he argued that the freedom is a holistic idea whose reflection must be found in all the probable aspects of public life. As he writes: To advance towards freedom, physical, mental and spiritual and help others to do so is the supreme prize of man. Those social rules which stand in the way of the unfoldment of this freedom are injurious and steps should be taken to destroy them speedily. Those institutions should be encouraged by which men advance in the path of freedom.48 In this context, it becomes quite clear that the Western idea of external freedom to the exclusion of internal freedom of soul and mind of the individuals become quite stark as such freedoms have been rendered sterile. Conversely, the Indian conceptualization of freedom as consisting of both internal as well as external dimensions make the people truly free which gets reflected in the ways of life that they pursue. Apparently, Vivekananda had been consistent in keeping himself away from the thick and thin of the politics of national movement going on in the country. Given that his mission was to bring about the spiritual and inner consciousness of the people so that they could realize their self and then decide the future course of action of their life, he believed that the best course for him would not be join the bandwagon of the Indian national movement and initiate struggle against the British colonial rulers. On the contrary, he chose the path of taking the message of his mentor Ramakrishna to the wider world and made the people realize that they are the master of their own destiny. However, that does not mean that Vivekananda was oblivious of the activities going on in the country through the platform of the Congress. The only thing was that he did not participate in the

Conceptualizing Indian nationalism 35 activities of the Congress and confined his actions to the spiritual awakening of the people. But he definitely held his opinion on the activities of the Congress and showed his dissatisfaction with the course of actions adopted by the party. For instance, once when asked about his having faith in the activities of the Congress, he was categorical to assert, ‘No, I have not. But of course, something is better than nothing, and it is good to push the sleeping nation from sides to wake it up. Can you tell me what the Congress had been doing for the masses? Do you think merely passing a few resolutions will bring you freedom? I have no faith in that. The masses must be awakened first. Let them have full meals, and they will work out their own salvation. If Congress does anything for them, it has my sympathy’.49 The non-political orientation of Vivekananda towards the basic issues confronting the country has been the hallmark of his approach to conceptualizing the idea of nation and nationalism in India. The idea of the Indian nation to Vivekananda was an inclusive project in which no one should be left out on whatsoever ground and for whatsoever reason. And, the fundamental ground for such an inclusion could be nothing else than the inherent cultural and spiritual unity of the people living in all nooks and corners of the country. This all-encompassing yardstick of Indian nationalism has the potential of ruling out all the bases of separation, all the cleavages, distinctions and discrimination from the nationalist discourse of the country. Importantly, such conceptualization of Indian nationalism on the part of Vivekananda need not be underestimated given that the vast majority of people in the country could easily be divided on the basis of both inherent and manufactured fault lines of Indian society. Vivekananda was well aware of such an irony of the Indian conditions. Hence, the basis he argued for the construction of Indian nationalism was spiritualism, a trait from which no section of Indian society could recuse itself. It is therefore not surprising that the ideas of Vivekananda on Indian nationalism remain more important in the country than even in the past.

Aurobindo (1872–1950): a trailblazing designer In the series of illustrious political thinkers endowed with the finest critical faculties to read, understand and interpret the ancient Indian texts and scriptures to offer an altogether different perspective of life, Sri Aurobindo may be reckoned to be a rare genius. The vastness of his experiences of life and his deep erudition of the classical India texts made him ready to offer an unconventional interpretation of the prevailing conditions in India and response of the Congress party to the pressing issues before the nation.50 In fact, the range of scholarship of Aurobindo goes beyond the set limits of political philosophy and his writings may be taken as reflective of his considered opinions on a vast array of issues and problems facing the country. Ever since his return from England, he busied himself in grappling with the issues of the national movement and the reconstruction of Indian society and polity in the post-independence period. The remarkable aspect of his thought process has been that he was equally well versed with both the European philosophical traditions as well as the classical Indian literary texts. As a result,


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in his writings, one quite often finds cross references and convergence of ideas and concepts used both in the European and Indian political discourses. However, on a comparative note, Aurobindo appeared to be more inclined to contextualize his ideas within the framework of Indian philosophical traditions rather than in European philosophy. In the pantheon of Hindu nationalism, Aurobindo is always cited for his original thinking in devising a plan of action for translating the ideas that he espoused into practice. Again, a Karmayogin, he, being persuaded by Bhagavad Gita, strongly felt that India’s indigenous intellectual traditions had much to offer which, unfortunately, remained peripheral presumably because of the hegemonic grip of ideas derivative of Western philosophical discourses. Behind the effort that he undertook as a nationalist was his concern for the nation that was subjugated also because of the Indians’ failure in creating a template for them in opposition to the foreign ruler. It was this lack of desire which, he explained, was at the root of the lackadaisical attitude that Indians evinced in the nationalist context. What he thus strove to accomplish was to build a self-dependent nation that was strong enough to survive and also do combat if there was an attack. In a nutshell, Aurobindo had clearly defined objectives: on the one hand, his goal was to let lose the processes, social, economic and political, which were essential for the nation’s well-being; besides augmenting the nation’s strength, Aurobindo had, on the other, emphasized adequately on how to make India self-dependent as well. Instead of engaging in the clichéd discussion of how the British rule economically ruined India, he prepared a set of mechanisms for generating self-driven development initiatives, long before Gandhi’s widely-cited Constructive Programmes (1943). Core to his thinking, in broad terms, remains the idea of justice and righteousness which, according to him, creates an atmosphere of political morality. He then qualified his conceptualization by saying that the ‘justice and righteousness’ that he preferred was not that of a priest, but a fighter. As he further stated: [a]ggression is unjust only when unprovoked: violence, unrighteous when used wantonly or for unrighteous ends. . . . The sword of the warrior is as necessary to the fulfilment of justice and righteousness as the holiness of the saint.51 Implicit here was his concern for building a nation that was strong enough to combat the foreign nation militarily; the idea of sword being a device for the attainment of the aspired goal is symptomatic here. This does not however preclude the importance of saints who, in his perception, were critical in sustaining the system despite the odds. In shaping the basic contours of the political philosophy of Aurobindo, the transformative experiences of the different stages of his life proved to be the critical factor.52 For instance, while one phase of the active life of Aurobindo was dedicated to the cause of revolutionary nationalism in the country, there also came a time when he became an out and out ascetic with almost no concern for the rest of the world. Such a variation in the activist life of Aurobindo also got reflected in

Conceptualizing Indian nationalism 37 his writings which present different aspects of his thought process. For instance, in the early phase of his life when he was part of the revolutionary movement in Bengal and professed the cause of Indian nationalism through radical means, he appeared quite critical of the policies and programmes of the moderate sections of the Congress party and on many occasions chided them for confining the range of their movement to just prayers and pleadings. However, once he recused himself from the active politics of the national movement and retired to his abode in Pondicherry, he began his spiritual journey and most of his classical writings took place in the tranquil and serene ambience of that pristine heaven. The main philosophical standpoint through which Aurobindo articulated his ideas and opinions on different aspects of public life of the people of India is generally known as political Vedantism. There can be no denying the fact that Aurobindo was overwhelmingly influenced by the Vedantic philosophy reflected previously in the critical analysis of the problems of India by Vivekananda. But the major distinction between the two illustrious nationalist scholars of the country is that while Vivekananda made utmost efforts to recuse himself from the thick and thin of Indian politics and confined his sermons and preaching to the social and religious reforms in the country, Aurobindo was an out and out political personality whose initiation in the vortex of Indian national movement was premised on his revolutionary orientations. In fact, politics appeared to be primary in the thought process of Aurobindo and the spiritualism of Vedantic philosophy pervaded his ideas and precepts only when he decided to withdraw from the heat and dust of the national movement. After his return from England, Aurobindo was quite perturbed when he saw the plight of the Indian people under the colonial regime. He was amazed at the contrast with which the colonial rulers conducted themselves in England and India. But he was not a man to lose heart and started applying his mind to find ways and means to alleviate the pathetic conditions in which the people of India found themselves at that time. In such a scenario, amongst the different sections of Indian society, Aurobindo appeared convinced that the only class of people in India who seemed capable of putting forward their arguments effectively before the colonial government were the intelligentsia and intellectuals who not only were deeply aware of the malaise afflicting the country but also had the sense of seeking redressal of such malaises. He therefore began to make fervent appeals to the intellectual class in whatever ways possible so that their passion for the country could be aroused and they could be roped in to put forward the grievances of the masses before the colonial rulers. In one of his memorable write up calling upon the good sense of the intellectual classes, he argued: With us it rests . . . with our sincerity, our foresight, our promptness of thought and action. . . . Theorist or trifler though I may be called, I again assert as our first and holiest duty, the elevation and enlightenment of the proletariat: I again call on those nobler spirits among us who are working enormously, it may be, but with incipient or growing sincerity and nobleness of mind, to divert their strenuous effort from the promotion of narrow class interests,


Ideological foundation from silly squabbles about offices and salaried positions, from a philanthropy laudable in itself and worthy of rational pursuit, but meager in the range of its benevolence and ineffectual towards promoting the nearest interests of the nation into that vaster channel through which alone the healing waters may be conducted to the lips of their ailing and tortured country.53

There are three significant ideas that deserve scrutiny: first, Aurobindo was for the downtrodden, social, economic and political, who always remained at the mercy of those who were at the helm of affairs by dint of their social, economic and political power, if not authority, in circumstances in which the former had always remained marginalized. Secondly, there was a clearly worded statement suggesting that pursuance of partisan interests was a deterrent to the growth of a nation as a collectivity. What was needed was to develop a mindset tuned to the nation’s well-being. This is primarily a prescriptive design though in it remained Aurobindo’s optimism in building a strong nation comprising those willing to sacrifice for the country. Finally, there was also a format to reach out to the globe; or, in other words, simultaneously with one’s concern for the nation, one could easily pursue a goal which also had a global perspective. It was a clamour for universal well-being involving those being tortured by those who, with their muscle power, oppressed the former.

The nationalist vision In the context of the Indian national movement, Aurobindo belonged to the extremist group of nationalists. He was in favour of taking a more strident and harder approach towards the British. He was fully in support of the extremist faction of the Congress led by Tilak and vocally supported any move on the part of extremist leadership to push forward its point of view on the platform of the party. In fact, though the extremist faction of the Congress was looking for an opportunity to push forward for the adoption of a more radical line against the British and was readying to even go to the extent of splitting the party on the issue, the matter gained haste, thanks to the vocal demands of the leaders like Aurobindo. Hence, at the Surat session of the Congress, the extremist faction of the party appeared ready for the split and pushed forward for the adoption of a more radical approach towards the colonial rulers. Obviously, such a confrontationist stand within the party was bound to result in a split. After the split, Aurobindo was very sarcastic against the moderates and ridiculed their course of action against the British. As he wrote so forcefully: Yes he struggles against it, intrigues, hedges, plots: by false issues and misleading statements, by pretty tricks and party chicanery, by an appeal to all that is sordid and uninspiring he seeks to prolong his life for a season. He appeals to fear and calls it moderation. He tries to take to himself the credit of the immense revolution that Nationalism is bringing about. . . . The devices he utilizes are those of a diplomat, the petty Machiavellianism which Mazzini

Conceptualizing Indian nationalism 39 scored with so lofty an indignation, the cunning which never yet lifted up a nation, the political manoeuvres which crumble into dust at the first touch of Power. Inspired by this Machiavellianism, hoping to rehabilitate himself before the nation and yet save himself before the bureaucracy, he has broken up the Congress to remould it according to the heart’s desire of Minto and Mehta and saddle it with a creed which he does not believe and a constitution which belies every democratic profession on which the public actions of his life have been based.54 This is a powerful critique that Aurobindo provided while assessing Tilak and his contribution to the nationalist cause. While being appreciative of his critical role, he did not seem to have been completely convinced of the strategies that Tilak had employed. Presumably because of the Indian mindset, the Machiavellian statecraft design, he apprehended, would not work. The strategy had not had a future because even Tilak himself, imbued with the Congress’ ‘conciliatory’ attitude, did not seem to have been entirely persuaded. Here it was a mismatch between the design of politics and its methodological foundation. After parting ways with the mainstream Congress of the moderates, Aurobindo thought it prudent to articulate his opinion on what constitutes nationalism for the people of India. He categorically asserted that India is blessed with divine unity by the almighty which must be realized by all at any cost. In the pursuit of such a divine unity, it was imperative for all of the people of the country to perspire and make sure that the national divine unity of the country becomes a distinct reality. He asserted that there would not be any place for any kind of exclusion or partisan role for anybody and equal and active partnership of all the people would be the hallmark of national unity. He went to the extent of equating the bodily structure of the Indian nation to that of the mythical virat purush whose different parts would form different aspects of the nation. As in the personality of the virat purush, each and every organ of the body has a definite role to play and no part could be kept out of the active functioning of the body, the same analogy would hold true for the personality of the Indian nation as well. As he avers: Nationalism is simply the passionate aspiration for the realization of the Divine Unity in the nation, a unity in which all the component individuals, however, various and apparently unequal their functions as political, social or economic factors, are yet really and fundamentally one and equal. In the ideal of Nationalism which India will set before the world, there will be an essential equality between man and man, between caste and caste, between class and class, all beings as Mr. Tilak has pointed out different but equal and united parts of the Virat Purush as realized in the nation. . . . We are intolerant of autocracy because it is the denial in politics of this essential equality, we object to the modern distortion of the caste system because it is the denial in society of the same essential equality. While we insist on reorganizing the nation into a democratic unity, politically we recognize that the same principle of reorganization ought to and inevitably will assert itself socially; even


Ideological foundation if, as our opponents choose to imagine, we are desirous of confining its working to politics, out attempts will be fruitless, for the principles once realized in politics, must inevitably assert itself in a society.55

This is perhaps the most perceptive comment that Aurobindo had offered while conceptualizing his idea of nation, nationalism and national identity. According to him, nationalism was an aspiration for attaining a goal that was valued by those who fought for this. In his perception, nation was a divine unity that was a sum total of individual will in its support. It was not possible so long as human beings remained inequal in terms of class, clan and creed. The claim was to bridge the gulf among human beings in the interest of the nation. As the object was to merge with the divine self, virat purush, in Aurobindo’s parlance, one cannot rule out the idea that Aurobindo retained his universalist mindset even at the initial stage of his nationalist career that loomed large as he gradually shifted from the nationalist scene. For him, this was the golden rule in politics which was, in his views, a carrier of those ideas that individuals acquire during their lifespan. In a nutshell, Aurobindo can be said to have ushered in an era when politics was not merely a device to remain in the reckoning in the public life but also a clearly articulated device to achieve the goal of universal well-being. This was new politics which he explained in detail by saying: ‘[t]his is the object within the new politics, the politics of the twentieth century, places before the people of India in their resistance to the present system of government – not tinkerings and palliatives by the substitution for the autocratic bureaucracy, which at present misgovern us, of a free constitutional and democratic system of Government and the entire removal of foreign control in order to make the way for perfect national liberty.56 The argument is clear with an equally clear ideological message: the prevalent foreign bureaucracy needed to be replaced by a constitutional-democratic system of government. It was a contextual statement because following the revocation of the 1905 Bengal partition in 1908, there was a strong argument for democratization of governance, though in a rudimentary way, in colonial India. In fact, the 1909 Morley-Minto Reforms scheme epitomized part of the concern that nationalists epitomized in their opposition to the British design of bifurcating Bengal ostensibly for better governance of the province. Nonetheless, it was the beginning of a nationalist ideas that loomed large as days progressed, especially with the arrival of Gandhi on India’s political scene. What was unique in Aurobindo was also his idea of passive resistance which was, according to him, an effective method in wresting political authority from the British. In his lexicon, ‘the method of passive resistance is to abstain from doing something by which [one] would be helping the Government [while] the active or aggressive resister is to do something by which [one] can bring about positive harm to the Government’.57 This is an act of omission entailing that complete abstention from the government and

Conceptualizing Indian nationalism 41 also those institutions contributing to its functioning. This is also a withdrawal design which was ‘to make administration . . . impossible by an organized refusal to do anything which shall help either British commerce in the exploitation of the country or British officialdom in the administration of it’.58 In one words, this was a boycott, one of the most powerful nationalist designs that Gandhi was to resort to soon while pursuing his politico-ideological goal in the 1920s and its aftermath. Further elaborating the idea, Aurobindo stated: ‘[t]he new politics, therefore, confines itself for the time to the policy of lawful abstention from any kind of cooperation with the Government, – the policy of boycott, which is capable of gradual extension, leaving to the bureaucracy the onus of forcing on a more direct, sudden and dangerous struggle. Its principle at present is not ‘no representation, no taxation’, but, ‘no control, no assistance’.59 To begin with, the new politics was about ‘boycott’ though it was likely to expand to a bigger direct struggle since bureaucracy was, in all possible means, bound to resort to violence to quell the nationalist upsurges which were likely to create new constituencies in opposition to the colonial state. For Aurobindo, passive resistance did not thus appear to be a final nationalist weapon, but one that was likely to pave the way for a different kind of struggle; it was a powerful statement of resistance involving participation of the affected and also the urge for a fight for the nationalist goal. The new politics, therefore, argued Aurobindo: while it favours passive resistance, does not include meek submission to illegal outrage . . .; it has no intention of overstressing the passivity at the expanse of the resistance. Nor is it inclined to be hysterical over a few dozens of broken heads or exalt so simple a matter as a bloody coxcomb into the crown of martyrdom. . . . Passive resistance cannot build up a strong and great nation unless it is masculine, bold and ardent in its spirit and ready at any moment and at the slightest notice to supplement itself with active resistance. We do not want to develop a nation of women who knew only how to suffer and not how to strike.60 There are two points here: one is hinted and other explicit. The first point which is explicitly stated is about the nature of passive resistance; it was not, at all, a submission to the authority; instead, it was another way of protest in which noncooperation and boycott figured prominently. An act of omission, this strategy would force the authority to address the concerns that the protestors had raised. The hinted point is about the nature of the protest which entailed both suffering and assertion of rights; here, by drawing on the analogy of Indian women who suffered silently, Aurobindo added another dimension to passive resistance, a concept which was not mere suffering but a template for protest where suffering also conveyed a voice of challenge and opposition.


Ideological foundation

With the articulation of his preferred mode of opposition, Aurobindo set out for identifying the objective of the campaign that, he thought, was appropriate for Indian nationalism. The aim of the movement was, he argued: Swaraj or national freedom, [which] is self-government as it exists in the United Kingdom [because] . . . no smaller ideal can inspire national revival or nerve the people of India for the fierce, stubborn and formidable struggle by which alone they can again become a nation. . . . To be content with relations of master and dependent or superior and subordinate, would be a mean and pitiful aspiration unworthy of manhood.61 What is notable here is the demand: Aurobindo was contented with Swaraj or selfgovernment constituted by the people, in conformity with the Westminster form of democracy. This does not seem odd till the adoption of the 1929 resolution of Purna Swaraj (complete freedom from the British rule) by the Congress at its annual session in Lahore. Attainment of Purna Swaraj was tantamount to, he further argued, the fulfilment of aspired goals; in other words, nothing short of self-government was acceptable because it shows Indians’ capability of winning the objective that the nationalist movement had set out for the nation. Once the target is achieved, Aurobindo suggested a model of governance in which the creation of a strong central authority was privileged ‘to carry out the will of the nation, supported by a close and active organization of village, town, district and province; an organization in which the people of India shall remain primary.62 A perusal of the argument shows that Aurobindo had pitched his point by focusing on (a) the role of the people in constituting the government which entails (b) his endeavour at creating a space of democracy, though in a rudimentary form, and also steps for democratizing governance in India.

Nationalism – its articulation and unfolding In conceptualizing nationalism, Aurobindo appears to have drawn largely on the indigenous traditions; the primary of which was Bhagavad Gita. His ideas were serialized in Bande Mataram, an English newspaper that he edited. Instead of providing a detailed discussion of the text here, it will suffice if the major points are highlighted. As argued previously, Aurobindo was supportive of militant nationalism which ran counter to his colleagues, identified as moderates in the contemporary description. So, that the Gita was often cited shows that this text was inspirational enough to galvanize the people for a showdown against the British; it was also a powerful device to wake up a nation that appears to have gone in deep slumber. It is therefore surprising that he identified the Gita as a weapon: addressed to a fighter, a man of action, one whose duty in life is that war and protection, war as a part of government for the protection of those who are excused from that duty, debarred from protecting themselves and therefore at the mercy of the strong and the violent war, secondly and by moral extension

Conceptualizing Indian nationalism 43 of this idea, for the protection of the weak and the oppressed and for the maintenance of right and justice in the world.63 Unlike the conventional spiritualists, Aurobindo found in the Gita a powerful instrument for human salvation which, if utilized properly, was certain to create a milieu of action which was needed in existent circumstances when people tended to become dependent on others; the mantra was to rejuvenate the nation with those aspired ideals supportive of its rise as a strong sociopolitical entity. What runs through his ideational design in which the Gita was an important pillar was his concern for Indians to be self-dependent. Keeping this notion in view, he thus argued that the Gita: insists on the performance of the social duty, the following of the dharma for the man who has to take his share in the common action, accepts Ahimsa as part of the highest spiritual-ethical ideal and recognizes the ascetic renunciation as a way of spiritual salvation.64 What is emphasized here is both the nature and goal of the Gita: on the one hand, it stressed on action which means ‘an act to translate one’s ideas’ into certain specific activities. This also dwells, on the other, another powerful politico-ideological construct, namely, Ahimsa that Gandhi was to popularize in the 1920s with the Noncooperation campaign. Having laid out the conceptual foundation, Aurobindo further clarified his position by making a comparative study of the histories of Japan and India; while being influenced heavily by Western ideas, Japan drew on them to rise as a strong nation. India, with the same historical trajectory, failed to follow that path. The success of Japan was attributed to the creative amalgamation of the spirit of samurai and bourgeois which means that despite having accepted the bourgeois ideas of empowerment, the Japanese never lost sight of their own samurai tradition. According to him, the source of Japan’s strength was her success in adopting the European style of organization while being respectful and sincere to the distinct Japanese ancient samurai spirit which entails bravery and commitment/loyalty to the motherland nurturing the Japanese as best as is ideally conceived. As per Aurobindo: Japan . . . merely took over certain forms of European social and political organization necessary to complete her culture under modern conditions and poured into these forms the old potent dynamic spirit of Japan, the spirit of Samurai.65 The argument has two intertwined components: on the one hand, being appreciative of Western science and technology, and the concomitant ideas, the Japanese adopted them as they were means of empowerment; at the same time, they, on the other, were well-rooted in the samurai tradition which helped them to remain rooted strongly in their traditions. Fundamental here is the point that a nation being rooted in her tradition, shall always be strong despite having adopted knowledge


Ideological foundation

that had alien roots. Contrarily, the bourgeois tradition that also had emerged in the West, instead of being an empowering design, tends to make a nation lethargic, disinterested and opposed to challenge and innovation. For Aurobindo, bourgeois was a mindset which had pernicious effects in India since Indians, being unable to fathom its devastating impact, remained captive of bourgeois spirit. What does it entail? ‘The bourgeois’, argued Aurobindo: is the average contented middle-class citizen who is, in all countries, much the same in his fundamental character and habits of thought, in spirt of pronounced racial differences in temperament and self-expression. He is a man of facile sentiments and skin-deep personality; generally, ‘enlightened’ but not inconveniently illuminated. In love with his life, his ease and above all things for his comforts, he prescribes the secure maintenance of those precious possessions as the first indispensable condition of all action in politics and society; whatever tends to disturb or destroy them, he condemns as foolish, harebrained, dangerous or fanatical, according to the degree of its intensity and is ready to repress by any means in his power.66 A curt comment, the previous statement is a clear exposition of how bourgeois behave and articulate themselves presumably because of the circumstantial comforts which they cannot ever abdicate. Furthermore, the bourgeois by being blindly imitative of the derivative knowledge, forget conveniently how to think independently which is a source of psychological degradation. Opposed to rote learning, Aurobindo scathingly critiqued the habit by saying that ‘[w]e learned science without observation of the objects of science, words and not the things which they symbolized, literature by rote, philosophy as a lesson to be got by heart, not as a guide to truth or a light shed on existence’.67 Besides killing the capability that one acquired instinctively, the rote learning never allowed, as history had shown, a nation to rise on her own. This was obvious because knowledge that had emanated from an alien context was unlikely to be effective to those who were nurtured in a different sociocultural milieu. Hence, he argued that ‘[w]e read of and believed in English economy, while we lived under Indian conditions, and worshipped the free trade that was starving us to death as a nation’.68 This is one side of the story. Indian’s acceptance of Western knowledge did not take the nation to the aspired goal simply because it was not adaptive of the Indian conditions. The other part of the same story is linked with Aurobindo’s wellthought-out comments on India’s divisive sociopolitical conditions that seemed to be at odds with what Western philosophy taught, though the Indians had seemingly internalized its core ideas, drawn on the Enlightenment philosophy. In a very scathing critique, he thus stated that: ‘[w]e professed notions of equality and separated ourselves from the people, of democracy, and were the servants of absolutism. We pattered off speeches and essays about social reform, yet had not ideas of the nature of a society. We looked to sources of strength and inspiration we could not reach and left those untapped which were ours by possession and inheritance. We knew so

Conceptualizing Indian nationalism 45 little of life that we expected others who lived on our service to prepare our freedom, so little of history that we thought reform could precede liberty, so little of science that we believed an organism could be reshaped from outside.69 Here too, the point that is being reinforced does not seem to differ from his overall conceptual framework of analysis. There was an inherent contradiction between the derivative and organic knowledge: while the former is simply mugging of what is given, the latter evolves from within. Aurobindo’s primary concern was to go back to the ancient text which, he strongly felt, epitomized wisdom which was transcendental in spirit and nature. What is reemphasized here is also his concern for self-development which was possible not by blind imitation but by being creatively interactive with the prevalent socio-economic and political reality. What goal did Aurobindo have in mind? As argued earlier, being a nationalist, Aurobindo always privileged nation over others; to accomplish his aim, he devised certain specific steps, including a socio-economic design for generating impulses for self-driven development plans and programmes. He pitched his argument at two levels: at a rather mundane level, he devised a scheme for developing a collectivity that was tuned to the nation and its interests; at a rather perceptive level, he suggested specific models of socioeconomic regeneration of the nation again by drawing on Bhagavad Gita and Vedic texts which led to the conceptualization of ‘new nationalism’. In his exposition of the idea, he thus stated that: ‘[t]he new Nationalism is a creed, but it is more than a creed; it is a method, but more than a method. The new Nationalism is an attempt at a spiritual transformation of the nineteenth century Indian; it is a notice of dismissal or at least of suspension to the bourgeois and all his ideas and ways and works, a call for men who will dare and do impossibilities, the men of extremes, the men of faith, the prophets, the martyrs, the crusaders and rebels. . . . It is the rebirth in India of the Kshatriya, the Samurai.70 Three points deserve attention here: firstly, being a nationalist par excellence Aurobindo was keen to create a mass with unconditional loyalty to the nation. Contrary to the moderate idea of prayer, petition and protest, he was in favour of direct assault on the British rule. Secondly, it was possible once those who served the nation were organically attached with the prevalent socioeconomic and political reality. Given his firm belief in what he derived from the ancient texts, he was persuaded to accept that they were effective enough to generate the nationalist zeal among the Indians. Finally, as he was convinced that a creative blending of the spirit of samurai with that of the bourgeois was most desirable to effectively pursue the nationalist cause, he, in his own unique way, endeavoured to create conditions for the rise of Kshatriya which, according to him, would succeed once the qualities of samurai and bourgeois were creatively amalgamated. So, the goal that Aurobindo aspired for was to create a nationalist template combining the qualities that samurai and bourgeois upheld. In this conceptual framework, he devised his own mode of nationalizing the nation. Unlike Lajpat Rai who


Ideological foundation

always favoured the Hindu nationalist approach to nationalism, Aurobindo never appreciated the idea; instead he evolved a formula in which the combined strength of the Hindus and Muslims was appreciated. As one who supported history being contextual, Aurobindo thus argued that Hindu nationalism did not seem to be appropriate in India in view of the significant presence of the Muslims. Hence, he argued that ‘Hindu nationalism had a meaning in the times of Shivaji and Ramdas, when the object of national revival was to overthrow a Mahommedan domination which, once tending to Indian unity and toleration, had become oppressive and disruptive’.71 With this in view, he thus suggested a new mode of conceptualizing the nation by taking both Hindus and Muslims in board. Desiring to evolve consensus among the Hindus and Muslims on this issue, he made a very perceptive comment by underlining that: ‘[o]ur ideal therefore is an Indian Nationalism, largely Hindus in its spirit and traditions, because the Hindu made the land and the people and persists, by the greatness of his past, his civilization and his culture and his invincible virility, in holding it, but wide enough to include the Moslem and his culture and traditions and absorb them into itself.72 Fundamental here are two important claims which are critical to make the argument that Aurobindo favoured what is historically conceptualized as ‘syncretic nationalism’. First, his ideas seem to have had contextual influence simply because Bengal where he was born and raised was a Muslim majority province before the 1947 bifurcation of India. Muslims were very much part and parcel of Bengal, and hence, they needed to be taken on board as well for the nationalist cause. Secondly, he was also aware that Muslims, being a culturally distinct ethnic group, could not be ignored in the interest of the nation despite having admitted that the hegemonic impact of Hindu ethos and values in Indian nationalism. This was a very smart formulation because on the one hand, he took into account the fact that so long as Muslims remained dissociated from the nationalist camp, it was difficult to create a strong template for the battle for fulfilling the nationalist aspirations; by insisting that Hinduness of Indian nationalism, he also, on the other, upheld the view that whatever was known as Indian nationalism had to be largely Hindu-driven since Hindus constituted a majority.

Concluding observations The vast diversity and rich historical legacy of India have also contributed to the varying conceptualization of the ideas like nation, nationality and nationalism in the country. At different junctures of history, different people tried to present a novel understanding of the idea of India as a nation. However, well before the idea of India as a nation in the political sense of the term came into currency, there was a galaxy of saints and sages of the country who sought to conceptualize India as a nation in cultural and religious terms. In this regard, the seminal contributions have been made by the saintly figures such as Dayananda, Vivekananda and Aurobindo. Articulating their views at different points of time and in different

Conceptualizing Indian nationalism 47 contexts, the common theme that emerged in the views of the three eminent personalities is that the nationhood of India lies in its spiritual self that finds its reflection through the Hindu religion, its sacred texts and scriptures, values and conventions cherished by people as part of Hinduism, among others. Though the apparent orientation of these leaders, especially of Dayananda and Vivekananda, was not to open a front against the British colonialism, their views definitely had a spiraling impact on stirring the national conscience of the people who felt compelled to rise in revolt against the colonial rulers. Thus, these leaders laid the foundation of cultural nationalism in the country that still continues to reverberate in the psyche of the common people of India. As ideologues supportive of Hindu nationalism, Dayananda, Aurobindo and Vivekananda represented an alternative voice which was inspirational to a large section of the nationalists and also those who, after independence, continue to revere their views. The aim was to consolidate, on the one hand, Hindus as a compact ethnic group by being drawn on those ancient texts which did not receive as much attention as they deserved in the past. There was, on the other, another aspect of this endeavour which helped understand the growing importance of a pan-Indian Hindu identity despite stark sociocultural differences among the Hindus. It has thus been argued that these ideologues helped build a powerful argument defending the rise of a solid Hindu collectivity ‘in which personal religious and caste identities are subordinated to the greater good of the nation’.73 A powerful exposition of the idea of Hindu nationalism, this argument is pitched at two levels: at a rather mundane level, the Hindu nationalist ideologues created an ambience in which a serious feat was undertaken to develop a legitimate space for those ideas that had a natural appeal to the Hindus; it was a deliberative design to nurture a constituency which was not conceptualized earlier. In other words, that Vedas and other ancient texts were critical to the Hindus did not seem to have been so sharply highlighted in the past. By defending that point that they were a key to the existence of Hindus as Hindus, these thinkers brought back, in the public domain, those ideas which were marginalized due to the growing importance of Enlightenment values in the context of the nationalist campaign. At a far more perceptive level, their ideas were an aid to a new thinking in which it was forcefully argued that for nationalism to grow as a powerful source of strength the role of innovative texts was of immense significance. It was thus not odd that Dayananda’s Satyarth Prakasha developed the argument by drawing upon the Vedas; in fact, his slogan, ‘back to the Vedas’, epitomized the endeavour. At the same time, he defended his plea by also making the argument that Islam was based on many misconstrued claims which, if exposed, was enough to show that it was a false and misleading religion. Vivekananda upheld Hinduism not merely as a religion but a way of life being accommodative of people even with different religious faiths. So, Hinduism, in his perception, was a universal religion of mankind which was not, at all, as restrictive as the rest. Here, his 1893 Chicago speech is illustrative of the claim being made here. Unlike Dayananda and Vivekananda, Aurobindo, despite having been inspired by the core values of the Hindu texts, was also keen to evolve Hindus as a strong compact in line with the Bhagavad Gita’s prescriptive suggestions. Being opposed to the medicant approach of


Ideological foundation

the colleagues belonging to the moderate camp of the Congress, he devoted his energy to championing militant nationalism which immediately attracted attention in circumstances when the former seems to have lost its steam. A careful study of the ideas of the major Hindu nationalist thinkers reveals that their principal aim was to create an intellectual ambience in which Hindu identity was privileged. It was done in two complementary ways: on the one hand, the claim was made that Hindu ancient texts contained those ideas which would help Hindus to assert their identity as forcefully as was expected. On the other hand, a sustained attempt was also undertaken, as Jaffrelot informs, to stigmatize the Other as a strategy to instantaneously generate the feeling of togetherness as perhaps the only option left under the present circumstances.74 The British rule was, of course, abhorred; but, the role of the communities living in India with different religious faith, especially the Muslims, was equally despicable presumably because of their explicit anti-Hindu sentiments reflected in activities which were neither nationalistic nor patriotic, but, surely, sectarian. So, there were reasons to be skeptical of the role of Muslims in the formation of India as a nation so long as they held contrarian views. There has to be a note of caution because as an idea Hindu nationalism is paradoxical with completely contrasting ideological aims. On the one hand, it was a well-thought-out design to cement a solid bond among the Hindus which was possible, as they thought, only by rekindling their interests in those ideas on which India’s ancient texts rested. This was an innovative stance which however had, on the other, adverse consequences because their design contained those ideas which were directed to create ‘the hated Other’, especially the Muslims who, by being ‘disloyal’ to the nation were a deterrent to the rise of India as a compact nation. Implications of such a thinking are two-fold: first, it was a nationalist design following what had evolved in the European context since the adoption of the 1648 Westphalia Treaty: the aim was to homogenize or essentialize a community around narrowly conceived criteria of religion, language, culture and common experience of oppression. Here is another paradox: despite being drawn on the ancient text that also talks of universalism, the Hindu nationalist ideologues drew, to a significant extent, on the European thinking in this regard which was anything but universal. The other implication was about the consequence: their argument was also directed to create an ambience in which the Muslims were instantaneously secluded as ‘sectarian’ since they, being different in their religious inclination, could never be a part of the nationalist campaign, being launched to liberate the motherland. This was perhaps most logical in the colonial context when the alien ruler left no stone unturned to segregate one community from another which was not unusual in the light of the divide et impera strategy that the British government had perfected while subjugating India for almost two centuries.

Notes 1 In the preparation of this chapter I owe a great deal to my former doctoral student, Dr. Rajendra Pandey of the department of Political Science, Meerut Universty, Uttar

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Conceptualizing Indian nationalism 49

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Pradesh, India who helped me build the argument by providing me with adequate intellectual resources. Marc Bloch, The Historian’s Craft, Manchester University Press, Manchester, 1954, p. 41. Ibid., p. 41. Ibid., p. 185. Sri Aurobindo, Bankim, Tilak, Dayananda, Sri Aurobindo Ashram Publication Department, Pondicherry, 1995, p. 12. H.B. Sarda (ed.), Dayananda Commemorative Volume, New Delhi: Paropkarini Sabha, 1983, p. 25. Dayananda, Satyarth Prakash, New Delhi: Sarvadeshik Sabha, 1960, p. 46. www.aryasamajjamnagar.org/download/satyarth_prakash_eng.pdf, e-copy of Dayananda Saraswati’s Satyartha Prakasha. Dayananda’s defence for the claim is articulated in the preface of this book which is now easily available in the this linkage. www.aryasamajjamnagar.org/download/satyarth_prakash_eng.pdf, e-copy of Dayananda Saraswati’s Satyartha Prakasha, p. 477. Ibid., p. 465. Ibid., p. 475. Ibid., p. 457. Ibid., p. 456. Ibid., p. 453. Ibid., p. 480. Ibid., pp. 480–1. Ibid., p. 49. Ibid., p. 78. VP. Varma, Modern Indian Political Thought, Lakshmi Narain Agarwal, Agra, 2006, p. 56. Romain Rolland, The Life of Ramakrishna, Twenty Third Reprint, Advaita Ashram, New Delhi, 2010, pp. 157–8. Cited in, V.P. Varma, Modern Indian Political Thought, Lakshmi Narain Agarwal, Agra, 2006, pp. 43–4. Dayananda, Satyarth Prakash, p. 47. Varma, Modern Indian, p. 45. Ibid., p. 46. Swami Shraddhanada and Ramdeva, The Arya Samaj and Its Detractors, The Vedic Magazine, New Delhi, 1910, p. 76. Romain Rolland, The Life of Vivekananda and the Universal Gospel, New Edition, Advaita Ashram, New Delhi, 2001, p. 54. The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda (CWSV hereafter), Part I, Vedanta Press, New Delhi, 2011, p. 140. The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Advaita Ashrama, Calcutta, 1999 (reprint), Vol. I, p. 482 – quoted in Jyotirmaya Sharma, Hindutva: Exploring the Idea of Hindu Nationalism, Penguin, New Delhi, p. 81. CWSV, Vol. I, p. 481 – quoted in Sharma, Hindutva, p. 80. CWSV, Vol. I, pp. 384–5 – quoted in Sharma, Hindutva, p. 88. CWSV, Vol. V, p. 96 – quoted in Sharma, Hindutva, p. 113. Sharma, Hindutva, p. 112. Ibid., p. 112. CWSV, Vol. V, p. 39 – quoted in Sharma, Hindutva, p. 112. CWSV, Vol. V, p. 410. CWSV, Vol. I, p. 31. CWSV, Vol. VI, p. 376 – quoted in Sharma, Hindutva, p. 113. CWSV, Vol. IV, p. 324. Ibid., pp. 365–6. CWSV, Vol. V, p. 311.

50 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74

Ideological foundation Ibid., p. 198. Ibid., pp. 222–3. CWSV, Vol. VII, p. 175. CWSV, Part I, p. 67. Ibid., p. 81. Ibid., p. 86. Ibid., p. 89. Ibid., p. 90. Ibid., p. 179. K.R.S. Lyengar, Sri Aurobindo, Arya Publishing House, Calcutta, 1950, p. 17. Sri Aurobindo, The Doctrine of Passive Resistance, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, 1966 (reprint), p. 62. VP. Varma, The Political Philosophy of Sri Aurobindo, Asia Publishing House, Bombay, 1960, p. 56. Sri Aurobindo, Indu Prakash, 4 December 1893. Sri Aurobindo, Bande Mataram, 19 April 1908. Ibid., 22 September 1907. Sri Aurobindo, The Doctrine of Passive Resistance, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, 1966 (reprint), p. 10. Ibid., p. 24. Ibid. Ibid., p. 32. Ibid., pp. 45–6. Ibid., p. 49. Ibid., p. 55. www.hinduwebsite.com/divinelife/auro/auro_manandbattleoflife.asp, Sri Aurobindo, ‘Essays on the Gita-Man and the Battle of Life’, January 1917, p. 2. www.searchforlight.org/Gita/The%20Core%20of%20the%20Gita%27s%20Meaning-2. html, Sri Aurobindo, ‘The Core of the Gita’s Meaning’, (part 2), p. 8. www.aurobindo.ru/workings/sa/37_06_07/0395_e.htm, Sri Aurobindo, ‘The Bourgeois and the Samurai’, p. 1092. Ibid., p. 1093. Ibid., p. 1104. Ibid. Ibid. Ibid., p. 1108. Sri Aurobindo, ‘On Nationalism’, p. 483 – cited in Sharma, Hindutva, p. 65. Sri Aurobindo, ‘On Nationalism’, p. 484 – cited in Sharma, Hindutva, p. 66. John Zavos, The Emergence of Hindu Nationalism in India, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2000, p. 222. Christophe Jaffrelot, The Hindu Nationalist Movement and Indian Politics, 1925–1990s: Strategies of Identity-Building, Implantation and Mobilization (with special reference to Central India), Viking, London, 1993, p. 78.


V. D. Savarkar (1883–1966) An activist ideologue

This chapter deals with the socio-political ideas of V. D. Savarkar (1883–1966) who, both during the nationalist phase and its aftermath, pursued, in a sustained manner, the Hindutva objectives regardless of consequences. Persuaded by his belief that only by creating a Hindu compact on the basis of ‘Hinduness’ shared by the Hindus in general building of Akhand Bharat (united India) was possible. It was thus not surprising that he was introduced to Indian nationalism by the revolutionary nationalists of Maharashtra (where he was born and raised) and Bengal which was the nursery of violent nationalism. It was also not surprising that he was inspired by the Italian nationalist, Giuseppe Mazzini who developed an ideological framework to galvanize the Italian youth while he was engaged in a battle for unification of Italy. Supportive of the motto Dio e Popolo (God and people), he thus regarded patriotism as a duty and love for the country as divine because this would create a template of linking the Italians on the basis of common religion, history and language. Opposed to Protestantism because it further subdivided the Christians by generating an anarchy of beliefs, he developed a concept of ‘thought and action’ suggesting the former made no sense unless complemented by the latter and vice versa. Like his intellectual mentor, Mazzini, Savarkar conceptualized a model of action on the basis of an ideological framework and a political philosophy seeking to create a homogenous nationalist compact as perhaps the only means left for the nation to gain independence. It was a definite politicoideological design based on nation’s cultural pride and self-esteem which, he felt, was the need of the hour. For him, a unified India remained elusive so long as Hindus were divided around sociocultural axes. Hence his mission was to create an ambience in which nation was privileged over individual priorities. The task was not difficult to accomplish because of the obvious cultural compatibility among the Hindus by being together in a territory supportive of identical sociocultural values and mores.

Arrival on the political scene V. D. Savarkar is generally credited with the conceptualization of Hindutva in which he defended the construction of a compact of Hindus as a well-knit nation. A nationalist to the core, he got involved in revolutionary activities while he was a student in India and later in England when he joined India House, a platform for

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Ideological foundation

Indian students in London. During his stay in London he founded Akhand Bharat Society and Free India Society to organize protest campaigns there by involving the Indian students and also their colleagues from other countries. A glimpse of the political activities that he undertook as a student shows that he was inspired to participate in the nationalist onslaught against the British irrespective of the consequences. Characterizing V. D. Savarkar as a far more dangerous political activist who could be threat to the Empire, a judicial dispatch from London underlined that he while staying in London was: a very active member of the group of Indian revolutionaries residing in [the city]; . . . he translated into Marathi the life of Mazzini with an introduction in which he points out how Mazzini relied upon the youth of the country to win freedom; he was also the author of the revolutionary book Indian War of Independence in praise of the rebels who rose in revolt against the Crown and distributed copies at a meeting organized by him . . . in celebration.1 It was Mazzini, confirmed by the previously quoted dispatch, who, as his intellectual mentor, kindled in him the urge for participation in the campaign for freedom from the British rule. Being an ardent supporter of revolutionary nationalism, Savarkar appeared inclined to endorse the means that drew on the overthrowing of the British regime by violence. He was thus kept under surveillance which resulted in his arrest in 1910 for his alleged involvement in anti-British political activities along with those revolutionaries who were associated with the India House Group. He was incarcerated in the Cellular Jail in Andaman and Nicobar Islands for more than a decade, and was released in 1921 after he appealed to the British ruler for clemency. Savarkar’s revolutionary self and request for mercy seem to be neither compatible nor easily comprehensible presumably because of the stark contradiction between the two. This needs elaboration. As evidence shows, Savarkar had written 30 March, 1920 to the Chief Commissioner of Andaman and Nicobar Islands for clemency in response to the Royal Declaration for clemency for all political prisoners. The decision was executed and many political prisoners, jailed in various prisons in India, were released. By making an appeal for clemency, Savarkar followed his other revolutionary colleagues. It is also logical that one needs to be extra careful while articulating the clemency appeal. Savarkar was no exception. Justifying why he had a case for clemency, he couched his appeal in such a way as to convince the decision makers which was clear when he stated that he believed neither in the: militant school of Bakunin nor the philosophical anarchism of Kropotkin or Tolstoy [but was committed to] the constitution . . . and is ready to contribute to the orderly constitutional development in India. . . . I am sincere in expressing my earnest intention of treading the constitutional path and trying my humble best to render the hands of the British dominions a Bond of Love and Respect and of mutual help and such an empire as is foreshadowed in the Proclamation with my hearty adherence.2

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V. D. Savarkar (1883–1966)


There is no doubt that Savarkar expressed his willingness to abide by the constitution if amnesty was guaranteed. As clemency for all was a policy decision, this individual letter was not an exception. For him, it was a matter of right and the decision was taken accordingly. It could also have been a strategy to seek for release from prison which would allow him to work further for independence. This was perhaps the reason for his appeal for amnesty as he reminisced later that ‘it was not an amnesty but a political ploy of the ruling authority to demean the sacrifice of the revolutionaries [because it is likely to be] construed to the outside world as the reward of obedience and of abstention from [the nationalist] activities’.3 So, Savarkar was aware of the consequences of the general clemency that the British government offered to quell the nationalist upsurges. That it had farreaching consequences was made clear when he stated that amnesty in exchange of a commitment for being obedient to British constitutionalism ‘will react detrimentally on the freedom-fighters . . . and other nationally-minded individuals; it will [ultimately] weaken the nationalists who may not feel so strongly for national independence [if those in prison] accept clemency for their freedom from jail’.4 Despite his hard work, his appeal was turned down by the Viceroy in his letter of 12 July, 1920. Although Savarkar did not succeed in securing amnesty for him that he asked for clemency gave a fillip to his detractors both during his lifetime and its aftermath.

Rise of a nationalist As argued earlier, since his youth Savarkar was involved in the nationalist campaign for which he was gaoled and suffered torture. In 1907, he planned a golden jubilee celebration of the 1857 rebellion which he christened as the first war of independence.5 According to him, it was a first serious challenge in India to shake off colonial shackles. On this occasion, he circulated an extremely patriotic pamphlet appreciating the sacrifice of the rebels by exhorting that: we take up your cry, we revere your flag, we are determined to continue that fiery mission of ‘away with foreigners’, which you uttered amidst the prophetic thundering of the Revolutionary war. Yes, it was a revolutionary war. For the War of 1857 shall not cease till the revolution arrives, striking slavery into dust, elevating liberty to the throne.6 That Savarkar was unequivocal in his admiration for those who laid their life for the nationalist cause was clearly stated in this pamphlet. He also saw a new beginning in the endeavour that the Indian soldiers undertook in their desire to get rid of the colonizers. It was obvious that he would be kept under observation by the police. Soon, he was incarcerated for life in Cellular Jail in Andaman and Nicobar Islands. It was a torturous phase in his life which he codified in his My Transportation for Life text, which was originally written in Marathi with the title, Majhi Janmathep, in 1946. A biography of his days in the Cellular Jail, My Transportation can be said to have some of his ideas of Hindutva in a rudimentary form.

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Ideological foundation

The book has one running theme, namely the brutality of the jail administrators and the unbearable sufferings of the jail inmates. For instance, at the beginning while narrating the inhuman ordeal of the prisoners, Savarkar wrote that: None was spared, among political prisoners, from the rack of that inhuman toil. Most of them were unaccustomed to any kind of physical labour; the best part of them were college youths; some of them had not turned sixteen; they were tender in age and body. But they were forced, for months on end, to toil hard even when they suffer from fever or other ailments.7 There were protests and Savarkar was in the lead in organizing the first strike in 1913 in the Cellular Jail. It was not an easy task because the inmates were divided between two groups: one that was close to the jail authority was reluctant and the other group felt impelled to join the strike. In Savarkar’s words, they were ‘those who, suppressed and downcast by all the vigours of their prison life, were now out to fight it out to the finish, and never submit at the cost of self-respect and honour’.8 It was a strike on a small scale. Nonetheless, the very act was a testimony of how political mobilization could work even in adverse circumstances; it was a reconfirmation of Savarkar’s faith in human spirit which was a tremendous source of strength if it was tapped for a legitimate cause. The strike was a baby step, felt Savarkar, which was not only ‘a threatening challenge to the prison authority [it also] created a stir and excitement in the prison-world the like of which had not witnessed before’.9 In response to the strike, the prison authority resorted to stern actions to quell the situation. In consequences, the political prisoners on strike were subjected to all kinds of punishments, including handcuffs, shackles, solitary confinement and other torturous forms of punishment. Under normal circumstances, these punishments lasted only for a week, as per jail manuals; but in this case, it went on beyond ten days. Savarkar, being one of the victims, raised his voice against the violation of the well-established rules in this regard which finally forced the jail authority to stick to the time-period of seven days. It was a grand success proving again how an organized protest yielded results. In the Cellular Jail, Savarkar also realized the importance of education to combat superstitions and also voluntary acceptance of the torture in jail as being fated. He felt the need of a travelling library in the prison; the prison library had books which mainly dealt with the British history and the glorious role that the Empire had played in contributing to human civilization. Most of the ordinary prisoners were not allowed to read books; instead they were encouraged to chew tobacco and indulge openly in any vices affecting health. It was a conspiratorial design, which provoked Savarkar to raise his voice though he did not succeed completely in allowing the ordinary prisoners access to the library. He took another route. From the secret funds that he generated, he procured books on economics, history, fiction and novels to make them available for the ordinary prisoners. How did he get books? It was an ingenious technique that he evolved. As he said, ‘[w]e ordered [books] on the address of Hindu officers outside the jail. We did not stock them in one place and we circulated them among the intending

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V. D. Savarkar (1883–1966)


readers’.10 This was an innovative design whereby ordinary prisoners had an opportunity to be baptised in the nationalist mission because most of the books that were procured dealt with India’s ancient past and also the achievements of the kings and queens. Besides being acquainted with what India was in the past, the reading of books also brought them closer to Hinduism as an empowering religion which helped them question the Christian priests who visited the jail for proselytizing the prisoners to Christianity, Savarkar argued. This was certainly a deterrent to conversion although the rate of conversion considerably dwindled following the 1857 rebellion. Savarkar thus mentioned that ‘till 1857, both in prisons and in the army, the ruling authorities had encouraged the spread of Christianity [which was stopped, to a considerable extent] after the terrible catastrophe of the War of Independence [when] the British authorities seldom interfered with religion and did not encourage conversion’.11 Conversion was halted though the prison authority devised newer mechanisms to prevent the prisoners from embarking on activities seeking to undermine the Empire. In wards of Hindu prisoners, the majority of the jamadars (junior staff in the prison who were in charge of the wards) were Pathans simply because they: were notorious for their fanatical hatred of the Hindus. The Pathans, the Sindhis and the Baluchi Muslims . . . were, one and all, cruel and unscrupulous persons, and were full of fanatical hatred for the Hindus. The officers had pampered them to serve their own ends.12 This does not seem to be odd in any context of nationalist agitation. It is therefore not an exaggeration to make the point that British government remained invincible largely due to its ability to generate and also sustain communal animosity between two major communities, Hindus and Muslims. This is not the space to dwell on the adverse consequences of the communal divide; there is no dearth of literature. What is important here is the point that Savarkar’s deportation in Andaman and Nicobar Islands created in him a future leader who devised a different path of nationalist mobilization drawing on Hindutva.

Unfolding of an ideology As argued earlier in this chapter, Savarkar’s internment in the Cellular Jail was not simply a phase of his incarceration but also a phase of learning which helped him build his ideological priorities when he appeared on the national scene. Besides nurturing the nationalist zeal and also creating a nationalist compact out of the prisoners along with the like-minded prison inmates, Savarkar also displayed his politico-ideological priorities during his incarceration in the Cellular Jail. The death of BG Tilak, the firebrand Marathi leader in August, 1920 gave him probably the first opportunity to infuse the nationalist zeal among the fellow prisoners. Savarkar planned a day-long fast to mourn the loss. It was difficult to observe fast since it was to be construed as ‘treason, and may lead to trial, and punishment for the offence’.13 Notwithstanding the adverse consequences, ‘at the dinner time,

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Ideological foundation

it was found that every one of them had refused to take food, from the inmates of Silver Jail to inhabitants on the far-off island of Ras’.14 For Savarkar, it was a matter of great satisfaction for two reasons: first, it was clear that nationalism was an empowering ideology capable of inspiring the Indians regardless of consequences; and, also, the sustained effort towards organizing prisoners generating the nationalistic fervour yielded positive results which were inconceivable in the prison context. Furthermore, it was also a matter of learning to Savarkar because in just two-hours’ notice the whole prison-world of Andaman and Nicobar Islands went on absolute fast in honour of Tilak; it was surprising that even the prisoners toiling on hard labour happily agreed to undertake fast as they were inspired too. For Savarkar, it was not a miracle but an outcome of hard work by the nationalists to create a nationalist compact by adequately generating the concern for the motherland. The nine-year hard work, claimed Savarkar, ‘brought tremendous awakening and unity among the prisoners and free men throughout the settlement [which was evident] when in just two hours the news could be carried all over the place and thousands of prisoners could observe fast regarding the day as a day of national mourning’.15 This was the beginning of a realization for Savarkar that only by inculcating concern for the nation his nationalist mission was certain to be fulfilled. Here too, he always drew on the Hindu imageries while being engaged in mobilizing the prison inmates. For instance, serving the nation was also a service to Bharat Mata, according to Savarkar. In his conceptual universe, Tilak perfectly fits in presumably because it was Tilak who nurtured the nationalist zeal in Maharashtra by drawing upon the heroic deeds of Shivaji or by popularizing Ganapati festival; he was also one of the few nationalist leaders who opposed the 1893 Age of Consent Bill since it was a foreign intervention in an exclusive spiritual domain of the Hindus, and was thus unwarranted. Fundamental here is the point that Savarkar was in the process of building his conceptual politico-ideological framework around these ideas which are integrally connected with the Hindu mindset. Secondly, the prison days also helped him build his political arguments vis-à-vis other nationalist events. He was not, at all, comfortable with the merger of the Gandhi-led Noncooperation campaign with the Khilafat movement. Persuaded to believe that it would not have been possible had there been Tilak on the national scene, he thus argued that ‘the exit from the Indian world of a powerful personality like Lokmanya Tilak ushered in the mad intoxication of Khilafat agitation conspiring with the cult of the Charkha as a way to Swaraj in one year’.16 His opposition to the campaign was based two important considerations: on the one hand, he believed that the fight for the Muslims for restoring Khalif was suicidal since it was not exactly nationalistic because it was directed to fulfil an exclusive Muslim demand. With this objective, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to persuade the Hindus to join hands with the Muslims for a cause which was to protect their exclusive interests. Hence Savarkar denounced the Khilafat campaign because it was, in his views, ‘an afat or menace to the country’.17 Furthermore, those who joined Khilafat campaign had double faces, humanitarian for the wider public and sectarian for the Hindus. To illustrate his point, he referred to an incident in the Cellular Jail when a Khilafat campaigner abused a Hindu

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V. D. Savarkar (1883–1966)


untouchable for taking water from a vessel of water for the Muslims with the plea that his touch would make the water unholy for prayer (Namaz).18 As well as condemning the Khilafat agitation as harmful to nation’s interests, he questioned, on the other, Gandhi’s Noncooperation movement which drew, as he characterized, on ‘the perverse doctrine of nonviolence and truth’. He thus strongly felt that: the Noncooperation movement for Swaraj based on these twin principles was a movement without power and was bound to destroy the power of the country; it is an illusion, a hallucination, not unlike the hurricane that sweeps over a land only to destroy it; it is a disease of insanity, an epidemic and megalomania.19 What is explicitly stated here is Savarkar’s unambivalent stance vis-à-vis Gandhian mode of conceptualizing the campaign for freedom. Being an ardent supporter of Tilak and a strong believer in militant nationalism, it does not seem odd; in fact, it is obvious that Savarkar, being baptised in an ideology in which violence was privileged, would never have approved the Gandhian principle of ahimsa or nonviolence as capable of winning independence for India. Gandhi too was not persuaded. In a significant comment on Hind Swaraj that he wrote in 1909, he thus explained that this text was: written . . . in answer to the Indian school of violence and its prototype in South Africa. I came in contact with every known Indian anarchist in London. Their bravery impressed me, but I feel that their zeal was misguided. I felt that violence was no remedy for India’s ills, and that her civilization required the use of a different and higher weapon for self-protection.20 So, the battle line was drawn. Contrary to what the Mahatma held, Savarkar with his faith in militant nationalism found Gandhi’s nonviolent struggle hollow and non-functional in the Indian context. Savarkar and Gandhi differed from each other not merely over their chosen mode of conceptualizing nationalism but over their ideological predilections which were strikingly different. As will be shown later, as days passed on, there was hardly a space between them which allowed them to come together presumably (except perhaps their commitment to political freedom) because they drew sustenance from completely contrasting ideological persuasions.

Articulating a nationalist voice In conventional historiography, the 1857 rebel is known as the Sepoy Mutiny. For Savarkar, it was a distortion of history seeking to demean the heroic sacrifice of the Indians regardless of religion, region and economic barriers. The campaign against the East India Company was neither confined to any specific region nor to a select group of kings and rulers, but spread out to a wider section of the population which was a testimony to how it became a nationalist offensive

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Ideological foundation

against colonialism. Those who led the attack succeeded in bringing people from different strata and also religious groups for a united venture against the ruling authority. As a conscious nationalist, Savarkar felt persuaded to highlight the glorious effort that the Indians in the context of the 1857 rebel had undertaken. It was moral responsibility to bring back the memory of martyrdom as a source of ‘fiery inspiration’21 and also to reinforce the point that ‘a nation must develop its capacity of claiming a past but also of knowing how to use it for the furtherance of its future’.22 What was striking for him was the ability of the rebels to create a platform in which Hindus, Muslims and other religious groups joined hands in their opposition to the British rule. According to Savarkar, it was not a matter of surprise because ‘the feeling of hatred against the Mohammedans was just and necessary in the times of Shivaji, but, such a feeling would be unjust and foolish if nursed now simply because it was the dominant feeling of the Hindus then’.23 A perceptive comment with a contextual significance, this assessment will help us understand his approach to communal issues which loomed large in the context of the nationalist movement following the consolidation of the Muslims around M. A. Jinnah’s two nation theory. As an author who believed in the dialectical interconnection between text and context, Savarkar did not endorse the widely-publicised theory of the fear, by the sepoys, of cutting in their teeth of greased cartridges (with cow and pig fat) and the annexation of Oudh as singularly responsible for this outrage. In fact, there were many factors which finally ignited the feelings of hatred among the participants. To explain his point further, he drew on the 1789 French revolution which was not merely the outcome of demeaning comments of the Queen, but a series of happenings just before the mass eruptions leading to the overthrow of the regime. The kidnapping of Sita, he further argued ‘was only the incidental cause of the fight between Rama and Ravana [while] the real causes were deeper and more inward’.24 This is a fair point directing our attention to argument that in case of mass upsurges, one needs to be sensitive to the processes and also triggering factors; while the latter can be grievances of the soldiers as they were forced to do what their religion forbade, the former is about the growing hatred of the Indian rulers and people due to torturous colonial governance. One of the factors that created an instantaneous bond among the rebels was, as per Savarkar, the tyrannical administration that flourished under the stewardship of Lord Dalhousie. It was not, at all, his brainchild; he put in practice what he was asked to, Savarkar mentioned. In his words: as long as the general policy is dictated from Home, . . . it would certainly be unjust to hold Dalhousie responsible for all those combined acts and deeds which had to flow directly from the situation created for him by his masters in England and his assistants in India; he merely reaped that harvest of political robbery, the seeds of which had been sedulously sown for a hundred years by his predecessors.25 Dalhousie did the final act in a context when his predecessors, moved by unholy designs had prepared the ground, stated Savarkar. There are two points that deserve

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V. D. Savarkar (1883–1966)


attention. First, the rebel was an attack on the inhuman governance that flourished in India in the wake of the East India Company rule; it was an administration that hardly addressed the genuine concerns of the governed which ultimately led to the rise in 1857. Secondly, it was also an event that needed to be celebrated simply because the 1857 revolt was an example of communal harmony that appeared to have dwindled in later days. There is substance in the argument that greased cartridges caused immediate outbursts. That it was blasphemous needs to be seen in the historical context when the Christian priests were engaged wildly in proselytizing Hindus and Muslims. The reasons are not difficult to seek given the fact that: the minds of the Feringhi (Englishman) was filled with such contempt and such hatred for the Hindu and Muslim faith, the two principal religions of India, that very prominent writers, forgetting even ordinary conventionalities, constantly heaped shameful abuse on the two religions whenever they got a chance.26 There was a design here. By conversion to Christianity, the East India Company intended to purge India of both Hindus and Muslims. With the disappearance of Hinduism and Islam, there would hardly be a template of togetherness among those practising those faiths. As a result, ‘the national feeling would die, individuality would die and it is infinitely easier to rule a nation whose individuality is dead than to rule one which had a clearly marked individuality’.27 To reinforce his point, Savarkar quoted one Reverend Kennedy who was specifically sent from England to India for this task. As he elaborated, according to Kennedy, the holiest task was to: propagate Christianity in the Empire, from Cape Comorin [Kanyakumari of today] to the Himalayas [and] . . . for this work all the efforts we can and use all the power and all the authority in our hands; and continuous and unceasing efforts must be kept on until India becomes a magnificent nation, the bulwark of Christianity in the East.28 As a strategy, it was resorted to earlier by the Mughal ruler, Aurangzeb who felt, Savarkar highlighted, that ‘the destruction of the religion of the conquered race makes the problem of retaining it in perpetual slavery much easier’29 which the English utilized for sustaining the Empire. There were also instances of Korans and Vedas being defiled by the English officers, which, if challenged by the Sepoys, resulted in the denial of food to those who retaliated.30 In light of the previous empirical details with the purpose of providing an explanatory framework, Savarkar was now in a position to account for the outbreak in conceptual terms. In his schema, the two great principles of Swadharma (own religious identity) and Swaraj (freedom) will help us plausibly explain the apparently sudden outbursts of the Sepoys against the authority. ‘The seed of the Revolution of 1857 is’, argued Savarkar, ‘in this holy and inspiring idea, clear and explicit, propounded from the throne of Delhi’.31 Drawing on his intellectual

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Ideological foundation

mentor, Mazzini, he further stated that Swadharma and Swaraj were both sides of the same coin; just like Mazzini who argued that there was no barrier between heaven and earth, but were interconnected as the former was inconceivable without the latter. ‘Our idea of Swadharma too, is’, adumbrated Savarkar: not contradictory to that of Swaraj. The two are connected as means and end. Swaraj without Swadharma is despicable and Swadharma without Swaraj is powerless. The sword of material power, Swaraj, should always be readily drawn for our object, our safety in the other world, Swadharma. This trend of the Eastern mind will often be found in its history. The reason why, in the East, all revolutions take a religious form, nay more, the reason why Eastern history knows of no revolutions unconnected with religion, lies in the allembracing meaning of Dharma has. That this dual principle of Swadharma and Swaraj, always seen in the history of India, appeared also in the Revolution of 1857, should [therefore] be a matter of no surprise.32 A perceptive explanatory scheme, the twin principle of Swadharma and Swaraj was a source of inspiration for the rebels who rose in one voice against the British authority regardless of adverse consequences. For Savarkar, it was not, at all, surprising because the urge for protecting one’s religion and country was instinctive of conscious human beings. The quarrel over the greased cartridges was but the chance spark flung in among all the combustible material. If that spark had not triggered the rebel, some other would have done it, believed Savarkar. In other words, the participants had found a leader, a flag and a cause which was adequate, as examples from elsewhere show, to transform a mutiny into a revolutionary war. The milieu generated an atmosphere in which the Sepoys believed that ‘the first step towards Dharma is to be a free man of a free country’33 and thus were ‘determined that, whether they had to use these cartridges or not, they would not rest quiet until they had destroyed this political slavery and this dependence which was at the root of all this trouble’.34 This was a charged atmosphere in which the determined rebels put across the point that so long as foreign domination continued Swaraj and Swadharma remained elusive. Those who ‘lifted their swords for Swadharma and Swaraj and courted death, if not for victory, at least for duty’ were hailed as heroes who continued to inspire, Savarkar underlined, the generations to come. What was the lesson? Savarkar himself stated that despite being abortive, ‘[t]he Revolution of 1857 was a test to see how far India had come towards unity, independence and popular power’.35 The rebellion failed to oust the Company rule due to ‘the idle, effeminate, selfish and treacherous men who ruined it’.36 Nonetheless, there was a silver lining since the rebellion created an environment in which Brahmans and Sudras, Hindus and Muslims were united for protecting Swadharma and Swaraj. As he mentioned:

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V. D. Savarkar (1883–1966)


Not [only] one individual, not [only] one class, alone had been moved deeply by seeing the sufferings of their country. Hindu and Mohamedan, Brahmin and Sudra, Kshatriya and Vaisya, prince and pauper, men and women, Pandits and Moulvies, Sepoys and the police, townsmen and villagers, merchants and farmers – men of different religions, men of different castes, people following widely different profession – not able any longer to bear the sight of persecution of Bharat Mata, brought about the avenging Revolution in an incredibly short time.37 By highlighting this aspect of the rebellion, Savarkar appears to have endeavoured to build a conceptual framework for Hindu-Muslim unity. There are reasons to believe that in reaching such a conclusion, he was influenced, to a significant extent, by the developments in Bengal in the context of the campaign for the revocation of the 1905 first partition of the province.38 Although the plan for separating the Muslim preponderant east Bengal from the Hindu-majority west Bengal was withdrawn, the nationalist campaign revealed how the social distance between the Hindus and Muslims caused dissension within the rank and file of the campaigners. The rise of India as a national compact was not possible without Hindus joining hands with their Muslim brethren and vice versa, warned Savarkar. The Indian War of Independence of 1857 is a powerful statement and a wellorganized endeavour: a powerful statement of the rise of the nation as a united entity, supported by an all-round endeavour at mobilizing the nation regardless of social, economic and political barriers. Till the publication of Savarkar’s tract in 1909, the historical accounts of the events of 1857 that were available were those of the British officers and their agents. It was, for the first time, Savarkar, while characterising the 1857 rebellion as the first war of independence, generated interests in what was distorted as a mere rebellion of the disgruntled Sepoys. With his persuasive arguments, he defended his nationalist project by drawing upon India’s past highlighting how the nation as a whole rose in revolt in opposition to a ruthless colonial regime. By reinterpreting the causes of the rebellion and also why it failed, Savarkar discharged a historical role in the early part of the twentieth century when the nation was in doldrums due to schisms around multiple socioeconomic and political axes. Besides being a product of the nationalist concern that Savarkar evinced, the text can be said to have raised some of the pertinent issues regarding caste, class and religion that would soon attract nationalists’ attention with the growing involvement of so-far peripheral sections of society.

Hindutva project It was V. D. Savarkar who designed a model of Hindu nationalism by emphasizing the critical importance of cultural unity in creating a solid nationhood. In his widely acclaimed text, Hindutva, which was published in 1923, Savarkar thus argued a Hindu was one:

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Ideological foundation who looks upon the land that extends from Sindu to Sindu – from the Indus to the seas – as the land of his forefathers – his fatherland who inherits the blood of that race whose first discernible source could be traced to the Vedic Saptasindhus and which on its onward march, assimilating much that was incorporated . . . has come to be known as the Hindu people, who has inherited and claims as his own the culture of that race as expressed chiefly in their common cultural language, Sanskrit and represented by a common history, a common literature, art and architecture, law and jurisprudence, rites and rituals, ceremonies and sacraments, fairs and festivals; and who, above all, addresses this land, this Sindustan as his holy land, as the land of his prophets and seers, of his godmen and gurus, the land of piety and pilgrimage.39

There are three important elements that Savarkar had in mind while articulating his alternative mode of conceptualization: (a) demarcation of a group of people, located in a specific geographical space, (b) the idea of fatherland being espoused to suggest the racial compatibility of those settled in Hindustan, and (c) the insistence on holy land for those who remain closeted in the area between Sindu (the river) to Sindu (the ocean). This was clearly stated when he further developed his argument by saying that: these are the essentials of Hindutva – a common nation (Rashtra), a common jati (race) and a common civilization (Sanskriti). All these essentials could best be summed by stating in brief that he is a Hindu to whom Sindhustan is not only a fatherland but also a holyland. For the first two essentials of Hindutva – nation and jati – are clearly denoted and connoted by the word fatherland while the third essential culture is pre-eminently implied in the word holy land, as it is precisely Sanskriti, including sanskaras, i.e. rituals, ceremonies and sacraments that makes a land a holy land.40 Savarkar’s construction of Hindu identity is territorial (the land between Indus and the Indian Ocean), genealogical (fatherland) and religious (holy land). The Hindu Rashtra is therefore more of a territorial than a religious nationalism because Hindus represented a cultural and civilizational synthesis which is more ‘a secular-rationalist than a religio-fundamentalist construction’. This is further reinforced when he reconfirmed by saying that: what is needed is to take lessons from history, recognize the vitality and resilience of India, the power of its world view and utilize its strength, which drove it to glorious heights and analyse its weaknesses, which led to her abysmal fall. Pick up the thread from the points where the continuum of our civilizational consciousness was lost and reorient the policy in consonance with those strong points of Indian psyche which will be the engine of our future glory.41 This particular conceptualization was also an outcome of a specific politicoideological debate that unfolded with the propagation of Muslims being a separate

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V. D. Savarkar (1883–1966)


nation which got a concrete shape in the 1940 Lahore Resolution when Pakistan was formally conceptualized and demanded. So, by highlighting the cultural aspect of Hindu Rashtra, Savarkar, one of the first pioneers of Hindu nationalism, strove to provide a persuasive alternative to the Muslim League’s insistence on Muslims being socio-culturally different from their Hindu counterparts. This was the beginning of the institutionalization of Hindu nationalism or Hindutva on the basis of what Savarkar construed as the essence of Hindu culture. With the previous summary, let us get into the details of Hindutva which Savarkar elaborated in detail in a 1923 publication, entitled Hindutva.42 This is both a conceptual and a historical tract: historical because it was an outcome of the contextual compulsions that he confronted, and conceptual since it helped build an alternative model in a context when constitutional liberalism was generally privileged. Hindutva was also a protestant conceptual parameter that drew on the Hindu nationalists’ concern for a culturally unified India which was not possible perhaps due to the nationalists’ failure to adequately generate nationalist fervour among the Hindus. There are two points that deserve attention: first, as a political activist, it was natural for him to seek to suggest ways and means for nationalist political mobilization drawing on the typical Hindu nationalist design. That he fulfilled his historical role is beyond question; that he was interned in the Cellular Jail for more than a decade is a testimony to the claim. Secondly, his endeavour made him stand out for two reasons: on the one hand, it represented a great challenge to the mainstream nationalist ideology drawing on the derivative intellectual discourse of the West; it also brought, on the other, those ideas in the public which remained peripheral, if not entirely absent. Just like B. R. Ambedkar who forcefully argued for giving adequate social and political space to the marginalized social groups, Savarkar created an ambience in which the Hindu nationalist ideas seem to have received importance which was sadly missing in the past. Hindutva is about a search for a space and a reliable constituency. The task was not an easy one given the hegemonic influence of the ideological values linked with constitutional liberalism that emerged organically in India presumably because of British colonialism. At outset, he made it very clear that Hinduism and Hindutva were not identical in connotations. While the latter is an ideological response, the former means: the ism of Hindu, [and] as the word Hindu has been derived from the word Sindhu, the Indus, meaning primarily all the people who reside in the land that extends from Sindhu to Sindhu [which reemphasized that] Hinduism must necessarily mean the religion or religions that are peculiar and native to this land and these people.43 So, Hinduism was not adequate to conceptually explain Hindutva presumably because of its ideological appeal; Hinduism remained integrally connected to Hindutva though it was not enough in the latter’s constitution. There was something else which he captured, in an ingenious fashion by couching the idea in a cultural format which was a smart move because a nation sustains its continuity on the basis of its cultural ingenuity. As he argued:

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Ideological foundation Hindutva is not a word, but a history. Not only the spiritual or religious history of our people as at times it is mistaken to be by being confounded with the other cognate term, Hinduism, but a history in full. Hinduism is only derivative, a fraction, a part of Hindutva. . . . Hindutva embraces all the departments of thought and activity of the whole Being of our Hindu race.44

Savarkar’s principal concern was to explain how Hindus remained together despite being inherently diverse for multiple sociocultural reasons. Despite being different socioculturally what sustained them as a compact were the cultural resources that they inherit by being located in a specific territory.45 For him, the most important cementing factor was the idea of being a Hindu which exercised ‘an imperial sway over the hearts of millions of mankind and won a loving allegiance from the bravest and best of them’.46 The argument hinges on the contention that, as a commentator views that as per Savarkar, Hindu ‘are bound together . . . by the dearest ties, most sacred and enduring bonds of a common Fatherland and common Holy land. . . . All tests whatever of a common country, race, religion, language that entitle a people to form a nation, entitle the Hindus with a greater emphasis to that claim’.47 To this was added the regular foreign invasion which automatically connected the Hindus for self-defence. Savarkar defended the point by stating that: [n]othing can weld people into a nation and nations into a state as the pressure of common foe. Hatred separates as well as unites. Never had Sindhusthan a better chance and more powerful stimulus to be herself forged into an indivisible whole as on that dire day, when the great iconoclast [Alexander] crossed the Indus.48 Instead of judging the historical authenticity of the claim, suffice it to say here that Savarkar’s main concern was to consolidate Hindus as a well-knit socio-cultural group, for which, the idea of a common enemy was certain to generate a sense of belonging among those in the opposition camp. Here too, he followed the Western criterion of how the battle against a common enemy brought people together under one flag. Nonetheless, by highlighting the importance of a common enemy for nationalist compatibility, he put forward a factor which was potentially effective, as history has shown. At one level, the argument does not seem to be novel; but if we expand the concept at a wider psychological level, it will have another persuasive characteristic, namely, the capacity of Hindutva to evolve a sense of compatibility among the Hindus regardless of their physical location. As Savarkar explained: this one word, Hindutva, ran like a vital spinal cord through our whole body politic and made the Nayyars of Malabar weep over the sufferings of the Brahmins of Kashmir. Our bards bewailed the fall of Hindus, our seers roused the feelings of Hindus, our heroes fought the battle of Hindus, our saints blessed the efforts of Hindus, our statesmen moulded the fate of

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V. D. Savarkar (1883–1966)


Hindus, our mothers wept over the wounds and shared the joy over the triumphs of Hindus.49 An unequivocal statement, this contention underlines how a nation is formed by drawing on common memories of both suffering and joyfulness. It is also an argument in defence of the point that despite being strikingly different, on occasions, Hindus always remained a solid community largely due to the undercurrent of commonality that ran through them regardless of their location in different parts of the country. To argue further, he referred to Shivaji, the Maratha King who, by defeating Aurangzeb, the Muslim emperor of Delhi, ‘had electrified’, claimed Savarkar, the Hindu mind all over India [and] the oppressed looked upon him as an Avatar and Saviour’.50 That Shivaji was a messiah for the Hindus was not only a source of inspiration but helped spread the idea that Hindus were physically strong enough ‘to acquire new kingdoms by [their] power and that bread [they] eat’.51 So, Hindus were, historically speaking, a powerful entity in human civilization not because they held an identical religious faith but because they retained an identity, the root of which was traced back to the glorious period of Hindu hegemony under the tutelage of Shivaji who, Savarkar characterized as ‘a great Hindu king’.52 With his own conceptual framework of how Hindus became a strong unit, Savarkar proceeded to explain the essentials of Hindutva. Intrigued by the fact that while the Indian Jains described themselves as Hindus, the Mohammedans maintained their sociocultural identity as distinct from the rest of Indians, which he explained by referring to the Mohammedans being ‘intransigent’.53 According to him, this was absolutely a temporary phase of history that at some future date: the word Hindu may come to indicate a citizen of Hindusthan and nothing else; that day can only rise when all cultural and religious bigotry has disbanded its forces pledged to aggressive egoism, and religions cease to be ‘isms’ and become merely the common fund of eternal principles that lie at the root of all [with the concern for building] a common foundation on which the Human State majestically and firmly rests.54 Savarkar further problematized the idea by saying that in principle one could easily become a citizen of India; but one was not incorporated in the Hindu fold until one adopted the culture that remained critical to Hindutva. Besides accepting the rights of a citizen, which does not seem to be odd if it is conceptualized juridically, one: has to come to look upon our land not only as the land of one’s love but even of his worship [for] . . . although the first requisite of Hindutva is that he be a citizens of Hindusthan either by himself or through his forefathers, yet it is not the only requisite qualification of it as the term Hindu has come to mean much more than its geographical significance.55

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Ideological foundation

So, being together in a common land does not qualify one to be part of Hindutva; one being a citizen is not enough; one needs to be incorporated in the Hindutva sociocultural fold, as per Savarkar. This is the first implication; the second implication is the importance of the bond of common blood that brings the Hindus in one fold. Hinduness is consolidated on the basis of being united by bloodconnections among those who are part of the same demographic entity. In other words, Hindus are part of the Hindutva fold not by a design but by a natural bond of blood relations linking one with another within the same community. As Savarkar argued, ‘[t]he Hindus are not merely the citizens of the Indian state because they are united not only by the bonds of love they bear to a common motherland, but also by the bonds of common blood [which made them] not only a Nation, but also a race-jati’.56 Whether Hindus were a race is debatable and Savarkar was aware of this, as the elaboration of his argument amply proves. Hindus were certainly a jati which is derived from (a) common origin, (b) common brotherhood and (c) bond of common blood. On the basis of this clarification, Savarkar now claimed that ‘[a]ll Hindus . . . have in their veins the blood of the mighty race incorporated with and descended from the Vedic fathers, the Sindhus’.57 From this argument, he now developed the point that Hindusthan was not a transitional entity, but a permanent sociocultural formation being supported by those upholding the distinct Hindutva values. It was a civilization articulating ‘the expression of the mind of a man, . . . an account of what man had made of the matter’.58 By dint of their being truly connected with their distinctive civilizational ethos, Hindus ‘have succeeded in preserving their history, riding through earthquakes, bridging over deluges’. It was not merely a chronicle of events, it was also a narrative that had begun with ‘the Vedas which are the first extant chapter of the story of our race; the first cradle songs that every Hindu girl listens are the songs of Sita [the mythical character of Ramayana]; some of us worship Rama as an incarnation, some admire him as a hero and a warrior, and all love him as the most illustrious representative monarch of our race’.59 The third essential component of Hindutva was Sanskrit, a mother language that contributed to other Indian languages. It is true, as Savarkar admitted that Sanskrit is not being spoken now. Nonetheless, as he further argued, it is ‘the tongue in which the mothers of our race spoke . . . and which has given birth to all our present tongues’.60 Sanskrit was always held in high esteem, he further stated, since ‘[o]ur Gods spoke in Sanskrit, our Sages thought in Sanskrit, our poets wrote in Sanskrit; all that is best in us, the best thought, best ideas, best lines – seeks instinctively to clothe itself in Sanskrit’.61 Hindusthan’s civilizational voice was thus articulated in Sanskrit which thus remained integrally connected with Hindutva. This was a connecting language because this was also an ideational platform which helped Hindusthan build her intellectual prowess and rigour. Justifying that Sanskrit was a source of intellectual nourishment to the Hindus, Savarkar further defended his point by saying that ‘[t]o millions, it is still the language of their Gods; to others it is the language of their ancestors; to all it is the language par excellence; a common inheritance, a common treasure that enriches all the family of major sister languages, Gujarati, Gurmukhi, Sindhi, Hindu, among others’.62 Primary here is the insistence that since Sanskrit was

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V. D. Savarkar (1883–1966)


the mother language which was derivative of Vedas, the Hindu past remained the first and formidable reference point. Not only was Sanskrit the integral part of our glorious heritage which was not to be ignored, it also helped us develop ‘Hindu sanskriti [culture], represented in a common history, common heroes, a common literature, common art, a common law and common jurisprudence, common fairs and festivals, rites and rituals, ceremonies and sacraments’.63 This was an argument justifying the necessity of building a common cultural bond on the basis of those sociocultural practices and mores which automatically merged the Hindus underplaying those which were divisive. By emphasizing the points of uniformity rather than schism, Savarkar provided a persuasive model of Hindu nationalism which, despite being context-driven, had also features of transcendental character. It was therefore both a clarion call to the mainstream nationalists in the Gandhian phase of India’s freedom struggle and an instructive design for political mobilization in its aftermath on the basis of indigenous knowledge and wisdom and past heritage.

Concluding observations That V. D. Savarkar stood by himself in the pantheon of Hindu nationalism is now easily comprehensible. There were thinkers before him who provided him with enough conceptual inputs to defend his Hindu nationalist approach; what is distinctive about his was his capacity to persuasively conceptualize the alternative model which was an attempt to articulate an Indian response in a derivative Western mode. In other words, the concern for making Hindusthan a homogenous nation following the signing of the 1648 Westphalia Treaty appears to suggest that he drew on the derivative parameters. According to him, India’s national identity had therefore to be ‘singular, well-bounded and well-defined’ which needed to be built by abstracting and combining other overlapping identities into ‘a monolithic one’.64 That he also took ample care in looking back to the Hindu glorious past he reaffirmed a nationalist drive in which India’s past heritage and wisdom were privileged. Savarkar’s model was a creative fusion of the Western mode of thinking with what was based on a quest for counter narratives from what appear to have been forgotten. Savarkar’s Hindu nationalist design can be said to have been largely contextually contrived for two reasons: on the one hand, he raised his voice in opposition to the nationalist mainstream in favour of a point of view that did not have the importance that it deserved. As history has shown, given the hegemony of constitutional liberalism which Gandhi and his colleagues in the freedom struggle had upheld, other alternative socio-ideological priorities had hardly had a presence. There was another reason, on the other, attributing the growing acceptance of Gandhi being the supreme commander left no chance for ideologues holding contrary views. This further gave a fillip to the mainstream nationalists, largely undermining the endeavours made by those who while challenging Gandhi and the Congress nationalists sought to evolve an alternative mode of conceptualizing nationalism. In such a context, it was not a mean achievement when not only

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Ideological foundation

did Savarkar articulate a persuasive set of ideas supportive of Hindu nationalism he also succeeded in creating an ambience in which it became a real nationalist alternative. Hindu nationalism that Savarkar championed was a critique within a critique. The mainstream nationalism provided a critique of colonialism on the basis of Enlightenment philosophy while the critics of Gandhian nonviolence articulated a critique to pursue their alternative mode of political mobilization for freedom. Beginning with Dayananda Saraswati (1824–1883) who, in his Satyarth Prakash (1875) developed a model of Hindu mobilization by being true to the Vedas; it was a refreshing attempt in which India’s indigenous tradition was privileged. Savarkar carried forward the ideas also in a context when the Muslims had emerged as a powerful segment of the nationalist struggle. It is true that his aim was to build a Hindu compact in which communities other Hindus remained peripheral, if not entirely neglected. It is also true, as the previous discussion confirms, that he also strove to build an Indian nationalist compact with the support of Muslims and Christians provided they were culturally sensitive enough to internalize the long-drawn Hindu values and mores. Claiming that Hindus were ‘the bedrock on which an Indian independent state could be built’, the views that Savarkar propounded helped his successors defend the fundamental tenets of Hindu nationalism. For him, it was therefore a foregone conclusion that the nonHindus were welcome to the Hindu nationalist fold so long as they merged their sociocultural identity with the mainstream Hindus. Conceptually speaking, what M. A. Jinnah was to the Muslim League, Savarkar was to Hindu Mahasabha and later Hindu nationalist outfits. In other words, similar to Jinnah who applied a nationalist logic to defend India’s partition, Savarkar provided exactly the same ideational format to develop a Hindu nationalist compact. It is true that his model has elements which make one argue that he was anti-Muslim. An oft-quoted, but not justified by contemporary evidence, incident is usually referred to while defending Savarkar being clearly opposed to the Muslims. According to a commentator, being terribly infuriated following the 1893 communal riot in Azamgarh in United Province in which Hindus were reported to have been killed by the Muslims, ‘the boy Savarkar led a batch of his selected schoolmates in a march upon the village mosque. The battalion of these boys showered stones upon it, shattered its windows and tiles and returned victorious’.65 One may draw on this unsubstantiated event to make a point on the basis of some of his statements which bordered on him being a rabid Hindu communal thinker. There is however substance in the argument that being a committed Hindu nationalist, it was natural for him to draw on the views which would support his ideological priorities. What he accepted as his assigned task was to build a nationalistic model for political mobilization and in his schema the Muslims did not appear to be compatriots which explains why they were never taken in the activities that he undertook to attain his aspired goal. Attributing the Hindu-Muslim chasm to the British divide et impera, Savarkar was keen to bring together both the communities to unitedly fight the battle for freedom. It was a design to create ‘a united Indian nation, a contingency likely to prove perhaps most dangerous to the British

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V. D. Savarkar (1883–1966)


supremacy’. So, for the British, sustained attempts were made to encourage and help ‘surreptitiously the fanatical hatred, enmity and distrust which the Moslems bore to the Hindus, thus rendering any efficient Indian national unity as delusive as a mirage’.66 This is a statement showing that he was in favour of creating a national compact which was impossible without Hindu-Muslim amity. It is also true that his 1923 Hindutva tract was directed to evolve a compact of Hindus for the nationalist cause which appear to have been diluted when he was involved in mobilizing for the nation as a Hindu Mahasabha ideologue perhaps demonstrating how ideas get transformed in real politics.

Notes 1 http://anurupacinar.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/British-Secret-Files-on-Savarkar1911-21.pdf, Judicial dispatch from London, 4 June 1919, p. 3. 2 http://anurupacinar.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/British-Secret-Files-onSavarkar-1911-21.pdf, VD Savarkar’s clemency appeal, 30 March 1920, p. 12. 3 Veer Damodar Savarkar, My Transportation for Life, Abhishek Publications, 2007, p. 310. 4 Ibid. 5 An Indian Nationalist, The Indian War of Independence of 1857, London, 1909. This book was written by V.D. Savarkar, but to avoid the government attention, the authorship was attributed to An Indian Nationalist. 6 Veer Damodar Savarkar, ‘Oh Martyrs’, London, 1908 – cited in Julia Kelley-Swift, A Misunderstood Legacy: VD Savarkar and the Creation of Hindutva, dissertation for the degree of Bachelor of Arts, Wesleyan University, 2015, pp. 52–3. 7 Savarkar, My Transportation for Life, p. 76. 8 Ibid., p. 82. 9 Ibid. 10 Ibid., p. 184. 11 Ibid., p. 185. 12 Ibid., p. 88. 13 Ibid., p. 330. 14 Ibid. 15 Ibid. 16 Ibid., p. 343. 17 Ibid. 18 Ibid., p. 362. 19 Ibid., p. 343. 20 Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol. 25 (27 October 1921–22 January 1922), Gandhi notes on the Hind Swaraj, 14 December 1921, p. 243. 21 Savarkar relied on these texts highlighting ‘the mutiny’: Charles Bell, The History of the Indian Mutiny, 2 Volumes; Alexander Duff, The Indian Rebellion: Its Causes and Results (1858); John William Kay, A History of the Sepoy War in India, 3 Volumes (1864–76); George Bruce Malleson, Red Pamphlet (1858); John William Kay and George Bruce Malleson, History of the Indian Mutiny, 6 Volumes and George Trevelyan, Cawnpore (1865). 22 An Indian Nationalist, The Indian War of Independence of 1857 (name of the publisher is missing), London, 1909, p. vii. 23 Ibid., pp. vii–viii. 24 Ibid., p. 7. 25 Ibid., p. 35.

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70 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36

37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66

Ideological foundation Ibid., p. 47. Ibid. Ibid. Ibid. Ibid., p. 50. Ibid., p. 8. Ibid., pp. 9–10. Ibid., p. 55. Ibid. Ibid., p. 443. Ibid. According to Savarkar, ‘the defeat was chiefly due to the treachery of those man who failed to understand that the English power was more harmful than the former kind of Swaraj ever could be, and of those who had not the honesty and patriotism to refuse to give help to the foreigner against their own countrymen’. An Indian Nationalist, The Indian War of Independence of 1857 (name of the publisher is missing), London, 1909, p. 227. Rabindranath Tagore graphically illustrated this issue in his 1916 novel, Ghare-Baire (Home and the World). Veer Damodar Savarkar, Hindutva, Bharti Sahitya Sadan, Delhi, 1923, pp. 115–16. Ibid., pp. 115–16. Ibid., pp. 39–40. Veer Damodar Savarkar, Hindutva (originally published in 1923), Bharati Sahitya Sadan, New Delhi, 1989 (reprint). Ibid., p. 104. Ibid., pp. 3–4. Thomas Blom Hansen pursued this argument in his The Saffron Wave: Democracy and Hindu Nationalism in Modern India, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 1999, pp. 77–80. Savarkar, Hindutva (originally published in 1923), p. 4. Dhananjay Keer, Veer Savarkar, Popular Prakashan, Bombay, 1966, p. 265. Savarkar, Hindutva (originally published in 1923), p. 43. Ibid., p. 46. Ibid., p. 58. Ibid., p. 56. Ibid., p. 58. Ibid., p. 83. Ibid. Ibid., p. 84. Ibid. Ibid., p. 85. Ibid., p. 92. Ibid., pp. 93–4. Ibid., p. 95. Ibid. Ibid., pp. 95–6. Ibid., p. 100. Aparna Devare, History and the Making of a Modern Hindu Self, Routledge, New Delhi, 2011, p. 201. Keer, Veer Savarkar, p. 4. V.D. Savarkar’s presidential address in the 1938 annual session of Hindu Mahasabha in Nagpur, reproduced in Hindu Rashtra Darshan, Veer Savarkar Prakashan, Bombay, 1992, p. 41.

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M. S. Golwalkar (1906–73) An insightful organizer

Popularly known as Guruji to his followers, M. S. Golwalkar stood out in the pantheon of leaders of Hindu nationalism in India for his critical role in spreading its ideological reach across the length and breadth of the country. This was not a mean achievement especially in the presence of the Mahatma who always remained unassailable as a leader of India’s nationalist campaign against the British; furthermore, it was a phase of the triumph of liberal constitutionalism which almost succeeded in tuning almost the entire country in the mould of the Westcentric Enlightenment philosophy. It is true that Gandhi and his compatriots in the freedom struggle paid equal emphasis on the indigenous politico-ideological traditions, but within the overall concern for constitutional liberalism. It is also true that the mainstream nationalist ideology gave no space to narrow nationalist sentiments; nonetheless, India was partitioned primarily on the basis of a two nation theory propounded by the Muslim league which, of course, drew its sustenance on serious class differences between Hindus and Muslims, as contemporary literature has amply demonstrated. In the context of a hegemonic ideological preference, those who championed Hindu nationalism had obvious difficulties which were compounded further in the presence of an alien ruler that, for obvious reasons, never allowed campaigns complementary to the anti-British counter offensive. At one level, the Hindu nationalist campaign was an endeavour to articulate the nationalist sentiments by being drawn to the indigenous sociophilosophical inputs which appear to have been neglected while spearheading the nationalist counterattack. The idea is simple: in view of the well-entrenched ideational values and their acceptance at the grassroots, it needs to be inculcated for involving the neglected sections of India’s demography that hardly had a presence on the nationalist scene. At another level, Hindu nationalism is an ideological offence to an imposed rule and also a reminder to those being blindly drawn to the Western philosophical discourses of what was required to be done to galvanize the Indian masses for a protracted battle against colonial subjugation. In a nutshell, Hindu nationalism as a conceptualization was an oppositional alternative which flourished at a point of India’s past when it was not so easy for an alternative ideological discourse to thrive presumably because of the circumstances in which Gandhian nonviolence and liberal constitutionalism were more or less accepted as axiomatic to a majority of those challenging the British empire. In other words,

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Ideological foundation

being a challenging ideological discourse that drew on philosophical ideas with their roots also in the Vedic past, Hindu nationalism was both a protest campaign and an endeavour to explore an alternative by bringing back those ideas to the centre stage of the nationalist movement that did not seem to have received the importance that they deserved. Drawing on the ideas that upheld ‘the indigenous Hindu traditions’, Hindu nationalism was an anti-thesis of the mainstream nationalist campaign that Gandhi and his colleagues had undertaken. It was however both an articulation of a protest since the Gandhi-led freedom struggle did not pay adequate attention to India’s glorious past; it was also an effort in evolving a counter-narrative of nationalism highlighting those sociopolitical ideas that remained neglected with the hegemonic presence of West-centric philosophical discourses. There should be a point of caution here: undoubtedly, the Hindu nationalist ideologues derived their ideological inspiration from those thinkers who privileged the so-called Hindu past which confirms that Hindu nationalism was largely an indigenous response. A careful probing of the Hindu nationalist ideas, especially the ideas of M.S. Golwalkar, reveals that the Hindu nationalist goals were directed to build India as a nation primarily in the conventional nationalist mould that had emerged in Europe following the adoption of the 1648 Westphalia Treaty. As is a matter of common knowledge, the 1648 intervention led to a thinking justifying the creation of nations around the distinctive socio-psychological characteristics of a people. The aim is to essentialize these characteristics which are largely integral, if not instinctive, of a multitude that come together as a unit with a distinct identity. A project seeking to communalize (in the sense of forming a well-knit community), the nationalist endeavour can also be said to have created a milieu in which the earnest desire of being together seems to be privileged for a cause. The argument also hinges on the point that a commonality evolves out of people since they strongly desire to come together due to well-entrenched socio-psychological compatibility among them. One of the most persuasive articulations of this thought was made by J. S. Mill (1806–73) when he mentioned that: a portion of mankind may be said to constitute a Nationality if they are united among themselves by common sympathies which do not exist between them and any others – which make them cooperate with each other more willingly than with other people, desire to be under the same government, and desire that it should be government by themselves or a portion of themselves exclusively.1 The urge to form a nation is primarily a matter of sentiment that evolves out of people desiring to be together. Following Mill, one is persuaded to offer the argument that Hindu nationalists, including M. S. Golwalkar, built the idea of a nation on sentiments which are historically produced and also governed. It was not an easy task because of (a) the presence of a hegemonic colonial state that was coercive and ruthless and (b) the Gandhi-led mainstream nationalists appeared to be indifferent to the Hindu past as it was likely to, they apprehended, weaken the

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M. S. Golwalkar (1906–73)


anti-British campaign by dividing two demographically preponderant communities, Hindu and Muslims. It was therefore an uneven battle in which the Hindu nationalist ideas had hardly had a wider reach in a historical context in which Enlightenment values prevailed.

Rise of an icon What Gandhi was to the Indian National Congress, Golwalkar was to the Hindu nationalism. Core to this argument is the point that without Golwalkar’s relentless endeavour to establish Hindu nationalism as an alternative to the mainstream nationalism it would have remained a powerful academic concern with almost no presence in the Indian political scene. It is true that K. B. Hedgewar (1889–1940) initiated the campaign by forming the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in 1925; the organization gained impetus only with the arrival of Golwalkar on the scene. Being a capable organizer, he was instrumental in spreading the Hindu nationalist influences, cutting across social barriers and regions. Born in 1906 in Nagpur, he stood in the family for his keen interests in Hinduism and spiritual meditation. Evidence suggests that he was drawn to Hindu nationalist ideas in Benaras Hindu University which was founded by one of the pioneers of Hindu nationalist ideological onslaught, Madan Mohan Malaviya; influenced by Malaviya, Golwalkar met Bhaiyaji Dani, a student in the university who had, as Guruji himself admitted, introduced him to some of the basic texts dwelling on the glorious Hindu past. It was as if the preparation of the launching pad for him which was evident once he reached Nagpur, the RSS headquarter in 1934 when the founder, KB Hedgewar, also known Doctorji and Doctor Sahab, willingly took him to the RSS fold. This was however not Golwalkar’s first meeting with Hedgewar which took place in 1931 when the latter visited the temple town. The journey that had begun in 1934 continued and Golwalkar was anointed as the RSS sarsanghachalak (the RSS chief) in 1940, a post that he held till his death in 1973. Besides being a powerful organizer who created a milieu for the RSS to evolve as an alternative, Golwalkar is also known as a powerful ideologue of Hindu nationalism. Baptised by his mentor, Hedgewar, his primary concern was to create an independent and powerful, but persuasive, tradition that was Hindu in orientation, working for the establishment of the system of social togetherness on the basis of what we lost due to the growing importance of a group of conspiratorial nationalists at the behest of the mainstream nationalists both before independence and its aftermath. He was persuaded to believe that Hindu civilization dwindled in importance largely due to the loss of cultural memory which led to the rise of ‘a divided Hindu self’. As a result, argues commentator, ‘people see themselves as Gujaratis, Maharashtrians, Punjabis and so on, but not as Hindus [which is the basis of why] . . . there is no sense of the nation and no pride in Hindutva or Hinduness’.2 He was convinced that because of the gradual evaporation of our cultural strength, we became slaves; in other words, history demonstrated that the disunity resulted in a steady degeneration and decadence of Hindu society. A thinker with roots in the historical past, Guruji thus insisted on recovering the past

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Ideological foundation

as important intellectual resources for the revival of the nation with its past glory. His entire project was thus tuned to the socio-psychological objective, grounded on an earnest desire to recreate an India on the basis of its past identity.

Unfolding of an alternative politico-ideological alternative Besides toiling hard to build the organization because, as Golwalkar believed, organization thrived with a strong organizational backing, Golwalkar also codified his ideas in his We or Nationhood Defined (1939) which also provides a persuasive textual analysis of his brand of Hindu nationalism. It is therefore not surprising that M. S. Aney, another powerful ideologue of Hindutva, wrote in his preface to this 1939 publication that ‘the book is one which will prove thoughtprovoking and serve to give an impetus to the scientific study of a problem which has been so far comparatively neglected’.3 Complimenting the author, Golwalkar, Aney further stated apart from reconceptualizing nationalism and national movements, the book would help: the nationalist understand once and for ever that he is a member of a Hindu Nation which has to be just not merely to those who are Hindus by religion but also to those who are prepared to be loyal citizens of the Hindu State on conditions of religious liberty and cultural freedom being guaranteed to them. . . . The minorities, including the Christians and Mohammadens, are . . . entitled to retain their cultural traditions, . . . but not permitted to claim rights of partnership in the affairs of the State on any communal or creedal considerations.4 Aney can be said to have set the basic argument that ran through Golwalkar’s We or Nationhood Defined, which he himself admitted was inspired by a 1939 text with the title Rashtra Mimansha (written in Marathi), written by V. D. Savarkar’s elder brother, G. D. Savarkar.5 A perusal of the introductory pages of the book confirms the contention as Golwalkar exhorted that ‘in a nutshell, we may state that in this land of ours we have lived for god knows how long, a great nation of the grandest culture’.6 Fundamental to his point is the contention that the land of Hindustan remained perennially united primarily because of the grandest culture from which it derived its sustenance and strength. The argument has substance, since he defended his point by reference to the great Vedic texts of the past reflective of how great minds worked together to create them which were transcendental in character and spirit. There was however a break with the past: the land with the grandest culture lost its glory with the consolidation of ‘murderous bands of despoilers in various parts of the country [leading to] . . . the weakening of the nation’.7 Challenging the contention that Hindu-India was not a nation before the arrival of the British, he held the Congress nationalists responsible for this by saying that they were entrapped to believe what they had been taught by their British masters. Intellectually bankrupt, the Congress leadership never attempted to explore the indigenous values and mores for mobilizing masses

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M. S. Golwalkar (1906–73)


against colonialism. Being a creation of the British, the Congress was, Golwalkar further adumbrated his point, ‘a safety valve to seething nationalism, . . . a toy which lulled the awakening giant into slumber’.8 It was ‘a denationalizing’ project of the Congress, he characterized, that did not allow the Hindus to rise as a nation. At one level, the argument that Guruji offered is persuasive presumably because of the conscious decision that the Congress Party took after independence for the creation of an all-inclusive template for the nation. At another far more perceptive level, the argument is half-true, since Hindusthan lost its independence to a colonial power despite being a strong collectivity. Here too, Guruji’s response was categorical. The downfall of Hindusthan was an aberration of history which was made possible because of the greed of a group of people for wealth and power. Hindus allowed to be misled by ‘the scheming Englishmen’ simply because they surrendered meekly for fulfilling their ‘mean desire of making quick money’ and also ‘acquiring power’.9 He did not seem to find this behavioural trait as contrarian, as he himself explained by highlighting ‘the common human weakness of associating good qualities and wisdom with wealth and power’.10 It was an axiomatic truth which also explains the steady degeneration of Hindusthan during the British rule. In order to prove their unconditional loyalty to the British, ‘Hindus . . . started aping the manners and customs of the English and voicing opinions borrowed from the West, with an air of conviction . . . [which led them to believe that] every European idea, however absurd, was gospel truth, and everything Hindu by contrast was naturally false and foolish’.11 As an optimist to the core who also believed in the Upanishadic dictum of change being the rule of history, he thus emphatically declared that: [o]ur race is in truth the phoenix which rises in new youthful vigour from very ashes. We cannot die. What seems to be our death merely confers on us a fresh lease of life. We are an immortal race with perennial youth.12 Implicit in this statement was Guruji’s strong determination for sustaining the zeal that he generated for creating a strong Hindusthan. There are two arguments here: on the one hand, he offered a nationalist argument by suggesting that Hindusthan as a multitude of communities was potentially strong enough to survive despite odds. He also put forward, on the other, a socio-psychological point by reinforcing the contention that those who talked about the decline of Hindusthan were blind to history which demonstrated that reversal of history was as axiomatic as the change of weather. After setting the historical perspective, Golwalkar now dwelled on fine-tuning his conceptual points by seeking to define the idea of nation. According to him, ‘the word “Nation” denotes a compound idea . . . consisting of certain distinct notions fused indissolubly into a whole, which stands so long as its components exist in unison’.13 A nation was thus a community of members being ‘bound to one another by racial, ethnological, religious and linguistic ties’.14 Now a full-fledged definition of nation which, he articulated, by stating that ‘the idea contained in the word Nation is a compound of five distinct factors fused into

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Ideological foundation

indissoluble whole of the famous five Unities – Geographical (country), Racial (Race), Religious (Religion), Cultural (Culture) and Linguistic (Language)’.15 The idea was justified by being sensitive to the contention that nation meant a community living in ‘a hereditary territory and [possessive] of common traditions and aspirations’ stemming out of being together for ages.16 There is however a precautionary note as Golwalkar, or Guruji, as he was fondly addressed by his colleagues, warned that the future of a nation remained ‘secure’ so long as ‘the constituent components . . . exist in unison’.17 Implicit here are two ideas which are critical to conceptualize Golwalkar’s notion of nation. On the one hand, his argument underlines the importance of being together which qualifies a group/ community to be a nation; there is another aspect, on the other, at a perceptive level suggesting that togetherness does not automatically emerge, but needs to be inculcated by creating a sense of belongingness which is possible on the basis of territorial, religious and racial compatibility. This is the crux of the point which he reiterated while seeking to ‘scientifically’ conceptualize nation by saying that: [h]ere is our vast country, Hindusthan, the land of the Hindus, their home country, hereditary territory, a definite geographical unity, delimited naturally by the sublime Himalayas on the North and the limitless ocean on the other three sides, an ideal piece of land, deserving in every respect to be called a Country, fulfilling all that the word should imply.18 For Golwalkar, Hindus were a nation since there were commonalities which ran through them. Geographically demarcated, Hindusthan was a distinct territory with clear boundaries largely due to the natural boundaries separating the nation from its counterparts. After having established that Hindus were territorially segregated, he now proceeded further with the argument in support of Hindus being a race. It was evident when he stated that: [l]iving in this Country since pre-historic times, is the ancient Race – the Hindu Race, united together by common traditions, by memories of common glory and disaster, by similar historical, political, social, religions and other experiences, living and evolving, under the same influences, a common culture, a common mother language, common customs, common aspirations.19 As per Golwalkar, Hindusthan fulfilled all the criteria that were generally suggested to define a geographical entity as a nation. This was a template for the formation of a nation, and Golwalkar, by conforming to this pattern, endorsed the conceptualization that had emerged in the global thinking in the aftermath of the 1648 Westphalia Agreement. So, culturally and also in terms of religious affinity, Hindusthan was a nation. The problem emanated from the linguistic diversity that did not go well with the conventional definition of nation. Golwalkar had his own interpretation. Being aware that ‘linguistic unity is wanting’ and ‘there are not one but many nations, being separated from each other by linguistic differences’, he thus came out with a conceptually innovative argument by drawing on the root of all Indian languages. In his forceful contention, he thus suggested that:

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M. S. Golwalkar (1906–73)


[t]here is but one language, Sanskrit, of which these many languages are mere offshoots, the children of the mother language. Sanskrit, the dialect of Gods, is common to all, from the Himalayas to the ocean in the South, from East to West and modern sister languages are through it so much [intertwined] as to be practically one.20 So, the linguistic diversity was not a deterrent since the language, being spoken in different parts of Hindusthan, had one common source of origin. Sanskrit was a unifying device that brought together those who live in the demarcated territory, called Hindusthan. With this argument, Golwalkar was now confident in stating that: applying the modern understanding of Nation to our present conditions, the conclusion is unquestionably forced upon us that in this Country, Hindusthan, Hindu Culture and Hindu Language (the natural family of Sanskrit and her off-springs) complete the Nation.21 With his persuasive arguments, Guruji established the argument that Hindusthan was a nation and those holding contrary opinions did not seem to have understood India’s historical trajectory. Despite not being conceptually very innovative since it fit in to the established Western discourse on nations, he was one of those of Hindu nationalists who consciously merged his ideas with those of V. D. Savarkar. As shown in Chapter 2, it was Savarkar who propounded the idea that India was a nation even in the Western conceptual format; the alien power and its followers conspired to destroy India’s nationhood primarily for their partisan gains. What is striking about Golwalkar was his concern for pursuing the Hindu nationalist politico-ideological goal regardless of consequences in independent India. One needed to work for the nation, exhorted Guruji. By applying the exclusionary criterion, he thus argued that the Hindu nationalists were directed to participate in those movements which were truly national or were engaged in ‘re-building, re-vitalizing and emancipating the Hindus from its present stupor’.22 On the surface, it was an obvious design for regenerating the moribund Hindu race, being crippled in the colonial context in which the role of the colonial power was no less insignificant. At a deeper level, Guruji’s principal concern was to build a strong Hindusthan which was well-knit as it had all the ingredients for being a nation. Now, there was a question of the ‘other’ who remained socio-psychologically separate despite being in the same territorial unit. His response was unambiguous when he stated that ‘so far as nation is concerned, all those who fall outside the five-fold limits of that idea [nation], can have no place in the national life unless they abandon their differences, adopt the religion, culture and language of the Nation and completely merge themselves in the national race’.23 So, it was an endeavour at creating one people on the basis of common race and language and being in a common territory. This is a project, in other words, of totalizing the nation by completely disregarding its diversity. There was however no compulsion for those who were keen to retain their distinctive sociocultural identities which Guruji clarified by saying that ‘so long as [those willing to maintain]

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Ideological foundation

their racial, religious and cultural differences, they cannot but be only foreigners, who may be either friendly or inimical to the Nation’.24 In his zeal to create a unified Hindusthan, it was thus desirable to devise ways and means for creating template for the foreigners to be together. The aim was to develop a mechanism for togetherness in conformity with the fundamental ethos that had emerged in Hindusthan over ages. Guruji’s suggestion was unambivalent. According to him, ‘[t]here 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’.25 A Savarkarian in his belief, Golwalkar reiterated an argument which was couched in the language in which his predecessor in the Hindu nationalist pantheon, V. D. Savarkar, articulated his view vis-à-vis the minorities, especially the Muslims. For the Hindu nationalists, other options seem to have been foreclosed because, as Golwalkar believed, ‘[t]hat alone keeps the national life healthy and undisturbed. That alone keeps the Nation safe from the danger of a cancer developing into its body politics of the creation of a state within the State’.26 It was a categorical response defending the merger of those identified as ‘foreigners’ in Guruji’s lexicon with the mainstream nation. Under no circumstances it was to be compromised since any dilution was disastrous for the aim for which Hindu nationalists raised their cudgels against the intruders. For the foreigners, Guruji thus unequivocally suggested that they, 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 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 citizens’ rights. There is no other course . . . left for them to adopt.27 Implicit here are two fundamental and one peripheral points. First, it is clear that the primary objective of Golwalkar, or, for that, his Hindu nationalist colleagues, was to build a culturally homogenous nation; a unified collectivity in terms of the criteria that had roots in the conceptual thinking since the conclusion of the 1648 Westphalia Treaty. By seeking to create a sociocultural compact, Guruji put forward an argument that was not dissimilar to the Western nationalist discourse. Secondly, the mechanism for merger that he devised hardly had a space for anything else besides dictating the minorities to completely uphold the mainstream nationalist values ignoring what they had nurtured so far. There was also no space for dialogue; the ‘foreigners’ needed to shake off their identities as foreigners, and, in case of their failure they would be forced to do so. This did not seem to be unusual to Guruji as he himself exhorted that ‘we are an old nation . . . and we know how to deal with the foreigners’.28 Only through a forceful cultural assimilation, argued Golwalkar, it would be possible for Hindusthan to rise as a strong nation with a well-knit community, brought together on the basis of

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M. S. Golwalkar (1906–73)


sociocultural and psychological compatibility among its members. Finally, there was a peripheral point highlighting why the merger was required to be done. Here, Guruji justified his claim by linking the merger with the availability of democratic rights of being rightful citizens of Hindusthan. Here too, there is also an endeavour to attribute basic democratic rights to majoritarianism. The choice for the foreigners was well-defined: either acceptance or rejection; if the latter, the consequences were disastrous while the former made them legitimate citizens of Hindusthan. Conceptually, it reminds us of the famous distinction that J. S. Mill made between two types of actions which individuals usually do to exercise their rights as part of a citizenry. For instance, self-regarding actions which citizens undertake instinctively to attend to their roles that are constitutionally designed while the other-regarding actions are meant to be performed for ensuring the wellbeing of the community to which they belong. Reverberation of this idea is seen when Golwalkar asked the foreigners to practice self-regarding action when he suggested them to voluntarily accept the mainstream cultural values; it was justified as an other-regarding action because the merger of the foreigners was tuned to being respectful to the rest of the society. There is however a serious limitation in this argument since in a democracy being accommodative of the other also means generation of an environment in which the respect for ‘the different’ other is synonymous with democratic citizenship.

The idea of nation One of the most important aspects of Golwalkar’s sociopolitical thoughts was his conceptualization of nation. A surface reading of the conceptual parameters reveals that, at one level, it was primarily derivative in the sense that he borrowed the idea from V. D. Savarkar; it was not so, at another level because he expanded the concept by being sensitive to certain complex socio-psychological priorities which did not receive adequate attention earlier. This was evident when he suggested that: Hindu nation is not a mere bundle of political and economic rights. It is essentially cultural. Our ancient and sublime cultural values of life form its life-breath. And, it is only an intense rejuvenation of the spirit of our culture that can give us the true vision of our national life, and a fruitful direction to all our efforts in solving the innumerable problems confronting our nation today.29 Hindusthan is a cultural entity which means that it derives its sustenance from the cultural resources that she had by being an ancient civilizational entity. As well as being a historical construct, the nation thrived because of unique sociopsychological complementarities that had emerged due to a dialectical interconnection between individuals and the national community. There had to be a balance between individuals’ interests and those of community for the sake of the nation. As one who was keen to develop Hindusthan as a strong nation, Guruji

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Ideological foundation

privileged nation over individuals, which he categorically stated by underlining that ‘[f]reedom of the individual to amass and enjoy wealth has to be kept within certain limit so as to ensure freedom for all others in the society to have same opportunities for leading a happy and prosperous material life’.30 Partisan interests of individuals were to be sacrificed for the betterment of others who also constituted the nation. We did not need to work for this, Guruji was optimistic; he, thus said that individuals in Hindusthan were raised and nurtured in a sociocultural milieu in which they realized that ‘the people around [them] are also manifestations of the same Sprit and that the enjoyment of the fruits of [their] labour by them is equivalent to [their] own enjoyment’.31 Since nation was a compact, it was required to be nourished by ‘reviving the sublime features of our culture . . . [inspiring] our people . . . by the true vision of our national life as to break their present shell of personal and family and other parochial considerations and rise high in character, service and sacrifice’.32 Basic here is the point that unless individuals rose above their partisan priorities the nation remained weak; only by drawing on the cultural resources, it was possible for the nation to rise. The idea does not seem to be exceptionally unique although by characterizing culture as a source of rejuvenation, Guruji enforced a very common explanatory point being made by the Hindu nationalists in the context of freedom struggle. There is one unique socio-psychological feature which Golwalkar highlighted while reconceptualizing Hindu nationalism as an ideological tool for political mobilization. Not an exactly new conceptualization, the idea of purusartha laid, according to Guruji, the foundation for Hindusthan as a nation. Beginning with the claim that Hindu civilization drew on two aspects of human endeavour, dharma (cosmic laws insisting on righteous behaviour) and moksha (salvation), Guruji argued that ‘the Hindu society was built on the basis of four-fold achievement – dharma, artha (wealth), kama (gratification of physical need) and moksha. The Western intellectual discourses dwell on dharma, artha and kama but disregards moksha which the Hindu philosophy emphasizes. With his endorsement of the argument that Western society was unable to realize the importance of moksha, Guruji thus argues that mere gratification of physical needs was not adequate for human beings who also hankered after the fulfilment of their spiritual requirements. While making this point he thus suggested that: [i]f to eat, drink and enjoy abundantly is the only criterion for survival . . . then men will have to be equated with a mere beast; furthermore, [what was required was] also to create an ambience [in which] men are able to realize their spiritual goal, namely, moksha or salvation [which will relieve them of] the cycle of birth.33 The Western discourse remained clueless regarding moksha because it was not part of their being while salvation was integrally connected with Hindu civilization’s texts, especially the Vedas. By referring to this aspect of Hindu nationhood, Guruji reinforced the argument that for an appropriate comprehension of nation in the Hindu context, the idea of purusartha was most critical; otherwise,

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M. S. Golwalkar (1906–73)


the entire endeavour at conceptualizing nation in the Indian context was likely to be defeated. While delineating the socio-psychological attributes of a national community within the conceptual mode of purusartha, Guruji endeavoured to explicate those foundational values for a solid social bonding. In a brilliant exposition of his nuanced understanding of nation, he thus highlighted those sociocultural and political attributes constituting a nation by saying that nation: should not be just a mass of men, just a juxtaposition of heterogeneous individuals; it should have evolved a definite way of life moulded by community of life-ideals, of culture, of feelings, sentiments, faith and traditions. If people thus become united in a coherent and well-ordered society having common traditions and aspirations, a common memory of happy and unhappy experiences of their past life, common feelings of friendship and hostility, and their interests intertwined in one identical whole – then such people living as children of that particular territory may be termed a nation.34 It is a most comprehensive definition of a nation specifying both the physical, socio-psychological and moral attributes of a community/or communities being characterized as a nation. A cursory look at the characteristic reconfirms the point that in defining a nation, it may seem that Golwalkar merely reiterated the conventional Western definition. There is however one serious difference which is evident if one analyzes the definition beyond what eyes meet. It is true that Guruji strove to develop Hindusthan as a nation following the Western criteria; nonetheless, he equally cared for what was distinctive in this endeavour which one cannot find in the Western definition of nation. For instance, by arguing that moksha was a critical part of Hindu nationhood, he was trying to go beyond the Western discourse in this regard. That he chose to adopt the conventional definition also reveals that it was perhaps easier for him to put across his point given the hegemonic grip of the Western ideas in the contemporary intellectual universe. It could have been a strategy to establish the contention that he preferred to offer at a particular juncture of India’s past. Further analysis of the characteristics reveals that for Guruji it was perhaps more of a strategy to dwell on them since they were meaningful in the context in which he was making the point. It was also an endeavour to rekindle ideas of national pride and aspirations. It was also an attempt to rejuvenate the moribund nation by recreating interests in India’s past. A double-edged sword, this effort was directed to remind the Hindus of their glorious past which needed to be revived for their own gain. This was the spirit when he expressed that: what a shame, what a misfortune that Hindus accept when they are told that [they] are imbecile, they had no spirit, no stamina to stand on their own legs and fight for the independence for their motherland and all this need to be learnt from the Muslims and Christians. . . . To preach impotency to a society which gave rise to a Shivaji [the great Maratha warrior-king] . . . to

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Ideological foundation demonstrate the self-confidence and proud spirit of such a great and virile society is a travesty of history.35

The purpose here was to inspire the Hindus who appeared to have lost their vitality largely due to a sterile environment in which they seem to have accepted their steady decline as a fait accompli. Guruji was convinced that it was a temporary lull and with time the Hindus would rise to the occasion. What was thus required to be done was to inculcate the nationalist spirit by drawing our attention to the treasures of knowledge of the ancient past. In his words, ‘the real and abiding source of inspiration can only be found in the spirit of unalloyed nationalism’.36 It was not an easy task. In order to accomplish his mission, he resorted to what is usually defined as socio-psychological means that is an intellectual device to draw upon the symbols, imageries which are contextually meaningful. For the Hindus, the notion of mother forms an important cornerstone in their perceptions; mother is also an icon which is also inspirational in India’s cultural context primarily because it is she who remains a pivot in all Hindu households; she, besides being a mother, thus contributes to the sustenance of the family. So, there is an emotional attachment with the idea of mother in the Hindu psyche. By conflating Hindu’s emotional connection with mother with motherland, Guruji, in his zeal for generating devotion to the motherland, thus exhorted that: the feeling of burning love for Bharat Mata, the great and sacred mother of us all, the intense consciousness of our being a single and indivisible brotherhood as the children of that common mother, and pride in our glorious national past, in our unique cultural heritage and aspiration to see our Bharat Mata reseated in her pristine glory and honour in the comity of nations, can alone act as a constant and powerful incentive capable of taking up in its sweep the greatest as well as the humblest of the land and bring out the best in them. That alone shall bring into full play invincible potency of our people so amply demonstrated in the present crisis and make them realize the inspiring vision of an invincible united Bharat Mata holding in one hand Kamal [the lotus], the power to bless the good and in the other Vajra [weapon], the power to strike down evil, the embodiment of indomitable spirit.37 That Hindu nationalists are to draw sustenance from the Hindu imageries and symbols is too obvious to be stated separately. By clearly spelling out the ideological priorities, Golwalkar struck two birds with one stone. On the one hand, the declaration that Bharat Mata was a source of inspiration confirms a very definite ideological tilt which inputs neither from Islam nor from Christianity remained an anathema. This is an exclusionary ideological design supportive of a system of thought where the ideas in its typical Hinduized form figured prominently. This exhortation is also, on the other, about a design of action seeking to bring back the past glory of Hindusthan. There is a reference to the immediate historical past which was articulated by drawing attention to personal rivalry among the Hindus despite being born to Bharat Mata. Being a political activist, it naturally

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M. S. Golwalkar (1906–73)


dawned on Golwalkar that unity was strength and which needed to be inculcated by designing a template of togetherness; Bharat Mata appeared to be the safest and also most effective symbol capable of bringing people together cutting across social, economic and regional boundaries. As argued earlier in this chapter, Golwalkar was a political activist with a well-defined ideological faith in support of Hindu nationalism. Muslims were excluded so long as they did not agree to be assimilated with the mainstream nationalist socio-psychological preferences; otherwise they were welcome to the nationalist fold. By drawing on instances from Indian history showing how Muslim kings expanded their sphere of influences by resorting to all kinds of coercive means which, inter alia, created an ambience of hatred by the Hindus against Muslims. Unlike their Muslim counterparts, Hindus were neither coercive nor nurtured hatred because that was contrary to the Hindu ethos, claimed Guruji. Elaborating his argument, he thus stated that: [t]he idea of domination through brute strength is absolutely alien to [Hindu] culture and tradition. Our whole being revolts against this un-Hindu concept. Numerous faiths and creeds have flourished here from ancient times. We have had republican governments and hereditary kingships. Under all conditions the people were free to follow their healthy persuasions in every walk of life. Everyone was encouraged to develop according to his individual genesis, nature and inclination. In keeping with that spirit, the work of the Hindu missionaries for rousing and organizing the society has always been through love and service, character and sacrifice and never through brute force or political power.38 Core to the previous statement is an important idea emphasizing the distinctive features of a completely Hinduized society in which the values of Hindu sanskriti (culture) shall be privileged. These are value which other segments of society will find it ‘worth-emulating’.39 The aim for Guruji was to create ‘an unadulterated, unambiguous and dynamic idea of the nation’ drawing on the distinctive Hinduized sociocultural priorities.40 It was an alternative nation-building project in which ‘whatever was inherent and excellent in Hindutva had to be re-established [seeking to unite] the Hindus in a bond of love destroying all divisive forces within Hindu society and making all [of them] realize their shared tradition’.41 Following this, he expressed his dissatisfaction with the 1950 Constitution which, instead of being based on indigenous values and traditions, imitated the Western derivative theories of constitutionalism. It was stated unambiguously when he argued that: [o]ur Constitution is just a cumbersome and heterogeneous piecing together of various articles from various Constitutions of Western countries. It has absolutely nothing, which can be called our own. Is there a single word of reference in its guiding principles as what our national mission is and what our keynote in life is? No. Some lame principles from the United Nations

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Ideological foundation Charter or from Charter of the now defunct League of Nations and some features from the American and British Constitutions have been just brought together in a mere hotchpotch.42

The argument seems to be persuasive because a perusal of the provisions of the Constitution substantiates the claim that the 1950 Constitution borrows ideas and values from the constitutions and constitutional practices primarily in countries where liberal constitutionalism was practised as a guiding ideological principle. It also appears to be unavoidable because India was long-governed by a colonial power that drew its sustenance from British constitutionalism which gradually seeped in the Indian psyche. An analysis of the evolution of democratic practices in India makes us believe that constitutional liberalism was welcome by most of the nationalists who were raised and nurtured in the colonial context in which the dominant ideological influence was the Enlightenment philosophy of the Western variety. For the Hindu nationalists, blind imitation of the Western constitutional values naturally weakened their project of creating a unified national compact in India. As Guruji stated, given the complete rejection by the framers of the constitution of the idea of ‘single homogenous nationhood’, the 1950 Constitution opted for a federal structure that struck at the foundation of India’s unity. India being constitutionally described as a Union of States led to, he further argued, ‘the fragmentation of our single national life into so many exclusive political units that sowed the seeds of national disintegration and defeat’.43 There are two complementary arguments being made here. On the one hand, Golwalkar questioned the very conceptual foundation that critically influenced the founding fathers while working on the 1950 Constitution of India. Unable to appreciate liberal constitutionalism as it was contrary to his project of creating a national compact in the Hindu nationalist format, he raised a point which is perfectly plausible. There is also another point which, on the other, was made to delegitimize the constitutional structure that the Constitution preferred. For instance, federalism seeking to provide a template for regional autonomy did not appear to be appropriate since it caused and consolidated division in India which was also deterrent towards fulfilling the nationalist project. This is one part of the story; the other equally interesting part revolves around his unalloyed views on the failure of the Muslims to be integrated with the mainstream Hindu nationalists. That the Muslims had hardly had a desire to work for the nation was a source of irritation for Guruji; the claim that Muslims were culturally different from the rest in Hindusthan alienated the nationalists to a significant extent. While insisting that the Muslims needed to walk an extra mile to establish that they were ‘neither Arabs nor Turks nor Mongols, . . . but Hindusthani since they had the same sociocultural and also genealogical roots [by being Hindu converts] as their Hindu counterparts’.44 So, Hindusthan was not exclusionary but accommodative of individuals with different religious denominations. This did not seem to be unusual as the term Hindu, argued Guruji, was a non-religious expression denoting:

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M. S. Golwalkar (1906–73)


a people and some of the pertinent values that evolved with the collective life of those located in Hindusthan [insisting on] the devotion to the motherland and its cultural ideals, pride in our history, respect for our forefathers and lastly, a determination in every one of us to build up a common life of prosperity and security.45 Here too, there are three factors which, according to Golwalkar, contribute to the formation of a compact nation: the first important ingredient is people who are appreciative of being together by virtue of being occupants of a specific geographical territory; secondly, the dwellers in Hindusthan need to be sensitive to the distinctive history that has evolved organically with its evolution; thirdly, what brings those living in Hindusthan together and sustains their togetherness is their concern for and a determination to ensure common well-being. Taken as a totality, Guruji’s conceptual universe can be said to have been governed by a single-point sociopolitical agenda leading to the creation and consolidation of a Hindusthan which is socially compatible, ideologically expansive and politically effective in fulfilling the nationalist goal. It is therefore an ideational initiative seeking to build an alternative ideological discourse first in conjunction with the Enlightenment philosophy before independence and constitutional liberalism in its aftermath.

Concluding observations Metaphorically speaking, K. B. Hedgewar planted a sapling which grew into a giant tree with Golwalkar’s care and concern. As the detailed analysis earlier in this chapter demonstrates, Hindu nationalism gained momentum once Golwalkar became its chief proponent after Hedgewar’s demise. It is true that he was primarily a man of organization in the sense that he built the Hindu nationalist organization, the RSS, by dint of his intelligent handling of the cadres and also the sympathizers who, despite not being intimately associated, were instrumental in reaching out to a wider section of the population. Heavily influenced by his mentor, Hedgewar, he appeared to have fulfilled the goal that the former had set out for realizing the Hindu nationalist mission. In the context of the freedom struggle, it was not an easy task given the hegemonic presence of Gandhi and the near acceptance of his ideas by those participating in the anti-British campaign. The scene did not seem to be radically different once India became politically free in 1947 when liberal constitutionalism was upheld as a guiding ideological principle. It was therefore an uneven battle for Guruji who had to fight the endeavours towards undermining, if not crippling, the Hindu nationalist ideas as being narrow, sectarian and highly prejudiced. The entire milieu was adverse. Nonetheless, by being uncritically drawn to the fundamental Hindu nationalist ethos, Golwalkar carried forward the baton to the next generation amidst adversaries. As an ideologue who evolved his theoretical points by being dialectically interlinked with the practice, Guruji was a class by himself for three important reasons:

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Ideological foundation

first, being a true disciple of Hedgewar, he believed that Hindusthan’s decline as a civilization was due to both indigenous and exogenous factors; indigenous because Hindus never rose against the aggressors as a unified collectivity primarily due to inherent sociocultural and economic differences among themselves. Being totally ignorant of their cultural strength, Hindus, Golwalkar further felt, were intellectually crippled and thus got swayed by the derivative Western discourses. This was, in other words, an intellectual servility that stood as a deterrent to the Hindus becoming a strong community. Secondly, on the basis of his minute and also careful analysis, he now proceeded to develop his own conceptualization of Hindu nationalism. It was his firm belief that Hindus could easily be regenerated as a well-knit sociocultural group by reviving those practices linked with the Hindu nationalist ideological preferences. By being selective, he thus drew on India’s glorious past and also those selective instances highlighting the contribution of courageous Hindus against the mighty adversaries. It is therefore not surprising that the Maratha king, Shivaji figured prominently in Guruji’s narrative to substantiate how Hindu kings gallantly fought for their cause. Finally, Hindu nationalism was a protestant campaign which Golwalkar spearheaded at a particular juncture of India’s history when the ethnocentric Western ideologies seem to have been privileged presumably because of the obvious patronage of the ruling class and also the failure of alternative discourses to create a legitimate space in contrast with their mainstream counterpart. On most occasions, the Hindu nationalists had a voice when it was complemented by those who reigned supreme in the mainstream nationalist platform. With Golwalkar at the saddle, the scene was not the same, as history has shown. On the whole, the ideological discourse that Golwalkar developed revolved around the question of ‘construction of a cultural holism’ and ideological compatibility sustaining the national compact.46 This was the reason why he opposed federalism which he stated unambiguously in his 1961 communication to the first session of the National Integration Council. As he argued: Today’s federal form of government not only contributes to and defends the feelings of separatism. This is also a refusal to recognize the idea of India being one nation. It must be done away with and we should go for a unitary form of government.47 The previous statement has elements that could easily be misinterpreted by accusing him of being an abominator of federalism48 which is clearly overstretched as an interpretation if this is viewed in a historical context. It was a critique of the British propaganda regarding how India was made a nation by British administrative design which was evident when he stated: let the Constitution be re-examined and re-drafted, so as to establish this Unitary form of Government and thus effectively disprove the mischievous propaganda indulged in by the British, and so unwittingly imbibed by the

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M. S. Golwalkar (1906–73)


present leaders, about our being just a juxtaposition of so many distinct ‘ethnic groups’ or ‘nationalities’ happening to live side by side and grouped together by the accident of geographical contiguity and one uniform foreign domination.49 In a similar vein, he had attitudes which were not favourably disposed towards non-Hindu religions, especially Muslims and Christians. For the latter, his arguments were as aggressive as those against the former. There is one point of view which is usually made in defending Guruji’s version of anti-Muslim discourse: the views that he articulated were not those of mature Golwalkar and represented the ideas contained in the G.D. Savarkar’s 1939 text entitled Rashtra Mimansha.50 The views do not seem to be unfounded as Guruji’s own codified texts reveal. On occasion, he, for instance, expressed his views categorically on the charge of being anti-Muslim by exhorting that for the nation to develop: all those communities which are staying in this land and yet are not true to their salt, have not imbibed its culture, do not lead the life which this land has been unfolding for so many centuries, do not believe in its philosophy, in its national heroes and in all that his land has been standing for, are, to put it briefly, foreign to our national life.51 After couching his argument in sociological terms, he now addressed his concern empirically by identifying why he held opinions suggestive of his hatred towards the Muslims. His response was unambiguous when he stated that: [t]he main reason for Hindu-Muslim tension is that the Indian Muslim is yet to identify himself fully with India, the people and his culture. Let the Muslim feel and say that this is his country and these are his people, and the problem will cease. It is a matter of changing his psychology.52 A pragmatic to the core, he thus can be said to have adopted appropriate steps which allowed the Hindu nationalist forces to remain in the reckoning even in adverse circumstances. It did not therefore seem odd when Guruji agreed to suspend the military drill that the RSS activists undertook in response to the government policy on this. In a circular, he thus announced that ‘we discontinued the practices included in the government’s early order on military drill . . . to keep our work within the bounds of law, as every law-abiding institution should’.53 As history has shown, by being less catholic in his preferences, Golwalkar created a legitimate space for Hindu nationalism that flourished in the days to come. It was to his credit that not only did Hindu nationalism survive amidst counterattacks, engineered by far stronger forces, it also thrived in independent India to the extent of being a powerful ideological alternative even in circumstances which were not exactly in its favour.

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Ideological foundation

Notes 1 J.S. Mill, ‘Nationality’ (1861), reproduced in S. Wolf (ed.), Nationalism in Europe, 1815 to the Present: A Reader, Routledge, London and New York, 1996, p. 40. 2 Jyotirmaya Sharma, Terrifying Vision: MS Golwalkar, the RSS and India, Penguin, New Delhi, 2007, p. 42. 3 Preface, written by M.S. Aney, in Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar, We or Our Nationhood Defined, Bharati Publications, Nagpur, 1939, p. 31. 4 Ibid., p. 32. 5 Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar, Bunch of Thoughts, Bharat Publications, Nagpur, 1965, p. 4. 6 Golwalkar, We or Our Nationhood Defined, p. 52. 7 Ibid., pp. 52–3. 8 Ibid., p. 56. 9 Ibid., p. 123. 10 Ibid. 11 Ibid., p. 124. 12 Ibid., p. 131. 13 Ibid., p. 57. 14 Ibid., p. 59. 15 Ibid., p. 60. 16 Ibid., p. 80. 17 Ibid., p. 57. 18 Ibid., p. 94. 19 Ibid., p. 98. 20 Ibid. 21 Ibid., p. 99. 22 Ibid., p. 100. 23 Ibid., p. 101. 24 Ibid. 25 Ibid., p. 104. 26 Ibid. 27 Ibid., p. 105. 28 Ibid. 29 Golwalkar, Bunch of Thoughts, p. 32. 30 Ibid., p. 31. 31 Ibid. 32 Ibid., p. 36. 33 Ibid., p. 39. 34 Ibid., p. 95. 35 Ibid., p. 111. 36 Ibid., p. 245. 37 Ibid., pp. 245–6. 38 Ibid., pp. 287–8. 39 CP Bhishikar, Shri Guruji: Pioneer of a New Era (translated from Marathi), Sahitya Sindhu Prakashana, Bangalore, 1999, p. 190. 40 Sharma, Terrifying Vision: MS Golwalkar, the RSS and India, p. 95. 41 Ibid. 42 Golwalkar, Bunch of Thoughts, p. 175. 43 Ibid., p. 161. 44 Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar’s interview in The Times of India, 18 June 1970. 45 www.bharatiweb.in/, Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar’s interview, no date. 46 Thomas Blom Hansen pursued this argument in his The Saffron Wave: Democracy and Hindu Nationalism in Modern India, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 1999, pp. 80–4.

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M. S. Golwalkar (1906–73)


47 MS Golwalkar Collected Works (Hindi), Bharatiya Vichar Sadhana, 1978, Volume 3, p. 109. 48 Golwalkar’s We or Our Nationhood Defined: A Critique by Shamsul Islam with the Full Text of the Book, Pharos Media, New Delhi, 2011 (reprint), p. 55. 49 Golwalkar, Bunch of Thoughts, p. 162. 50 Rakesh Sinha, Guruji and Indian Muslims, Suruchi, Delhi, 2006, p. 3. 51 Golwalkar, Bunch of Thoughts, p. 154. 52 Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar, Spotlights, Sahitya Sindhi, Bangalore, 1974, p. 43. 53 National Archives of India, New Delhi, Government of India, Home-Political, file no. 1 of 28 March, 1943 – cited in Walter K. Anderson and Shridhar D. Damle, The Brotherhood in Saffron: The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and Hindu Revivalism, Vistaar Publications, New Delhi, 1987, p. 44.

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Deendayal Upadhyaya (1916–68) A demiurgic thinker

Our primary concern here is to meaningfully understand the sociopolitical and economic ideas of Deendayal Upadhyaya, popularly known as Panditji (1916–68). In doing so, we should not confine ourselves to providing a mere biographical account of this activist-cum-theoretician who strove to reconceptualize India’s distinct socioeconomic reality in the so-called ‘nationalist’ discourse that appeared to have lost its conceptual viability in the avalanche of Western political ideas. The chapter thus seeks to capture the complex unfolding of alternative, if not contrasting, ideas in a context in which, besides Gandhi’s nonviolence, multiple ideas jostled for space, both in the nationalist campaign for political freedom, and when India became politically free following the 1947 transfer of power, accompanied by partition. This variegated nature of Indian nationalist thought needs to be understood in order to explain the evolution and consolidation of specific nationalist ideas in a not-exactly-even playing field. Furthermore, Deendayal’s sociopolitical ideas were born out of his facticity – he grew up in an environment tainted by colonialism and also lived through the era following decolonization, in which the Nehruvian socialistic pattern of society reigned supreme. The argument being made here thus draws on the relative importance of the context and also the texts which were critical in the evolution of Upadhyaya’s social, political and economic ideas. So, it can be argued that his ideas are neither exactly derivative nor truly indigenous, but creatively blended. A challenging task indeed, the effort is directed to grasping Upadhyaya’s distinct contribution in developing an innovative genre of thought in the text-context dialectical format of conceptualization.

Deendayal Upadhyaya: the unfolding of an ideology Born in 1916 in Mathura in the erstwhile United Provinces, Deendayal, also known as Panditji, is identified as one of those prominent ideologues who laid out the foundation of what is commonly described as Hindu nationalism in India. One of the unique conceptualizations that Panditji offered was linked with a foundational idea of Indian civilization that hinges on an equally complex philosophical notion of purushartha which etymologically means that which is pursued ‘for the sake of the spirit or immortal soul’. The concept of purushartha entails three interrelated connotations: (a) it refers to human striving; (b) it also

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Deendayal Upadhyaya (1916–68) 91 illustrates human desire directed towards overcoming fate and karma; and (c) it also incorporates a creative blending of the four canonically recognized aims of life, namely, dharma (ethics and religion), artha (wealth and power), kama (pleasure) and moksha (liberation from worldly life). Being a pragmatic thinker, Panditji insisted that while reconceptualizing human life within the purushartha paradigm, what was important was to comprehend the phenomenon in a holistic manner which means that each of the qualities needed to be kept in mind in grasping the whole, i.e., purushartha. According to him, a comprehensive view of a human being suggests that he represents an organic being ‘comprising Shareer (body), Mana (mind), Buddhi (intellect) and Atma (soul) having a number of urges requiring to be fulfilled by the Purushartha [which makes] . . . a human being an integral man who had the potential to share simultaneously innumerous individual and corporate entities’.1 This was unique to India which he argued by saying that ‘here in Bharat, we have placed before ourselves the ideal of the fourfold responsibilities of catering to the needs of body, mind, intellect and soul with a view to achieve (sic) the integrated progress of man [which is articulated in] Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha; . . . the longings for [these] are inborn in man, and satisfaction of these give him joy’.2 Drawn from India’s rich philosophicalcivilizational genealogy, Panditji developed a model in which the desires of human beings are analytically separated to further argue that each of them needed to be construed not in isolation but existed in tandem to each other. This was most succinctly captured when he elaborated his point by saying that: Artha includes what are known as political and economic policies; . . . Kama refers to the satisfaction of various natural desires; Dharma includes all rules, fundamental principles and ethical codes in accordance with which all the activities in respect of Artha and Kama are to be carried on, and all the goals thereof to be achieved. This alone will ensure progress in an integrated and harmonious manner, and lead ultimately to Moksha’.3 In view of Gandhi’s insistence of purushartha, one can argue that Panditji followed the footsteps of the Mahatma presumably because he was persuaded by his endeavour towards couching his response in India’s civilizational mould. A cursory look at Gandhi’s own formulation will suffice here. For instance, in his speech before the Congress volunteers on 17 March, 1931, just on the eve of the call for Civil Disobedience campaign, he argued that ‘I believe [that] it is our duty to augment the legacy of our ancestors and to change it into current coin and make it acceptable to the present age’.4 As a pragmatic political leader, it was very clear to him that for the attainment of success, a creative blending of all these components of purushartha was required since they represented a whole. In his treatise on Gita, he while critiquing the so-called secularists for their insistence on separating these integral human desires, thus emphasized that the common belief that dharma, artha and kama were impediments to attain moksha was unfounded because ‘the author of the Gita has dispelled this delusion [and] . . . has drawn no demarcation between moksha and worldly pursuit’.5 Like Deendayal,

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Ideological foundation

Gandhi also insisted on (a) commitment to one’s own civilizational legacy was a key to progress of the nation and its consolidation, and (b) purushartha or the fulfilment of basic human desire was inherent in every human being. What is distinctive about Panditji’s social-political and economic ideas is their refinement, which he inherited by virtue of being an integral part of a thought process that flourished during the nationalist campaign for freedom, when Gandhian ideas prevailed over other ideological preferences. Nonetheless, there were alternative conceptualizations of nationalism; prominent among them were those which stemmed from the Hindu nationalists’ concern for political freedom along with freedom from social atrocities and economic inequality. The effort had begun with the quest for a thread of unity among the Indians who remained divided due to fractured loyalty to the nation because of well-entrenched sociocultural diversity. It is true that the Hindu nationalist ideologues sought to create an alternative nationalist voice seeking to reconceptualize India as a nation by drawing on the cultural distinctiveness of those living in [S]industan or Hindustan as it became known in a later part of Indian history. What is however unique is the philosophical-ideological foundation of the nationalist thinking which both the Hindu nationalists and their detractors drew on while devising their distinctive nationalist strategies. Behind the growth and later success of a nation lies purusartha or endeavour. In the available philosophical discourse, purusartha is an effort to accomplish those goals which are complementary to happiness. These purusarthas are dharma (virtue), artha (material prosperity and well-being), kama (fulfillment of bodily pleasure) and moksha (salvation). As is evident, these characteristics dwell on four different aspects of human existence which are not always intertwined. The Western civilization takes ample care, argued Deendayal, for the attainment primarily of artha and kama and on occasions, dharma, while Hindu civilization pays equal attention to moksha along with the other purusarthas. As Panditji argued, ‘what differentiates Hindu civilization from [their counterparts] is while they focus on nourishing the body as an ultimate objective, [the former] sees body as a tool to help progress towards moksha, the ultimate liberations of human souls’.6 This is an alien idea in the Western conceptual framework. By disregarding soul since it is other-worldly, the Western discourse appears to have neglected this aspect of human sentiments completely. In the Indian socio-philosophical context, soul holds a preeminent position, and, hence it has its impact in our worldly existence. In Panditji words, ‘[s]triving for these purusarthas helps in fulfilling an individual’s needs as well as in realizing the best of him through the balanced development of his body, emotions, intellect and soul’.7 Implicit here is also contention that these purusarthas are dialectically interconnected which entails the argument that they need to be pursued in tandem, but not in isolation. ‘All these purusarthas’, Deendayal thus elaborated, ‘complement each others: artha for the physical being; dharma for the collective being; kama for the gratification of one’s desires and moksha for the soul’.8 These purusarthas are critical to human existence and progress; they, in other words, remain integrally connected with human civilization and Hindu civilization, by underlining the importance of these purusarthas, provides cues to understand and persuasively

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Deendayal Upadhyaya (1916–68) 93 explain the dynamics of history which may not always be visible on the surface. Here Deendayal appears to have been indebted to Kautilya, as he himself admitted by saying that ‘before him, scholars and thinkers accorded importance to one, two or three of purusarthas; but, it was he who took all the purusarthas into cognizance for a meaningful explanation of how human society progresses or declines’.9 Fundamental here is the argument that human existence cannot be compartmentalized; instead it should be treated as an organic whole which is intertwined with a purpose, and Vedic endeavour towards conceptualizing human existence in the purusartha mould is closer to offering perhaps the most persuasive explanation. Purusartha is a foundational conceptual parameter in Deendayal’s Weltanschauung or world view. There are two ways in which the idea can be conceived: at a mundane level, it is a philosophical design seeking to explain how human society advances or progresses; at a rather cerebrally challenging level, it is an endeavour towards building a model for comprehending the complexities of human existence in which the other-worldly sentiments (like moksha) do not seem less significant. Why it is so? This is too obvious to deserve even a mention, as per Panditji. According to him, the interconnectedness of human existence is part and parcel of Hindu civilization being endorsed by concomitant values and ethos. In a detailed exposition of his conceptual universe, Deendayal linked the criticality of purusarthas with the fundamental socio-philosophical design sustaining the nation and society. As he argued: Indian culture is integrating. It searches our unity in various existences while at the same time accepting ostensible differences between different organs of life and a unity in their inner being and, as it so does, it establishes a harmony in them all. In place of mutual antagonism and struggle, it explores the actions of the nature on the basis of their mutual dependence, supplementation, congeniality and cooperation. It is not one-sided but holistic. Its view is neither sectarian nor sectionalist but it is holistic in nature with an approach to pervasive advancement. Integrity is its axis.10 This is a very perceptive comment that draws our attention to the obvious complex human character and existence in rapidly changing socioeconomic and political context. Nonetheless, it has to be viewed in a holistic manner which also means that notwithstanding the possibility of analytical dissection of human life, it can never be separated presumably because of its interdependent character. This is evident in Bharatiya sanskriti or culture that ‘the entire nation upholds’,11 felt Deendayal. As an extension of this argument, he now made a wider point by defending that Bharatiya sanskriti survived by being accommodative and receptive to those cultures which were not always open but too rigid to welcome ‘the other’. While elaborating this conceptual point, he further argues that it is possible for Bharatiya sanskriti to appreciate the oneness of human life presumably because ‘it is integral and not sectional or fractional; it is organic and not composite; it takes into account the whole man and that as an integral constituent not only of society but of all creation’.12 Reiterating the Upanishadic idea of the

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Ideological foundation

whole being one, Panditji revisited some of the fundamental philosophical issues that figured prominently in the nationalist discourse both during the freedom struggle and its aftermath. As shown by Anthony Parel,13 Gandhi built his nationalist critique by being drawn to the ancient Vedic texts emphasizing the critical importance of purusarthas. According to Parel, Gandhi, by drawing on the Indian time-honoured theory of purusarthas, fitted his ethical, political, aesthetic and religious ideas together. This is the conceptual basis on which the Mahatma challenged the notion which prevailed in Indian society that a rift existed between the secular and the spiritual, the political and the contemplative life. Being Gandhian to a significant extent in terms of politico-philosophical priorities, Panditji came closer to the Mahatma in so far as the conceptual framework is concerned, while developing his distinct approach to human life and collective existence. What deserves emphasis here is that despite having held differently textured politicoideological priorities, the Mahatma and Panditji seem to have had intellectual compatibility presumably because they drew on identical philosophical traditions.

Philosophizing politico-ideological concerns There are two important dimensions of Upadhyaya’s sociopolitical ideas: on the one hand, he appears to have taken into account the dominant politico-ideological views that were in vogue since they allowed him to reconceptualize his major socioeconomic and political concerns in a different perspective. He did not seem to be dogmatic, or non-sensitive to ideas, being articulated differently and also with a different ideological mission. It is not therefore surprising that he engaged, on the one hand, with the socialist thinkers, including Karl Marx, and also, on the other, with the nationalist/Indian thinkers, like Gandhi and Ambedkar. Equally significant was the dimension, on other, which draws on his unstinted faith in indigenous thoughts, ideas and values. For him, the idea of being Bharatiya would remain elusive so long as it is sought to be conceptualized in Western or nonindigenous paradigms. As argued earlier in this chapter, Upadhyay’s approach to sociopolitical and economic concerns was a creative amalgam of both derivative and indigenous Bharatiya values, norms and mores or, in other words, what is broadly defined as Bharatiya traditions. As a discourse on political thought, his ideas can be clubbed under two categories: some of his concerns draw on what I loosely define as ‘knowledge paradigm’ or epistemological issues. For instance, by seeking to conceptualize India in terms of what he christened as Bharatiya traditions, he endeavoured to build an alternative theoretical discourse on the basis of those indigenous influences which generally go with Bharatiya traditions. Upadhyaya had also dealt with some of the existential concerns which, he felt, needed to be addressed to evolve a polity capable of translating his nationalistic ideas into practice. Illustrative here is the design of the state that he offered which was necessary to establish, for instance, dharma-driven constitutional secularism. This is a conceptualization which is neither western nor exactly Nehruvian nor Gandhian, but entirely innovative in which dharma is being creatively blended with secularism

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Deendayal Upadhyaya (1916–68) 95 which is closer to the Gandhian conceptualization of Sarv-Dharm-Samabhava (equal respect to all religions), but is certainly contrary to the Nehruvian DharmaNiropekshta (neutrality to all religions). The analytical demarcation of Upadhyaya’s sociopolitical and economic ideas into two compartments, epistemological and existential, is useful for two reasons: on the one hand, this is being pursued to suggest that his ideas had a conceptual continuity, being justified by reference to those theoretical ideas which are rooted in the indigenous traditions. This is also to reinforce an obvious fact that the search for appropriate model of governance is generally knowledge-driven. The second analytical compartment, the existential, is about the effort that Upadhyaya had embarked on while devising an alternative mode of conceptualization to provide his own instinctive designs linked with one’s existential being. For instance, Upadhyaya’s insistence on the right to food, education and employment in his famous lecture of 1965 on Integral Humanism can be said to have emerged out of his concern for existential concerns.

Epistemological designs That he remained uneasy with the available tools of analysis seems to have driven Upadhyaya to search for alternatives in India’s rich indigenous traditions. This, he accepted by challenging the mindset that tended not to ‘discard the status quo mentality [and to] usher in a new era’. There was however a note of caution because he was also of the opinion that: our efforts of reconstruction need not be clouded by prejudices or disregard for all that is inherited from our past [and also] . . . there is no need to cling to past institutions and traditions which have outlived their utility.14 Critical of intellectual servility to the past, Panditji favoured a dialectical interaction with what had been transported from one generation to another. His primary goal was national reconstruction on the basis of traditional nationalist ideas, being complemented by what he deemed appropriate out of the contemporary philosophical discourses with both indigenous roots and also their Western counterparts. Furthermore, the effort was nothing new, as he himself admitted when he drew on the ideas of Tilak and Gandhi to persuasively argue his point of view. According to him, there were two questions that seem to have bothered both Lokmanya, as Tilak was fondly called, and Mahatma, the other identity of Gandhi: (a) how to drive out the foreign rulers and to achieve independence and (b) what should be the face of new Bharat after decolonization? In his Hind Swaraj (1909), Gandhi prepared a blueprint for future India following his scathing critique of Western civilization that came piggyback to India with colonialism. Tilak’s Gita Rahasya (1915) was also a treatise seeking to devise ways and means for rejuvenation of Bharat by drawing upon the philosophical teachings of Bhagavad Gita.15 While evolving his distinct approach, Deendayal, besides deriving ideas from Gandhi’s Hind Swaraj and Tilak’s Gita Rahasya, was equally sensitive to

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Ideological foundation

India’s ancient past; it was not a blind absorption of the derivative ideas, but his efforts were also directed to reinvent them in the light of contemporary needs. In other words, like Karl Marx, history was, to Deendayal, a source of inspiration so long as it helped understand the contemporary social, economic and political milieu. It was most unambiguously stated in his elaboration of Integral Humanism when he mentioned that: we have taken due note of our ancient culture, . . . [and] . . . our goal is not merely to protect the culture but to revitalize it so as to make it dynamic and in tune with times. [The aim is to] ensure that our nation stands firm on this foundation and our society is enabled to live a healthy, progressive and purposeful life. We shall have to end a number of traditions and set in reforms which are helpful in the development of values and of national unity in our society. We shall remove those traditions which obstruct this process.16 The argument that Panditji offered reveals that Hindu nationalism can never be equated with ‘an ideology in a reverse gear’, as it is usually made out; instead, it is an endeavour to draw on those ideas from the so-called Indian traditions which are viable and pertinent in the changed environment. It is, in other words, not a reversal, but a creative fashioning of an ideology that also had its roots in the rich Indian traditions. What is most commendable about the endeavour that Deendayal pursued relentlessly to articulate a uniquely textured politico-ideological design in contrast with the Gandhian swadeshi or the Marxist model of proletariat hegemony. How did he do it? As a methodical thinker, he evolved definite theoretical parameters on the basis of which he built his alternative conceptualization of a nationalist state in India, or, for that matter, anywhere else where indigenous traditions remained critical in one’s thinking. Conceptually, there are three main pillars that seem to have upheld Deendayal’s distinct contribution to the articulation of a persuasive alternative mode of thinking. The first of these pillars is Dharma which does not merely entail ‘worship to God’ or ‘being confined to temples or mosques’ [but] ‘is the repository of the Nation’s soul, [and hence,] if Dharma is destroyed, the Nation perishes’.17 Although he did not define Dharma in precise terms, he left enough inputs to suggest that Dharma, in his conceptualization, meant reverence to the prevalent traditions with roots in India’s long history. On occasions when he was asked to comment on the 1950 Constitution of India, he categorically mentioned that ‘this constitution cannot go contrary to the traditions of the country and [deviation of any kind shall be tantamount to] not fulfilling Dharma’.18 For him, Dharma was sovereign, and ‘other entities, institutions and authorities derive their power from Dharma and are subordinate to it’.19 On this basis, he proposed an idea of Dharma Rajya which however did not mean ‘a theocratic state’20 but one, which was governed by the rule of law. As he explained, ‘Dharma Rajya ensures, on the one hand, a curb on arbitrariness and totalitarianism and, on the other, it prevents democracy from degenerating into mobocracy’.21 The conceptualization of Dharma Rajya draws on a mindset that is based on high moral values which are

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Deendayal Upadhyaya (1916–68) 97 too well-entrenched to be wished away. This may sound slightly utopian given the fact it was inconceivable in practice. Here Deendayal defended his argument by referring to the historical conceptualization of Dharma Rajya that flourished in India in the past. He thus argued that: while other concepts of state are right-oriented, the Indian concept of Dharma Rajya is duty-oriented. Naturally therefore, there was no scope for right being trampled upon or for any hankering after unlimited rights; and, also, there is no dereliction of duty, of power-madness, or of any conflict of rights.22 A persuasive conceptualization though it may not have been practical in view of ‘selfish nature’ of those who did not appear to be as sensitive to their duties as their rights. There were many factors for such degeneration in Indian society, including the long colonial rule that accounted for much of the debasement in India which resulted in the slackening of Bharatiya Sanskriti. The second pillar of Panditji’s construction of nation is the idea of India being an integrated whole complemented by an integrated opinion. As he insisted, a major characteristic of ‘Bharatiya culture is that it looks life as an integrated whole’ which is justified further by suggesting that ‘a holistic view is always better to understand the actual nature of a nation’.23 Here too, to make his point sharply, he resorted to a simile with the human body: for a surgery, the surgeon needed to know about the parts, but the success of a surgery depended on the overall health quotient of the person who was undergoing the operation. In response to a query that the emphasis on Indian life being an integrated whole was culturally at variance with the reality, Panditji was equivocal in his support for cultural diversity. His argument drew on the assumption that cultural diversity was organic to Indian life and hence was inseparable; it was instinctive and hence did not require to be emphasized separately which he articulated by saying that ‘the diversity in life is merely an expression of the internal unity, [being reinforced] by complementary values, mores, principles and systems which are region-specific’.24 Following his distinctive style of building an argument, here too, he drew on an example: according to him, just like: the unity in seed finds expression in various forms – the roots, the trunk, the branches, the leave, the flowers and the fruits of the tree; all these have different forms and colours and even to some extent different properties. Still we recognize their relation of unity with other through the seed.25 A perceptive conceptualization, this also argues for retention of India’s diversity as a source of her strength as a nation which is contrary to the conventional understanding of Hindu nationalism. That Upadhyaya was alert to India’s diversity was evident here; he was however convinced that diversity, by being organic to the rise of India as a cultural compact over millennia, was a source of strength and also sculpted a specific course of action for India being a civilization. Complementary to this feature is Deendayal’s creative conceptualization of importance

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Ideological foundation

of human life being an integrated whole comprising body, mind, intelligence and soul. A human being remained incomprehensible without reference to these four constituents, argued Panditji while pursuing his argument in defence of his wider theoretical concern for holistic human existence. An analytical scan of three pillars of Panditji’s politico-ideological view reveals that his conceptualization draws on India’s civilizational values, norms and principles. It is true that the Bharatiya traditions appears to have become a defining influence in his thoughts and ideas; nonetheless, he was not persuaded to entirely dismiss the Western ideas and values that came along with colonialism to India since they also became integrally linked with the Indian psyche. What he however warned against was blind aping of Western ideology and institutions that gained salience at a particular juncture of India’s past. It came out clearly when he stated that: an analysis of very many social and economic arrangements of ours would reveal that they are either the outcome of society’s incapacity to change and adjust with the times, or they are institutions which at time served as society’s shield against the foreigners or they have been thrust on us by foreigners or have been adopted by us from them in sheer imitation. Such institutions cannot be preserved in the name of Bharatiya Sanskriti.26 Being critical of blind imitation of the Western systems of thinking and the institutions that upheld them, Deendayal was not xenophobic; in fact, he was far from it because he also believed that ‘a balanced appraisal of both Bharatiya and Western ideologies . . . will make man progress further from his present position of thought, experience and achievement’.27 There are two implications of immense theoretical importance which come out of this observation: on the one hand, he insisted on a synthesis of ideas which are useful to understand a socio-economic and political reality; this also entails a very useful methodology which Panditji pursued to evolve his unique approach to address the prevalent concerns. While arguing for being sensitive to the multiple politico-ideological currents which worked for human progress, he also refused to be drawn to doctrinaire obtuseness. As he argued: our idealism, Integral Humanism, does not mean doctrinaire obsession, but is the sum total of various features of Bharatiya Sanskriti [cultural traditions], which are abiding, dynamic, synthesizing and sublime, and also reflective of realism [which] is the forte of our programme, the measure of our achievement and the touchstone of our ideal.28 The argument that Deendayal offered has two complementary endeavours: on the one hand, he built his alternative conceptualization by being sensitive to what he defined as Bharatiya culture. This is, as argued in the previous quote, a continuity with the past since Gandhi also had insisted on being true to indigenous traditions while devising his distinct approach for political mobilization.

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Deendayal Upadhyaya (1916–68) 99 There is another aspect which he highlighted by identifying the debilitating features of Indian society which acquired salience due to complex factors emanating from specific thought processes justifying them. For instance, Deendayal questioned the prevalence of untouchability which was neither socially justified nor had any canonical roots. Instead, they were reflective of social rots which he articulated by saying that ‘many malpractices prevalent in society, such as untouchability, caste discrimination, death feasts, neglect of women, etc., are symptoms of ill-health and degeneration [which] are contrary to Bharatiya Sanskriti’.29 The message is clear: it is neither a blind imitation of the past nor an unconditional acceptance of systems which are justified as being integral to Indian society, ill-effects notwithstanding. In other words, while Deendayal strongly felt that Bharatiya Sanskriti needed to be upheld as a back-up philosophical discourse of what he evolved as integral humanism, he was equally concerned with those ill-symptoms, including the ones that emerged due to caste segregation, which were serious impediments towards realizing integral humanism in letter and spirit. A perusal of Integral Humanism also reveals that Panditji, like Gandhi, strongly felt that social regeneration was a key to economic well-being which means that a strong society with a solid value-base was required to build a strong nation state. His ideas on economy need to be understood as complementary to his views on strengthening Bharatiya Sanskriti. However, there are two importance dimensions which are largely Gandhian that merit attention: Swadeshi and decentralization. Here Deendayal appears to have imbibed the spirit in which Gandhi devised two integrally-linked conceptualizations of economic development and growth for India. Swadeshi meant utilization of indigenous endeavours leading to production of items which were necessary for the fulfillment of domestic demands. Being complementary to Swadeshi, decentralization entailed involvement of the adult population in economic production. The idea is not to go for mass production, but production by the masses so that the possibility of ensuring employment to a larger section of the population is ascertained. The model that he designed was meant to create a self-driven and also self-dependent economy which Panditji articulated by underlining that the objectives30 of our economy were: 1 2 3 4 5

an assurance of minimum standard of living to every individual and preparedness for the defence of the nation; further increase above this minimum standard of living whereby the individual and the nation acquire the means to contribute to the world progress on the basis of his own conscience; to provide meaningful employment to every able-bodied citizen, by which the previous two objectives can be realized and to avoid waste and extravagance in utilizing natural resources; to develop machines suited to Bharatiya conditions by taking note of the availability of means and the nature of the environment; this system must help, and not disregard the human being, the individual. It must protect the cultural and other values of life. This is a requirement which cannot be violated except at the risk of a great peril;

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Ideological foundation and, the ownership – state, private or any other form – of various industries must be decided on a pragmatic and practical basis.

Reiterating the Gandhian motto of Swadeshi and decentralization, Deendayal appears to have accepted the design as appropriate for adequate economic growth for India. Implicit here is a theoretical point suggesting that politics and economy remain intertwined. Based on high moral values, the state draws its sustenance from the constituent individuals who are primarily duty-conscious and are assumed not to be deviant which is its main source of strength. Once the prevalent sociopolitical context is ready, the other required steps seem to automatically follow. Shying away from one’s responsibility creates circumstances in which the confidence in self being a critical determinant in India’s socioeconomic regeneration is likely to evaporate. Hence Panditji warned that discarding of Swadeshi, in particular: is not the road to progress and development; as a result, we shall forget our individuality and become virtual slaves once again; the positive content of Swadeshi should be used as the cornerstone for the reconstruction of our economy.31 At one level, the ideas that Deendayal offered did not seem to be really unique because they were mere reiteration of what Gandhi, in a far more elaborate way, articulated. So, there is no novelty. There is however a fundamental point, if these ideas are examined, at another level, by drawing out their roots which can be traced back to Panditji’s concern for devising a holistic theoretical design whereby construction of a strong nation and its economy are entwined which means that neither of the efforts can work independently and nor can be understood in isolation; they are dialectically interconnected. This was implicit in Gandhi’s conceptualization; what Panditji did was to put the assumption upfront to demonstrate that the building of a strong nation was possible once a society with solid moral foundation complemented the efforts being undertaken for regenerating her economic strength as well.

The idea of nation In conceptualizing nation within the politic-ideological framework of Hindu nationalism or Hindutva, Upadhyay appears to have drawn on the innovative design that Savarkar and Golwalkar had left. For him, not only did they act as a pioneer of a new thought process, Savarkar and Golwalkar had also created a new genre of thinking in which the idea of nation, nationhood and national identity seem to have been prominent. The theoretical format in which these ideas were sought to be conceptualized is far wider than what the Congress nationalists, including its supremo, Gandhi, offered. As history has shown, nation does neither survive nor gets consolidated merely by political goal; it may give a boost temporarily, but cannot cement the bond among communities permanently. What is

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Deendayal Upadhyaya (1916–68) 101 most important is cultural unity which cannot evolve overnight since it requires sustained groundwork for certain values to grow organically with a group of people settled in a specific territory. This was evident when Panditji articulated his thought by stating that: when a group of persons lives with a goal, an ideal, a mission, and looks upon a particular piece of land as motherland, this group constitutes a nation. If either of the two – an ideal and motherland – is not there, then there is no nation. There is a ‘Self’ in the body, the essence of the individual; upon the severance of its relations with the body, a person is said to die. Similarly, there is this idea, Ideal, or fundamental principle, of a nation, its soul.32 Upadhyaya’s argument is a continuity of the past in the sense that he built his distinct approach to nation and nationhood on the basis what he had derived from the leading theoretical exponents of Hindutva. The simile that he had drawn between body and nation is a persuasive defence of his argument in favour of a nation being a cultural compact which derives its sustenance from a commitment to the motherland. A Golwalkarian in his ideological preferences, Panditji created an ideological package which, despite being drawn on the available ideas, was creatively textured and tuned to the contemporary requirements. A nationalist par excellence, Deendayal upheld a vision in which love for nation is a primary goal. This is a goal that can never be compromised presumably because that constituted the core of his politico-ideological priorities. A careful reading of his conceptual framework further confirms that while developing the approach, Panditji appears to have been influenced by circumstances which led to India’s 1947 partition. According to him, partition was a foregone conclusion since the nationalist ideology was not strong enough to combat those who supported the vivisection of the country along religion schism. Partition was not the outcome of the division between Hindus and Muslims; it was, in fact, an offshoot of the machinations of those who privileged their partisan interests over the general concern for India as a nation. Being aware that India’s dismemberment was the culmination of a long-drawn process in which the socioeconomically marginalized sections, majority of them Muslims, raised their voice against those who were not only wealthy and rich but also politically too powerful to be undermined. Implicit here are two arguments that Deendayal made: on the one hand, he couched his point in socioeconomic terms in the sense that the class division between the rich and poor remained an important yardstick. The other point that he made, on the other, was linked with how he conceptualized nationalism. Based on his formulation of chiti (soul), he thus argued that one’s concern for nation is a testimony of the extent to which one loves one’s nation. This is patriotism, which he explained by saying that ‘the element by which the foreign rule holding a nation in bondage is destroyed is known as patriotism’.33 India’s partition was also the result of the lack of patriotism which needed to be developed by inculcating a deep concern for the nation. In the colonial context, it was relatively easier for the nationalists to develop patriotism because of the instinctive hatred to the

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Ideological foundation

alien power that generally manifested in a common opposition. Thus Deendayal argued that ‘it is this criterion of common hostility and opposition to the alien ruler on the basis of which people from different segments unite and national agitations are conducted against the occupant regime’.34 The scene had undergone a sea change with the departure of the British in 1947. Once the common enemy was removed, how did one conceptualize India’s nationhood? In a very perceptive way, Panditji linked nationhood with one’s emotional bond which drew on one’s love for the country and nation. Opposed to the conceptualization that socioeconomic differences remained critical in communal segregation, he further pointed out that neither the idea of common enemy nor prejudicial interests was critical to contribute to India’s national identity; instead India’s nationhood ‘springs from a common love for our nation and its people which is because of our complete identification with it’.35 Primary to India’s nationhood was its common soul or chiti that has evolved over centuries of hard work. Identifying chiti as most critical in creating a nation, he forcefully stated that ‘it is the rise of chiti that leads to the rise of nations and it is its downfall that becomes the cause of their downfall as well’.36 In changed milieu following the attainment of independence in 1947 and with the assumption of power by the indigenous elites, what was required was the development of a chiti linked with the nation’s well-being. It was thus a natural response when Panditji emphasized that: it is at this moment we need to focus our minds and energies on positive and creative nationalism, recognizing our common chiti and strengthen it through the natural values we have imbibed. In this alone lies the well-being of our nation and this alone shall enable us to serve humankind and realize our own cherished goal of . . . let no one come to grief or difficulty.37 Critical here is the concern for building a nation on the basis of her own distinctive cultural values that form the core of the country as a civilizational unit. Despite being a very commonsensical explanation, the argument has its substance for two interlinked reasons: on the one hand, it is a clamour for generating support for a common goal of transforming India into a strong nation state; it was a call for drawing on those ‘natural values’ that consolidated the nation. It was not an easy thing to have seamlessly happen. It was an arduous task because nation was ‘a living unit’, argued Deendayal. How did nations develop? While dwelling on this question, Panditji provided a very persuasive answer by critically dissecting the evolution of nations by reference to their growth in specific historical contexts. According to him, nations did not spring all of a sudden; instead they were products of long-drawn historical process which he elaborated by saying that: When a community living in a certain tract of land starts experiencing a sense of identity with it, customises the special qualities of its life and fits them into its common traditions and ambitions; when its common memories of happiness and sorrow and common experiences of friends and enemies

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Deendayal Upadhyaya (1916–68) 103 become assimilated for mutual benefit in its relationships; and when after becoming organized, it becomes active in the establishment of its supreme life values and works towards fulfilling this solidarity by making it more lustrous by building a chain of great men who have the capacity for great meditation and perseverance.38 Conforming broadly to the Western notions of nations in the post Westphalia phase of European history, Deendayal pitched his argument at two levels: at a rather obvious level of conceptualization, he drew on the habit of being together over a long period of time as critical to the rise of ‘togetherness’ which ultimately results in the formation of communities. With the consolidation of togetherness, he now placed his point at a far more perceptive level by emphasizing that it would invariably create conditions in which a distinct identity emerged on the basis of distinct ways of communal outlook weaving together members of the community. It was evident when he categorically mentioned that: the distinctive cultural life, [drawn] on emotions and sentiments of a community is an important resource for its survival and continuity; it is this emotive aspect that is called the nation. As long as [these cultural traits] are valued and respected, the nation remains alive; when this becomes enfeebled, the nation becomes feeble and when this in ruin, the nation becomes ruined.39 Conceptually, the point highlighting the specific ingredients of nation does not seem to be radically different from what the European thinkers had offered while defining a nation. The idea that a nation is a cultural construct embodying distinct experiences, emotions and sentiments is neither dissimilar nor contrary to, but is persuasively supported by the historical trajectory of a nation in the European context. To create national consciousness, one needed to internalize, Panditji exhorted, those distinctive values and socioeconomic mores that were integrally connected with the growth of a collectivity as a nation. This was evident when he stated that for the nation to remain strong, the citizens ‘must feel that the plans and schemes are their own, and it is in their interests to work to make them a success’.40 A conceptually valid proposition, this however did not work in the case of India, Deendayal lamented, because despite being highly imaginative, most the planned schemes, being drawn on Western economic theories, were ‘devoid of anything Indian’ which explains why ‘they fail to capture the hearts and minds of our countrymen’, and, as a result, they ‘only remain a topic of discussion for a few Westernized and Western-educated experts’.41 What was missing therefore was ‘Indianness’42 which was required to be developed in India as perhaps the only means to contribute to her rise and consolidation as a nation state. In a clinical way, he elaborated his model of how to develop India as a strong collectivity by saying that: 1 2

‘The soul of India must not be suppressed. We must not be trapped in intellectual slavery in the process of emulating others.

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Ideological foundation Fundamental human rights . . . must be protected . . . [and] the path of allround development for the Indians must be kept open. The endeavour should be made to make India powerful in every way. The forces of fragmentation must be destroyed and Indian unit must be furthered’.43

These points are foundational to the conceptual framework in which Deendayal evolved his own distinctive approach. Basic to his argument was his concern for creating a framework of analysis in which the indigenous theoretical ideas needed to be privileged. But that does not, of course, mean complete rejection of the views that may have influenced the Indian way of thinking and perceptions. Being aware of the historical impact of colonialism, Panditji never held views which were xenophobic in character. This was clearly evident in his assessment of the Constitution of India. He was persuaded to believe that the 1950 Constitution was neither based on ‘popular vision of Indian nationhood’ nor was drafted by the people at large. Constituted by a decree of the 1946 Cabinet Mission, the Constituent Assembly that finally produced the Constitution was, according to Deendayal, ‘formed not on the basis of adult suffrage, but by various committees and councils, the members of which had themselves been elected through a limited mandate; it was thus undeniable, he argued further, that ‘the present Constituent Assembly cannot in any way be said to be representative of all Indians’.44 There was another serious lacuna. Like the Gandhians who raised their voice when the Gandhi’s design of village republic was summarily rejected, he also expressed his strong reservation when the Constituent Assembly decided to do away with Gram Panchayat and endorsed individuals as units of governance. In his perception, the rejection of Gandhi’s model of public administration was likely to cause havoc since it had evolved culturally in India; it was based on a misconception that sustained colonial rule for about two hundred years in India created conditions for Western liberalism to strike organic roots. Not only was it a highly flawed assumption, it was devoid of substance. With the privileging of individuals over the collectivity, which forms the core of the Enlightenment philosophy of the West, it would, as the argument goes, ‘no longer be possible to nurture and further cultivate the feelings of collective responsibility, cooperation and the willingness to be ready to sacrifice for a bigger cause if the individual alone is considered to be a unit’.45 Drawn from his own idea of democracy and democratization of governance, Deendayal defended a point of view which clearly corresponded with that of the Gandhians who, despite being marginalized by the hegemonic presence of those supportive of liberal constitutionalism, remained vocal during the deliberations in the Constituent Assembly. An author seeking to unravel the processes responsible for colonization of Indian minds, he thus attributed the lack of national consciousness to the national failure to evolve a chiti (soul) for the nation. In his perception, this was not possible since India was not ‘one people’ because of ‘artificial’ cultural walls separating

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Deendayal Upadhyaya (1916–68) 105 one community from another. In the formation and also sustenance of a nation, the role of chiti was most critical, argued Panditji. ‘No matter what changes occur in the outer structures according to the times and situations’, he further stated, ‘the fundamental characteristics of the nation do not change as long as the chiti is protected and not allowed to be violated’.46 So fundamental was chiti in his conceptual framework that he thus went on arguing that: as long as the chiti stays awake and sane, the nation advances. It is on the basis of this consciousness that the nation stays organized. The natural protective force awakens from the chiti and harmonizes with the whole; this is a strength that provides protection from malfeasance and endeavours towards its demeaning, if not, destruction.47 The supreme purpose was to evolve ‘one people’ for the nation; otherwise, the very project ceases to have a meaning. In other words, for Deendayal, what was critical for a nation to emerge as a compact was the urge to be together and also flourish accordingly. This was an endeavour on his part to knit together communities into a community by being sincere to the chiti of the nation. In conceptual parlance, this is nationalism which he explained by saying that: nationalism is neither a federation of territories nor a conglomeration of communities; it is an organic concept emphasizing that the parts and the whole are dialectically interconnected, and the parts cease to exist with the growth of the whole.48 As argued in the previous quote, Panditji referred to nationalism as a binding device; it was a device that sought to create oneness by inculcating a strict devotion to a nation’s chiti. For India to succeed as a democratic country, this needed to be upheld, he exhorted. While illustrating why this was important, he thus elaborated his argument by stating that ‘if a voter does not have any sense of nationalism, he will cast vote in favour of his friend or someone from his caste, or if he has no thoughts at all, then he will vote for someone who will give him money’.49 A very candid explanation in the Indian context, it highlights (a) the lack of national consciousness and (b) the sacrifice of democratic rights in exchange of mean gains. Under no circumstances, the right to vote was to be undermined because the exercise of this right contributed to, as Deendayal felt, the consolidation of nationalist consciousness. While highlighting this concern, he thus articulated his views by saying that ‘the right to vote which is such an important right, a right which is obtained on grounds of citizenship due to being born in the country, a right which is obtained because we are a part of this country’.50 As an ardent supporter of democracy, Panditji upheld this belief by attributing further the misuse of this right to ‘lack of nationalism’.51 It is true that at one level, he was a nationalist par excellence which he clearly articulated in many ways; at another level, he was universal in his intellectual persuasion and inclusivist in his

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Ideological foundation

approach. Persuaded to accept the Upanishadic exhortation of the world being a family, he thus emphasized that: cordiality has to be established with nations around us [because] . . . we do not harbour the sentiment that our nation alone should rise high. Wherever there is the thought of ‘Us Alone’, of only national selfish interests without any considerations of the rest of the nations, as is prevalent in the West, a void will emerge . . . causing irreparable damage to us as a part of the global community.52 This is clearly an endeavour of creating a comity of nations on the basis of those common concerns that bind us as human beings. Seeking to develop a design of togetherness by virtue of being human beings, Deendayal did not seem to be radically different from the mainstream nationalist thinking. This apart, like the Mahatma, he also strongly felt that for the world to flourish as an abode of peace of cordiality, what was required was to devise designs to protect other living beings in the globe. It was expressed unequivocally when he declared that: we have to think of every being in the world; so much so that we have to think about even the voiceless birds and animals. . . . Creation shall survive and thrive only once the conflict between living beings ends and harmony between them is established’.53 Linked with this argument was another contention which Panditji articulated, more or less in a Gandhian way, by suggesting that ‘not only birds and animals and the animate world which is visible, there is Nature, trees, flora and fauna that need to be protected for our survival’.54 A political persona who was also the President of Jana Sangh, Deendayal had also shown concern for ecological equilibrium which, he felt, needed to be sustained for a healthy existence of human beings. On the basis of a careful study of the previous points two points deserve to be highlighted. First, a surface reading suggests that Deendayal’s concern for universal well-being and his arguments for nation as ‘one people’ do not seem to jell together. A deep understanding of the concerns however highlights that his approach needs to be understood in a nuanced manner which perhaps entails that a rise and existence of a healthy globe is contingent on the consolidation of healthy nations. It is difficult to conceive of the former without the latter. Secondly, a fundamental point was made when he attributed the survival of a healthy globe to a healthy environment. An age-old truth, being reiterated since time immemorial, this brought Deendayal in close proximity with Gandhi in philosophically conceptualizing the bridge between human beings and their environment. At one level, it was a restatement since he underlined an obvious interconnection by highlighting the interdependence between human beings and environment; at another far more perceptive level, his comments were a sharp attack on rabid commercialism, endorsed by nations seeking to fulfill their partisan goals, leading

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Deendayal Upadhyaya (1916–68) 107 to the destruction of environmental equilibrium in the globe. He appeared to have hit two birds at one go: along with a scathing critique of the indigenous commercial houses that unscrupulously pursued their narrow business interests by harming the ecology, he also raised a voice against the Western nations that hardly bothered in this regard while being engaged in a rat race with their competitors for narrow gains. Credited with the conceptualization of Integral Humanism, Upadhyaya always couched his arguments in a language highlighting the critical importance of cultural values in creating a nation. Perhaps the most glaring instance in which this idea reigned supreme was the 1951 election manifesto of Jana Sangh, prepared by Upadhyaya and his colleagues. A perusal of the manifesto shows the imprint of Upadhyaya’s thought in an unambiguous way. With three interrelated segments, the Manifesto has (a) an introduction, (b) the major arguments in defence of India’s distinct nationhood and (c) drawing a blueprint of future India. The manifesto’s introduction situates the basic nationalistic arguments that Upadhyaya always clung to while being engaged with the Congress which, he believed, was responsible for India’s partition. Illustrative of the concern, the Manifesto thus begins by emphasizing that: the whole of Bharat Varsha, from Himalayas to Kanya Kumari, is and has been through the ages a living organic whole, geographically, culturally and historically. She is the mother of all Bharratiyas who all have equal rights. Its recent partition, instead of solving any problem, communal or otherwise, has given rise to many new ones. Culturally, economically, politically as well internationally, United India is essential. It is not a communal question at all. The party will work for it through all legitimate means.55 There are two points that merit attention here: on the one hand, it was a powerful critique of the partition that brought freedom but with the vivisection of the nation. Critical of communalization of nationalist politics at Congress’s behest, the manifesto also assured, on the other, that the Hindu nationalists would work relentlessly for building a truly nationalist compact drawing on the cultural commitment to the motherland. This was reiterated as one goes through the text which also suggests that: Bharat is an ancient nation. Its recently obtained freedom only marks the beginning of a new chapter in her long and chequered history and is not the birth of a new nation. Bharatiya nationalism therefore must naturally be based on undivided allegiance to Bharat as a whole and her great and ancient culture which distinguishes her from other lands.56 So, for Upadhyaya, partition of India was an aberration because it did not result in the birth of a nation, but was responsible for the growth of a divided self which needed to be addressed for sustaining the cultural compact, called Bharat. The prefacing idea was streamlined further when the manifesto makes the major

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Ideological foundation

arguments in support of their unquestionable belief for India being a unified nation. The argument was explicit, as the manifesto emphasized that: unity in diversity has been the characteristic feature of Bharatiya culture which is a synthesis of different regional, local and tribal groups [which is] natural in such a vast country. It has never been tied to the strings of any particular dogma or creed. All the creeds that form the commonwealth of Bharatiya Rashtra have their share in the stream of Bharatiya culture which flown down from the Vedas in an unbroken continuity absorbing and assimilating contributions made by different peoples, creeds and cultures that came in touch with it in the course of history, in such a way as to make it indistinguishable part and parcel of the main current.57 In contrast with the Congress’s definition of India being a unity in diversity, the Bharatiya Jana Sangh insists that out of a synthesis of multiple cultures, there had emerged one culture which is indivisible, and hence, ‘any talk of composite culture is, therefore, unrealistic, illogical and dangerous for it tends to weaken national unity and encourage fissiparous tendencies’.58 In its place, what was important was to work for ‘the revival of Bharatiya culture and revitalization of true Bharatiya nationalism on its basis, with such adjustment as may be necessary to make our country truly modern, progressive and strong’.59 For Upadhyaya, for India to become stronger, what was required was to knit the country together culturally; otherwise, the future of Bharat was bleak. This is however not a novel idea since it has its roots in what Savarkar and Golwalkar had devised while elaborating their idea of India as a nation. What is however unique is the endeavour to win political power on the basis of what the founding fathers of Hindu nationalism had propagated. By being committed to an ideology that appeared in the context of the nationalist struggle against colonialism, the Hindutva ideologues, unlike their Congress counterparts, seem to have continued with identical ideological predilections. The exhortation was reiterated in a clear language when it was stated that: the rebuilding of Bharat on the basis of Bharatiya ‘Sanskriti’ and Maryada (rectitude) and as a political, social and economic democracy granting equality of opportunity and liberty of individual so as to make her a prosperous, powerful and united nation progressive, modern and enlightened, able to withstand the aggressive design of others and to pull her weight in the council of nations for the establishment of world peace.60 The message is clear and explicit. The aim is to build India by following the core politico-ideological values of Hindu nationalism. This apart, the manifesto also alluded to the defining democratic values. It has thus been argued that the Bharatiya Sanskriti (culture) and Maryada drew its sustenance from fundamental principles of Enlightenment philosophy, like, liberty, equality and fraternity. Implicit here is also the idea that in order to build a strong India, which the Hindu

Deendayal Upadhyaya (1916–68) 109 nationalists always privileged in their thinking, what was needed was to create circumstances in which values supportive of economic equality and equal opportunity gained precedence. There is an uncanny similarity between the ideas that Upadhyaya had upheld and what B. R. Ambedkar, the chairman of the Drafting Committee, expressed in his speech – one of the last speeches in the Constituent Assembly. Babasaheb could not conceal his worry when he stated that: on the 26th of January, we are going into a life of contradictions: in politics we will have equality and in social and economic life we will have inequality. . . . We must remove this contradiction at the earliest possible moment or else those who suffer from inequality will blow up the structure of political democracy which this Assembly has so laboriously built up.61 Despite being ideologically different, there appears to be a confluence of thought between the Hindu nationalists, including Panditji and the Dalit icon, B. R. Ambedkar. Here comes another powerful conceptual idea that in so far as the future of nation was concerned, there was hardly a difference between Upadhyaya and Ambedkar since they appear to have endorsed an identical concern. For them, nation was prior to other considerations and, towards fulfilling that goal, they, on the basis of their distinctive ideological priorities, devised equally distinct means.

A Gandhian response On many philosophical issues, including his assessment of the nature of the Constituent Assembly and the 1950 Constitution, Deendayal held views similar to what the Mahatma held while dwelling on how India was to be governed following decolonization. Even a cursory look at the text that Gandhi prepared to support his unique conceptual framework in support of village swaraj reveals that his approach to nationalism is akin to that of Deendayal especially in regard to the former’s insistence on developing Indian villages by involving the stakeholders regardless of caste, class or creed. Village republic was thus a powerful design to evolve India as a strong collective unit.62 One of the arguments that is usually offered to comprehend the nature and character of the mainstream nationalist thought is justified by referring to its roots in Vedic texts upholding India’s distinct philosophical traditions. In this respect, Gandhi and Deendayal had drawn on identical conceptual-philosophical and also foundational values. One is thus persuaded to argue that despite being politically dissimilar while setting out their nationalist goals, both Gandhi and Deendayal held identical views on many occasions presumably because of them being inspired by similar philosophical traditions. That Panditji was persuaded by the nationalist approach that Gandhi had held was evident in a text that he put in the public domain in 1950 in which he exhorted that: we should eschew the ceaseless drumbeating of Gandhi’s name on the occasion of Gandhi Jayanti [celebration of Gandhi memorial day] and the mindless


Ideological foundation insistence on picking out just about any result of his numerous experiments and accepting it as an eternal principle. If anything, we should adopt only his love for the country and concern for human welfare. We have to look at how we can serve our country with all our energy, capabilities and thought in the light of today’s circumstances and steer our lives accordingly. In this alone lies the nation’s well-being and true homage to Gandhi. Let us remember the spirit of Gandhi rather than hanker after recognition as Gandhians, or be blind adherents to some dogmas in his name.63

What is unique in Deendayal’s approach to the nationalist project was his ability to reconceptualize his view afresh once he was logically convinced. Unlike orthodox proponents of Hindu nationalism bordering on being conservatives, he was ready to engage with alternative viewpoint with the objective of learning, delearning and also re-learning. His previous assessment of Gandhi and his views is illustrative here. A creative thinker in his own right, he always endeavoured to conceptualize Indian socioeconomic reality with reference to the context in which it evolved. There are occasions when he felt that the Gandhian ideas were not appropriate and also restrictive in character given his silence on the widely publicized Muslim ‘atrocities’ in India in the past. He was also unhappy when the Muslims ‘nationalists’ raised their voice for India’s dismemberment in the context of freedom struggle. For him, Gandhi did not play the role that he was expected at the juncture of India’s nationalist past. Conceptually, it was not possible for Gandhi to adopt a strictly ‘nationalist’ line of thinking in view of his insistence on ‘inclusivity’ among the communities regardless of their socioeconomic location and religious denominations. Nonetheless, Deendayal, while assessing Gandhi and his contribution to India’s rise as a nation, unambiguously admitted that it was the Mahatma who left no stone unturned to put in place the indigenous traditions and ideas as devices for political mobilization. It was a sharp comment when he stated that ‘Gandhi did not live for long after the British departed and those whose hands power passed could neither understand [what he stood for] nor could perceive his dreams’.64 A bankruptcy in our thinking, he further argued that ‘no matter how much we might have raised the slogan while opposing the British, but after [they left] we continued viewing our problems and out entire life through the vision they planted in our psyche’.65 The outcome was disastrous, he emphatically declared for two reasons: on the one hand, it nipped in the bud the urge and consequently the endeavour to explore the unknown. For a young nation, this was serious constraint causing an equally serious impediment to creative thinking. The other offshoot of such a psyche would invariably result in a blind imitation of what was derivative of the Western ways of life and thinking. As a result, there would emerge to block the newer ideas seeking to creative alternative modes of thinking. It was most clearly stated by Panditji when he expressed that ‘the mark of Anglicization upon our economic policy, social systems, literature and culture is deep. Indianness, if at all seen, is apparent only on the surface. Our basic notions are foreign’.66 Basic to his argument was his earnest endeavour to explore those ideas and aspects of Indian civilization that remained neglected

Deendayal Upadhyaya (1916–68) 111 partly because of the colonial design and partly due to our being intellectually servile. Being uneasy with the anglicization of our minds, he thus argued that: our Constitution is largely a dressed up version of the 1935 Government of India Act. Whatever we have added regarding fundamental rights and other aspects have been borrowed from foreign constitutions and bear the mark of the political philosophies of Europe, and England in particular.67 Although there are counterpoints on whether the 1950 Constitution is a carbon copy of the 1935 Government of India Act,68 Deendayal’s argument has a substance if the constitution is seen merely in terms of its provisions. Intellectually he remained committed to the view that the 1950 Constitution was ‘an imitative’ document. Nonetheless, he was ready to accept the Constitution when it was adopted by the people simply because in its making the role of the Indians was most critical. Here too, his views were categorical. In response to a question about whether the Constitution was to be wholly discarded, he thus forcefully argued that before arriving at such a decision: one has to consider the fact that if we were to boycott a constitution prepared by the people of our own country, this would set a wrong precedent. This would lay the grounds for cold, heartless thinking which will lead us no where especially when the constitution was accepted by the people at large.69 It was however not an unconditional support to the Constitution; it was perhaps a pragmatic response in circumstances in which the oppositional critique did not seem to have been persuasive. Persuaded to believe that the Constitution was not, to a significant extent, Indian in character, he endorsed the Constitution with the proviso that it was to be reformed to address the nationalist concerns in the changed socioeconomic and political milieu. The aim was therefore ‘to endorse the constitution with the intent to reform it’.70 It was easier said than done in a polity in which liberal constitutionalism was more or less universally accepted as critical to post-independent India’s governance which he articulated by saying that: [t]he moot question is how effective will our attempt at reforming the constitution from its roots be, just as it is pertinent to ask how sharp will a barber’s razor that has been used and reused for some time. That is something only the future can tell us.71 Implicit here are two significant points that deserve to be highlighted to conceptualize how Panditji viewed Hindu nationalism in a context in which the 1950 Constitution with clear roots in Western liberalism appeared to have had a popular base. On the one hand, his conditional support confirms the point that he was in search of an alternative that had roots in India’s indigenous sociopolitical thinking, including the Gandhian Gram Swaraj. This is also a reconfirmation of the argument that the endeavour towards constitutionalizing India was a process and


Ideological foundation

that needed to be dealt with accordingly. His assessment also underlined, on the other, the fact that though reforms were essential for a constitution to remain relevant its success was contingent on the extent to which they were organic to the processes of constitutionalization. In other words, unless they evolved with the urge for change by those who upheld the constitution as their own the reforms and concomitant designs for amendment could hardly be successful. This is also a revelation perhaps of his belief in the argument that the theory-practice-dialectics is a key to persuasively understand a specific socioeconomic reality and also to philosophize how it gets transformed in a historical context. For Deendayal, the 1950 Constitution was thus not a sacrosanct document but was required to be reformed at regular intervals to respond to the newer politico-ideological demands and priorities to sustain its organic character.

Concluding observations Almost Kantian in his ideological leanings, Deendayal argued strongly for the nation being governed exclusively by its own volition, without the guidance of others. Like Kant, he was persuaded to believe that ‘self-incurred immaturity’ stood in the way of the nation becoming independent in thinking and deciding what was best for itself. What is evident here is the Kantian belief that selfincurred immaturity is the offshoot not of ‘the lack of understanding’ but ‘the lack of resolution or courage to use it without the guidance of other’.72 This is a fundamental assumption that runs through Deendayal’s theoretical universe in which the concern for self-help and self-dependence seems to have acquired a most prominent, if not hegemonic, position. There are, of course, several persuasive reasons: at the core of these lies the long colonial subjugation which did not allow India to determine itself unshackled from the ideational values rooted in Western Enlightenment philosophy. Despite their stark ideological incompatibility, the nationalists, both during their struggle against the imperial authority and its aftermath when they sat in the saddles of power, converged on one point: that colonialism was not merely a political rule, but also a design to evolve a mindset in its favour by creating complementary social, economic and political values. Hence, the mere replacement of colonial government was not adequate to completely erase the socio-psychological values which were too deep-rooted to be uprooted so soon. Colonialism, in other words, contributed to mental servility which was a cause of concern for Deendayal and also the nationalists who did not always endorse his views, presumably because of ideological incompatibility. Nonetheless, they agreed when it came to holding India’s social, economic and political degeneration responsible for Indians’ failure to think independently. By blindly embracing Western values and principles, they rejected their Bharatiya Sanskriti-driven counterparts. In this context, Deendayal stands out (just like some of the Gandhi-led Congress nationalists) for his commitment to developing an independent mindset which was neither servile to Western derivative discourses nor exclusively xenophobic, but was characterized by ‘a balanced appraisal of both Bharatiya as well as Western ideologies’.73 Being conscious of text-context

Deendayal Upadhyaya (1916–68) 113 dialectics, Panditji thus represented a larger effort, which he personally articulated by suggesting a uniquely-textured conceptual parameter drawn on similar endeavours, at one level; at another level, it was innovative in its combining the derivative discourse with its indigenous articulation.

Notes 1 Devendra Swarup (ed.), Deendayal Upadhyaya’s Integral Humanism, Deendayal Research Institute, New Delhi, p. 15. 2 Ibid., p. 31. 3 Ibid., pp. 31–2. 4 The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi (CWMG hereafter), Vol. 51, p. 259. 5 CWMG, Vol. 41, p. 98. 6 Mahesh Chandra Sharma (ed.), Complete Works of Deendayal Upadhyaya (CWDU hereafter), Vol. 12, Prabhat Prakashan, New Delhi, 2019, p. 54. 7 Ibid. 8 CWDU, Vol. 8, p. 196. 9 CWDU, Vol. 5, p. 177. 10 CWDU, Vol. 11, p. 217. 11 CWDU, Vol. 7, p. 124. 12 CWDU, Vol. 11, p. 263. 13 Anthony J. Parel, Gandhi’s Philosophy and the Quest for Harmony, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2015. 14 Swarup (ed.), Deendayal Upadhyaya’s Integral Humanism, p. 59. 15 Ibid., p. 17. 16 Ibid., p. 60. 17 Ibid., p. 42. 18 Ibid., p. 43. 19 Ibid. 20 Ibid., p. 45. 21 Ibid., p. 11. 22 Ibid. 23 Ibid., p. 27. 24 Ibid. 25 Ibid. 26 Ibid., p. 16. 27 Ibid. 28 Ibid. 29 Ibid. 30 Drawn on Deendayal’s elaboration of economic objectives, reproduced in Swarup (ed.), Deendayal Upadhyaya’s Integral Humanism, pp. 58–9. 31 Swarup (ed.), Deendayal Upadhyaya’s Integral Humanism, p. 59. 32 Deendayal Upadhyaya, Integral Humanism, Bharatiya Jana Sangh, New Delhi, 1965, p. 21. 33 CWDU, Vol. 1, p. 115. 34 Ibid. 35 Ibid., pp. 117–18. 36 Ibid., p. 118. 37 Ibid., p. 119. 38 CWDU, Vol. 15, pp. 13–14. 39 Ibid., p. 14. 40 CWDU, Vol. 1, p. 218.


Ideological foundation

41 Ibid. 42 Ibid. 43 Ibid., p. 243. 44 Ibid., p. 236. 45 Ibid., p. 241. 46 CWDU, Vol. 15, p. 25. 47 Ibid., p. 25. 48 CWDU, Vol. 9, p. 23. 49 CWDU, Vol. 14, p. 134. 50 Ibid., p. 134. 51 Ibid. 52 CWDU, Vol. 10, p. 264. 53 Ibid., pp. 264–5. 54 Ibid., p. 265. 55 Manifesto of All India Bharatiya Jana Sangh, New Delhi, 1951, p. 2. 56 Ibid. 57 Ibid. 58 Ibid. 59 Ibid., p. 3. 60 Ibid. 61 BR Ambedkar’s speech in the Constituent Assembly, 25 November 1949, Constituent Assembly Debates, Book No. 5, p. 979. 62 I have elaborated this point in my Localizing Governance in India, Routledge, Oxford & New York, 2017, chapter 2. 63 CWDU, Vol. 1, p. 305. 64 CWDU, Vol. 10, p. 268. 65 Ibid., pp. 267–8. 66 Ibid., p. 268. 67 Ibid. 68 I have dealt with this aspect of the intellectual debate on the nature of the Constitution and also its evolution in a socioeconomic context in which the Enlightenment values reigned supreme in my Constitutionalizing India: An Ideational Project, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2018. 69 CWDU, Vol. 1, p. 275. 70 Ibid., p. 275–6. 71 Ibid., p. 276. 72 Immanuel Kant, ‘An Answer to the Question: What Is Enlightenment?’, p. 2. http:// cnweb.cn.edu/kwheeler/documents/What_is_Enlightenment.pdf 73 Swarup (ed.), Deendayal Upadhyaya’s Integral Humanism, p. 16.

Part II

Ideological initiatives and organizational forms Part II has five chapters dealing with how Hindu nationalism rose as an important ideological priority in late colonialism in India and its aftermath. Chapter 5 delves on the programme of militarizing Hindus as part of a wider plan of making Hindus strong to fight for their cause by resorting to violence, if necessary. The Marathi leaders of the Mahasabha were the frontrunners in espousing this cause, with B. S. Moonje advocating a compulsory non-vegetarian diet and establishing a Hindu military school at Nashik in 1937 devoted exclusively to the training of Hindu boys. This school was also envisioned as a feeder school for future recruitment to the armed forces. Building on this spirit, the Hindu Mahasabha also established Ram Sena or the Hindu national militia. The electoral defeats of the Hindu Mahasabha (either directly or in alignment with other political groups), coupled with the growing influence of various Muslim political bodies in their respective constituencies, strategy of the Imperial government to largely ignore the Mahasabha in multi-party negotiations (very clearly till the Round Table Conferences), expanding communal demands of a section of the Muslim leadership (most prominently the Muslim League) drove some of these leaders to pursue a case for active militarization of the Hindu youth. The growing strength of Hindu nationalism in India is also attributed to the sustained campaign in its favour by the Hindu nationalist organizations despite difficulties. As shown in Chapter 1, there were major social reformers who carved out a definite space for Hindu nationalist ideas and priorities which helped the believers to pursue the cause with adequate organizational support. What is striking is that in their fascination for indigenous cultural and literary resources, they also evolved a specific approach to persuade those specific strata of society that appear to have been marginalized in view of the hegemony of the Enlightenment ideas during the nationalist phase. Two arguments are made here: first, the chapter argues that Hindu nationalism was a socio-culturally contrived idea which gained momentum in circumstances in which the typical Hindu nationalist ideas were believed to have been ignored; secondly, that Hindu nationalism gradually became a serious force in India’s nationalist campaign underlines the critical contribution that the Hindu nationalist organizations, the Hindu Mahasabha, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the Bharatiya Jana Sangh and Bharatiya Janata Party, had made in the consolidation of Hindu nationalist ideas and preferences during the struggle for freedom and its aftermath.


Ideological initiatives and organizational forms

By dwelling on the growth and consolidation of these Hindu nationalist organizations, this part provides a detailed narrative with reference to their leadership as well. There is a note of caution here: the early social reformers, despite having hinted at the necessity of organizational back-up of their ideas, couched their concerns in the nationalist language; in other words, they championed the Hindu nationalist cause in the nationalist politico-ideological conceptual format. Aurobindo is a good example: notwithstanding being appreciative of Hindu ancient texts, he was not inclined to form a separate organization; instead, he pushed the Congress to uphold some of the fundamental ideas linked with the pursuit of the Hindu nationalist cause. This was however not the case in regard to the Hindu nationalist ideologues, V. D. Savarkar, M. S. Golwalkar and Deendayal Upadhyay, who favoured the idea of having a completely separate organization with the exclusive goal of championing the Hindu nationalist goal. This was therefore not a matter of surprise that Savarkar worked for the consolidation of Hindu Mahasabha, Golwalkar for the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and Deendayal for Bharatiya Jana Sangh. It also meant that they were, at one level, ideologues; and, at another, activists who helped build and strengthen the organizations which were tuned to the fulfilment of the ideological mission, they espoused in contrast with the mainstream politico-ideological priorities. As history shows, the origins of the Hindu Mahasabha are usually traced back to the formation of various Hindu Sabhas in pre–First World War days. Formed as a voluntary organization, the Mahasabha changed its stance in the late 1920s when it plunged into political activities; the aim was to evolve as a credible rival to the Congress and Muslim League in the nationalist phase. However, it never became as strong a political organization as it aimed; the scene remained the same in independent India when it was just an outfit based on its major provincial Hindu Sabhas and strongly identified with upper-caste and socially conservative views. The next important organization that pursued the Hindu nationalist cause was Bharatiya Jana Sangh (1951–77) which was born out of a strategic calculation in the aftermath of Gandhi’s assassination in 1948; being implicated in the conspiracy, the Hindu Mahasabha was unable to operate for the pursuance of its major goal. As evidence shows, the RSS collaborated with the erstwhile Hindu Mahasabha ideologue, Syama Prasad Mookerjee for the establishment of Jana Sangha in 1951. It was thus characterized as ‘the coming together of a political leader in need of an organization, an organization in need of a leader for the political aspects of its programme. The leader was Syama Prasad Mookerjee; the organization, the Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh. Accordingly, on 5 May, 1951, Mookerjee announced the formation of the People’s Party which led to the formation of its branches in Delhi, Bombay, Uttar Pradesh, Vindhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Bihar. Delegates from People’s Party met in Delhi on 21 October, 1951 to form Bharatiya Jana Sangh to attain the twin purposes of (a) spreading the Hindu nationalist goals and (b) being a responsible opposition party. The party’s main aim was declared to be ‘the rebuilding on the basis of Bharatiya sanskriti [culture] and maryada [rectitude], which also meant the revival of Bharatiya culture and revitalization of true Bharatiya nationalism on its basis, with such adjustment as

Ideological initiatives and organizational forms 117 may be necessary to make our country truly modern, progressive and strong’. Organizationally, it drew on the RSS which also agreed to support. Presumably it also wanted to create a political platform to pursue the objectives that did not seem possible following the government embargo on its political activities following Gandhi’s assassination. Being ideologically compatible, it was easier for both the RSS and Jana Sangh to work together; being far more flexible, the latter could attract a greater following which was a significant step towards expanding its support base cutting across social, economic and political barriers. A party with a clear ideological preference for Hindu nationalism, the Jana Sangh devoted its energy to popularizing Hindi as the national language, abolishing cow-slaughter, among others, to create its support base. What contributed to its popularity especially among the victims of partition was the campaign that Sangh had launched against Article 370 which allowed preferential treatment to the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Nonetheless, the Jana Sangh never rose to become a counter to the Congress as an electoral force. The Lok Sabha poll results demonstrate that only in the 1967 election when anti-Congress sentiments ran high, it had won thirtyfive Lok Sabha seats with 9.5% of popular votes. However, the 1977 national poll was a watershed in so far as its electoral performance was concerned because not only did the Sangh secure ninety-four seats in the lower house of parliament, it had also increased its share of popular votes to 11%. It is however doubtful whether the increased shared of votes and parliamentary seats were an endorsement of Sangh’s ideology or an outburst against the dictatorial regime that evolved in the wake of the 1975–77 Emergency. Despite being Hindu nationalists in their ideological inclinations, these organizations had different modus operandi in realizing their goal. Of these organizations, the RSS always stays away from electoral politics presumably because its only objective is to create a society free from prejudices emanating from the deliberately devised social imbalances. At the outset, the Hindu Mahasabha had reservations on the Westminster form of electoral democracy though in independent India, it always fielded candidates in the polls. Apart from pursuing programmes for sociopolitical awareness, the Bharatiya Jana Sangh and Bharatiya Janata Party participated in elections confirming their endorsement of British parliamentary democracy. As argued in Chapter 8 and 9 the Jana Sangh and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had always been key players in Indian democracy. In fact, in the formation of the 1977 Janata Party government, the role of the Jana Sangh was most critical. Similarly, the BJP that had won a massive victory in the 2019 national poll, has always been a vociferous proponent of electoral democracy. The most successful Hindu nationalist outfit is the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) that came into being in 1980. There has always been upswing in so far as its electoral presence is concerned. In the 1984 Lok Sabha poll, when the BJP contested for the first time, it had won only two Lok Sabha seats. In the 11th (1996), 12th (1998) and 13th (1999) Lok Sabha polls, it had enhanced its seats and also share of popular votes from 2 to 182, and from 20% to almost 24% of popular votes respectively. Ideologically committed to Hindu nationalism or in V. D. Savarkar’s lexicon, Hindutva, the BJP supported the movement for


Ideological initiatives and organizational forms

construction of Ram temple at the site of the controversial Babri mosque, seen as a blot on Hindu pride. It is said to have created a strong support base for the party, especially among the voters in some parts of India in which the so-called Hindu sentiments were said to be well-entrenched. Although being respectful to the constitution, the BJP upholds the constitution, it has raised questions on the nature of secularism that is being practised in India; it has also argued for the withdrawal of constitutional sanction for separate civil code for the Muslims; like its predecessor, Jana Sangh, the BJP questioned Article 370 that guaranteed special status to India’s erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir province since it was contrary to the system of federalism that the 1950 Constitution sought to build. With its abrogation in 2019, the Hindu nationalists seem to have fulfilled a mission that was dear to the BJS and BJP. Economically, the BJP endorses swadeshi though by supporting economic liberalization, it appears to have shown that it does not seem to be rigid in this respect. Besides providing a detailed exposition of the political parties with Hindu nationalist goals, Part II is most critical to the entire story because it substantiates the argument that without adequate organizational backing, ideas remain cosmetic with just academic value. For the ideas to become an effective mobilizing tool, the importance of organization can never be ignored. As the story of the Hindu nationalist organizations in India confirms, despite a modest beginning, Hindu nationalism gradually became a powerful ideological intervention largely due to sustained organizational assistance that was possible with the commitment of those who worked hard for its success. There were, of course, occasions when the Hindu nationalists encountered serious difficulties in circumstances in which they were sought to be marginalized, if not wiped out. It had an obvious debilitating impact on the organizations which however helped them evolve better and also effective strategies not only for sustaining, but also for expanding their support base, as history has shown.


Physical regeneration and militarization of the Hindus1

Since the beginning of the twentieth century, there was a growing call for physical regeneration of Hindus. As time progressed, the urge for regaining fitness through various methods like imbibing physical discipline through brahmcharya and training in traditional Indian martial arts, was gradually overtaken by a stress on militarization of the Hindu youth. Together, the call for physical regeneration and militarization, which formed a subset of Hindu sangathan, came to acquire a vital space in the growth of the idea of Hindu nationalism. This emphasis on physical regeneration and militarization also made references to the supposed organic unity and militant outlook of the Muslim community. The idea of the ‘emasculation’ of Hindus which had emerged as an undertone in the reform-revivalist movements of the nineteenth century became a dominant theme during the early twentieth century. In one stream of this thought, the Gandhian emphasis on nonviolence was shown to be augmenting ‘emasculation’ of the Hindu youth. Eliding many problems connected to castes and sub-castes that beset the community, the Hindu Mahasabha now put an unflinching emphasis on physical and military regeneration of Hindu youth. From a rather soft and more conventional idea of achieving physical regeneration through observance of brahmacharya, the party went on to preach long and sustained training for enhancing physique and creating exclusive facilities for armed training schools. The idea of physical and military regeneration was so pervasive that almost all the leaders of the Mahasabha were talking about it, though with varying intensity. The Marathi leaders of the Mahasabha were the frontrunners in espousing this cause, with B. S. Moonje advocating a compulsory non-vegetarian diet and establishing a Hindu military school at Nashik in 1937 devoted exclusively to the training of Hindu boys. This school was also envisioned as a feeder school for future recruitment to the armed forces. Building on this spirit, the Hindu Mahasabha also established Ram Sena or the Hindu national militia. The reformist touch of the nineteenth century had given way to movements with political overtones in the early twentieth century. The Punjab Land Alienation Act of 1900, formation of the Muslim League in 1906, Morley Minto reform scheme of 1909, introducing and gradually expanding reservation of seats and separate electorates for minorities and similar other developments put a challenge before the groups claiming to espouse the cause of the Hindu


Ideological initiatives and organizational forms

community. With the rise and consolidation of the Muslims as an organized force, most of the Mahasabha leaders felt the need to mobilize the Hindus for a showdown in case it was required. Though different leaders of the Mahasabha had been talking about physical regeneration and militarization ever since the beginning of the twentieth century, it was the Marathi leaders like Moonje who made a serious attempt to establish a military school. His trip to various military schools in Europe, along with his being on the committee leading to the founding of the Indian Military Academy filled him with hopes to realize his dream.

Constructing an ideological edifice At the beginning of the twentieth century, the Arya Samajists of the Punjab initiated the movement for seeking political solidarity of the Hindus. Though the Punjab Hindu Sabha was founded in 1906, it was actually the convening of the first Punjab Hindu Conference in 1909 which stands as the first noticeable beginning of the Hindu Sabha. While referring to this conference, Tribune underlined that the Hindus were at such a crucial juncture that they would have ‘sinned against the laws of nature, if they neglected to foster their solidarity’ because after all, a united Indian nation was possible only on ‘the strength of its most important component portion’.2 Lajpat Rai felt that Arya Samajists engaged in political activities on the same lines as Muslims in order to save Hinduism with the objective to foster intercommunity understanding and mutual respect: Islam has always been aggressive and inclined to use force. We are not saying this in a deprecatory spirit, for we are great admirers of Islam. If in order to save Hinduism we try to infuse the same spirit in the Hindus, the Muslims should have no grudge against us on that account. If a section of the Arya Samaj takes interest in current politics it is with a view to bringing the Hindus and Muslims closer to each other which is in the interest of both.3 In his Self-Abnegation in Politics, published in 1909, Lal Chand, a prominent Arya Samajist and leader of the Punjab Hindu Sabha, reasoned that though Hindus suffered from manifold difficulties, they were still capable of meeting any new challenge: Hindu society is weak, disunited and divided, but it is not lost of all vitality nor so eaten up by selfishness as some people seem to imagine. . . . It gave rise to Sikhism to cope with the bigoted Moslem and it produced the Arya Samaj to meet the intellectual missionary on his own ground.4 But, to salvage the situation, Lal Chand advised, Hindus needed to rekindle the ‘communal love’ all over again:

Physical regeneration and militarization 121 Communal love, in fact, is the root of the majority of the sentiments which we love and cherish, not excluding even religion. The idea is to love everything owned by the community. It may be religion, it may be a tract of country, or it may be a phase of civilization. But these are mere outward clothes of the inner feeling. This then is the fire I wish to rekindle.5 In his presidential address at the annual meeting of the All-India Hindu Sabha in 1918, the Shankaracharya of Karvir Peeth exhorted his audience that having reached a ‘degraded condition’, it was now required to ‘shirk off our lethargy’ and ‘gird up our loins to win our goal’.6 In the course of his speech, he also idealized the ancient times: In ancient India each man tried his best to serve the common purpose before he even thought of his own needs, and consequently degradation was a word unknown to our ancients. We should also justify our position now-a-days on that great principle of selflessness and should unanimously work for the regeneration of our motherland.7 Bhai Parmanand felt the impulse of Hindu unity so strongly that he went to the extent of advising the community to suspend all activities, political or otherwise, for five years in order to concentrate on sangathan alone.8 Writing much later in 1938, Moonje saw the time as a vital moment in the history of Hindus, because Hindus were at crossroads of life and death: Can History say of Hindoos having ever retaliated in their [Muslims’] coin? But there is a limit to the patience, toleration or indifference – call it what you like, of even the proverbially mild and docile Hindu. It seems the Hindu feels that the limit is reached and that any longer indifference connotes to him nothing less than the wiping out of existence from India of Hindu religion and Hindu culture. The problem before him is vital; the question is of life and death to him. . . . They have to so comport themselves that the Moslems may soon come to recognize that it does no longer pay them to attack them wantonly.9

Hindu sangathan and articulating the concept of nation In the midst of efforts towards political consolidation of Hindus during 1907–9, there was also talk of communal love and projection of ‘Hindu interests’. Writing in the Hindustan Review in 1901, Lajpat Rai emphasized the necessity of a political or semi-political conference of the Hindus.10 Slightly later in 1907, he advocated offence as the only remedy for survival: In order to preserve our religion and survive in the world harsh measures were required against those pitted against us. In this world a person who just


Ideological initiatives and organizational forms tried to save his skin or be more defensive came to grief. In order to survive one had to be on the offensive.11

Rai took a prominent part in drafting the resolutions of the first Punjab Hindu Conference of 1909.12 During the discussion on the resolution ‘Desirability of strengthening the feelings of Hindu Nationality and Hindu Unity’ at this conference, he showed his inclination towards the German understanding of the word ‘nation’ and supported the idea of Hindus as a nation in the sense that they were carriers of a certain civilization: It may be that the Hindus by themselves cannot form into a nation in the modern sense of the term, but that is only a play on words. Modern nations are political units . . . the German word ‘Nation’ did not necessarily signify a political nation or a State. In that language it connoted what is generally conveyed by the English expression ‘people’ implying a community possessing a certain civilization and culture. Using it in that sense, there can be no doubt that Hindus are a ‘nation’ in themselves, because they represent a type of civilization all their own.13 Rai clarified that though he did not believe in the pride of blood, but if that being the criterion of nobility then he would claim that Hindus of all the nations in the world had smallest amount of admixture of blood.14 The Hindu community, he proclaimed, was the result of the ‘psychological process of centuries’ and that the community which could claim one smriti throughout the length and breadth of India with the exception of some reformers were a united nation.15 The Hindu Mahasabha in 1926 stated the two objectives of the sangathan to be: (1) defending Hinduism against outside attacks, and (2) promoting goodwill and harmony between different communities in India.16 Moonje sought legitimacy for sangathan by projecting it as precursor of a true swaraj for Hindus, because swaraj attained through internal organization could only be everlasting.17 At the same time, Moonje clarified, the concept of swaraj for Hindus was not recent as the struggle for it had begun way back in the twelfth century when the Hindu king Prithviraj Chauhan was defeated.18 This theme of the Hindu struggle in India commencing since 1192, i.e. from the time of the defeat of Prithviraj occurs quite frequently in one form or the other in the Hindu nationalist literature. However, even with a firm conviction in the concept of this ‘struggle’, Moonje proclaimed sangathan to be a prelude to the Hindu-Muslim unity: Our Swaraj is concentrated in our Sangathan, I have always held the view that unity and consolidation amongst Hindus are only a prelude to a larger unity in the country between the several races, especially between the Hindus and the Mahomedans.19 Moonje also solicited active support from zamindars, chiefs of princely states, educated urban professionals for achieving the sangathan of Hindus, e.g. in

Physical regeneration and militarization 123 Darbhanga in Bihar, he appealed to zamindars to recruit their tenantry from the ‘Hindu fighting classes’ – Gurkhas, Rajputs and Marathas. Similarly in Bombay, he sought active support of Bhatias and other Hindu merchants.20

Learning from the organic unity of the Muslims While seeking support for their idea of physical regeneration, militarization and organic unity of Hindus, the Mahasabha leaders often referred to the strong organic unity of the Muslim community and its supposed aggressiveness. This comparison would allow them to drive home the urgency of the situation as well as the need to learn from the supposed physical superiority as also the social unity of a smaller group. It appeared logical to draw attention to a much smaller population which was organically more closely knit. This would enable Hindus to fight back in the same coin. So while despising many things about the community and its leadership, it was pointed out that the Muslims’ organizational skills, discipline, the supposed stronger physique and militant attitude should be imbibed. Moonje even argued in favour of learning from their non-vegetarian dietary habits in order to build a strong body. The maharaja of Darbhanga, in his presidential speech at the convention of the Bharat Dharma Mahamandal, the leading organization of the Sanatanists, asked Hindus to learn from the strong bonding of the Muslim community: We Hindus, however, have one thing to learn from Mahomedans. With them religion is still a living principle and acts as a strong bond of union. There is discipline in their society; and there is recognition of social leadership.21 Lal Chand, a leading member of the Arya Samaj and the Punjab Hindu Sabha, considered the political situation akin to a war where aggressive attitude of other communities had to be countered with the same intensity: But a purely and persistent aggressive attitude ought to be met by an equally aggressive attitude. In war this is one of the elementary principles of tactics, and it ought to have an equally important place in politics. When Hindu interests are threatened at the very foundations, these should not only be safeguarded but protected effectively.22 In his repeated polemic against the Congress, accusing the party for ignoring the specific issues concerning Hindus, he employed quite interesting analogies: That the best guarantee for peace is preparedness for war, is a political maxim which has from time to time been proclaimed at Berlin, London and New York. . . . It appears to me that the Hindu community at this moment is in the grip of malaria of a dangerous type. The self-abnegation in politics which the Hindu community has adopted to achieve the formation of an Indian nation, is suicidal.23


Ideological initiatives and organizational forms

Moonje concluded: ‘It is the Moslems, though in a minority, that are tyrannising over the Hindus, weak, mild and docile as they are’.24 He pointed to the ‘living communal feeling’ among Muslims which was so overpowering that they could hardly think of any public movement unless in terms of their communal interests.25 The cohesiveness of the Muslim community stood out in sharp contrast to a divided house of Hindus, which, according to him, was a disciplined body and ‘any injury done to any part of the community anywhere’ was felt keenly by that community all over.26 The ‘caste-ridden sociology’ of Hindus formed an inherent deficiency whereas every able-bodied Muslim, in the absence of caste among them, was a ‘potential soldier’.27 Hindus had a large number of water-tight compartments of which many groomed themselves in a manner to make them ‘unfit for wielding a lathi in self-defence’, disabling them in competition with the community which had no such water-tight compartments and whose every able-bodied man could wield a lathi and be ‘therefore a potential soldier for the defence of his religion and community’.28 Decades later, Gokul Chand Narang, a prominent leader of the Punjab Hindu Sabha, noted that the lack of strength among Hindus was basically due to lack of fanaticism: For the progress of a communal movement a strong faith, not only faith, but fanaticism also is necessary. This is what I sometimes used to say that the Hindus could not be strong unless they became fanatics.29

Strengthening the ‘weak’ physique Transforming the supposedly weak physique of Hindus became a growing concern since the beginning of the early twentieth century. This concern formed the core of physical regeneration and a precursor to the later call for militarization. In the buildup to the efforts to found the Benaras Hindu University, Madan Mohan Malaviya underlined his anxiety about the fast-deteriorating physique and vitality. ‘Every decennial census discloses diminishing vitality, decreasing longevity and declining power of procreation among the Hindus’.30 Protul Chandra Chatterji, presiding over the first Punjab Hindu Conference in 1909, underlined some important causes leading to physical degeneration among Hindus which included – devotion to sedentary pursuits; false idea about the indignity of physical labour; early marriages; insistence on the laws of ceremonial purity preventing nutritious food when away from home or on travel; sometimes inter-marriages within limited circles.31 Though the first Punjab Hindu Conference of 1909 passed resolutions on many issues affecting Hindus, especially in the province of the Punjab, there was also some opposition by the Sanatanists on important socioreligious questions. Tribune lamented this situation as containing the ‘germs of disintegration’32 and Musafir of Agra justified the harsh preaching of the Aryas as necessary to arouse their ‘lethargic race’.33 In the aftermath of the first conference of the All-India Hindu Sabha in 1915, a notice issued by its general secretary Sukhbir Sinha, announcing a meeting of the council of the Sabha, proposed a committee to look at ways, among others, to ‘check the physical decadence and numerical decrease of Hindus’.34

Physical regeneration and militarization 125 The call for physical regeneration and militarization received a definite push after the Moplah riots of Malabar in 1922. This emphasis was now deemed essential to protect the Hindu religion and honour of their women. Jayakar called the Moplah riots one of the ‘darkest chapters’ in Indian nationalism which nevertheless taught Hindus to ‘organize themselves’.35 Satyamurthi, while speaking at the Belgaum session of the Mahasabha in 1924, following his enquiries in Malabar, said that the extent of the Moplah rebellion was largely due to Hindu cowardice and all pious resolutions on the Hindu-Muslim unity would not achieve the objective unless Hindus organized themselves.36 Malaviya, in his presidential speech at this session, felt that some of these riots could have been averted had it not been for the weakness and the cowardice of Hindus. The deliberations at the Benaras session (1923) of the Mahasabha were crucial in underlining the urgency of the training in the indigenous art of self-defence. The session asserted the need to establish akharas and popularize various other methods of militarization. Akharas should be set up in all Hindu localities, and if possible in the vicinity (or a part) of Hindu temples. For the purpose of Hindu defence, it was decided to constitute Hindu Sewak Dal (membership above 18 years of age) and Hindu Kumar Dal (membership between 12 to 17 years of age).37 While the Gaya session (1922) had resolved to constitute a Hindu Raksha Mandal for the defence of Hindus, the Benaras session emphasized the observance of brahmacharya and regular training in akharas for the Hindu youth to facilitate the strength of defence leagues. The Belgaum special session in December 1924 vowed to observe ‘the time-honoured system of brahmacharya and physical culture’.38 Bhai Parmanand, a prominent leader of the Arya Samaj and the Hindu Mahasabha, used his Hindi weekly Akash Bani from 1923 onwards to urge the formation of volunteer corps and facilitate vigorous self-defence against Muslim ‘aggression’.39 His opinion was echoed by many Hindi and other Indian language newspapers. The Calcutta session of the Mahasabha (April 1925), resolved to establish an association called Hindu Rakshak Sangha which would strive to strengthen the religious ideas of Hindus ‘in order that their firm faith in Hindu religion may not be shaken’.40 In his appeal to citizens of Bombay on the eve of the first conference of the Bombay Hindu Sabha in 1925, M. R. Jayakar maintained that the Hindu society had become ‘weak, divided and pestiferous’, and hence the urgency to save the ‘Hindu physique’ from the process of gradual degeneration, and make the race ‘alert and enduring in order to face the difficulties of modern life’.41 A week later, he wrote to Sarojini Naidu arguing in favour of a compulsory military training for students of specific age groups and forming volunteer organizations in the interim immediately. ‘All arguments against such a course’, he wrote, ‘are either advanced by interested parties or by ignorant faddists’42 Lajpat Rai warned that Hindus must be solely responsible for their own protection and that time had arrived for a Hindu to ‘give up cowardice and become lion-hearted in the defence of his faith’, and relinquish his weakness of ‘being too analytical’.43 Malaviya asked Hindus to establish local branches of the Hindu Sabha and maintain akharas in every village in order to bring about complete sangathan.44 The Hindu Mahasabha Provincial session in Bombay, where Lajpat Rai presided, concluded that the


Ideological initiatives and organizational forms

physical condition of the community required ‘immediate attention’ and therefore institutes of physical culture ought to be opened and maintained.45 In August 1927, the C. P. and Berar Provincial Conference of the Mahasabha resolved to train the Hindus in the ‘indigenous art of self-defence’ as a first step in devising any worthwhile remedy.46 It was pointed out quite earnestly that it were only the Hindus who ‘suffered most on occasions of communal disturbances and street fightings’ because the whole community had been ‘fast deteriorating in physique’.47 Therefore, every Hindu boy or girl, between 12 and 20 years of age, must undergo physical training for at least four months a year and volunteer corps under the name Mahabir Dal should be established in every town in the proportion of at least two percent of the population.48 In his presidential speech at the 12th session of the Mahasabha in 1929, Ramanand Chatterjee asked the organization to pay the ‘greatest possible attention’ to the question of self-defence and military regeneration of the Hindu youth so that Hindus might get rid of the ‘softness caused by over-civilization’.49 Speaking at the meeting of the Bengal Hindu Sabha, Moonje lamented that foreign countries regarded Hindus as ‘docile and most ease-loving’ and ‘incapable of defending themselves’.50 Hindus were glorified as philosophers and thinkers but at the same time they were looked down upon as being ‘physically unfit’ for the present day world.51

Critique of the Gandhian non-violence and the mentality of ‘defeatism’ In the discourse on militarization of Hindus, the Gandhian technique of nonviolence logically came up for sharp criticism. It was shown to be emasculating Hindus and encouraging a defeatist mentality among them. This attack came mainly from the Marathi leaders like Moonje and Savarkar and the Punjabi Arya Samajist like Bhai Parmanand, and formed the bedrock of the Mahasabha’s antiCongress platform. Savarkar’s revolutionary background made him a firm critic of non-violent methods. He had a chance meeting with Gandhi in London at a dinner party organized by him (Savarkar) on 24 October 1909 to celebrate Dussehra, where an interesting debate took place between the two. Gandhi called Savarkar’s teaching as injurious to the country, and that the real oppressor – the ten-headed monster – was within every individual and not without. Savarkar replied that Ram had not invaded Ceylon, the island of tyrant, for the sake of peace, or to kill the ten-headed monster within himself, but instead fought for Sita the chaste, for Sita the freedom of India.52 Moonje declared that since time immemorial politics had been a ‘game based on violence’ where victory alone at any cost, irrespective of truth or general conception of sin, counted: Similarly, Swaraj for which the game of Politics is played, is, in essence, selfishness incarnate of a community of people called a nation and as such, those, who were practiced men of the world and were ever conscious of the inherent weaknesses and virtues of human nature, could not bring themselves to have faith in the political philosophy of spiritual, non-violent

Physical regeneration and militarization 127 non-cooperation and in the cult of Prema and Ahimsa operating with any propriety or prospect of success in our struggles for the realization of Swaraj.53 He maintained that though Hindus had a great character and stable sociology they lacked desire and capacity of fighting: They (Hindus) lack one thing – desire and capacity of fighting that is, the European mentality of Militarism. . . . Love and non-violence are good – very good in themselves but when they are based upon the solid rock of well and scientifically cultivated might to punish those promptly who dare disturb your love and non-violence. This in brief is what should comprise regeneration of Hindus.54 He came down heavily on Gandhi and the Congress for making Hindu-Muslim unity appear indispensable, and indicted them, at the same time, for inculcating a defeatist mentality in the Hindu community: Mahatma Gandhi is convinced, in the long historical tradition that is in his blood, that though he is himself the Dictator of twenty-six crores of Hindus, he cannot bring about Swaraj unless 6 or 7 crores of Muslims, who also before their conversion, were Hindus like him, are to join hands and co-operate with him. Thus looking to the human nature as it is, an artificial value has been placed on what is called the Hindu-Muslim Unity, which has thus become now an impossibility, so long as these teachings prevail. . . . It has generated in the Hindus what may be called the mentality of defeatism in respect of the Muslims.55 Moonje believed that the Gandhian teaching of non-violence and its ‘religious fervour’, had worked to instill a ‘perverted mentality’ in the Hindu youth and that his stress on charkha had emasculated ‘manliness’.56 He accused Gandhi of bringing the slogan, ‘No Swaraj without Hindu-Moslem unity’: You wanted and want what you used to say – Heart-to-Heart unity. Do you still hope to achieve it? You had and have no faith in Pacts and agreements. Then why did you first use Mr. Rajagopalachari and then Mr. Bhulabhai Desai in secret conspiracies and manoeuvrings to make fresh pacts, first by conceding Pakistan and second, by agreeing to Parity between the Moslems and the Hindus? And still there is no unity nor even any hope now of unity, whether by pacts or agreements or of heart-to-heart variety.57 The election manifesto of the Nagpur Hindu Sabha (1937) declared that Hindus ought to assert their right as the majority community and shed their mentality of defeatism: If we only make up our mind to walk in the footsteps, say of the Afghans and of the Germans, there will be no foundation left for our defeatist mentality


Ideological initiatives and organizational forms and our helplessness. A wide vista of live virility and hope, hitherto unexperienced, will be immediately opened out to us, and we will feel the glow and energy of real regenerated manhood. The world will then recognize us as men and respect us as such and also feel awe about us. Our minorities will then give up their shrewd friendship with the shrewder Britishers and begin again to claim kinship with us as they really are our kins in blood and bones.58

From physical training to militarization The Surat session of the Hindu Mahasabha in 1929 passed two important resolutions on physical training for the Hindu youth, encapsulating briefly, the party’s position on the martial regeneration of the community. While calling upon Hindus to establish akharas and gymnasiums, it also put emphasis on military drill and rifle practice and on ‘popularizing and organizing indigenous games’ with the object of arresting their ‘progressive decay’.59 It was only through this method that Hindu sangathan could be launched effectively which would eventually prepare the Hindus to take ‘their full share in the struggle for swaraj’.60 Similarly the Akhil Bharat Hindu Yuvak Sabha gave prominence to militarization when listing its objectives – ‘to improve the physique of the Hindu young men and promote martial spirit amongst them by establishing military schools and organizing volunteer corps’.61 It clearly emerges that the Marathi leaders of the Mahasabha were the most ardent advocates of physical culture and militarization. Their inclination towards physical culture was also shared by RSS whose founder K. B. Hedgewar looked to akharas to enlist some of his first recruits.62 Similarly, Laxman Balwant Bhopatkar, an erstwhile member of the Tilak’s Home Rule League and the president of the provincial Congress Committee in 1923, established the Maharashtriya Mandal in 1924 to train young people in Indian athletics.63 Delivering his presidential address at the Bengal Hindu Sabha conference in 1929, N. C. Kelkar underlined that the knowledge of ‘physical sciences must be put on the same exalted pedestal as the knowledge of adhyatma vidya’ and Hindus must be taught and made aware of the significance of the ‘spirit of adventure and sacrifice’64 in his reply to the call for help by the Young Men’s Hindu Association at a function in Lahore, Savarkar, responsible for adding substantially to the idea of Hindu militarization, assured special attention to the grievances of the Punjabi Hindus, but exhorted them, at the same time, that ‘they must not depend upon one man’ and should instead ‘gird up their loins and every Hindu, in his effort for emancipation, rise like a sudden fire or a meteor and make a strong struggle’.65

Moonje – the unflinching advocate of militarization Among all the leaders of the Mahasabha, it was B. S. Moonje who relentlessly pursued the project of militarization of the Hindu youth and made it almost a mission of his life. His eloquence and understanding on the subject was valued greatly. He was appointed president of a sectional conference called ‘Military

Physical regeneration and militarization 129 Training and Physical Culture’ at the second All-India Hindu Youth Conference, Lahore.66 Addressing a youth conference in Madras, he exhorted the young to fight for ‘his country, religion, culture and the honour of his women folk’ and to engage in prolonged course of training in physical exercises to bring ‘proportion and form to the development of different limbs of the body’.67 Along with training in the art of self-defence such as lathi and wrestling; boxing and rifle-shooting, Hindu youth would be enabled to come out ‘with confidence, and fearlessness, lathi in hand, at a moment’s notice’.68 It was only through martial activities that ‘true sangathan’ of Hindus was possible: True sangathan means youth should be able to rise in a moment’s notice with lathis like Muslims. . . . In short, though not being Buddhists or Christians, we have developed the Christian virtue of showing the other cheek when the first is slapped. The others, though Buddhists or Christians have cultivated the Sanatan Hindu principle that it is the fear of punishment that keeps men straight and within limits.69 He suggested formation of volunteer corps aged between 18 and 30 years in each mohalla, setting up of gymnasiums, and training in the art of wielding lathis and swords to prepare a safety mechanism for the community: A man adept in wielding a lathi or sword can defend himself against many assailants. During times of actual disturbances, these volunteer corps, being added to for the time being by many other able-bodied young men of the locality, should be divided into batches for patrolling their respective mohallas both by day and by night as the exigencies of the situation may demand, being warned to pay particular attention to ensure the safety of the temples and women-folk of the localities.70 Moonje’s emphasis on militarization was also calculated to enhance the proportion of representation of the community in the armed forces. Through a letter in 1918, he appealed to the government to revisit its policy of military recruitment pursued after 1857. He complained that this had resulted in depletion of ‘martial spirit’ since it discriminated against certain sections, particularly those in south India and Maharashtra.71 He suggested a compulsory two-phase Boy Scout movement and preliminary military training for all boys up to high school, i.e. first for 3–12 years of age and the second for 13–18 years of age in ascending scale of efficiency. At the next level, those who wished to opt for military services should undergo higher military training from the ages of 18 to 21 years. He also demanded establishment of a military college for training of commissioned and non-commissioned officers coupled with encouragement of rifle shooting clubs.72 He advocated initiation of ‘local militia officered by Indian officers in each district to preserve the province from internal disorder and breaches of peace’.73 In his speech at the Bihar Provincial Hindu Conference in 1927, Moonje asked Hindus to take an adequate share in the defense of India in proportion to their


Ideological initiatives and organizational forms

population as compared with their Moslem fellow countrymen.74 Similarly, speaking at the Andhra Provincial Hindu Conference in 1929, he felt it essential to instill into the minds of Hindus ‘the spirit of warfare’, so that they might be in a position to take ‘their due share’ in the defence of India and the Empire ‘in proportion to their numbers’.75 And therefore, an important question before the Mahasabha was how ‘to quicken the latent martial spirit’ and how to arrange to give suitable training to Hindus to make them fit for effective cooperation with the English people when an emergency arises.76 Later on, Moonje pointed to the ‘dictum’ of the Defence Sub-Committee of the Round Table Conference to back his demand for speeding up of the military regeneration of classes which were grouped as ‘non-martial’.77 He drew attention to the opinion of this Sub-Committee that with the development of the new political structure in India, ‘the defence of India must to an increasing extent be the concern of the Indian people and not of the British government alone’.78 Speaking at the Andhra Swarajist Conference in 1935, amidst the growing talk that if England was involved in any war, India should not help her with men, money or material, Moonje quickly reiterated his call for greater militarization and enlistment of Hindus: Moslems have no caste system and are not vegetarians while Hindus have caste system and are mostly vegetarians. Moslems, therefore, can supply proportionately more men for the British Army than the Hindus who have been divided into what are called Martial and Non-martial classes both by their own sociology as understood in these days as well as by the rules and regulations of the Government of India in the matter of recruitment to the Army. . . . We must train our people, irrespective of whatever caste they may belong to, in militarism, so that the Britishers may not be able to commandeer without our willing consent and co-operation.79

Efforts leading to the founding of the Bhonsala Military School Moonje’s passionate zeal for physical regeneration and militarization and his active advocacy of increasing the representation of the community in the armed forces, coupled with his association with the setting up of the Indian Military Academy, resulted in the founding of the first military school devoted exclusively to the training of the Hindu boys. This school in Nashik was visualized to act as a feeder institution for recruitment to the armed forces. He actively campaigned for it and sought support from every possible corner. He wished to set up a modern military training school combining the discipline and professional advancement in the European military schools. In 1929, Moonje informed Jayakar about his efforts to start a hostel in Nagpur in order to reproduce much of the training that was given to the British boys in the public schools of England.80 In the same year, he conducted a tour of military schools of Jhelum, Jullunder as well as the Prince of Wales Royal Indian Military College of Dehradun.81 Later, he was also involved in the deliberations leading to the founding of the Indian Military Academy (IMA) at Dehradun in

Physical regeneration and militarization 131 1932. He was a member of the Indian Military College Committee constituted in 1931 under the chairmanship of the commander-in-chief of India, Philip Chetwode, to draw the blueprint for setting up of the college. The committee drew up a comprehensive scheme for setting up a military college capable of producing 60 commissioned officers per year. However, only 24 of these seats were to be open to competition. Moonje, along with two other Indian members dissented at this small strength for open competition. In his minute of 3 July 1931, Moonje opposed the system of nomination as it perpetuated ‘the myth of the artificial distinction of martial and non-martial classes’.82 When in England in connection with the Round Table Conference, he visited some important military training establishments of England, France, Germany and Italy in early 1931 to evolve systems of training which might be adopted in ‘future Indian Sandhurst to suit the conditions of India’.83 In England, he probably visited Royal Air Force Cadet College, Cranwell on 30 January 1931, Naval Training Establishment at Chatham on 3 February 1931 and other places like Royal Military Academy, Woolwich and Royal Military College Sandhurst.84 Moonje later recalled how the dream of founding the military school had set in him when on this European tour he had observed training schools for army, navy and air force in England, France, Germany and Italy, and how the Wellington Public School and the Boys Mechanics School at Halton for the British Air Force had struck him as the most suitable for ‘our boys’.85 This idea remained ‘a restless dream’ till he met Pratap Seth in a meeting at Dhulia in Khandesh who was so impressed with the scheme of the military school that he quickly promised fifty thousand rupees for the venture, an amount which, to the relief of Moonje, was soon doubled.86

Opening of the Military School, curriculum and objective Finally, Moonje set up the Central Hindu Military Education Society in 1935 in Nashik. Ganpat Rai, a secretary of the Hindu Mahasabha, attributed to Moonje a ‘great organizing capacity’.87 Phillip Chetwode praised Moonje’s ‘great efforts’ in starting a feeder school for the Indian Military Academy.88 It was under the aegis of this Society that the Bhonsala Military School opened on 15 June 1937.89 In a long article – ‘Bhonsala Military School: Training Hindu Boys for the Army’, Moonje saw the Society as the embodiment of the old Vedic law of education that put equal emphasis on development of the body and that of the mind, along with training in the personal and national defence, and underlined that it was inspired by ‘a philosophy of realism’.90 The immediate object, announced Moonje, was to turn the school into one of the institutions envisaged by Philip Chetwode for ‘the constant supply of really first class material for recruitment of officers in the Indian Army’, while in the long run it would bring about ‘military rejuvenation’ of the Hindus helping to eradicate the artificial distinction of martial and nonmartial classes enabling the community to supply soldiers ‘in the same proportion’ as the other not so caste-ridden communities.91 Admitting students in the age group of 10–16, the school was entirely residential with a prolonged course of physical and military training incorporating


Ideological initiatives and organizational forms

both indigenous and Western techniques. While the physical part included surya namaskar, horse riding, lathi, wrestling, spear, etc. the military training included rifle shooting, squad drill, arms drill, musketry, platoon command, company command, etc.92 A recently retired commissioned officer Subedar Major Jadhav was specially appointed in consultation with the defence department of the government to impart military training to the boys.93 Moonje saw to it that traditional Hindu rites, especially those which applied to Kshatriyas or the warrior class of ancient times, were administered in a carefully crafted military discipline.94 The school was envisioned to put Hindu youth at par with British soldiers as it incorporated many features and rigour of the European military training, but without infusing elements of Westernization in their personalities. Moonje underlined that ultimately the school would work to strengthen their Hinduism: It must be clearly understood that this kind of training is not for love and nonviolence, though its ultimate aim is to establish love and non-violence but through methods which are the direct anti-thesis of love and non-violence. . . . Our fighting men are not lacking in leadership, but without European methods of warfare their fighting virtues do not yield the results that they ought to in proportion to their courage or dash. . . . The Military school of the Central Hindu Military Education Society is intended to be an attempt, however rudimentary it may be, at removing these defects so that our boys may vie with British boys on the battle field without the inherent handicap of the consciousness of inferiority in their training. The school will attempt to infuse British virtues without anglicizing them or de-nationalizing them. In fact it will strengthen their Hinduism in its pristine purity.95 A notable patron of the school, helping it with funds and support, the maharaja of Gwalior formally opened the school which was supposed to have added to the ‘prestige and status’ of the school.96 Speaking on the occasion, the maharaja highlighted the importance of military training which, he said, was as important in a nation’s progress as purely academic studies. He underlined that ‘traditions in civil or military administration’ had a long gestation period as it had to be ‘inculcated in the minds of boys from the very beginning and gradually developed till it matures into almost a religious fervour’.97 Moonje’s appeal for funds for the military school received appreciation from many prominent individuals. Though he was not entirely happy with the quantum of donations, he did find some prominent donors like Aney, Ganpat Rai, G. V. Mavalankar, Mangal Singh and others.98 The maharaja of Gwalior and Pratap Seth made initial donations of one lakh rupees each which worked towards giving ‘stability’ to the school.99 Ghanshyam Das Birla, who accorded importance to the question of Hindu self-defence during the 1940s, offered consistent help to the school.100 The original scheme of collecting funds was that all may contribute without inconvenience ‘their might to the military and physical training of their boys’.101 Padmaraj Jain, general secretary of the Mahasabha lauded Moonje’s efforts: ‘It will be a glorious day for the Hindus when the military school will go on in full swing and the Hindu boys are fully trained in military art’.102 Jayakar

Physical regeneration and militarization 133 appreciated Moonje’s ‘feeling of responsibility’ in starting a military school.103 His efforts were also lauded by Philip Chetwode who, while donating a token amount of hundred rupees, hoped the school would fulfill the need for a constant supply of men for the army.104 Moonje met the viceroy, Willingdon, and explained to him the aims of the society and the school. Willingdon responded with a donation of two hundred fifty rupees and a letter of appreciation that the school would ‘prove to be a most useful organization in training its pupils to do good service for the British Empire in future years’.105 Messages of goodwill were also received from Linlithgow and General Robert Cassells.106 Moonje lamented the shortfall in funds whereas similar calls by Aga Khan for a military school for Muslims had donations pouring from all over.107 But he expressed hope that the school could easily be expanded into an ‘All India Hindu University of Military Education’ if Hindu princes like their Muslim counterparts could help with large donations.108 The military school became an important destination for competitive entry to the Indian Military Academy. The school also provided preliminary training as a preparation for this competition.109 The school also faced criticism from some corners for making it an exclusive training ground for Hindu boys. Lord Zetland, the secretary of state, showed his concern over the fact that the school was confined only to Hindus, and that Kurtkoti, the Shankaracharya, while inaugurating the school on 21 June 1937 had declared that Hindustan was for the Hindus and all non-Hindus were to be regarded only as guests.110 But when he (Zetland) learnt that the school had received the blessings of the viceroy and that of the commander-in-chief, he felt assured.111 Linlithgow clarified that though he was not enthusiastic about this venture, he had given a small donation as he merely followed the precedence set by Philip Chetwode and Willingdon.112 Informing Zetland about the school’s ‘Articles of Association’ which stated its object as giving instruction to ‘Hindu youth, & C.’, Linlithgow apprehended Moonje’s school to develop on ‘Hindu communal lines’: ‘His whole object, of course, has I suspect been to produce a counterblast to Aligarh’.113 While offering his critique of the Liberal and Responsivist ideologies and leaders, Jawaharlal projected this school as an example of their cooperation with the government. He underlined that the school had, in a reciprocal gesture, received the blessings of Chetwode, and that the viceroy Willingdon had expressed hope that the school would loyally serve the British Empire.114 Moonje responded that all leaders from Motilal to Gandhi as well the party itself had been advocating an early and effective Indianisation of the army, and that this military school provided for the preliminary physical and military training to those boys who intended to replace British officers though the school’s ‘general and comprehensive aim’ was the ‘military rejuvenation of Hindus’.115

Second World War: follow up efforts and formation of Hindu militia With Savarkar firmly in command at the Hindu Mahasabha after 1937, the party sought urgent militarisation and constitution of Hindu armed brigades. Under his


Ideological initiatives and organizational forms

presidentship, the working committee of the party, in its meeting at Nashik in May 1938, urged the government of India and those of the provinces to ‘introduce military training as a compulsory subject in schools and colleges’.116 The committee asked the local Hindu sabhas to imbibe Moonje’s ‘pioneering and indefatigable effort’ in founding the Provincial Rifle Association of CP and Berar and follow his example by opening their own rifle clubs.117 In spite of the manifold difficulties under which Moonje’s school had to function, the Committee noted with delight that its progress had proved ‘satisfactory beyond expectation’.118 Responding to an address by the Cawnpore Municipal Board, Savarkar suggested that local bodies should also press for introduction of compulsory military training in India.119 Writing to Aney around this time, Savarkar requested him to introduce a bill in the central legislature for amending the Arms Act. He lamented that though the Moderates had always demanded the repeal of the Arms Act, under Gandhi’s ‘ahimsa fad’ the demand had become an anathema and ceased to be a public demand: It is a shame that while in Italy, Germany, Japan and even in the tiny Ireland even boys and girls under 14 are turned out fine shots and trained into well formed regiments ready and able to defend their Mother Land and every corner in a town has got its rifle clubs and Ballia Regiments – there should not be a single Military College or a Rifle Club even in capital cities like Bombay, Calcutta, Madras or Lahore. It is not enough now to breed mere ‘patriots’ but today what the Nation requires most indispensably are – Patriot-soldiers and warriors.120 In the wake of the outbreak of the Second World War, there was growing demand for militarization. A special meeting of the working committee under Savarkar asked the government to expand Indian Territorial Forces and the Universities Training Corps.121 This meeting also called upon Hindus to organize ‘Hindu National Militia’ in their respective provinces.122 In another meeting, this militia was named as Ram Sena, and a nine member committee was appointed under Moonje to frame rules and regulations for it.123 The training for the volunteers would include physical training, military drill, musketry, battle practice, horse riding and swimming.124 In its Calcutta session in December 1939, the Mahasabha confirmed the formation of Hindu militia which, it said, had been made necessary in the background of some recent developments, some of which were:125 • • •

The indirect encouragement by Zetland, the secretary of state, to Muslims to see themselves as having ‘more relations with independent Moslem nations beyond the frontier of India’. Prominent leaders of the League, like Fazlul Huq, had threatened actual revolt and civil war if the future Indian constitution was not drafted to their ‘entire satisfaction’. Muslims were organizing and training bands of militia, such as the Khaksars.

Physical regeneration and militarization 135 In this session, Moonje asked his audience to imagine what would happen if England failed to defeat Germany. In this situation, he predicted – the Muslim nations across the northwest frontier might invade India and the Indian Muslim would support them. He called upon every Hindu to send at least one son to the Bhonsala Military School.126 Rules of the militia stated it to be based on strict ‘military discipline’ and called it as the volunteer organisation of the Mahasabha. The central working office of the militia would function from Nagpur. All members of the Mahasabha, physically fit, and in the group 20–52, could become its members.127 A branch of the Ram Sena, called Bal Sena, could enroll younger members in the age group of 10–19. Volunteers of the Sena would take a pledge to serve their religion, people and country to the best of their capacity.128 The rising tide of the demand for militarization saw Savarkar sum up his presidential speech at the Kanpur session (1942) with the slogan: ‘Hinduise all politics and Militarise Hindudom’.129 The expatriate revolutionary Rash Behari Bose, writing from Tokyo to Savarkar at this time, looked at militarization of Hindu youth as a sine qua non of not only establishing Hindu solidarity but also of achieving communal amity.130 Among the suggestions that he offered included adopting aggressive conversion method and liberty to eat all kind of non-vegetarian food as well as provision of military training in all schools and colleges.131 Military strength was decisive in a nation’s fate because it is the military power which is the ‘sure index of the rise and fall of a nation’.132 His remedy for achieving communal unity was similar to the sentiments expressed by a majority of the leaders of the Mahasabha: Real peace is possible between two equals. The increase-rate of Hindu population is decreasing. It face(s) extinction. Instead of misusing energy for the so-called Hindu-Muslim ententes, let us strengthen our Hindu community first. Let us revive Hindu spirit of old India. . . . When the Hindus become strong, unified and powerful, I am sure our Muslim friends will gladly join us in the struggle for freedom.133

Concluding observations The idea of physical regeneration and militarization of Hindus formed an important part of the discourse of the Hindu nationalist ideology. From invoking ancient methods of training in traditional Indian martial arts, the momentum shifted to preparation through the latest techniques and imbibing the strict military discipline as prevalent in the advanced military training schools of Europe. This shift was in line with the growing separation of the Mahasabha from the Congress during 1930s; coming to the forefront of the Mahasabha’s politics of leaders like Moonje, Savarkar and Parmanand; growing demand of the Muslim League and others for separate electorates and reservation of seats and eagerness of the authorities to concede these demands; and refusal of the imperial government to recognize the Mahasabha as voice of the Hindu community. By making subtle and nuanced references to the strong physique, organic unity and aggressiveness of


Ideological initiatives and organizational forms

the Muslims, the Mahasabha leadership underlined the gravity of the situation and sought urgent remedial measures. The founding of the Bhonsala Military School represented hallmark of the effort towards militarization of Hindu youth and a growing assertion of the new brand of leadership. It also signified total rejection of the Gandhian method of non-violence in a situation of growing communal animosity. The school was intended to increase the representation of Hindus in the armed forces besides creating a band of Hindu young men physically fit and militarily-trained to safeguard the community.

Notes 1 This chapter draws on Bhuwan Kumar Jha, ‘Militarizing the community: Hindus Mahasabha’s initiative (1915–1940)’, Studies in History, Vol. 29, No. 1, February, 2013, pp. 119–146. 2 Tribune, 22 October 1909. 3 Lajpat Rai, ‘Arya Samaj and Politics’, 1907, article written by Lajpat Rai under the pseudonym of Izzat Rai, 30 September 1907, published in Zamana, December 1907, translated from Urdu, in B.R. Nanda (ed.), The Collected Works of Lala Lajpat Rai, Vol. III, Delhi, 2004, pp. 73–84. 4 Lal Chand, Self-Abnegation in Politics, The Central Hindu Yuvak Sabha, Lahore, 1938, second edition, pp. 120–1. 5 Ibid., p. 108. 6 Allahabad, 9 February 1918, Din Dayalu Sharma Papers, Nehru Memorial Museum and Library (hereafter NMML), Subject Files No. 6. 7 Ibid. 8 Ninth session of the Hindu Mahasabha, Delhi, 14 March 1926, Indian Quarterly Register (hereafter IQR), January–June 1926, p. 401. 9 Moonje, ‘The Hindu Mahasabha Movement’, Hindu Outlook (weekly organ of the Hindu Mahasabha), New Delhi, 2 March 1938 and 9 March 1938. 10 Indra Prakash, Hindu Mahasabha: Its Contribution to Indian Politics, Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha, Delhi, 1966, p. 10. 11 Rai, ‘Arya Samaj and Politics’, pp. 73–84. 12 Weekly Report of the Director of Criminal Intelligence, Simla, 23 October 1909, Home (Political) Files, National Archives of India (hereafter NAI), November 1909, Nos. 32–41, B, p. 39. 13 Cited in G.V. Ketkar, ‘The All India Hindu Mahasabha’, Indian Annual Register (hereafter IAR), January–June 1941, p. 277. Also see Christophe Jaffrelot, The Hindu Nationalist Movement and Indian Politics 1925 to the 1990s: Strategy of Identity Building, Implantation and Mobilisation (with special reference to Central India), Hurst & Company, London, 1996, pp. 18–19. 14 Tribune, 27 October 1909. 15 Ibid. 16 Vijayaraghavachariar stated these two objectives in his resolution on sangathan at the Delhi session of the Mahasabha, 15 March 1926, IQR, January–June 1926, p. 405. 17 Moonje’s presidential speech, tenth session of the Hindu Mahasabha, Patna, 16–18 April 1927, IQR, January–June 1927, p. 418. 18 Ibid. 19 Moonje’s presidential speech, Andhra Hindu Sabha Conference, Bezwada, 7 November 1929, IQR, July–December 1929, p. 344. 20 See Mushirul Hasan, ‘Communal and Revivalist Trends in Congress’, Social Scientist, Vol. 8, No. 7, 1980, pp. 52–66. 21 Presidential speech of the Maharaja of Darbhanga, Calcutta Convention of the Bharat Dharma Mahamandal, 28 December 1906, Tribune, 30 December 1906.

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31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39

40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54

Chand, Self-Abnegation, p. 6. Ibid., pp. 14–15. Moonje to Jayakar, 24–7–1929, Jayakar Papers, NAI, File No. 437. Christophe Jaffrelot, ‘Hindu Nationalism: Strategic Syncretism in Ideology Building’, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 28, Nos. 12–13, 1993, pp. 517–24. Moonje’s report on ‘Forcible Conversions in Malabar’, 4 August 1923, Moonje Papers, NMML, Subject Files No. 12. Moonje’s presidential address at the Andhra Hindu Sabha Conference, Bezwada, 7 November 1929, IQR, July–December 1929, p. 343. Moonje, ‘The Hindu Mahasabha Movement’. Oral Transcript of G.C. Narang, NMML, pp. 30–1. ‘The First Prospectus’ (of BHU, written in 1904) cited in Carey A. Watt, ‘Education for National Efficiency: Constructive Nationalism in North India, 1909–1916’, Modern Asian Studies, Vol. 31, No. 2, 1997, pp. 339–74. Also see S.L. Dar and S. Somaskandan, History of the Banaras Hindu University, Banaras Hindu University Press, 1966, pp. 48–9. Tribune, 22 October 1909. Notes and Comments, ‘The Hindu Conference’, Tribune, 29 October 1909. Watt, ‘Education for National Efficiency’. Notice for the meeting scheduled for 16 May 1915, issued on 3 May 1915, Din Dayalu Sharma Papers, Subject Files No. 6. ‘Oral Evidence of M.R. Jayakar’ (President, Bombay Presidency Hindu Sabha) before ‘The Bombay Riots Enquiry Committee’, 24 July 1929, Jayakar Papers, File No. 437. IQR, July–December 1924, p. 486. Anil Kumar Mishra, Hindu Mahasabha: Ek Adhyayan, 1909–1947 (in Hindi), Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha, New Delhi, 1988, p. 80. 28 December 1924, IQR, July–December 1924, p. 488. Bruce E. Cleghorn, ‘Religion and Politics: The Leadership of the All India Hindu Mahasabha Punjab and Maharashtra, 1920–1939’, in B.N. Pandey (ed.), Leadership in South Asia, New Delhi, 1977, pp. 395–425. The Akola session of the C.P. & Berar Hindu Sabha Conference under Malaviya pleaded for a Citizens Volunteer Corps, 20 April 1929, IQR, January–June 1929, p. 21. 12 April 1925, IQR, January–June 1925, p. 383. 11 October 1925, M.R. Jayakar, The Story of My Life, Vol. II, 1922–1925, Bombay, 1959, p. 634. 17 October 1925, Jayakar Papers, File No. 406. Lajpat Rai’s speech at the Kanpur special session of the Hindu Mahasabha, 29 December 1925, IQR, July–December 1925, p. 358. Mushirul Hasan, Nationalism and Communal Politics in India, 1916–1928, Manohar Publishers, Delhi, 1979, p. 256. Hindu Mahasabha Provincial Session, Bombay, 5–7 December 1925, Jayakar Papers, File No. 406. 6–7 August 1927, Moonje Papers, Subject Files No. 14. Ibid. Ibid. Surat, 30 March 1929, IQR, January–June 1929, p. 357. Sixth session of the Bengal Provincial Hindu Sabha Conference, Burdwan, 18 July 1931, IAR, July–December 1931, p. 260. Ibid. Weekly Report of the Director of Criminal Intelligence, Simla, 20 November 1909, Home (Political) Files, January 1910, Nos. 46–52, B, pp. 18–19. Moonje’s presidential speech, First Andhra Swarajist Conference, 24 August 1935, Moonje Papers, Subject Files No. 44. Moonje’s letter (addressee’s name not given), 24 May 1937, Moonje Papers, Subject Files No. 50, Part II.


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55 First Andhra Swarajist Conference, 24 August 1935, Moonje’s presidential speech, Moonje Papers, Subject Files No. 44. 56 Moonje to Gandhi, 10 September 1945, Moonje Papers, Correspondence, Sr. No. 234–5. 57 Ibid. 58 Nagpur Hindu Sabha’s election manifesto, 29 January 1937, Moonje Papers, File No. 38. 59 Twelfth session of the Hindu Mahasabha, Surat, 31 March 1929, IQR, January–June 1929, p. 359. 60 Ibid. 61 ‘Constitution, Objects & Rules’ of Akhil Bharat Hindu Yuvak Sabha, as passed by the organization in its third session at Nagpur, December 1939, All India Hindu Mahasabha Papers, MML, File No. C-22. 62 See Joseph S. Alter, ‘Somatic Nationalism: Indian Wrestling and Militant Hinduism’, Modern Asian Studies, Vol. 28, No. 3, 1994, pp. 557–88. 63 S.P. Sen (ed.), Dictionary of National Biography, Vol. I, Institute of Historical Studies, Calcutta, 1973–74, p. 189. 64 Kelkar’s presidential speech, fifth session of the Bengal Provincial Hindu Sabha Conference, Dacca, 27 August 1929, IQR, July–December 1929, p. 337. 65 Lahore, 9 May 1938, Hindu Outlook, 18 May 1938. 66 All India Hindu Mahasabha Papers, File No. M-1. The document regarding this conference is not dated. 67 Moonje’s presidential address, Youth Conference, Madras, 2–3 January 1934, Moonje Papers, Speeches/Articles/Statements, Sr. No.4. 68 Ibid. 69 Moonje’s article, ‘Ambedkar’s Need: Not Touchability but Protection, Hindus Too Weak To Protest’ in Roy’s Weekly, Delhi, 3 February 1936, Moonje Papers, Press Clippings, Sr. No. 8. 70 Moonje, ‘The Hindu Mahasabha Movement’. 71 Moonje (secretary, C.P. Recruiting Committee for the Defence of India Force) to S.A. Slocock, (chief secretary to chief commissioner, C.P. and Berar, Nagpur), 22 June 1918, Moonje Papers, Subject Files No. 5. 72 Ibid. 73 Ibid. 74 Moonje’s speech, fifth session of the Bihar Provincial Hindu Conference, Purnea, Times of India, 18 June 1927, Jayakar Papers, File No. 437. 75 Moonje’s presidential speech, Andhra Provincial Hindu Conference, Bezwada, 7 November 1929, IQR, July–December 1929, p. 343. 76 Ibid. 77 Press interview of Moonje, 14 March 1933, Moonje Papers, Speeches/Articles/ Statements, Sr. No. 3. 78 Ibid. 79 First Andhra Swarajist Conference, 24 August 1935, Moonje’s presidential address, Moonje Papers, Subject Files No. 44. 80 Moonje to Jayakar, 26 July 1929, Jayakar Papers, File No. 437. 81 Moonje to Jayakar, 18 October 1929, Jayakar Papers, File No. 437. 82 The Indian Military Academy (IMA) finally came into existence on 1 October 1932 with a batch of 40 Gentleman Cadets. See V. Longer, Red Coats to Olive Green: A History of the Indian Army 1600–1974, New Delhi/Bombay, 1974, pp. 204–9. For more details see Eric Armour Beecroft, ‘India’s Military Problem’, The Journal of Politics, Vol. 2, No. 3, 1940, pp. 295–320. 83 Moonje to Wedgewood Benn, 8 March 1931 (written from Berlin), Moonje Papers, Subject Files No. 21. 84 Invitation letter from secretary, Military Department, India Office, London, 28 and 29 January 1931, Moonje Papers, Subject Files No. 21.

Physical regeneration and militarization 139 85 Moonje, ‘The Bhonsala Military School: The Story of its Inception and Progress’, Hindu Outlook, 6 April 1938 and 13 April 1938. 86 Ibid. 87 Oral Transcript of Ganpat Rai, NMML, p. 57. 88 Dehradun, 16 November 1935, Times of India, 18 November 1935, Moonje Papers, Press Clippings, Sr. No. 7. 89 It covered 179 acres which was partly purchased privately and partly acquired by the government for the school under the Land Acquisition Act. Moonje wrote that there was a great rush for admission and initially the school settled for 85 boys. By April 1938 the strength had gone up to 90 which further increased to 140 by October 1938. These boys came from all over India. See Moonje, ‘The Bhonsala Military School’. Also see Moonje Papers, NMML, Speeches/ Statements/ Articles, Sr. No. 11A and Moonje’s article in Times of India, 19 October 1938, Divali supplement. For details regarding the aims of the society and the school see Marzia Casolari, ‘Hindutva’s Foreign Tie-up in the 1930s: Archival Evidence’, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 35, No. 4, 2000, pp. 218–28. 90 Times of India, 19 October 1938, Divali supplement. Governing Body of the Society included Jayakar, Kelkar, Pratap Seth, Home Member and Army Member of the government of Gwalior. 91 Ibid. 92 Ibid. 93 See Moonje, ‘The Bhonsala Military School’. 94 See Hindu Outlook, 31 August 1938. 95 Moonje’s address in a meeting at Waltair, 4 September 1935, Times of India, 5 September 1935, Moonje Papers, Press Clippings, Sr. No. 7. Three years later, Moonje added these last four words (italics), Times of India, 19 October 1938, Divali supplement. 96 See Moonje’s Appeal for funds for the military school, published in the Hindu Outlook, 27 April 1938. 97 Hindu Outlook, 30 March 1938. 98 Moonje Papers, Subject Files No. 25. Ramanand Chatterjee admired the Preface to the Scheme of the Society. See Ramanand Chatterjee to Moonje, Moonje Papers, Subject Files No. 25. 99 Moonje’s Appeal for funds for the military school, published in Hindu Outlook, 27 April 1938. 100 See Medha M. Kudaisya, The Life and Times of G.D. Birla, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2003, f. n. 93. 101 Moonje’s Appeal for funds for the military school, published in Hindu Outlook, 27 April 1938. 102 Padmaraj Jain to Moonje, 1 August 1935, Moonje Papers, Subject Files No. 44. 103 Jayakar to Moonje, 4 December 1935, Moonje Papers, Correspondence, Sr. Nos. 295– 98. G. Flodden congratulated Moonje over his plan of starting a military school and suggested him to put students in uniforms which would give them ‘self respect and importance’. G. Flodden to Moonje, Moonje Papers, Correspondence, Sr. No. 218. 104 Chetwode to Moonje, 17 November 1935, Moonje Papers, Subject Files No. 25. 105 Moonje met the viceroy on 16 March 1936. Bombay Chronicle, 23 March 1936, Moonje Papers, Press Clippings, Sr. No. 8. 106 Hindu Outlook, 6 April 1938 and 13 April 1938. 107 Moonje Papers, Speeches/Statements/Articles, Sr. No. 11A. 108 Ibid. 109 Moonje to Patwari, 5 June 1940, Moonje Papers, Subject Files No. 53, Part II. 110 Zetland to Linlithgow, 10 May 1938, Linlithgow Papers, NMML, Microfilm, Roll No. 5. 111 Ibid. 112 Linlithgow to Zetland, 19 May 1938, Linlithgow Papers, Roll No. 5.


Ideological initiatives and organizational forms

113 Ibid. 114 Article by Jawaharlal Nehru: ‘Responsivists Are Not Anti-Imperialists’ (Reply to Kelkar’s Challenge), Bombay Chronicle, 20 June 1936, Moonje Papers, Press Clippings, Sr. No. 8. 115 Moonje’s press statement, Nagpur, 23 June 1936, Hindustan Times, 27 June 1936, Moonje Papers, Press Clippings, Sr. No. 8. 116 Resolution no. 10, working committee of the All India Hindu Mahasabha, 28–29 May 1938, M.S. Aney Papers, NMML, Subject Files No. 7. 117 Ibid. 118 Ibid. 119 Cawnpore, 4 April 1938, Hindu Outlook, 13 April 1938. 120 Savarkar to Aney, 11 June 1938, Aney Papers, Subject Files No. 7. 121 ‘Resolutions of a Special Meeting of the Working Committee of the Hindu Mahasabha’, Bombay, 10 September 1939, Moonje Papers, Subject Files No. 53, Part II. 122 Ibid. 123 ‘Mahasabha Resolutions’ (undated), Moonje Papers, Subject Files No. 53, Part II. 124 Moonje to R.C. Das, 14 October 1939, Moonje Papers, Subject Files No. 51. 125 Twenty first session of the Hindu Mahasabha, Calcutta, 28–30 December, IAR, July– December 1939, p. 340. 126 Ibid. 127 Rules of the Hindu militia, undated, released by the Mahasabha head office, New Delhi, All India Hindu Mahasabha Papers, File No. C-190. 128 Ibid. 129 Veer Damodar Savarkar, Hindu Rashtra Darshan: A Collection of the Presidential Speeches delivered from the Hindu Mahasabha Platform, Laxman Ganesh Khare, Bombay, 1949, p. 302. 130 ‘Hindus at the Cross Roads’, Rash Behari Bose to V.D. Savarkar (written from Tokyo, undated), reproduced in Hindu Outlook, 18 May 1938. 131 Ibid. 132 Rash Behari Bose to V.D. Savarkar, 11 July 1938 (writing from Tokyo, on the letter head of the India Independence League of Japan), V.D. Savarkar Papers, NMML, Microfilm (Vth Installment), Roll No. 23. 133 Ibid.


Hindu Mahasabha (1915–) The moment of arrival

Of all the prominent organizations that had had critical roles in the dissemination of Hindu nationalist ideas, the Hindu Mahasabha, a successor of Hindu Sabha, stands out. Founded in 1915, the Hindu Sabha was rechristened as Hindu Mahasabha in 1921. Seeking to build a countervailing force to the communalization of the nationalist endeavour, the Hindu Mahasabha represented a powerful platform striving to unite the Hindus across the country by drawing on the Hindu past. In two specific ways, Hindu Mahasabha was a unique endeavour: on the one hand, it was successful in bringing together those splinter groups which also had the goal of cementing a bond among the Hindus for the nationalist cause; it also, on the other, was an articulation of a Hindu voice that appeared to have received less attention in the nationalist campaign. A counter to the Muslim League that came into being in 1906, the Hindu Mahasabha rose to prominence in India’s nationalist campaign by its appeal to the Hindu causes and sentiments. Initially focussing on reviving Hindu essence, and intervening only infrequently on political issues concerning Hindu interests, from 1922 onwards, the Mahasabha brought in the agenda of shuddhi (reconversion) and sangathan (organic unity of Hindus) with urgency. It grew politically through the Responsivist intervention in the Swarajist party during 1925–26, and took definite positions on political issues from 1928 onwards when the shape of a future Indian constitution was being debated. During the Second World War and slightly afterwards, it attempted to position itself as the sole political voice representing Hindu interests. A perusal of the trajectory of Hindu Mahasabha reveals that despite not having a nationwide support base, it caught the imagination of the people at a time when the Gandhi-led nationalist Congress reigned supreme. This shows that the ideological priorities that it had represented had their appeal to a section of the Hindus who did not seem to have been swayed by the mainstream nationalist drive. The aim of the segment is to understand its evolution in colonial India when multiple ideological forces were jostling for spaces on the basis of an exclusive Hindu agenda. Primarily in a narrative mould, the segment also focuses on how Hindu nationalist ideas gained acceptance in circumstances in which concerted attempts were made to evolve a united anti-colonial platform irrespective of communal differences. As the chapter deals with those organisations championing


Ideological initiatives and organizational forms

the Hindu nationalist politico-ideological priorities, this segment dwelling on the Hindu Mahasabha is complementary to the principal argument, being pursued in other segments of this part of the book. It is thus fair to argue that being drawn on Hindu nationalism, the Hindu Mahasabha ushered in an era that fully blossomed first with the formation of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh in 1951 and later, in 1980, the Bharatiya Janata Party. A legacy of the earlier endeavours at organizing the Hindus, the Hindu Mahasabha banked on elements from the Arya Samaj and the Sanatan dharma organizations and also drew from other political formations, mainly the Congress. While a section of the party’s leadership, especially during the initial years like Malaviya, Lajpat Rai, Kelkar or Aney were drawn from the Congress and stayed in both, others like Parmanand or Savarkar were staunchly anti-Congress from the very beginning. Moonje, maintaining opposition to Gandhian politics, in particular his brand of non-violence, made a decisive shift from the Congress to the Mahasabha. Mookerjee, a notable educationist, had only a brief affiliation with the Congress early on in his career. Disenchanted by an ambivalent attitude of the Congress on issues ‘avowedly anti-Hindu and anti-national’, he adopted the Mahasabha largely in response to what he saw as ‘Hindu oppression at the hands of a communal ministry with Fazlul Haq at its head’.1 So, during the pre-independence period, whereas the Congress became a platform for the nationalist forces of all hues, the Mahasabha to an extent became a platform for those Hindu nationalist leaders, in whose considered view, the Hindu community’s political interests and those of Indian nationalism were not only inseparable but also complementary. Hindu Mahasabha’s ideological formulations were drawn mainly from the points of convergence of the Arya Samajist and the Sanatanist ideas. These ideas were then sharpened through interplay with the colonial government and other political groups. Campaign for cow-protection, Hindi and Devanagari, re-conversion and reclamation of ‘untouchables’, maintaining demographic balance between Hindus and Muslims, projection of specific Hindu national heroes and popularising Hindu fairs and festivals, defining Hindu in a way to include all religions born in India, seeking organic unity of the community along with physical regeneration and militarization, formed important areas of its work. Its organisational apparatus and strength, along with its electoral machinery, were far below expectations. However, it participated in elections in select pockets, sometimes by supporting candidates of Malaviya’s parties (like the Independent Congress Party in 1926 and the Congress Nationalist Party in 1934) or the Responsivist Cooperation Party (mainly inside Maharashtra and Central Provinces in 1926), also on its own strength in certain regions and places, or by merely supporting a candidate who it expected to support Hindu interests. Its electoral successes were hardly up to the mark with only notable leaders getting successful. Post-independence and under the changed circumstances, the party refused to make any drastic change either in its organisational structure or in ideological formulations. This aspect, when combined with the establishment of the BJS and later of the BJP, with support from a well-knit RSS cadre, saw the Hindu Mahasabha largely lose its relevance.

Hindu Mahasabha (1915–) 143

Background Introduction of legislative reforms at periodical intervals beginning with the Indian Councils Act of 1892, attempts of the colonial government to map and enumerate the Indian population most significantly through the all-India decennial census beginning 1881, were important changes that accelerated the formation and influenced the agenda of groups formed along religious lines. As the representative institutions, with somewhat greater space for Indian participation, expanded, so did the claims and counter-claims of different communities and social groups. The Arya Samajist and the Sanatanist movements additionally flagged the issue of cow protection, Hindi and Devanagari and conversion to Christianity and Islam. Though there were critical differences between the Samajists and the Sanatanists on the methodology to be followed for the reform of the Hindu society, they converged on a common platform of the Hindu Mahasabha to usher in a new phase in the construction of a Hindu nationalist identity. Opposition to the Punjab Land Alienation Act (1900), demands of the Muslim League (founded in 1906) and introduction of the principle of separate electorate through the Morley Minto Reforms (1909) further worked to sharpen this identity. Beginning with the 1880s, the movement for cow protection led by the Arya Samajists made significant inroads. A number of gaurakshini sabhas (or cowprotection societies) were formed. In this effort they were ably assisted by the more orthodox Sanatan Dharma sabhas. Din Dayalu Sharma, a staunch Sanatanist, while moving the resolution on ‘Hindu unity and solidarity’ at the first Punjab Hindu Conference (1909) underlined that cow protection was ‘one subject which will strengthen Hindu unity’: ‘Over her horns the social, economic and religious question will be solved’.2 There were also regular agitations to promote and enforce Hindi in Devanagari script. From 1860s to 1900, a strong movement developed, chiefly in Oudh and North West Provinces, for replacement of Urdu (in Persian script) with Hindi in Devanagari script. Malaviya played an important role in this campaign. It pointed to an excessive use of Persian and Arabic words, and concluded that the use of Urdu made court documents illegible often helping forgery. Another important development which closely followed this debate was the insistence that Hindi was the national language, an idea helped by the massive growth of Hindi literature.3 Abhyudaya, a weekly in Hindi founded and edited by Malaviya, wrote that one national language was necessary to evolve emotional unity in the country, and Hindi, spoken by a third of India’s population was most suited for the purpose. Its script, i.e. Devanagari, the weekly noted, was so simple that almost all Indian languages could adopt it, leading to greater unity between different provinces as well as between Hindus and Muslims.4 On the other side, the British administration was quick to respond to the demands of minorities whenever an opportunity presented itself. Thus, the Muslim delegation to Minto at Simla in 1906 was able to secure a positive assurance of its claim of being considered with regard to the political importance of the community and the services it had rendered to the empire. Encouraged by it, leading members of this delegation organized the All-India Muslim League at


Ideological initiatives and organizational forms

Dacca in December 1906 to advance and defend Muslim political interests. Subsequently, the Morley-Minto Reforms and finally the Act of 1909, introducing the principle of separate electorate among others, had important bearings triggering the foundation and growth of the Hindu Sabha movement. Malaviya was critical of the government’s show of unreal ‘kripa’ or kindness towards Muslims, stating that Hindus had never demanded any special rights for themselves and even during the Mughals whatever Hindus received was on account of their hard work and education. Even Muslims were earlier told to follow the examples of the likes of Justices Mahmood, Tyabji or Ameer Ali, who had reached high position on account of merit. However, he underlined the situation had changed during the last one or two years, as after their deputation to Simla, whatever reform proposals were made the government promised Muslims special rights.5

Punjab Hindu conference to All-India Hindu Sabha, 1909–1915 Arya Samajists were at the forefront in shaping a political identity for Hindus, especially inside Punjab. The Samaj was conceived as a progeny of Hinduism which had worked to bring the Hindu society out of ‘the abysmal pit of decadent Hinduism’ and endowed it with a spirit of ‘self-respect and self-confidence’.6 Since the Lahore Congress in 1900 the number of Arya Samajists at the annual sessions rose sharply, numbering half of all the Punjabi delegates in 1906. However, their growing disillusionment over protection of community’s interests, infighting along ‘moderate’ and ‘extremist’ lines and announcement of the Reform scheme, among others, drove them towards founding an organisation talking exclusively about Hindu interests. A Hindu Sabha was founded in Lahore on 16 December 1906.7 However, it did not usher in much activity. This Sabha presented an address to the viceroy on 3 April 1909 but failed to get any favourable reply.8 Lajpat Rai, speaking at the anniversary celebration of the Ferozepur Arya Samaj, emphasized the need to take suitable measures to improve the status of the Hindu community as a whole.9 Privately, he observed that everything possible should be done to utilize the feeling, existing among Hindus of all classes, that the government was ‘favouring Muhammadans at the expense of the Hindus’.10 In a meeting on 7 July 1909, the Punjab Hindu Sabha passed a resolution resenting any kind of concession to Muslim demands and rushed the following telegram to the viceroy: Punjab Hindu Sabha respectfully but strongly protests against excessive and preposterous Mohammadan demands. Any concessions to these demands will fill Hindus with bitter resentment, accentuate racial animosities and create difficulties. Sabha has avoided deputations and demonstrations to prevent embarrassment.11 The year 1909 became a politically eventful timeline for the growth of Hindu nationalism culminating in the convening of the first Punjab Hindu Conference in Lahore – the first notable event of the Hindu Sabha movement. Build-up to

Hindu Mahasabha (1915–) 145 the conference, speeches and deliberations in the meeting, newspaper and intelligence reports – all point to a growing enthusiasm, mostly among urban Punjabi Hindus to set up a non-Congress (though disillusioned with, but not fully antiCongress at this stage) exclusively Hindu body which would not be shy of projecting community-centred demands. Two important works published this year aided the growing ‘Hindu sentiment’ – Lal Chand’s Self-Abnegation in Politics and U. N. Mukherji’s A Dying Race. Accusing the Congress for overlooking the communal interests of Hindus, though majority of its members were Hindus, Lal Chand (also the chairman of reception committee at this Punjab Hindu conference) equated self-abnegation in politics with a ‘misplaced and ill-timed’ sanyas (or renunciation) which was suicidal when it implied ‘the displacement of one community by other to the ruin of the community practicing Self-abnegation’.12 He attacked the Congress for advocating a kind of nationhood which diluted the identity of Hindus, and made them break with all their past traditions and glory. The ‘Hindu society’, he underlined, would organize Hindus sabhas ‘to safeguard its interest against the Muslim League’. Although these sabhas were yet weak and few and their policies ‘vacillating’, an optimistic Lal Chand firmly announced: ‘but the sentiment, the Hindu sentiment, is making inroads’.13 A Dying Race authored by U. N. Mukherji, raised alarm at demographic imbalance for Hindus.14 The first Punjab Hindu Conference was held in Lahore on 21–22 October 1909 during the Hindu festival of Dussehra. Protul Chandra Chatterji, a retired High Court judge, in his presidential address, took care to emphasize that the new body was not anti-Congress: ‘We should eschew the frankly self-seeking and aggressive political creed of the Moslem League. I would wish the Congress success in its efforts, but the Hindu Sabha does not trench on its province but works in a different sphere.’15 The editorial of Tribune, a paper favouring the Arya Samaj, was more categorical, calling the event a new phase, serving a new want: Self-preservation is the law of nature and is an instinct engraved in humanity. The Hindus have for several years past been slowly losing inch by inch in the race for existence and it was essential to take timely measures before it was too late.16 Lajpat Rai pointed to the ‘spirit of Hinduism’ which had survived in spite of divergent faith within the community and it was this spirit on which a ‘common platform’ of Hindu unity could be based.17 The conference also stressed the need to have Hindu sabhas all over the country and organize an all-India Hindu conference ‘in order to deliberate upon Hindu interests and to devise means for their safeguard, betterment and improvement’.18 Though the Arya Samajists had been more active in the Punjab Hindu Sabha and also locally within UP, the Hindu Sabha movement inside UP had closer links with the Sanatanists.19 In December 1910, a meeting of the leading Hindus in UP decided to form an all-India body of Hindus at Allahabad, but the actual foundation was delayed.20 Finally, the inaugural ceremony of the All-India Hindu Sabha was held at Hardwar in April 1915, choosing the auspicious Hindu Kumbh fair


Ideological initiatives and organizational forms

(held once in twelve years) for the occasion. Gandhi, who had recently returned from South Africa and was in Hardwar to observe the fair, also attended the inaugural meeting.21 Manindra Chandra Nandi, the maharaja of Kasimbazar, who presided at the function, took an optimistic view: ‘Gentlemen, no religion and its followers have had to pass through such ordeals as Hinduism and Hindus, and yet they have survived and are a living force’.22 While framing its rules, the Sabha defined a Hindu as ‘any person professing to be a Hindu or following any religion of Indian origin and includes Sanatanists, Arya Samajists, Jains, Sikhs, Buddhists and Brahmos’.23 Savarkar in his Hindutva (1923) added the criteria of pitribhu (fatherland) and punyabhu (holy land) to this definition. Following the conference, a significant political event was the Lucknow Pact of 1916 between the Congress and the Muslim League, where the former accepted the principle of separate electorate for Muslims. Though Malaviya did not oppose the pact, local Hindu sabhas at Allahabad, Kanpur and Benaras repudiated it. Madhav Rao, in his presidential address at the second conference of the All-India Hindu Sabha at Lucknow in December 1916 denounced the principle of separate electorate.24 However, years later when the demands of the Muslim League had become much bigger, the Hindu Mahasabha looked at the Lucknow Pact as the ‘agreed solution of the communal problem’25 and its provisions as the maximum of what could be conceded: The Hindu Mahasabha believes in the potency of Joint electorates to further the cause of evolution of India as one united nation, but if the Muslims believe that they cannot do without separate electorates the Hindu Mahasabha will be reluctantly obliged to agree to it provided that the Muslims adhere to the Lucknow Pact and its provisions are not contravened or exceeded.26 The fourth session of the Hindu Sabha was organized at Allahabad on 9–12 February 1918 on the occasion once again of the Kumbh fair with the Shankaracharya of Karvir Peeth (Kolhapur) as president and Manindra Chandra Nandi as chairman of the reception committee. The conference lay emphasis on the study of Sanskrit; publishing low-priced editions of Hindu sacred books; learning Hindi and Devanagari with a view to develop ‘a common language and common script’ in India; imparting moral and religious education in schools and colleges; protection of Hindu interests in the Reform scheme; maintaining sanctity and sanitation of places of Hindu pilgrimage; to prevent numerical decrease of Hindus.27 The sixth session of the Sabha was held at Hardwar on 8–10 April 1921 which, apart from substituting ‘Sabha’ with ‘Mahasabha’, made significant changes in its rules and regulations. The ‘Akhil Bharatvarshiya Hindu Mahasabha’ or the ‘AllIndia Hindu Mahasabha’ would henceforth include Hindus residing outside India as well.28 Held in the background of the Non- cooperation Khilafat movement, this session moved softly on the question of non-Hindu communities primarily to seek support on the issue of cow protection. It resolved to express its ‘full sympathy with the Muslim community’ on the Khilafat question, expressing its gratitude to those Muslim leaders and organizations, as well as Christian and Parsee gentlemen

Hindu Mahasabha (1915–) 147 who were trying to stop cow killing in India.29 However, once the Non- cooperation movement was called off in early 1922, and as intense communal riots started in Malabar, followed by those at Multan and Kohat, the Mahasabha began to reorganize itself through a higher level of confidence and zeal.

Growth and political interventions The Mahasabha was remodelled in August 1923. A working committee with offices at Banaras Hindu University was set up. The office was shifted to Delhi in 1925 with the effort of Lajpat Rai. In January 1924, the party was divided into 23 linguistic provinces on a pattern similar to that of the Congress. By August 1924, nine provincial branches of the Mahasabha had been formed, namely Punjab, Sind, Oudh, Delhi, Bihar, Rajputana, Bengal, Bombay city and Madras. However, of the 362 affiliated local Hindu sabhas, Punjab, UP and Bihar alone accounted for more than eighty percent followed by Bombay Presidency and Central Provinces.30 Mahasabha’s initial intervention in politics missed any precise trajectory. While some went with the Congress, others chose to maintain a separate posture. The presence of a multiplicity of opinions, coupled with great variance within the nature of its leadership, also got reflected on these occasions. However, apart from their political alignments, there were some ideas which ran through all of them in varying degrees, e.g. they looked at the principle of considering Hindu-Muslim unity as a precondition for attainment of swaraj, to be thoroughly impractical, or rather unachievable. They were also of the opinion that a long-lasting peace between the two communities would be possible only if Hindus were united as well as made physically and politically strong. Malaviya was opposed to the boycott of educational institutions, and though he sympathised with the Muslim brethren on the issue of Khilafat, he was not in favour of making it an integral part of the national movement. Shraddhanand organized cow-protection propaganda mainly to draw Hindus into the boycott of the visit of the Prince of Wales in the autumn of 1921.31 As a political front, Mahasabha’s intervention became clearer from the mid1920s receiving a significant impetus from the way schism developed in the Swaraj Party during 1925–26, led mainly by a group in Maharashtra styling itself as Responsivist and giving a call for responding to the government’s offer of accepting office, if the same was on honourable terms. The idea of responsivism provided the much-needed permeating medium and an ideological alternative, imbued with enormous flexibility of interpretation, which enabled a smooth transition for these leaders from the Swarajist ideology to the Hindu Sabha platform. This was also the time after the Gaya (1922) and Benaras (1923) sessions that the Mahasabha was consolidating itself. The chief architects of this new idea were four important Marathi leaders of the day – M. R. Jayakar, B. S. Moonje, N. C. Kelkar and M. S. Aney, who now negotiated their firm entry into the Mahasabha through the Responsivist route. In Malaviya and Lajpat Rai, they found a constant source of support.


Ideological initiatives and organizational forms

The Mahasabha had fallen in line with the Congress in opposing the Simon Commission, notwithstanding the fact that the Punjab Hindu Sabha under Parmanand had acted differently. However, from 1928–29, in the fast-evolving debates on constitutional programme and progress, the Mahasabha leadership grew extremely vigilant vis-à-vis the demands raised by the Muslim leadership in general and the Muslim League in particular. This involved opposing the demand of one-third reservation for Muslims in central legislature, reservation for Muslims in their majority provinces like Punjab and Bengal and separation of Sind from Bombay presidency which would reduce Sind Hindus to a minority in the new province. The Motilal Nehru Committee (formed in 1928) adopted a middle path, because while rejecting the principle of separate electorate, it allowed reservation of seats for a fixed period of ten years according to certain specifications.32 It also agreed to separation of Sind subject to assessment of its financial viability. Eventually, the Mahasabha took the Nehru Report as the maximum of what could be conceded under the circumstances. Therefore, its leaders, with varying intensity, were against fiddling with or expanding the scope of the recommendations of the Nehru Report to the detriment of the League led by Jinnah. At the first Round Table Conference in 1930, the Mahasabha was officially represented by Moonje and Narendra Nath. Jayakar and the maharaja of Darbhanga, also reflecting the party’s opinion, attended in other capacities.33 The group opposed any ‘concessions’ to Muslims on the logic that they were already a ‘numerically strong, well organized, vigorous and potent body with great facilities for self-development’. Besides, such a move would invite irresistible claims from other communities.34 In the minority subcommittee of the conference, Moonje asked Muslim leaders ‘not to let sentiment run away with them’, advising them to fall into a ‘common pool of nationality’.35

Communal Award and after The Communal Award of 1932 expanded separate electorates for religious minorities and depressed classes. It most adversely affected Hindu minorities in Bengal and Punjab.36 It was followed by the White Paper in March 1933 which formed the basis for the Act of 1935. As the Congress maintained ambivalence on the Award (‘neither accept, nor reject’), the Mahasabha used the situation to project itself as the true saviour of the Hindu cause.37 A joint conference of the working committee members of the Mahasabha and the Hindu members of the central legislatures, under the presidentship of Moonje, rejected the White Paper proposals as ‘most disappointing, inadequate and even retrogressive’.38 By 1934, when it had become clear that the Congress was in no mood to budge from its declared position, Malaviya and Aney resigned from the Congress parliamentary board and formed the Congress Nationalist Party to ‘organise a campaign throughout the country against the Communal Award as well as the White Paper’.39 In the 1934 elections to the central legislature, the new party, also supported by the Hindu Mahasabha, won a significant twelve seats. At the Lahore session of the Mahasabha in 1936, which was dominated by Parmanand, it was decided to create a permanent fund to carry out multiple

Hindu Mahasabha (1915–) 149 activities for the Hindu sangathan, and entrusted the work of raising the funds to a committee headed by Jugal Kishore Birla.40 For the elections of 1937, the first under provincial autonomy, the non-Congress Hindu leaders, backed by the Mahasabha, formed a common executive committee in the Punjab named the Hindu Election Board. This Board won eleven seats in the province. These successful candidates formed the Hindu National Progressive Party in February 1937 and voted to continue a policy of cooperation with the Unionists.41 In other provinces, the performance of the Mahasabha or groups supported by it was far from satisfactory. In Bengal, it won two seats in the Assembly and one in the Council; one seat in the Central Provinces; one seat in Bombay Assembly and four seats in Sind Assembly. The Democratic Swarajya Party, led by Mahasabha leaders, won five seats in the Bombay Assembly and two in the Bombay Council. The results of 1937 elections made it amply clear that as far as non-reserved seats were concerned, a vast majority of Hindus preferred Congress over the Mahasabha. It also reflected the lack of a strong party organisation and effective electoral machinery. Savarkar’s arrival as the leader of the Mahasabha at the end of 1937, after years of imprisonment and internment, marked a ‘new era’ in the organisation’s history.42 The erstwhile prominent Mahasabha-Congress leaders like Malaviya, Aney or Kelkar were conspicuous by their absence at the Ahmedabad session in December 1937, where Savarkar presided. In his long presidential address, Savarkar combined his Hindutva thesis with the prevailing political condition. ‘Confusion in words’, he emphasized, leads to ‘confusion in thoughts’. Therefore, the Mahasabha ought to replace the partial description of the word Hindu, i.e. one who professes any religion of Indian origin, with a complete definition, by adding – one who also considers it as his fatherland or pitribhu. Underlining the true character of the organisation, and in order to nullify any impression which could paint it as a solely religious body, Savarkar called the Mahasabha a Hindu Rashtra Sabha – ‘a Pan-Hindu organization shaping the destiny of the Hindu Nation in all its social, political and cultural aspects’.43 During and after the 1937 elections, as the League announced its claim of representing the Muslims, and with the Congress finding itself in a delicate situation, the Mahasabha increasingly raised its claim of representing Hindus. The party warned the Congress that by entering into negotiation with a purely communal body like the League, it would forfeit its claim of being a national organisation and would virtually plead guilty to ‘false charge levelled against it by the Muslim League that the Congress is not a National body but a purely Hindu communal organisation which cannot represent the Muslims’.44 It was on 16 December 1938, that the Congress working committee declared the Mahasabha and the League as communal organisations, and for the first time, debarred their members from entering the Congress. The Mahasabha was peeved by the fact that it had been clubbed with the League and dubbed as a communal body. Savarkar, in his presidential address at the Nagpur session of the Mahasabha in 1938, asked Hindu sangathanists to boycott the Congress: It may be that one of those days it may proclaim the Hindu Sanghatan movement itself as an act of high treason against the Congress fad of an Indian


Ideological initiatives and organizational forms territorial Patriotism. . . . It is true that the Congress looks today like a veritable anti-Hindu tower of strength – but I assure you it is a painted one! Approach and touch the canvass and you will find it.45

Second World War: deciding the vantage point When the Second World War broke out, the Mahasabha felt the opportunity was rife to offer cooperation and in return seek recognition as the representative voice of Hindus. Moonje issued a press statement asking the government to trust the Mahasabha as most suited to provide the lead for India’s defence under the new circumstances. In contrast, he pointed out, the Congress was unfit on account of its being ‘steeped in Mahatma’s philosophy of non-violence and non-co-operation’ while the League with its ‘extra-terrestrial patriotism’ would be sitting on the fence facing both ways ‘ever ready to jump on the winning side’.46 In August 1940, Savarkar wrote to the viceroy conveying Mahasabha’s intention of participating in and utilizing every war effort which, among others, would further Hindu interests.47 Moonje pointed out that the Congress claimed to represent entire India as a nation, the League was the acknowledged representative of the communal rights and privileges of the Muslims, and if therefore the Mahasabha was not to be acknowledged as representative of the interests of the Hindus, then could it be said that the Hindus had no communal interests?48 In September 1941, he wrote to Linlithgow offering Hindus’ cooperation in the war efforts.49 During the war period, and especially during and after the Quit India movement, the Mahasabha showed its eagerness to form part of some provincial ministries, even to the extent of sharing power with the Muslim League. During the Quit India movement, when most Congress leaders were in jail, the viceroy asked governors to explore the possibilities of forming non-Congress ministries. The Mahasabha used this opportunity to form part of the provincial coalition ministries, whether on its own or by supporting Hindu sangathanist candidates. Inside Bengal, the Mahasabha got a big boost when Syama Prasad Mookerjee assumed leadership of the organisation in 1939. He accepted the governor’s invitation to join the Progressive Coalition ministry in December 1941 as Finance minister. However, it was not long before in November 1942 that he resigned accusing the governor of unwarranted interference. Other examples of Mahasabha’s participation in provincial governments which followed during 1943 in Sind and the Frontier Province, saw the Mahasabha and the sangathanists work alongside the Muslim League. In the Frontier Province, Sikh and the Mahasabha members joined the coalition ministry led by Aurangzeb Khan of the League, while in Sind two Hindu MLAs, owing allegiance to the Mahasabha, took part in the League ministry headed by Ghulam Hussain Hidayatullah. Savarkar had fully supported such moves. However, his stated objective that the Mahasabha should capture every possible political vantage to safeguard Hindu interests failed to convince some leaders within the organisation. These developments, especially in Sind, came up for a lot of criticism. Savarkar explained that a boycott of ministry in a Hindu minority province would

Hindu Mahasabha (1915–) 151 not serve the Hindu cause. Instead, the presence of strong Hindu sangathanist ministers would always act as a check on the activities of the Muslim ministers.50 Responding to criticism, Savarkar issued a long statement justifying the participation of the Hindu sangathanists in the coalition ministries. He emphasized that the ‘simple fact’ that the League was in a majority in a ministry did not make that ministry a League ministry, so long as it had ministers who were non-Leaguers and worked in their own right: ‘In Sind it is a League-Hindu Sabha ministry, in Bengal it is League-Hindu ministry, and in NWF. Province it is League-Sikh ministry’. As the circumstances under which the Hindus found themselves in different provinces differed a great deal, especially in the Hindu-minority provinces, consequently ‘different tactics’ were required to be adopted.51 Irrespective of the logic forwarded by Savarkar, Mookerjee felt that Savarkar’s statements had ‘clouded the issues’, which had consequently weakened the position of the Mahasabha by encouraging people to conclude that the party depended on careerists and job hunters.52 In December 1942, at the Kanpur session of the Mahasabha, Savarkar in his presidential speech said that to the Muslim League that India constituted merely ‘a sub-continent, no Nation at all’ whereas the Mahasabha believed in ‘an integral Indian Nation even more intensely than the “Indian National” Congress itself’. The recourse in the given situation for the Hindu sangathanists was to intensify their militarization, get enlisted in the armed forces in maximum numbers, capture political power wherever possible, in order that ‘Hindudom’ may emerge triumphant: The dice of Destiny are loaded already, and recklessly thrown on a world battlefield! . . . As has happened so many times in the Hindu History that it was precisely in the darkest hour that the Avatar destined to deliver us was born, it is not quite unlikely, nay, it is more likely than not, that the spirit of Renaissance of the Hindu Race may find an opportunity to assert itself and as if by a miracle similar to those our Puranas sing Hindudom emerges triumphant over all the forces of evil which are attacking it today.53

Postwar and the partition As the war progressed, the official attitude towards the Mahasabha started wavering once again. At the beginning of 1945, the working committee of the Mahasabha reiterated that it was the only organisation competent to speak on behalf of the Hindus.54 Wavell’s refusal to invite the Mahasabha to the Simla conference was the final jolt in this deteriorating relationship. On 23–34 June 1945, the working committee passed resolutions denouncing Wavell’s decision.55 The party also detested Gandhi-Jinnah talks based on the Rajaji formula: ‘Let me say this unhesitatingly that the Hindu-Muslim problem will never be solved by the spokesmen of the Congress bartering away the rights of the Hindus’.56 Presiding at the all-India committee of the Mahasabha in Delhi in August 1945, Mookerjee felt angry that Jinnah had changed his demand from parity with Hindus to that of parity with


Ideological initiatives and organizational forms

the rest of India. The committee while opposing the principle of parity called it ‘inherently unjust to reduce a majority of three-fourths to the same position as a minority of one-fourth’.57 In the high politics of partition, fearing that the whole Bengal could go to Pakistan or that an autonomous state of Bengal could be created, Mookerjee demanded Bengal’s division to create a Hindu majority province. Addressing a rally of Bengali Hindus in New Delhi on 22 April 1947, he stressed that even if Pakistan was not conceded and in its place some form of a weak and loose centre as envisaged in the Cabinet Mission was accepted by the League, they (the Mahasabha) would demand creation of a new province composed of the Hindu majority areas in Bengal.58 Subsequently, on 7 May 1947, he sent a cable to the Secretary of State Lord Listowel and to Stafford Cripps emphasizing that the Bengali Hindus were opposed to acceptance of Pakistan over Bengal or sovereign independent state of Bengal detached from the Indian union: Pakistan or no Pakistan, in the interest of peace and harmony and the political and economic advancement of the people, it is estimated that a separate Province including Calcutta, which has 75 percent Hindu population, must be created in Bengal comprising Hindu majority areas which will remain within the Indian Union. We are against the division of India, but if Pakistan is conceded against our will, separation of Hindu majority areas in Bengal is inescapable as indeed suggested to the Cabinet scheme of May 6, 1946.59 When the scheme of partition was announced, Bhopatkar, the Mahasabha president, saw it as the ‘triumph of the virile leadership of the Muslim League over the puerile one of the Congress High Command.’60 Mookerjee, blaming the absence of a ‘race-consciousness’ among Hindus for ‘the vivisection of India’, grieved that the integrity of the motherland had been destroyed: ‘We have virtually given up a portion of our sacred territory without a fight. The Anglo-Muslim League conspiracy outmanoeuvred the Congress and the latter surrendered almost without a protest’. From then onwards, he clarified, our aim should be to reannex Pakistan to India, as he had no doubt of its eventuality ‘whether by pressure of economic or political factors or for other reasons’, but until it happened, the government should ‘protect in every possible manner the interests of 20 million of Hindus and Sikhs who will live in Pakistan’.61 The All-India Committee of the Mahasabha, meeting in Delhi on 8 August 1947, clarified that it was not a party to the partition and criticized the Congress for betraying the ‘solemn assurance to the Hindu electorates that it stood by the unity of India’ by agreeing to the partition. Reiterating India’s indivisibility, it stressed that there would not be any peace unless the separated areas were brought back.62

Patriotism, homeland and the Hindu national flag In the Hindu nationalist ideology facilitated by the Mahasabha, it was emphasized that most conquerors from foreign land had not intended to come to India,

Hindu Mahasabha (1915–) 153 or rule over it, for doing any good to the country. This interpretation enabled the Mahasabha leaders to portray a part of the medieval rule as being foreign, and consequently anti-Hindu, in nature. Malaviya stressed that it was only out of ‘selfishness and greed’ that invaders attacked another country: Taimur and Changhez, Mahmud and Babur who came to India did not do so for the country’s benefit. They were uncivilized and it can be said about them that even in their dreams they did not think that they should attack India and occupy it for its own benefits.63 At another level, the ideology sought to portray strengthening of nationalistic feelings as the sine qua non for the lack of disunity and progress: ‘We may try numerous other methods, and many of which we have already tried also, but without inculcating a feeling of nationalism, it is almost impossible to take the country forward’.64 In this analysis, the meaning of Dharma was also expanded to show its indivisible link with patriotism: What is nationalism? It is the name of that emotion which is present in the heart of every countryman in the form of hope for the good of the country, and in front of which all other emotions are only secondary. . . . Unadulterated patriotism leads to unity, this unity leads to a feeling of nationalism and the feeling of nationalism leads to country’s progress. . . . Dharma is what makes a living person sympathize with other living beings, that which brings happiness by seeing others in a happy condition, extending a helping hand to those who have fallen . . . this true Dharma is achievable with the help of patriotic feeling. Spread of patriotic feeling will remove all feelings of selfishness from our hearts.65 The Mahasabha leaders were always quick to point out that their espousal of the Hindu cause did not denote lack of love for nation. The idea recurs whenever Hindu Mahasabha leaders were confronted with this question. The picture of pure nationalism where all communal identities got submerged was projected as being somewhat elusive, and therefore, till such time that this stage was achieved the community must manifest love for itself: So long as all the human communities in the world have not attained that elevation of spirit in practical conduct, mere morbid affectation of freedom from communalism will help neither the individual nor the community. It has been truly said that a proper regard for self is the basis of virtue and that reasonable self-love is a manifest obligation.66 The larger project of achieving organic unity of Hindus (or Sangathan) was a constant theme within the Mahasabha’s agenda. The organisation saw it as intrinsically linked to achieving the bigger aim of political rights. The fourth conference of the All-India Hindu Sabha (1918) called upon all Hindus ‘to make it their


Ideological initiatives and organizational forms

first and foremost duty to promote love and fellow-feeling among themselves, to help the needy, to support their orphans and the crippled, to respect widows, to avoid mutual bickering, to join in the celebration of national festivals and to take all such steps as may make for Hindu union and solidarity’.67 In 1921, the Mahasabha in its conference called the attempt to create a split between Brahmans and non-Brahmans in southern India and between Sikhs and Hindus in the Punjab as a relic of the old ‘divide and rule’ policy.68 N. C. Kelkar in his presidential speech in 1925, pleaded for a ‘united front’ by Hindus, which could only be feasible when different kinds of religiously-ordained ideological streams within the community were ready to shed their obstinacy: the Dwaiti and the Adwaiti, the Shankara and the Madhava, the Arya Samajist and the Sanatanist, the Shakta and the Shaivite, must all now agree to bury their small differences and to put in the forefront the one idea that they have all to lose in common equally, if they do not present a united front and join hands in organising the Hindu society.69 The Mahasabha leaders were keen to underline that unlike other religious groups in the country like Muslims and Christians, Hindus could not look up to any region outside the country. In other words, India was seen as the natural homeland for Hindus. The maharaja of Darbhanga, a frontline leader of the Bharat Dharma Mahamandal and also guiding the Hindu Mahasabha during its initial years felt: The Hindus are tied to the soil of India in such a way as people of no other race or religion can be. By reason of their religion and the constitution of their society, they would not leave this country, under any circumstances whatsoever. There is no country in the world other than India that the Hindus can ever call his own. A people such as this cannot but feel inseparably attached to their rulers as they are tied to their country.70 Under Mookerjee’s presidentship, a syllabus was prescribed for the study of the Mahasabha workers, and among the sixteen points listed in the curriculum, the following were in one way or the other intrinsically connected to the furtherance of the idea of Hindu nationalism: • • • • •

‘Geography of Hindustan together with the important place which Hindustan occupies in the Geography of world. Study of the basic principles of Hindu Culture and Civilisation. Study of the Christian Missionary activities in India. Study of the census figures in different parts of Hindusthan. Study of the greater Hindusthan.’71

The Mahasabha was keen to adopt a flag with popular Hindu motifs which should be commensurate with its ideology of Hindu nationalism. It was in the Lahore

Hindu Mahasabha (1915–) 155 session in October 1936 that a saffron colour ‘Hindu National Flag’, with symbols of kirpan and kundalini, explaining the ‘central ideas of Hindu nationalism and spirituality’ was adopted.72 Indra Prakash, official historian of the Mahasabha, writes that the conception of the ‘Hindu National Flag’ came from V. D. Savarkar himself. While the kirpan or the sword denoted ‘Hindu Abhyudaya’ or the rise of Hindus, the kundalini – a form of divine energy and derived from the ancient Yoga system – was symbolic of ‘eternally blissful state of super-consciousness’. Further the Omkar denoted the ‘sacred name of the Great One’, the symbol of Swastika ‘embraced all that is good and denoting the continuity of Hindu culture’. He also stressed that the saffron flag represented the ‘final stage in the evolution of the traditional Hindu flag’ recalling that bhagwa or saffron was also the colour of Shivaji’s ‘National Flag’ and that kirpan indicated the memory of Guru Govind Singh – ‘another great protector of the Hindu nation’.73

Post-independence: Mahasabha’s fast-losing relevance The Hindu Mahasabha was the product of a milieu in which there were three other important players – the colonial government, the Congress and the Muslim League. It was in this context that an exclusive organisation of Hindus talked of protecting Hindu interests. Once the country had gained independence, and with the League able to secure a separate nation, this milieu no longer existed. It was no secret that even in the period of high politics of partition, in the 1946 elections, the Congress had won overwhelming victories on the unreserved or Hindu seats. Hindu Mahasabha, lacking any worthwhile electoral machinery, besides plagued by serious organisational handicaps, failed to make any impression in these elections. During his presidentship, Mookerjee (1944–46) had made some serious attempts to reorganize the Mahasabha, restructuring its provincial basis by dividing the whole country into nine zones for the purpose of organizational work.74 Several schemes for strengthening the organisation were formulated. Special guidelines were issued to the provincial sabhas to both enhance the organizational strength as well as to make them adhere to the agenda of the Mahasabha. However, the attempt was too late in the day to make any significant change. After the country gained independence, the Mahasabha refused to heed to the advice of Mookerjee to reorient itself under the changed circumstances. Soon after the partition, the country was rocked by Gandhi’s assassination. As the assassin had been a member of a breakaway group of the Mahasabha active at Poona, the party’s image also took a big hit. It was promptly banned in February 1948. The working committee of the Mahasabha suspended its activities on 14 February 1948, but resumed it on 7–8 August 1948.75 Mookerjee felt confident that it was only a handful of persons in Poona who ‘might have been members of this conspiracy’. He told Patel that there was a large section of people amongst the Mahasabha, including many in Poona, who ‘had always been against the activities of this small group’, and therefore, ‘it would be a blunder not to isolate this group from the rest which is the vast majority’.76 Patel agreed that the Mahasabha as an


Ideological initiatives and organizational forms

organization was not part of the conspiracy, but he could not shut his eyes to the fact that ‘an appreciable number of the members of the Mahasabha gloated over the tragedy’.77 N. B. Khare, first premier of the Congress ministry in Central Provinces in 1937, joined the Mahasabha in August 1949 and was elected its president in December 1949 at the Calcutta session.78 As preparations began for the first general elections of 1951–52, the Mahasabha made a minor tactical shift. The working committee at Moradabad in October 1950 decided to throw open its doors to all non-Hindu minorities, but limited it to the parliamentary sphere of activities.79 In April 1951, at a special session of the Mahasabha at Jaipur, Khare asserted that Akhand Bharat (united India) was ‘our birth right’ and ‘we shall have it’ and concluded that the Mahasabha had been aiming at promoting good faith between Hindus and non-Hindus.80 Mahasabha’s electoral fortunes continued to be elusive. In the 1951–52 elections, it polled fewer votes than the newly-established BJS, but four of its members including N. C. Chatterjee and N. B. Khare got elected. Even this fortune took a further dip in 1957 with two seats before going down to one in 1962 and 1967.

Concluding observations Hindu Mahasabha was thus a serious ideological endeavour that drew on the Hindu nationalist goals that some of the past masters espoused which, they felt, were conducive to India’s all-round socioeconomic development. It is true that Gandhi and his colleagues avoided championing those objectives which, according to them, were not complementary to their idea of nationalism. As a result, there were segments among the Hindus that the Congress failed to mobilize for the nationalist movement. To these disenchanted Hindus, the Mahasabha provided an alternative which was ideologically meaningful and politically acceptable. The just-discussed history of the evolution of the Hindu Mahasabha is a testimony to the argument. Furthermore, the sacrifice that the Hindu nationalist leaders made for the cause of India’s freedom helped them build a constituency which gradually expanded leading to the acceptance of Hindu nationalism as an ideology for mobilizing support for the cause that the Hindu Mahasabha had upheld. The Hindu Mahasabha was the most significant organisation during the late colonial period claiming to represent the social and political interests of Hindus. However, in the most critical junctures of India’s destiny, when majority of Muslims identified their interests with the Muslim League, majority of Hindus went with the Congress. Even the League raised the bogey of a ‘Hindu Raj’ pointing to the eventuality of a Congress rule if the country was not partitioned. However more significant impact of the Mahasabha lay in strengthening a Hindu nationalist ideology, along with constant vigilance over the communal demands of the League and such similar bodies. Implicit here are two important points which are relevant to comprehend the growth and consolidation of Hindu nationalism as a politico-ideological priority in a milieu in which the Gandhian model of

Hindu Mahasabha (1915–) 157 inclusive nationalism seems to have swayed the Indian masses. On the one hand, by sharpening their attacks on the mainstream nationalist response, which was alleged to have pampered the Muslims, the Hindu nationalist ideologues created a space for an alternative mode of thinking in which India’s Hinduness was clearly privileged. On the other, While championing their respective ideological preferences, the Hindu Mahasabha activists espoused a cause which remained peripheral, if not absent, in the mainstream nationalist campaign that the Congress spearheaded. An analytical scan of the evolution of the Hindu Mahasabha thus provides a relatively less-known story of Indian nationalism in which the Hindu nationalist politico-ideological priorities were sharply articulated. It is true that these priorities remained ideologically peripheral in a situation when the Gandhian alternative was universally accepted; nonetheless, the Hindu Mahasabha succeeded in creating a solid support base for its ideology to strike roots. The Hindu Mahasabha can thus be said to have initiated a new trend in the nationalist campaign that it articulated by being sensitive exclusively to the Hinduness of its supporters. There is however a note of caution because the restricted appeal of the Mahasabha also suggests that it failed to bring to its fold Hindus of all strata. The reasons are not difficult to seek: it clearly shows that whatever was the claim of the Mahasabha ideologues, it was not ideologically as appealing as it was claimed by them. In other words, in a context where the Gandhi-led nationalist campaign drew heavily upon the Enlightenment values, Hindu nationalism seems to have lost its steam, as it were. Nonetheless, the fact that the Mahasabha set in motion a process in which the exclusive Hindu identity was privileged for political mobilization also confirms the contention that Indian nationalism cannot be monochromatically conceptualized given its obvious complex texture.

Notes 1 Syama Prasad Mookerjee, Leaves from a Diary, Oxford University Press, Calcutta, 1993, pp. 27–30. 2 Tribune, 27 October 1909. 3 See Vasudha Dalmia, The Nationalization of Hindu Traditions: Bhartendu Harishchandra and Nineteenth-century Banaras, Oxford University Press, Delhi, 1997, pp. 222, 271, 436. 4 Ganga Shankar Misra, ‘Nagari Prachar se Deshonnati Hogi’ (Expansion of Devanagari would lead to development of nation), Abhyudaya, 13 August 1907. 5 Abhyudaya, 13 December 1907. 6 ‘Arya Samaj and Politics’, article written by Lajpat Rai under the pseudonym of Izzat Rai, 30 September 1907, published in Zamana, December 1907, translated from Urdu, The Collected Works of Lala Lajpat Rai, Vol. III, Manohar, Delhi, 2004, pp. 76–8. 7 Tribune, 19 December 1906. See K.L. Tuteja, ‘The Punjab Hindu Sabha and Communal Politics, 1906–1923’, in Indu Banga (ed.), Five Punjab Centuries: Polity, Economy, Society and Culture c. 1500–1900, Manohar, Delhi, 1997, pp. 126–39; K.L. Tuteja and O.P. Grewal, ‘Emergence of Hindu Communal Ideology in Early Twentieth Century Punjab’, Social Scientist, Vol. 20, Nos. 7–8, July–August 1992, pp. 3–28. 8 Weekly report of the Director of Criminal Intelligence, Simla, 10 April 1909, Home (Political) Files, NAI, June 1909, Nos. 108–114, B, p. 8.


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9 Weekly report of the Director of Criminal Intelligence, Simla, 8 May 1909, Home (Political) Files, NAI, June 1909, Nos. 115–124, B, p. 13. 10 Ibid. 11 Tribune, 9 July 1909. 12 Rai Bahadur Lal Chand, Self-Abnegation in Politics, The Central Yuvak Sabha, Lahore, 1938, second edition, p. 61. 13 Ibid., pp. 120–1. 14 Kenneth W. Jones, ‘Religious Identity and the Indian Census’, in N.G. Barrier (ed.), The Census in British India: New Perspective, Manohar, Delhi, 1981, pp. 73–101. 15 Tribune, 22 October 1909. 16 Ibid. 17 Ibid. 18 Resolution no. 12, Tribune, 27 October 1909. 19 Richard Gordon, ‘The Hindu Mahasabha and the Indian National Congress, 1915– 1926’, Modern Asian Studies, Vol. 9, No. 2, 1975, pp. 145–203. 20 Indra Prakash, Hindu Mahasabha: Its Contribution to Indian Politics, Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha, New Delhi, 1966, p. 13; Anil Kumar Mishra, Hindu Mahasabha: EK Adhyayan, 1907–1947 (in Hindi), p. 49. 21 Richard Gordon, ‘Non-cooperation and Council Entry, 1919 to 1920’, Modern Asian Studies, Vol. 7, No. 3, 1973, pp. 443–73. 22 All India Hindu Conference at Hardwar, 9 April 1915, Din Dayalu Sharma Papers, Nehru Memorial Museum and Library (hereafter NMML), Subject Files No. 6. 23 Ibid. 24 Mushirul Hasan, Nationalism and Communal Politics in India, 1916–1928, Manohar, Delhi, 1979, p. 88. 25 Resolution passed at the 14th session of the Hindu Mahasabha, 24–25 September 1932, Moonje Papers, NMML, Subject Files No. 18. 26 Moonje’s statement before the second Round Table Conference, 1931, Moonje Papers, NMML, Subject Files No. 18, pp. 184–90. 27 Din Dayalu Sharma Papers, NMML, Subject Files No. 6. 28 Ibid. 29 Resolution nos. V and XIII, sixth session of the All India Hindu Sabha, Hardwar, 8–10 April 1921, Din Dayalu Sharma Papers, NMML, Subject Files No. 6. 30 Richard Gordon, ‘The Hindu Mahasabha and the Indian National Congress, 1915 to 1926’, Modern Asian Studies, Vol. 3, No. 2, 1975, pp. 145–203. 31 Ibid. 32 Nehru Committee Report or the Report of the Committee appointed by the All-Parties Conference to determine the principles of the Constitution for India, AICC, Allahabad, 1928, pp. 123–4. 33 Indian Annual Register (hereafter IAR), July–December 1930, p. 286. 34 Hindu Mahasabha’s opinion before the first RTC, IAR, July–December 1930, p. 324(d). 35 Indian Round Table Conference: Sub-Committee No. III (Minorities), second meeting, 31 December 1930, pp. 42–4. 36 For the impact of the Communal Award and the Poona Pact on the Bengal Hindus, and for the details of the intricate interplay between different stakeholders and political groups during the period around this issue, see Bidyut Chakrabarty, ‘The Communal Award of 1932 and Its Implications in Bengal’, Modern Asian Studies, Vol. 23, No. 3, 1989, pp. 493–523. 37 Congress working committee in its meeting on 17 June 1934 took the position that it would ‘neither accept nor reject’ the Award as long as division of opinion between different communities on the question exists. IAR, January–June 1934, pp. 35, 300. 38 27 March 1933, IAR, January–June 1933, p. 15. 39 Circular issued by Malaviya and Aney, 8 August 1934, Aney Papers, NMML, Subject Files No. 6.

Hindu Mahasabha (1915–) 159 40 18th session of the Hindu Mahasabha, Lahore, 21–23 October 1936, IAR, July–December 1935, p. 261. 41 See Gerald A. Heeger, ‘The Growth of the Congress Movement in Punjab, 1920–1940’, The Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 32, No. 1, November 1972, pp. 39–51. 42 Prakash, Hindu Mahasabha: Its Contribution to Indian Politics, p. 8. 43 Veer Damodar Savarkar, Hindu Rashtra Darshan: A Collection of the Presidential Speeches Delivered from the Hindu Mahasabha Platform, Laxman Ganesh Khare, Bombay, 1949, pp. 6–11. 44 Resolutions of the working committee of the Mahasabha, Nasik, 28–29 May 1938, Moonje Papers, NMML, Subject Files No. 48. 45 Savarkar, Hindu Rashtra Darshan, p. 72. 46 Press statement of Moonje, 21 October 1939, Moonje Papers, NMML, Statements, Sr. No. 30. 47 Walter Andersen, ‘The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh – II: Who Represents the Hindus?’, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 7, No. 12, March 18, 1972, pp. 633–40. 48 Moonje’s letter to the editor, Times of India, Bombay, 26 September 1940, Moonje Papers, NMML, Correspondence. 49 Moonje to Linlithgow, 11 September 1941, Moonje Papers, NMML, Correspondence, Sr. No. 394. 50 V.D. Savarkar to Mehr Chand Khanna, 23 May 1943, Syama Prasad Mookerjee Papers (II-IV installments), NMML, Subject Files No. 57. 51 ‘Hindu Sangathanists and Coalition Ministries: Veer Savarkar Clarifies Mahasabha Policy’, Syama Prasad Mookerjee Papers (II-IV installments), NMML, Subject Files No. 57. 52 Walter Andersen, ‘The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh – II: Who Represents the Hindus?’ Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 7, No. 12, March 18, 1972, pp. 633–40. 53 Kanpur, 29 December 1942, Savarkar, Hindu Rashtra Darshan, pp. 250–302. 54 Proceedings of the working committee of the Hindu Mahasabha, Delhi, 20–21 January 1945, All India Hindu Mahasabha Papers, NMML, File No. C-74. 55 Nandini Gondhalekar and Sanjoy Bhattacharya, ‘The All India Hindu Mahasabha and the End of British Rule in India, 1939–1947’, Social Scientist, Vol. 27, Nos. 7–8, July– August 1999, pp. 48–74. 56 Mookerjee speaking at the sidelines of a meeting of the working committee of the Mahasabha, New Delhi, 20–21 January 1945, IAR, January–June 1945, p. 298. 57 S.R. Bakshi, The Making of India and Pakistan: Select Documents, Part-3: Ideology of Hindu Mahasabha and Other Political Parties, Deep & Deep Publications, New Delhi, 1997, pp. 838–9. 58 Bakshi, The Making of India and Pakistan: Select Documents, Part-6: Partition of India, p. 264. 59 Ibid., pp. 265–6. 60 Press statement, 4 June 1947, Craig Baxter, The Jana Sangh: A Biography of an Indian Political Party, University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, 1969, p. 24. 61 Syama Prasad Mookerjee, ‘Hindus Will Never Accept Partition’, Organiser, 3 July 1947. 62 Bakshi, The Making of India and Pakistan: Select Documents, Part-6: Partition of India, p. 289. 63 Madan Mohan Malaviya, ‘Swarajya or Representative Form of Government’, Abhyudaya, 8 July and 16 July 1907 (essay in two parts); (originally in Hindi, translated by authors). 64 Madan Mohan Malaviya, ‘Indians and Patriotism’, Abhyudaya, 20 September 1907 (originally in Hindi, translated by authors). 65 Madan Mohan Malaviya, ‘Nationalism and Patriotism’, Abhyudaya, 13 September 1907 (originally in Hindi, translated by authors). 66 Presidential speech of Kelkar at the Jabalpur session of the Mahasabha in 1928; Jayakar referred to this speech and quoted these lines, ‘Oral Evidence of M.R. Jayakar


67 68 69 70 71


73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80

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before the Bombay Riots Enquiry Committee’, 24 July 1929, Jayakar Papers, National Archives of India (hereafter NAI), File No. 437. Kelkar underlined the importance of securing the well-being of the community: ‘In all purely national matters, even the staunchest supporter of the Hindu Mahasabha ought, of course, to be able to say that he is an Indian first. But, strictly speaking, the entire life of an individual or a community cannot possibly be filled by purely nationalist politics. So long as a man must describe or designate himself as a Hindu, the necessity remains for him to think about the wellbeing of the Hindus as a community and to concern himself with activity which will secure that well-being’. Allahabad, 9–12 February 1918, Din Dayalu Sharma Papers, NMML, Subject Files No. 6. Hardwar, 8–10 April 1921, Din Dayalu Sharma Papers, NMML, Subject Files No. 6. Presidential speech of N.C. Kelkar, Kanpur special session of the Hindu Mahasabha, 29–12–1925, Indian Quarterly Register, July–December 1925, pp. 353–4. Presidential speech of the Maharaja of Darbhanga, Calcutta Convention of the Bharat Dharma Mahamandal, 28 December 1906, Tribune, 30 December 1906. ‘Syllabus for Workers’, Resolution ‘K’ of the working committee of the Mahasabha (meeting on 20–21 January 1945 and notified on 23–1–1945), released by M.R. Chaudhuri, honorary secretary, Hindu Mahasabha, 30 January 1945, All India Hindu Mahasabha Papers, NMML, File No. C-31. 18th session of the Hindu Mahasabha, Lahore, 21–23 October 1936, IAR, July–December 1936, p. 261. The Kanpur session of the Mahasabha in April 1935 had appointed a seven-member committee, headed by Padmaraj Jain, to prepare a suitable design for a Hindu flag. IAR, January–June 1935, p. 335. This flag was specially designed by Ganesh Damodar Savarkar or Baba Savarkar, elder brother of V.D. Savarkar. Baba Savarkar had also been a part of the revolutionary movement, wrote India as a Nation (1934), and was also involved in founding of the RSS. See S.P. Sen, Dictionary of National Biography, Vol. III, Institute of Historical Research, Calcutta, 1973–74, pp. 91–2. Indra Prakash, A Review of the History and Work of the Hindu Mahasabha and the Hindu Sangathan Movement, Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha, New Delhi, 1938, pp. 333–8. Proceedings of the working committee of the Hindu Mahasabha, Delhi, 20–21 January 1945, All India Hindu Mahasabha Papers, NMML, File No. C-74. Indra Prakash, Hindu Mahasabha: Its Contribution to Indian Politics, Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha, New Delhi, 1966, pp. 91–2. Mookerjee to Patel, 4 May 1948, G.M. Nandurkar (ed.), Sardar’s Letters: Mostly Unknown II, Birth Centenary Vol. V, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Smarak Bhavan, Ahmedabad, 1978, p. 293. Nandurkar (ed.), Sardar’s Letters: Mostly Unknown II, Birth Centenary Vol. V, p. 295. Indra Prakash, Hindu Mahasabha: Its Contribution to Indian Politics, Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha, New Delhi, 1966, p. 95. Ibid., p. 99. Ibid., pp. 100–2.


The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (1925–) The moment of manoeuvre

Founded in 1925 by Keshav Baliram Hedgewar, a Telegu Brahmin from the central Indian city of Nagpur, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh is primarily a social organization seeking to build a corps of individuals who will remain dedicated to the nation. The goal is to build a strong and unified India which is believed to have been hindered due to well-entrenched sociocultural divisions among the Indians. For Hedgewar, what was thus needed was to provide a kind of training for charitra nirman (character building), the aim of which was to create a group of dedicated men who, by being steadfastly committed to the nationalist cause, would help build a strong Indian nation. It was possible, the founder believed, once the diverse religio-ethnic groups were united under one platform. In specific historical context, the RSS did not seem to be inclined to include those who were not Hindus; the idea gained ground especially in circumstances leading to India’s dismemberment in 1947 when the Muslims agreed to form an independent nation on the basis of Jinnah’s two-nation theory. For the RSS and those who championed the cause of an undivided India, it was a betrayal to the nation since the battle for freedom was fought by all against a common enemy. The increasing popularity of Hindutva thus needs to be understood with reference to the sociocultural milieu in which the clamour for a separate Muslim state following the British withdrawal received attention from the majority of Indian Muslims. It was a protest that had roots in a situation in which the ideas of ‘one India’ was a casualty. Perhaps due to the circumstantial compulsion, the RSS insisted on a Hindu-preponderant India in which Muslims, in particular, were not accepted as integral to its project of making India a strong nation. That it was a response to the contextual peculiarities was evident in the early part of the twenty-first century when the RSS increasingly favoured ‘a cultural nationalist view that now [included] Muslims and Christians’. For the RSS, the choice was clearly stated by its supremo, Mohan Bhagwat, in his 2017 speech when he stated that ‘our existence is based on Sanskriti [culture] . . . which is the collective bonding spirit’.1 On another occasion he reiterated that ‘Hinduism is not a religion, [but] a value system that binds the society [because] . . . its inherent pluralism allows space for diversity of all kinds’.2 Core to the RSS belief, as the RSS chief emphasized, was the urge for building a strong nation which was impossible to achieve so long as


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Hindutva was misconstrued as a sectarian design. Challenging the conventional understanding of Hindutva, he further argued that instead of being a design for the Hindus only, it provided a platform for all since ‘inculcating brotherhood is Hindutva’s sole intent [and] if it says that Musalmans cannot stay in India, it is not Hindutva’.3 It is now evident that the conceptualization of the RSS being rigid and sectarian in character is no longer valid in view of the visible changes in its functioning and character. Being a part and parcel of processes strengthening India’s democracy, the RSS appears to have redefined its approaches to nation, nationalism and national identity. A change is visible which is articulated in various outreach initiatives that the RSS has already undertaken to unite people regardless of their religious and ethnic identity. The chapter thus makes two arguments: the first argument is linked with the claim that the earlier conceptual characterization of the RSS continues to be relevant to understand the organization in its contemporary manifestation notwithstanding the visible changes in its character and also texture. This is to argue here that as far as the foundational values are concerned, the RSS remains unchanged. The second argument emphasizes the point that the transformation in the RSS is contingent on the socioeconomic churning that India has witnessed in recent years following the increasing engagement of the masses in processes leading to the democratization of governance. The purpose here is to narrate the unfolding of the RSS with reference to the prevalent socioeconomic milieu accounting for the changes. In an analytical narrative format, the chapter puts forward the story which, while seeking to explain the growing popularity of the RSS by reference to its intellectual foundation, also underlines a fundamental point suggesting that in democracy nothing is sacrosanct, but is subject to metamorphosis presumably because of the rapidly changing socioeconomic milieu in which it evolves.

The beginning The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) made a ‘silent’ beginning at Nagpur in 1925. From its inception, the RSS was characterized by an informal ambience unlike most organisations of the time that possessed a written set of aims and objectives; maintained record of members, minutes and resolutions; and issued press releases besides taking a position on important events.4 Malkani points out that the ‘silent nature’ of its work was misunderstood by some people as secret work.5 Speaking to RSS workers at the annual function of the Delhi shakha in mid-1947, Golwalkar put it categorically: The Sangh’s method of working is altogether different from that of others. We do not indulge in unnecessary demonstrations, or raise slogans. Nor does it form part of our programme to talk of the Sangh’s activities in hyperbole. Hence when others come to know of our special activities, they impute motives to us and on account of their own false fears and apprehensions, they get panicky and put obstacles in our way. But surely all this is due to their gross ignorance.6

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (1925–) 163 The ‘secretive’ nature of the RSS work was also called into question after it was banned in February 1948. It was subsequently asked to reduce to writing its aims and objectives. However, unlike other organizations, RSS continues to face such doubts.7 Its emphasis on the Hindu essence of the Indian culture would find parallels even among thinkers outside the fold. However, its emphasis on culture as the innate source of this nationhood and the need to unite Hindus, gave this ideology certain distinctiveness. Its prescription of backing this ideological framework through a firm commitment from millions of workers, trained through a rigorous system, has ensured brotherhood and longevity.

Founding and early expansion Beginning its journey on the Hindu festival of Vijayadashami on 27 September 1925 at the home of its founder Keshav Baliram Hedgewar, the organisation remained nameless for months before its leaders zeroed in on ‘RSS’ in a meeting on 26 April 1926. Few other suggestions like Jari Patka Mandal (after Shivaji’s gold-bordered flag), Bharat Uddharak Mandal or Hindu Sevak Sangh had also come up for discussion.8 The RSS founder was drawn towards revolutionary movement early on in his life. Deeply touched by the Shivaji cult and influenced by Tilak’s style of leadership, a young Hedgewar was expelled from the Neil City High School in Nagpur in 1905 for leading an anti-British agitation.9 He shifted to Poona, a seat of vibrant nationalist politics, to continue his studies. A young Hedgewar was also in touch with Moonje: Dr Munje has at present five boys under his tuition, including his own son and two nephews, one of the latter is the son of a Munsiff at Chhindwara. His teaching is objectionable, and it has been noticed that one of his pupils, Keshao Baliram, is in the habit of consulting with schoolboys in the evening.10 With Moonje’s help, Hedgewar reached Calcutta to study medicine at the National Medical College where he found his way into the inner circle of the Anushilan Samiti, a society of revolutionaries.11 During his stay in Calcutta, he came in touch with leaders like B. C. Pal, S. S. Chakravarty and Motilal Ghosh who appreciated his ‘lack of provincialism’ evinced through his interest in the people of Bengal and their problems.12 After his return to Nagpur, he organized a centre of revolutionaries in the city (1916–19).13 He worked as part of the volunteer force under the local reception committee during the Nagpur annual session of the Congress in December 1920. Excited by Gandhi’s slogan of swaraj within a year, he participated in the non-cooperation movement and was arrested in August 1921 and released later in July 1922.14 However, he was not convinced by the decision to make Khilafat issue an indivisible part of the nationalist movement. Soon after his release, he started a daily paper Swatantra from Nagpur preaching complete independence. The paper was promptly banned by the government within a year.15 The Nagpur riots of 1923 facilitated the founding of a local Hindu Sabha with Moonje as vice-president and Hedgewar as general secretary.16 Andersen and


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Damle feel that it was during the period of escalating inter-community animosity in Nagpur that Hedgewar began to develop the intellectual foundations of the RSS, and a major influence on his thinking at this time was the handwritten manuscript of Savarkar’s Hindutva.17 However, the Congress-led nationalist movement or the Mahasabha-led movement for protection of Hindu interests or Savarkar’s ideological formulations could not suitably explain to him India’s domination by a small number of foreigners in the present or in the past, and consequently show him the path for getting out of this syndrome. Finally, he concluded that the root cause was psychological and the remedy lay in ‘inner transformation to rekindle a sense of national consciousness and social cohesion’. And to achieve this he would require a band of volunteers, disciplined and committed to the task of national reconstruction with the country’s independence as one of its objectives.18 The founding of the RSS in 1925 was not a big-scale event. Some young recruits mostly from local akharas or gymnasiums would congregate every Sunday early in the morning, clad in a dress that was prescribed for a group of volunteers at the Nagpur Congress – khaki shirts, knee-long khaki shorts and khaki cap with two buttons (replaced by a black cap only five years later). Every Thursday, they would hear a colleague on some national issues, which was formalized after two years and came to be called baudhika – still an important feature in the RSS curriculum.19 After an initial experiment with akharas, and since many more akharas started coming up in the city whose rivalry could hurt, the concept of daily shakhas was introduced in 1926, and it was now that lathi was also introduced.20 In November 1929, Hedgewar and his colleagues felt that the organisation should have one supreme guide or sarsanghchalak who would decide on office-bearers and also act as head of the family. Thus Hedgewar, the founder of the RSS was also proclaimed its first sarsanghchalak, but in the RSS tradition it is its saffron flag which has continued to be the supreme head. Structurally, the RSS is a leader-centric centralised organization that evolved in an India which was highly divided along caste, class and ethnic axes. As per its 1949 constitution, it was an assigned task for the cadres to tirelessly work for the fulfilment of the goal of building a united India. It was stated clearly in the preamble to the constitution underlining the tasks that each of the RSS members is to perform: (a) to eradicate the fissiparous tendencies arising from diversities of sect, faith, caste, creed and from political, economic, linguistic and provincial differences, amongst Hindus; (b) to make them realize the greatness of their past; (c) to inculcate in them a spirit of service, sacrifice and selfless devotion to the Society; (d) to build up an organization and well-disciplined corporate life; and (e) to bring about an all-round regeneration of the Hindu Samaj on the basis of its Dharma and Sanskriti [cultural texture].21 The constitutional directions are very clear. As India is divided, what is required to be done is to evolve those values which are integrally with the building of a strong India. Opposed to the derivative Western ideas, the RSS also insists on

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (1925–) 165 training the cadres to realize ‘the greatness of their past’. Seeking to strengthen the Hindu Samaj on the basis of its distinct cultural and philosophical heritage, the RSS cadres are thus directed to draw on this while pursuing their primary goal.

Unfolding of the organization When the Congress declared complete independence as its goal in November 1929, Hedgewar asked all shakhas to organize parades, pledges, lectures and patriotic songs. At the beginning of the civil disobedience movement in 1930, the question of Sangh’s participation in a significant stage of the Gandhian movement arose. The founder laid down certain principles which eventually became the guiding force for such situations, i.e. RSS as an organisation would keep away while swayamsevaks could participate in their individual capacity.22 Hedgewar and others from RSS like Appaji Joshi and Dadarao Parmarth offered satyagraha. Hedgewar was arrested, kept in Akola jail for nine months before being released in February 1931.23 Similarly, as Malkani points out, many RSS workers, guided by their individual judgement, participated in the Quit India movement, e.g. in Ashti-Chimur in Maharashtra or in laying the Delhi-Muzaffarnagar railway line non-operational for two months.24 During the period 1925–31, the work of the Sangh was concentrated in the Nagpur and Wardha districts and had spread very thinly to the Vidarbha and Hindi-speaking areas of the Central Provinces. Emphasis was on providing a well-articulated programme and discipline rather than attempting to expand with urgency. This careful nursing of the cadre (totalling not beyond 500 by 1932) prepared a strong base for the infant organisation to grow subsequently. After his release from jail in 1931, Hedgewar set on to expand the organisation beyond the confines of Nagpur and Wardha. G. D. (or Babarao) Savarkar, an erstwhile revolutionary helped its expansion in western Maharashtra, merging his own Tarun Hindu Sabha and Mukteshwar Dal into RSS. He also introduced Hedgewar to K. B. Limaye, Vinayak Apte and Bhaurao Abhyanker and others who eventually became important RSS workers, and very soon Poona became a centre of RSS activities in western Maharashtra.25 For its northward expansion, especially in the Punjab, the RSS benefited from the support of eminent figures in the Arya Samaj and the Hindu Mahasabha like Parmanand and his son-in-law Dharmavir who acted as a contact.26 On Parmanand’s invitation, Hedgewar attended the All-India Hindu Youth Conference in Karachi in May 1932 and utilised this opportunity to start the Sangh work in Sind, Punjab and the United Provinces.27 In UP, the Congress and the Mahasabha leader Malaviya extended a helping hand. During its early career, the RSS had made Banaras Hindu University (BHU) a significant outpost in the north. In 1928, Hedgewar sent Prabhakar Balwant Dani (Bhaiyaji Dani) to Benaras whose assignment had the approval of Malaviya.28 A shakha was started in BHU in 1931 during a visit of Hedgewar.29 This model of young RSS workers getting enrolled in a university to spread the network of the Sangh was also worked out in other universities in the north. Thus, Bhaurao Deoras joined the Lucknow University


Ideological initiatives and organizational forms

and Babasaheb Apte went to the Sanatan Dharma College at Kanpur in 1937.30 In 1939, regions in south India also received the RSS attention. Workers were sent to the Madras city, along with other places in Tamil Nadu followed by places like Belgaum, Bijapur, Hubli and Mangalore in the Karnataka region.31

Arrival of ‘Guruji’: the Golwalkar era Hedgewar passed away on 21 June 1940. A day before, he had nominated Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar or ‘Guruji’ as his successor. Like Hedgewar, he also belonged to Nagpur, but unlike him he had an apolitical background. With an ascetic temperament, the young Madhav, first a student and then a teacher at BHU met Hedgewar on the latter’s visit to the University in 1931. Bhaiyaji Dani who had already started the RSS work in the campus initiated Golwalkar into the Sangh.32 His popularity among students had earned him the sobriquet of ‘Guruji’ which stuck with him for the rest of his life. He returned to Nagpur in 1933 on his father’s insistence to study law and settle down in family life.33 But fate willed it otherwise. After completing law, he also practiced for a couple of years. But in between he was in active touch with Hedgewar who appointed him secretary or karyavaha of Nagpur’s main shakha in 1934, and a year later entrusted him with the responsibility of managing the officers’ training camp. However, his ascetic temperament soon drove him to the Ramakrishna Mission Ashram in Sargachi (Bengal) in October 1936 where under Swami Akhandananda (Ramakrishna’s disciple and Vivekananda’s colleague) he started learning yoga. It was during this brief stay here that Golwalkar grew his hair and beard acquiring the look of an ascetic. However, the sudden death of the Swami in February 1937 left him broken. He returned to Nagpur and met Hedgewar who convinced him to fulfil his obligation towards society through the Sangh. Hedgewar appointed him as the general secretary or sarkaryavaha in 1938. With Golwalkar at the helm of affairs in 1940, Jean Curran notes, ‘missionary efforts’ of the Sangh were intensified.34 He sent an increasing number of RSS workers to different parts of the north especially to the Punjab and Delhi, and also widened its network in the south, more particularly in the Andhra and the Malabar regions. By 1945, barring Bengal, Orissa and Assam, most regions had been covered. Princely states though remained a tough challenge. Apart from a few princes in Maharashtra and Rajputana, others were reluctant to extend support.35 From mid-1946, the fast-deteriorating inter-community relationship coupled with acceptance of the Muslim League’s demand for partition provided a definite push to the Sangh’s activities. Its work among the riot-affected victims and taking up the cause of Hindu refugees won it new sympathizers. After the scheme to partition the country became clear, Golwalkar concluded that Gandhi’s efforts in bringing about Hindu-Muslim unity had miserably failed: We see that one of our noblest souls has directed all his energies and thoughts in order to bring people having ideological and cultural differences on the one common platform on the basis of certain fundamental truths contained in their respective scriptures. But with what results I need not say.36

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (1925–) 167 The basis of a mighty organization in India, he was convinced, could only be our culture and ideals and not a ‘begging mentality’: ‘It is obvious that the brute would not accept the hand of friendship extended by the weak’. Comparing the country’s division to the cutting off of a mother’s arms, he attacked those who were interested more in their sectional rights: Every sect wants to have the lion’s share for itself without caring for the rest of society. They want their mother’s arms to be cut and given to them. Such ungrateful sons we have become! They can hardly be called sons of the mother. They are like vultures waiting to feast on the flesh of a dying animal and fighting among themselves for a bigger share, or like robbers quarrelling over their booty. Similarly, we are engaged in cutting up our mother country. I am sorry I have to use such strong words. Who can remain silent when one’s heart is deeply afflicted at the painful sight of the disintegration of our nation and over and above, there is the ever-increasing demand for separate rights?37 RSS observed the partition as a day of mourning. Speaking later in November 1951, Golwalkar blamed the Congress for dividing the country into two, and stated that the ‘Communists would cut it into ten’ while the sole aim of the RSS, in contrast, was ‘to generate forces for the consolidation of the country from Kashmir to Kanya Kumari’. About Indian Muslims, he said, it was too early to base policies ‘on the assumption of their loyalty’. While holding Jesus Christ in highest regard, he advised Indian Christians to mend their ways: ‘Their subsidized attempt to impose their creed on poor Hindus is repugnant’.38

RSS and Gandhi Gandhi called himself a Sanatani Hindu and was a staunch proponent of keeping the Hindu society united. The first formal interaction between Gandhi and Hedgewar took place during the RSS annual Wardha district winter camp in December 1934. Gandhi, living in an ashram nearby was invited to the camp. Along with Jamnalal Bajaj, Mira Behn, Mahadev Desai and others, Gandhi visited the camp on 24 December, where he was impressed by its ‘discipline, complete absence of untouchability and rigorous simplicity’.39 When Gandhi was asked by Appaji Joshi if he noticed any shortcoming in the organisation, he replied that it lay in the RSS not admitting people of other religions. Appaji clarified that since RSS was focussing on Hindu sangathan, therefore it was not admitting non-Hindus but then, he clarified, the Sangh did not nurse any hatred towards other religions.40 After the partition, as communal temper ran high in certain pockets, Golwalkar met Gandhi and Dinshaw Mehta on 12 September 1947. Gandhi mentioned various complaints about the Sangh which he had received in Calcutta and Delhi. Rejecting these complaints as untrue, Golwalkar assured Gandhi that the Sangh ‘was enemy to no man. It did not stand for the killing of Muslims. All it wanted to do was to protect Hindustan to the best of its ability. It stood for peace’. Though he (Golwalkar) could not vouchsafe for the correct behaviour of every member, he confirmed that the Sangh’s policy was ‘purely service of the Hindus and


Ideological initiatives and organizational forms

Hinduism and that too not at the cost of anyone else’. He clarified that the Sangh did not believe in aggression or retaliation, but nevertheless ‘it taught the art of self-defence’. He asked Gandhi to make his (Golwalkar’s) views public.41 In his speech at the RSS rally in the Harijan colony in Delhi a few days later on 16 September 1947, Gandhi concluded that the organization was ‘inspired by the ideal of service and self-sacrifice’, but in order to be truly useful, self-sacrifice had to be combined with purity of motive and true knowledge. Appreciating the prayer that was recited at the beginning in the praise of Mother India, Hindu culture and Hindu religion, Gandhi advised: Hinduism had absorbed the best of all the faiths of the world and in that sense it was not an exclusive religion. Hence it could have no quarrel with Islam or its followers. . . . It was an unfortunate fact that India had been divided into two parts. If one part went mad and did ugly deeds, was the other part to follow suit? There was no gain in returning evil for evil. Religion taught us to return good for evil. . . . The Sangh was a well-organized, well-disciplined body. Its strength could be used in the interest of India or against it.42 When the news of Gandhi’s assassination reached Golwalkar he was in Madras. He immediately flew to Nagpur the following morning and issued a press statement condemning the murder and calling for condign punishment.43 RSS was banned on 4 February 1948. Nehru thought that Gandhi’s murder was not an isolated business, but part of ‘a much larger campaign organized chiefly by the RSS’.44 Patel disagreed. He informed Nehru that the government was investigating every bit of information communicated to it through sources ‘known and unknown, real, anonymous or pseudonymous’ and had found ninety percent of it to be ‘just imagination’.45 He further emphasized that based on the statements of the main accused, it had clearly emerged that the RSS was not involved at all.46 After a ban was imposed on the RSS, a large number of its members were put in various jails across the states. D. P. Mishra, who was the home minister of Central Provinces at that time, records that around 20,000 workers of RSS were arrested immediately.47 Golwalkar who was held in Nagpur was freed on 7 August 1948. Soon after, he wrote to Nehru and Patel requesting for removal of a ‘hasty and unbalanced’ ban on the Sangh. He travelled to Delhi on 17 October, but his meetings with Patel produced no result as he refused to accept limitations on future Sangh activities. He was re-arrested on 14 November. But he had instructed Bhaiyaji Dani, the general secretary, to start a satyagraha protesting against the continuance of ban. Satyagraha began on 9 December with swayamsevaks resuming their regular activities, leading to more than 50,000 arrests. The satyagraha ended on 14 January 1949 once the mediation efforts led chiefly by T. R. Venkatarama Sastri, president of the Indian National Liberation Federation, started.48 In his interview with Venkatarama Sastri on the issue of framing a constitution for the organization, Golwalkar though agreeing to the proposal, clarified that the RSS had always given regard and honour to the national flag and that it would do so in the future.49 On 11 April 1949, Golwalkar sent to Patel copies of

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (1925–) 169 the written constitution of the RSS underlining that the terms of the written constitution were ‘substantially the same terms on which the Sangh work was carried on in the previous years’, and took this opportunity to highlight the work of the Sangh in welding the divided population in cultural bonds: I am painfully aware that the Government of India have viewed my words and attitude in general with suspicion; but time will show that my work of welding together in cultural bonds our loosely knit and largely divided population, by associating them in common pursuits and common discipline, will benefit the country as a whole and that my attitude is one of co-operation and goodwill to all and not one of conflict with any group.50 After the ban on the RSS had been lifted in July 1949, Patel clarified that he was himself keen to remove the ban at the earliest possible opportunity and had therefore issued instructions to this effect the very day that he received Golwalkar’s ‘final letter agreeing to some of the suggestions that we made and clarifying the position in other respects’.51 Venkatarama Sastri congratulated the government and Golwalkar. In his appeal to the government seeking lifting of the ban, Sastri had pointed to the work of the RSS in unifying the Hindu community: Living as I do in the midst of communalism in excelsis I cannot but feel that the RSS was doing good work in trying to weld the much divided Hindu community. It may also be helpful in concentrating other evils growing under our very eyes and requiring the attention of the Government.52 He stressed that the RSS had worked for over twenty years and the earlier governments in India had not found it necessary to take any action against that body: Even our Government saw no reason to taking action till the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi and a suspicion of their complicity in it and of their apprehended aim at other lives also. I take it that the suspicion has now been recognized to be without any real foundation.53 Between July and November 1949, Golwalkar was greeted by impressive gatherings on his tour to places like Delhi, Madras, Bombay, Calcutta, Patna, Lucknow, Benaras and Mysore. On 7 October 1949, while Nehru was abroad, the congress working committee decided to open its doors to the RSS workers. A. G. Kher, supporter of Patel and a minister in the UP government, defended the decision by stating that if the Congress doors were not open to the RSS workers, then those of them, who wished to join politics, might be compelled to join parties opposed to the Congress. D. P. Mishra also came out openly in support of this move, asking if Congressmen did not object to Jamiat-ul-Ulema’s members and ex-Muslim Leaguers being brought into the Congressional fold, then why should they oppose the entry of Sangh members. However, once Nehru returned, the working committee in its meeting on 17 November 1949 reversed its earlier decision. It invoked the


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party’s constitution to state that no Congressman could join any volunteer organization except those officially sponsored by the party like the Congress Seva Dal. Therefore, by implication, no member of RSS (which was also a volunteer organisation) could join the Congress party.54 The first major campaign in which RSS participated and took the lead after independence was organizing a signature campaign over the issue of cow protection. Andersen and Damle feel that this involvement boosted Sangh’s morale besides demonstrating capacity for mass action.55 Reiterating that the cow was held with reverence, Golwalkar underlined that ‘enthusing the masses with a national conscience would be possible only if their age-old faith was reawakened’. The petition sought total prohibition on cow slaughter ‘milch or dry, young or old, throughout the length and breadth of Bharat’. Protection of cow, he noted, would achieve an objective similar to the rebuilding of the Somnath temple which had aimed at ‘wiping out all sense of defeat and subjugation’.56 In this cause, he appealed for cooperation of people of all religions and sectarian persuasions and political beliefs.57

Keeping an eye on political developments The question of the role of RSS in politics never arose as intensely as it did during the emergency and afterwards when the Janata Party government headed towards a split on the question of dual-membership. Golwalkar was succeeded after his death in 1973 by Balasaheb Deoras. RSS was in sympathy with the call for total revolution given by JP. Deoras called JP a ‘saint’ who would ‘rescue society in dark and critical times’.58 This feeling was aptly reciprocated when, in his address to the trainee swayamsevaks at an RSS camp in Kozhikode on 13 May 1975, JP compared the work of the RSS with the aims and objectives of his movement in Bihar: Both are aimed at complete change in the society through a process of evolution of thought and action of the people for the betterment of the whole nation. Today in our country the maladies of casteism, economic inequality, deterioration in moral standards, corruption at all levels, unemployment etc. have reached an intolerable level. These evils cannot be rooted out by political action alone. The society has to be made acutely conscious of these evils and an intense desire for change created in every heart. It is an uphill task. Only, through love and affection can this be achieved.59 He also wished the minority communities to emulate the good qualities of the swayamsevaks like patriotism, discipline, equality, character, etc. He said that the Muslim and the Christian youths should also get the good training that the Sangh swayamsevaks got. Madhavaraoji Muley, sarkaryavaha, described JP as ‘one of the greatest sons of Bharat Mata’.60 Many prominent swayamsevak members of the BJS also joined the JP movement. After the emergency was clamped on 26 June 1975, Deoras was arrested on 30 June, and on 4 July, the RSS, along with

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (1925–) 171 many other organizations, were banned. After the revocation of the emergency and lifting of the ban and in the special circumstances that had emerged, RSS as ‘one-time exception’ decided to support the Janata party (in which the BJS had merged) during the 1977 elections.

Ideological premise: Hindu rashtra and Hindu unity The Sangh has premised its ideology on the belief of an essentially cultural basis of a timeless Indian nation and preparing the people of this land, commonly referred to as ‘Hindus’ in this sense, as pristine faithful of this nationhood. This ideological premise would be hollow without the conception of a band of committed volunteers or swayamsevaks who are expected, through their selfless and dedicated service, to strengthen this basis and take the movement forward. Hedgewar called Hindu culture ‘the life-breath’ of India. Therefore, if this culture perishes, then it would hardly be appropriate to refer to the ‘mere geographical entity that remains as Hindusthan’. Strength comes only through organisation, and thus it was the duty of every Hindu to consolidate the Hindu society. The Sangh, he underlined, was carrying out this ‘supreme task’.61 The term ‘Hindu’ is shown to have a wider connotation. In a recent conversation, a senior RSS functionary explained that the term ‘Hindu’ is synonymous with ‘Bharatiya’, denoting all those who live between the Himalayas and the Indian Ocean; but while the word ‘Bharatiya’ is more geographical, in ‘Hindu’, the spiritual expression becomes more effective.62 In the RSS ideological frame, India has existed as a nation since time immemorial. But it may be faced with new challenges during different ages. So the formulation that India emerged as a nation during the late nineteenth century is untrue, as this process is seen as nothing more than the nation confronted with new challenges. Similarly, Golwalkar rejected the Aryan versus Dravidian debate as artificial stating that people in the south were always considered Arya. Moreover, in India, ‘Arya’ is a measure of culture and not the name of a race.63 He ridiculed the idea of India being a ‘nation in the making’ and stressed that Bharatvarsh had been a nation or rashtra since Vedic times.64 He made it clear that the Hindu rashtra is not merely a ‘political and economic’ concept but it is fundamentally cultural in nature.65 The constitution of the RSS written in 1949 reduced to writing its basic philosophy. The very first line of its preamble – ‘to eradicate the fissiparous tendencies arising from diversities of sect, faith, caste, creed and from political, economic, linguistic and provincial differences amongst Hindus’ outlined the aim which Hedgewar had so passionately propagated. At one level it recognized the existence of such differences which had creeped in over thousands of years, and at another, it underlined that this was the primary reason why the Sangh was required in the first place. The next lines point to the methods required to achieve such a unity, i.e. to make Hindus realize the greatness of their past and to inculcate in them a spirit of service, sacrifice and selfless devotion to the Hindu samaj or society as a whole; to build up an organized and well-disciplined corporate life,


Ideological initiatives and organizational forms

and to bring about an all-round regeneration of the Hindu society on the basis of dharma and sanskriti. These terms and phrases frequent the RSS discourse. While dharma constitutes the larger moral order which is desirable to be ingrained in every part of society and nation, sanskriti points to the cultural uniqueness of the age-old ‘Hindu civilization’. Though the term Hindu rashtra does not figure explicitly in the RSS constitution, it is an important theme in the prayer that is recited by swayamsevaks in shakhas.66 This prayer – ‘namaste sada vatsale matribhume’ is offered to the motherland before whom children of this Hindu nation bow in reverence; it also seeks her blessings in empowering the organized power of action to protect dharma and lead the nation to the pinnacle of glory.67 It ends with the line ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ or glory to Mother India. Lack of dogma in Hinduism is shown to make it elastic, contributing to its survival through the ages. It also enables some of its characteristic features to be adopted conveniently by the followers of other religions. When asked if lack of dogma or fanaticism is a threat to Hindus who want to preserve their culture, H. V. Sheshadri, Akhil Bharatiya Prachar Pramukh, replied that on the contrary it is the reason for its strength: Because Hinduism (or Hindu way of life) is elastic, we are able to absorb and assimilate new ideas. We have been able to assimilate so many forms of worship, so many varieties of approach to God and so many cultural diversities that they have been brought altogether in a harmonious whole. . . . If Hinduism had been only fanatical or dogmatic, it would not have been in existence for so many thousands of years. Hinduism offers the greatest spiritual and cultural freedom to mankind. There is no contradiction in it. Even a Muslim or a Christian can subscribe to Hindu view, for example, the Yoga which is very popular worldwide. Christians, Muslims and Jews are all taking to Raja Yoga which is a harmonious way of life. So also is Bhakti Yoga, the path of devotion, or Karmayoga, the path of detached action.68 It is shown that the Sangh’s philosophy is also equally undogmatic. Deoras announced that the Sangh is idea-centred and not leader-centred.69 In his recent speech in Delhi in September 2018, Mohan Bhagwat, the sarsanghchalak, emphasized: ‘Sangh is not a dogmatic organization. Time changes and, accordingly our thoughts transform. In fact, it was only Dr. Hedgewar who said we were free to try to adapt to times as they change’. He underlined that if an idea was based on peculiar circumstances of the time, then it must change once the circumstances change.70 In the RSS paradigm, achieving national integration and strengthening it further is a vital objective. Addressing swayamsevaks in Hyderabad in December 1984, Deoras stressed that complete national integration could be achieved only when all countrymen, irrespective of religion and region, developed love for their motherland and were prepared to make supreme sacrifice for it. He underlined that the areas which were once in India like Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh were lost because the Hindus became a minority in these areas, and therefore, ‘to

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (1925–) 173 save our borders from shrinking further, it must be ensured that the Hindus did not become a minority in any area of what is left of India’. ‘Hindu’, he clarified, may practice any religion, but more fundamental aspect is that he has roots in this land or has assimilated into the Indian mainstream. He, however, also underlined that democracy, socialism and secularism were possible only till the country remained a ‘Hindu Rashtra’. Unity of Hindus alone would lead to a strong and united India, and for that to happen, defects like untouchability, caste system and ‘faulty leadership’ that had crept into the Hindu society must be overcome.71 India is seen as the natural homeland for the Hindu community. If Hindus outside the country are persecuted, then they would turn to India only. In this respect, Hindus would be considered genuine refugees. After a tour of Assam and amidst growing problem of infiltration from across the Bangladesh border, Deoras explained that the problem in Assam was due to Muslim infiltrators and not the Hindus whether they may come from Bangladesh or from different states of India. In his opinion, the natural homeland for Hindus all over the world is India or Hindusthan: If the Hindus of England, America, Canada or Kenya have been put to persecution or tortured or deported, where can they go? They will naturally come to India and we are morally responsible to rehabilitate them in our country. For Bangladeshi Hindus, our responsibility is even greater, because they are victims of partition. Therefore, Hindus and Muslims coming from that part of the land cannot be considered at par. They belong to two very different categories.72

RSS festivals The RSS cadres have come to celebrate six festivals through the year which are based on the ancient Vikram samvat or calendar starting in 57 BCE. This celebration is supposed to imbue them with a sense of attachment to the Hindu cultural system besides inculcating good sanskaras or value system.73 The first day of the year, which is celebrated in different cultural regions with different names, is celebrated by the RSS as varsha pratipada. Incidentally, Hedgewar was also born on this day, so the event has a special emotional connection too. The second festival is Hindu Samrajya Dinotsav (celebration of Hindu empire) commemorating the coronation of Shivaji in 1674. The seventeenth-century Maratha ruler is held with special reverence in the Hindu nationalist discourse, more for his stiff opposition to the Mughal ruler Aurangzeb, who is generally perceived as a religious bigot and staunchly anti-Hindu. Recounting the losses suffered by Hindu kings during the medieval period, and the beginning of Hindu resurgence after the coming of Shivaji, Savarkar wrote in 1925: ‘Never again had the Hindu flag to bend before the Muhammadan crescent’.74 The most solemn festival for the RSS cadre is the Guru Poojan (the worship of the Guru) on the Guru Purnima day where the RSS saffron flag, seen as the ‘emblem of the cultural nationhood of India’, is worshipped. Members contribute according to their capacity, which


Ideological initiatives and organizational forms

in turn becomes the source of funds meant to keep the organisation running. This unique innovation of guru-dakshina was started by Hedgewar in 1928 and echoes the ancient education system where the pupil paid his gratitude to the mentor at the end of his training. Other festivals are also drawn directly from the Hindu ritual system like the Vijayadashami – in commemoration of the noble traditions of victory over evil. This day also coincides with the birth of the organization. Makar Sankranti, a rare Hindu festival based on the solar cycle and signifying transition from darkness to light, also forms an important celebration. Raksha Bandhan (symbol of protection) denotes importance of brotherhood and family system. Swayamsevaks tie rakhi to the RSS flag symbolizing resolve to protect dharma and Hindu culture. On other occasions, RSS cadres use it for achieving greater unity among Hindus.

Twin pillars: shakhas and pracharaks Shakha (branch) is the organ through which the Sangh trains its primary-level workers and reaches out to people. It forms the primary mode of training and spreading the Sangh’s message. Over the years its number has gone above fifty thousand with Kerala accounting for the maximum of more than five thousand.75 The ‘most important link in the organizational chain of the RSS’, the shakha is held daily for an hour under the instruction of mukhya shikshak (chief instructor) at the appointed time and may continue for a number of years at the same place. Besides working to weld participants into a brotherhood irrespective of caste or class, it trains them into wielding a lathi (bamboo stick). It puts stress on inculcation of new sanskaras. The RSS flag is saluted before the start and at the end. Discussions are held to enable them to imbibe the Sangh ideology.76 For the purpose of organizing shakhas, the country is divided into provinces, districts, town and villages. They also serve an important purpose of public contact or communication (lok-sampark). An area under a particular shakha is in turn divided into different gatas (sub-sectors) – each under one worker called gata-nayaka who with his close relationship to the area mobilizes people to the daily shakhas and other gatherings of the Sangh, thus turning them into swayamsevaks.77 Each centre or shakha is financially a self-contained unit which receives its own finances and manages its own financial disbursement. According to the RSS constitution, any male Hindu of 18 years or above, who subscribes to the aims and objects of the Sangh, and conforms ‘generally’ to its discipline and associates himself with the activities of the shakha, is considered a swayamsevak.78 The second pillar of the organizational and ideological edifice of the RSS is the institution of full-time trained workers called pracharaks (those who spread the message). They are selected from amongst swayamsevaks of ‘high integrity’ with an avowed mission to serve the society through the Sangh. A pracharak is appointed through a rigorous process – the general secretary or sarkaryavaha appoints prant-pracharaks (at provincial level) on the advice of Akhil Bharatiya Prachar Pramukh and in consultation with the sanghchalak of the concerned province. At the regional and local level, pracharaks are appointed by the prant sanghchalak on

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (1925–) 175 the advice of prant pracharak. These local level pracharaks assist and coordinate shakhas in their respective areas.79 The institution emerged from the need to send trained workers to different parts of the country to start the Sangh work. There were around a hundred pracharaks when Hedgewar passed away, increasing to around a thousand by 1980, reaching to more than six thousand currently.80 A pracharak would often leave home early in life, undergo internal training at various levels and then be assigned to a place or region for spreading the work of the Sangh. He is not paid any salary or honorarium and is expected to work with single-minded devotion. His expenses are born by the shakha. He is not considered an office bearer, does not have any formal powers and nor any control over funds. There is no salutation to a pracharak at a shakha. Yet, with his sheer devotion and seeming renunciation of worldly ties, he exercises considerable moral authority in the system. It begins with a commitment of a minimum of three to four years and may then last for the entire lifetime, with flexibility to resume normal non-pracharak life at any time. He may be deputed to any area or assigned to any sister organisation, e.g. Upadhyaya, Vajpayee, Advani, Deshmukh, Bhandari and others were deputed to work for the BJS; Eknath Ranade took up the work of Vivekananda Rock memorial; Dadasaheb Apte was assigned to the VHP.81 A shorter version of the institution of pracharak is that of vistarak (the one who helps expand) whose commitment may range from a few months to a year. Hedgewar raised a band of pracharaks, including Balasaheb Deoras, Madhavrao Mule, Eknath Ranade, Babasaheb Apte, Moropant Pingale, Bhausaheb Bhuskute, Yadavrao Joshi, Bhaurao Deoras, Bhaiyaji Dani, Dada Rao Parmarth and others. Dina Nath Mishra outlines its significance: The pracharaka system is the bedrock on which the Sangh stands. . . . A high sense of dedication and sacrifice, and strict discipline and self-denial is necessary to become a pracharaka. If there is one system which has made the greatest development of the Sangh into what it is today, it is the system of pracharakas.82

Social service and expanding through affiliates Article 8 of the RSS constitution outlines the programmes which its shakhas may undertake. This includes activities for the welfare of the public like medical care, literacy, improving living condition of the poor, organizing flood and famine relief or advancement of other objects of general public utility, but ‘not involving carrying on of activity for profit’. During many natural calamities, like floods or earthquakes, RSS workers have come to aid. Deoras recalled how during the invasion of Kashmir in 1947, swayamsevaks had defended and kept open the Srinagar aerodrome for a few crucial hours. Then, again in 1962, RSS did national service at the time of the Chinese attack.83 In appreciation of this service, Nehru invited it to the Republic Day parade in 1963 when a 3,000-strong contingent of swayamsevaks participated in uniform.


Ideological initiatives and organizational forms

Nana Deshmukh recalled how Lal Bahadur Shastri was impressed by the organisation’s discipline and that even JP said that total revolution could gain no momentum without the RSS’s support.84 Vajpayee in a long article appreciated the social services rendered by the RSS: The kind of selfless service that the RSS has rendered in times of natural calamities has endeared it even to its critics and has established beyond doubt its capacity for constructive work for ameliorating the suffering of those who are in need of help.85 Indira Gandhi came back to power after the 1980 elections. Deoras was asked if there was any possibility of the RSS cooperating with her. He replied that the RSS could ‘cooperate with every one for the good of the country. . . . Whether anyone asks us for it or not, it is our duty to serve the nation’.86 Apart from the core of its shakha network, the Sangh has over the years helped to set up affiliates which interact more closely or rather openly with the public on issues related to them. While some are directly attached to the Sangh, others could be loosely connected and in broader agreement with its philosophy. Sangh loans out its senior workers to these organisations for specific periods. This mechanism guides the affiliates to function in tune with the Sangh’s basic philosophy, apart from facilitating regular contacts between the two. The fields covered are varied – students, teachers, schools, labour unions, women, swadeshi, education, science, fine arts and culture, history-writing, world Hindus, etc. These are ever growing in numbers. The earliest affiliate, Rashtra Sevika Samiti (National Women Volunteers Committee), was founded in 1936 by Lakshmibai Kelkar (or Mousiji) in close consultation with Hedgewar. She continued to be its head, or pramukh sanchalika, till she passed away in 1978. This institution is an attempt to complement the all-male swayamsevak system of the RSS. Kelkar argued that women also needed to be trained in the RSS ideology both for their empowerment and to enable them to play a more meaningful role in the society. But as compared to the RSS, its initial progress was slow. By 1951, it had spread only to Maharashtra, Delhi and Punjab. However, by 1980, it had spread to most parts of the country. The organization does not hire RSS pracharaks but instead trains its own counterparts – the pracharikas, who lead an equally simple and austere life. The growing communist presence among students and factory workers invited the Sangh’s attention during the late 1940s and 50s. During the ban of 1948–49, many student groups in Delhi and the Punjab having RSS workers and sympathizers came together to found the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) on 9 July 1949 to work among students in the universities and colleges. The Parishad aims to ‘build an ideal student movement’ functioning within the ‘wider context of national reconstruction’.87 Gradually, as it got involved in the students’ union politics, its membership also increased. By 1973, it had entered around a hundred universities across the country. Its popularity further increased before and during the emergency as it aligned with the JP movement.

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (1925–) 177 Dattopant Thengadi, an RSS pracharak and a labour unionist, laid the foundation of the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) in July 1955 which grew rapidly during the 1960s. BMS believed that the concept of a class struggle was antithetical to the spirit of Indian culture. Thengadi underlined that both capitalism and communism, through their emphasis on material conditions, were incapable of addressing the deeper inner needs of individuals.88 With its emphasis on character-building, some RSS leaders saw the need to get the young minds exposed to the essence of Hindu culture and its way of life. In 1946, Golwalkar inaugurated the Gita school in Kurukshetra in Haryana. Hindu Shiksha Samiti was set up in 1947 under whose aegis Shishu Mandirs came up in UP, Delhi, Himachal, Haryana and Punjab.89 The first school in this series was set up in 1952 at Gorakhpur in UP through the initiative of Nana Deshmukh to provide a ‘Hindu orientation’ to the educational experience.90 When the number of such schools at various levels increased, a central umbrella organisation called Vidya Bharati or Akhil Bharatiya Shiksha Sansthan was established in 1978. From 1978 to 2016, the number of schools affiliated to Vidya Bharati increased from 700 to a massive 13,000 with more than three million students.91 A significant initiative has been the setting up and expansion of work among the tribal communities who are referred to as vanvasis or forest dwellers in the Sangh lexicon. The Sangh took cognizance of the increasing missionary activities among tribals and also their conversion to Christianity. Kalyan Ashram was set up in Jashpur in Chhattisgarh in 1952 by Balasaheb Deshpande on the border of Bihar and Orissa to not only counter this mechanism, but also to achieve their greater social assimilation with the mainstream. Gradually, the Ashram set up a large number of schools, dispensaries, trade and agriculture training centres, student hostels, orphanages, etc. to educationally and economically uplift these groups. In 1977, an umbrella organization – Akhil Bharatiya Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram – was set up to coordinate the work among tribals. The motto of the Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram – Tu-main ek rakt (You-me one blood) signifies attempts at social and cultural integration by focusing on common origin. It aims at strengthening the faith, culture, traditions and rituals of tribals and to show how these form an integral part of the great Hindu culture – a living example of its diversity. Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP or the World Hindu Council) was founded in August 1964 with Shivram Shankar Apte (Dadasaheb Apte), an RSS pracharak, as general secretary. It was supposed to facilitate a uniform position on ecclesiastical matters concerning Hindus, consolidate Hindu society, spread Hindu values and ethics, connect with Hindus outside the country and popularize the Sangh ideology among them. It also worked to unify different Hindu organisations working in countries with Hindu population. VHP also focused on regions susceptible to Christian conversions, especially in the northeast. By 1981, it had set up around 3,000 branches across the country.92 Mass conversions of some Hindu groups in a Tamil Nadu village in early 1981 sparked a big debate. In March 1981, the VHP formed a Marg Darshak Mandal – a group of religious leaders to show the correct path about Hindu philosophical thought and code of conduct. In the following year, this group established a Dharma Sansad – a body of Hindu


Ideological initiatives and organizational forms

religious leaders to deliberate and formulate opinion on social and political problems concerning the community. In January 1983, the VHP launched a campaign to collect money to work among groups considered vulnerable to conversion. Then followed towards the end of 1983, a month-long, countrywide procession, named the Ekatmata yagna (the rite for achieving integration). The various processions marching along three main routes, carrying portraits of Bharat Mata and urns with water from the holy Ganges converged at Nagpur, the RSS headquarters. Fresh from its success in this yagna, the VHP launched its demand for the restoration of Ram Janmabhoomi at Ayodhya, a campaign that continues to this day. There are various other initiatives taken up by the Sangh leaders, with the intention to unleash a Hindu cultural renaissance. Eknath Ranade, a senior RSS leader, established the Vivekananda Rock Memorial at Kanya Kumari after years of hard work during 1960s, and several centres after Vivekananda’s name to work among the backward and marginal sections of the society. Similarly, the Sanskar Bharati – an institution set up in 1981 aims to extend the RSS ideology in the field of fine arts and culture by preserving and popularizing Indian art and cultural forms. Samskrita Bharati attempts to popularize the learning of Sanskrit, with emphasis on enhancing its linguistic proficiency. Akhil Bharatiya Itihas Sankalan Yojana (ABISY) is an ambitious scheme started in 1970s which aims to correct biases and distortions in the writing of Indian history, and approach it with a nationalist perspective.

Concluding observations Closing in on its centenary, RSS has come a long way. Though the electoral victories of the BJS or the BJP have occasionally brought the Sangh to the limelight, it hardly wishes to be evaluated on this parameter. Talking of social evaluation of the organization by people from outside, Deoras suggested that the Sangh be judged on the basis of social and cultural work and not on electoral votes or seats secured: ‘Our work is to promote social unity, Hindu solidarity. You have to see whether differences or evils like provincialism, casteism, linguism, etc. have lessened because of our work or not’.93 Its success so far has been largely due to enforcing strong internal discipline, inculcating idea of selfless service and advocating an unshakable faith in the inviolability of the mother nation. The core of the Sangh wishes to work ‘faceless’ devoid of any publicity, but with ever-expanding electronic and social media, the situation may not be tailor-made for such thinking. Staying aloof may breed further misinformation, while focusing too much on media and publicity may be alien to the core belief of the Sangh. Another challenge would lay in taking along affiliates or organisations, sharing the Sangh’s philosophy, consistently in a common direction. Further, with expansion of the RSS as also of its affiliates, along with the fact that the BJP is in power at the centre and in a large number of states, it would also be a challenge to monitor any potential misuse of office. It may be pertinent to mention Golwalkar’s thought on the issue. He made it clear that the Sangh never depended

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (1925–) 179 on government for its work: ‘Governments may come and Governments may go, but the Sangha must go on till it has fulfilled its aim, undeterred by the frowns or favours of the Government’. He also advised swayamsevaks who had become ministers in the provincial governments that came to power in 1967 following the Congress defeat: ‘Nobody should entertain the notion that they are infallible and incorruptible. Power can corrupt’.94 The scene had undergone a sea-change as days passed, as we will see in the following pages. That the RSS is exclusively a Hindu-centric organization was justified with reference to Golwalkar’s ‘iron-clad definition of nationhood that delineated the nation into two classes: Hindu citizens with rights and other who had no entitlements and lived under sufferance’.95 In course of time, it was realized by the leadership that it would not work in India given her well-entrenched diversity which was manifested with the ceasing of publicity of Golwalkar’s We or Our Nationhood Defined and formally disowning some of his extreme views. Two of the Hindu nationalists, Savarkar and Syama Prasad Mookerjee, expressed their disagreement with the way Guruji preferred to guide the RSS. This was manifested in the first meeting of the Jana Sangh executive committee following the formation of the party on 21 October, 1951 when Mookerjee, the founder, minced no words for the RSS for its exclusionary character. That the RSS has metamorphosed is beyond doubt and it will therefore be theoretically myopic to comprehend the organization in the traditional conceptual mould. It is, of course, an obvious point because if the context in which the organization is located changes, the organization is bound to change; otherwise, it is likely to fade away as it has happened with regard to those organizations that completely lost out in the transformed socioeconomic milieu. The Hindu Mahasabha is illustrative here. Despite being led by popular leaders like V. D. Savarkar (1883–1966), Madan Mohan Malviya (1861–1946) and B. S. Moonje (1872–1948), among others, the Hindu Mahasabha no longer remains the force that it was in the context of India’s freedom struggle. Here is the point that the RSS not only survived but also flourished in independent India in adverse circumstances especially in the aftermath of Gandhi’s assassination in 1948 when its leading members were incarcerated for their alleged involvement in the act. How can this be explained? Although at the risk of repetition, this concluding section highlights the following three points just to reiterate the contention that the RSS, being receptive to change, seems to have imbibed the spirit in which the widely-hyped glasnost approach to politics is articulated. It is therefore not surprising that in his 2018 Delhi speech, Mohan Bhagwat, the RSS chief, exhorted, while identifying his ideological priorities, that ‘Hindutva binds us together, and our vision of Hindutva is not to oppose or demean anyone’.96 Opposed to the argument accusing the RSS of creating ‘a Hindu Pakistan’ or ‘a Hindu Taliban’, Bhagwat further elaborated the point by saying that: the RSS respects all differences and tries to create a bhed-rahit Samaj [division-free society] that works towards a common purpose of society building. The aim is to make citizens compassionate, capable and competent,


Ideological initiatives and organizational forms leading to the creation and consolidation of a strong nation. A society that is divisive, discordant and feuding within itself can never contribute towards nation-building. The aim of the RSS is therefore to find congruity amid incongruity through certain binding values such as pluralism, self-sacrifice and spirit of co-existence that find expression in Hinduism.97

The idea is clear. Being keen to expand its sphere of influence across strata and regions, the RSS chief devises a design seeking to accommodate even people with conflicting sociopolitical views. This also confirms that the RSS is now reconciled to the fact that due to India being socioculturally diverse, the sectarian ideological priorities have no place; this will, in fact, be a deterrent to the RSS outreach plans. Reinforcing the point, he further stated that: our vision is to strengthen the society which will take the nation forward. Community feeling is the basis of Sangh ideology. Our Swayamsevaks do a lot of good work, but we do not propagate their names. Every citizen must work for the nation selflessly, because it is the duty of all of us to give back to the nation in whatever way possible.98 The primary task is to build the nation which is possible with the strengthening of the society. Conceptually, the point has resonances of what his predecessors had said. What is different is his emphasis on creating a social template welcoming people with different religious identities so long as they contribute to the building of a strong India. Furthermore, by being appreciative of the 1950 Constitution which the RSS ideologues had rejected in the past for being exclusively derivative of the non-Indian intellectual sources, the RSS reflects another fundamental change in its perception which the RSS supremo articulated when he stated that ‘we respect the Indian Constitution because (a) a lot of thought has gone into its making, and (b) it was done through consensus’.99 This brief exposition of the 2018 Delhi speech by the RSS chief gives us enough inputs to substantiate the claim that, in its new form, the RSS has recreated its own template to expand its organization across the strata and regions by couching its ideological appeal in a language and design which is acceptable to all regardless of religion, class and clan. There are reasons to believe that such an RSS endeavour has worked in its favour, as the 2019 poll results confirm: the RSS-backed BJP which had hardly had a support base in areas other than north India is now a pan-Indian political party with its organizational tentacles spread out in India as a whole. A perusal of the activities that the RSS has undertaken in recent years reveals that it is now less catholic in its approach to sociopolitical issues. One of the areas where change is visible is in the RSS membership drive; instead of being confined to its traditional support base (mainly the upper castes) in north India, it has now expanded to other parts of the country. Its membership has been far more diverse than in the past; it is less Brahmanical both ideologically and in also membership. For the RSS, which has been traditionally a social organization, ‘political power is a necessary but not sufficient, means to achieve the desired

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (1925–) 181 bottom-up social change’.100 What is clear now is that by being integrally connected with governance (though indirectly), the RSS plays a critical role in shaping its nature and also texture in two ways: on the one hand, that the important ministers in the NDA government are former RSS activists creates an ambience in which the RSS priorities are likely to be upheld; on the other, by placing their members who act as bridges between the RSS and the government, the RSS maintains a vigil on what the government does. So, the RSS-government relationship is very intimate. This is an important aspect which is highlighted here to argue that RSS is a significant player in India’s governance today. There are critics who point that the present NDA government is being directed by a distant power centre, located in Nagpur, the RSS headquarter. The charge may have substance, though it is defended by drawing attention to the critical role that the RSS discharges in connecting the governed with governance and vice versa. So, the RSS can be said to have acted purposefully by giving inputs for evolving appropriate policy designs. There were occasions when the RSS intervention, instead of being empowering, was a constraint which however was addressed judiciously by those, both in the government and RSS, responsible for creating a milieu in which the government functioned smoothly. In view of the visible changes within the RSS, one can safely conclude that it is not merely an organization with clear historical roots, but also an ideological mission for redefining the idea of India by reference to India’s indigenous politicoideological traditions. In view of its emphasis on learning from India’s historical past, the RSS can be said to have accelerated the momentum that the nationalist Indians seem to have lost owing to the hegemonic grip of the derivative Western discourses. Furthermore, by insisting that only through inclusive governance, the national objective of making India strong as a nation can be realized, the RSS put forward a new ideological design which was not generally encouraged in the past presumably because of the reluctance of its leadership to shake off its orthodoxy. The 2018 Delhi speech of the RSS supremo and the policy input that it has provided to the NDA government so far clearly demonstrates that the present RSS cannot be understood, let alone conceptualized, in the format of the received wisdom since it has reinvented its character, approach and also those foundational values which were responsible for consolidating its exclusionary nature.

Notes 1 Mohan Bhagwat, ‘All Indians Are Hindus’, The Hindu, New Delhi, 26 February 2018. 2 Mohan Bhagwat’s speech, Firstpost, New Delhi, 17 July, 2018, available in www. firstpost.com/india/mohan-bhagwats-speech-a-treatise-in-syncretism-and-liberalismexposes-the-lies-insecurity-and-bigotry-of-rss-haters-5203371.html 3 Mohan Bhagwat’s Vigyan Bhawan speech, 17 September, 2018, The Economic Times, New Delhi, 18 September 2018. 4 See for instance the comments of Dina Nath Mishra (a Swayamsevak and former editor of Panchjanya): ‘The Sangh has always been an informal organization. Paperwork, maintenance of registers, passing of resolutions, maintenance of members’ lists and so on have been handled in an informal manner. And this informality has been deliberate. It is in accordance with this view of things that the office-bearers were not


5 6 7

8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30

Ideological initiatives and organizational forms selected through formal elections, at least before 1950. This does not mean, however, that no account was taken of the view of members while the responsibilities of an office are assigned to a worker. On the contrary, consultations were held with workers, and perhaps no democratic institution consults its members in the manner in which the Sangh does’. Dina Nath Mishra, The RSS: Myth and Reality, Vikas Publishing, New Delhi, 1980, p. 64. K.R. Malkani, The RSS Story, Impex India, New Delhi, 1980, p. x. Malkani quotes Golwalkar who said: ‘RSS is the only organisation that works in the open. It is the only organisation that functions daily on open public grounds.’ Organiser, 3 July 1947. The title of two works by RSS leaders published in 1980 – one by K. R. Malkani (The RSS Story) and another by Dina Nath Mishra (RSS: Myth and Reality), reflect growing anxiety on their part to inform the outside world about the organization – its history, ideology and activities. A recent work by Andersen and Damle (The RSS: A View to the Inside) and another by an RSS insider Ratan Sharda (RSS 360˚: Demystifying Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) point in a similar direction. Malkani, RSS Story, p. 16. Jean A. Curran, Militant Hinduism in Indian Politics: A Study of the RSS, International Secretariat, Institute of Pacific Affairs, New York, 1951, p. 9. Weekly report of the Director of Criminal Intelligence, 16 April 1910, Home (Political) Files, June 1910, Nos. 17–25, B, National Archives of India (hereafter, NAI), p. 15. Christophe Jaffrelot, The Hindu Nationalist Movement and Indian Politics 1925 to 1990s: Strategy of Identity Building, Implantation and Mobilization (with special reference to Central India), Hurst & Company, London, 1996, p. 33. Curran, Militant Hinduism in Indian Politics, p. 10; During this period, Hedgewar also devoted considerable time to the Ram Krishna Mission in organizing relief work for victims of the flooding of the Damodar river. S.P. Sen (ed.), Dictionary of National Biography, Vol. II, Institute of Historical Studies, Calcutta, 1973–74, p. 161. Malkani, RSS Story, p. 8. Curran, Militant Hinduism, pp. 10–11. Walter Andersen and Sridhar Damle, The Brotherhood in Saffron: The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and Hindu Revivalism, Westview Press, Boulder & London, 1987, p. 32. Andersen and Damle, Brotherhood in Saffron, pp. 33–4. Andersen and Damle also feel that though Hindutva provided Hedgewar with intellectual justification for the concept of a Hindu nation, it failed to provide him a method for uniting the Hindus. Andersen and Damle, Brotherhood in Saffron, p. 34. Malkani, RSS Story, p. 15. Ibid., p. 15. Walter K. Anderson and Shridhar D. Damle, The RSS: A View to the Inside, Penguin, Gurgaon, 2018, Appendix IX, pp. 273–4. Dina Nath Mishra, RSS: Myth and Reality, p. 5. Malkani, RSS Story, pp. 21–3. Ibid., p. 34. Andersen and Damle, Brotherhood in Saffron, p. 38. Christophe Jaffrelot, Hindu Nationalist Movement and Indian Politics 1925 to 1990s, p. 66. ‘Dr. Hedgewar: The Epoch Maker’, http://rss.org/Encyc/2015/8/8/334_12_29_25_ Dr.Hedgewar_The_Epoch_Maker.pdf (accessed on 8 July 2019). Jaffrelot, Hindu Nationalist Movement and Indian Politics 1925 to 1990s, pp. 65–6. Walter Andersen, ‘The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh-I’, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 7, No. 11, 11 March 1972, pp. 589–97. Jaffrelot, Hindu Nationalist Movement and Indian Politics 1925 to 1990s, pp. 67–8.

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (1925–) 183 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40

41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54

55 56

Curran, Militant Hinduism in Indian Politics, p. 14. Malkani, RSS Story, p. 40. Andersen and Damle, Brotherhood in Saffron, p. 41. Curran, Militant Hinduism in Indian Politics, p. 15. Ibid., p. 16. Organiser, 3 July 1947. Ibid. Golwalkar’s address in Agra, 27 November 1951, Organiser, 3 December 1951. Gandhi referred to this meeting in his address to the RSS workers in Delhi on 16 September 1947, Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol. 89, Publications Division, New Delhi, 1983, pp. 193–5. Also see Malkani, The RSS Story, pp. 25–6. Malkani, RSS Story, pp. 25–6. After looking at the pictures of Ram, Krishna, Shivaji, Pratap and Govind Singh, Gandhi asked if they did not consider Shankar or Ganapati as gods. He was informed that they were displaying pictures of ‘heroes’ and not of ‘gods’. Gandhi referred to this meeting in his Prayer Speech on the same evening, and again in his address to the RSS workers in Delhi on 16 September 1947. Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol. 89, pp. 177, 193–5. Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol. 89, pp. 193–5. Malkani, RSS Story, p. 50. Rajmohan Gandhi, Patel: A Life, Navajivan Publishing House, Ahmedabad, 1991, p. 471. Patel to Nehru, 27 February 1948, Prabha Chopra (ed.), The Collected Works of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Vol. XIII, Konark Publishers, Delhi, 1998, pp. 98–9. Chopra (ed.), The Collected Works of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Vol. XIII, pp. 98–9; Gandhi, Patel: A Life, p. 472. D.P. Mishra, The Nehru Epoch: From Democracy to Monocracy, Vikash Publishing, Delhi, 1978, p. 59. For further details see Curran, Militant Hinduism in Indian Politics, pp. 20–1; Andersen and Damle, Brotherhood in Saffron, pp. 50–5. Mishra, The Nehru Epoch, pp. 67–8. Ibid., pp. 69–70. Patel to Venkatarama Sastri, 16 July 1949, Chopra (ed.), The Collected Works of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Vol. XIV, p. 187. Hindustan Times, 14 July 1949. Hindustan Times, 14 July 1949. Curran, Militant Hinduism in Indian Politics, pp. 65–6; Andersen and Damle, Brotherhood in Saffron, pp. 55–6. This episode also finds mention in the Sangh’s literature. When in February 1980, Deoras was asked if any swayamsevak was a member of the Congress-I, he replied that how could a swayamsevak go to those who criticized the Sangh. Though the 1949 constitution allowed a swayamsevak to join a party, it did not mean that he must go to a political party: ‘But where can he go? He will go only to the party which welcomes him. If a party does not want him, what is his fault? Immediately after the 1948 ban was lifted, the then Home Minister, Sardar Patel, had expressed a desire that the Sangh (members) should join the Congress. He had correspondence with later revered Guruji. The matter came before the Congress Working Committee. At that time Nehruji had gone abroad to attend the Commonwealth Conference. There was a consensus in the CWC in its favour. But when Nehruji came back, he disapproved of it. The matter went to the working committee again and this time it was decided that the RSS Swayamsevaks could not join the Congress’. Press conference of Deoras in Ahmedabad, 12 February 1980, Organiser, 9 March 1980. Andersen and Damle, Brotherhood in Saffron, pp. 112–13. Around 17 million signatures were collected. See Andersen and Damle, The RSS: A View to the Inside, Penguin Viking, Gurgaon, 2018, p. 176. Organiser, 20 October 1952.

184 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64

65 66

67 68 69 70 71 72

73 74

75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83

84 85 86

Ideological initiatives and organizational forms Organiser, 27 October 1952. Andersen and Damle, Brotherhood in Saffron, p. 211. Organiser, 24 May 1975. Ibid. http://rss.org/Encyc/2012/10/22/rss-vision-and-mission.html (accessed on 10 July 2019). Krishna Gopal, Indian Express, New Delhi, 19 June 2019. Malkani, RSS Story, p. 62. He thought that a proper history of India had not yet been written: ‘It is ridiculous to divide our national history into Hindu period, Muslim period and British period. History can’t be named after rulers; a proper history has to be a history of the people. And so our entire history is Hindu history’. Malkani, The RSS Story, pp. 42–3. Dina Nath Mishra, RSS: Myth and Reality, p. 101. The prayer in Sanskrit was written by Narahari Narayan Bhide under the guidance of Hedgewar and Golwalkar in 1940, and first sung by Yadav Rao Joshi, pracharak, on 18 May 1940 in Sangh Shiksha Varg held in Nagpur. https://samvada.org/2015/ news/75-years-for-rss-prarthana/ (accessed on 10 July 2019). Ratan Sharda, RSS 360˚: Demystifying Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, Bloomsbury, New Delhi, 2018, pp. 91–3. Sheshadri was interviewed by the BBC Radio Service Manchester on 28 August 1984. He was in Manchester to attend the Hindu Sangam held on 25–27 August. Organiser, 7 April 1985. Address by Deoras at the Constitution Club, New Delhi, November 1973, Malkani, RSS Story, p. 89. Times of India, New Delhi, 19 September 2018. Organiser, 23 December 1984. Organiser, 20 April 1980; Deoras said that it was necessary to mark a base year for ascertaining the Indian citizenship of a particular person who belongs to Muslim community: ‘But for Hindus there is no such need as they are “refugees”, forced out of Bangladesh’. For the details of festivals celebrated by the RSS, see Dina Nath Mishra, RSS: Myth and Reality, pp. 60–2 and Ratan Sharda, RSS 360˚, pp. 115–20. Veer Damodar Savarkar, Hindu-Pad-Padashahi or A Critical Review of the Hindu Empire of Maharashtra, B.G. Paul & Co, Madras, 1925, p. 2. Purpose of celebrating this coronation, Dina Nath Mishra notes, is ‘to erode the defeatist tendencies which generally creep in by a wrong teaching of history’. Dina Nath Mishra, RSS: Myth and Reality, p. 60. Ratan Sharda, RSS 360˚, p. 97. Dinanath Mishra, RSS: Myth and Reality, p. 54. Malkani, RSS Story, p. 56. Andersen and Damle, RSS: A View to the Inside, pp. 275–6. Those below the age of 18 years may be admitted as Bal Swayamsevaks or child volunteers. Andersen and Damle, RSS: A View to the Inside, p. 281. Malkani, RSS Story, p. 37; Also see for recent figures, Andersen and Damle, RSS: A View to the Inside, p. xi. Ratan Sharda, RSS 360˚, p. 154. Dina Nath Mishra, RSS: Myth and Reality, pp. 62–3. Press conference of Deoras in Ahmedabad, 12 February 1980, Organiser, 9 March 1980; He recalled that in 1965, Lal Bahadur Shastri had invited the RSS (to participate in the war effort) and in 1971, at the time of the Bangladesh crisis, its cooperation was not sought but it still worked. Nana Deshmukh, Bombay, 1 August 1979, Indian Express, New Delhi, 2 August 1979. Atal Behari Vajpayee, ‘All Responsible for Janata Crisis’, Indian Express, New Delhi, 2 August 1979. Press conference of Deoras in Ahmedabad, 12 February 1980, Organiser, 9 March 1980.

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (1925–) 185 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94

95 96 97 98 99 100

www.abvp.org/history-2 (accessed on 12 July 2019). Andersen and Damle, Brotherhood in Saffron, p. 129. Dina Nath Mishra, RSS: Myth and Reality, p. 21. Andersen and Damle, RSS: A View to the Inside, p. 64. Andersen and Damle, RSS: A View to the Inside, pp. 64–5. Andersen and Damle, Brotherhood in Saffron, p. 134. Press conference of Deoras in Ahmedabad, 12 February 1980, Organiser, 9 March 1980. Malkani, RSS Story, pp. 63–4; Golwalkar: ‘I ask my Swayamsevak brothers and friends never to approach their friends in power to get any work done over the heads of administration except in case of matters of public importance. Otherwise they will be guilty of lowering standards’. Swapan Dasgupta, Awakening Bharat Mata: The Political Beliefs of the Indian Right, Penguin, Viking, Gurgaon, 2019, p. 86. Mohan Bhagwat’s 2018 Delhi speech (entitled Future Bharat: an RSS perspective), quoted in The Times of India, New Delhi, 20 September, 2018. Ibid. Ibid. Ibid. Walter K. Anderson and Shridhar D. Damle, The RSS: A View to the Inside, Penguin, Gurgaon, 2018, p. 256.


Bharatiya Jana Sangh (1951–77) The moment of uncertainty

The post-independent India presented a new set of political dynamics and entirely different challenges. With the British power gone and the country partitioned along the Hindu-Muslim line, the dream of a united and a strong India lay in tatters. While the country focused on reconstruction and planning a new destiny, memories of the communal riots during and after the partition were still fresh. Gandhi’s assassination at the hands of a leader of a breakaway faction of the Hindu Mahasabha at Pune, and the subsequent governmental onslaught on the RSS and other fraternal organizations presented a dilemma before the leaders sharing the common ideology of Hindu nationalism. Though the ban on the RSS was lifted by the middle of 1949, the organization had learnt bitter lessons through its experience of having stayed underground. It was therefore now not entirely averse to forming or supporting a political outfit that would further its vision in the society at large. With the Hindu Mahasabha fast losing its credibility, and Shyama Prasad Mookerjee (1901–53), its leader and a towering pubic figure, advising it to either dismantle itself or admit non-Hindus too, uncertainty loomed large. The Mahasabha, as expected, refused to pay heed to the advice of Mookerjee forcing the latter to resign. However, Mookerjee, as deft and credible a politician as he was, realized very soon the need of a political body different from the Congress, which would not ignore the Hindu interests. Thus, the RSS-Mookerjee camaraderie began, resulting in the formation of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh (BJS) in 1951, thereby opening a new chapter in the body politic of India. Though the new outfit had little organic link with the Hindu Mahasabha, it eventually captured the same public or political space which the latter had dreamt for itself, or to some extent had even held on to, during the pre-Independence period. While the ideologues laid the intellectual foundation of Hindu nationalism, it was projected in the public domain by several organizations that drew on its fundamental precepts. There is no denying that the role of these thinkers was of immense importance; equally critical was the role of the Hindu Mahasabha, Bharatiya Jana Sangh (BJS), Rastriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in pursuing Hindu nationalism as a mobilizing tool. The aim of this chapter is to dwell on the nature of these organizations and also to acquaint the readers with how they fulfil their mission in a context when liberal constitutionalism appears to have been a dominant ideological force. In four interrelated

Bharatiya Jana Sangh (1951–77) 187 sections, the chapter, primarily in a narrative mode, also seeks to find out why and how these organizations have gained momentum in opposition to other commanding ideological priorities. Primarily, the object here is to understand how these Hindu nationalist organizations have flourished in post-independent India that appears to have been indifferent to their efforts towards essentializing nation, nationalism and national identity. This is an interesting exercise for it will help us understand how the contexts remain most significant in advancing the Hindu nationalist cause.

Syama Prasad Mookerjee and the Hindu Mahasabha The decline of the Hindu Mahasabha was synchronous with the political rise of the Jana Sangha. Mookerjee’s disenchantment with the Congress began during the late 1930s as he was convinced that it ‘lamentably betrayed the interest of the Hindus’ and talking of Bengal, Mookerjee felt that the Congress ‘hesitated to oppose Acts and Bills, avowedly anti-Hindu and anti-national, lest it should be dubbed a communal body. It represented Hindu electorates and yet it faltered in its sacred duty of defending Hindu rights’.1 Consequently, he moved towards the Bengal provincial Hindu Mahasabha, and soon became a significant leader of the All-India body, holding the posts of acting president, vice-president and president. However, the Mahasabha failed to become an all-India movement in a way that Mookerjee wished. Its weakness, he realized, lay in its failure to keep the struggle in line with its own convictions, and though it displayed ‘a lot of courage’ and a ‘spirit of sacrifice’ on certain occasions like the Hyderabad satyagraha and during the Bhagalpur session, it failed to launch an all-India movement.2 In February 1948, after Gandhi’s assassination, RSS was banned and the Hindu Mahasabha put under severe restrictions. Mookerjee was the vice-president of the Mahasabha at this time as well as a minister in Nehru’s cabinet. Before this incident, Mookerjee had unsuccessfully advised Mahasabha to abhor politics and devote itself to social work. Though its working committee in a meeting on 14 February 1948 decided to suspend political activities and focus on sangathan work alone, this stance was short-lived. In August 1948, Mookerjee suggested to the working committee that if political activity was resumed then either the membership should be thrown open to all, irrespective of caste or religion, or else the name of the party should be changed, or alternatively a new political party should be formed, with the Mahasabha acting only as a sociocultural body. Unfortunately Bhopatkar, the Mahasabha president, along with a majority of the working committee, opposed this suggestion forcing Mookerjee to resign in December 1948.

Change in the RSS attitude towards politics The RSS constitution which was formally written down in mid-1949 before the ban on the organisation was revoked on 11 July, declared that the Sangh had ‘no politics’ and was devoted to ‘purely social work’, but it allowed individual members or swayamsevaks to join any political work excluding those which believed


Ideological initiatives and organizational forms

in or involved violent and secret methods.3 However, towards the end of the year, many voices within the RSS started appealing to it to no longer ignore politics. They highlighted that the essence of Indian or Bharatiya culture was being ignored, and so were various other vital interests of the country. Gauging the growing popularity of the RSS after the revocation of the ban, Bal Raj Madhok, a leading member, felt it was high time the Sangh took a ‘realistic approach’ to political and economic issues as people looked to it for guidance and lead, or else, it would lose the driving force which keep organisations alive.4 Similarly, in a series of four articles – ‘Sangh and Growing “Statism”’, K.R. Malkani, editor of Organiser, and writing under the pen name ‘Kamal’, advised the RSS to take a political plunge as ‘grave dangers’ were dogging the ‘infant state’: ‘Sangh stands for the revival of Bharatiya culture and basing of national policies on the solid and sacred rock of national dharma. It can do this only by putting the shoulder to the political wheel’. ‘Power is a lever . . . an all-powerful lever’, which ought not to be ignored if consolidation of the ‘national culture’ is to be achieved. He underlined that the largest political party, the Congress, could not advance the cause of Bharatiya culture ‘espoused by the Sangh’: ‘This “national” organisation has now discovered that the nation does not exist and that Bharat has dozen cultures and a score of nations’. Under the circumstances therefore, Malkani advised, the Sangh may continue as an ‘ashram for the national cultural education of the entire citizenry’, but develop a political wing for the ‘more effective and early achievement of its ideals’.5 However, an important leader of the RSS, Dadarao Parmarth while expressing dissatisfaction with the existing party-politics, didn’t think that the Sangh should interfere in it. He saw a quadrangular political fight with Congress creating fear and suspicion; Communists believing in coercion; socialists only abusing the party in power and the Hindu Mahasabha working only on the negative side, i.e. condemning and criticizing leaders of other parties and lacking a strong organisation. However, he noted that officially and unofficially the RSS had declared that elections were beyond its purview, and its duty lay in balancing moral strength and guiding people in times of confusion and chaos: ‘It is an independent, absolute stand of non-party, non-political work that the Sangh conceives. It is but natural that Sangh is above party and remains non-party’.6

Mookerjee-RSS camaraderie Mookerjee, who had been nominated to the first cabinet of independent India, developed serious differences with Nehru on the question of the fate of Hindu minorities in East Pakistan. It was towards the end of 1949 that he started voicing opposition to Nehru on his ‘pro-Pakistan’ policy. The situation flared up during the early months of 1950 when an anti-Hindu pogrom in East Pakistan led to an estimated loss of lives of fifty thousand Hindus.7 As Nehru and Liaquat Ali held talks regarding the fate of minorities in the two countries, Mookerjee resigned from the Cabinet on 6 April 1950. It was now that Mookerjee started looking seriously for an alternative to the Congress, and with a voice within the RSS

Bharatiya Jana Sangh (1951–77) 189 also looking for a non-Congress nationalist alternative, the long-term camaraderie between the two set off. RSS leadership lacked unanimity about the advisability of having a political organization. While a section feared that support to politics or getting into the political frame would create a dent into its idealism, some younger leaders advocated converting the RSS into a political party. Golwalkar made repeated declaration that the organisation would concentrate on social and cultural work. Eventually a middle course was worked out where RSS would spare some of its senior workers for the political party that it would actively support. In arriving at such a decision the example of Praja Parishad in Jammu and Kashmir might have played a role.8 It was around this time, though without the clearance from the top leadership, some prominent RSS activists like Vasantrao Krishna Oke and Bal Raj Madhok met Mookerjee and proposed formation of a new nationalist alternative.9 As the chief organizer of the Hindu Mahasabha and as a leading public figure, Mookerjee shared a good rapport with the RSS leadership. He had met the RSS founder Hedgewar in Calcutta in the mid-1930s.10 In the winter of 1940, he had addressed a rally of RSS at Lahore appreciating it as ‘one silver lining in the cloudy sky of India’.11 From November 1949 to the spring of 1950, Mookerjee visited Nagpur on several occasions and also met Golwalkar.12 This was followed by a meeting with Golwalkar in Calcutta during the summer of 1950 in which Mookerjee agreed with the argument that the idea of a Hindu Rashtra was in no way inconsistent with the establishment of a modern democracy.13 The RSS head promised to spare some hard-working swayamsevaks for the work of the new party. Mookerjee was also invited to preside over the annual function of the RSS in Delhi on 3 December 1950 where he praised its sacrifice, the ideal of Bharatiya culture and its effort in inculcating a spirit of unity and solidarity among all classes of Hindus.14

From provincial to the national body: centrality of Bharatiyata From early months to the month of October in 1951, the new party attained a formal shape. Initially, efforts were made to found provincial bodies which were not necessarily connected to each other. Thereafter, efforts were made to bring them together to found the all-India body, bearing the common spirit of Bharat (India), Bharatiya (Indian) and Bharatiyata (Indian-ness), terms preferred in Hindi or Sanskrit to reflect indigenous and cultural roots. It was more a desire to reflect and appropriate high ideals of India’s roots than to show any anti-English or anti-West attitude. The term ‘Bharat’ was found to be more inclusive both – from territorial as well as historical perspective, which could, in a holistic way, reflect the true character of this part of the human civilization. It also showed an inclination to embrace those indigenous roots which would not be in conflict with the avowed idea of ‘modernity’. Therefore most definitions or characteristics in the vocabulary of the BJS bear the prefix ‘Bharat’. Initially, Mookerjee toyed with such names as ‘Young India Party’ or the ‘AllIndia Peoples’ Party’, but RSS suggested a Hindi nomenclature – Bharatiya Lok


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Dal, and a flag bearing the saffron colour. Mookerjee preferred ‘Jana Sangh’ (or the party of the people) over ‘Lok Dal’. Thus was born the name – Bharatiya Jana Sangh.15 Initially, he thought of bringing all opposition parties and groups (except the communists), like RSS, Hindu Mahasabha, Socialist Party, Ram Rajya Parishad, Forward Block and Revolutionary Socialist Party, into this confederation.16 During early January 1951, preparations began for founding provincial BJS. A meeting was convened in New Delhi, where under the guidance of Mookerjee, leaders like Hans Raj Gupta (RSS chief for Delhi and Punjab), Mauli Chandra Sharma, Bal Raj Bhalla and Bal Raj Madhok met to draw tentative plans for a new political party for Punjab, PEPSU, Himachal and Delhi – areas with huge influx of Hindu refugees.17 It was eventually this region which in a meeting at Jullundur on 27 May 1951 formed the first provincial-level BJS with the declared object of the rebuilding of Bharat on the basis of Bharatiya ‘Sanskriti’ (culture) and ‘Maryada’ (pride or morality) as a political, social and economic democracy. This motto of rebuilding the country on the basis of the Indian culture and pride runs through almost all manifestoes and writings of the BJS. This would not only seek to bring it closer to the value system ingrained in India’s traditions and past, but also allow it to accuse the Congress of inculcating an English or Western mindset. Therefore, very next, the Congress was accused of moulding the country on the pattern of the West, ignoring the best in Bharatiya life and ideals.18 It gave a call for an ‘Akhand’ (indivisible) and united India; by ‘Akhand’ it meant diversity of creeds whose cultural contributions have become part and parcel of the main current of Indian culture. Its special emphasis on Bharatiya culture was under the belief that it could lay a lasting and effective basis of a ‘healthy’ and ‘genuine’ nationalism. The characteristic feature of this culture was shown to be unity in diversity: ‘All the dogmas and creeds that form the commonwealth of the Indian i.e. Bharatiya or Hindu Rashtra have their share in the stream of Bharatiya culture which has flown down from the Vedas in an unbroken continuity absorbing and assimilating the contributions made by different peoples, creeds and cultures that came in touch with it in the course of history in such a way as to make them indistinguishable part and parcel of the main current. This Bharatiya culture, therefore, is one and indivisible’.19 Around the same time, another Jana Sangh or People’s Party was started in Bengal under Mookerjee who hit hard at the policy of ‘shameless appeasement’ of Pakistan which was a ‘national disaster’. He identified Kashmir as a sacred territory of India which had been allowed to be occupied by Pakistan. Mookerjee sarcastically remarked that the new party which was open to people of all caste, creed or community, did not make a ‘fetish’ of ‘so called secularism’: ‘Who are communalists? Not surely those, who did not want India to be divided on a communal basis. Rather, the betrayers of the country have been those who yielded to the intransigence of the Moslem League’.20 Very soon, many more states, the number reaching eleven by early September (and thirteen by October), set up their own Jana Sangha, including UP, Karnataka, Bihar, Rajasthan, Orissa and Madhya Bharat. BJS in UP was founded on 2 September which soon spread at a ‘cyclonic’ speed helped by whirlwind tours of

Bharatiya Jana Sangh (1951–77) 191 the team led by Deendayal Upadhyaya.21 It was now decided in a meeting of the presidents and secretaries of regional BJS to integrate them during an all-India convention in Delhi in October. A draft manifesto of the All-India front was circulated and ‘Deepak’ (‘earthen lamp’ – symbol of removing darkness or ignorance) was chosen as the election symbol.22 Delhi provided a fertile ground for the Jana Sangh. In the Delhi municipal elections in October 1951, the party polled 25% of votes as compared to 33% secured by the Congress.23

Beginning of a long journey The long, arduous, but eventful journey of the All-India political party – Akhil Bharatiya Jana Sangh – with the declared paramount policy of ‘country first’, began on 21 October 1951 in the Hindu holy month of Kartika (known for bathing ritual) when at the Raghomal Arya Girls Secondary School in New Delhi the delegates resolved, to the chanting of Vedic hymns, the founding of the new party. It adopted the saffron-coloured flag with ‘Deepak’ in the middle. Its manifesto – One Country, One Nation and One Culture – with India-centric interpretations, set the tone: One country: ‘The whole of Bharat Varsha from Himalayas to Kanya Kumari is, and has been through the ages, a living organic whole, geographically, culturally and historically’. One nation: ‘Bharat is an ancient nation; its recently obtained freedom only marks the beginning of a new chapter in her long and chequered history and not the birth of a new nation. Bharatiya nationalism, therefore, must naturally be based on undivided allegiance to Bharat as a whole and her great and ancient culture which distinguishes her from other lands’. One culture: ‘All the creeds that form the commonwealth of the Bharatiya Rashtra have their share in the stream of Bharatiya culture which has flown down from the Vedas in a contribution made by different peoples, creeds and cultures that came in touch with it in the course of history, in such a way as to make them indistinguishable part and parcel of the main current. This Bharatiya culture is thus one and indivisible. Any talk of composite culture, therefore, is both illogical and dangerous, for it tends to weaken national unity and encourage fissiparous tendencies’.24 The new All-India body abhorred the idea of a theocratic state calling it foreign to India, and at the same time, also came down heavily on the usual interpretation of secularism in India which, it alleged, had become only a ‘euphemism for the policy of Muslim appeasement’: ‘The so-called secular composite nationalism is neither national nor secular but only a compromise with communalism of those who demand a price even for their lip loyalty to this country’. It stood for ‘revival of Bharatiya culture and revitalization of true Bharatiya nationalism on its basis’, but with suitable adjustments in order to make the country ‘modern, progressive and strong’. It reiterated that the country should be rebuilt on the


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basis of Bharatiya ‘Sanskriti’ and ‘Maryada’, and should be made strong also in order to withstand the aggressive designs of others and for establishment of world peace. Relationship with Pakistan should be strictly on the basis of reciprocity. The party sought complete integration of Kashmir with India. It suggested military training to young men and women across the country and sought to expedite the building of defence industries. On the language front, the manifesto announced promotion of Hindi as the national language with Devanagari as the common script for all Indian languages, and encouragement of the study of Sanskrit which it considered as the repository of Bharatiya culture and the ‘mainstay of all Indian languages’.25 To a question on why Hindi should be accepted, Mookerjee reasoned that since it was understood by the single largest majority – 14 out of 30 crore of people – and also capable of progressive development; and through Sanskrit, the mother-language of India, we may discover ourselves.26 In his presidential speech at the inaugural meet Mookerjee emphasized the bond of fellowship among people, which ought to be inspired by ‘deep devotion and loyalty to the spirit of a common mother-land’. Calling it dangerous to encourage the growth of ‘political minorities’ based on caste and religion, he saw it as the duty of the vast majority of Bharat’s population to assure all classes of people who are truly loyal to their motherland, that they will be entitled to full protection under the law and to complete equality of treatment in all matters’. Speaking to the press a day later, Mookerjee talked about the possibility of reunification of India and Pakistan which could be realized through a joint plebiscite of the peoples of Bharat and Pakistan. He called for complete integration of Kashmir with Bharat and advocated withdrawing the issue from the United Nations. He saw no point for a plebiscite in the state when the accession had already been legally effected. On the organizational front, Mookerjee emphasised that the BJS had no connection with the Hindu Mahasabha. On links with the RSS, he said, ‘There are members of the R.S.S., who in their individual capacity have joined the Jan Sangh and are working for it. But there are a large number of people in the party who have nothing to do with the R.S.S.’27 The RSS refrained from declaring its open support to the new political outfit. Golwalkar declared that the RSS would not back any party in particular, but the swayamsevaks were free to vote as they pleased: ‘In the drama of elections we shall be mere spectators’. Effort of RSS, declared Golwalkar, would be to infuse ‘a sense of selfless service’, ‘boundless patriotism’ and to create a well-knit organisation for ‘a homogenous nation’.28 However, the fact that a large number of RSS workers were part of the new outfit, facilitating its spread through the Hindi heartland, and that the core of its ideology was manifested in the thinking of the new party, left little doubt about both formal and informal connections between the two. The working committee at the founding convention appointed an RSS Pracharak, Bhai Mahavir, as general secretary. Further, the three significant leaders of the new party – Madhok, Upadhyaya and Sohoni – also belonged to the RSS. Craig Baxter notes that the organization of the BJS was based largely on the RSS supplemented by a ‘mixed bag’ of others.29

Bharatiya Jana Sangh (1951–77) 193

National integration, minorities and secularism Leaders of the BJS were very critical of the usual definitions of minority and secularism, and their applications in the Indian context. Apart from the inaugural manifesto of the BJS, the specific views of Mookerjee, and later of Atal Behari Vajpayee, are very illustrative in this respect. Talking in December 1946, Mookerjee pointed out that the identification of a minority varied from province to province: ‘Hindus also constitute a minority in at least four provinces in India, and if minority rights are to be protected, such rights must affect every minority which may vary from Province to Province’.30 In a very categorical term and with a lot of clarity characteristic of him, Atal Behari Vajpayee underlined that in order to foster national integrity some basic truths should be accepted, namely India is ‘not a group of nationalities’ and if some consider different language groups as different nations then they are the ‘agents of disintegration and destruction’. We are an ancient nation, as old as the Vedic declaration that ‘the earth is my mother and I am her son’. The Indian nation is basically a cultural unit and it is on the basis of this unity that attempts have been made to establish political, economic and social unity. Whenever these attempts failed, the country was divided into different kingdoms, but our cultural unity continued. ‘Even today we are one not because we are citizens of one State, rather Bharat is one State because we are one’. Variety in our national life is the symbol of richness which needs to be protected and fostered and it is in this variety that ‘we have to find and consolidate our unity’.31 Vajpayee saw it as a very dangerous tendency to divide people of the country on the basis of language, religious sect, community or profession into majority and minority. The need is to rise above small loyalties and ‘make our country our prime loyalty’; while on the other hand ‘we have to wean some people from extra-territorial loyalties’. Freedom of worship is an integral part of our culture and Indians have ‘never discriminated on the basis of sect or religion’, but at the same time ‘to base a minority or a majority on modes of worship is both illogical and harmful to national unity’: The Muslims and Christians for whom India is a home have not come from outside. Their ancestors were Hindus and Hindu blood flows in their veins. A change in religion does not mean a change in nationality or culture. Culture is related to the soil and nationality to loyalty. The Muslims of East Bengal and Pakhtoonistan follow the same religion but their cultures are different. On the other hand those who forsake their loyalty to the nation become enemies even when they follow the same religion. Bharatiya Jana Sangh believes in bringing about a society and state in which all citizens will have equality of opportunity without discrimination. Language and religion would not form the basis of any discrimination whatsoever. He emphasised that unlike the West, there was hardly any conflict between the State and the religious order in India, and therefore, people of the country can


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never be secular in the sense of its being anti-religious or non-religious. The state should be impartial and not adopt any one mode of worship as its religion. And while the party adopted an approach based on modern science and technology, it could not deny the traditional culture: ‘The stream of our life has been flowing since Vedic time and we want to give it still more strength so that it can assimilate into it many tributaries from many directions’. He derided attempts to give problems arising out of economic backwardness a religious, linguistic or regional colour which, he claimed, interfered seriously in the way of national integration, besides making the solution still more difficult. He sarcastically remarked that ‘the party which declares its secularism from house tops and is the first to berate communalism not only compromises with communal elements for political ends but unashamedly supports minority demands in the guise of protecting minority interests.’ Therefore, if the country is to be saved from ‘the tragedy of communalism’, all parties must cleanse their minds of ‘communal virus’. The only solution, he underlined, lay in arousing a strong sense of nationalism: The solution of all problems of Bharat lies in arousing a strong sense of nationalism. Single-minded devotion to the nation and a readiness to sweat and if necessary also to give up everything can alone enable us to rise above sectarian, linguistic and religious considerations and behave like citizens of one great nation. The Bharatiya Jana Sangh has devoted itself to this mission. It is determined to confront and defeat all divisive elements, and their supporters – with the help of others, if possible, alone, if necessary.32

The first electoral venture The areas of influence of RSS – mostly in Madhya Pradesh, Madhya Bharat, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Delhi – were more or less also the region in which BJS felt confident. There could not be any electoral understanding with parties like Hindu Mahasabha or Ram Rajya Parishad, except partially in Bengal where Mookerjee reached an understanding with the Mahasabha leader N. C. Chatterjee. During the election campaign in Ferozepur in the Punjab on 7 November 1951, Mookerjee announced that no ‘artificial borders’ could keep the country divided ‘which is and has always remained one geographically, culturally and economically’.33 To Nehru’s charge that the Jana Sangh was a communal body, Mookerjee replied: ‘It does not lie in the mouth of Pandit Nehru to call Jan Sangh a communal organisation when he himself betrayed the Khan brothers, the two really nationalist Muslims’.34 He accused the Congress of surrendering at the feet of communal leaders during the preceding thirty-five years, and declared that if ‘to love one’s own country, to love one’s own community and not think ill of other communities’ meant being a communalist then he was proud to be so.35 In the 1951–52 general elections BJS won three seats in Lok Sabha (two from Bengal including that of Mookerjee) and 35 in state assemblies. It polled a total of 3.06% of Lok Sabha votes but qualified to be called an all-India

Bharatiya Jana Sangh (1951–77) 195 party, the minimum qualification had been set at 3%. In the state assemblies, it won 35 seats overall, securing 2.76% of popular votes. The achievement was by no means insignificant given the fact that the organisation was new with little time for electoral preparations and facing severe financial constraints. Inside the Lok Sabha, taking advantage of his huge standing among opposition members, Mookerjee brought together 32 members in a bloc called the National Democratic Party under his leadership, making it the third largest group after the Congress and the Communists. This coordination also gave opportunity to the BJS, the Hindu Mahasabha and the Ram Rajya Parishad to work together. For a certain time there was even talk of their merger, persuaded mainly by the Mahasabha leader Chatterjee, following Mookerjee’s death. However there were divergent views within the organizations about the nature of this proposed merger. BJS believed that both the Mahasabha and the Parishad should become cultural and non-political organizations so that they could come under its organization and programme. Talks were finally aborted when the BJS president M. C. Sharma in a press conference in November 1953 called the Mahasabha a communal body, and underlined that no merger was possible with the Mahasabha as long as it held on to its communal policies. Mahasabha promptly responded by ending any talk of merger.36

Fighting for complete integration of Kashmir The ideal of an indivisible and united India brought the newly-formed organisation with the yet incomplete task of Kashmir’s integration. This issue had been an important item on the party’s agenda and close to Mookerjee’s heart. During August 1952, while addressing a rally in Jammu, Mookerjee assured people: ‘I will get you the Indian Constitution or lay down my life for it’. The first plenary session of the BJS at Kanpur in December 1952 decided to launch an all-India agitation for complete integration of Kashmir. The party popularized the slogan, ‘Ek desh mein do Vidhan, do Pradhan aur do Nishan, nahin challenge, nahin challenge’ (We shall not accept in one nation, two constitutions, two presidents and two flags).37 Following the Kanpur resolution, a nationwide satyagraha was launched. Mookerjee was arrested in Kashmir on 11 May where in detention in Sri Nagar on 23 June, he died under ‘mysterious circumstances’. Demands for an independent enquiry into his death were not accepted. Recalling Mookerjee’s influence, L. K. Advani later wrote that he had learnt from him (Mookerjee) the ‘indispensability of value-based democracy as a vehicle for nation-building’.38 Kashmir continued to be an important item on the agenda of the party. It sought ‘liberation’ of the Pakistan-held territory in Kashmir. In the working committee meeting in April 1957, the party sought ‘complete emotional, cultural and administrative oneness between Kashmir and the rest of India’ which, it emphasised, was not possible as long as the distinction manifested through a separate constitution, flag, president, election commission and law of citizenship for the state continued. It, therefore, demanded annulment of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution which allowed this special or separate treatment.39 The party saw no point


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in continuing to discuss Kashmir at the United Nations which was ‘involved in power politics’, and therefore there was no point in ‘wasting any more money, time, and energy in trying to convince those who are determined not to be convinced’. It reiterated abrogation of temporary distinction between Kashmir and the rest of India by abrogation of the Article 370. This would enable emotional integration of the people of that state with their co-citizens in the rest of India, so necessary to ‘checkmate the designs of separatist and anti-national elements within and outside Kashmir who have been exploiting these distinctions to the detriment of the wider interests of India including Kashmir’.40

Plight of Hindus from East Bengal The issue which had constantly agitated Mookerjee’s mind and which continued to occupy an important place in the BJS agenda was the plight of Hindus in East Bengal or East Pakistan. The Kanpur plenary session of the party in December 1952 recorded that the policy of Pakistan was to drive out those who were of strong will and to force through atrocities the weaker to embrace Islam: ‘India cannot watch all this in silence, for it had accepted the responsibility of the protection of Hindus of Pakistan. The Hindus in Pakistan had not asked for partition but it was thrust upon them against their wishes’. Since the fundamental basis of partition was that the minorities on both sides would be given equal rights and protection, and therefore when Pakistan had deliberately thrown this fundamental understanding to the winds, the protection of minorities in Pakistan had become ‘not only the right of India but also its duty’.41 During 1955–56, on several occasions, the party raised concern over the increasing exodus of the Hindus from East Bengal. It was underlined that an abiding solution to this baffling problem could be arrived at satisfactorily only when the ‘unnatural partition is annulled and the refugees are honourably reinstalled in their homelands’. But pending that solution, the government should take the following steps: • •

• •

To take adequate steps for re-habilitation of Hindu refugees from East Bengal. To realize from the Pakistan government full value of assets and properties left by the Hindus in East Bengal and to create out of this a ‘compensation fund’ from which refugees to be paid full value of the properties left behind by them. To give full citizens’ status to the refugees from Pakistan automatically without the troublesome process of registration. To demand territory from East Bengal for the resettlement of the Hindu minority of that state.42

At the Jodhpur plenary session in April 1956, the party expressed shock at the restriction posed on issuing migration certificates to Hindu migrants from East Bengal and called it an ‘abject surrender’ of the Indian government to ‘the forces

Bharatiya Jana Sangh (1951–77) 197 of communalism let loose in the Islamic Republic’ which, it claimed, was ‘calculated to result in the extermination and/or forced Islamization of Hindus in East Bengal’.43 In its Delhi meeting on 1 March 1964, the working committee of the party flagged widespread atrocities on Hindus under the heading, ‘Save East Bengali Hindus from Extinction’. It was estimated that over 30000 Hindus had been killed, thousands of women abducted and Hindu houses looted. The party demanded the government of India to arrange ‘mass migration to India of Hindus and other minorities in East Bengal’, and also organize exchange of population on a limited scale on an optional basis on governmental level, i.e. Pakistani infiltrators in the eastern zone of India, i.e. West Bengal, Assam and Tripura be immediately sent back, also to ensure safety and security of the eastern zone of the country. It also advised the government to lodge a formal complaint with the United Nations against the ‘genocide of Hindus and other minorities in Pakistan’.44

Upadhyaya era If Mookerjee was the founder of a nationalist alternative that occupied a nonCongress and non-Communist space, the onus of making it a formidable all-India organisation fell on the lanky full-time RSS swayamsevak and ascetic-like Deendayal Upadhyaya. Whereas Mookerjee was a high-profile academic, administrator and public figure, Upadhyaya was a ground-level, unassuming leader with immense organizational ability, encapsulating a deeply felt and well-articulated pragmatic philosophy. Mookerjee’s untimely death left a deep void in the infant organisation. Mauli Chandra Sharma who succeeded him neither enjoyed Mookerjee’s reputation nor the complete confidence of the RSS. He resigned in November 1954 alleging interference by the RSS. Therefore, the responsibility of building the Jana Sangha apparatus fell on the shoulder of Upadhyaya. Upadhyaya had been appointed general secretary at the Kanpur plenary session in December 1952, where Mookerjee aptly recognised his organizing abilities: ‘If I could get two or three more Deendayals, I will change the entire political map of India.’45 From this time till 1967, though BJS had a number of presidents, Upadhyaya, the general secretary, remained the ‘mind, heart and soul’ of the party, as also ‘its philosopher, guide and motivator all rolled into one’.46 He finally accepted the post of party president in December 1967 on the advice of Golwalkar, and in the latter’s words, ‘like a true swayamsevak’.47 Balasaheb Deoras, RSS general secretary saw him as ‘an ideal swayamsevak’, comparing him to Hedgewar, while Kripalani saw him as ‘a man of Godly qualities’.48 Upadhyaya located the primary character of Bharatiya culture in its attempt to look upon life as an integrated whole which allowed one to discover unity behind the diversity: ‘Unity in diversity and the expression of unity in various forms have remained the central thought of Bharatiya culture’. He was quick to differentiate between religion and dharma, as misinterpretations would often lead to misleading conclusions: ‘Religion means a creed, or a sect, it does not mean


Ideological initiatives and organizational forms

Dharma. Dharma is a very wide concept. It is concerned with all aspects of life. It sustains the society. Even further, it sustains the whole world. That which sustains is “Dharma”’.49 Upadhyaya’s ascendancy in the party was aided by his astute administrative skills, desire to tour the entire country, and a keen interest in formulating and propagating the party’s doctrine and policies. From 1954 onwards, a large number of young and capable RSS workers like Vajpayee, Jagannathrao Joshi, Nana Deshmukh, S. S. Bhandari and others, with Upadhyaya at the helm of affairs, enabled the BJS to develop better discipline and cohesiveness. Even the party structure bore the influence of the RSS set-up. In 1963, the amended constitution of the party differentiated between ordinary and active members, the latter ensuring strong presence of the RSS.

Defence of frontiers and nuclear deterrence BJS always demanded strong defence of the country’s borders. While saying so, it kept both China and Pakistan in mind. From the end of August 1959 clashes were reported with the Chinese forces. Upadhyaya stated that the issue of the relationship with China had become ‘predominantly a military question’ and that ‘all talk about negotiations with the Chinese should cease forthwith till the aggression is vacated’. Vajpayee demanded checking the activities of the Communist Party of India which was seen as showing some sympathy for the Chinese cause.50 The working committee in December 1964 took serious note of the threat posed by China’s entry to the nuclear club. Attacking the government over its ‘smug ostrich like complacency’, it found little logic in raising an economic bogey to silence the demand for going nuclear, whereas, no price could be ‘considered too high’ if it concerned the country’s security. No amount of sympathy or good would save the situation unless the country strengthened its defence to the utmost: ‘It is jejune in the extreme to argue that China’s nuclear threat can be faced by mobilizing world opinion against it’.51 After the Indo-Pakistan War of 1965, the plenary session of the party in its meeting in May 1966 put forward a detailed charter of demands for strengthening the country’s defence, some of which were: • • • • • •

Increase the land force strength to at least 20 lakhs. Increase Air Force strength by three times. Acquire submarines and more warships for the Navy. Manufacture atomic weapons and missiles. Speed up the manufacture of arms and military equipment and make the country self-sufficient in defence needs. Make provision for compulsory military training for all youths in the age group of 20–23.

On the closely connected diplomatic front which concerned or affected the country’s security, it demanded ‘strict reciprocity’ in relationships, e.g. in relationship with individual Arab states and other countries of West Asia; additionally,

Bharatiya Jana Sangh (1951–77) 199 diplomatic relationship with nationalist China only on the condition of her support to India’s position on Kashmir in the Security Council.52 In its general council meeting in November 1971, BJS reiterated that national security should be deemed paramount in formulating the foreign, political and economic policies of the country. The working committee in its meeting in January 1972 demanded better service conditions and pay scales for armed forces to make them commensurate with the risk and responsibility involved. It recommended special reward by way of war bonus to every soldier in appreciation of his services in the recent war with Pakistan.53

Integration of ‘foreign pockets’ in India Keeping in line with its slogan of Akhand Bharat, the party took up the issue of integration of the French and Portuguese colonies inside India. The Kanpur plenary session of the BJS in December 1952 condemned the suppression of nationalist forces in these places. It demanded concrete steps for their merger with India.54 The continued existence of ‘Portuguese and French pockets in free India’ was seen as a danger to the security and integrity of the country. Calling them as centres of ‘anti-India propaganda and activities,55 it raised alarm: ‘Sandwiched between the two wings of Pakistan and studded with these foreign-pocket bases on the sea-coast, India might virtually be turned a prisoner in her own home – an eventuality which cannot be contemplated with equanimity’.56 The party opposed any plan for seeking plebiscite in these settlements to bring them back to India and said that if the government of India had followed a firm policy on the issue just after the country gained freedom then such a situation would not have evolved. The French government ceded its control over Pondicherry in November 1954, but the Portuguese control over Goa continued and it was here that the BJS gained lot of popularity through a well-organized satyagraha. In the Jodhpur plenary session of January 1955, BJS said that instead of treating the problem of liberation of Goa from an all-India problem perspective, the government had limited it as a problem of the residents of Goa. It expressed satisfaction at the popular agitation conducted by Jana Sangh for Goa’s liberation.57 On the second anniversary of Mookerjee’s death on 23 June 1955, Jagannathrao Joshi of BJS led a group of satyagrahis towards Goa. They were taken prisoners at the border. Then on 15 August, another group led by Goa Vimochan Sahayak Samiti (Goa Liberation Committee) which had members of BJS was fired upon when it tried to cross the border. This firing by the Portuguese police left a number of satyagrahis killed or wounded. The Goa agitation of 1955, in the words of Bruce Graham, offered the party ‘a better opportunity to establish its Hindu nationalist credentials than the Kashmir agitation of 1953 had done’.58

Support to the movement for cow protection The issue of protection of cows had been an important part of the Arya Samajist and the Sanatanist agendas since the late nineteenth century, and later picked up


Ideological initiatives and organizational forms

by the Hindu Mahasabha in the early twentieth century. After Independence, the Constitution permitted individual states to formulate laws for cow protection. In Madhya Bharat, restrictions were put on cow slaughter in 1951 and complete prohibition in the mid-1950s. Similarly, the Congress governments banned cow slaughter in Bihar, MP, UP and Rajasthan during 1950s. However, by early 1960s, there was a growing demand for a complete ban, to be initiated by the government at the centre. The Bharat Gosevak Samaj with such patrons as Hans Raj Gupta, Vasant Rao Oke and Jai Dayal Dalmia organized a conference in Delhi in August 1964 demanding from the government to take upon itself the task of prohibiting cow slaughter. The conference was opened by Golwalkar and Upadhyaya also delivered an address.59 In August 1966, the BJS Members of Parliament demanded decisive action on the issue. A Hindu saint, Prabhudutt Brahmachari, founded Sarvadaliya Goraksha Maha-Abhiyan Samiti (or All-Parties Cowprotection Campaign Committee) on 25 September 1966 whose steering committee included members from VHP, RSS, BJS, Arya Samaj, Bharat Sadhu Samaj, Ram Rajya Parishad and also congressmen like Seth Govind Das. The working committee of the BJS also supported the movement.60 The Goraksha Samiti led by Brahmachari held a huge demonstration in Delhi on 7 November 1966 which also witnessed some violent incidents.

Elections and alliances (1957–77) During the 1957 elections, the BJS stated that for preservation of national unity, it was necessary to create a feeling of equality and oneness in the Hindu society by ‘liquidating untouchability and caste-ism’ and by inculcating the idea of Bharatiya culture among non-Hindus.61 At this stage, the party was opposed to national alliances. Upadhyaya clarified that the BJS could agree to have local adjustments with all parties except the Communists and communal parties. According to Baxter, the Hindu parties were unable to come together in 1952, 1957 or 1962, but in 1967, the Jana Sangh did not try.62 Though in 1957, the second general elections in a free India, the party won just four seats in Lok Sabha, it almost doubled its share of votes from 3.06% to 5.93%. Its seats in the State assemblies also increased from 35 to 46. In the 1962 elections, it won 14 seats (against 196 seats contested) with seven seats in Uttar Pradesh and three each in Madhya Pradesh and Haryana. It also won 116 seats to State assemblies against 1,140 that it contested. However, its vote share in Lok Sabha elections increased only marginally to 6.44%, and it also lost deposits in 113 Lok Sabha constituencies. Therefore, the party started rethinking about its strategy of alliances after 1962 elections. It realized that it had lost seats due to a divided opposition. It now turned for alliances to ‘legitimate opposition’.63 Fortunately, the great socialist leader Ram Manohar Lohia was also looking for alliances to unite against the Congress. In the May 1963 by-elections to four Lok Sabha seats, BJS, Socialist Party and the Swatantra Party put up joint candidates. Carrying on with the alliance, in 1967 general elections, BJS won 35 seats in Lok Sabha (MP and UP accounting for 22 seats) and 268 seats in state assemblies. BJS

Bharatiya Jana Sangh (1951–77) 201 also participated in coalition governments in a few states. In Madhya Pradesh, it influenced the government to pass the Freedom of Religion Act which sought to outlaw religious conversion by force, allurement or fraud. The party also sought to suspend government grant to Christian educational institutions in tribal areas where religious conversion was frequent. According to Jaffrelot, Upadhyaya looked at coalitions as a new means to eradicate the party’s ‘political untouchability’, but only as a ‘temporary expedient’.64 Just when the party had scaled a new height and emerged as the third largest party in terms of seats, and the second largest party in terms of vote share in the Lok Sabha, its leading light Upadhyaya was found murdered near Mughal Sarai while travelling in a night train on 11 February 1968. In this hour of despondency, the party turned for leadership to the eloquent Vajpayee, then merely forty-three years of age. In the 1971 elections, the coalition of opposition parties, with BJS on board, was badly defeated by the dominant Congress faction led by Indira Gandhi. BJS however managed to win 22 seats and retain a vote share of 7.35%. Advani was elected president of the party in December 1972. In his maiden presidential speech, he underlined that the BJS was not wedded to any economic ‘ism’ and that terms like ‘left’ or ‘right’ were not relevant in the Indian context.65 In the countrywide movement led by Jayaprakash Narayan (JP) to bring parties and people together against the Congress rule, BJS also joined. Advani saw in the JP movement an opportunity to expand the party’s mass appeal and base throughout the country.66 Some leaders and parties like the CPM were critical of the movement’s association with BJS. Gracing the Delhi national session of BJS on 7 March 1975 as guest of honour, JP answered the critics: ‘I have come to this session to tell the country that the Jana Sangh is neither fascist nor reactionary. This I want to declare from the Jana Sangh platform itself. If the BJS is fascist, then Jayaprakash Narayan is also a fascist’.67 The imposition of emergency in mid-1975 and the hardships followed by these leaders, including many prominent faces of BJS, created unprecedented bonhomie once the elections were announced in January 1977. JP immediately announced the formation of the Janata Party through the merger of BJS, Congress (O), Socialist Party and Lok Dal to carve out the biggest possible opposition unity against the Congress. Advani was appointed one of the four general secretaries of the new party. The trial and trauma of the emergency, coupled with the trust that JP reposed in BJS, facilitated the party’s decision to merge in the Janata Party.68 The flag of the new party was two-thirds saffron and one-thirds green in two vertical sections with the image of a plough-carrying farmer in the saffron section. The symbol of the farmer became its election symbol.69 The Janata Party received a massive mandate and for the first time a non-Congress government was formed at the centre with three erstwhile BJS members – Advani, Vajpayee and Brijlal Verma as cabinet ministers. Barely a year into the office, the unity of the Janata Party was seriously impaired when some members like Madhu Limaye started raising a new issue that no member of the Janata Party could simultaneously be a member of the RSS. This ‘dual membership’ controversy was aimed at the erstwhile BJS members who formed the largest (one-third) section of the


Ideological initiatives and organizational forms

Janata Party in the Lok Sabha. These members countered that the RSS was a non-political body and a reformist organisation, and that it was preposterous to raise this issue after formation of the Janata Party. According to Advani, the dual membership controversy, ‘more than anything else, destroyed the unity of the Janata Party and led to its rapid disintegration’. By the time of the 1980 general elections, the Janata Party lay in tatters, receiving a serious drubbing in the polls. Early in 1980, as the now severely depleted Janata Party expelled the erstwhile BJS members on the ‘dual membership’ issue, the stage was set for making a new beginning in the shape of a new party, but once again with the prefix ‘Bharatiya’.

Concluding observations The formation of the BJS in 1951 was a watershed in Indian politics for three reasons: first, the BJS had devised a political design in which the concerns for Hindu identity as distinct from others remain most decisive. It was also an endeavour to cement a bond by seeking to integrate the disparate Hindus under one platform primarily because of their ‘faith’ in the ancient Indian texts, primarily, Vedas, Upanishads, Smritis and Puranas. Whether it was a successful step is a matter of debate though, with the growing consolidation of the right-wing forces in India in the twentieth century, the story may be told differently. Secondly, it is also true that the BJS was a little less orthodox than its earlier counterpart, Hindu Mahasabha, because it, by accepting the 1950 Constitution, was reconciled to liberal constitutionalism. This has two serious implications for the party: on the one hand, that the BJS agreed to follow the electoral path suggests that it endorsed parliamentary democracy as indispensable for India in the aftermath of winning political authority following the British withdrawal. There was also the implicit acceptance, on the other, of the idea that by being an integral part of the existent political processes, the BJS also emerged as a competing ideological force along with the prevalent ones. Finally, with the rise of the BJS as an important political party in independent India, an alternative ideological perspective appears to have gained credibility; it was an ideological design in which the interests of the demographically preponderant Hindus were to be protected; in other words, the BJS offered a design in which the Hindus became purportedly the major player. A challenging idea, the BJS endeavour was thus an alternative political statement with an effort of creating an alternative ideological design in a milieu in which the Hindu nationalist ideas did not seem to have the popular base that it had gained later. The BJS, or for that matter any of the Hindu nationalist outfits, represented a voice which drew on differently constructed ideological priorities. Conceptually, the rise of alternative voices is indicative of how some ideas gain momentum while other wane away. As Nussbaum argues, ‘challenging the received ideas and thinking . . . are ways of becoming more complete as a human being [because] docility and submission [to the dominant/hegemonic ideas] . . . are repugnant to mankind’.70 Ideas follow a path which may not always be predictable though their evolution can persuasively be explained contextually. Despite the overwhelming importance of the Enlightenment values endangering secularization of political

Bharatiya Jana Sangh (1951–77) 203 processes, the rise of the BJS and those supporting its ideological priorities, provide adequate inputs to suggest that in politics there are hardly ideas which are sacrosanct presumably because of the fluid socioeconomic milieu in which they are constructed. Critical here is the role of the institutions for ideas get articulated in the former. Once the BJS accepted the parliamentary path it automatically became part of the experiment that India had undertaken since independence as a democratic polity. There is also another part of the story. Conceptually, the rise of BJS is explicable since it upheld an alternative ideological perspective in which it had articulated its political responses. In practice however, that it had failed to garner support for the ideological priority that it had represented also shows that in a particular context its appeal to the voters was highly limited. The situation had however undergone a sea change later, as we will see in the following pages. What does it reinforce? There are two points that need attention: on the one hand, that Hindu nationalist ideas did not receive the attention that their ideologues had expected demonstrates that the situation was not as conducive as it later became for these ideas to strike organic roots in India. By implication, it also means, on the other, that the BJS approach to politics did not seem to have galvanized the support that its later counterparts had done. This further entails that at a particular juncture, the BJS was hardly recognized as a persuasive alternative in India. Nonetheless, the BJS was a fresh wave of thinking suggesting that besides the Nehruvian ideas of secular India there were other competing ideologies, including Hindu nationalism, which, despite not being successful in electoral politics, laid a solid foundation for alternative ideological priorities to flourish and cement a bond among those favouring Hindu nationalist ideas irrespective of class, caste and religion. The story of its evolution is therefore a significant input in building a grand narrative for the rise of Hindu nationalism as a powerful alternative in contemporary India.

Notes 1 Syama Prasad Mookerjee, Leaves from a Diary, Oxford University Press, Calcutta, 1993, pp. 27–30. 2 Ibid., pp. 106–7. 3 Craig Baxter, The Jana Sangh: Biography of an Indian Political Party, University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, 1969, p. 46. 4 Balraj Madhok, ‘Time for Decision: Country Looks to RSS for Lead’, Organiser, 6 September 1949. 5 Organiser, 23, 30 November 1949; 7, 14 December 1949. 6 ‘Parties in the Arena: Role of Sangh’, Organiser, 23 January 1950. 7 Tathagata Roy, Syama Prasad Mookerjee: Life and Times, Penguin Viking, Gurgaon, 2018, p. 260. 8 Bal Raj Madhok, Portrait of a Martyr: A Biography of Dr. Shyama Prasad Mookerji, Rupa, Delhi, 2001, p. 122. 9 Roy, Mookerjee, pp. 297–8. 10 Madhok, Portrait of a Martyr, p. 119. 11 Ibid., p. 35. 12 Christophe Jaffrelot, The Hindu Nationalist Movement and Indian Politics 1925 to the 1990s, Penguin, New Delhi, 1999, p. 117. 13 Roy, Mookerjee, pp. 299–300.

204 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61

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Ibid., pp. 299–300. Ibid., p. 301. Ibid., pp. 301–2. Madhok, Portrait of a Martyr, p. 123. Organiser, 4 June 1951. Madhok, ‘Bharatiya Jana Sangh: A New Approach to National Problems, Organiser, 11 June 1951. Organiser, 18 June 1951. Organiser, 1 October 1951. ‘The New Light: “Deepak” of Jana Sangh’, Organiser, 17 September 1951. Organiser, 22 October 1951. Ibid. Baxter, Jana Sangh, p. 86. Jana Sangh Souvenir, 1969, pp. 34–5. ‘Country First: Paramount Jana Sangh Policy’, Mookerjee addresses the Press, Organiser, 29 October 1951. ‘No Politics: No Election Sri Guruji Declaration’, Organiser, 29 October 1951. Baxter, Jana Sangh, p. 83. 13 September 1949, Jana Sangh Souvenir, 1969, pp. 34–5. Atal Behari Vajpayee, ‘The Bane of Pseudo-Secularism’, Jana Sangh Souvenir, 1969, pp. 55–8. Ibid. Baxter, Jana Sangh, p. 91. Ibid., p. 92. Madhok, Portrait of a Martyr, pp. 145–6. Baxter, Jana Sangh, pp. 130–1. L.K. Advani, My Country My Life, Rupa, Delhi, 2008, p. 89. Advani, My Country My Life, p. 90. BJS: Party Documents, Vol. 3, BJS Central Office, New Delhi, 1973, p. 47. Working Committee, 24 November 1957, BJS: Party Documents, Vol. 3, pp. 49–50. BJS: Party Documents, Vol. 3, pp. 22–4. Working Committee, 15 April 1955, 23 October 1955; General Council, 28 August 1955, BJS: Party Documents, Vol. 3, pp. 36–40. BJS: Party Documents, Vol. 3, pp. 41–3. BJS: Party Documents, Vol. 3, pp. 105–7. Advani, My Country My Life, p. 141. Ibid., p. 141. Ibid., p. 142. Jana Sangh Souvenir, 1969, p. 23. Ibid., pp. 47–9. Bruce Graham, ‘The Leadership and Organization of the Jana Sangh, 1951–1967’, in Christophe Jaffrelot (ed.), The Sangh Parivar: A Reader, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2005, pp. 225–67. BJS: Party Documents, Vol. 3, pp. 7–8. Ibid., pp. 9–11. Ibid., pp. 14–16. Ibid., p. 22. Working Committee, 4 July 1953, BJS: Party Documents, Vol. 3, p. 24. Bombay plenary session, 25 January 1954, BJS: Party Documents, Vol. 3, pp. 31–2. BJS: Party Documents, Vol. 3, pp. 35–6. Graham, ‘Leadership and Organization of the Jana Sangh’. Jaffrelot, Hindu Nationalist Movement and Indian Politics, pp. 204–5. Ibid., p. 206. Baxter, Jana Sangh, p. 158.

Bharatiya Jana Sangh (1951–77) 205 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70

Ibid., p. 161. Jaffrelot, Hindu Nationalist Movement and Indian Politics, p. 180. Jaffrelot, Hindu Nationalist Movement and Indian Politics, p. 222. Advani, My Country My Life, p. 178. Ibid., p. 189. Ibid., p. 192. Ibid., pp. 262–3. Ibid., p. 264. Martha C. Nussbaum, Political Emotions: Why Love Matters for Justice, The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA & London, UK, 2013, p. 75.


Bharatiya Janata Party (1980–) The moment of consolidation

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was born from the womb of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh (BJS). The new outfit became necessary, owing mainly to the experience of the BJS in participating in the JP movement (1974 onwards), being at the receiving end (along with others) during the emergency period (1975–77), followed by its merger in the Janata Party (1977) and working in the Janata government (1977–1979). To a layman, this may appear to be a strange line of development, but for an analyst of the India political history, this hardly looks surprising. Left with little option after the ‘dual membership’ controversy had rocked the first non-Congress government at the centre, withdrawal of erstwhile BJS members from the Janata Party post-1980 elections, was the result of a wellthought-out plan to appropriate new sentiments, expand the organisation beyond the formal RSS base, and create a symbiosis between core ideological belief and pressing requirements of electoral democracy. While the new party retained the prefix ‘Bharatiya’, displaying its inalienable affinity with the BJS and the RSS, the latter part of the nomenclature ‘Janata Party’ showed its desire to appropriate the legacy of the Janata in the sense of its being the first formidable and successful opposition to the Congress. Inaugurating the new party with the declared objective of ‘Gandhian socialism’ in order to secure wider acceptance beyond the former Jana Sangh cadre, temporarily blurred its ideological distinctiveness. This became the talking point among the leadership after BJP’s below par performance in the 1984 general elections. Upadhyaya’s integral humanism was promptly brought back as the basic philosophy guiding the party. The BJP acquired a definite momentum during the late 1990s through the Ram Janmabhoomi movement. By deciding to formally join this movement which was started by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), BJP gave the whole campaign a political voice, and in the process, also widened its electoral base. The party interpreted the movement in a way that synchronized with its principal conception of cultural nationalism. Its steady growth ever since has combined its unflinching faith in nationalism and India’s integrity with the promise of an honest and sincere government. That the BJP become a distinctive pole of Indian politics by 1991, and effectively came to power in 1998 is a fascinating story of Indian democracy. Its defeat in both 2004 and 2009 elections saw promotion of newer and more determined leadership which consequently

Bharatiya Janata Party (1980–) 207 motivated the cadre and people into believing in the power of a transformative, new and strong India. The chapter makes two arguments: first, by delving on what led to the formation of the BJP in 1980, the chapter argues that without reference to the complex sociopolitical processes, the narrative shall be everything except being analytically persuasive. Hence an attempt is made here to dwell on the processes leading to the conceptualization of the BJP as a new outfit which, of course, drew on the ideological priorities of its erstwhile incarnation. Secondly, the chapter reinforces the point that the Hindu nationalist ideas are potentially strong enough to develop a constituency for them in a situation in which the Enlightenment values are said to have been well-entrenched. As history has shown, the ideas and priorities that were sought to be articulated with the formation of the BJP in 1980 gradually gained momentum which further confirms that Hindu nationalism is not just a conceptual category but an effective ideological tool for political mobilization in India.

Circumstances leading to the founding of BJP In the 1977 elections to the Lok Sabha, Janata Party had won 295 seats in which BJS was the biggest component with 93 seats. The Morarji government had three ministers from the erstwhile BJS – Vajpayee, Advani and Brijlal Verma – giving the RSS-affiliated members their first experience of running the government at the national level. Internal rivalries and a clash of ambitions soon engulfed the first non-Congress government. Making an issue of ‘dual membership’ well after the government had completed a part of its term angered these members most. After the controversy had broken out, Vajpayee, the external affairs minister in the Janata government, striking a conciliatory note, emphasized that the Jana Sangh no longer existed and that none could revive the various constituents against the will of the people. He admitted his old relations with the RSS, but underlined that the RSS was a cultural organisation which had undergone transformation ‘in accordance with the spirit and need of the time’.1 When the newly sworn in Prime Minister Charan Singh, in his broadcast speech in July 1979, asked for ‘a unity based on values’, the noted columnist Kuldip Nayar quipped that it was ‘a pious statement proper to such occasions. But if he really meant it, he was taking the people for a ride’.2 Deshmukh, erstwhile BJS leader and Janata Party general secretary, speaking at a rally in Bombay on 1 August 1979, lamented that the bogey of RSS and Jana Sangh was a ‘ghost’ created by ‘power crazy persons’.3 Vajpayee stated that ‘group loyalties and personal ambitions’ had marked the first steps of the infant party where indiscipline was pervasive. Taking a dig at Charan Singh and his group, he alleged that the RSS bogey had been ‘assiduously built up’ by these leaders as retaliation for the firm refusal by the erstwhile Jana Sangh to destabilize the centre: ‘So far has their obsession for office carried them that those who were calling their colleagues “impotent” for not acting against Mrs Gandhi yesterday are today seeking and appreciating her support ostensibly to fight the danger of the RSS!’ Emphasizing the need to


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base the polity on ideals like democracy, secularism, upliftment of Harijans and Adivasis and ensure development on modern, scientific lines, Vajpayee rebuked these politicians for the pursuit of ‘personal ambition, factional interest and selfaggrandizement’ asking them to ‘search their souls, acknowledge their failings and mend their ways’: ‘What is now at stake is not the fortune of a handful of individuals or parties. At stake is the survival of our nation’.4 After an unsuccessful Janata experiment (especially towards its end), the Congress returned to power in the 1980 elections. The original Janata Party was now reduced to just 31 seats of which 16 belonged to the erstwhile BJS. Advani remarked that the voter had punished the party for misusing the trust reposed in it in 1977, since it had miserably failed to project a cohesive image. He also ruled out any reunion of the Janata with the Lok Dal.5 After the general elections in early 1980 had given a serious jolt to the Janata Party, the ‘dual membership’ issue was raised once again, this time by Jagjivan Ram, and the group led by Chandra Shekhar. The party’s national executive in its meeting in Delhi on 4 April 1980 decided to ban all RSS-connection for its members, defeating attempts at compromise by a narrow margin of 17 to 14 votes, with leaders like Morarji Desai and Asoka Mehta supporting the position of former BJS members. The ‘dual membership’ controversy had thus reached its logical conclusion, leaving politicians associated with the RSS highly bitter. Advani told newsmen that ‘it will not be possible for us to function in the party with honour any longer’.6 The weekly Organiser felt that to ask these members ‘to forget about RSS was like some tyrannical in laws asking the Bahu to forget all about her parents and never to visit them again. . . . They have no intention to run the Janata; for them it is only a launching pad for getting somewhere, anywhere’.7 The former BJS politicians, having apprehended the Janata move, had already scheduled a meeting in the national capital over the next two days. It was in this meeting that the Bharatiya Janata Party was born on 6 April 1980, with Vajpayee as president, and Advani, Sikandar Bakht and M. M. Joshi as general secretaries. The new party while having the former Jana Sangh members at the core was eager to expand beyond the ideological cadre: ‘Unlike the rigidly cadre-based structure of the Jana Sangh, we decided to combine it with a mass-based composition’.8 Therefore, notwithstanding the desire of some senior members to call it BJS again, Vajpayee’s proposal of making a new beginning with a new name was carried with an overwhelming majority. The new name, Advani concluded, affirmed their ‘proud link’ with both the BJS and the Janata Party. It was a new party with a new identity: ‘We were determined to chart a new course, while, at the same time, retaining the old’.9 It also enabled the new outfit to incorporate non-BJS elements like Ram Jethmalani, Shanti Bhushan, Sikandar Bakht and others who got favourably disposed towards it during 1974–80. From the speeches on the occasion, Times of India reported that there was ‘no intention to revive the former Jana Sangh both in its organizational structure and its political commitments’. The emphasis on the wider horizon of the new party and its commitment to pursue the common dreams of JP, were also evinced through slogans of ‘total revolution’ interspersed with ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ (glory to the mother India).10 Vajpayee later told that his party would not allow the vision of JP to be obliterated: ‘His dreams,

Bharatiya Janata Party (1980–) 209 his labours, his struggles and his unflinching commitment to certain basic values are part of an invaluable legacy that we have inherited. The Bharatiya Janata Party is pledged to pursuing his unfinished task’.11 In his presidential address, Vajpayee underlined that secularism and unity in diversity were the cornerstones of Indian nationalism. The new party, he clarified, would also give due priority to promoting the interests of the minorities and backward sections. Through his characteristic poetical oratory, he said that though it was a bitter truth that the Janata dream had been shattered, it did not mean that they were not entitled to have another dream.12 Advani underlined that if Gandhism was accepted as the ideology of the new party, then it would not mean any compromise since in the opinion of eminent economists, the economic programme of the former BJS was the closest to the Gandhian economic programme.13 Speaking on the occasion, Sikandar Bakht, the chairman of the reception committee, accused the Janata Party of murdering the JP movement and violating the basic commitments that went into the making of the party. He recalled that it was way back in 1974 and not in 1977 (when the Janata Party was formed) that the JP movement had picked up with active cooperation of RSS and BJS workers, and the RSS elements had been ‘at the helm of struggle against dictatorship’ during the emergency – ‘If they were not bad at that time, why this bogey now?’14 The attempt to appropriate the name of the Janata Party enabled it to show respect to JP, the moving force behind the Janata, and a highly popular symbol of the antiemergency movement. The backdrop on the dais where the inaugural function was held displayed the new thinking. It had garlanded portraits of Gandhi, Mookerjee, Upadhyaya and JP.15 The new party had a new symbol, Kamal (Padma or lotus), among the most auspicious motifs found in Hinduism, Buddhism or Jainism, associated very closely with gods such as Vishnu, Lakshmi, Brahma or Saraswati. The party’s flag had one-thirds green and two-thirds saffron – a pattern similar to that of the Janata Party. In its editorial, ‘New Party, Old Problem’, Times of India predicted that the BJP’s ‘ambivalence about its attitude will prevent it from winning a large, variegated and loyal constituency’. But the editorial also exuded certain optimism about its future: But it is also possible to say that the new party testifies to and reconfirms the former Jana Sanghis readiness, of which they gave abundant evidence even during their association with the original Janata, to abandon their parochial origins and to become a modern, mainstream party aspiring to a nationwide, transcultural, trans-religious constituency. Looked at from this angle, the BJP can be expected to make more headway than either the former Jana Sangh or the polymorphous Janata in which the Jana Sangh had gladly merged.16

National convention and adopting the creed of Gandhian socialism After its founding in April 1980, the new party was busy organizing itself, reaching out to people, enrolling new members, culminating in the first national


Ideological initiatives and organizational forms

convention in Bombay on 28–30 December 1980. The session was attended by a massive 54,632 delegates, with Maharashtra, MP, Rajasthan, UP, Bihar and Gujarat sending the biggest contingent in that order, and the southern states of AP and Karnataka coming next with a combined figure of 4,750.17 The event set the ball rolling – outlining the broad objectives of the party, framing a constitution and firming up its commitments. K. S. Hegde, speaker of the Lok Sabha during the Janata government, and a former judge of the Supreme Court, in a message to Vajpayee on this occasion, expressed optimism that the country looked to him and the party ‘to unite and organise all patriotic and progressive forces’.18 Vajpayee firmly announced that the BJP was ‘considerably much more and a greater force than the erstwhile Jana Sangh with which many critics tried to identify it’. Commending the success of the new identity, he said that whereas in the BJS, they could not enroll more than 13 to 14 lakh members, the BJP had already enrolled 25 lakh members in the very first year of existence. Underlining the slogan- ‘Hum Ek Hain’ (‘we are one’), the president set the goal as ‘Insaf’’ (justice) – justice for the oppressed, the downtrodden and the exploited.19 He concluded his speech in a poetical style and on a highly confident note: ‘Andhera chhatega, sooraj nikalega aur kamal khilega’ (darkness will be dispelled, the sun will rise and the lotus will bloom).20 More significant was the pronouncement of ‘Gandhian socialism’ as the primary objective of the new party – a tone different from that of the BJS. Commonality between Gandhi’s economic principles and Upadhyaya’s integral humanism was underlined. The attempt to bring in Gandhi and his principles at the forefront of the BJP was a conscious attempt to expand the base of the new party, and also incorporate those anti-Congress and anti-Communist elements who, not so concerned with the party’s ideology, merely wanted an honest government with the model of a decentralized economic development at the core. It also enabled the party ideologues to show the ‘weaknesses’ of the communist model of socialism with its idea of class struggle at the core. Thus the Gandhian idea of class conciliation, rather than the Marxist concept of class struggle, the former rooted firmly in the Indian philosophical system, complimented Upadhyaya’s theory of integral humanism. Advani found the two fully compatible, with Upadhyaya’s strong push for egalitarianism, swadeshi, economic decentralization, revitalization of agriculture and small-scale industries finding resonance in Gandhian socialism. These ideas were shown to have firm roots in India’s past: We wanted to demonstrate that the concept of ‘socialism’, like the concept of ‘secularism’, has Indian roots, and that only the Indian way of achieving economic and social justice would ultimately succeed. We wanted to affirm that all the great thinkers and social reformers in the Hindu tradition, including Swami Vivekananda and Mahatma Gandhi in the modern era, had been votaries of what can be termed as ‘Spiritual Socialism’. . . . The neglect and negation of the spiritual dimension of man had rendered the communist experiment, in country after country in Europe and Asia, utterly dehumanizing. Therefore, the BJP adopted Gandhian Socialism as a positive alternative to communism.21

Bharatiya Janata Party (1980–) 211 When a delegate suggested using the phrase ‘Gandhian samatavad’ (or Gandhian equity) in place of ‘Gandhian socialism’, Bhai Mahavir, an important worker of RSS and a leader of the BJS and BJP, responded that they need not feel allergic to the word socialism since Vivekananda himself had used the expression ‘Spiritual Socialism’.22 A highlight of the convention was the address by Mohamedali Currim Chagla, celebrated jurist and leader, who admired the Jana Sangh for its discipline and honesty, highlighting that no person ever defected from it. He announced that the BJP was not a communal party and derided attempts to divide India into political minorities.23 At this convention, the BJP formally adopted certain principles to form the basis of a national consensus, called as ‘our five commitments’. The first commitment was of nationalism and national integration which clarified that those with external or extra-territorial loyalties or engaged in antisocial activities were to be kept out. The second was that of democracy, where the party acknowledged the role of JP in defending democratic institutions. The third was ‘positive secularism’, meaning that in the Indian context, the idea of secularism had to be ‘positive’ or the one advocating equal respect to all religions (i.e. sarva dharma samabhava). It said that a truly secular state could be established only if a sense of Indian-ness gets instilled in every citizen, irrespective of his religion, caste, region or language. The creed of Gandhian socialism formed the fourth important commitment where Gandhian approach to economic development was shown in harmony with the basic features of integral humanist approach. The fifth commitment, i.e. pursuing politics based on values, was meant to define the party claiming to be different from others. It called country’s crisis as an essentially moral crisis where moral values had given way to self-seeking and lust for power.24 The new party, with a new identity, though retaining a significant part of the BJS past, incorporated JP and Gandhi as the two new icons to reach out to newer groups, able to win large elections and stand out as a viable alternative to the Congress. However, the idea was to retain the Indian-ness and a value system derived from the country’s traditional past, while highlighting legitimate and popular symbols of the country’s freedom and progress post-independence. However, on the electoral front, the party failed to convert its optimism into any substantial gain, notwithstanding occasional victories in select pockets. In 1983, the party made its mark in south India, winning 18 out of 224 seats in the Karnataka Assembly. However, in the same year, it lost elections in the Jammu region, a traditional stronghold of the BJS. The Jammu voters saw in Indira Gandhi a saviour of Hindu interests. The first big challenge for the party came in the polls held soon after Indira Gandhi’s assassination in December 1984. As the sympathy wave in favour of the Congress swept across the country, the BJP in its manifesto held on to the principles it had chalked out for itself in December 1980. The manifesto talked of national unity, electoral reforms, but the specific demands which could be counted as common to those of the BJS or the RSS, were only few, e.g. positive secularism, deletion of Article 370 or stopping illegal immigration in the northeast or promoting moral education, inculcating feeling of patriotism and commitment towards nation among school children.25 In an interview towards


Ideological initiatives and organizational forms

the end of 1984, Arif Beg, the convener of the BJP’s minority cell said that all throughout the Congress-I had been exploiting the Muslims in the name of Urdu, Aligarh Muslim University and the Muslim Personal Law. Though Urdu is not the language of any particular community, Beg alleged that ‘to make Muslims a plaything of sentiments’ Congress had raked up the issue of the language. He accused the Muslim leadership of ignoring the cause of Muslims, and in fact some of these leaders ‘who go to Pakistan to lament for Indian Muslims should know that the condition of Muslims in Pakistan is worse’. He underlined the party’s slogan – ‘Unite and Serve’, not ‘Divide and Rule’.26

Results of 1984 and minor course-correction The editor of Organiser, called the 1984 results a massive ‘Hindu mandate’ in favour of the Congress, while rejecting the BJP: People had forgotten their hardships to vote for the Congress which speaks for essentially sentimental, patriotic nature of the people of India, especially the Hindu mass, for it was a conscious Hindu vote, consciously and deliberately solicited by the Cong-I as a Hindu party. And this is what steered the party to a grand victory decimated the ‘revisionist’ BJP and reincarnated Cong-I as BJP, rather the old Jana Sangh, for all practical electoral purposes.27 Though the BJP had not fared very poorly in terms of the percentage of votes (securing 7.66% of valid votes and the largest among opposition parties in terms of vote share) or finishing second in as many as 101 seats, its tally of two seats (one each from Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh) out of the 220 it contested, cast a gloomy spell on both leaders and supporters. This number is frequently referred to by the BJP leadership to show its phenomenal growth from hereafter. Most recently, Narendra Modi in his thanks-giving speech at the party’s office in Delhi on 23 May 2019, after the results of the Lok Sabha elections were announced, used the phrase – ‘2 se dobara’ (i.e. from two seats in 1984 to repeating in 2019 the winning performance of 2014). Vajpayee said that though the party enjoyed considerable public support, what made the difference was that the Congress party made national unity as the only election issue and itself as the only saviour of this unity.28 Advani said that the BJP had been able to preserve the BJS base, and though the number of voters had increased, the percentage of the BJP votes had remained largely unaffected. The party securing 35% of votes in Delhi, 30% of votes in MP, 24% in Rajasthan and 18% in Gujarat, he contended, was a sizeable percentage: ‘On the whole, our support base remains to be as large as it was earlier even in this kind of wave, sympathy wave and a wave in favour of Rajiv. I don’t think it is a very great loss.’29 It was here that Advani used the phrase – ‘cadres based, mass party’ to refer to the BJP which, he said, was trying to evolve a proper balance between the cadre and ‘new people, new faces who really do not come up from the ranks’.30

Bharatiya Janata Party (1980–) 213 BJP’s national executive in its meeting in March 1985 carried out a long-term assessment of its future in view of these election results. It set up a 12-member working group led by Krishan Lal Sharma and, including among others, M.M. Joshi, V.K. Malhotra and B.S. Sekhawat, to prepare a concrete plan of action for the next five years on all facets of party’s functioning – ideology, organisation, agitation, constructive activities and electoral strategy. Vajpayee also wanted the party to think whether defeat in the election was due to the merger of the BJS with the Janata Party or withdrawing from it in 1980 or whether they should revive the old BJS: The BJP has chosen the middle path between the two extremes of merger and going alone. We have adopted the course of cooperation with democratic and nationalist parties while maintaining our separate identity. Has the policy been proved to be wrong and is it necessary to change it? We should also decide whether there is contradiction between continuing to widen the base of the party and making the party organization stronger, more disciplined and dynamic.31 The working group prepared a detailed 43-page report. It did not find any fault in either merging with the Janata or coming out of it to form a new party. The report, however, emphasized the pride associated with the Jana Sangh past. Most significant observation was that the adoption of Gandhian socialism as the guiding philosophy had blurred the ideological distinctiveness of the BJP. People with BJS background found it difficult to identify with this philosophy at the forefront. Also, since the BJP had projected itself as a party with difference, it also meant that its chief ideological premise should not be shared by others: ‘In ultimate analysis, the strength and spread of a political party will also depend on its ideological appeal’. Therefore, it recommended reverting to integral humanism of Upadhyaya as the guiding philosophy of the party. Since Gandhian socialism and integral humanism were compatible, the former could still stay as part of ‘five commitments’, and could be worded as ‘Gandhian approach to socioeconomic system, that is, a society based on equality and freedom from exploitation (samata-yukt and shoshan-mukt)’.32 The national council of the party in its meeting in October 1985 accepted the recommendation and made integral humanism the basic philosophy of the party. The ‘five commitments’ adopted in December 1980, including Gandhian socialism, were retained in their original form.

Shah Bano case – reflection of skewed secularism The Shah Bano case is among the most discussed in independent India where the right of a poor and divorced Muslim woman for maintenance by the former husband, upheld by the Supreme Court, was overturned by the government through its brute parliamentary majority. Overturning of the Supreme Court judgement was due mainly to the pressure exerted by some fundamentalist and conservative Muslim leaders and clergy. The Rajiv Gandhi government which


Ideological initiatives and organizational forms

initially favoured the judgement, vacillated subsequently in the face of this opposition, and finally cast its vote in favour of the minority appeasement. These sections rallying under the All-India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) even threatened to boycott the Republic Day celebrations in January 1986. It was here that the BJP calling for a uniform civil code or asking for actualization of Article 44 of the Constitution, which enjoins upon the State ‘to endeavour to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India’, made a massive point by opposing the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986. The bill, hastily drafted, opened Pandora’s box by setting a bad precedent and treating Muslim women at a much inferior level than women of other religious communities.33 The Shah Bano episode was in sharp contrast to the Hindu code bills of 1950s where the Nehru government had gone ahead with the implementation of uniform civil code for Hindus overlooking conservative opposition from some sections of the community. However, bowing before the Muslim clergy as in 1986 prompted Hindus to question attempts at ‘differentiated citizenship.’34 Advani called the whole issue ‘surrender to minorityism’. He took over as the BJP president in May 1986. In his first presidential address at the party’s national council in Delhi in the same month, he called ‘government’s somersault on the Shah Bano verdict . . . an unforgivable assault on the Constitution’, and strongly advocated introduction of a uniform civil code in the country.35 Speaking years later, he underlined that the Shah Bano episode provided the cue for their campaign ‘to expose pseudosecularism’, a campaign which was bolstered in 1989 when they joined the Ram Janmabhoomi agitation initiated by the VHP.36

Ram Janmabhoomi – accelerating BJP’s march in 1989 and 1991 In his autobiography, Advani considers the Ram Janmabhoomi movement as the ‘most decisive transformational event’ of his political career.37 He told the party’s national council later in October 2004 that it was their participation in this movement that had ‘fired the people’s imagination and catapulted the party to national prominence’: Ayodhya was the shining example of the double standards of the so-called ‘secular’ establishment in matters relating to Hindus. . . . The Ayodhya movement ensured that Hindus can no longer be either taken for granted or their sentiments blatantly disregarded.38 The movement organized by the VHP since 1984 for liberating the birthplace of the popular Hindu god Ram, believed to have been born in Ayodhya at a spot where a mosque or a disputed structure stood, was taken up by the BJP in 1989. The telecast of Ramanand Sagar’s Ramayana on the official TV channel Doordarshan starting in January 1987 followed by B.R. Chopra’s Mahabharat in October 1988 became hugely popular. Ramayana was telecast in as many as 55 countries with

Bharatiya Janata Party (1980–) 215 a peak viewership of 650 million.39 Their characters became household names with Dipika Chikhalia (playing the role of Sita) and Nitish Bharadwaj (playing the role of Krishna) winning elections to the Lok Sabha on BJP tickets in 1991 and 1996 respectively. The unprecedented popularity of these TV serials based on the two most popular Hindu epics showed how deeply ingrained these characters and stories were in the Indian psyche. So, when the Ram Janmabhoomi movement started in 1989, the popularity of these serials made the demand for ‘liberation’ of Ram’s birthplace somewhat more familiar and intense at the social level. The BJP saw the Ayodhya issue on the same lines as the restoration of the famous Somnath temple in Gujarat in 1951, and therefore wished the government to be supportive of the demand. Rebuilding of Somnath temple was seen as a result of ‘Sardar Patel’s resolve, Mahatma Gandhi’s blessings, K.M. Munshi’s battle and Rajendra Babu’s Presidential stamp’. Patel had on that occasion seen the act as ‘a point of honour and sentiments with the Hindu public’.40 More than just a Hindu God, the party saw in Ram a unique symbol of India’s national identity, unity and integration. The first notable public meeting where the issue of Ram’s birthplace was raised was held in Muzaffarnagar in UP in 1983 attended by the RSS leader Rajendra Singh (Rajju Bhaiya), prominent Gandhian and former union Home Minister Gulzarilal Nanda and former UP Congress Minister Daudayal Khanna.41 It was during 1984 that the issue of Ayodhya came on the national scene led chiefly by the VHP. In April 1984, a dharma sansad (parliament of religions) in Delhi decided to liberate Ram’s birthplace through a peaceful movement followed by constitution of a committee called ‘Ram Janmabhoomi Muktiyajna Samiti’ (Ram’s birthplace liberation committee) in July, headed by Mahant Avaidyanath. This committee organized a long procession or yatra from Sitamarhi (believed to be Sita’s birthplace) in Bihar to Ayodhya in September–October 1984.42 The movement gained further momentum during 1985. The VHP organized another dharma sansad at Udipi in October 1985, threatening to launch a satyagraha on mahashivaratri (the auspicious day marking the marriage anniversary of Lord Shiva) on 8 March 1986 if locks were not opened for worshippers by then. Finally, in February 1986, the gate to the disputed structure was opened on the order of the District Court in Faizabad. The judge relied on the testimony of the UP government (led by the Congress at this time) that opening of the locks would not create any law and order problem. The BJP made the movement a formal part of its agenda only in June 1989 when its national executive in a meeting at Palampur (Himachal Pradesh) passed a detailed resolution to this effect. While attacking the Congress and other political parties for their attitude, it noted that by the time the court order came in 1986, ‘secularism had come to be equated with an allergy to Hinduism and a synonym for minority appeasement’: The Muslim League lobby in the country had acquired a new militancy and aggressiveness. The campaign launched by this lobby against the Supreme Court’s judgement in the Shah Bano Case in 1985 had brought it rich


Ideological initiatives and organizational forms dividends. . . . Having thus tasted blood, this lobby set up the Babri Masjid Action Committee, and mounted a vicious assault on the decisions of the Faizabad Court. . . . It is significant that most of the members of the Babri Action Committee belonged to the Congress. . . . The sentiments of the people must be respected, and Janmasthan must be handed over to the Hindus – if possible through a negotiated settlement, or else, by legislation. Litigation certainly is no answer.43

The party appreciated the effort of some Shia leaders for trying to convince their community that it was contrary to the tenets of Islam to build a mosque upon a place of worship of another religion. The movement picked up towards the latter half of 1989 as the VHP upped the ante through its plan to carry out shilanyas (foundation ceremony) in Ayodhya on 10 November after getting consecrated bricks (Ram shilas) from different places in the country from September onwards. As the temperature rose, Rajiv Gandhi began his election campaign from Ayodhya. The Congress chief minister of UP, N. D. Tiwari convened a meeting of Buta Singh, Ashok Singhal, Daudayal Khanna, Nritya Gopal Das and Avaidyanath and authorized shilanyas at a site close to the disputed structure which was finally performed on 9 November 1989. It was in these circumstances, under the shadow of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement, and after allegations of various corruption scandals had rocked the Congress government, that general elections of 1989 were held. Close to elections, several new political conglomerations had come up. The most important was the formation in August 1988 of the National Front in which seven parties came together under N. T. Rama Rao and V. P. Singh. This did not include either the BJP or the Left. Two months later in October 1988, Singh’s Jan Morcha, Chandra Shekhar’s Janata Party and two factions of Lok Dal – led respectively by Devi Lal and Ajit Singh – merged to form Janata Dal. BJP decided to enter into an alliance with Shiv Sena at its Palampur session in June 1989. An alliance of the BJP and the Janata Dal could not come through as V. P. Singh opposed it calling the former a ‘communal party’. At the party’s national executive meeting in Bombay in September 1989, Advani in his presidential address, quoting Savarkar, said, ‘If they come, with them; if they don’t, without them; and if they oppose us, in spite of them’.44 BJP’s election manifesto in 1989 included the rebuilding of a temple of Ram, in a manner similar to that of Somnath temple. Following up on the Shah Bano case, it sought to appoint a commission to study personal laws of various religious communities in India, to identify fair and equitable ingredients in these laws and then prepare a draft for evolving a consensus for a uniform civil code. It also reiterated its demand for deleting Article 370 of the Constitution related to special status for Kashmir. BJP polled 11.4% of votes and won 85 seats, emerging as the third largest party after the Congress and the Janata Dal. From this high point, especially when compared to the 1984 results, BJP never looked back, constantly improving its tally, emerging as the single largest party in 1996, before going down in 2004 and 2009.

Bharatiya Janata Party (1980–) 217 From the middle of 1990, crisis struck the infant, unstable-coalition journey of the V. P. Singh government which had been supported from outside by two ideologically opposing poles of the BJP and the Left. With the government failing to find any cogent solution, organizers of the Janmabhoomi movement threatened in June 1990 to start kar seva (or voluntary religious service) on 30 October. Addressing, the national executive of the BJP in July 1990, Advani now warned the government that a casual approach in the matter of Ram Janmabhoomi could prove costly: ‘The present government sought time from the leadership of the Ram Janmasthan movement. The VHP leadership responded positively. It is a matter of regret that New Delhi has, as yet, made no meaningful move in the matter’.45 There were some important conflicts within the National Front government. The Deputy Prime Minister Devi Lal, a popular leader among farmers including backward classes, was dismissed from his post on 1 August 1990. In retaliation, he announced a mega farmers’ rally in New Delhi on 9 August. To scuttle the impact of this rally, on 7 August, the Prime Minister V. P. Singh hastily announced his decision to implement quota in government jobs for other backward classes based on the recommendation of the Mandal Commission, whose report, submitted seven years back, had all but been forgotten by the previous governments. This was followed by huge protests in many parts of the country. The BJP saw this move, likely to sharpen caste identity and encourage caste-consolidation, a serious threat to its project of building a cohesive Hindu identity in the long term. Therefore, it started preparing to safeguard what it saw as its constituency in the making. On 13 August, in a function in New Delhi, Advani offered to the Muslim leaders that he would request the VHP to withdraw its demand for Kashi and Mathura shrines (where mosques are present in the shrine complex) if the Muslims voluntarily withdrew their claim over the Ram Janmabhoomi allowing for construction of the Ram temple. He was attempting to address the larger Muslim concern, after Ayodhya had become a site of contest, that whether it would be the beginning of a long process of Hindu claims on other places of worship. The request was rejected by the All-India Babri Masjid Action Committee (AIBMAC) leaders.46 It was around early September that Advani contemplated a yatra to Ayodhya from Somnath, initially a padyatra (journey on foot), but on the suggestion of Pramod Mahajan, he changed it to rath yatra (a mini-truck redesigned as a rath or chariot) – rath with Ram’s image with bow and arrow was likely to be far more appealing. The date of the start of the yatra – 25 September – was chosen to coincide with the birth anniversary of Upadhyaya, the ideological guide of the party, while the date of finish – 30 October – would coincide with the proposed kar seva in Ayodhya. The Ram Rath Yatra, the first of its kind by the BJP, became the harbinger of many more yatras to follow in the 1990s. With Advani in the forefront, BJP attempted to galvanize masses around the cultural and religious symbolism of Ram and Ayodhya, linking it with similar effort in the past to the grand rebuilding of the Somnath temple. The Ram Rath Yatra during September–October 1990 became one of the biggest spectacles the


Ideological initiatives and organizational forms

country had seen in decades. Accompanied by Pramod Mahajan, Narendra Modi and other senior party functionaries, Advani offered prayers at the Somnath temple, paid floral tributes to the statue of Patel outside the temple and set off on a proposed 10,000 kilometres-long yatra. The priest of the temple presented him with a saffron dharma dhwaja (religious flag), the fishermen from Dwarka presented him a conch with the name of Ram inscribed on it and the tribals of Ambaji offered a bow and arrow, while the Gohil Samaj (the Kshatriya community) gave him a golden sword.47 The chariot covered around 300 kilometres every day with Advani addressing a large number of public gathering en route. But before the chariot could reach Ayodhya, he was arrested in Samastipur in Bihar on 23 October, on the orders of a Janata Dal government, which was also part of the ruling coalition at the centre. The BJP which had already issued a caveat on 17 October, threatening political action if attempts were made to disrupt the yatra, promptly withdrew its support for the V. P. Singh government, leading to its eventual fall through the Lok Sabha trust vote. Swapan Dasgupta calls the Ayodhya movement, in particular the Rath Yatra, ‘a watershed’ which transformed the BJP, ‘a relatively small and well- knit political party with a disproportionate urban presence’ into a mass party.48 In the 1991 election manifesto, the BJP called for ‘grand national reconciliation’ at Ayodhya. Calling Hindus and Muslims as ‘blood brothers’, it suggested restoration of Ram Janmabhoomi by way of ‘a symbolic righting of historical wrongs’.49 Construction of Ram Mandir at Janmasthan was called as a ‘symbol of the vindication of our cultural heritage and national self-respect’: For BJP it is purely a national issue and it will not allow any vested interests to give it a sectarian and communal colour. Hence party is committed to build Shri Ram Mandir at Janmasthan by relocating super imposed Babri structure with due respect.50 Its long-standing demand of a uniform civil law was worded differently. It said that a law commission would study various civil laws – ancient, medieval and modern – and thereby evolve a common civil law for the whole country to give to citizens a feeling of unity and brotherhood. By the time elections took place in mid-1991, the BJP had somewhat strengthened its electoral base. With two experiments of non-Congress coalitions of 1977–80 and 1989–91 having become victims of internal rivalries, and with Rajiv Gandhi’s ghastly assassination in May 1991 leaving a massive impact, voters preferred a more stable government led by the Congress. But nonetheless, the BJP improved its tally from 85 to 120 seats, emerging as the second largest party, with most prominent gains in UP which alone accounted for 51 seats as against just eight in 1989. The party significantly improved its vote share from 11.4 to 20.1%, though this increase was also partly the result of a much bigger number of seats – 468 that it contested this time, up from 226 in 1989. In the assembly elections, its victory was more significant, winning 221 of the 425 seats in UP and forming the first BJP government in the most populous state. It had already formed

Bharatiya Janata Party (1980–) 219 governments in states like MP, Rajasthan and Himachal after assembly elections in 1990. From mid-1991 to the end-1992 when the disputed structure was demolished, the mobilisation around the Ram Janmabhoomi continued unabated.

Kashmir issue and the Ekta Yatra The Kashmir issue became a big eyesore in early 1990 when more than one lakh pandit family were forced to flee their homeland in the wake of organized militant threat of cleansing the Valley. The region with a large majority of Muslim population, witnessing recurring secessionist movement and organized terrorist attacks, often backed by the government and the army from across the border, became a significant issue for the BJP claiming national integration as its primary objective. Article 370 was seen as the biggest stumbling block in the state’s complete integration: If the people in Kashmir feel alienated and aggrieved, the main reason for this is that Article 370 has helped produce and sustain corrupt and incompetent regimes which have felt free to engage in self-aggrandizement for over four decades.51 At its national executive in February 1991, the party lamented that the Kashmiri separatists had specially targeted symbols of India’s national integrity and had driven out almost the entire Hindu community. Claiming that the party had collected two crore rupees in cash and kind for those displaced, it noted with dismay that the ‘so-called secular parties’ had ‘neither condemned their ouster from the Valley nor done anything for them’.52 In the 1990s, yatras became a frequent activity for the party, both to enhance its reach among masses and to highlight issues in a fashion that public meetings or party sessions or media speeches alone could not do. Having seen the success of the Ram Rath Yatra, Joshi who took over as the president of the party in early 1991, decided to undertake a long Ekta Yatra (march for unity) from Kanyakumari to Kashmir to highlight the indivisible unity and integrity of the country. The yatra started on 11 December 1991 to coincide with the martyrdom day of Guru Govind Singh (tenth and the last Sikh Guru) and the birth anniversary of the Tamil nationalist poet, Subramania Bharati. The procession was halted at Jammu and not allowed to proceed to Sri Nagar as the situation there was not peaceful. A select group of leaders was flown from Jammu to Sri Nagar, where Joshi hoisted the national flag at Lal Chowk on the Republic Day, 26 January 1992. ‘In a sense’, the official document of the BJP claims, the yatra marked ‘the turning point in the battle against terrorism’.53 The party undertook another campaign in 1993, this time calling it a yatra for Janadesh (mandate or will of the people) to highlight its opposition to the introduction of two bills related to the use of religion in public life – the 80th Constitution Amendment Bill and the Representation of People (Amendment) Bill. The BJP leaders argued that it was adharma, and not dharma, which required to be


Ideological initiatives and organizational forms

separated from politics. The 14-day Janadesh Yatra began from four directions on 11 September 1993, with Advani leading from Mysore, Sekhawat from Jammu, Joshi from Porbandar and Kalyan Singh from Calcutta, reaching Bhopal on 25 September.54

Changing tactics and breaking the electoral barrier 1996–1999 In the elections to the assemblies of four states in 1993 – UP, MP, Rajasthan and HP where incumbent BJP governments had been dismissed after the demolition of the disputed structure in Ayodhya in December 1992, the BJP received a shock. Except for Rajasthan, it lost all the other three. The party lost 44 seats in the crucial state of UP owing primarily to the alliance of SP and BSP. Its downslide was more dramatic in MP and HP. However, it made a significant gain by winning the Delhi assembly polls. In 1995, it made a significant gain by winning Gujarat, a state which it has held on to since then. In the same year, the party, along with its ally Shiv Sena, came to power in Maharashtra. So, by the time elections to the Lok Sabha were held in 1996, the BJP had made significant gains in new regions. As the general elections of 1996 neared, unlike the previous occasions, there was also a more organized attempt to convince Muslims to allay their apprehensions about the party. Minorities Cell of the party under Arif Beg prepared a comprehensive assurance including taleem (education), tanzeem (organization) and tijarat (employment) to the Muslims.55 Advani embarked upon another yatra, this time focusing on corruption-free governance. Choosing the birth-centenary year of Subhas Chandra Bose and fifty years of formation of the interim government in the country in 1946, the party gave a call to shift focus from mere swaraj (self-rule) to su-raj (good government): ‘Though we have had swaraj for half a century, suraj has been eluding us’. Through this yatra, the party’s stated objective was to take its message of suraksha (security), shuchita (probity), samarasata (social harmony) and swadeshi (self-reliance), as well as its ideology of cultural nationalism (Hindutva) to the people.56 This five-fold objective also formed the party’s offer to the electorate in its manifestoes in 1996 and 1998. Flagged off by Vajpayee, the Suraj Yatra began from Ernakulum in Kerala on 9 March 1996, with the chariot sporting a portrait of Bose, reaching Delhi on 23 March. Another phase of the yatra began from Indore on 14 April and ended in Lucknow on 23 April. Though, through this campaign, the BJP focused more on efficient, honest and stable government, its election manifesto of 1996 did not lose sight of issues like uniform civil law or the Ram temple. It did not talk about a law commission now, but said instead that regressive personal laws would cease to have legal validity, and the uniform civil code, to be applicable to every community, would ‘foster a common Bharatiya identity, apart from ensuring gender equality’. While reiterating its demand for a national register of citizens (included for the first time in the election manifesto of 1991), it promised now to introduce a ‘multipurpose identity card’. It also promised to facilitate the construction of a magnificent Ram temple at Janmasthan in Ayodhya, which, it underlined, would be ‘a tribute to Bharat Mata’.57

Bharatiya Janata Party (1980–) 221 In the 1996 general elections, after sixteen years of its existence, combined with 26 years of the BJS, for the first time the BJP emerged as the single largest party in the Lok Sabha, winning 161 seats, with its adversary Congress reduced to 136 seats. Whether in his address to the nation on 19 May or his long speech during the debate on the vote of confidence, Vajpayee carefully avoided issues like Ram temple, Article 370 or uniform civil code. During the debate, Vajpayee impinged upon the necessity of a consensus where everyone had to make some compromise.58 He used every brief opportunity to counter the issue of ‘threat to secularism’ raised by the non-BJP parties and groups like the Congress, the National Front and the Left: Those that have undergone many splits, have come together only to fragment, who have formed conflicting combinations but failed to win more seats than the BJP, are now prepared to join hands, without any hesitation, even with those whom they opposed in the polls with great vigour. This can only be termed as politics without principles, motivated by the sole aim of coming to power by any means. . . . They seem to have a single-point agenda: Stop the Bharatiya Janata Party.’59 However, the road to power appeared to be so near and yet so far. With its plank of strong nationalism, Ram temple or complete integration of Kashmir, uniform civil code, along with various mass-contact campaigns with assurance of an honest and sincere government, the party appeared to have reached its peak strength. Either the parties or conglomeration opposed to the BJP had to be severely discredited, as it happened during the experiments of two short-term governments during 1996–1998, supported by Congress from outside, or in addition or alternatively, the BJP had to look for more credible regional allies apart from Shiv Sena in Maharashtra and Akali Dal in Punjab. The 11-months-old Deve Gowda government fell in April 1997 as the Congress suddenly withdrew support. He was succeeded by I. K. Gujral. There were enough indications that even this government was not going to last long, and eventually fell during November 1997 leading to fresh elections in February 1998. History of 1979–80 and 1990–91 had been repeated during 1996–1998. None of the four Prime Ministers – Charan Singh, Chandra Shekhar, Deve Gowda or Gujral, anointed with the support of the Congress, had succeeded in completing even a single year in office. After the government led by Gujral had also fallen too soon, the national executive of the BJP in its meeting on 19–21 December 1997, vented its anger that though the mandate of 1996 was against the Congress and the Janata Dal, ‘the defeated chose to position themselves as rulers under the garb of protecting “secularism” and “federalism” – two political concepts that have suffered the greatest abuse at the hands of their self-appointed champions’. The resolution was most severe on the role played by the left during this period: The Left has played the most diabolical role in this past year-and-a-half. The Marxists, like proverbial snakes in the grass, were neither friends of their allies in the UF nor foes of the Congress, even while pretending to be both.


Ideological initiatives and organizational forms Notwithstanding its hollow sloganeering and slander campaign against the BJP, the CPI(M) has proved that the Marxist habits of doublespeak and duplicitous politics die hard. In their pursuit of power without accountability, for which they were willing to collaborate with anybody and compromise on anything, the Marxists have demonstrated their true character as political charlatans.60

When the political uncertainty was the order of the day and early elections loomed large, the BJP picked up the opportunity offered by the golden jubilee year of the country’s independence to undertake another grand mass-contact campaign. Focusing on patriotic values and honest governance, the Swarna Jayanti Rath Yatra, the longest till then, was planned in four continuous phases over 59 days covering a distance of 15,000 kilometres through 21 states and Union Territories. Advani, who led the campaign, addressed 750 public meetings and claimed to have established direct contact with around two crore people.61 The yatra was flagged off by Vajpayee from the August Kranti ground in Mumbai on 18 May 1997. The mini truck-turned-chariot was fitted with pictures of Bharat Mata, and portraits of Gandhi, Tilak, Patel, Ambedkar, Lakshmibai, Bhagat Singh, Azad, Ashfaqullah, Savarkar, Kattabomman, Subhas Bose and Hedgewar. Recalling the Quit India movement of 1942, Advani gave the slogan of eliminating hunger, fear and corruption from the country. After reaching Chennai, the yatra went by air to Andaman on 28 May to coincide with the 114th birth anniversary of the great revolutionary Savarkar who had been incarcerated in the dreaded Cellular Jail in Port Blair. Advani also offered a pledge to millions of people during the campaign including giving priority to patriotic duty, observing honesty in profession and not engaging in any discrimination on the basis of caste or creed.62 Advani also made this campaign an opportunity to appeal to Muslims to beware of propaganda against BJP and urged them ‘to understand Cultural Nationalism and forge heart-unity with their Hindu brethren’: After independence, influential sections of the Muslim leadership, encouraged by the pseudo-secular practices of the Congress and other parties, have continued to obstruct the community’s all-sided integration with the national life. He asked Indian Muslims to bury vote-bank politics and assured that the cultural nationalism preached by the BJP ‘does not in any way erase the identity of Islam’, since the party does not only respect ‘but celebrates the multi-religious, multi-lingual and multi-ethnic diversity of Indian society, which is united at its core by Hindutva’.63 In December 1997, Advani and Vajpayee addressed a meeting of minorities in Delhi in which they sought to dispel their apprehension about the BJP, assuring them to look after their interests once in power.64 The slogan for 1998 election was vote for an able prime minister and a stable government. Though the party’s manifesto continued to carry its distinctive demands, the talk of temple or abrogation of Article 370 was considerably toned

Bharatiya Janata Party (1980–) 223 down during the campaign. Apart from its former allies like the Shiv Sena, Akali Dal and Samata Party, it now entered into electoral adjustments with parties like AIADMK in Tamil Nadu, Trinamool Congress in West Bengal, Biju Janata Dal in Orissa, and Lok Shakti Party of Ramakrishna Hegde in Karnataka. BJP won 182 out of 384 seats it contested, improving its vote share by more than 5% to 25.59%, whereas the Congress which contested 474 seats won 141. The party also succeeded in expanding the social and geographical base. For the first time since 1952, the BJS or the BJP had representation from Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Assam. Post-poll alliance was based on a Common Minimum Programme (CMP) which came to be known as the National Agenda for Governance (NAG). This obviously did not include Ram temple, Article 370 or uniform civil code. However, an important item related to nuclear policy was incorporated in the CMP. The common platform of parties forming the government was named as the National Democratic Alliance (NDA). Advani found in the name an emotional resonance with the conglomeration headed by the BJS-founder Mookerjee in the first Lok Sabha called the National Democratic Front.65 Thus, for the first time in March 1998 (if we exclude BJP’s brief two-week government in 1996), after fifty years of the country’s independence, Atal Behari Vajpayee, a leader with no history of affiliation with the Congress Party had occupied the office of the prime minister. All previous non-Congress prime ministers – Morarji Desai, Charan Singh, V. P. Singh, Chandra Shekhar, Deve Gowda and I.K. Gujral – had been Congressmen at one time or another.

Nuclear tests, Lahore Yatra and Kargil War The urgency of India acquiring nuclear capability was first raised by the BJS in 1964 after China entered the nuclear club. It was projected as part of a comprehensive defence strategy by the party in 1966, after the war with Pakistan. BJP continued with this commitment. In 1991, its manifesto said that the defence forces should have nuclear teeth. The 1996 manifesto made the demand more elaborate: BJP would not accept nuclear apartheid, and therefore there could be no agreement on Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) unless there was a simultaneous agreement for time-bound global elimination of nuclear weapons. It would also not agree to Fissile Material Control Regime (FMCR) or Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR). The election manifesto of 1998 appeared more determined on this front. Sensing its chance of forming the next government, the party promised to re-evaluate the country’s nuclear policy and exercise the option to induct nuclear options. It assured to restart the long-stalled nuclear power programme as it questioned why after having mastered the technology and the entire nuclear fuel cycle only two nuclear plants had gone critical in the preceding seven years. Promising to end nuclear apartheid, it emphasized that a BJP government would not be dictated by anybody in matters of security requirements and in the exercise of the nuclear option. This promise also fit in with BJP’s unflinching emphasis on national security and integrity. The nuclear promise in the manifesto


Ideological initiatives and organizational forms

thus allowed it to assert its priority. The nuclear priority was retained in the CMP of the NDA government. Therefore, just a few months after forming the government, Vajpayee ordered the nuclear tests at Pokhran on 11 May 1998 – the Buddha Purnima day (birth anniversary of Gautam Buddha). The entire exercise was code named ‘Operation Shakti’ (Shakti, strength or might) which ensured credibility of nuclear deterrent besides confirming India as a nuclear weapon state. This also displayed the new government’s determination to walk the extra mile and display the country’s sovereign autonomy when it came to upholding India’s security. In the very beginning of his tenure, the government took some sincere efforts to mend ties with Pakistan, some of which generated a lot of media publicity too. One such initiative was the starting of a regular bus service between Delhi and Lahore. Vajpayee himself travelled in the inaugural bus journey from Amritsar to Lahore on 20 February 1999. He was received by the Pakistani Prime Minister on the Wagah border. The following day both the premiers signed the Lahore declaration. However, the Vajpayee government was soon engulfed in a crisis when on 14 April 1999, the AIADMK, an important coalition partner, withdrew its support. During the vote of confidence Vajpayee’s government lost by just one vote, the thinnest margin in India’s parliamentary history. Arithmetic had won decisively. The Congress, which had earlier claimed to have numbers on its side, could not clobber a majority to form an alternative government. The Lok Sabha was dissolved on 24 April and the country was pushed to a midterm poll all over again, the third general elections in three years. A big event in the history of India’s border security was waiting to happen. Just two months after the historic Lahore declaration, Pakistani armies intruded into the Indian side. The success of India’s defence forces in the famous Kargil War in May 1999 greatly added to the incumbent government’s prestige. Thus the elections held a few months after the Kargil War in September–October 1999 clearly seemed to favour the incumbent government. This time, the BJP did not bring its own manifesto but a combined NDA manifesto riding clear of issues which were distinctively its own, like Ram temple at Ayodhya or Article 370 or uniform civil code. It also contested fewer seats, i.e. 339 as compared to 388 in 1998 as it appeared eager to observe ‘coalition dharma’. The manifesto called these elections ‘an unnecessary imposition thrust upon the country by a motley combination that put political negativism, narrow personal interests and greed for power far above the national good’. Reiterating commitment to national security, it promised and an end to divisiveness and declared a ‘moratorium on contentious issues’. In this joint manifesto, secularism was defined as ‘emotional harmony of all Indians and full protection of minorities’ and ‘genuine secularism’ was assured on the basis of ‘equal respect for all faiths and on the basis of equality of all’ along with all-round development of the minorities. NDA was described as ‘the mirror-image of the nation’s unity in multifaceted diversity, rich pluralism and federalism’. Sonia Gandhi had taken over as the Congress president in 1998. When she was projected as the possible prime ministerial candidate, the BJP and some other parties made an issue of her foreign origin calling it unsuitable for holding high

Bharatiya Janata Party (1980–) 225 constitutional position like that of the Prime Minister.66 The NDA manifesto in 1999 also promised to bring a law to make only naturally-born Indian citizens eligible for high offices of state legislative, judiciary and executive. During their campaign, many BJP leaders asked voters to choose between a ‘swadeshi’ Vajpayee and a ‘videshi’ (foreigner) Sonia. Some from within the Congress like Sharad Pawar, P. A. Sangma and Tariq Anwar, all members of the Congress working committee, were expelled from the party for suggesting amendment in the Indian Constitution to allow only India-born natural citizens to occupy the offices of president, vice-president and prime minister. The 20-party NDA coalition surged to victory. Its 270 seats with 37.06% vote share, was helped by TDP with 29 seats extending support. BJP maintained its seat share of 182 seats while contesting fewer seats as compared to 1998.

Peace talks with Pakistan, ‘dilution of Hindutva’ ideology, electoral setbacks Vajpayee’s new government witnessed the most serious aviation hijack that India had seen till then. Known as the Kandahar hijack of 24 December 1999, it was planned and executed by Pakistan-centred terrorist groups. Pakistan’s chief Musharraf visited India in July 2001 for bilateral negotiations. The much-hyped Agra summit however failed to yield any tangible result. On 1 October 2001, the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly in Sri Nagar was attacked through suicide bombing organized again by terrorist organisations operating from across the border. This was followed by a terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament on 13 December 2001. Addressing the nation on the afternoon of 13 December, Vajpayee vowed to make the battle against terrorism ‘a fight to the finish’.67 He visited Islamabad in January 2004 to attend the 12th SAARC summit where, Vajpayee and Musharraf issued a joint statement on 6 January which recorded that Pakistan will not permit any territory under its control to be used to support terrorism in any manner. Another significant event of this period was the communal riots in Gujarat during February–March 2002 triggered by killings in a train at Godhra railway station. Many opposition leaders targeted the Chief Minister Narendra Modi alleging that he had failed to control the situation, some even suggesting his complicity in the riots. The Special Investigation Team (SIT) appointed by the Supreme Court, in its report in 2012, cleared Modi of any complicity in this violence and also rejected claims that his government had not acted enough to prevent the riots. Modi decisively won elections in Gujarat in both 2007 and 2012, disproving, in the words of Advani, ‘the conventional wisdom that focus on good governance does not make good politics’.68 Writing in 2008, Advani also castigated attempts at maligning the chief minister’s image: ‘I cannot think of any other leader in Indian politics in the past sixty years who was as viciously, consistently and persistently maligned, both nationally and internationally, as Modi had been since 2002’.69 During December 2003, the BJP won massive victories in Chhattisgarh, MP and Rajasthan. This bolstered the party’s confidence and it now decided to prepone Lok Sabha elections by six months. However, an important NDA-ally,


Ideological initiatives and organizational forms

DMK, deserted it to join the Congress-led alliance. Smaller groups like National Conference and Lok Janshakti Party also deserted the NDA. But fully confident of its chances, the BJP launched such slogans as ‘India Shining’ and ‘Feel Good factor’ claiming that India was more prosperous than ever before. NDA’s manifesto started with the punchline – ‘An agenda for development, good governance and peace’. Stating that there was peace on Indo-Pak border and inside Kashmir, it made no mention of Article 370 or uniform civil code. On the Ayodhya issue, it again struck a conciliatory note seeking to respect the judiciary’s verdict and intensifying ‘dialogue and a negotiated settlement in an atmosphere of mutual trust and goodwill’. Targeting Sonia Gandhi’s foreign origin once again, the manifesto put the heading as – ‘India to be ruled by Indians’.70 A few weeks before the first phase, BJP leaders appealed to the Muslims to give up their claims on Ayodhya so that Ram temple could be constructed. Advani’s long Bharat Uday Yatra, covering around 121 Lok Sabha constituencies from Kanyakumari to Amritsar, during March–April 2004 and explicitly election-oriented, failed to retrieve the situation. The results of the 2004 general elections came as a severe jolt to the BJP. It could win just 138 seats (out of 364 it contested) with NDA’s combined strength falling to a meagre 186. BJP won just ten seats in UP, five in Bihar and one in Jharkhand. These reverses simply wiped out the party’s impressive show in Rajasthan, MP, Chhattisgarh and Karnataka. Advani lamented that the party’s steady advance from two seats in 1984 to 181 in 1999, ‘was both halted and reversed’ as they had incorrectly assumed ‘a direct correlation between good governance and the electoral outcome’.71 The party president, Venkaiah Naidu, addressing the press after a meeting of the parliamentary board, expressed surprise that no political party, no psephologist, no journalist, none of the party supporters or opponents had predicted the election outcome or foreseen what eventually happened.72 Vajpayee put on a brave face: ‘My party and alliance may have lost, but India and India’s democracy have won’.73 Advani conceded that the phraseology of ‘feel good factor’ and ‘India shining’ had hurt as they were inappropriate for the election campaign.74 Analyzing the loss, the BJP in its meeting felt that in spite of best efforts in UP, Muslims were not attracted. Also there was a decisive shift away from BJP among Brahmins, Thakurs and Banias, coupled with the fact that the backward Lodh votes promised by Kalyan Singh did not materialize.75 A report by the CSDS (Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi) team stated that desperation of the BJP was clear in the campaign as evinced by its vain attempts to woo Muslims. Its survey concluded that BJP received only 3% of Muslim votes in UP.76 VHP leader Pravin Togadia blamed ‘betrayal’ of Hindutva by top BJP leaders as the reason for its defeat: ‘The Bharatiya Janata Party betrayed the Hindus. The BJP left its core ideology of Hindutva and trust on the basis of which they were voted to power.’77 Its international president, Ashok Singhal particularly blamed Vajpayee and Advani for curbing the Ramjanmabhoomi movement.78 RSS spokesperson Ram Madhav talked of a ‘perception over the last four to five years’ of a dilution of the Hindutva ideology, which was one of the factors in the BJP’s defeat: ‘The grassroots traditional voter and cadre of the RSS was not so

Bharatiya Janata Party (1980–) 227 enthusiastic about the BJP. There were also some organizational differences. Our cadres did work for the BJP during the elections, but there was resentment on several issues’. According to him, other factors also came into play, one of which was the failure of key alliance partners in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.79 When the elections of 2009 approached, BJP projected Advani as its prime ministerial candidate. The party issued its own manifesto with the slogan – ‘good governance, development and security’. Article 370 made a comeback. BJP called it a ‘psychological barrier’ for the full integration of the people of the state with the national mainstream. It reiterated its commitment to the uniform civil code to draw upon the best traditions and harmonize them with the modern times, also studying reforms towards gender equality in other countries, including those in Islamic countries. Taking into consideration ‘an overwhelming desire of the people in India and abroad’, BJP would explore all possibilities including negotiations and judicial proceedings, to facilitate the construction of the Ram temple in Ayodhya.80 This election proved a bigger debacle than the preceding general elections with BJP’s share further reduced to 116 seats with 18.80% votes, and NDA’s combined tally falling to 159.

Party of ‘nation-first’ and cultural nationalism Speaking before the national executive of the party in April 1998, Advani remarked: ‘Every step forward in our steady march from a marginal party in 1951 to the mainstream party in 1998 has been made possible by our uncompromising commitment to nationalism’.81 The BJP positioned itself in the national politics as the party which put the interest of the nation before everything else. Beyond the integrity and security of the country’s physical boundary, this commitment also meant unflinching faith in its unique cultural paradigm. It is the stress on the latter that has distinguished it more clearly from other political formations. This was defined aptly by Advani in his presidential speech before the party’s national council in October 2004: We are a party with a difference, precisely because we are firmly wedded to a set of core beliefs. Our political priorities, strategies and tactics may be fashioned by the issues of the day but our ideology remains constant. The BJP is first and foremost a ‘nation-first’ party. We are a party of nationalism. Our politics is determined by the litmus test of what is good and desirable for the nation. The BJP is the party of cultural nationalism. We believe that Indian nationhood stems from an underlying cultural oneness. Some of us call this sense of nationhood Hindutva; Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya also called it Bharatiyata. I am saddened that from being a description of the core of our nationhood, Hindutva has been misrepresented to denote a political approach. Hindutva is a sentiment; it is neither an electoral slogan nor should it be confused with religion.82 He also clarified that the BJP had never abandoned its ideology, whether in 1974 when BJS agreed to join the JP movement, or in 1998 when NDA was formed


Ideological initiatives and organizational forms

with a national agenda for governance that did not include issues like Ram temple or Article 370 or uniform civil code: ‘The fears are unfounded. Ideology is a commitment to certain principles. It is what defines our approach to political questions. The political priorities of the day are, however, determined by other constituency and need a context’.83 It is in this context of cultural nationalism, and sometimes in the wider context of national integrity, that the party adopted icons who were not strictly part of its ideological fraternity, e.g. the likes of Gandhi, Sardar Patel and Subhas Bose; or more recently Ram Manohar Lohia, APJ Abdul Kalam or Ambedkar. At another level the talks of multiple nations within India or the idea of India with multiple identities is something that the BJP fights wholeheartedly, treating it as complete anathema. The idea of one nation, one culture – adopted first by the BJS – continues to dominate the BJP’s philosophy too: ‘India is multi-lingual, it is multi-religious; but it is still one nation. Indians are one people’.84 This larger idea of ‘unity within diversity’ is not something new, or propounded solely by the BJP, but the BJP has used it more effectively and frequently to connect with the emotional chord of average Indians. It sees the modern concept of secularism, imported through a Eurocentric view, a complete misfit to the Indian conditions, something which it perceives as being responsible for making the intellectual debate lopsided or making the idea of cultural nationalism look retrogressive. It believes that this lopsided understanding of Indian culture and religions, developed through indiscriminate usage of the term secularism, has encouraged political ‘minorityism’ besides inculcating an inferiority complex (and even hostility) towards the Hindu essence of Indian life. The party feels that it is ‘a perverse interpretation’ of secularism and ‘consideration of electoral expediency’ that have made political leaders ignore the silken bond of one country, one culture.85 At a more general level, this is seen as encouraging distaste for Indian-ness and India’s traditional past: Inclusion of stories from the Ramayana and Mahabharata in our text books make our pseudo-secularists fret and fume in rage. I have known politicians opposing the recitation of Mira Bhajans and Rama Charit Manas from the radio on the ground that they create a Hindu ethos. At the National Integration Council meeting in September 1986, objections were raised to lighting of lamps while inaugurating government functions and breaking of coconuts to mark the launching of a new ship. The objectors would rather have us imitating the western practice of cutting a tape, and smashing a champagne bottle. Truth is that for many politicians and intellectuals, secularism is only a euphemism to cloak their allergy to Hinduism.’86 The pledge to be signed by members joining the BJP for the first time asks them to subscribe to the concept of the ‘Secular State and Nation not based on religion’, following non-discrimination based on caste, sex or religion, and not observing or recognizing untouchability in any shape or form.87 While this clearly recognizes that the party is not a supporter of a theocratic state, it draws a clear

Bharatiya Janata Party (1980–) 229 distinction between the English term ‘religion’ and the Indian term ‘dharma’, the latter signifying a broader connotation to mean moral and ethical order. Taking this argument a step further, the party believes that in sharp contrast to Pakistan which declared itself an Islamic State, ‘India gave to itself a secular Constitution because it was Hindu. Theocracy is alien to traditional Hindu polity’.88

Concluding observations A political party is formed to articulate specific ideological priorities which do not seem to have been upheld, if not recognized, by others. Formed in 1951, the BJS failed to generate enough support for the Hindu nationalist ideas that it had represented. It was dismissed as ‘a Hindu party’ confined to the Hindi heartland and also to the upper castes. As a result, the BJS never became an effective alternative to the Congress. In other words, in view of its narrow social base and failure to go beyond the Hindi-speaking areas, it was handicapped from the beginning. In such circumstances, the formation of the BJP was a watershed because (a) it had projected itself as ‘a secular’ party which clearly dissociated from those who championed rabid Hindu nationalist ideas which lost their appeal presumably because of the near universal acceptance of the Enlightenment values and (b) by taking the cause of other than the business communities, it had also made the claim that the BJP was a party of all strata of society with diverse socioeconomic interests. So, ideologically, the BJP represented a new genre of politics in which newer priorities figured prominently. Seeking to create and also sustain the image of a pan-Indian party, the ideologues also set out a course of action which were thought to be effective in evolving a support base for the party. The BJP set out on a lonely mission in 1980 fraught with dangers of appropriating the Janata legacy whose government during its last year had become highly discredited enabling the Congress to return to power. It carried the difficult task of projecting itself as the saviour of India’s territorial integrity, promoting cultural nationalism, and yet contesting elections at all levels. Electoral democracy throws its own unique challenges where ideological moorings alone do not come to the rescue. Its successful experiment of running a non-Congress coalition government for the full term (1999–2004), besides setting a new record, also showed how a balance could be arrived at between the expediency of electoral democracy while holding on to the main tenets of ideological belief. In its long journey, it has appropriated new symbols and new icons, but the core belief in cultural nationalism or Hindutva (as its leaders choose to define it) has remained intact. If one analyses the unfolding of the BJP, one is persuaded to believe that at the outset, the activists of the BJP and also its leaders did not seem to have openly championed the cause of ‘the neglected majority’. The 1992 Babri Masjid campaign was perhaps the first well-organized and also conscious attempt the assuage the feelings of the Hindus because it was believed that due to the Congress policy of ‘Muslim appeasement’, the majority community was being sacrificed on many counts. As shown previously in this chapter, the point had substance because the Muslims en bloc generally voted for the Congress, ensuring its electoral victory in


Ideological initiatives and organizational forms

many constituencies. It was a grand strategy that unfolded with the famous 1990 Rath Yatra that the BJP leader patriarch, L. K. Advani had led. There is no denying that the Rath Yatra instantaneously created a constituency for the BJP across the length and breadth of the country. This was thus a tipping point which explains the meteoric emergence of the BJP in India in the last decade of the last century. The rest is too well known to deserve to be repeated. Fundamental here is the point that there is no doubt that Hindu nationalist ideas were put upfront for the first time in India’s recent political history and they seem to have worked favourably for the BJP in putting in place a solid base of the support which yielded results in due course. There are three points that merit attention to understand the steady rise of the BJP in India as a pan-Indian party. First, it is clear that the Nehruvian idea of India, despite being hailed as a guiding force for independent India, did not seem to have had a universal appeal; it was accepted at a time when the Hindu nationalist ideas remained marginalized due to the overwhelming support that the Congress leaders had largely because of their contribution to India’s freedom struggle. In other words, Hindu nationalism failed to generate adequate support primarily because of the prevalence of the nationalist euphoria that evolved with the attainment of independence in 1947. Secondly, there was also a crisis of leadership which was a serious handicap for those seeking to champion Hindu nationalist ideas. Syama Prasad Mookerjee of the BJS endeavoured this by raising the discriminatory Article 370 of India’s Constitution which was not pursued as vociferously as was expected due to leadership vacuum. It is therefore not surprising that the BJS and the BJP in its initial years never did become a formidable opposition to the Congress and also the ideology that it represented. Thirdly, the credit for making the BJP a pan-Indian alternative goes to the young leadership that set out a powerful voice drawing on the Hindu nationalist ideological priorities. As the post-1990 poll results show, that the BJP became a party of large following was firmly established by its growing popularity among the voters. There is also substance in the argument that the so-called Muslim appeasement by the Congress and its failure to address the genuine socioeconomic grievances of the Hindus created a constituency for the BJP in India presumably because of its explicit concern for the majority community. On the whole, the BJP’s success is attributed to its ability to popularize Hindu nationalist ideas which remained peripheral in the past for partisan reasons. There are therefore reasons to pursue the claim that Hindu nationalism, in its contemporary form, continues to act decisively in shaping the electoral choice of the majority in India despite being dismissed as sectarian by those espousing the Nehruvian ideological inklings.

Notes 1 2 3 4

The Times of India, New Delhi, 13 May 1979. Indian Express, New Delhi, 1 August 1979. Indian Express, New Delhi, 2 August 1979. Atal Behari Vajpayee, ‘All Responsible for Janata Crisis’, Indian Express, 2 August 1979.

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Organiser, 17 February 1980. The Times of India, New Delhi, 5 April 1980. Organiser, 13 April 1980. Bahu in Hindi stands for daughter-in-law. L.K. Advani, My Country My Life, Roopa, New Delhi, 2008, p. 312. Ibid., p. 311. The Times of India, New Delhi, 6 April 1980. Speech at the national convention in Bombay, 28–30 December 1980, Evolution of BJP: Party Document, Vol. 10, Bharatiya Janata Party, New Delhi, 2006, pp. 69–71. The Times of India, New Delhi, 7 April 1980. The Times of India, New Delhi, 6 April 1980. Organiser, 13 April 1980. Recalling the new party’s respect for Jayaprakash Narayan, Advani wrote: ‘We were inspired by his personality and his core beliefs. The effect was greater since he too had, jettisoning his earlier misconceptions about us, built a bond of respect and mutual trust’. Advani, My Country My Life, p. 311. Also see Times of India, 7 April 1980. The Times of India, New Delhi, 8 April 1980. Organiser, 11 January 1981. Organiser, 4 January 1981. Ibid. Advani, My Country My Life, p. 315. Ibid., p. 313. Organiser, 11 January 1981. Ibid. Evolution of BJP: Party Document, pp. 77–83. Organiser, 16 December 1984. Swapan Dasgupta thinks that though it may be oversimplistic to describe the 1984 verdict as a ‘Hindu vote’ for the Congress, it is undeniable that it had ‘a subliminal Hindu dimension to it’. Swapan Dasgupta, Awakening Bharat Mata: The Political Belief of the Indian Right, Penguin Viking, Gurgaon, 2019, p. 111. Organiser, 2 December 1984. Organiser, 6 January 1985. Organiser, 13 January 1985. This view was echoed by the working group formed in March 1985 which said that a cadre based organisation alone will indeed l limit our base to our cadre. Advani, My Country My Life, p. 323. Organiser, 27 January 1985. Ibid. Presidential Speeches (Part-II), Party Document, Vol. 3, Bharatiya Janata Party, New Delhi, 2005, p. 213. Advani, My Country My Life, pp. 322–3; Also see Geeta Puri, Hindutva Politics in India: Genesis, Political Strategies and Growth of Bharatiya Janata Party, UBS Publishers, New Delhi, 2005, pp. xxix–xxx. Lucy Carrol, ‘The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act 1986: A Retrogressive Precedent of Dubious Constitutionality’, Journal of the India Law Institute, Vol. 28, No. 3, 1986, pp. 364–76. Dasgupta, Awakening Bharat Mata, p. 111. Advani, My Country My Life, pp. 333–4. Presidential Speeches (Part-I), Party Document, Vol. 2, Bharatiya Janata Party, New Delhi, 2005, pp. 9–10. Advani, My Country My Life, p. 341. Presidential Speeches (Part-I): Party Document, pp. 9–10. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ramayan_(1987_TV_series (accessed on 14 June 2019). Advani, My Country My Life, p. 346. Gulzarilal Nanda had joined VHP in 1982. In 1983, he founded the Ram Janmotsav Samiti. In 1984, this Samiti, in a ceremony attended, among others, by Karan Singh,


42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83

Ideological initiatives and organizational forms

Daudayal Khanna and Ashok Singhal, demanded return of Ram’s birthplace to Hindus. See Christophe Jaffrelot, The Hindu Nationalist Movement and Indian Politics, 1925 to 1990s, Hurst & Company, London, 1996, pp. 365–6. Jaffrelot, Hindu Nationalist Movement, p. 370. Advani, My Country My Life, pp. 931–3. Ibid., p. 338. Presidential Speeches (Part-II): Party Document, p. 82. Advani, My Country My Life, p. 371. Evolution of BJP: Party Document, pp. 28–9. Dasgupta, Awakening Bharat Mata, p. 7. BJP Election Manifesto 1991, http://library.bjp.org/jspui/handle/123456789/239 (accessed on 12 June 2019). Ibid. National Executive, Calcutta, 6–8 April 1990, Political Resolutions: Party Document, Vol. 5, Bharatiya Janata Party, New Delhi, p. 269. Political Resolutions: Party Document, p. 251. Evolution of BJP: Party Document, p. 33. Ibid., p. 35. Partha Ghosh, BJP and the Evolution of Hindu Nationalism: From Periphery to Centre, Manohar, Delhi, 1999, 105. Evolution of BJP: Party Document, p. 39. BJP Election Manifesto 1996, http://library.bjp.org/jspui/handle/123456789/261 (accessed on 12 June 2019). Ghosh, BJP and the Evolution of Hindu Nationalism, p. 118. Vajpayee’s address to the nation, 19 May 1996, Advani, My Country My Life, pp. 478–9. Political Resolutions: Party Document, pp. 132–3. Advani, My Country My Life, pp. 492–3. Ibid., pp. 523–4. Ibid., pp. 524–5. Ghosh, BJP and the Evolution of Hindu Nationalism, p. 136. Advani, My Country My Life, p. 534. ‘Front’ was replaced with ‘Alliance’ conveying durability. Though Sonia Gandhi was married to Rajiv Gandhi in 1968, she opted for Indian citizenship only in 1983. Advani, My Country My Life, p. 630. Ibid., p. 759. Ibid., p. 760. NDA Manifesto 2004, http://library.bjp.org/jspui/handle/123456789/245 (accessed on 20 June 2019). Speech at the BJP’s national council, 27 October 2004, Presidential Speeches (Part-I): Party Document, p. 4. The Hindu, New Delhi, 15 May 2004. Advani, My Country My Life, p. 766. Ibid., p. 770. The Hindu, New Delhi, 22 May 2004. The Hindu, New Delhi, 20 May 2004. The Hindu, New Delhi, 14 May 2004. The Hindu, New Delhi, 22 May 2004. The Hindu, New Delhi, 14 May 2004. BJP Election Manifesto 2009, http://library.bjp.org/jspui/handle/123456789/262 (accessed on 20 June 2019). Presidential Speeches (Part-II): Party Document, p. 309. Presidential Speeches (Part-I), Party Document, p. 8. Ibid.

Bharatiya Janata Party (1980–) 233 84 Advani’s presidential speech, national council, 2–4 January 1987, Presidential Speeches (Part-II): Party Document, p. 149. 85 Ibid., p. 151. 86 Ibid., p. 151. 87 www.bjp.org/var/assets/reg-form/Membership%20Application%20Form.pdf (accessed on 21 June 2019). 88 Advani’s presidential speech, national council, 2–4 January 1987, Presidential Speeches (Part-II): Party Document, p. 152.


I Hindu nationalism is a politico-ideological construct with a long historical past. With its primary goal to rejuvenate the moribund Hindu nation, the Hindu nationalist ideologues drew on the glorious Hindu past. For them, the Islamic rule in India was responsible for her decline as a polity and also a civilization. Shivaji, the Matatha Hindu King, who defeated the armies sent by the Mughal Emperor, Aurangzeb, is hailed for his gallantry against the mighty Muslim ruler. Similarly, the Muslims were blamed for the 1947 partition since it was M. A. Jinnah’s twonation theory justifying Hindus and Muslims being two separate nations due to unbridgeable cultural and religious gulf that was also referred to while providing a Hindu nationalist explanation of the India’s dismemberment into two sovereign nations, India and Pakistan following the British withdrawal. The aim was to create the other for defending the clamour for Hindu consolidation in India. It was a long-drawn process that led to fruition in the late 1990s when Hindu nationalism rose as an ideological priority which became powerful in mobilizing the Hindus in an electoral battle against those political forces championing seemingly antiHindu sentiments. Implicit here is the contention that Hindu nationalist forces gradually gained momentum. One notices, broadly speaking, three phases of the consolidation of Hindu nationalism in India: at the outset, especially Dayananda Saraswati (1824–1883) who devoted his energy to invigorate the Hindus by drawing their attention to the ancient past representing the golden era of Hinduism. What was most impressive, argued Saraswati, was the creation of fundamental conceptual texts – the Vedas, Upanishads, Puranas and Smritis – that took Hindus to an exalted height. There are, of course, sections in Saraswati’s Satyarth Prakash (1875) highlighting how the Islamic holy text, Quran, was inherently handicapped to contribute to the universal well-being for being exclusionary in its instructions to the believers. There was a sea change in the Hindu nationalist attitude in its second phase, particularly during the period when M.S. Golwalkar or Guruji (1906–73), as he was popularly known among his followers, who was known for his militant views against the Muslims. Reasons are not difficult to seek. In light of the Muslim claim for partitioning India, it was easier for Guruji to justify that Muslims were neither loyal to the nation nor were dependable partners in the battle for freedom from foreign domination. They were clearly exclusionary



in their approach to the nationalist struggle. In a context where the Indian Muslims were shown to have been disloyal Golwalkar’s exhortation for mobilizing Hindus against their Muslim counterparts yielded results. In independent India, the Hindu nationalist decision to take part in the democratic processes of election and governance was the beginning of the third phase in which Hindu nationalism had emerged as a competitive ideology seeking to create a space for the ideological preferences that it stood for. As the discussion in Chapter 9 has shown, following the Hindu nationalist success in organizing a large contingent of Hindus for Babri Masjid’s demolition in 1992, it was evident that Hindu nationalism was not just an academic expression, but a clearly defined ideological inclination drawing on the historical wrongs meted out to the Hindus by a Muslim ruler. This was a landmark event which, to significant extent, explains the meteoric rise of the Hindu nationalist ideological forces in India in the post-1992 period. The rest is a narrative of the steady rise and consolidation of Hindu nationalism in India not in its militant form of the Golwalkar era, but in a form in which the religious schism between the Hindus and Muslims figured in articulating its distinctive ideological characteristics. This brief trajectory, just described, of Hindu nationalism confirms that it is a journey that has unfolded with the objective of creating a solid Hindu compact on the basis of those well-defined socio-psychological features segregating the Hindus from their non-Hindu counterparts. It was a design that was put to practice by the early Hindu nationalists, especially Golwalkar and his cohorts, who seeking to consolidate the Hindus, tended to highlight the villainous role of the Muslims under Jinnah’s leadership as critical to India’s vivisection in 1947. They also felt cheated with the uncritical endorsement by the constitution makers of constitutional liberalism which was rooted in the West. The scene however underwent a significant metamorphosis with the passage of time. The radical Hindu nationalists agreed to work within the constitutional parameters following the inauguration of constitutional democracy in India in the aftermath of decolonization. One is likely to attribute this change to (a) the wider acceptance of the 1950 Constitution and the practices that evolved, and (b) the gradual decline of the hardcore Hindu nationalist appeal in mobilizing opinions in its favour. In other words, the increasing importance of constitutional values was proportionately linked with the dwindling significance of Hindu nationalism. Why and how did it happen? This cannot be answered so easily except suggesting that the ideological transformation that accompanied Hindu nationalism in India following independence was attributed to the complex unfolding of socioeconomic and political processes in a situation when the liberal constitutionalism triumphed and other ideological priorities seem to have lost their appeal. Hindu nationalism is a contextual response in circumstances in which the mainstream Congress nationalism also drew on ideas that were indigenous in origin and articulation; despite that the Hindu nationalist forces created an independent space presumably because their counterparts in the Congress failed to generate enough confidence among the beleaguered Hindus who felt disenchanted, if not cheated, with the hobnobbing of the Congress with the derivative Western philosophical



discourses. For instance, Gandhi while conceptualizing village swaraj had his theoretical sustenance from the idea of the panchayat form of governance that evolved in ancient India. What is surprising is that Gandhi defended the conceptualization with reference of S. H. Maine’s Village Republic of the East (1871), presumably because it was politically correct in the context of the British rule. His belief in Maine’s claim of Indian villages ‘being a congeries of republics’1 is a testimony to this point. Gandhi’s putative desire of being politically appropriate seems to have created a space for Hindu nationalism which offered an alternative by being exclusively attentive to Hindu view of life that evolved in tandem with the transcendentally meaningful civilizational texts, like the Vedas, Upanishads, Smritis and Puranas. The aim is to construct a distinctly Hindu culture essentializing those features which are derivative of the ancient Hindu texts. There is no reference to the non-Hindu religious texts which is presumably a deliberate omission to unambivalently stand by a pure Hindu culture. This is what is conceptually defined as cultural fundamentalism, which, being similar to religious fundamentalism articulates its responses in an identical fashion: those who do not agree to be assimilated with the mainstream tradition are automatically excluded and are also socially banished.2

II In conceptual terms, Hindu nationalism is nationalization or homogenization of Hindus. This was a contextual response that we have argued in the book. It has also been shown how Savarkar’s Hindutva denoting Hindu nationalism gradually caught the imagination of the Hindus in India. A historical response, Hindutva was a conceptualization that can be said to have evolved out of ‘a lack’, a serious lack perhaps, in the mainstream nationalism that flourished at the aegis of the Indian National Congress. This is however wrong to conceive that in the Gandhi-led nationalist campaign, the Hinduized ideas did not figure; they, were, of course, there. It is thus not surprising that Gandhi while elaborating his notion of the future state in India, talked about the desire to create a Ram Rajya and also the idea of India being one’s Swadesh was always espoused. But that was not adequate which led to the consolidation of another concern that the pampering of the Muslims was not desirable from the nationalist point of view; an apprehension which gained ground especially with the insistence of the Muslims League on the partition of India as perhaps the only solution to break the logjam just on the eve of India’s vivisection in 1947. Hindu nationalism is also a comment highlighting the political failure of the nationalist mainstream to get out of the imbroglio that crippled those who never felt comfortable with the partition. Perhaps, from the hardcore nationalist point of view, it was not desirable which also confirms how the divide et impera finally succeeded in permanently segregating Hindus and Muslims as political entities. It was B. R. Ambedkar who, in his defence for Pakistan repeated the familiar liberal argument suggesting the right to freedom from an aggressive foreign power remained inseparable from the clamour for independence from a dominating



majority. In other words, Pakistan was justified as perhaps the only logical option under the circumstances. For him, it was perhaps the only political step that was warranted in a situation when both Hindu and Muslim leadership were adamant to substantiate their respective claims. For the Hindu nationalists, the 1947 partition was a surrender to the Muslims who never ever had accepted Hindusthan as their natural motherland. One of the most powerful exposition of this view was articulated by V. D. Savarkar who unequivocally declared that ‘in the case of the Mohammedans, especially their religious zeal, more often than not, borders on fanaticism. Their love towards India as their motherland is but a handmaid to their lover for their Holy land outside India. Their faces are ever turned towards Mecca and Madina’.3 On the basis of his conceptual justification, he defended the point why the Indian Muslims remained indifferent to the country presumably because of the lack of their emotional loyalty to India. It was evident when he suggested that: the anti-national and aggressive designs on the part of the Moslem minority constitutes a danger to all non-Muslim Indians in India and not only to the Hindus alone. It is too clear a point to require any further elucidation here. It is the anti-national attitude of the Muslim minority alone which is giving a handle to the British Government to obstruct further political and constitutional progress in Hindusthan.4 There are two core points that deserve attention here: for Savarkar, Muslims could never be dependable as an ally since they could never be loyal to Hindusthan as it was contrary to their religion, Islam. By arguing that Islam, by indoctrinating Muslims in a particular fashion supportive of sustaining the cultural segregation, Savarkar sought to develop clearly a nationalist argument to conceptualize how the segregation was intrinsic and thus unbridgeable. Secondly, this was also an exhortation for the Non-Muslims, Hindus in particular, to remain united to combat the Muslim onslaught on the nationalist venture in creating a compact nation in India following the British withdrawal. That the Muslim intransigence gave a convenient tool to the colonial ruler was a strategy-driven design because the argument that Savarkar offered to defend the point the Muslims were responsible for partition, was sure to be persuasive for the nationalist Hindus who would never reconcile to India’s dismemberment for Muslim partisan reasons. While Savarkar provided a nationalist argument to bring together the diverse Hindus, his successor, Deendayal couched his argument strictly in cultural terms. He put his argument at two levels: at one level, it was socio-psychological because he insisted on the cultural bond or Sanskritic compatibility which, felt Panditji, contributed to the germination and also strengthening of ‘collective feelings leading to the formation of a nation’. India as a nation emerged out of the concern for collective well-being; unlike the Western notion of nation which ‘naggingly keep individuals at the centre-stage, . . . Hindus viewed mutual relations within the prism of collective welfare and Hindu society is a deterrent to the desire for fulfilling individual selfish purposes’.5



The goal was to consolidate Hindus as a nation around those symbols that were likely to bring them together as a compact community. In the nationalist context, Savarkar evolved a cultural logic for cementing a solid bond among the Hindus who remained segregated around the axes of class, caste and region. By creating ‘the Muslim other’, he discharged a significant historical role in circumstances which were not exactly in his favour given the hegemonic presence of the Mahatma and near acceptance of constitutional liberalism. For Deendayal, the task was little easier because after partition, the threat of Muslims did not appear to be as grave as it was in the preceding years. Nonetheless, the idea of Hindus and Muslims being diametrically opposite helped him build a solid space for the Hindu nationalist forces to prosper in independent India. It is true that he, like his mentor, Savarkar, drew on Sanskritic (cultural) congruity among the Hindus across the length and breadth of India presumably because of identical sociopsychological roots, while seeking to create a compatible template for them. It is also true that being persuaded to believe in Hindus being a civilizational entity, both Savarkar and Deendayal seem to have deliberately privileged typical Hindu ethos and values over others due primarily to their unconditional belief and faith in what they held as critical to strong Hindu identity.

III What is Hindu nationalism then? On the surface, it is a conceptual construct tuned to the fulfilment of an ideological goal of evolving and also cementing a solid bond among the Hindus who are otherwise strikingly diverse. A reaction to the mainstream secular nationalism,6 it provides, at one level, a discursive space in which the debates hover around the claim of one community against another. In empirical terms, it offers a discourse to show how the Indian Muslims shall remain different from their Hindu counterparts largely because they are accordingly indoctrinated. At another level, it is also a design for developing a cultural compact of the Hindus by drawing on their selective past and ignoring that part of history which was a source of embarrassment. Hindu nationalism is therefore a device for excluding the Muslims so long as they do not internalize what is construed as Hindu nationalist civilizational values and concerns. The next question that appears to be critical is whether Hindu nationalism, as conceptualized earlier in this chapter, is a unifying instrument or a dividing mechanism. In pre-independent India, being context-driven, it was clearly a model for building a commonality among the Hindus by reference to the Muslims being the other. With the rise of constitutional democracy in India following the British departure in 1947, the Hindu nationalists seem to have articulated their responses on the basis of the political issues that gained momentum at a particular juncture of India’s history. For instance, in the Hindu nationalist perception, the 1950 Constitution was a surrender to the Western ideas that evolved in colonial India because it was West-centric constitutional liberalism that governed the founding fathers. As a result, the indigenous politico-ideological ideas that the Hindu nationalists espoused so dearly had hardly received adequate attention. It is also



striking to note that on many occasions, they were annoyed because even the Gandhian notion of village swaraj did not solicit a favourable response from those who mattered in the making of the constitution though most of them were politically baptized for the nationalist cause by the Mahatma. What follows from this history is that Hindu nationalism is a heuristic design of community formation. It is heuristic because Hindu nationalist ideas did not emerge all of a sudden; a long-drawn process that finally culminated in conceptualizing ideas which informed the phenomenon. As it evolved as a heuristicallyconstituted ideological construct, the growth and gradual strengthening of Hindu nationalism can be analytically demarcated. Based on the fundamental politicoideological priorities, Hindu nationalist ideas first appeared in India’s institutional politics with the formation of the Hindu Mahasabha in 1915 with the sole purpose of advancing the Hindu causes. As evidence shows, the Mahasabha was never a significant political force in India presumably because of the overwhelming popularity of nonviolence and Gandhi among the participants in the nationalist campaign. Confined largely to the Punjab, UP, CP, Bihar, western part of Bengal and Maharashtra, the Mahasabha’s activities were visible in the public domain during its annual session when its leaders used to make speeches espousing the Hindu cause. It received a jolt in 1925 when its former member Keshav Baliram Hedgewar left to form the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a Hindu volunteer organization involved primarily in social services. Despite being ideologically more or less similar, the RSS expanded much faster than the Mahasabha presumably because of the hard work that its cadres undertook to link with the people at the grassroots. With its primary goal of contributing to the common well-being, the RSS activists seem to have created a definite space for themselves even in the heyday of the Indian nationalist movement. A careful look at the growth of the Hindu nationalist outfits, the Mahasabha and RSS, shows that they had emerged through processes of debates and dialogues in which the role of the prevalent socioeconomic and political context was no less insignificant. For instance, the decision of Hedgewar to secede from Mahasabha was governed by his disappointment with its functioning which was reduced to a discussion and debate once a year during the annual session and also its leadership that hardly endeavoured to spread its tentacles beyond metropolitans and towns. This was one of the points of disagreement between Hedgewar and his Mahasabha colleagues. In view of the theoretical claim that Hindu nationalism grew heuristically, it can safely be said now that the internal questioning led to the split between Hedgewar and Mahasabha which later resulted in the rise of the RSS in 1925. There is one point that needs elaboration here: both the Mahasabha and RSS had an identical ideological concern, namely organizing the Hindus. The aim was to ideologically persuade a section of India’s demography, namely the Hindus which led a commentator to think that Hindu nationalism can be bracketed under the ‘ethnic nationalism’ category which was different from the inclusive nationalism that Congress nurtured to accommodate people with different sociocultural characteristics.7 On the surface, the characterization seems appropriate. A little digging into the conceptual articulation may however lead one to suspect this



conceptualization. As it has been persuasively argued by Savarkar and his Hindu nationalist colleagues, the term Hindu does not connote a religious group; it is about a group of people located on the bank of river Sindhu. It was a non-religious term till the eighteenth century when the colonizers infused the religious connotation with the expression, Hindu. What it confirms is the contention that Hindu nationalism was conceptualized as a critique of critique which further justifies the point that it was a heuristic endeavour among those who despite championing an identical mission created newer possibilities out of being engaged in debates and discussion with their erstwhile colleagues and compatriots.

IV The 1995 Hindutva judgement is a useful intervention by India’s apex court in reconceptualizing Hindu nationalism. This is a verdict in which the Supreme Court of India was asked to ascertain the validity of the 1987 state elections in Maharashtra in which the Shiv Sena candidate resorted to vigorous anti-Muslim campaign for electoral victory. As per law, appeal to one’s religion, race, caste, community or language or prejudicially affecting the election of a candidate is a flagrant violation of Section 123 of the Representation of People Act, 1951. The petitioner charged his opponent with violating the code of conduct by couching his election campaign in a language that smacked of clear anti-Muslim priorities. As it stated: Hinduism will triumph in this election and we must become hon’ble recipients of this victory to ward off the danger of Hinduism. . . . You will find Hindu temples underneath if all mosques are dug out. Anybody who stands against the Hindus should be showed or worshipped with shoes.8 What it entails are a two-fold accusation: on the one hand, the opponent was threatened with dire consequences because, it was expected of the Hindus to protect their interests once they were undermined by the non-Hindu population, especially the Muslims. There was, on the other, an elaboration of what was to be done to fulfill the desire; it was made clear that Muslims needed to be disciplined by expressing the anger in specific ways; in this case, showing of shoes was suggested. On the whole, it was a clear direction to the Hindus for retribution. The petitioner thus forcefully argued his case by stating that: the [above] utterance [is] an example of promoting the feelings of enmity between different classes of citizens of India, the sole purpose in doing so and making the appeal was to canvas votes in favour of the first respondent on the ground of religion and make it appear to the voters that the [said candidate] was the only person who could represent the Hindu community. The effect of the [said statement in the election campaign] was to promote the feelings of enmity and hatred between Hindus and non-Hindus on the ground of religion, race, caste, community, etc.9



While defending the point that the candidate concerned violated the basic tenor of the 1951 Representation of People Act, the petitioner reinforced the contention that not only did it undermine the Act, it was also a design seeking to fulfil partisan desires of a specific community which was also objectionable. Reiterating that canvassing for votes was not, at all, permissible on grounds of race, caste or region, it was further mentioned that it was contrary to the founding fathers’ commitment to the values of constitutional liberalism. For the court, these reasons did not seem to be critical. Instead, it focused on the meaning of Hinduism and Hindutva. Before the judges came out with their opinion, they referred to a 1966 verdict of a Constitution Bench of the apex court. According to this 1966 pronouncement: the historical and etymological genesis of the word Hindu has given rise to a controversy amongst Indologists; but the view generally accepted by scholars appears to be that the word Hindu is derived from the river Sindhu, otherwise known as Indus which flows from the Punjab.10 It is clearly stated that the word, Hindu has nothing to do with the religion, Hinduism; instead, it is an expression that was secular in the sense that it was the term that was derivative of the river, Sindhu. After perusing the judgements in details, the Court observed that the Constitution Bench decision: indicate that no precise meaning can be ascribed to the terms Hindu, Hindutva and Hinduism; and no meaning in the abstract can confine it to the narrow limits of religion alone, excluding the content of Indian culture and heritage. It is also indicated that the term ‘Hindutva’ is related more to the way of life of the people in the subcontinent. It is difficult to appreciate how in the face of these decisions the term Hindutva or Hinduism per se, in the abstract, can be assumed to mean and be equated with narrow fundamentalist Hindu religious bigotry or be construed to fall within the prohibition as per the Representation of People Act.11 This is the preliminary observation that Court made on the basis of the judgement pronounced by the Constitution Bench in 1966. It is almost clear that the Court was not inclined to agree to the claim that Hindutva was tantamount to the spreading of communal animosity since it was not a term with any religious connotation whatsoever. This is an expression which, because of its well-defined epistemological connotation, cannot be reduced to suggest narrow sectarian concerns. Thus, it cannot be doubted, the Court unambiguously stated that: particularly in view of the Constitution Bench decisions . . . that the words ‘Hinduism’ and ‘Hindutva’ are not necessarily to be understood and construed narrowly, confined only to the strict Hindu religious practices unrelated to the culture and ethos of the people of India, depicting the way of life of the Indian people. Unless the context of a speech indicates a contrary


Conclusion meaning or use, in the abstract these terms are indicative more of a way of life of the Indian people and are not confined merely to describe persons practicing the Hindu religion as a faith.12

Two important points relating to how Hindutva needs to be understood are reiterated here: on the one hand, the Court was categorical by holding the view that the term in question, under no circumstances, can be narrowly conceptualized to mean that it deals with a particular community. This is a term with its roots in the Indian culture and had never been construed narrowly. Given the history of the evolution of Hindutva, it cannot thus be, on the other, justified the contention that the petitioner forwarded. In a rather detailed exposition of its points of view, the Court further argued that: [c]onsidering the terms, Hindutva or Hinduism per se as depicting hostility, enmity or intolerance towards other religious faith or professing communalism, proceeds from an improper appreciation and perception of the true meaning of these expressions emerging from the detailed discussion in earlier authorities of this court. Misuse of these expression to promote communalism cannot alter the true meaning of these terms. The mischief resulting from the misuse of the terms by anyone in his speech has to be checked and not its possible use. It is indeed very unfortunate, if in spite of the liberal and tolerant features of ‘Hinduism’ recognized in judicial decisions, these terms are misused by anyone during the elections to gain any unfair political advantage. Fundamentalism of any colour or kind must be curbed with a heavy hand to preserve the secular creed of the nation. Any misuse of these terms must, therefore, be dealt with strictly.13 Here too, the tenor of the argument remains the same: Hindutva can never be an instrument for communal enmity or hatred. If that be so, the reasons are to be located somewhere else. The expression does not seem to be loaded, at all, exhorted the apex court. There was however a cautionary note for those who misused the term for partisan gain by suggesting that they needed to be dealt as stringently as possible. Finally, the court assured that for protecting India’s multireligious texture, no such effort would be tolerated that harmed India’s secular fabric. Nonetheless, the Court was convinced that: it is, therefore, a fallacy and an error of law to proceed on the assumption that any reference to Hindutva or Hinduism in a speech make its automatically a speech based on the Hindu religion as opposed to the other religions or that the use of words, ‘Hindutva’ or ‘Hinduism’ per se depict an attitude hostile to all persons practising any religion other than Hindu religion.14 The judgement is a remarkable piece of pronouncement for two reasons: on the one hand, once and for all the verdict put to rest the debates and counter-debates on the semantics of the terms, Hindutva and Hinduism by clarifying what they



actually meant. This was a welcome endeavour in India’s charged sociopolitical milieu, especially following the demolition of the Babri mosque in 1992 by the Hindu zealots. With its clarification, the Court appears to have sealed one important source of irritation in the Hindu-Muslim communal relations. Nonetheless, by warning that the candidates were expected to maintain ‘decency and propriety in the election campaign and also for the preservation of the proper and timehonoured values forming part of our cultural heritage and for a free and fair poll in a secular democracy’,15 the Court also discharged its historical role in sustaining India’s constitutional fabric that organically evolved with the consolidation of India’s liberal constitutionalism. There are two sets of criticisms of the 1995 Hindutva judgement: first, various legal anomalies were identified to argue that the Court did not pay adequate attention to the legal details of the Representation of People Act, 1951 which is more of a prohibitory nature. The Act restricts speeches seemingly prejudicial to the maintenance of law and order; by blaming a section of the population as not being fit to be citizens of the country, the respondents violated the fundamental principles on which India’s constitution rests. As things stand, the legal deficiencies were the result of the failure of the Court to really go to the core of the Act presumably because of the circumstances in which the matter was settled. Election laws inhibits an appeal to religion regardless of what the social institutions or meaning of a religion are. This is because election law rightly prescribes by Section 123 of the Representation of People Act norms for the candidates to the legislative bodies similar to those which are expected from the state itself. This is in addition to ‘the general humanistic position provoking inter-religious discord as embodied in the penal provisions of Section 125 of the . . . Act’.16 Fundamental to the legal point being raised here was perhaps the inability that the Court had evinced to connect inflammatory speech with the violation of one’s Fundamental Rights. As per the Act, the candidates while campaigning for garnering votes are not allowed to even tangentially refer to religion to catch voters; this is contrary to the spirit in which the Act was promulgated. These issues were settled by a Constitution Bench in 1955 in the Jamuna Prasad Mukhariya and others versus Lachhi Ram and others. According to the Constitution Bench: the freedom of speech guaranteed in the Constitution does not extend to giving speeches [abusing others] and the Act imposes reasonable restrictions on the freedom of speech [as per] Article 19 (2) of the Constitution. Furthermore, the substance and main thrust of the speech, not merely the form . . . has to be seen in its context to determine if it amounts to an appeal for votes on the ground of [one’s] religion, and such an appeal need not necessarily be only direct.17 The argument hinges on whether the said speech in the election campaign was prejudicial to the right to freedom which is a highly technical point that needs to be probed further. Basic here is the argument that the apex court failed to



adequately appreciate the spirit of the Act and, as a result, its constitutional validity is questionable. The second set of criticisms hover around the Court’s interpretation of Hindutva which bordered on surrender to the contextual compulsion in which it was interpreted to gain political mileage in the election. There are two arguments: first, Court was unable to unravel the intense religious and also anti-minority sentiments that the term Hindutva entailed. Hindutva is a politically contrived expression to create a milieu in which a constant attempt is made to create ‘the other’. It was thus argued that ‘the judgments do not seem to recognize that Hindutva has a special meaning and is associated with the social and political philosophy of [V. D.] Savarkar and [M. S.] Golwalkar, that is, the Hindu Mahasabha and RSS respectively’.18 As is argued, Hindutva as an expression is not an innocent one; instead, it is impregnated with a clear political message heavily tilted against the minorities, especially the Muslims. So, if it is allowed, the Court indirectly endorsed the drive to garner votes in the name of religion and hatred towards the minorities. Hence it was further argued that ‘the judgments reflect a growing tendency towards appropriation of the BJP-RSS conceptual framework by state institutions. It is a warning to the secular and pluralistic tendencies in the country’.19 The same point was reiterated by another set of scholars who also felt that the Court ‘erred in the original decision on two significant points, (a) the interpretation of the meaning of Hindutva and the secular nature of the speeches of the Hindu Right’.20 As regards the former, the Court seems to have underplayed the inner potential of Hindutva that draws its sustenance from hatred towards minorities, Muslims in particular. According to this interpretation, for Savarkar, Hindus constituted a race that followed a particular religious opposition to the minorities, especially Christians and Muslims who were, felt Savarkar, instinctively ‘disloyal to India; . . . they posed a threat to the nation because they could never be loyal to India since their Holyland lay outside India’.21 So, it was primarily the differences of religion that remained a constituting moment of the oppositional identities. Hindutva, by insisting on the assimilation of all minorities into the majoritarian way of life, is a threat to the minorities despite the constitutional guarantee for them. In contemporary India, Hindutva being defined simply as a way of life is not only a misrepresentation of facts but also an endorsement of what its ideologues do in further alienating the minorities. Hence it is argued that ‘the Supreme Court has inaccurately inferred the meaning of Hindutva from its review of jurisprudence on the meanings of Hinduism and Hindu [and] . . . its conclusion that an appeal to Hindutva is not per se an appeal misrepresents the complex relationship between these terms in the contemporary strategies of the Hindu Right’.22 In view of the concerted attack on the minorities, engineered by the Hindu Right, Hindutva, the argument further underlines, ‘is an attack on the rights, indeed, on the legitimacy of religious minorities’.23 It is most unfortunate that India’s apex court directly supported those who, by championing Hindutva, actually harmed the secular fabric that has organically developed in the country which the Court endorsed by saying that ‘it is clear that if any party or organization seeks to fight the elections on the basis of a plank which has proximate effect of eroding the secular philosophy of the Constitution it would certainly be guilty



of following an unconstitutional course of action’.24 In the 1994 Bommai case, India’s secular values were privileged while in the Hindutva judgement the Court appeared to have had no inclination toward the constitutional guarantee for secularism. The explanation is couched by reference to the contextual compulsion that critically influenced the Court’s decision. It was thus articulated that ‘[p]erhaps because of the extremity of the circumstances surrounding Bommai – the destruction of the [Babri] mosque, the outbreak of communal riots and the declaration of presidential rule – the Court was not blinded by the discourse of secularism used by the Hindu Right to advance its agenda’.25 The scene had undergone a sea change in 1995 when the Hindu Right expanded its tentacles in India to the extent of being a strong political force which transformed ‘the principal discourse (the promotion of Hindutva and attacks on the minorities through the language of secularism and equality as well as through hate speech) that was effectively on trial’.26 The Hindutva judgement represents a clear shift in the sense that it has legitimized the Hindu Right’s understanding of secularism and ‘paradoxically opened the door for the Hindu Right’s very non-secular agenda’.27 With the passing of the Hindutva verdict, India’s democracy appears to have ushered in a new era in which the Nehruvian idea of India was no longer the only conceptual framework to view the nation; the growing ascendancy of Hindutva, especially following the endorsement by the Supreme Court of India, also articulates a new politico-ideological discourse that was almost peripheral in the past. The previous discussion reveals that the 1995 Hindutva judgement is a watershed in India’s democratic experiences for three significant reasons: first, the verdict created a space for the ideas and values that the Hindu Rights have espoused to defend their claims for India being a cultural construct which further entails that so long as the minorities internalize the distinct Hindu ethos as a step towards being assimilated with the mainstream culture. Secondly, the pronouncement, by recognizing the Hindu Rights as a legitimate political player in India’s democratic governance, led to the dwindling of the Nehruvian secular forces that, so far, governed the nation. Not only did the verdict raise issues regarding the hegemonic nature of India’s secularism it also led to the conceptualization of an alternative politico-ideological framework long after India’s democratic constitution was inaugurated in 1950. Finally, the verdict seems to have contributed to the creation and also consolidation of a level playing field for contrasting ideologies and conceptual parameters. By defending that Hindutva is primarily a cultural construct, the Supreme Court helped build the argument that it was a prejudicial state that blocked the unfolding of the processes translating the dictum, let a hundred flowers blossom. A refreshing design no doubt, the 1995 intervention by India’s apex court is therefore a benchmark judgement that captured the complex interplay of politico-ideological forces in a globalizing India.

V In the shaping of Hindu nationalism in India, the role of the Gorakhpur-based Gita Press cannot be undermined for it helped build a definite space for the right wingers by spreading their views through print materials. Started in 1923, the



Gita Press, located in Gorakhpur city of Uttar Pradesh, is the largest publisher of Hindi religious text. It was founded by Joya Dayal Goyandka and Ghanshyam Das Jalan for promoting the principles of Sanatan Dharma. In 1926, the Press started its journal, Kalyan, for which Hanuman Prasad Poddar, popularly known as Bhaiji, was the founding and the life editor. Kalyan appeared on the scene by publishing Ramayana and Mahabharata which took the journal to the nook and corner of Uttar Pradesh and the neighbouring Hindi-speaking states. The purpose of publishing these epic texts was to spread out the idea that the Hindu past was worth-knowing; as it was cheap, its circulation was very high. Poddar, the editor of Kalyan, was persuaded to believe that Hindus were being marginalized because of the inherent division among them. Hence his principal aim was to create an ambience in which Hindus should speak in one voice just as Muslims do. One of the reasons for the Hindus to remain weak was, as he saw, their failure to come together for a cause which could be addressed provided they work like ‘a sangh’ (a collectivity). Given its clear ideological tenor, it is fair to argue that Kalyan was basically a political journal though it always claimed to be a literary mouthpiece. Not only it was ideologically tilted towards the Right, it was politically allied, from 1926 onwards when Kalyan appeared, with the Hindu right-wing parties – Hindu Mahasabha, RSS and later with Jana Sangh and the Bharatiya Janata Party once it was formed in 1980. Historical evidence also suggests that the Gita Press was supportive of the Hindus who took part in the communal riot in Gorakhpur in 1929 for their bravery against the ‘treacherous Muslims’.28 Its right-wing views were sharply pronounced once the 1947 partition plan was announced: Kalyan argued strongly for a Hindu India since Muslims succeeded in winning Pakistan for them, for which the journal published a series of articles in favour of the claim. Despite its pro-Hindu tilt, Kalyan emerged as a mouthpiece of a confluence of views relating primarily to the contemporary socioeconomic and political issues. It is therefore not surprising that authors like C. Rajagopalachari, S. Radhakrishnan and Rabindranath Tagore wrote very useful politico-ideological pieces in the journal. Nonetheless, it was known for its clearly articulated pro-Hindu views. Supportive of its ideological commitment, Poddar, the editor of Kalyan, thus condemned the Muslim for the riots and also bemoaned the Hindus for their inaction. He thus exhorted them ‘to counter the Muslims attack with equal vengeance [which was possible] with sanghbal [unity of strength] . . . and also invoked them not to turn principle of nonviolence into cowardice’.29 To pursue his goal, he prescribed specific steps to consolidate the Hindus who were otherwise not so united. Insisting on having an all-India organization for the Hindus to uphold their sociopolitical rights in the colonial context when the Muslims were pampered by the rulers for their partisan interests, he published an appeal in Kalyan continuously for five issues in 1929. He thus requested the wealthy Hindus to donate liberally for defending Hindus and Hinduism. To that persuasion, he also envisioned ‘the setting up of a nationwide Rakshak Dal, a kind of Hindu militia of five million youth’,30 which however fizzled out probably due to the disagreement in the group that he had formed for this cause. Nonetheless, the journal continued sharpening its attack on the Muslims. As evidence shows, in order to demonstrate



that Muslims were ‘evils and also untrustworthy’,31 Kalyan devoted, for instance, one full issue to deal with the 1946 Noakhali (Bengal) riot to argue the point that Muslims were responsible for the killing while Hindus undertook steps to quell the situation. In light of the Great Calcutta killings and Noakhali riot of 1946, Kalyan, while portraying M. A. Jinnah as ‘the new age Aurangzeb’, exhorted the Hindus by saying that ‘the time has come for every Hindu man and woman to become a soldier in self-defence. They should launch a movement demanding reservation in jobs in proportion to their percentage in the population’, just like the Muslims rally around at the call of the All-O-Akbar, Hindus should learn to come together on hearing ‘the blowing of conch shells and the slogan of Har Har Mahadev [in the name of Shiva, the Hindu deity] and Bajrang Bali Ki jai [in the name of monkey-God, Hanuman]’.32 What ran through the editorials that Poddar wrote was his anti-Muslim sentiments which he articulated by referring to many instances showing how Muslims betrayed the nation by defending their claim of being entirely different from their Hindu counterparts. His condemnation of the mainstream nationalist leadership was based on his argument that the partition could have been thwarted had the national leaders risen above their personal ambition. Partition was a foregone conclusion and hence the Hindus had no option but to accept. In independent India, the Hindus needed to work together, felt Poddar, to sustain a strong India. Hence he presented a 12-point programme for the Hindus33 which, he thought, would contribute to the fulfilment of his mission. Insisting that the Congress, Hindu Mahasabha, Sanatanists, Jains and Sikhs should work in unison, he thus put forward his template which is nothing but a list of items that Hindus needed to honour: 1 It should be called Hindusthan or Aryavarta. 2 It should be purely a Hindu nation and entirely organized on the basis of Hindu culture. The national flag should be saffron and ‘Vande Mataram’ should be the national anthem. 3 As a matter of basic principle, cow slaughter should be banned. 4 The official language should be pure Hindi (not the corrupt Hindustani) and the script Devanagari. 5 Military training should be made compulsory and the Arms acts should be amended. 6 The Indian Army should only consist of Hindus. Therefore, the Army should be divided beforehand. 7 Muslims should not be appointed to any high post. 8 In government jobs Muslims should be appointed based on their proportional share in the population. This should be done only if Hindus in Pakistan get government jobs in proportion to their population. 9 Laws should not be made for any religion in the name of social reform. 10 In the border areas of East and West Bengal, East and West Punjab, NorthWest Frontier Province and Assam and all other borders, the Central Government should deploy a strong army so that in future India is not attacked. 11 Pakistan is an enemy country and it should be treated accordingly.



12 In India, Muslims and other minorities should be given adequate facilities. Their life and dignity should be protected. This list is the political manifesto that India as an independent nation should uphold. A careful perusal helps us divide the manifesto into three interrelated components: first, this manifesto is a list of dos and don’ts for the Indian state; the aim is to strengthen India as a country in the comity of nations; secondly, this is a clamour for making India one by insisting that her citizens should remain united since they have an identical mission, namely, the making of a strong India; finally, this manifesto is also about the means by which India gains power; here, the instrument is the military which should be made stronger with adequate capacity to hit Pakistan, if necessary. Although this manifesto was written after the partition of India in 1947, the ideas, as shown in Chapter 5 that it contains seem to be similar to what Moonje devised in 1937 with the formation of Bhonsala military school which was also an effort towards militarization of the Hindu youth and the consolidation of a new brand of leadership. With the publication of the previously discussed manifesto, Poddar also took ample care to consolidate Hindu unity by devising eight principles that every Hindu should endorse.34 These are principles based on his own understanding of how a community should be built and strengthened. Endeavouring to empower the Hindus socio-psychologically, he thus elaborated those eight principles which are as follows: 1 2 3 4 5

6 7 8

Honour India’s ancient culture, its glorious history as well as show respect and imbibe the valour and knowledge of great men of the past. Take pride in Hindutva. A Hindu of any varna or jati or faith should know that his primary identity is of a Hindu. Such unity would result in helping each other. Despite social differences, make united efforts to create a great Hindu rashtra. Substitute selfish traits like personal ambition, hankering for power and craving for honour and wealth by service to the nation. Help the weak and poor with dedication, money and might. Never be afraid of the oppressors. They should be exterminated with all possible means. Not doing anything in retaliation to their oppression would be a sin just the way it is to oppress poor. Consider yourself invincible and strong and always work in that direction. Have belief in God’s unlimited power and benevolence, and conserve energy to fight internal and external enemies. Consider every work as worship of God.

Like the 12-point list for the Hindus, which is directional in character in the sense that strict adherence to these instructions would make India a powerful nation, this list, meant to reinvigorate the declining Hindu race, appears to have those principles which were critical for developing Hindus as a compact race. The aim was to create a strong Hindu Rashtra with Hindus who not only remained



committed to its cause but also helped build strong emotions for its gradual consolidation. There is an interesting aspect of the previous list; besides seeking to morally endorse the points, the author infused divinity with the worldly concern for protecting the nation as it was a service to divinity. Drawing on the longdrawn Hindu tradition of helping the poor (the Hindus only), Kalyan seems to have endeavoured to create a mental universe in which the gulf between the rich and the poor needed to be bridged, again, for the sake of the collective well-being of Hindus. Implicit here is also the idea that under no circumstances Hindus were allowed to be divided along the class lines. This was evident when Kalyan’s editor, Poddar instructed his colleagues who were camping in Ayodhya during the campaign for building the Ram temple there that Gita Press would take care of the expenses for performing puja and also bear the cost for litigation over the possession of the controversial site.35 The decision did not come all of a sudden; in fact, it was more or less natural for Kalyan in view of the activities that it undertook since its inception for expanding the Hindu nationalist domain. Gita Press is thus not just a publishing agency; it was a voice that was articulated in the nationalist context and its aftermath with a view to mobilizing Hindu opinion in opposition to so-called secularists and, of course, to the Islamic zealots. This was essentially a political struggle, being constantly waged, for revitalizing the Hindus against their immediate enemies, especially the Muslims. It is therefore agued, rather fairly, that: [n]ot only has it played a pivotal role in popular efforts to proclaim Hindu solidarity (sangathan), pious self-identity and normative cultural values, as a played in the theatre of Hindu nationalism it has also stood by side with the majoritarian narrative of the RSS, Hindu Mahasabha, Jana Singh and [recently] Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) at every critical juncture since 1923.36 A careful analysis of the journey of the Gita Press since 1923 and Kalyan since 1926 and also the role that Kalyan’s editor, Hanuman Prasad Poddar had played, helps us comprehend how the print technology contributed to the consolidation of the nationalist imagination. The conceptual formulation that Benedict Anderson makes in his Imagined Communities37 appears to have been substantiated. Following Anderson’s argument, one can safely suggest that by creating an easy access to the texts, written in a specific language, print technology instantaneously helps those speaking the same language together regardless of physical distance. Furthermore, print capitalism seeks to build a history on the basis of the codified texts that remains which not only links the present with the past but is also a source of knowledge for the present. Print capitalism can thus be said to have contributed to the articulation of a compatible mission for those who are linguistically compatible. Print technology that came as a piggyback with colonialism in India is also a power in itself. This is power in a specific sense because print capitalism creates conditions in which specific dialectics get privileged over their disadvantaged cousins. For instance, most of the published texts in Kalyan were written in that form of Hindi which was not exactly that of the subalterns;



instead of Khari Boli (colloquial Hindi), the language in which the essays were written had an appeal to the elite. The reasons were simple; these elites acted as opinion makers who helped build a constituency for the ideological goal that Kalyan stood for. This further means that Kalyan’s intervention had a far-reaching impact in so far as the spreading of the Hindu nationalist views were concerned. It was highly political in its approach in the sense that Kalyan participated in battles within the political site in which various other politico-ideological priorities were at play.38 At one level, this is a perfect conclusion that follows Anderson’s formulation since the publishing companies, despite their obvious objective of making profit, set in motion processes for the creation of ‘monoglot masses’ leading to the formation of ‘national identity’. This does not seem to be the case, informs Akshaya Mukul, who worked intensively on how Gita Press became a powerful mouthpiece of Hindu nationalism in India. As Mukul argues, notwithstanding the fact that the Marwaris who mentored Gita Press were not averse to profit, they declared that they did not want to make profit from ‘a venture like Gita Press, an “indigenous model of proselytization” whose object was the defence of Hindu religion [and the popularization of] Gita and other texts in Hindi was important to counter the effects of Christian missionaries’.39 Besides its literary goal, Gita Press had a clear politico-ideological goal of championing Hindu nationalist objectives; it was therefore a political project which gradually caught the Hindu imagination in circumstances when the Gandhi-led nationalist campaign reigned supreme; the scene however did not seem radically different. Even after decolonization, Gita Press remained an important source of empowerment for the Hindus even on occasions when the situation did not appear to be conducive. How was it possible? A surface reading of how the Press became an integral part of the Hindu psyche confirms that the ideas and views that it had championed were based on an endeavour for questing for an alternative. The argument seems persuasive because, in view of the growing acceptability of liberal constitutionalism, the apprehension that Hinduized ideas and conceptualizations did not appear to be unfounded which spontaneously created a space for Hindu nationalist thinking. At a more perceptive level, the continuity of the Press is a testimony of a persuasive alternative that was constructed on the aspirational desires which the Hindus wanted to fulfill. Not only in terms of ideas was the Press innovative and completely committed to the goal of Hindu nationalism, it also had vociferously argued for popularizing and promoting Hindi and Sanskrit. Given its sustained endeavour in this regard, it is thus argued that Kalyan, by regularly publishing essays with this goal, actually reiterated the Gita Press’s mission ‘as the custodian of Hindi, Hindu and Hindusthan’.40 To conclude the point, it can now be fairly stated that Gita Press and Kalyan, in particular, helped build a sociocultural milieu in which the Hindu nationalist ideas and also the forces championing them evolved and flourished. As shown previously, there were major thinkers, beginning with Dayananda Saraswati (1824–83) till Deendayal Upadhyay (1916–68), who conceptualized Hindu nationalism as an ideological priority; it was Gita Press, and especially Kalyan, edited by an equally committed Hanuman Prasad Poddar, it would be contributed to its sustenance in adverse circumstances and gradual



expansion of its sphere of influence presumably because (a) Hindu nationalism had a natural constituency and (b) those championing the Hindu nationalist ideological preferences succeeded in their mission.

VI The 2019 Lok Sabha poll is a watershed in Indian politics. In the Lok Sabha of 543 members, the BJP won in 303 constituencies, and its pre-poll partners succeeded in fifty constituencies which means that the NDA has increased its tally in comparison with its 2014 share of seats (336 in total) in the last Lok Sabha. Even the vote share has increased: while in the 2014 Lok Sabha poll, the BJP got 31% of total votes, in 2019, it has touched almost 38% of popular votes. Interestingly, the Congress share of votes did not dwindle because it has secured almost twenty percent of votes cast. For the widely hyped Grand Alliance, the 2019 poll outcome represents a collapse because a majority of the alliance partners (though notionally, as the alliance was not per se formed) not only failed to win in constituencies in which it had won in the 2014 election, some of their candidates had also forfeited their deposits. Contrarily, the BJP remained the leading partner among the NDA constituents by winning not only a substantial chunk of popular votes, it had also expanded its share of parliamentary seats in comparison with what it had received in the last Lok Sabha poll. In simple arithmetic calculation, the BJP’s victory is astounding even the pollsters were perplexed with the poll outcome since the results did not correspond with what they had suggested. How does one explain the election outcome which appears to have bemused the analysts? Following the conventional ways of looking at the results, one is likely to attribute the remarkable feat of the BJP to the astute leadership of the Modi-Shah combination and also the solid organizational back up of the RSS and other sister organizations of the Sangh Parivar. There was also the reason of the Congress and its allies being less effective in mobilizing voters in their favour. That the voters were unhappy with the Congress and its compatriots does not seem to be persuasive in light of the 2018 state assembly elections in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh where the BJP was trounced by the former. So, what had persuaded the electorate to vote for the BJP and its collaborators in different parts of the country? Two of the reasons stand out: first, the dormant nationalist sentiments of the majority of the Hindus that appeared to have awakened with the 2019 Balakot surgical strike in the alleged terrorist camps, being nurtured by the Pakistani official establishments. As the report suggests, the majority of the Hindu youths were drawn to the BJP and its partners presumably because the BJP-led incumbent government had shown to the world India’s military might, being complemented by her strong will. A nationalist India had awakened after a long spell of lull due to the earlier government’s stance of being soft to Pakistan and also terrorism in general. This generated a new wave of thinking in which the desire to make India militarily strong (which needs to be shown to the rest of the world) seems to have swayed the new electorates. By foregrounding the national pride, Modi, in other words, appears to have drawn



on a sentiment that did not seem to have received the attention by the erstwhile non-BJP regimes as it deserved. The second reason, complementary to the earlier one, is linked with a psychological empowerment of the ‘hurt’ Hindus. This is a simplistic explanation if one comprehends the poll outcome as nothing but an attempt to build a Hindu Pakistan. Had Modi been inclined to do so he would have enacted a law to expedite the processes of constructing a Ram temple in the controversial site of the Babri Masjid in Uttar Pradesh. Instead, a strong believer in the constitutional laws, regulations and practices, the Modi government left the decision on Ram mandir to the Supreme Court of India. Moreover, it is a matter of pride that despite Modi being charged as a communalist there has been no widespread communal riots in India since the BJP government took over authority following the 2014 poll. And also, while there is no denying the pressure from the Hindu supremacists to dismantle India’s Muslim past, in most cases, it has been strongly resisted. Even during the 2019 poll campaign, when Nathuram Godse was hailed as a nationalist-patriot by one of the BJP candidates, the Prime Minister immediately condemned the announcement and dissociated from the claim. So, what was the magic wand that brought Modi and his party, BJP, closer to the heart of the voters. As it has been rightly pointed out, Modi’s phenomenal success has a lot to do with his ability to tap into the latent Hindu ‘hurt’ at being stigmatized. That he and his colleagues contributed to BJP’s astounding victory is a testimony to the fact that ‘a majority of the Hindus are convinced that the version of secularism championed by the opposition today has come to represent a contempt of Hinduism’.41 Here lies the effectiveness of Modi-magic that transformed the disparate Hindus into a solid vote bank for the BJP brand of nation, nationalism and national identity. This is not Hindutva but Hinduness that appears to have instantaneously created a strong support base for the BJP and its other NDA allies. One can trace back the roots of the idea in the 2018 Delhi lecture by Mohan Bhagwat, the RSS supremo, in which he upheld the view that all those who live in ‘Bharat’ regardless of their caste or creed, subscribe to Hinduness or the Hindu view of life which is accommodative of diversity since time immemorial. Besides advancing this argument, Bhagwat also dissociated from Golwalkar’s rabid anti-Muslim sentiments by saying that they were contextdriven which means that in the changed milieu they do not appear to be relevant. Modi’s slogan – sabka saath, sabka vikas (development for all) – was based on this perception which clearly articulates the idea of inclusive governance which further means that Hinduness does not deny minorities any space in the development narrative but seeks to empower all on merit and ‘delink social justice from identity’. A remarkable stroke, the idea is a restatement of the claim that minorities, including the Muslims shall always remain important stakeholders in India’s development trajectory so long as the BJP-led government is in power. By expanding the slogan, sabka saath, sabka vikas, to include sabka viswas (everybody’s trust), Modi, in his first speech before the newly elected parliamentarians on 26 May, 2019, three days after registering an astounding victory, reiterated his pledge for inclusive governance in which no discrimination on the basis of religion, race and ethnicity, is permissible. This new slogan is meant to convey to the minorities, especially the Muslims, that their future is not at stake, and the new



government shall work hard to win their trust. A new beginning no doubt, this clearly-worded signal can be said to have ushered a new thinking in the Hindutva brand of politics, which is not exclusive in character, but seems to have charted out a new design for socioculturally heterogenous India.

VII India’s journey to nationhood was complete with the abrogation of the Articles 370 and 35A of the 1950 Constitution of India following the Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order, 2019. A discriminatory constitutional provision, Article 370 was a trade-off between the then Kashmir ruler, Maharaja Hari Singh and the government of India. Kashmir became a semi-independent province within the Union of India with special privileges for her citizens which were denied to their counterparts elsewhere in the country. The arrangement was defended as a temporary measure which the provision stated clearly. Nonetheless, Articles 370 and 35A had remained integral to India’s constitution even seven decades after its inauguration in 1950. It was a both a puzzle and a paradox: paradox because despite India being federally united, Kashmir with her special constitutional status sustained a semi-independent identity; puzzle since Article 370 was allowed to continue despite being contrary to the claim of India being a nation. With the recognition of the 1954 Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir as the supreme guiding design for the province, the argument that it was not exactly a part of India gained ground. In his address in Srinagar in 1953, Syama Prasad Mookerjee, the founder of Jana Sangh, he held Articles 370 and 35A to be unwarranted special favour to Jammu and Kashmir and argued for ‘one country, one emblem and one constitution’ because, as he believed, ‘separateness creates separatism’.42 In other words, Article 370 which provides special constitutional status to Jammu and Kashmir is a source of contestation, if not irritation, since a guarantee of special status to a constituent state in federal India is constitutionally untenable within the framework of a federal nation. The scrapping of Articles 370 and 35A does not seem to be an aberration because by endorsing special constitutional status to Jammu and Kashmir, the provision was an impediment to India’s identity as a nation state. In the present context, the argument has substance although the founding fathers were persuaded to extend special privileges to the province perhaps due to contingent circumstances in which it was perhaps the best option available to them. While presenting Article 306A which later became Article 370 in the Constitution of India, Gopalaswami Ayyangar, minister without portfolio in the interim government attributed the special nature of the Article to ‘the special conditions’ that existed in the state. Article 306A was, according to him, ‘a discriminatory’ constitutional design to enable the state to fully integrate with the Union of India in due course. While elaborating his argument for such a discriminatory constitutional provision, he further argued that ‘the discrimination is due to the special conditions in Kashmir. This particular state is not yet ripe for this kind of integration. . . . There are various reasons why this is not possible now’.43 One of the important reasons was linked with ‘the unusual and abnormal conditions in the state due to war’



which resulted in ‘the capture of part of the state by the rebels and enemies’. The other critical factor supportive of special provision for Jammu and Kashmir was India’s commitment to the people of the state for ‘an opportunity . . . to decide for themselves whether they will remain with the Republic or wish to out of it. [The Indian State was] also committed to ascertaining this will of the people by means of plebiscite provided that peaceful and normal conditions are restored and the impartiality of the plebiscite could be guaranteed. [It was also] agreed that the will of the people, through the instrument of a constituent assembly will determine the constitution of the state as well as the sphere of the Union jurisdiction over the State’.44 According to Ayyangar, the discriminatory status to Jammu and Kashmir is attributed to the difficult circumstances in which the local habitat was placed due to war and rebellion. And also, the state was allowed to go for a plebiscite to decide whether it would integrate with the Union or not; there was also a concession for creating a constituent assembly for the state to frame its own constitution. Being entirely politically expedient, the terms and conditions were clearly discriminatory. Interestingly, Ayyanger’s defence of a clearly discriminatory Article 306A did not provoke any of the Assembly members to initiate debates except Maulana Hasarat Mohani who raised his voice by questioning the partiality that the Assembly had shown to the Maharaja of Kashmir at the cost of other princely states. ‘Why do you make this discrimination about the Ruler [of Jammu and Kashmir]?, asked Maulana Hasarat Mohani who further argued that ‘if you grant this concession to the Maharaja of Kashmir you should also withdraw your decision about [the merger of other princely states] with the Union of India’.45 The special status clause was questioned for being discriminatory; it was unwarranted, as Mohani strongly felt, because it amounted to a serious compromise to India’s suzerainty as an independent polity. For him, this concessional provision was thus not justified since no constituent units in federal India had the authority of having either a plebiscite or an independent constituent assembly to frame its own constitution, especially when the Constituent Assembly was already in the process of making one for the Union. Justifying that concessions were absolutely ‘temporary’ since the Assembly agreed to have a plebiscite to ascertain ‘the will of the people’ and also the formation of a constituent assembly to devise a constitution for the state Article 306A was approved without discussion confirms that the proceedings of the Assembly were state-managed. As the available media sources suggest that when Article 306A was placed for discussion before the Congress Parliamentary Party, it provoked fierce debate and there was hardly a consensus among the members given the discriminatory nature of Article 306A. Nobody in the meeting could digest the discriminatory treatment that was meted out to the state. Vallabhbhai Patel was reported to have been in accord with the discordant opinion though he hardly spoke since it meant a betrayal to the Congress pledge.46 Jawaharlal Nehru and Vallabhbhai Patel persuaded the recalcitrant colleagues by saying that the concessional Article 306A was likely to mobilize global opinion in India’s favour in the of light Pakistan’s counter claim for the entire Kashmir. Article 370 though titled as ‘Temporary Provisions’, and included in Para XXI entitled ‘Temporary, Transitional and Special Provisions’ became a permanent feature of the Constitution of India, till it was repealed in 2019, which defined



the nature of relationship between the Union of India and Jammu and Kashmir, and also laid down broad features of special status granted to the State. From the legal point of view, one can cite reasons to argue that it was a violation of the spirit of the 1950 Constitution. For instance, an argument is often made by stating that ‘the Presidential Order is a colourable exercise of power because [it vests] in an unelected body, in this case the Governor of the state, a constituent powers of gargantuan proportions’.47 A mere surface reading of the Order may lead one to adopt this conclusion which does not seem to be persuasive because a country’s constitutional design is also contingent on the prevalent political processes. In view of the argument that India is a federal country and privileging a constituent province is contrary to the foundational values on which the Indian polity rested. It was a rightful step to endorse the application of the Constitution to the whole country. As history has shown, there were two occasions when Article 370 could have easily been eased out of the Constitution. In 1972, following the surrender of Pakistani army in Dhaka, the Indira Gandhi-led Congress government could have ‘made [accession of Jammu and Kashmir] to India non-negotiable as the price for the return of 93,000 Pakistan soldiers in Indian captivity’.48 Instead, India unconditionally released the captive soldiers. In 1990, when, in the name of ethnic cleansing, the Hindu community was forced to leave the valley and the VP Singh government remained a mute spectator. On both occasions, the government restrained itself because the leadership preferred to cling ‘to a misplaced belief that the special status of [Jammu and Kashmir] was a test of India’s secularism’.49 This had two serious consequences which also had serious constitutional implications: at one level, recognition of Jammu and Kashmir as semi-independent entity reinforces its special status within the republic of India; at another, far more perceptive level, Article 370 was deemed to have had the character of a holy cow that remained sacrosanct for India’s constitutional fabric. This provision was another, in other words, version of minority appeasement. Hence it has been perceptively argued that far from frontally confronting the anomalies that Article 370 created, successive governments in Delhi mistakenly equated Article 370 with the larger question of minority rights in India. The same logic that prevented any Muslim personal law reform since 1939 worked to celebrate the differentiated citizenship for Muslims in general and [Jammu and Kashmir] in particular. The constitution was deemed to be great but so great that some people had to be protected from it.50 The idea is crystal clear: being discriminatory in character, Article 370 was an aberration to the secular-republic constitution of India. With the constitutional endorsement of differentiated citizenship for the province, this provision can be said to have drawn on the spirit on which M. A. Jinnah’s two-nation theory rested. This idea was most sharply articulated by an analyst who argued that the special status of Article 370 . . . that allows the state assembly to define permanent residents created a false sense of privilege in the Valley and kept alive an insidious aspect of two nation theory in India’s only Muslim-majority


Conclusion state. . . . [The Article thus] created a constitutional ambiguity and set Kashmir apart from the rest of India.51

Implicit here is the point that the guarantee of special privileges to Jammu and Kashmir, despite being integral to the Union of India, is contrary to India being a nation. It is true that there are provisions in the Constitution which are sensitive to India’s multicultural identity. But Article 370 provided a specific constitutional design to sustain its semi-independent constitutional status. Here lie the roots of the argument challenging the Article for being openly discriminatory in favour of one section of Indian citizens against another. Not only was this constitutional provision characterized as ‘undemocratic’ it was also dubbed as a cancer that fed on [Jammu and Kashmir] and brutalized everyone [which led to] . . . a relentless spiral of violence [that] numbed the national mind while trapping the local population between terrorists and security pickets. In this crushing reality, truth was the casualty and every narrative an escape from the present.52 The banning of Article 370 is thus, constitutionally, legitimate since the presidential abrogation order is derivative of the core values of democratic governance justifying diversity within the framework of India being a republic. The annulment is also justified because the insistence of Jammu and Kashmir being separate from India is contrary to the inherent syncretism of Kashmiriyat which hardly corresponds with the sectarian appeal in which Jinnah’s two-nation theory was couched. A syncretic philosophical discourse, Kashmiriyat is an articulation of processes leading to secularization of Islam also by being drawn to Buddhism, Sikhism and by giving equal space and even patronage to the localized philosophical traditions. So long as Articles 370 and 35A, being legitimately dubbed as ‘the architecture of otherness’,53 were allowed to continue, it not only militated against Kashmiriyat, it also consolidated a constitutional design ‘to discriminate against man and woman, insider and outsider [and] Indian and Kashmiris’ which is constitutionally ultra vires and also indefensible.54 In other words, in the guise of autonomy, discrimination along the axes of caste, religion and gender, was allowed to be justified. In these circumstances, notwithstanding the self-defeating hue and cry by those privileging sectarian appeals over the nation, the redundancy of Article 370 can thus be said to have brought back the core concerns of the founding fathers for building a unified India which is culturally diverse but constitutionally one. The converting of ‘the iconic Article 370 of the Constitution from reality to history’55 is undoubtedly a concrete step to defend the point that ‘the old Nehruvian left-liberal consensus has given way to an alternative understanding of India in her own civilizational lens [which] . . . may have annoyed some, but generated a zeal to critically evaluate the derivative wisdom’, with Western intellectual antecedents which was, so far considered axiomatic.56 There is a conceptual point here: contrary to the view that Article 370 was universally accepted in view of its historical



roots, the mute repercussion following its revocation in 2019 also reveals that the Nehruvian model of Indian identity did not seem to have been as persuasive as was believed in a context when contrary views and ideas were not encouraged, if not brutally suppressed. Basic to the design was an endeavour to build a hegemonic discourse around the Nehruvian politico-ideological priorities that had, for historical reasons, flourished in India presumably because of the success of the capable nationalist leadership in effectively containing alternative conceptual yardstick and views. The 2019 Presidential Order rescinding Articles 370 and 35A is therefore not only a break with the past, but also a significant constitutional intervention in creating a discursive space for alternative discourses to strike roots.

VIII The 1992 demolition of the Babri masjid was a momentous event in India’s recent political history; so is the 2019 judgment of the Supreme Court of India that allowed the Hindus to construct a Ram temple in the disputed site since it was most appropriate in its wisdom. Muslims were compensated by a five-acre piece of land elsewhere in Ayodhya for construction of a mosque. On the surface, the pronouncement appears to be an endeavour of creating a bonhomie among the two religious groups with an equal claim for the site that caused much of the consternation so far. For the apex court, the task did not seem to be an easy one which is evident with the invocation of the Article 142 of the Constitution of India that allows it to go above the existing law to ensure justice. In allocating the disputed land where the Babri Masjid once stood for building a Ram temple, the Supreme Court devised a measure to strike a balance since, for the apex court, the land grant is an ‘act of restitution’ for a wrong; that wrong was addressed through an indictment of the Hindu side for ‘the act of desecrating the mosque’ by surreptitiously installing the idols of Lord Ram under the central dome of the Babri masjid in 1949. Condemning the Hindu leaders who were responsible for destroying the mosque in 1992 ‘as an egregious violation of law’, the apex court also raised a strong voice against vandalism in the name correcting a historical wrong. So, what is deemed to be a legal battle for possession of a tiny patch of land gradually unfolded as major source of irritation that inflicted ‘serious damage to the inclusive fabric of the country’.57 It was a conscious attempt to conclusively sort-out an issue that appears to have made Hindus skeptical of the Muslims and vice versa. Being aware of India’s multicultural texture, the Court thus declared at the outset that ‘for a case replete with references to archeological foundations, we must remember that it is the law which provides the edifice on which our multicultural society rests. … At the heart of the Constitution is a commitment to equality upheld and enforced by the rule of law. Under our Constitution, citizens of all faiths, beliefs and creeds seeking divine provenance are both subject to the law and equal before the law. The Constitution does not make a distinction between the faith and belief of one religion or another. All forms of belief, worship and prayer are equal’.58



By being sensitive to the constitutional guarantee of equality to all regardless of religion, class and creed, the apex court delve on the contentious issue by privileging fact over faith. Not persuaded by the strong Hindu belief that the disputed site was indeed the Ram’s birthplace, the court upheld the principle of equality while passing its judgment. By decoupling the belief-based claim from the wellestablished constitutional principle, the Court was thus emphatic in declaring that ‘the sequences of events … clearly indicate that faith and belief of Hindu was that birth place of Lord Ram was in the three-dome structure Mosque which constructed at janmasthan [birthplace]. It was only during the British period that grilled wall was constructed dividing the walled premises of the Mosque into inner courtyard and outer courtyard. Grilled Iron wall was constructed to keep Hindu outside the grilled iron wall in the outer courtyard. In view of the construction of the iron wall, the worship and puja started in Ram Chabutra [location] in the outer courtyard. Suit of 1885 was filed seeking permission to construct temple on the said Chabutra where worship was permitted by the British Authority’.59 Historically speaking, the disputed site was demarcated by the colonizers to avoid trouble. With their acceptance of the arrangement, it was clear that both communities agreed to share the site for their respective religious rituals. In other words, the Hindu claim of the place being holy since Ram was believed to have born was hardly serious challenged by their Muslim counterparts since it was also accepted that Babri Masjid was equally a sacred place for them. Hence the Court argues that ‘faith and belief of the Hindus as depicted by the evidence on record clearly establish that the Hindus belief that the at the birth place of Lord Ram, the Mosque was constructed and the three-dome structure is the birth place of Ram. The fact that Hindus were by constructing iron wall, dividing Mosque premises, kept outside the three-dome structure cannot be said to alter their faith and belief regarding the birth place of Lord Ram. The worship of the Ram Chabutra in the outer courtyard was symbolic worship of Lord Ram who was born in the premises’.60 Here too, the logic is the same. The Hindu claim of the dispute site being the birth place of Lord Ram is sought to be established by reference to historical and oral evidence. What is emphasized here is the point that what was brought down was not brick and mortar but ‘a vibrant and active symbol and place of worship for millions of Hindus through centuries’.61 Mere belief of the Hindus did not seem to have determined the Court’s choice; but the fact that Hindus worship there was a clinching factor vis-à-vis Court’s decision which came out unambiguously in the last paragraph of the judgment which stated that ‘it is thus concluded on the conclusion that faith and belief of Hindus prior to the construction of Mosque and subsequent thereto has always been that



Janmasthan of Lord Ram is the place where Babri Mosque has been constructed which faith and belief is proved by documentary and oral evidence’.62 The judgment is about a design of coexistence of communities fighting over the possession of a site which both of them claim to be theirs. Striving to create a template for agreement between the communities based on appreciation of their respective faith and belief, the Court also took ample care to assuage the Muslims’ sentiments which, it articulated by saying that ‘justice would not prevail if the Court were to overlook the entitlement of the Muslims who have been deprived of the structure of the Mosque through means which should not have been employed in a secular nation committed to the rule of law. The Constitution postulates the equality of all faiths’.63 This is illustrative of the claim that India is not Hindu Pakistan with the Court’s strong argument for protecting the Muslim rights of prayer in the Babri Mosque. Being fully committed to the rule of law, the Court has hardly wavered since it draws its sustenance from the constitution supporting ‘tolerance and mutual coexistence, [being integral to nourishing] the secular commitment of our nation and faith’.64 In two major ways, the judgment is most instructive: first, this long overdue judgment is an example of how judicial verdict is crucial in creating a milieu in which Hindus and Muslims were treated at par by being drawn to the fundamental ethos of liberal constitutionalism. Hence it is argued that ‘the majesty of these words makes it hard to deny that India’s highest court has set a new precedent in constitutional morality for others to follow when deciding vexing inter-faith disputes’.65 Secondly, the judgment stands out because, by and large, most political parties are unanimous in their appreciation for the pronouncement which was perhaps the best option available in the present circumstances. There is however an apprehension whether this will bolster the demands of the Hindus for returning the sites to them in Kashi and Mathura because the erstwhile Muslim rulers were claimed to have built mosques in areas where it is believed that temple existed in the past. Nonetheless, by resolving a contentious issue that gave rise, on many occasions, to conflict and hostility, the apex court discharges its role as the custodian of Indian democracy which is not merely, as BR Ambedkar apprehended, ‘a window dressing’ but an organically-evolved and creatively-designed format of bringing together disparate communities around certain consensual socio-political and ideological priorities.

IX Hindu nationalism has multiple sources of articulation and also conceptualization. On the one hand, the prevalent sociopolitical context, especially during the colonial era, did not seem to be favourable due to the growing popularity of the Enlightenment values which came piggyback on colonialism to India. Being



politically baptized in colonial India, the majority of the mainstream nationalists did accept the constitutional liberalism that had intellectual roots in the philosophy of Enlightenment. So, their acceptance did not seem to be odd. What was striking, on the other, was also the endeavour that the Gandhi-led nationalists undertook to selectively draw on the indigenous sources of knowledge available in the Vedic texts or the epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata. Nonetheless, the core ideological inspiration happened to be the derivative conceptual ideas from the Western philosophical discourses. So, this was the context showing that Hindu nationalist ideas, as a compact ideological discourse, did not appear to have emerged as a problématique that was widely accepted. Nonetheless, these ideas created and nurtured constituencies across the length and breadth of the country presumably because they succeeded in persuading those seeking to find an ideological discourse inspirational enough to mobilize support for the Hindu nationalist cause. This is where lies the root of the growing popularity of Hindu nationalism as a socio-psychological design with potentials to generate zeal among the Hindus battling for the fulfilment of their goal. In a sociopolitical milieu charged with a concern for exploration of an alternative, Hindu nationalism was conceptualized to spearhead the campaign for politico-ideological transformation. As shown in the book, what had begun with Dayananda Saraswati in the late nineteenth century, especially with the arrival in the public domain of his book, Satyarth Prakash (1875), was pursued by the Hindu nationalist ideologues, like V. D. Savarkar (1883–66), M. S. Golwalkar (1906–73) and Deendayal Upadhyaya (1916–68) in the twentieth century. What was striking about the twentieth-century Hindu nationalists was the effort that they undertook to create a political constituency with support at the grassroots by drawing on the typical indigenous civilizational texts and ideas on which rested their claim for Hindu nationalism being an effective ideological design. In other words, by the twentieth century, Hindu nationalism was not just an ideological package, but also provided an organizational design capable of mobilizing people for the Hindu nationalist cause. What was initiated by the Hindu Mahasabha in 1915 and Rastriya Swayamsevak Sangh in 1925 was complemented by the Jana Sangh (founded in 1951) and Bharatiya Janata Party (constituted in 1980). There are however disagreements among the scholars that these four outfits cannot be conceptually clubbed together given their diverse opinion on a number of social, economic and political issues. For instance, the Bharatiya Janata Party fosters views on the nationality question that do not correspond well with that of both Hindu Mahasabha and Rastriya Swayamsevak Sangh. Nonetheless, the common thread that runs through all these organizational outfits is the desire to create a compact of citizens who, being committed to the idea of Hindusthan, will fight relentlessly against all odds for the attainment of the commonly nurtured objective and goals for the country.

Notes 1 Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol. 78, p. 45. 2 C. Ram-Prasad pursues this argument in his ‘Hindutva Ideology: Extracting the Fundamentals’, Contemporary South Asia, Vol. 2, No. 3, 1993, pp. 304–6.



3 Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, Hindu Rashtra Darshan, Veer Savarkar Prakashan, Bombay (Savarkar’s 1937 Speech in the Hindu Mahasabha’s annual session in Ahmedabad). pp. 14–15. 4 Ibid., p. 96. 5 Mahesh Chandra Sharma (ed.), Complete Works of Deendayal Upadhyaya, Prabhrat Prakashan, New Delhi, 2019, Vol. 7, p. 124. 6 Ashutosh Varshney, ‘Contested Meanings: India’s National Identity, Hindu Nationalism and the Politics of Identity’, Daedalus, Vol. 122, No. 3, 1993, pp. 227–61. 7 Christophe Jaffrelot, The Hindu Nationalist Movement in India, 1925 to the 1990s, Penguin India, New Delhi, 1996, p. 19. 8 http://JUDIS.NOC.In, Dr Ramesh Yeshwant Prabhoo versus Shri Prabhakar Kashinath Kunte and others, 11 December 1995, p. 3. 9 Ibid., p. 5. 10 Ibid., p. 19. 11 Ibid., p. 24. 12 Ibid., p. 27. 13 Ibid. 14 Ibid., pp. 27–8. 15 Ibid., p. 34. 16 Anil Nauriya, ‘The Hindutva Judgments: A Warning Signal’, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 31, No. 1, 6 January 1996, p. 13. 17 http://JUDIS.NOC.In, Dr Ramesh Yeshwant Prabhoo versus Shri Prabhakar Kashinath Kunte and others, 11 December, 1995, p. 7. 18 Nauriya, ‘The Hindutva Judgments: A Warning Signal’, p. 11. 19 Ibid., p. 11. 20 Brenda Cossman and Ratna Kapur, ‘Secularism’s Last Sigh: The Hindu right, the Courts and India’s Struggle for Democracy’, Harvard International Law Journal, Vol. 38, No. 1, Winter, p. 129. 21 Ibid., p. 131. 22 Ibid., p. 135. 23 Ibid., p. 136. 24 www.lawmantra.co.in/s-r-bommai-vs-union-of-india-19942-scr-644-air-1994-sc-1918/, S.R.Bommai vs. Union of India 1994, p. 31. 25 Cossman and Kapur, ‘Secularism’s Last Sigh’, p. 154. 26 Ibid., p. 155. 27 Ibid., p. 168. 28 Hanuman Prasad Poddar, Samaj Sudhar (Hindi), Gita Press, Gorakhpur, 1928, p. 18. 29 Akshaya Mukul, Gita Press, and the Making of Hindu India, HarperCollins Publishers India, Noida, 2017 (paperback), p. 228. 30 Ibid., p. 246. 31 Ibid., p. 248. 32 Ibid., pp. 249–50. 33 Ibid., pp. 254–5. 34 Ibid., p. 255. 35 Akshaya Mukul makes this argument in his Gita Press, and the Making of Hindu India, pp. 320–1. 36 Mukul, Gita Press, and the making of Hindu India, p. 430. 37 Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, Verso, London & New York, 1991 (reprint). 38 These points are drawn from Benedict Anderson’s Ibid., pp. 44–5. 39 Akshaya Mukul makes this argument in his Gita Press, and the Making of Hindu India, pp. 9–10. 40 Ibid., p. 286. 41 Rahul Shivshankar, ‘The Age of Hinduness: Modi Has Disavowed Hard Hindutva for the Humanism of Hinduness’, The Times of India, Kolkata, 7 June 2019.



42 Rudrangshu Mukherjee (ed.), Leaves from a diary: Syama Prasad Mukherjee, Oxford University Press, Calcutta, 1993, p. 8 43 N Gopalaswami Ayyangar (Madras), 17 October, 1949, Constituent Assembly Debates, Book No 5, p. 424 44 Ibid. 45 Maulana Hasarat Mohani (United Provinces), 17 October, 1949, Constituent Assembly Debates, Book No 5, p. 428 46 LK Advani, When the Congress Party opposed Article 370’, The Indian Express, 17 February, 1992 47 Suhrith Parthasarathy, ‘a plainly illegal order: why the overturning of Article 370 in J & K doesn’t stand up to constitutional test’, The Times of India, Kolkata, 7 August, 2019 48 Swapan Dasgupta, ‘Indira and VP Singh could have buried 370 but they clung to it as a test of secularism’, The Times of India, Kolkata, 11 August, 2019 49 Ibid. 50 Ibid. 51 Rajeev Deshpande, ‘Ask yourself: did Article work, and were things better than in 1950?’, The Times of India, Kolkata, 11 August, 2019 52 Ibid. 53 Rahul Shivshankar, ‘What binds J & K to India?: it is Kashmiriyat, Article 370 merely set up an architecture of otherness, thankfully annulled’, The Times of India, Kolkata, 8 August, 2019 54 Ibid. 55 Swapan Dasgupta, ‘The miniscule support for Article 370 indicates a big mood shift in India: smooth road ahead’, The Telegraph, Kolkata, 8 August, 2019 56 Ibid. 57 The Telegraph, Kolkata, editorial, 10 November, 2019 58 https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/article29929717.ece/Binary/JUD_2.pdf, Civil Appeal Nos 10866-10867 of 2010, (The 2019 Ayodhya Judgment) p. 38 59 https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/article29929717.ece/Binary/JUD_2.pdf, Civil Appeal Nos 10866-10867 of 2010, (The 2019 Ayodhya Judgment, Addendum) pp. 115–116 60 https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/article29929717.ece/Binary/JUD_2.pdf, Civil Appeal Nos 10866-10867 of 2010, (The 2019 Ayodhya Judgment, Addendum) p. 116 61 Ravi Shankar Prasad, ‘momentous judgment on Ayodhya: SC’s adjudication of Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute represents a new dawn for India’, The Times of India, Kolkata, 13 November, 2019 62 https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/article29929717.ece/Binary/JUD_2.pdf, Civil Appeal Nos 10866-10867 of 2010, (The 2019 Ayodhya Judgment, Addendum) p. 116 63 https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/article29929717.ece/Binary/JUD_2.pdf, Civil Appeal Nos 10866-10867 of 2010, (The 2019 Ayodhya Judgment, Addendum) pp. 813–4 64 https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/article29929717.ece/Binary/JUD_2.pdf, Civil Appeal Nos 10866-10867 of 2010, (The 2019 Ayodhya Judgment, Addendum) p. 759 65 Rahul Shivshankar, ‘the majesty of justice: the Ayodhya verdict lives up to both legal and moral scrutiny’, The Times of India, Kolkata, 12 November, 2019

Bibliographical note

A book always ends with a bibliography; there is hardly an exception to this rule, presumably because it serves a purpose. Definitionally, a bibliography is a list of books and texts that help build an argument both by being supportive and otherwise. In other words, an author tends to draw on the available literature to construct their argument, even if it is contrary to the established one. The point that is being made is about the utility of a bibliography. Gandhi’s The Hind Swaraj (1909) is illustrative here. At the end of the 30,000-odd-word essay, there is a bibliography which contains a list of twenty books which supported the Mahatma to pursue his line of thinking. This further means that Gandhi drew on the ideas that were prevalent then while he was codifying his views on imperialism, colonialism and nationalism; he also charted out his course of action by mobilizing the nationalists around his mode of opposition which was nonviolent. Implicit here are two significant points: first, there is no doubt that a large chunk of the ideas that he articulated in this text were drawn on what he learnt from the authors and essayist who paid attention to unearthing the complexities of the existent socioeconomic and political realities. So, the thoughts that Gandhi had access to were already in the public domain. The second point, perhaps far more important, is about the outcome of Gandhi’s intellectual engagement with the contemporary thinkers, which he defined as satyagraha or nonviolent struggle. The purpose of citing this instance is to put across the point that bibliography is an integral part of any intellectual exercise simply because it provides the foundation on which a newer argument (generally speaking) is made. The present bibliography is derivative of the idea being offered previously. Hindu nationalism is a persuasive conceptualization of a specific kind of politics seeking to redefine political responses in a fashion which are not based on the mainstream framework of analysis. That does not however mean that the phenomenon was unique and did not receive attention from the scholars. It is true that the texts delving in the processes leading to the conceptualization of Hindu nationalism are scanty, though there are monographs which are of tremendous significance in deciphering how it evolved and gradually became part of the mainstream. The following bibliography thus incorporates those texts which are useful to comprehend the nature and also texture of the Hindu nationalist endeavour. Given its gradual, but steady, rise in India, Hindu nationalism can be said to have


Bibliographical note

developed organic roots across the length and breadth of the country. This also helps us grasp how and why liberal constitutionalism gave way to the ‘nationalistic’ efforts of the Hindus slowly and captured popular imagination in a milieu in which the Enlightenment values were seen to have been dwarfed. There is a comment (which is worth making) about the nature of the bibliography. Since Hindu Nationalism in India is primarily a text of ideas, the bibliography privileges those monographs, essays and personal anecdotes which are supportive of the endeavour. The bibliography has three intertwined components: first, it contains those texts, essays and also the political speeches of those who matter in the conceptualization of Hindu nationalism. While there is a clear point of view in the authored books and essays it is difficult to monochromatically explain the nature of the political speeches because they are generally contextual responses of the political leaders for generating enough support for the cause they fight for. So, one has to be a little cautious in accepting these speeches for defending a point of view which will lose its academic appeal, if not viability. Secondly, there are texts that figure in this bibliography which do not focus directly on the phenomenon of Hindu nationalism, and yet, they raise some points which are directional in character. For instance, there are authors who, while working on Indian politics, make perceptive points that one will find very pertinent in explicating the Hindu nationalist project. In a nutshell, what is sought to be argued here is the contention that there are texts which are very insightful despite not being exactly on Hindu nationalism in India. Here what is important are the ideas that, by shedding light on the phenomenon, shall always remain helpful to the author striving to comprehend and also conceptualize the constantly transforming entity, called Hindu nationalism. Finally, the bibliography also has a space for the original writings of the leading minds that finally helped develop the persuasive arguments for the conceptualization of the phenomenon and also its respectability as a worth-probing analytical entity. As illustrative of the point, Dayananda’s Satyarth Prakash (1875) or Vivekananda’s 1893 Chicago Speech before the Parliament of World’s Religion or V. D. Savarkar’s Hindutva (1923) or M. S. Golwalkar’s We or our Nationhood Defined (1939) provide a very apposite point in grasping the foundation of Hindu nationalism and also how the idea of Hindu nationalism was persuasively argued in opposition to the prevalent ideological priorities that appear to have undermined, if not ignored, an intense mass appeal and consequently the conceptual validity of Hindu nationalism in contemporary India. Anderson, Benedict, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, Verso, London & New York, 1983. Anderson, Walter K. and Shridhar D. Damle, The Brotherhood in Saffron: The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and Hindu Revivalism, Vistaar Publications, New Delhi, 1987. Anderson, Walter K. and Shridhar D. Damle, The RSS: A View to the Inside, Penguin/Viking, Gurgaon, 2018. Basu, Tapan, Pradip Dutta, Sumit Sarkar and Tanika Sarkar, Khaki Shorts, Saffron Flag: A Critique of Hindu Right, Orient Longman, New Delhi, 1993. Baxter, Craig, The Jana Sangh: A Biography of an Indian Political Party, University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, 1969.

Bibliographical note 265 Chatterjee, Partha, Nationalist Thought and the Colonial World: A Derivative Discourse, Oxford University Press, Delhi, 1986. Chatterjee, Partha, The Nation and Its Fragments: Colonial and Postcolonial Histories, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1994. Chatterjee, Partha and Ira Katznelson (ed.), Anxieties of Democracy: Tocquevillean Reflections on India, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2012. Chaube, Shibani Kinkar, The Idea of Nation and Its Future in India, Routledge, Oxford & New York, 2017. Curran, Jean Alonzo, Militant Hinduism in Indian Politics: A Study of the RSS, Institute of Pacific Relations, New York, 1951. Dalmia, Vasudha, The Nationalization of Hindu Traditions: Bhāratendu Hariśchandra and Nineteenth-century Banaras, Oxford University Press, Delhi, 1997. Dasgupta, Swapan, Awakening Bharat Mata: The Political Beliefs of the Indian Right, Penguin, Gurgaon, 2019. De, Rohit, A People’s Constitution: The Everyday Life of Law in the Indian Republic, Princeton University Press, Princeton & Oxford, 2018. Deoras, B., Social Equality and Consolidation, Jagarana Prakashana, Delhi, 1995. Derret, John Duncan Martin, Religion, Law and the State in India, Faber, Ondon, 1968. Devare, Aparna, History & the Making of a Modern Hindu Self, Routledge, New Delhi, 2011. Doniger, Wendy and Martha C. Nussbaum, Pluralism and Democracy in India: Debating the Hindu Right, Oxford University Press, New York, 2015. Dutta, Pradip Kumar, Carving Block: Communal Ideology in Early Twentieth Century Bengal, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 1999. Dutta, Pradip Kumar, ‘Dying Hindus: Production of Hindu Communal Common Sense in Early 20th Century Bengal’, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 28, No. 25, 19 June 1993, pp. 1305–19. Elenjimittam, Anthony, The Philosophy and Action of the R.S.S. for Hindu Swaraj, Laxmi Publications, Bombay, 1951. Ghai, P.K., The Shuddhi Movement in India, Commonwealth Publications, New Delhi, 1990. Ghosh, Partha S., BJP and the Evolution of Hindu Nationalism: From Periphery to Centre, Manohar Publications, Delhi, 1999. Golwalkar, Madhav Sadashiv, We or Our Nationhood Defined, Bharat Publications, 1939. Gordon, Richard, ‘The Hindu Mahasabha and the Indian National Congress 1915–1936’, Modern Asian Studies, Vol. 9, No. 2, 1975, pp. 145–204. Graham, Bruce, Hindu Nationalism and Indian Politics: The Origins and Development of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1990. Guha, Chinmoy (ed.), Bridging East & West: Rabindranath Tagore and Romain Rolland Correspondence (1919–1940), Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2018. Gupta, Dipankar, ‘Communalism and Fundamentalism: Some Notes on the Nature of Ethnic Politics in India’, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 26, Nos. 11–12, 12 March 1991, pp. 573–5+577+579+581–2. Hansen, Thomas Blom, ‘The Ethics of Hindutva and the Spirit of Capitalism’, in Thomas Blom Hansen and Christophe Jaffrelot (eds.), The BJP and the Compulsions of Politics in India, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1998. Hansen, Thomas Blom, The Saffron Wave and Hindu Nationalism in Modern India, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 1999. Hansen, Thomas Blom and Christophe Jaffrelot (eds.), The BJP and the Compulsions of Politics in India, Oxford University Press, Delhi, 1998. Hardiman, David, The Nonviolent Struggle for Indian Freedom, 1905–1919, Penguin/Viking, Gurgaon, 2018.


Bibliographical note

Hasan, Mushirul, Nationalism and Communal Politics in India, 1885–1930, Manohar, New Delhi, 1991. Hobsbawn, Eric J., Nations and Nationalism Since 1780: Programme, Myth, Reality, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1992. Jaffrelot, Christophe, ‘The Genesis and Development of Hindu Nationalism in the Punjab: From the Arya Samaj to the Hindu Sabha, 1875–1910’, Indo-British Review, Vol. 21, No. 1, 1993. Jaffrelot, Christophe, Hindu Nationalism: A Reader, Permanent Black, Ranikhet, 2007. Jaffrelot, Christophe, ‘Hindu Nationalism: Strategic Syncretism in Ideology Building’, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 20, Nos. 12–13, 20–27 March 1993, pp. 517–24. Jaffrelot, Christophe, The Hindu Nationalist Movement and Indian Politics, 1925–1990s: Strategies of Identity-Building, Implantation and Mobilization (with special reference to Central India), Viking, New Delhi, 1996. Jaffrelot, Christophe, ‘The Idea of the Hindu Race in the Writings of Hindu Nationalist Ideologues in the 1920s and 1930s: A Concept Between Two Cultures’, in Peter Robb (ed.), The Concept of Race in South Asia, Oxford University Press, Delhi, 1995. Jaffrelot, Christophe, The Sangh Parivar: A Reader, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2005. Jahanbegloo, Ramin, The Disobedient India: Towards a Gandhian Philosophy of Dissent, Speaking Tiger, Delhi, 2018. Jalal, Ayesha, The Sole Spokesman: Jinnah, the Muslim League and the Demand for Pakistan, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1985. Jayal, Niraja Gopal (ed.), Democracy in India, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2015 (reprint). Jayaprasad, K., RSS and Hindu Nationalism: Inroads in a Leftist Stronghold, Manohar Publication, Delhi, 2002. Jones, Kenneth W., Arya Dharm: Hindu Consciousness in Nineteenth Century Punjab, Manohar, Delhi, 1976. Jones, Kenneth W., ‘Communalism in the Punjab: The Arya Samaj: The Arya Samaj Contribution’, Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 28, No. 1, 1968. Jones, Kenneth W. (ed.), Religious Controversy in British India: Dialogues in South Asian Languages, SUNY Press, Albay, 1992. Jones, Kenneth W., Socio-Religious Reform Movements in British India, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1989. Jordens, J.T.F., Dayānanda Sarasvatī: His Life and Ideas, Oxford University Press, Delhi, 1978. Jordens, J.T.F., Swami Shraddhananda: His Life and Causes, Oxford University Press, Delhi, 1981. Kanungo, Pralay, RSS’s Tryst with Politics: From Hedgewar to Sudarshan, Manohar, Delhi, 2002. Kapila, Shruti and Faisal Devji, Political Thought in Action: The Bhagavad Gita and Modern India, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2013. Kaviraj, Sudipta, ‘The Imaginary Institutions of India’, in Partha Chatterjee and Gyan Pandey (eds.), Subaltern Studies, Vol. VII, Oxford University Press, Delhi, 1992. Keer, Dhananjay, Veer Savarkar, Popular Prakashan, Bombay, 1988 (reprint). Lipner, Julius J., Hindu: Their Beliefs and Practices, Routledge, London, 1994. Lochtefeld, James G., ‘New Wine, Old Skins: The Sangh Parivar and the Transformation of Hinduism’, Religion, Vol. 26, No. 2, 1996, pp. 101–18. Ludden, David (ed.), Contesting the Nation: Religion, Community and the Politics of Democracy in India, University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, 1996.

Bibliographical note 267 Ludden, David (ed.), Making India Hindu: Religion, Community and the Politics of Democracy in India, Oxford University Press, Delhi, 1996. Madhok, Balraj, RSS and Politics, Madan Printers, New Delhi, 1986. Madhok, Balraj, Why Jan Sangh, Popular Prakashan, Bombay, 1967. Malhotra, S.L., ‘Some Aspects of Hindu Revivalism and Their Impact on Indian Politics’, Modern Review, Vol. 3, No. 1, March 1963. Malkani, Kewalram Ratanmal, The RSS Story, Impex India, New Delhi, 1980. Metcalf, Thomas R., Ideologies of the Raj, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1994. Michelutti, Lucia, The Vernacularization of Democracy: Politics, Caste and Religion in India, Routledge, Delhi, 2008. Minault, Gail, ‘Hinduism and Politics’, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 25, 7 April 1990, pp. 723–9. Mishra, Dina Nath, RSS: Myth and Reality, Asia Book Corporation of America, New York, 1980. Mitra, Subrata K. and Michael Liebig, Kautilya’s Arthashastra: The Classical Roots of Modern Politics in India, Rupa, New Delhi, 2017. Mukul, Akshaya, Gita Press and the Making of Hindu India, HarperCollins Publishers India, Noida, 2017 (Indian reprint). Nandy, Ashis, The Illegitimacy of Nationalism, Oxford University Press, Delhi, 1994. Narayan, Vasudha, Hinduism: Origins, Beliefs, Practices, Holy Texts, Sacred Places, Oxford University Press, New York, 2004. Noorani, Abdul Ghafoor Abdul Majeed, The RSS and the BJP: A Division of Labour, Leftworld, New Delhi, 2000. Nussbaum, Martha C, Political Emotions: Why Love Matters for Justice, The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA & London, UK, 2013. Oommen, T.K., ‘Religious Nationalism and Democratic: Religious Nationalism and Democratic Polity: The Indian Case’, Sociology of Religion, Vol. 55, No. 4, Winter 1994, pp. 455–72. Palshikar, Suhas, Sanjay Kumar and Sanjay Lodha (ed.), Electoral Politics in India: Resurgence of the Bharatiya Janata Party, Routledge, London & New York, 2017. Pandey, Gyan, ‘In Defence of the Fragment: Writing About Hindu-Muslim Riots in India Today’, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 26, Nos. 11–12, March 1991, pp. 559–61+563+565–7+569+571–2. Pandey, Gyanendra (ed.), Hindus and Others: The Question of Identity in India Today, Viking/Penguin, New Delhi, 1993. Parekh, Bhikhu, Debating India: Essays on Indian Political Discourse, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2015. Pinto, Ambrose, ‘Saffronization of Affirmative Action’, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 32, No. 52, 25 December 1999. Prakash, Gyan, Emergency Chronicles: Indira Gandhi and Democracy’s Turning Point, Penguin, Gurgaon, 2018. Prakash, Indra, Hindu Mahasabha: Its Contribution to India’s Politics, Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha, Delhi, 1966. Rajagopal, Arvind, Politics After Television: Hindu Nationalism and the Reshaping of the Public in India, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2001. Ram-Prasad, C., ‘Hindutva Ideology: Extracting the Fundamentals’, Contemporary South Asia, Vol. 2, No. 3, 1993. Rathore, Akash Singh, Indian Political Theory: Laying Groundwork for Svraj, Routledge, Oxford & New York, 2017.


Bibliographical note

Roy, Ramashray, Indian Politics and the 1998 Election: Regionalism, Hindutva and State Politics, Sage, New Delhi, 1999. Salam, Ziya Us, Of Saffron Flags and Skullcaps: Hindutva, Muslim Identity and the Idea of India, Sage, New Delhi, 2018. Sarkar, Sumit, Beyond Nationalist Frames: Relocating Postmodernism, Hindutva, History, Permanent Black, Ranikhet, 2002. Sarkar, Sumit, ‘Indian Nationalism and the Politics of Hindutva’, in D. Ludden (ed.), Contesting the Nation: Religion, Community and the Politics of Democracy in India, University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, 1996. Sen, Amartya, The Argumentative Indian: Writings on Indian History, Culture and Identity, Picador, New York, 2005. Shah, Ghanshyam, ‘Caste, Hindutva and Hideousness’, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 37, No. 15, 13 April 2002. Sharma, Jyotirmaya, Hindutva: Exploring the Idea of Hindu Nationalism, Penguin, New Delhi, 2003. Sharma, Jyotirmaya, Terrifying Vision: MS Golwalkar, the RSS and India, Penguin, New Delhi, 2007. Singh, Neerja, Patel, Prasad and Rajaji: Myth of the Indian Right, Sage, New Delhi, 2015. Thakur, Ramesh, ‘Ayudhya and the Politics of India’s Secularism: A Double Standard Discourse, Asian Survey, Vol. 33, No. 7, July 1993. Thapar, Romila, ‘Imagined Religious Communities: Ancient History and Modern Search for a Hindu Identity’, Modern Asian Studies, Vol. 23, No. 2, 1989. Vajpeyi, Ananya, Righteous Republic: The Political Foundations of Modern India, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 2012. van der Veer, Peter, ‘God Must be Liberated! A Hindu Liberation Movement in Ayodhya’, Modern Asian Studies, Vol. 21, No. 1, 1987. van der Veer, Peter, Religious Nationalism: Hindus and Muslims in India, University of California Press, Berkeley, 1994. Varshney, Ashutosh, ‘Contested Meanings: India’s National Identity, Hindu Nationalism and the Politics of Anxiety’, Daedalaus, Vol. 122, No. 3, 1993. Yang, Anand A., ‘Sacred Symbol and Sacred Space in Rural India: Community Mobilization in the “Anti-Cow Killing” Riot of 1893’, Comparative Studies in Society and History, Vol. 22, No. 4, 1980. Zavos, John, The Emergence of Hindu Nationalism in India, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2000.


Abhyanker, Bhaurao 165 Abhyudaya Hindi weekly 143 abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A of Constitution 253–6 adhyatma vidya 128 Advani, L. K. 195, 201, 207, 210 Ahimsa 127 AIADMK 223 Akali Dal 223 Akash Bani (Hindi weekly) 125 Akhand Bharat (united India) 51, 156 Akharas 125 Akhil Bharat Hindu Yuvak Sabha 128 Akhil Bharatiya Jana Sangh 191 Akhil Bharatiya Prachar Pramukh 172, 174 Akhil Bharatiya Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram 177 Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) 176 Ali, Liaquat 188 Aligarh Muslim University 212 All-India Babri Masjid Action Committee (AIBMAC) 217 All-India Committee of the Mahasabha meeting (8 August 1947) 152 All-India Hindu Sabha (or Akhil Bharatvarshiya Hindu Mahasabha): conference in 1915 124, 144–7; meeting in 1918 121, 153 All-India Hindu Youth Conference 129, 165 All-India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) 214 All-India Peoples’ Party 189 Ambedkar, B. R. (Babasaheb) 109, 236 Anderson, Benedict 9 Andhra Provincial Hindu Conference (1929) 130 Aney, M. S. 74, 142, 147 Anglo-Muslim League conspiracy 152

Anushilan Samiti (a society of revolutionaries) 163 Apte, Babasaheb 166, 175 Apte, Shivram Shankar (Dadasaheb Apte) 177 Apte, Vinayak 165 artha 4 Aranyakas (compositions for the forests) 4 Article 370 of Indian Constitution 195–6, 211, 253–6 Arya Samaj 10, 19, 25, 123, 142, 200 Arya Samajists of Punjab 120, 144 Atharva Veda 4 Aurangzeb 59, 65 Aurobindo, Sri Ghose 2–3, 9, 16–17; and aggression 36; concern about plight of Indian people during British rule 37–8; on Hindu nationalism 36; and nationalism 42–6; nationalist vision of 38–42; political philosophy of 36; public life of people of India 37; thought process of 35–6 Avaidyanath 216 Azamgarh communal riots in 1893 68 Bajaj, Jamnalal 167 Bakht, Sikandar 208–9 Baliram, Keshav 163 Bal Sena 135 Baluchi Muslims 55 Banaras Hindu University (BHU) 124, 147, 165 Bande Mataram 42 baudhika 164 Baxter, Craig 192 Behn, Mira 167 Bengal Hindu Sabha 128 Bengal partition in 1905 40, 61 Bhagavad Gita 3, 36, 42–3, 47, 95



Bhagwat, Mohan 161, 172, 179 Bhalla, Bal Raj 190 Bhandari, S. S. 198 Bharat (India) 189 Bharat Dharma Mahamandal 154 Bharat Gosevak Samaj 200 Bharatiya (Indian) 189 Bharatiya Jana Sangh (BJS) 108, 115, 118, 142, 206, 229–30; agenda of Hindus plight in East Bengal 196–7; cow protection, support for movement of 199–200; critical on definition of minority and secularism 193–4; and Deendayal Upadhyaya era 197–8; defence of frontiers and nuclear deterrence 198–9; and election and alliances of 1957–77 200–2; fight for Kashmir integration 195–6; first electoral venture 194–5; formation in 1951 142, 186, 191; integration of French and Portuguese colonies inside India, issue of 199; manifesto of 191–2; objectives of 116 Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) 3, 10, 115, 142, 186, 258; adopting Gandhian socialism 209–12; dilution of Hindutva ideology 225–7; electoral barrier (1996–99), change in tactics and breaking of 220–3; electoral performance in 2014 election 1, 10; endorsement of swadeshi 118; establishment in 1980 2, 207–9; Kargil war in 1999 during NDA government 223–5; Kashmir issue and Ekta Yatra (march for unity) 219–20; National Convention in December 1980 209–12; of nation-first and cultural nationalism 227–9; nuclear tests in Pokhran in 1988 during Vajpayee regime 223–5; performance in Lok Sabha elections 117 (of 1984 206, 212–13; of 2004 225–7; of 2014 212; of 2019 251–3); Ram Janmabhoomi movement 206, 214–19; and Shah Bano case 213–14; supported demolition of Babri mosque 117–18, 235; see also Bharatiya Jana Sangh (BJS) Bharatiya Lok Dal 189–90 Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) 177 Bharatiya nationalism 116 Bharatiya sanskriti 93, 99, 108 Bharatiyata (Indian-ness) 189–91 Bharat Sadhu Samaj 200 Bhonsala Military School 131–2, 136 Bhopatkar, Laxman Balwant 128, 187

Bhushan, Shanti 208 Bhuskute, Bhausaheb 175 Bihar Provincial Hindu Conference (1927) 129–30 Biju Janata Dal 223 Birla, Ghanshyam Das 132 Birla, Jugal Kishore 149 Bose, Rash Behari 135 Bose, Subhas 228 brahmacharya 119, 125 Brahminization process 4 British divide-et-impera strategy 2, 48, 68, 236 Cabinet Mission 1946 104 Cape Comorin 59 Cellular Jail in Andaman and Nicobar Islands 53–4 Central Hindu Military Education Society 131–2 Ceylon 126 Chakravarty, S. S. 163 Chand, Lal 120, 123 charitra nirman (character building) 161 charkha 56, 127 Chatterjee, N. C. 156 Chatterjee, Partha 9 Chatterjee, Ramanand 126 Chatterji, Protul Chandra 124 Chauhan, Prithviraj 122 Chetwode, Phillip 131, 133 collective selfishness 8 Communal Award of 1932 148–50 communal love 120–1 Congress-I 212 Congress Nationalist Party 142 Congress (O) 201 Constituent Assembly 104, 109 Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order, 2019 253, 255, 257 Constitution of India (1950) 96, 104, 111–12 Cripps, Stafford 152 Curran, Jean 166 Dalhousie (Lord) 58–9 Dani, Prabhakar Balwant (Bhaiyaji Dani) 165, 175 Das, Nritya Gopal 216 Dasgupta, Swapan 218 Deoras, Balasaheb 175 Deoras, Bhaurao 165, 172–3, 175 decentralization 99 Democratic Swarajya Party 149

Index 271 Desai, Bhulabhai 127 Desai, Mahadev 167 Desai, Morarji 208 Deshmukh, Nana 176–7, 198, 207 dharma 4, 79, 153 Dharma-Niropekshta (neutrality to all religions), Nehruvian 95 Dussehra festival 126, 145 Dying Race, A (U. N. Mukherji) 145 East India Company 57, 59 emergency period (1975–77) 206 Enlightenment philosophy 17, 44 ethnic nationalism 239 exclusiveness 8 external freedom, Western idea of 34 fatherland (or pitribhu) 149 federalism 86 Ferozepur Arya Samaj 144 Forward Block 190 Gandhi, Indira 176, 211 Gandhi, Rajiv 212–14 Gandhi, Sonia 226 Gandhi Jayanti (celebration of Gandhi memorial day) 109 gaurakshini sabhas 143 Ghosh, Motilal 163 Goa Vimochan Sahayak Samiti (Goa Liberation Committee) 199 Golwalkar, M. S. (Guruji) 2–3, 9, 16, 71, 116, 166–9, 189, 192, 234–5, 257; build idea of nation 72; Hindu nationalist, goals of 72; idea of nation 79–85; politico-ideological alternative 74–9; rise of icon 73–4; of RSS working method 162; We or our Nationhood Defined 74, 179, 261 Goraksha Samiti 200 Government of India Act 1935 111 Gowda, Deve 221 Gujral, I. K. 221, 223 Gupta, Hans Raj 190 Haq, Fazlul 142 Hedgewar, Keshav Baliram 73, 85, 128, 161, 163, 165, 172, 239 Hegde, K. S. 210 Hind Swaraj 57 Hindu/Hindus: call for physical regeneration in beginning of twentieth century 119; interests 121; jati, derivation of 66; mobilization (model

of) 68; nationalists 11; sanskriti (culture) 67; transforming weak physique of 124–6 Hindu Abhyudaya 155 Hindu identity, Savarkar’s construction of 62 Hinduism (or Hindu way of life) 47; devotional path to realize purusarthas 4; generates love for all religion 28; integrally connected to Hinduism 63; meaning of 4; Vivekananda views on 4 Hindu Kumar Dal 125 Hindu Mahasabha 2–3, 10, 68–9, 186, 188; and All-India Hindu Sabha 144–7; Belgaum session in 1924 125; Benaras session in 1923 125; Bombay Hindu Sabha in 1925 125; Calcutta session in 1925 125; campaigns by 142; and Communal Award of 1932 148–50; C. P. and Berar Provincial Conference 126; criticising Gandhian non-violence and mentality of defeatism 126–8; Gaya session in 1922 125; growth of 147–8; and Hindu national flag 152–5; historical background of 143–4; ideological formulations 142; losing relevance post-independence 155–6; objectives of sangathan 122; observation on reservations on Westminster form of electoral democracy 117; origin of 116, 141; and patriotism 153–5; physical and military regeneration 119–20; political interventions 147–8; post-Second World war and partition of India 151–2; and Punjab Hindu Sabha 144–7; remodelling in 1923 147; and Second World War and efforts to form Hindu militarization 133–5, 150–1; and Shyama Prasad Mookerjee 187; Surat session resolution on physical training for Hindu youth in 1929 128 Hindu military school, Nashik 119 Hindu nationalism in India 48, 71, 119, 257–8, 260–1; anti-thesis of mainstream nationalist campaign 72; ascendancy of 1; challenges in renewed interest 3; components of 9; Gita Press of Gorakhpur role in 245–51; growing strength of 115; and Hindutva judgment of 1995 240–5; historical roots of 1; mainstream of Congress nationalism 235; meaning of 238–40; moksha to be given equal significance in 4; nationalist



battle for freedom 10; nationalization or homogenization of Hindus 236; political failure of nationalist mainstream 236–7; politico-ideological device 2, 234; Savarkar’s lexicon on 2–3, 62–3; social reformers 2 Hindu Raj 156 Hindu Raksha Mandal 125 Hindu Rashtra Sabha 149 Hindu Sabha 10, 141, 144; see also Hindu Mahasabha Hindu sangathan 119; and articulation of nation concept 121–3 Hindu Sevak Sangh (or Bharat Uddharak Mandal) 63 Hindu Sewak Dal 125 Hindustan Review 21 Hindusthan 75–6; civilizational voice 66 Hindutva 2, 65, 161; essentials of 62; inculcate brotherhood as sole intent of 162; and Sanskrit 66 Hindutva (publication) 61, 63, 146, 164, 261 Historian’s Craft, The (Marc Bloch) 15–16 Hobsbawm, Eric 5 ideas: history of 15; study of Hindu nationalist thinkers 48 Imagined Communities (Benedict Anderson) 249 Indian Councils Act of 1892 143 Indian National Liberation Federation 168 Indian Territorial Forces 134 integral humanism 98–9 Islam 8, 20–1, 26–30, 47, 120 Jana Sangh 191, 258; campaign against Article 370 117–18; election manifesto of 1951 107; establishment in 1951 2, 116; political rise of 187 Jain, Padmaraj 132 Jamiat-ul-Ulema 169 Janata Party 170–1, 201–2, 206 Jayakar, M. R. 125, 147–8 Jethmalani, Ram 208 Jinnah, M. A. 68, 151–2; two nation theory 58, 161, 234 Joshi, Appaji 165 Joshi, Jagannathrao 198 Joshi, M. M. 208, 213 Joshi, Yadavrao 175 JP movement 176, 206 Judaism 8 Kalam, APJ Abdul 228 Kalyan journal 246–7, 249–50

kama 4 Kandahar hijack of 24 December 1999 225 Karmayogin 30, 36 Karmayogis (persons who believed in work), concept of 29 Kelkar, Lakshmibai 176 Kelkar, N. C. 128, 142, 147, 154 Khan, Aga 133 Khanna, Daudayal 216, 232n41 Khare, N. B. 156 Kher, A. G. 169 Khilafat-Noncooperation (1919–21) 2, 56 Kumbh fair 145–6 Lal, Devi 216 Lahore Congress in 1900 144 Lahore Resolution of 1940 62 League of Nations 83 Limaye, K. B. 165 linguistic diversity 77 Listowel (Lord) 152 Lohia, Ram Manohar 200, 228 Lok Dal 190, 201, 208, 216 Lok Shakti Party 223 Lucknow Pact of 1916 2, 146 Lucknow University 165 Madhav, Ram 226 Madhok, Bal Raj 189–90 Mahabharat (B.R. Chopra) 214 Mahabharata 4 Mahabir Dal 126 Mahajan, Pramod 217–18 Maharashtriya Mandal 128 Mahatma Gandhi 7–8, 56, 71; ahimsa 43; assassination in 1948 116, 155, 186; built nationalist critique 94; Civil Disobedience campaign 91; commitment to own civilizational legacy 92; constructive programmes 36; failure to bring Hindu-Muslim unity 166; Gram Swaraj 111; Hind Swaraj 95, 260; Marathi leaders and Punjabi Arya Samajist criticism of non-violence and mentality defeatism 126–8; model of inclusive nationalism 156–7; on purushartha 92; SarvDharm-Samabhava, concept of of 95; satyagraha or nonviolent struggle 260 Malabar, Nayyars of 64 Malaviya, Madan Mohan 73, 124, 142–4, 153, 165, 179 Malhotra, V.K. 213 Malkani, K.R. 188 Mandal Commission 217

Index 273 Marx, Karl 96 Maryada 108 Mavalankar, G. V. 132 Mazzini, Giuseppe 51–2, 60 Mehta, Asoka 208 Mill, J. S. 72, 76, 79 Mishra, Dina Nath 175, 181n4 Mishra, D. P. 168–9 Modi, Narendra 212, 218, 225, 251 Moonje, B. S. 115, 119, 121–4, 126–7, 134, 147–8, 163, 179; Bhonsala Military School, efforts to promote 131–2, 136; criticize Gandhian method of nonviolence and mentality defeatism 126–8; emphasis on militarization 128–30 Mookherjee, Shyama Prasad 116, 150, 154, 186; and Hindu Mahasabha 187; and RSS solidarity 188–9 Moplah riots of Malabar in 1922 125 moribund nation 3, 6 Morley-Minto Reforms of 1909 40, 119, 143 Motilal Nehru Committee (1928) 148 Muley, Madhavarao 170, 175 Musafir of Agra 124 Muslim League 68, 141, 149; demand for participation 166; formation in 1906 2, 119, 143 Muslim Personal Law 212 Muslims/Muslim community 1–2, 8, 14, 20–1, 25, 29–30, 120–1; Hindus to learn to organic unity of 123–4 Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986 214 Nagpur Hindu Sabha (1937), election manifesto of 127–8 Nagpur riots of 1923 163 Naidu, Sarojini 125 Nanda, Gulzarilal 231n41 Nandi, Manindra Chandra 146 Narang, Gokul Chand 124 Narayan, Jayaprakash (JP) 201 nation: design of homogenize people 8; European modular form of 7 nationhood in India 32 National Integration Council 86 nationalism: collectivity identity formation 5; and concept of ideas 17–18; definition of 153; exclusive design for setting of ideas over others 9; Euclidean theory of 5; invents nations of their existence 9; Tagore-Gandhian inclusionary design of 8; Vivekananda’s conceptualization of 7 nation state 5 NDA government 181

Nehru, Jawaharlal: Dharma-Niropekshta (neutrality to all religions) 95; on Gandhi’s murder 168; pro-Pakistan policy 188; socialistic pattern of society 90 Oke, Vasantrao Krishna 189 Organiser 188, 208, 212 Pakistan 62 Pal, B. C. 163 Parel, Anthony 94 Parmanand, Bhai 121, 125–6, 142 Parmarth, Dadarao 165, 175, 188 partition of India in 1947 101, 107–8 Patel, Sardar 228 People’s Party: formation of 116 Pingale, Moropant 175 Poddar, Hanuman Prasad 250 political: freedom 10; Vedantism 37 pracharaka system 174–5 Praja Parishad 189 Prakash, Indra 155 Prema 127 Provincial Rifle Association of CP and Berar 134 Punjab Hindu Conference (1909) 120, 122, 124 Punjab Hindu Sabha 123–4; formation of 120 Punjabi Hindus 128 Punjab Land Alienation Act of 1900 119, 143 Puranas 3 Purna Swaraj (complete freedom from the British rule) 42 purushartha, notion of 92; elements of 90–1; foundational conceptual parameter 93 Quit India movement 150, 165 Quran 20–2, 26 Rai, Ganpat 131–2 Rai, Lajpat 120–2, 125–6, 142, 145 Raja Yoga 172 Ramakrishna 34 Ramakrishna Mission Ashram 166 Ramayana 4, 66 Ramayana (Ramanand Sagar) 214 Ram Janmabhoomi movement 206, 214–19 Ram Rajya 195 Ram Rajya Parishad 190, 200 Ram Sena 135 Ranade, Eknath 175



Rao, Madhav 146 Rao, N. T. Rama 216 Rashtra Mimansha (G.D. Savarkar) 87 Rashtra Sevika Samiti (National Women Volunteers Committee) 176 Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) 87, 115, 117, 161, 178–81, 239, 258; arrival of Sadashiv Golwalkar (or Guruji) 166–7; banned after Gandhi’s assassination 187; beginning of 162–3; change of attitude towards politics 187–8; expansion through affiliates 175–8; festivals by, celebration of 173–4; formation in 1925 10, 73, 116; founding and early expansion of 163–5; ideology of Hindu rastra and family 171–3; and Mahatma Gandhi 167–70; Mohan Bhagwat speech in 2017 161–2; participation in Gandhian movement 165; role in politics 170–1; secretive nature of work 163; shakhas and pracharaks are pillars of 174–5; social services of 175–8; stay away from electoral politics 117; tasks of members 164; want to create bhed-rahit Samaj 179–80; work concentrated during 1925–31 165 Rath Yatra 217–19, 230 real peace 135 Responsivist Cooperation Party 142 Revolutionary Socialist Party 190 Rig Veda 4 Round Table Conference: first (1930) 148 Samata Party 223 Sama Veda 4 sanatana Hinduism 19 sanatan dharma 3, 22 Sanatan Dharma sabhas 143 Sanskritization process 4 Saraswati, Swami Dayananda 2–3, 9, 16–17, 46–7, 250; explored merits and demerits of world religions 20; logical propounding of Vedas 19; Quran analysis by 20–2; religion as device to utilize for social wellbeing 20; role as social reformer 22–6; Satyarth Prakash 11, 19–20, 47, 68, 234, 257, 261; Vedic nationalism in India, challenges in propagation of 18–19; Vedic revivalism of 24–5; visionary orientation of 19 Sarvadaliya Goraksha Maha-Abhiyan Samiti (or All-Parties Cowprotection Campaign Committee) 200

Sastri, T. R. Venkatarama 168–9 Savarkar, G. D. (or Babarao) 165 Savarkar, V. D. 2–3, 9, 16, 78, 116–17, 126, 128, 133–4, 142, 155, 179, 237, 257; address at Cawnpore Municipal Board 134; articulation of nationalist voice 57–61; Hindu nationalist design 67; and Hindutva project 61–8; keenness to bring Hindus and Muslims together 68; model of action on ideological framework and political philosophy 51; political scenario, entry into 51–3; politico-ideological priorities, display in Cellular Jail 55–7; Rashtra Mimansha 74; rise of nationalist 53–5 Sekhawat, B.S. 213 Self-Abnegation in Politics (Lal Chand) 120, 145 self-incurred immaturity 112 Sepoy Mutiny (or rebellion of 1857 or Indian War of Independence) 53, 57, 60–1 Shah Bano case 213–14 Shankaracharya of Karvir Peeth 121, 133 Sharma, Din Dayalu 143 Sharma, Krishan Lal 213 Sharma, Mauli Chandra 190, 195 Shastri, Lal Bahadur 176 Shekhar, Chandra 221 Sheshadri, H. V. 172 Shivaji, the Maratha King 65 Shiv Sena 223 Singh, Ajit 216 Singh, Buta 216 Singh, Charan 207, 221 Singh, Mangal 132 Singh, Karan 231n41 Singh, V. P. 216–17 Singhal, Ashok 216, 232n41 Sinha, Sukhbir 124 Socialist Party 190, 201 social regeneration 99 Somnath temple 170 spiritual socialism 210 Surat session of the Congress 38 Swadeshi 99 Swadharma (own religious identity) 59–60 Swami Vivekananda 2–4, 6–7, 9, 16–17, 46, 210, 261; advocate of freedom for people 34; approach to nationalism 31–2; believe in Karmayogi concept 29; closeness for western conceptions of nation and nationalism 33–4; and Hinduism 27–8, 47; idea of Indian

Index 275 nation to 35; on Islam and Prophet Mohammad role in promotion 27–8; keep away from thick and thin of national movement politics 34; nation to hold their national institutions 33; need to generate mass enthusiasm for nation building 30–1; political philosophy of 34; practical Vedanta 29; propagated Vedantic nationalism 27; and religion 27; and spirituality 32; urge Hindus and Muslims join hands for nationalist cause 29–30 Swaraj (freedom) 59–61 swaraj (or national freedom) 42 Swatantra newspaper 163 Swatantra Party 200 Tagore, Rabindra Nath 7–8, 24 Taittiriya Upanishad (composed in around sixth century BC) 5 Tarun Hindu Sabha 165 Third World 5 Tilak, Lokmanya BG 55–6; Gita Rahasya 95; Home Rule League 128 Times of India 208 Tiwari, N. D. 216 Tribune 120, 124, 145 Trinamool Congress 223 unities, types of 76 Universities Training Corps 134 Upadhyaya, Deendayal (Panditji) 2, 9, 90, 116, 197–8, 250, 257; approach to nationalist project 110; on Constitution of India (1950) 111–12; criticality of purusarthas 93; and Dharma Rajya 96–7; evolved definite theoretical parameters 96; favour dialectical interaction 95; on Hindu nationalism 96; on human bring 91; idea of nation 100–9; indebted to Kautilya 93;

interconnectedness of human existence 93; linked with foundational idea of Indian civilization 90; Karl Marx as source of inspiration 96; model development to identity human desires 91; objective of economy 99–100; offered complementary endeavours 98–9; pillars to articulate alternative mode of thinking 96–8; prevalence of untouchability 99; refinement of social-political and economic ideas 92; revisited fundamental philosophical issues 94; similarities with Gandhian views 109–10; socio-politico-ideological concerns 94–5; on Swadeshi 100 Upanishads 3 Upanishads (instructive treaties) 3–4 Vajpayee, Atal Behari 193, 198, 207, 209, 212; Lahore visit by 223–5; peace talks with Pakistan 225–7 Varma, V. P. 23 Vedanta 28; practical 29 Vedas 3, 66; types of 4 Vedic: nationalism 18; metaphysics 26; philosophy 26; swarajya 22 Vidya Bharati (or Akhil Bharatiya Shiksha Sansthan) 177 village: republic 109; swaraj 109, 236 Village Republic of the East (S. H. Maine) 236 Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP or the World Hindu Council) 177–8, 206, 214 Westphalia Treaty of 1648 48, 72, 78 Yajur Veda 4 Young India Party 189 Young Men’s Hindu Association 128 Zoroastrianism 8